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AK Beat: Coast Guard, residents respond to Kake gas spill

Alaska Dispatch

Gas spill in Kake: The U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring and coordinating response efforts to a 7,000-gallon gas spill at Kake’s local harbor. Many of the tiny, rural Southeast village’s 600 or so residents rely on fish and subsistence to get by. According to a Coast Guard press release, responders from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Kake residents quickly banded together to reduce the spill’s impact, but thousands gallons still crept into the harbor, originating from a gas tank’s ruptured pipeline. The pipeline was severed by a floating pier that it runs under when the tide changed overnight. All vessels have been removed from Kake’s harbor and local police restricted access to the area. And the local fire department assisted by using vapor mist to help with cleanup and drive away fumes. “The Coast Guard is providing oversight and coordination of the cleanup to ensure the mitigation of any potential environmental harm,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Chad Mountcastle. The weather at the time of the accident was 20 mph winds, which reportedly blew fumes away from the village.

Southcentral weather advisory extended: The state’s National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for Anchorage through 6 a.m. Sunday, calling for an additional 4 to 7 inches of snow. The weather service had said Friday that 2 to 4 inches of the white stuff was expected by Saturday morning, but moderate to heavy snow continues to fall throughout the city. A total of 10 to 15 inches is now forecasted to blanket Alaska’s largest city. “Snow … will continue through the evening hours before becoming lighter after midnight and continuing through early Sunday morning,” the weather service wrote. Travel may be difficult and visibility will be poor during periods of heavy snowfall. The Kenai Peninsula also has a similar advisory in effect, as forecasters are calling for much of the same with the exception of a possible additional inch of snow. 

Parnell declines raise: Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has declined a proposed pay raise by the state’s Officers Compensation Commission. Parnell makes $145,000 a year, and the commission had said he should instead get $150,872 starting July 1, but the governor announced Saturday he’d opt out of the raise and expects the commission and legislature to “honor his request” -- the Legislature will make the call on the raises. If lawmakers take no action, the pay goes up. The governor’s proposed fiscal year 2015 budget calls for belt-tightening and the elimination of 150 vacant positions in state government, according to a press release, and as such Parnell said his pay should stay the same. However, he called for more money for state agency heads and commissioners, who haven’t had a raise in four years. (Top department heads would get increases from $137,713 to $146,142, according to a Friday press release from Alaska Democrats.) “The commissioners’ jobs are extremely demanding, and retention is becoming an issue,” Governor Parnell said in his press release. “I believe a salary increase for agency heads is warranted at this time.L

Katmai guides charged with hunting violations: An experienced Alaska big game guide has been charged with hunting violations for allowing clients to take brown bears in Game Management Unit 9, which consists of the Alaska Peninsula and its adjacent islands, without the required registration permits. Alaska State Troopers say an investigation opened just last month found five Branham Adventures clients hunted without permits; three of them took brown bears in GMU9. Chris Branham, who along with family operates Royal Wolf Lodge in Southwest, has been charged with a single count of licensed guide aiding or committing a violation, a misdemeanor. According to the lodge’s website, the Branham’s family history goes as far back as the late 1930s, when Chris’s parents built some of the first lodges in the state. That pioneering spirit was passed down to Chris Branham, the website says, and he now carves a life out of the wilderness of privately-owned land in Katmai National Park and Preserve. Despite his experience, Branham faced a previous Fish and Game charge for which he pleaded no contest in 2007. Two assistant guides have also been charged as a result of the newest trooper sting -- Todd Kuster and Daniel Suprak face the same charge as the lodge owner.

'Ultimate Survival Alaska' returns: National Geographic Channel's "Ultimate Survival Alaska" returns on Sunday, bringing another four teams of cheechakos north to prove their mettle on the Last Frontier. And if this preview from the Taunton, Mass., Daily Gazette is any indication of what's to come, they've got a lot to prove. Any Alaskan who has done any amount of halibut fishing has likely witnessed a catch that required a gun to land. But what happens when the angler doesn't have the sense to not shoot the fish right through the bottom of a dinghy? Check out a video preview and then decide whether or not to set your DVR for the premier Sunday. 

Too much holiday cheer? Call Tipsy Tow: AAA and two Anchorage towing companies have teamed up provide free rides and vehicle tows for revelers who may have imbibed too much holiday cheer to drive safely. Anchorage's second-annual holiday-themed “Operation Tipsy Tow” service started Friday, thanks to AAA MountainWest, Vulcan Towing & Recovery and Greatland Towing. People who want to use Tipsy Tow to get home safely can call (800) AAA-HELP (222-4357). The confidential service has become a holiday staple nationwide and is getting more use each year, AAA spokeswoman Kaelyn Kelly said in a statement. “We’re proud of that fact because it means more and more people are making responsible choices while celebrating the holidays.  I say it every year, but it’s true: if the program takes even one would-be impaired driver off the road this year, Operation Tipsy Tow will be a success,” Kelly said. The free rides and free tows of up to 10 miles are limited to Anchorage, however. The program runs through Jan. 2.