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Providence Drive Reopens After Injury Rollover near UAA

A single-vehicle rollover crash with minor injuries on Providence Drive temporarily closed its westbound lanes Saturday afternoon near the University of Alaska Anchorage, according to local police. APD spokesperson Dani Myren says police received an initial report about the crash, at Providence’s intersection with Spirit Drive, just after 4:30 p.m. One female patient was taken from the vehicle for treatment.

"The driver was transported to the hospital with what appear to be minor injuries," Myren said.

Word wasn't immediately available on the cause of the crash Saturday night.

"As far as the accident itself, that's still under investigation by officers," Myren said. APD reported on Twitter that Providence's westbound lanes were reopened as of about 5:40 p.m.

Channel 2's Phil Walczak contributed information to this story.

This is a developing story. Please check and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Senate Finance Advances Education Bill

The Senate Finance Committee has advanced a broad-ranging education bill that adds more money to public education and raises the required local contribution for schools. The committee has proposed $100 million in extra funding for districts over the next three years, in addition to support for charter schools, residential schools, correspondence programs and other initiatives. The $100 million would be distributed to districts outside the per-student funding formula known as the base student allocation. Some lawmakers say the formula needs to be examined. The committee, in its rewrite of HB278, proposes a study of how the state funds education. But critics say having the extra funding in the formula ensures it's there and helps districts plan. The bill raises the local mill levy and allows for greater voluntary contributions by municipalities.

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5:00 Report (April 19)

(KTUU-TV, 2014)

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Woman Arrested for DUI in South Anchorage T-Bone Crash

A woman has been arrested on a DUI charge after Anchorage police say she caused a T-bone collision involving her pickup truck and a sedan near the Independence Park area early Saturday morning. According to a Saturday statement from APD spokesperson Dani Myren, police received a call at about 12:45 a.m. about the crash involving 21-year-old Ariel McGrew, at the intersection of Abbott Road and Independence Drive. Myren says a black sedan at the scene had extensive front-end damage, while McGrew’s gray 2011 Chevy Silverado was lying on its passenger side in the intersection. “No major or life-threatening injuries were reported, although (McGrew) was transported by APD to the hospital where she was cleared a short time later.” Myren says that McGrew provided two breath-alcohol content samples during her arrest for a misdemeanor DUI, a 0.183 followed by a 0.175. Both are more than double Alaska’s legal limit for driving of 0.08. It wasn’t immediately clear Saturday afternoon how many people were in the sedan, but Myren emphasizes that the outcome could have been much worse. “It’s just by luck, really, that nobody was seriously injured,” Myren said. “When you drive intoxicated, you’re obviously playing a deadly gamble with people’s lives.” The intersection was briefly closed as police investigated the crash. Channel 2’s Mallory Peebles and Aaron Weaver contributed information to this story.

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Palmer Woman Cited for Texting in Near-Crash with Trooper

A Palmer woman at the wheel of a heavy-duty pickup truck was cited Saturday, after an Alaska State Trooper says she nearly collided with his sport-utility vehicle because she was texting while driving. According to a Saturday AST dispatch, 20-year-old Madison Miller was stopped at about 11:40 a.m. “(Troopers) conducted a traffic stop on a Ford F-350 truck for driving left of center in a no-passing zone causing both the driver and a trooper in the oncoming lane to take evasive action to avoid a collision,” troopers wrote. In an email to Channel 2, AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says the incident involved Trooper Joel Miner, with the Southcentral Team of the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol. The stop occurred at “about 2.5 mile of the Clark-Wolverine Road at the tight S curves.” Miller was cited for texting while driving as well as reckless driving, both misdemeanor offenses. She was released after promising to appear in court.

State lawmakers have made two attempts to ban texting while driving. The first, in 2008, was challenged in court because it didn't mention texting; the second, which bans most data entry or retrieval on cellphones and other devices while driving, has been effective since June 2013.

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Senate Passes New Approach to Pension Obligation

The Alaska Senate unanimously passed legislation setting out a new approach for addressing the state's pension obligation.      The vote came a few hours after the bill advanced from committee.      The Senate rewrite of HB385 calls for putting $2 billion from savings toward the teachers' retirement system and $1 billion toward the public employees' system.      It's an alternative to Gov. Sean Parnell's plan, which called for divvying the $3 billion differently. Parnell's plan, which passed the House, called for $500 million annual payments between the two systems after the cash infusion. The plan endorsed by the Senate starts with lower payments.      Revenue commissioner Angela Rodell told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Saturday that its approach would work well.      The House will have to decide whether to agree to the Senate approach.

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Legislature Passes Updated Synthetic Marijuana Ban

The Alaska Legislature has passed a bill intended to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana statewide, based on new language which targets its packaging rather than its chemical components. According to the office of Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage), Senate Bill 173 passed the chamber unanimously on a 20-0 vote Saturday afternoon. Lawmakers had earlier tried to ban the chemicals in synthetic marijuana, sold under names such as “Spice,” “Zombie Killer” and “Twilight Zone.” The 2011 law was rapidly outflanked by manufacturers, however, who simply used different compounds in their products. Earlier this month, the Wasilla City Council also passed a local law aimed at banning the sale of Spice, following pressure from locals who have lost loved ones to the drug. The Legislature’s bill now goes to Gov. Sean Parnell for his signature. Channel 2’s Adam Pinsker contributed information to this story.

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Fairbanks Man Arrested in Assault of Bloodied Woman

A Fairbanks man was arrested on multiple domestic-violence assault charges early Saturday, after Alaska State Troopers say his victim was spotted along an area road Friday. In a Saturday AST dispatch, troopers say 36-year-old Wesley Lord was arrested Saturday morning on one count of second-degree assault, two counts of fourth-degree assault and six counts of violating conditions of his release. The initial assault was reported to Fairbanks troopers at about 3:30 a.m. Friday. “Troopers responded to a report of a female covered in blood on University Avenue,” troopers wrote. “Investigation revealed that (Lord) had assaulted an adult female.” In an email to Channel 2, AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says the assault occurred at a Hess Avenue residence, near University Avenue. An ambulance was called for the woman, but no further details on her condition were immediately available. It wasn’t clear exactly which conditions of release Lord allegedly violated, but Ipsen says most inmates commonly receive at least one condition. “Usually when you're released from jail on conditions one of them is to not commit any new crimes,” Ipsen wrote. “I'd say he violated that one.” After his arrest in the case, Lord was remanded to the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

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Mat-Su Firefighters Keep Outbuilding Fire from Spreading

Mat-Su Valley firefighters safely extinguished a fire at a Wasilla outbuilding before it had a chance to spread to nearby woods Saturday morning, fire officials say. Dennis Brodigan, director of the Mat-Su Borough’s Department of Emergency Services, says several crews were dispatched to the fire, on the 300 block of South Gastman Court. Initial reports described it as a working fire at 11:20 a.m., but Brodigan says it was quickly brought under control. “The first two units that arrived pretty much had it handled,” Brodigan said. “It caught a little bit of the trees on fire, but they’re already sending units back.” No injuries were reported in the incident.

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Troopers Arrest 4 People After 2-Person Fairbanks Rollover

A Friday single-vehicle rollover of a car with two people in it led Alaska State Troopers to make four arrests including one for DUI, after the vehicle’s occupants allegedly left the crash and walked to a nearby home. According to an email from AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen, troopers had responded to the crash of a 2005 blue Chevrolet Impala on the Mitchell Expressway, near its Airport Way exit. After finding the vehicle unoccupied at about 6 a.m. Friday, they located both of its occupants at a nearby home. “Investigation revealed that 26-year-old Christine Michael was driving intoxicated when the vehicle exited the roadway,” troopers wrote in a dispatch on the incident. “The passenger, Eric Jimmie, was found to be violating his probation, for which he was later arrested.” Two other people at the residence were also arrested, with 55-year-old Thomas Oliver taken into custody for providing false information and violating conditions of his release. Bradley Jimmy, 31, was picked up on an outstanding arrest warrant. As of Saturday afternoon, court records show four charges listed against Michael: DUI, third-degree assault, reckless driving and driving without a valid driver’s license. Ipsen says it’s not clear Saturday whether Michael and Jimmie left the Impala to avoid prosecution, or for some other reason. “(We) can't say for sure, but the driver did call 911 at about 6:23 a.m.,” Ipsen wrote. The Impala’s occupants were briefly taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital for treatment of minor injuries sustained in the crash. After troopers’ investigation, all four people arrested were reunited -- at the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

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Alaska Supreme Court: State Has Duty to Protect Inmates

The Alaska Supreme Court says a former prison inmate can move forward with a lawsuit claiming corrections officers failed to protect him from another inmate. The justices said in an opinion Friday that the state has a duty to protect inmates in its custody. The Anchorage Daily News says Richard Mattox was seriously injured by another prisoner in 2007. He said he warned officers of trouble with inmates in his prison block. Mattox sued the state for negligence, but Palmer Superior Court Judge Vanessa White threw the case out in 2011. The judge said Mattox didn't show that the corrections department had been given notice of a specific threat against him. The high court said that bar is too high. State lawyers say they're disappointed with the decision.

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Carnival Cruise Ship Cancels 15 Ketchikan Port Calls

Ketchikan will have about 30,000 fewer cruise ship passengers this summer after technical issues prompted one line to cancel 15 port calls. The Ketchikan Daily News reports Carnival Cruise Lines had 20 port calls scheduled this summer. But the liner Miracle has a technical issue that will lower its top speed from 21 knots to anywhere between 18 to 20 knots. By bypassing Ketchikan, the Miracle will spend more time in Juneau and Sitka. After the ship completes its Alaska and Hawaii schedules this year, it will report to drydock in early 2015 for repairs.

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Alaskans Unharmed in Deadly Mount Everest Avalanche

Friday is being called the "deadliest day" ever on the world's highest peak. Tragedy swept down Mount Everest in its early hours, as an avalanche claimed the lives of at least 12 Sherpa guides.

Two Alaskans were on Mount Everest when it happened. Joyce Mayer says her husband, Douglas Franklin, was trekking Everest for the first time when he heard the snow slide.

"He was on a slope with a view of Everest by base camp when the avalanche happened," Mayer said.

Mayer says her husband, who does computer work for Cycle 360, always wanted to see Mount Everest.

"They were not at an angle where they could see the avalanche, but he definitely heard it," Mayer said. "He heard two really loud cracks, and when they got a view of the mountainside there was a really big scar in it."

Franklin's wife says rugged activity at home helped prepare him for his visit to Everest.

"He's a very active guy, he hikes and climbs all over the Chugach," Mayer said.

According to Mayer, Franklin hiked back to base camp where crews were already moving bodies off the mountain. He was descending as of Saturday morning.

Ty Hardt, the director of communications director for the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., climbed the mountain last year. He says it's not uncommon for avalanches to happen in what's known as the "popcorn field," where Friday's slide happened.

"You have a massive problem with avalanches along the western shoulder," Hardt said.

Hardt says the journey through the area is challenging.

"It's a section on the mountain that you don't spend a lot of time on, you don't take a lot of rest," Hardt said. "It's an area where it's OK to move as fast as you possibly can, because -- again -- the ice that you're moving on is continually moving."

Hardt says he's sure Friday's disaster will affect everyone on the mountain, whether or not they were at the scene of the avalanche.

"I'm sure right now the attitude at base camp is very somber," Hardt said.

Paula Leonard, a Sitka woman who was also on the mountain at the time the avalanche happened, posted on her Facebook page to reassure people back home.

"The avalanche was in the ice fall this morning. My team is good," Leonard wrote. "Thanks for all of the support."

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Chihuahua Abduction Indicative of Hungry Owls

Local bird rescue officials say Great Horned Owls are having a difficult time finding food this spring. That's the theory behind a recent attempted abduction of a Chihuahua dog by an owl near Homer.

The Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage has received eight injured owls so far this year, with many of them showing signs of hunger. Staff are currently treating an owl with a head injury, and many of the owls that are dropped off for treatment have broken wings after being hit by cars.

In the Homer case, Bird TLC recently received an owl that had attempted to capture a Chihuahua but was hit by a car. The dog reportedly survived the attack.

“Normally they wouldn't go after a Chihuahua. It's not their normal prey, it's not -- obviously there are no wild Chihuahuas for them to practice on," said Heather Merewood, Bird TLC's executive director. "They would have to be pretty desperate to go after (one), no offense to any Chihuahuas.”

Bird TLC staff are looking to train hands-on volunteers in May. The center is always in need of financial donations to care for injured birds.

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Effort Under Way to Redesign Town Square Park

Several organizations are collaborating to address a problem park in Downtown Anchorage and hear possible design ideas from the public on how to make it safer.

Town Square Park has experienced a shift in the population that visits in recent years, according to city officials, Anchorage police and nearby businesses. It has become a place that attracts negative -- and sometimes illegal -- behavior, according to Holly Spoth-Torres, director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

"We're starting to experience a lot of problems in Town Square (Park), whether it's crime or people just don't feel safe," said Spoth-Torres.

Nearby businesses like Kobuk Coffee Co. are fed up with what they see on almost a daily basis. Nina Bonito-Romine, co-owner of the gift shop, has complained to the city numerous times. She has made frequent calls to police to report negative incidents.

On Thursday, a Kobuk staff member called police after a man began throwing knives at the building. She has had to clean up alcohol bottles, drug paraphernalia and human waste.

"It's very ugly, and for such a beautiful space, it's time to look at how to mitigate those issues so it's harder for people to get away with it," Bonito-Romine said.

Complaints from the public and the Downtown business community have  prompted several groups to address possible designs that may better suit Anchorage and make the park safer. Currently, hills and tall trees create a secluded place for people to gather, not easily visible from the street. Spoth-Torres says this helps hide illegal activities.

However, some people believe the park should be left as-is. Scotty Pasco, 21, is homeless and spends a lot of his time at Town Square.

"People that live on the streets are always in the public eye, and it's kind of nice to be able to have fellowship somewhere where people aren't just watching you 24/7," Pasco said.

Multiple organizations have come together to hold what they call a Town Square Park Charrette -- essentially a design effort that the public is invited to participate in.

"People are starting to think differently of what Town Square Park could be, and I don't want anybody to be afraid," Spoth-Torres said. "We're going to respect the past but move into the future, so that it functions better for the Downtown community."

The Town Square Park Design Charrette will take place on Saturday, April 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. Individuals are encouraged to register online to participate.

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College Gate Students Motivate Others To Stay Active

Editor's note: This story is the first in Spotlight on Youth, a regular series highlighting the positive effects Alaskan students have on communities across the state.

At College Gate Elementary, home of the Cougars, physical education is not your typical gym class. Using a combination of fitness and fun, these kids won a nationwide competition that brought the current Super Bowl MVP in their building.

From high-stepping in the Super Bowl to figuring out steps at College Gate -- what would bring Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith to the East Anchorage school?

Besides giving NFL players dance lessons, when it comes to fitness College Gate takes it seriously.

Competing in the NFL's "Fuel Up to Play 60" video contest, students beat out hundreds of schools across the country to prove how healthy and active they are.

At any of College Gate students' physical education classes, however, moving is what they do every day. Just ask Derrick "DJ" Glass who has also learned how to eat healthier. 

"I would tell people to eat at least five to six fruit and veggies a day," said the sixth grader. "Sometimes we don't play sports that we play in PE, but we still have fun and stay fit and work with each other."

With activities like Team Pirate Ball, a game similar to Capture the Flag., PE teacher Katie Povolo says she tries to inspire kids to stay in shape.

"The important thing for me is that they are doing it, they are involved, they are making the effort, they're building the habit," Povolo said.

College Gate staff are trying to get students to move -- not just in the gym, but in their everyday lives. That's exactly what sixth grader Roine Faupula is doing.

"One day I told my parents that we should go and walk to East High School and play basketball, so we did before and we still do it," Faupula said. "You can go out and play 60 minutes a day and you can go to a park with your friends and play tag."

Smith's visit to College Gate was only part of the school's prize, alongside a $15,000 donation to the school's PE program. Povolo says she's using the money to buy new cross-country skis and snowshoes for students to use.

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House Finance Advances Gas Line Bill

The House Finance Committee has advanced a bill setting the state's participation in a major liquefied natural gas project. Several members expressed both optimism about the path forward and skepticism of whether the process would finally yield a long hoped-for gas pipeline. SB138 is one of the last big pieces still in play with the session scheduled to end Sunday. It could be voted on in the House on Saturday. Senate President Charlie Huggins has said he doesn't expect the bill to go to a conference committee. A different version of the bill passed the Senate last month. SB138, from Gov. Sean Parnell, is aimed at moving the project into a phase of preliminary engineering and design.

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Senators Seek to Restrict EPA's Project Veto Power

A bipartisan bill introduced by senators from Louisiana and West Virginia, aimed at limiting the Environmental Protection Agency's veto power over proposed projects, now has support from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The Regulatory Fairness Act would remove the EPA's authority to block a project before it has even entered the permitting stage. It also aims to prevent the EPA from retroactively stopping a project once it's been approved for permitting.

The bill was introduced by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), after a West Virginia coal mine had its EPA permit withdrawn despite the mine's completion of the permitting process.

The EPA is currently considering restrictive action against the proposed Pebble Mine, before the company has applied for a permit or submitted a mining plan. State Attorney General Michael Geraghty's office has blasted the EPA's move as an example of federal overreach, saying that without an application from Pebble the EPA would be basing any decision on hypothetical assumptions.

Murkowski says she supports the bill because the EPA needs to have boundaries, not specifically because of the situation involving Pebble.

"This is not about Pebble; this is about a process," Murkowski said. "I think it's important to recognize that there is a process through the Clean Water Act where the EPA can veto this project, but what this bill is designed to do is, is -- say if there is going to be a veto -- it need to be during that time period when there is actually an application."

Some members of the resource-extraction industry say the process of permitting needs to be respected. At the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, general manager Rebecca Logan says the EPA's actions are hindering development. She says major companies will invest in other countries and the United States, and Alaska will lose jobs.

"People who are investing money have to have a certainty.," Logan said. "They have to know that if they invest money and do the right things, that they're going to be allowed to proceed."

In the Bristol Bay area, some locals support the EPA's position. Brian Kraft, who owns three lodges in the region, is opposed to both Pebble and the Regulatory Fairness Act. He says the EPA should retain its right to restrict development before a permit is issued, because it could save the companies millions of dollars.

"It doesn't make any business sense at all to allow the business to go forward," Kraft said. "Go through all the steps, apply for the permit and get the permits from the (Army) Corp of Engineers -- and then after that, the EPA come in and tell them, 'Oh no, you shouldn't have that that permit.' So, in my opinion, knowing up front from the EPA is a good thing."

The EPA says it stands by the wording of Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, which outlines the agency's relevant powers over projects. Under the section, after holding public hearings with appropriate notice, its administrator may prohibit or restrict projects upon determining that material discharges "will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas."

In an overview of Section 404(c) posted online (PDF), the EPA says it has "very sparingly" used its veto authority, employing it 13 times since 1972.

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Senate Finance Unveils Education Bill Rewrite

The Senate Finance Committee has overhauled a broad-ranging education bill, opting to provide additional aid to districts outside the per-pupil funding formula known as the base student allocation. Committee co-chair Kevin Meyer said the bill will provide more choices in education and incentivize districts to do things differently. He said the hope with this package is that it will lead to change and capitalize on programs that work. The draft rewrite of HB278 borrows from numerous education bills and proposals that have been pending this session. It would add support for charter schools, residential schools and correspondence study programs. It calls for funding to improve Internet service for certain schools. It also calls for a study of how the state funds education.

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Alaska Delegation Sputters on Keystone XL Pipeline Delay

A State Department announcement extending the time period for federal agencies to review the Keystone XL Pipeline project is garnering bipartisan condemnation from Alaska’s congressional delegation. Environmentalists have hailed Friday’s decision in Washington D.C., with members of the All Risk, No Reward Coalition telling CNN that “every day without Keystone XL is a day that we keep high-carbon tar sands in the ground.” The decision has been sharply criticized by pro-energy lawmakers, however, and Alaska’s were no exception. In a Friday statement, U.S. Senator Mark Begich blasted the State Department’s announcement that it will extend the time period for federal agencies to review the Canada-U.S. oil pipeline, further delaying a final decision. “I am frankly appalled at the continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project,” Begich said. “Today’s announcement means we’ll miss another construction season, and another opportunity to create thousands of jobs across the country. As I have said repeatedly, this process has gone on long enough -- well past five years -- and has multiple federal reviews and open comment periods.” U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, took an even more strident tone on the announcement, with harsh words regarding both its content and its Friday release. “The administration's choice to delay indefinitely a decision on extending the Keystone XL pipeline is nothing short of a stunning act of political cowardice,” Murkowski said. “And the timing of this announcement -- waiting until a Friday afternoon during the holy Passover holiday in the hope that most Americans would be too busy with their families to notice -- only adds further insult.” Rep. Don Young took President Barack Obama’s administration to task for the delay leading up to Friday’s decision, noting that it comes more than five years after the first submission of an application on the pipeline. “I wish I could say I was surprised, but this President has shown us politics and gamesmanship continues to be the standard operating procedure of his administration,” Young said. “This announcement, predictably released as the American public’s attention is with family and celebrating the Easter holiday, is not a good Friday for American jobs and infrastructure.” Channel 2 tried Friday to reach members of TransCanada, the company behind both the Keystone XL project and a now-defunct plan by former Gov. Sarah Palin to build a natural gas pipeline in Alaska. Representatives of the firm, now one of four energy companies involved in Gov. Sean Parnell’s version of a plan for a gas line, weren’t available due to the Good Friday holiday. Channel 2’s Chris Klint contributed information to this story.



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