Alaska Beat

AK Beat: Pilot locates overdue Hooper Bay hunters

Pilot locates overdue Hooper Bay hunters: Alaska State Troopers say a volunteer pilot spotted two Southwest Alaska hunters Monday evening who'd failed to return from a trip the night before. The disappearance of the hunters prompted a significant search-and-rescue response. Dominic Smith, 16, and Jeremiah Stone, 21, both of Hooper Bay, departed the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta community on a hunting trip at 10 a.m. Sunday. They were supposed to return that evening but didn't, troopers reported. An initial search produced no sign of them, so efforts were expanded throughout Monday. Local airline pilots were asked to keep an eye out for the missing hunters. In all, 39 searchers using three boats and nine ATVs were involved. However, it was a Hooper Bay pilot who spotted Smith and Stone from the air, troopers reported. "The local pilot spotted the boys 2.8 miles from the village of Chevak, nearly 12 miles from Hooper Bay," troopers reported. A Chevak volunteer picked the hunters up. Smith and Stone were checked for injuries by the village's health aide; both were reportedly in good health.

Glitchy software may hinder rescue communications in Canadian Arctic: A software problem may mean that sailors in Canadian Arctic waters could be unable to reach the Canadian Coast Guard, reports the CBC. A new communications system, which relays radio communications, including distress calls, to Iqaluit, Nunavut (the only staffed Arctic station, after Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories was closed in 2011 to save costs), could result in messages being garbled or completely failing to transmit, the report says. The news comes after the U.S. Coast Guard recently rescued a sailboat caught in ice northeast of Barrow and as Arctic waters, including the Northwest Passage (which connects the Bering Strait to the Atlantic Ocean via Alaska and Canadian waters) see an uptick in traffic, including recreational vessels.

More details on Don Young's travels: Last month, after the House Ethics Committee reprimanded Alaska's lone representative, Republican Don Young, for accepting nearly $60,000 of gifts and not properly reporting them, documents emerged that painted a picture of the lavish hunting trips he took in Texas and Upstate New York. Now, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics devoted to tracking the political influence of money, has a lengthy piece that mines those documents even further, describing in detail how Young was flown to projects in places such as Brownsville, Texas, and Syracuse, New York, by contractors or their lobbyists -- both to see the projects his blessing, as chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, could benefit, and to hunt exotic game.

AFN push brings in-person absentee voting to rural villages: As arguments in a voting rights trial concerning whether the state of Alaska had done enough to enfranchise Alaska Native voters, the Alaska Federation of Natives announced an effort to set up in-person absentee voting in nearly all of the state's remote villages. According to Indian Country Today, AFN's efforts met with early success, with 128 locations established in the first 11 days of the push, according to the organization's general counsel. Nicole Borromeo. Borromeo told Indian Country Today that media coverage of the trial "helped the Native team convince the state to let it set up the new voting centers," the article noted.

Babbitt calls Pebble proponents' latest efforts "last-ditch" and the mine "fundamentally flawed": Bruce Babbitt, a former Secretary of the Interior under President Clinton, raised hackles in March with an L.A. Times op-ed suggesting a long-sought road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge connecting King Cove and Cold Bay was a subsidy to canneries -- residents say it's a necessary lifeline for medical emergencies. Now Babbitt has another op-ed on an Alaska subject in an Outside newspaper, but one that might receive a warmer reception within the state: In a Seattle Times opinion piece, he argues that recent efforts by backers of the Pebble Mine -- including a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and a proposed federal "Regulatory Certainty Act" -- shouldn't be allowed to succeed: "[T]he project's supporters have not given up, turning to specious legal arguments and a handful of allies in Congress as a part of a last-ditch effort to save a fundamentally flawed proposal," Babbitt writes.