Statewide Briefs 1/19/2010

Arts patron Betti Cuddy dead at 85

Arts patron and education leader Betti Cuddy has died at age 85.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the longtime Alaskan was surrounded by family when she died at home Jan. 13.

Cuddy founded the organization Treasures of Sight and Sound, which allowed thousands of Anchorage children to participate in theater activities and paved the way for local productions.

Cuddy also served as a board member of Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.

Anchorage benefited from Cuddy’s drive with the development of the Lucy Cuddy Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Cuddy Midtown Park.

Cuddy is survived by her husband Dan, as well as their six children and many grandchildren.

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Feds declare fisheries disaster for Yukon River

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has declared a fishery disaster because of low Chinook salmon returns along Alaska’s Yukon River.

Locke made the announcement Jan. 7 during an appearance in Anchorage after informing Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell in a phone call.

Locke said the 2008 commercial Chinook salmon harvest was 89 percent below the five-year average. There was no commercial fishery allowed in 2009 because of low returns.

He said he knows Alaska fishermen and their families are struggling.

The declaration does not open up federal money but could pave the way for congressional appropriations.

Fairbanks reaches 40-below benchmark

The city of Fairbanks recorded its first 40-degree below zero temperature of the winter.

A low temperature of 41-below zero was recorded at the airport Jan. 12.

Clear skies and cold air from the Arctic have produced the coldest temperatures of the winter, and the National Weather Service says the cold snap is expected to continue into the weekend.

The last winter without a 40-below day in Fairbanks was 2002-03.

The coldest spot in the Interior on Monday was 63 below in the community of Chicken on the Taylor Highway east of Fairbanks.

North Slope oil spill cleanup completed

The Department of Environmental Conservation said crews have completed the cleanup of a North Slope oil spill.

About 46,000 gallons of crude oil and oily water spilled Nov. 29 from an 18-inch flowline that froze and ruptured along a 2-foot tear.

The line operated by BP Exploration carried the oil, water and natural gas to the Lisburne Processing Center for separation. It had been shut down by ice plugs.

The department’s on-scene coordinator, Tom DeRuyter, said crews hauled away the oily snow and tundra.

The next state is restoration. BP will backfill the site and then cover it with tundra peeled away from another area being used as a gravel mine.

Sarah Palin makes debut as Fox News contributor

Sarah Palin accounts for the controversy she attracts by saying her opponents don’t like the “commonsense, conservative solutions” she represents.

Debuting as a Fox News analyst, the 2008 vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor was the guest of Bill O’Reilly on the Jan. 12 edition of “The O’Reilly Factor.”

During the interview, Palin said sinking approval numbers for President Barack Obama reflect “an uncomfortableness” some Americans feel toward his administration.

“It was just a matter of time,” she said.

“There is an obvious disconnect between President Obama and the White House, what they are doing to our economy and what they are doing in terms of not allowing Americans to feel as safe as we had felt,” she said.

She told O’Reilly she hadn’t seen a recent “60 Minutes” report about her, explaining she was warned it contained “a bunch of b.s.”

Parnell pushes changes to Alaska energy tax

Gov. Sean Parnell said Jan. 14 that he wants to give oil and gas companies greater incentives to do business in the state, a plan he said will boost production and create potentially hundreds of new jobs for Alaskans.

The plan comes amid forecasts of slumping oil production on Alaska’s North Slope and concerns by some Republican lawmakers that a state tax on oil and gas production — passed two years ago at the urging of then-Gov. Sarah Palin — is doing more harm than good and hindering new development.

A report released Jan. 14 by the state Department of Revenue did not attribute industry woes to the tax; in fact, it found the tax was performing as expected. However, it did recommend ways the system could be improved to spur additional development, including expanding tax credits for drilling and well work costs.

McCain rebuffs questions on Palin vetting process

Sen. John McCain said he’s content with his life in the Senate and happy he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate last year.

McCain steafastly refused to discuss a new book that says the vetting of the Alaska governor was “hasty and haphazard.” Asked about this on NBC’s “Today” show Jan. 12, the Arizona Republican said, “I wouldn’t know. The fact is, I’m proud of Sarah Palin and I’m proud of the campaign she waged. She energized our party.”

Asked how it was possible that he could not know about the clearance process, McCain replied, “I wouldn’t know what the sources were, nor care.” The assessment is in a new book, “Game Change,” written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. He predicted Palin will be a “major player” in GOP affairs.

-Compiled by Kam Walters