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Letter: Budget doesn’t reflect my values

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 17:24

From the Constitution of the State of Alaska, Article I Section I. “Inherent Rights: This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.”

Budgets are moral documents, and the proposed budget for Alaska does not reflect my values. In the budget debate, I specifically want to reiterate that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the state.

People of Alaska, legislators, government employees, hardworking individuals in private industry, entrepreneurs and those who struggle to live each day — we are all here together. We are fighting over “our” piece of the pie. There are needs and there are wants. There is enough to go around and for everyone to get what they need and to get some of what they want. We are not going to get all that we need, let alone what we want, unless we look at revenue instead of cuts.

It is time for compromise and clear understanding that the present state budget does not reflect our values.

As a person of faith, I am grounded in the American Baptist traditions, covenants of faith, and liberty of conscience. I follow Jesus as a Christian and I am a “Matthew 25” person. “… as you did it to the least of these you did it to me” (NRSV Matthew 25:40 b).

Yes, the budget is about education, health care, safety, transportation and quality of life. The politics of scarcity and dominion over those deemed unworthy or “disposable people” is not who I am. I cannot support the disregard for “the least of these” that is blatant in the current budget.

— Sarah R. Welton

Pastor, Church of the Covenant


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Self-taught teenage golfer from Anchorage is headed to Augusta National

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 15:16

Anchorage's Ian Bruchhauser qualified to play at the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals, to be held in April at the Augusta National Golf Club. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

For proof that Anchorage teenager Ian Bruchhauser is a self-taught golfer, look no further than his mother’s laundry basket.

Bruchhauser, 15, is headed to Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, where he will be one of 80 young golfers competing in the April 7 national finals of the Drive, Chip and Putt competition.

He’s the first Alaskan to make it as far as the national finals, and he’s probably one of the only qualifiers who doesn’t have a coach and didn’t grow up taking lessons.

Instead, he practices putting in the living room and chip shots in the garage of his Anchorage home. His mom, Michele Bruchhauser, said she finds errant golf balls all of the time.

“They’re everywhere,” she said. “There’s about six that he’s chipped into my laundry basket.”

One of 10 boys in the 14- and 15-year-old age group, Bruchhauser qualified for the national finals by winning local, subregional and regional competitions, with his regional victory coming at Chambers Bay golf course in Washington last September.

Bruchhauser has been trying to qualify for the finals for several years now, and along the way it became obvious to him that self-taught golfers are rare in the Drive, Chip and Putt skills competition. At Augusta, his competition will include a Kentucky golfer whose coach is PGA pro Mike Thomas, the father of PGA star Justin Thomas.

“It’s kind of funny,” he said. “You look around and see all these people with their coaches, and it’s just me and my mom in the corner having fun and laughing. She knows nothing about the game.”

But she knew enough to buy indoor-friendly toys to keep her son active during Anchorage winters when he was a young boy.

“Just like with all little boys, you buy them a set of plastic clubs, you buy them a little baseball mitt, the foam football and the other toys,” Michele Bruchhauser said.

Family and friends greet Ian Bruchhauser during a party in his honor at Anchorage Golf Course on Friday. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

It was the plastic golf clubs that won her son’s affection, and the more he played with them, the more serious he became.

In the summer, Bruchhauser hones his skills on the practice green at Anchorage Golf Course, where he works on putting and chipping. He takes swings anywhere he can — outside when it’s nice, in the garage when it isn’t.

In preparation for his final year of eligibility for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, he spent hours and hours on the practice green last summer.

“I spent more time at AGC than I did at my actual house,” he said.

Bruchhauser doesn’t belong to a junior league and he’s never taken regular lessons. When he plays a round of golf, he typically goes by himself and joins a threesome.

He played his first Alaska State Amateur last summer and finished with a four-day total of 332, giving him a share of 10th place in the first flight and ranking him 27th among 82 men in the tournament.

“Honestly, it’s just trial and error,” he said. “I set myself a goal and I work to reach that goal, and then when I reach that goal I set a new one.”

Michele Bruchhauser thinks those ever-changing challenges is what motivates her son — that, and a goal-oriented personality.

“He’s always done really well in school,” she said. “In grade school he was on a team of three or four kids that won the state Battle of the Books. When he puts his mind to something, he does it.”

For the last few years, Bruchhauser’s chief goal has been to qualify for the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals. Now that he’s done that, he is chasing a new goal — a college golf scholarship.

To help make that happen, he persuaded his mom to temporarily relocate near family in California so he could spend the 2018-19 school year at a high school in Temecula with a golf team. His aim was to make the junior varsity team as a freshman and log lots of playing time. He wound up making the varsity team.

Bruchhauser and his mom will be in Augusta for about a week. His competition is on Sunday, and on Monday all of the Drive, Chip and Putt participants will get to attend the first day of practice for the April 11-14 Masters Golf Tournament.

He’s making the trip with modest expectations. He said qualifying for the national competition makes him feel like he’s already a winner.

“Just going is an honor,” Bruchhauser said. “Anything more than that is just a bonus for me. The only thing I really want to accomplish is to soak up everything and just have fun with it.”

Perez-Verdia the right choice for West Anchorage

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 15:09

ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News Anchorage School Board member Kameron Perez-Verdia queries Superintendent Ed Graff while flanked by Bettye Davis, left, and Natasha von Imhof on Thursday evening, January 23, 2014, at Anchorage School District headquarters.

As the April 2 election approaches, the residents of West Anchorage have the opportunity to shape the future of our community. We believe that Kameron Perez-Verdia is the right choice for a safer, healthier, more prosperous city.

We’ve both had the privilege of working with Kameron, and we know firsthand that Kameron will bring compassion, thoughtfulness, and hard work to the Assembly. He has a knack for breaking down complex problems, making solutions within reach. He seeks out expert advice, listens closely and doesn’t just look for opinions that match his own. That’s why people of every political stripe who know and work with Kameron believe in him. We need that kind of open-minded leadership to tackle our challenges in Anchorage.

With more than 25 years serving in leadership roles at organizations such as Catholic Social Services and the United Way, Kameron brings the experience needed to solve our city’s most pressing issues, including homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, affordable housing, and economic development. Through his capable leadership as the president and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum — a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and connecting communities across the state — Kameron embodies the belief that despite the division of today’s political climate, we really can come together to make our home a better place.

Kameron served as a member of the Anchorage School Board from 2013-2017. He navigated tough budget cuts while reducing harm to students — a skill that will serve him well on the Assembly. He knows what it means to keep a budget lean while sticking to our community values.

As Assembly members, we’ve partnered with Mayor Berkowitz to grow our police force and fight crime. We’ve found other creative ways to reduce crime, like establishing a fund to clean up vacant and nuisance properties that are susceptible to criminal activity. Our many efforts are starting to pay off. We cannot risk losing the ground we’ve gained, but that is what’s at stake in this election. Kameron’s opponent, Liz Vazquez, voted against funding for Alaska State Troopers while serving in the Legislature. We don’t think it’s surprising that our firefighters and police officers have endorsed Kameron for the West Anchorage Assembly seat.

We do not take the responsibilities of our positions lightly. We understand the weight of serving the people of Anchorage at a time when our city faces profound challenges. Between marathon Tuesday meetings, work sessions, committee hearings, public forums, community councils, and talking with and hearing from all of you, we’re trusted to listen to different points of view, learn the facts and figure out solutions for our community. We know Kameron will do just that. We’ll be mailing in our ballots for Kameron, and we hope you will too.

Eric Croft and Austin Quinn-Davidson are members of the Anchorage Assembly.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

This year’s snow melt in Anchorage is one of the earliest on record

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:43

Spring has arrived in Anchorage, and it’s early, meteorologists say.

For the first time in 102 days, meteorologists on Saturday measured less than one inch of snow at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the National Weather Service Anchorage forecasting office said in a tweet. That means that, unless more snow falls — and forecasters don’t expect it to — spring melt is here.

As of 10am this morning, #Anchorage ended its streak of 102 consecutive days with an inch or more of snow on the ground. If we are done with accumulating snow for the season, 2019 will have the 4th earliest meltout on record. Earliest was 3/22/2016. Avg is April 17. #AKwx

— NWS Anchorage (@NWSAnchorage) March 30, 2019

That makes this year’s melt the fourth earliest on record, just behind 2016, when the melt started on March 22; 1980, when it started on March 24; and 1987, when it started on March 26, said Rebecca Anderson, a meteorologist with the NWS.

On average, that less-than-one-inch mark isn’t typically reached until April 17.

This year’s early spring comes amid weeks of record-breaking high temperatures, which have peaked in the high 40′s and low 50′s. That’s nearly 20 degrees above the average March maximum temperature normal of 33.9 degrees, according to climate data.

Anchorage has broken or tied temperature records six days this month, all of which have been in the past two weeks, Anderson said. Other places around Alaska have also seen records broken this month, she said.

The abnormally high temperatures are primarily caused by a high pressure system that’s been sitting over Alaska for the last 15 days, she said, though other factors have come into a play as well: namely, an increase in the amount of daylight Alaska is getting and a phenomenon known as “offshore blow,” when dry air coming south from the Interior blows toward the ocean.

“It’s a really strong high that’s kind of just anchored over us,” Anderson said.

The National Weather Service’s river forecasters are monitoring the amount of snow and ice melting into rivers across the state — spring melts that come very quickly can cause flooding, she said.

Warm sunny conditions are expected to continue through next week.

Here we go again: Expect more jet noise over Anchorage as runway repairs resume April 1

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:33

A UPS Boeing 747 freighter lands at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Jet noise over Anchorage will soon return as Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport gets the second and final year of its runway renewal project underway.

The airport’s north-south runway will be closed for repairs starting Monday. As a result, the airport will have to use its east-west runways for all flights. Most arrivals will come in over the water to the west of Anchorage, but most departures will take off to the east, over the city. That means more noise in the city from jets that normally take off over water.

The jet noise this year will last longer than it did in 2018, when the runway closure ran from June to September. Work this year is set to last until October.

“We as the airport are going to do our best to mitigate the noise,” said airport manager Jim Szczesniak.

That will involve working with airlines on noise abatement procedures, including pilots pulling back on throttles when they are over the city, then going back to full power once they’re at a higher altitude, he said.

Departing and landing traffic at Ted Stevens International Airport
2018-2019 Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport runway construction schedule. (Alaska Department of Transportation)

The last time the runway was redone was 16 years ago, Szczesniak said, and it needs pavement repairs and electrical work. The project will also involve widening the runway to accommodate larger aircraft.

Work last year frustrated some Anchorage residents, keeping them up at night or rattling windows.

“Although atypical for Anchorage because normally the airport doesn’t impact the community, this is something most other communities” deal with, said Szczesniak, who used to work as operations supervisor for O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport in Chicago. “It’s unusual for Anchorage people.”

About 20 percent of the project was done last summer, and the other 80 percent of the work is set to be finished this year. Crews will work on the runway 24/7, Szczesniak said.

You can read more about the project on the state’s website.

Previous stories:

For some in Anchorage, 2018 brought the summer of airplane noise. But just wait until 2019.

Readers had lots of questions about airplane noise from the airport’s runway closure. Here are some answers.

Boeing 747-400 large cargo freighter takes off to the East at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The North-South runway at will be closed from April 1 until October for construction work on the runway. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
A Cargolux Boeing 747 freighter takes off from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the world’s fifth busiest air cargo airport, on Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
A Cargolux Boeing 747 freighter made a refueling stop at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Heavy equipment is staged at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in preparation for construction work being done on the north-south runway. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Airport manager Jim Szczesniak points out the widening of the north-south runway that was done during construction last summer at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019. The remaining 80 percent of the runway will be widened from 150 feet to 200 feet during construction this summer. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Boing 747 freighters taxi at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 28, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Support lacking in Alaska Senate for constitutional amendment for Permanent Fund dividend

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:23

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposal to enshrine the Permanent Fund dividend in the Alaska Constitution appears to lack the support it needs to pass the Alaska Senate, lawmakers say.

“The Senate majority — I wouldn’t say everyone, but I would say a large number of folks — are uncomfortable with the idea of constitutionalizing the PFD,” Senate President Cathy Giessel told reporters in a meeting Friday morning.

“That’s my sense," agreed Senate Rules Chairman John Coghill, R-North Pole, later Friday. “The barrier is pretty high.”

Amending the constitution requires 14 votes in the Senate, 27 votes in the House, then a majority vote at the next statewide general election. Only two amendments have passed the legislative hurdle since 2010, and no amendment has passed muster with voters since 2004. Five of the past six amendments put to voters have failed.

As part of a broader fiscal plan for the state, Dunleavy has proposed three constitutional amendments: One would require voters to approve tax increases. A second would tighten the state’s existing spending limit. The third would constitutionally enshrine the traditional payout formula of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

As he travels the state this week in a roadshow sponsored in part by the group Americans for Prosperity, the governor is promoting all three amendments.

“It’s really a major focal point of his message,” said the governor’s press secretary, Matt Shuckerow.

[Here’s your annual reminder, Alaskans: The PFD filing deadline is this weekend]

Thus far, the Alaska Senate has taken the lead in considering the governor’s proposals, and both the spending cap and tax-approval amendments have advanced to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. The constitutional PFD amendment will follow suit next Tuesday, said Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla and chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, which has been considering the idea.

While Shower supports constitutional protections for the dividend — hence his willingness to advance the idea — he acknowledges that “there is less support, my read, for the Permanent Fund dividend enshrinement in the constitution” than for the spending cap.

Senators said there are two principal arguments at play with the dividend, one in favor of the constitutional guarantee and the other against.

[Alaska House committee proposes flat budget as starting alternative to governor’s plan]

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, outlined the main argument in favor of the amendment during a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Finance Committee: Enough Alaskans support the dividend that unless there is a protected formula, arguments over the amount of the dividend will occur year after year in the Legislature, soaking up time and effort and distracting from other issues.

“If we do not resolve the issue on a permanent basis and let the people of Alaska decide what that might be, we are setting ourselves up for decades to come, making the dividend a political discussion for everyone’s election,” Hoffman said.

“Senator Hoffman, I think, hit the nail on the head the other day in finance. You’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do with the PFD, otherwise it’s going to be an issue until you figure it out,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.

The principal argument against a constitutional dividend, one used by Coghill and Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, is that constitutionalizing the dividend forces the Legislature to give up budgetary flexibility.

If the dividend is in the constitution, as Coghill explained, it’s a mandate on par with the requirement that state government not restrict residents’ speech.

If the dividend is constitutionally required, lawmakers in a tight budget will be forced to pay it while foregoing other things, such as health care, which is not constitutionally mandated. The alternative is to raise taxes in order to pay a required dividend.

“I am dead set against putting it in the constitution,” Coghill said.

Though senators say there is not enough support right now for a dividend amendment, that could change if the idea is packaged as part of a larger deal, perhaps one that permanently limits transfers from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Currently, lawmakers can spend as much as they want from the Permanent Fund’s $18 billion earnings reserve with a simple majority vote. (The fund’s principal is already protected by the constitution.)

Last year, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 26, a measure that calls for regular transfers from the earnings reserve to the state treasury. At the time, lawmakers argued that the measure would deter unsustainable spending from the earnings reserve, which has traditionally paid dividends. In reality, SB 26 could be changed or ignored at any time by lawmakers, just like the dividend formula.

Coghill said “many of us agree” that the transfer limits “could and probably should be put in the constitution.”

But if a transfer is to be enshrined in the constitution, getting enough support could require part of that transfer be reserved for a dividend.

“There’s a lot of talk in conservative circles about a 50/50 split,” Wielechowski said.

As a state senator, the governor proposed such a split.

“There could be support for that,” Wielechowski said. “I mean, it’s compromise.”

Correction: The initial version of this story misstated the number of votes needed in the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment. It is 14, not 17.

Oldest rock in Alaska has been found near Iditarod

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:09

Bob Gillis inspects a rock protruding from near the Iditarod trail near its halfway point in southwest Alaska. (Photo by Ned Rozell)

IDITAROD — While gliding along a trail that had just felt the imprint of 2,000 dog feet, Bob Gillis skied over to a rock that jutted from the snow.

A few miles northwest of the ghost town that gives the world’s most famous sleddog race its name, Gillis and I were in the neighborhood of the oldest rocks in Alaska. Could this be one of them?

A geologist with the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Gillis poked the rock with his ski poles.

“Looks like a volcanic rock to me,” he said.

Even though the rock had hardened to its present form tens of millions of years ago, its age was probably not even close to some unusual rocks discovered near Iditarod.

On a journey from McGrath to Shageluk following the path Iditarod racers had laid down, Gillis and I skied onward toward the next shelter cabin. Unknown to us, a few hours earlier we had slid over the oldest rocks in Alaska, which were coated with snow and a ribbon of packed trail.

A few decades ago, geologists Marti Miller and Tom Bundtzen found those primeval rocks by chance. In August 1983, Bundtzen, who then worked for the state and Miller, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, were starting a collaborative program mapping the rock formations of the Iditarod quadrangle in southwest Alaska.

Geologist Tom Bundtzen uses a binocular microscope to look at one of the oldest rocks in Alaska, which formed more than 2 billion years ago and was found near Iditarod. (Photo by Cheryl Bradley)

Then, as now (as always), Iditarod was hard to reach. Miller and Bundtzen, who now owns a consulting company in Fairbanks, chartered a helicopter to get there. Flying over the wild country of spruce and swamp, they spotted a rocky knoll that looked like a good landing pad.

Soon after they touched down, both geologists noticed the rocks at their feet seemed out of place.

“We were so confused at these high-ranked metamorphic rocks in this part of Alaska,” Bundtzen said recently.

The rocks had been buried deep underground some time in their past; intense heat and pressure had transformed them from their original state. Earthquakes and plate movements over the millennia had shoved them to the surface.

The rocks resembled a type found around Fairbanks, but both geologists sensed they were different. They dropped a few samples in a collection bag.

When they returned — Miller to Anchorage and Bundtzen to Fairbanks — they sent a few samples to Don Turner, who then led UAF’s geochronology lab.

In that lab, now managed by Jeff Benowitz, researchers tell the age of rocks by chipping off a tiny crystal and heating it with a laser beam. The rock melts into a glass bead about the size of a sand grain. Argon gas wafts from the sample. Scientists direct this gas into a mass spectrometer, which tells them when a rock formed or when forces within the earth reheated it.

Geologist Marti Miller with a 2-billion-year-old rock she collected near Iditarod. (Photo by Adrian Bender)

The Iditarod rocks are more than 2 billion years old. This is remarkable because most rocks in Alaska formed 500 million years ago or even more recently. Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Two billion years ago is about when multicellular organisms first started oozing around on the planet.

“I was very surprised to see how old those rocks were,” Bundtzen said.

In their explorations of the Iditarod area, Miller and Bundtzen mapped the same type of super-old rocks in a 25-mile curve of outcrops that poke from the boreal forest.

“They are, along with the Kilbuck Terrane (150 miles to the southwest), the oldest rocks in Alaska,” Bundtzen said.

Both rock clusters are islands of old rocks in a sea of much younger ones. Why?

The old rocks probably belonged to a craton — rocks that formed the core of a continent. The nearest one to Iditarod is the Canadian shield, home to Earth’s oldest rock (more than 4 billion years old) and found in Canada’s plains and Nunavut. The rocks might have broken away from Canada and lurched to Alaska on the movement of faults and Earth’s plates.

More likely, the geologists think, the rocks originated in Siberia, in an area with similar rock about 600 miles northeast of Magadan.

“They are sort of floating out there,” Bundtzen said of the Iditarod rocks. “It’s a peculiar problem. Where did they come from?”

Since the late 1970s, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute has provided this column free in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer for the Geophysical Institute.

Book review: Gas tank empty, the Bush plane went down — but was it an accident or murder?

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:03

The Big Empty

Stan Jones and Patricia Watts, Soho Press, 2018, 264 pages. $26.95

"The Big Empty," by Stan Jones and Patricia Watts

Keeping a series going in any of the popular forms of genre fiction can be a difficult challenge. Be it science fiction or fantasy, horror or mystery novels, the series is dependent on building compelling central characters, developing their lives over an ever-growing collection of books, coming up with unique plots for each story, keeping the material fresh while maintaining continuity, and all the while writing each installment in a fashion that allows readers new to the series to jump in at any point and be able to understand what’s going on. If it sounds easy, you try it.

Stan Jones is now six books deep into his Nathan Active series, which follows the adventures of the Director of Public Safety for the fictional Chukchi Borough in Northwest Alaska. First introduced as a state trooper, Active is an Inupiat born in the village of Chukchi, which is modeled on Kotzebue. Raised by white parents in Anchorage, he reluctantly returned to Chukchi and eventually embraced his heritage and role in it. It’s a good basis for building a series that follows the conventional detective story format while lending readers insight into a corner of the world most will never visit.

Jones has done well with the books, but like any author working this area, he has needed to stay ahead of the pitfalls mentioned above and keep the series from going stale. In the fifth book, “Tundra Kill,” he did this by introducing a strong element of humor to the storyline. In the newest, Jones takes a step that many series writers would be loathe to do: he’s brought in a co-author. Patricia Watts, a journalist and novelist who spent two decades in Alaska, has assisted Jones this time out, and the result is a win. “The Big Empty” is the most tightly-crafted Nathan Active story yet, and for both longtime fans of the series as well as those unfamiliar with it, it’s a good yarn that will draw readers in and keep them turning pages.

Jones and Watts open the book with Active and his friend (and recurring character) Cowboy Decker, a Bush pilot, examining the wreckage of a small plane that crashed in the Brooks Range. Killed were the pilot, Evie Kavoonah, and her fiancé, Dr. Todd Brenner. The cause of the crash has been determined as pilot error. The plane ran out of fuel and went down. The FAA determination is that Evie had neglected to fill the tanks before departing for Fairbanks.

But Decker isn’t convinced. He had considered Evie practically a daughter, had known her skills as a pilot, and was convinced the tanks had been full when she left. Decker suspects some sort of sabotage. Active presumes his friend is grieving and unwilling to accept the mistake, but goes along to the remote crash site to help look for any evidence that might have been missed by the feds.

Needless to say, this being a mystery series, evidence of foul play will be found and the story will unravel. Jones and Watts contrive a novel means of explaining why the plane’s tanks ran dry, and they keep the creativity going from there. Like any good mystery story, there are false leads, multiple people with possible motives, clues planted along the way that seem insignificant but prove crucial to breaking the case, plot twists, and an action packed finale. It’s all there.

After the last few books, which sent Active out into the Bush and across Alaska, “The Big Empty,” despite its title, keeps the action mostly in Chukchi, which allows the authors an opportunity to show readers what life in an Arctic Alaska village is like. Jones spent many years living in Kotzebue, and while he’s now a resident of Anchorage, he knows the town well and offers details that those unfamiliar with it will enjoy learning about. Houses on stilts to avoid sinking into permafrost; the need to build a sea wall because of the increasingly powerful storms slamming in from the climate change-impacted Chukchi Sea; a Chinese restaurant owned by a Korean immigrant in an Inupiat village far from Alaska’s road system.

The dialogue also rings true. Many residents speak in “village English,” Inupiaq words are scattered through the exchanges, and the discussions never seemed forced. The book has the feel of village life about it, something not often found in Alaska books, and thus a worthy contribution to northern literature.

From the broader series viewpoint, there’s also plenty of character development. Books of this sort depend on a certain amount of soap opera style continuity, and Jones and Watts accomplish this nicely without overplaying it. Central to this theme in the series has been Active’s wife, Grace, who was introduced in the third installment. A victim of severe sexual abuse as a child, she has been living with the aftermath of it, and this has been an ongoing theme in the books. Now pregnant with the couple’s first child, she works through her conflicting emotions, and Jones and Watts use this subplot to explore the terrible effects that abuse have on adult survivors. That they are able to do this without letting it overwhelm the story is impressive, and it’s likely that having Watt’s as co-author helps make this element seem so real. Watts likely added important insight into how the key female character would respond under such circumstances.

They’ve also introduced a new character with Danny Kavik, a young officer under Active’s command. Here he helps break the case, and while his personality is only emerging, he seems poised to become a significant part of the series and help keep it moving forward.

“The Big Empty” works well on all levels. It’s genre fiction, so it’s not deep. But it is quite readable. The Nathan Active series is the best thing going right now in Alaska mystery writing, and this is one of the best episodes yet.

I like my sister’s ex, but after their breakup he won’t stop texting me for help

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 14:03

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My sister dated “Pete” for three years. We all figured they would get married and were pretty surprised and frankly upset when we learned the relationship had ended. We all grew very close to him during the time they were together and considered him part of the family.

My sister is fairly private and didn’t go into deep details on the reasons, and not long after they broke up, Pete asked to meet for a drink. I did so, and did not tell my sister – he sounded very upset and it felt like the right thing to do. Pete was pretty upset about the breakup and while he said he wanted to respect my sister’s privacy, he did tell me that the breakup was her decision and he had asked her to consider counseling and had seen her as someone he could marry.

I haven’t seen Pete since that happened, but he continues to text and send messages that are almost always about my sister and how he wants to think of some way to get her back. I know enough from talking to her that isn’t going to happen but he just doesn’t want to hear that. He asks me things like whether she is seeing someone new (to my knowledge, she isn’t, but I haven’t said either way). I feel like I’m in a very awkward position now, but I’m not sure how to stop my friendship with Pete, even though I feel like if my sister knew this was going on, she’d feel betrayed. Advice?

Wanda says:

Advice: put family first. Advice: don’t get in the middle of drama between people you care about. Advice: cease and desist chatting with Pete. And that about sums it up.

Look, blood is thicker than water, no one knows what goes on in a relationship besides the two people in it, blah blah blah – clichés, but all true. Your sister is your sis for life, and there’s fair statistical data to assume that she could have many long relationships followed by subsequent break-ups before she ever gets married, and that’s if she gets married. What are you going to do, be BFF with every ex-BF in her wake and play counselor to their heartbreak? Not only is this completely inappropriate, but yes, it is a betrayal to your sister. There’s no clearer way to say it. She’s your sister; she wins!

Pete’s really taking advantage of your sympathies and sincerity and likely just sees you as a potential inroad back into your sister’s good graces. Doesn’t he have real friends he can confer with? Like, people he was friends with more than three years ago, before your sister? He doesn’t need to be engaged in clandestine conferences with you; he needs to get it through his head that sister’s not coming back and it’s time to move on already.

So do yourself a favor, and tell Pete you wish him well, but it’s high time to leave well enough alone and stop the sneaky sideline sessions before your sis finds out and has her heart broken all over again.

Wayne says:

Oh for Pete’s sake, tell the guy to keep you out of it. If he wants to drag this out or work to get her back, that’s on him – not you.

As Wanda wisely noted, your allegiances should be with your sister, now and forever. And she’s made it clear there’s no repeat performance for Pete. Maybe he’s needy and/or manipulative – seems to be working on you. Maybe he’s a jerk. Maybe he’s a dud. Maybe your sister just can’t see herself with him in 10 years with kids.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you sit her down and ask her what happened? She’s private, sure, but she’s also your sister. This is a great opportunity to strengthen your friendship with her instead of with her now-ex-and-probably-forever-ex boyfriend who will also be an afterthought for you in about six months.

Breakups can be difficult and confusing, especially for a dumpee. But don’t join Pete in a state of denial or in a quirky Hallmark Channel movie plot – or worse, a devious Lifetime movie plot! – to get them back together. Cut the cable and cut the cord – let Pete go it alone.

Proposed ferry cuts are short-sighted

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 13:23

In this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 photo, the new Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Hubbard, right, undergoes sea trials in the view of the AMHS ferry Malaspina, center, in the Tongass Narrows near Ketchikan, Alaska. The tug Ethan B, seen at left, escorted the Hubbard from Ketchikan Shipyard into the north Channel, where crews completed a few rotational maneuvers using thrusters before starting the main engines and cruising northbound towards Guard Island. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP) (Dustin Safranek/)

The Alaska Marine Highway System is part of the fabric of Alaska. Unlike other parts of the world that are connected by bridges and roads, many parts of coastal Alaska are linked by our ferry system. This system provides a vital transportation link, bringing groceries, medicines, vehicles, and families to 33 communities.

This system is as essential as any other highway in Alaska. Like the Parks, Seward, Richardson, and Glenn Highways, this system connects communities. This system brings students to basketball tournaments. This system carries elders to doctor appointments. This system brings food and goods from the Lower 48 and other parts of the state to homes and families in rural Alaska. This system helps Alaskans thrive.

Importantly, this system also adds a layer of safety and protection to our state. Yet if lawmakers approve the governor’s proposed budget, this system and support network will be washed away. Under this plan, the current administration has said the ferry system could shut down on Oct. 1. What would happen to Alaskans on the road system if in October, the state were to suddenly shut down the Parks, Seward, Richardson and Glenn Highways? What would happen if in October, the state were to stop repairing bridges and permitting traffic on any of the major thoroughfares? Now imagine the impacts to coastal communities in October when the Alaska Marine Highway System no longer provides service.

This action is short-sighted. Once dismantled, it will be costly and difficult to restart or rebuild our ferry system, and all the investment over the decades will be lost. It is also unnecessary. The Alaska Marine Highway System Reform Project brought together Alaskans from across the state to look at ways of improving its viability and quality of service. The committee made thoughtful, professionally supported recommendations based on extensive research, analysis and an open public process. There are workable ideas out there now for enhancing the current system.

One of the most beautiful things about Alaska is the close-knit communities and genuine care Alaskans have for one another. Those who disagree politically will dig one another out of a snowstorm, or come to another’s aid if there’s a stranded canoe. Living in remote, harsh conditions forces us to pay attention to each other and step up in times of need.

Alaskans: This is a time of need. Please pay attention and speak up. Our communities, our ways of life, and the future and fabric of our state is in jeopardy. Now is the time to make your voice heard and say how important these services are to you and your community.

Legislators: Please think about the needs and well-being of all Alaskans. We are all connected. Please think about Alaska’s future as you make difficult decisions this legislative session.

Governor: Please think about the resounding impacts your decisions have on Alaskan communities and lives. Please pay attention to all Alaskans as you make decisions that threaten the fabric of this state.

Heather Parker served as policy director for Gov. Bill Walker in 2018. She is an attorney who lives and works in Juneau.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

A sustainable fiscal plan and reliable funding are crucial for Alaska’s schools

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 13:15

iStock (Getty Images/iStockphoto/)

In February, Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveiled his proposed fiscal 2020 operating budget — which, among other drastic cuts, slashed $330 million from education funding. This budget would devastate public education and leave a bleak future for our children and communities. These severe proposed budget cuts have damaged Alaska’s reputation as a desirable place to live. Thankfully, they’ve also galvanized many citizens across the state, who realize that now is the time, more than ever, for Alaska’s budget to prioritize the things we value.

The deep cuts proposed to K-12 education are at a level not seen in other states. This is because public education has always been a priority for successful communities, states and countries. The people of Alaska also value their local schools and understand the critical role they play in their communities, as confirmed in a new survey conducted by a coalition of education advocacy groups called “The Great Work of Alaska’s Public Schools.”

A majority of Alaskans polled believe public education is the No. 1 priority for government funding. Alaskans who participated in this survey know that young people are our future leaders, innovators, educators, investors, philanthropists, doctors, engineers, writers, welders and builders. Survey results also show that Alaskans support elected officials who will invest in public education and work to make it better for all children. This investment is not possible without a long-term fiscal strategy that moves away from the roller coaster ride of budgeting based on oil prices and production. It’s not possible without a diversification of revenue streams.

Already, we’ve heard concerns from families with children, from kindergarteners to seniors preparing for high school graduation, that the uncertainty over education funding each year presents a huge negative check mark against Alaska when it comes to the livability and economic health of our state. Alaska must be a great place to work, raise families and have our children graduate from high school prepared for career or college. If elected officials do not embrace this as a priority policy for the state, what kind of future do we face? Who is going to lead Alaska’s businesses, new industries, technology, infrastructure and future if not the next generation of Alaskans?

The devastating cuts proposed by the Dunleavy administration, which economists predict will deepen the ongoing recession and lead to more people leaving the state, have many Alaskans now demanding real solutions. The hard work of putting together a long-term sustainable fiscal plan is imperative and takes real leadership to accomplish. Our economic health and the future of the state depend on it.

Timely, reliable and predictable funding notification for education should be an important part of this plan. Timely notification would allow K-12 school districts across the state to have certainty and stability in budget planning, so that budgets can be submitted to their local governments as required by late March or early April. It would eliminate the nonproductive work of preparing various budget scenarios and pink slips, while wild swings in education funding levels are debated to the bitter end of each legislative session.

Senate Joint Resolution 9, introduced by Sen. Mia Costello of Anchorage, would provide for that timely funding notification. It’s the kind of common-sense solution that would go far toward bringing some stability to our state. Coupled with a long-term and sustainable fiscal plan that considers new revenues, we could begin to see an economic recovery in Alaska and possibly even some population growth and prosperity. Our shared vision for Alaska’s students includes a long-term fiscal plan that ensures sustainable education funding for current and future generations. It’s the only viable alternative before us.

A budget isn’t just about what certain things cost; it’s about what people value. Let’s start a truly honest budget discussion that offers a vision for a positive future.

Norm Wooten is executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards, which consists of more than 330 school board members statewide who are responsible for students attending Alaska’s public schools.

Lisa Skiles Parady, Ph.D., is executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, a nonprofit umbrella for the Alaska Superintendents Association, the Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals, the Alaska Association of Secondary Principals and the Alaska Association of School Business Officials.

Sarah Sledge is the executive director of the Coalition for Education Equity, a statewide organization representing Alaska school districts, organizations and individuals to champion a quality, equitable and adequate public education for every Alaska child.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Willow man indicted on 28 counts over high-speed chase with state troopers

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 12:25

A Willow man was indicted on 28 criminal charges Thursday after he allegedly led Alaska State Troopers on a high-speed chase in October.

Troopers tried to pull over Ian McCleod Lleshi, 35, near Mile 65 of the Parks Highway for, they said, “speeding and driving recklessly" early on Oct. 9, 2018.

Lleshi, who Troopers said was driving a stolen 1999 Dodge 1500 pickup truck, refused to stop, instead leading Troopers on a high-speed chase down the highway, they said.

At least one other vehicle on the road had to swerve out of the way to avoid being hit by the Dodge, Troopers said.

When Troopers tried to stop the driver using a PIT maneuver near Nancy Lake Parkway, the truck crashed into a patrol car. The driver got out of the truck while it was still moving and ran into nearby woods, Troopers said.

Lleshi was arrested two weeks later at a home in Willow’s Caswell Lakes subdivision after a Trooper K9 and helicopter, as well as state Park Rangers, were not able to find him. There were reportedly multiple stolen items in the home from three separate burglaries in the Willow area, Troopers said.

He faces multiple charges, including felony eluding, assaulting a police officer and vehicle theft.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Everything I needed in my hairdresser’s chair

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 12:00

(Julia O'Malley/ADN)

My dad and stepmom threw a St. Patrick’s Day party a couple weeks ago and half the neighborhood showed up. I found Jack Roderick, who lives across the street from them, at the kitchen table with a plate of corned beef. Jack was once the borough mayor of Anchorage, back when we had both city and borough governments. It was his 93rd birthday. I asked what he was up to.

You know how, when you live in the town where you grew up, there’s this cast of characters you have been floating along with forever? They aren’t part of your inner circle, but you just know them and they know you. There’s a kind of intimacy that comes with time passed together, showing up in all the same places. Anyway, that day, Jack was my oracle.

“Staying alive mostly,” he told me, in answer to my question. “We’re all going to die, but you always think, ‘Oh no, not me.’”

I laughed, but it was one of those comments that leads your mind down a path. Driving home, I kept thinking about this haircut appointment I’d been to earlier in the week.

Geneva is the kind of hairdresser who is as valuable to the world as a doctor or a priest. She always knows what to do. I joke that she’s my primary-care provider.

She also knows everybody. I’ve found myself, hair slicked up with color, sitting next to a detective, a surgeon, a pot entrepreneur, a model, an oil executive, a professional athlete, numerous musicians and a chef. I’ve overheard people telling her about bad dates and cheating husbands, estranged children and dying parents. Last time I was in, it was her son, who is 13, getting his hair dyed white while I was getting my roots dyed not white. In the third chair was her mother’s friend from back in Geneva’s growing-up days, the Chugiak trailer days.

Geneva has been doing my hair since I shaved my head freshman year of college 20 years ago. She did my hair on my wedding day. A decade later, when my marriage ended, she took one look at my hollowed-out face, got on the phone and ordered a halibut sandwich. Then she fed it to me and gave me the best haircut of my life.

Last time I was in, Geneva padded around, shaking a bottle of color. Her black hair was swept into a bouffant, her eyelashes were thick like a Disney princess, her lipstick bold and precise. I said something about work, but she wasn’t listening.

“I’m going to throw the most amazing birthday party ever,” she said.

Then she started fanning herself. Hot flash. She’s in her mid-40s. It’s early menopause. A surgeon removed a tumor on Christmas Eve and it was cancer. She had to get a hysterectomy. The cancer has a 50/50 chance of coming back. If it does, there’s no treatment.

“I’m going to have a band,” she said.

And all her friends are flying in. There will be the best food. She and her husband will renew their vows. She has three kids.

They got married on post, she told me. There were probably 250 people, but somehow they only spent $3,000 because everybody helped out. She grew up Mormon and her family is huge. Aunts and uncles made hams and turkeys and saved coupons for Michael’s to get half-off on decorations.

“My mom was up at night sewing the beads on my dress,” she said.

“You have got to be one of the most loved people I know,” I said.

“I have the best friends,” she said.

About then, Ed, who works in the salon, took me back to wash my hair. Ed is a gorgeous man, built like one of Beyonce’s backup dancers. He has a twin brother and his dad was a preacher. There’s a verse from Proverbs tattooed on his forearm. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” I teared up when he was rinsing me.

“You can’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Nobody knows.”

Some of us get a long time and others don’t. Life can feel like a series of mundane episodes starring yourself and the characters you’re floating along with, science fair projects and grocery store aisles, weddings, dishes, birthday parties, haircuts. You can stare at your phone or you can chase your kids around the yard, but today is your allotment. It’s what you get. You can’t know what’s going to happen. It matters how you love people.

My hair was wet. Geneva stood behind me in the chair, looking at my me in the mirror the way she had 100 times.

“I’m just going to say yes to everything,” she said. “You got to soak up all the joy, you know?"

At the height of my parents’ St. Patrick’s Day party, every chair and couch was occupied, people sat on the stairs and the hearth and leaned on the counter. Kids wove in and out, mouths green from shamrock cookies. You couldn’t hear the Irish music anymore because of all the talking.

Pretty soon, word got around and the whole room turned toward Jack. We started in on “Happy Birthday,” a booming chorus you could probably hear from the street. My stepmom carried a cake through the crowd and set it down in front of him and his face filled with the light of the candles.

Open & Shut: Raising Cane’s chicken opens at Tikahtnu, plus several restaurant closures

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 10:22

Raising Cane’s chicken finger restaurant opened March 19 in Tikahtnu Commons. (Annie Zak / ADN)

This is an installment of an occasional series in the Anchorage Daily News taking a quick look at the comings and goings of businesses in Southcentral Alaska. If you know of a business opening or closing in the area, send a note to reporter Annie Zak at, with “Open & Shut” in the subject line.


Warehouse 49: Pop-up gaming center Warehouse 49 opened in February at 1412 W. 33rd Ave. in Spenard, offering Xbox, computer and tabletop games.

Owner Tristan Bellotti describes the spot as a “modern-day arcade." The plan is to use the pop-up as a trial run through at least April.

“We decided to test our networking capabilities, see if we can run a good network for gaming,” Bellotti said. If it goes well, the goal is to become a more permanent fixture and a “nerdy bar” for Anchorage, he said, including drinks and food.

Raising Cane’s: Louisiana-based company Raising Cane’s has made its Alaska debut.

The fast-food chicken finger restaurant had a grand opening March 19 for its new location at 1172 N. Muldoon Road, at Tikahtnu Commons. The company has more than 430 restaurants in the U.S. and abroad.

Alaskans are known to get excited about new national brands coming to the Last Frontier. A YouTube video posted on the restaurant’s opening day shows a long string of cars waiting in line to go through the drive-thru.

Planet Fitness: This budget-friendly gym recently moved into a new spot at the Midtown Mall, just across the street from its old location on Benson Boulevard at Gambell Street.

The new Planet Fitness at 670 E. Northern Lights Blvd. opened in February. The gym needed more space, said regional manager Samantha Hanson, and the new spot is about 5,000 square feet larger.

A gym moving in is the most recent of many changes at the Midtown Mall. REI opened as a new anchor there earlier this year, and construction is underway for a Carrs Safeway store on the east end.

Planet Fitness has three locations in Anchorage.

Clancy’s Billiards: An all-ages pool hall opened in February at 530 Muldoon Road. Along with pool, Clancy’s Billiards offers table tennis, air hockey and foosball.

Owner Michael Clancy used to run Beluga Billiards in South Anchorage. That closed last year. The new spot is closer to, and more accessible for, more of his customers.

“I just decided it didn’t belong upstairs in an office building,” Clancy said. “All my customers were like, ‘I’m on Muldoon.’”

His plan is to add arcade games like pinball and a small restaurant, but “that’s gonna take some time.”

[Another prank retail sign has popped up in Anchorage, this time for Tesla]


Romano’s: The Italian restaurant at the corner of C Street and Fireweed Lane is closed temporarily for renovations, according to signs that were posted on the entrance as of Thursday.

No one answered when a reporter called the restaurant this week.

Anchorage Wine House: This local wine business has three locations in Anchorage, and the one at 3020 Minnesota Drive has been temporarily closed since January when heavy ice and snow damaged the roof.

Owner Talbot Chang was inside the business on the evening of Jan. 1 when the damage happened.

"You know how you hear the creaking noise when you hear earthquake shakes? That’s the sound I was hearing,” he said Friday. He thought it was another aftershock from the Nov. 30 earthquake. “When I went outside, I noticed everything was peaceful and quiet. It was just the inside of the building.”

After a roof truss broke, melted snow and ice poured inside, resulting in water damage.

There’s a fence up around the property, and the roof needs to be replaced. Chang hopes the Minnesota Drive location — which just opened last year — will be open again by July. The two other Wine House locations, at 1320 Huffman Park Drive and 8841 Jewel Lake Road, are still open.

The Anchorage Wine House location at 3020 Minnesota Drive is temporarily closed due to roof damage. Photographed Friday. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

Bagel Factory: This Midtown bagel spot located in a strip mall at 142 W. 34th Ave. has been closed for about a month, and there are “for lease” signs hanging in the windows.

Jack White Commercial real estate broker Marc Dunne said there are “a couple different restaurant users” looking at using the space, but wouldn’t say who those are.

Popeye’s: The Popeye’s chicken restaurant at 2960 C St. has been closed for weeks. It’s not clear when it might reopen.

“Closed until further notice,” a sign on the drive-thru menu board reads. “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

The phone number for the restaurant wasn’t in service when a reporter called Thursday.

Half of Fort Wainwright’s largest unit will deploy this year

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 09:57

FAIRBANKS — Officials say about half of the largest unit on the Army post in Fairbanks will deploy to Iraq later this year.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the Army announced Friday that the Fort Wainwright soldiers will replace the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

The unit, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, numbers about 4,500 soldiers.

The Fairbanks soldiers will work to stabilize an area previously controlled by the Islamic State group now known officially by the U.S. and its allies as the Arabic term Daech.

This will be the brigade's third deployment to Iraq.

Brigade spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz says leaders haven’t said which soldiers will deploy. He says the deployment is expected to last about a year, starting this summer.

Alaska’s Taylor Highway opens after winter closure

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 09:47

Alaska’s Taylor Highway has opened to traffic.

The 160-mile road extends north from the Alaska Highway to the city of Eagle. The highway closes each winter.

State highway crews began removing snow along the road in mid-March.

The Alaska Department of Transportation says travelers should use caution and expect water and ice on the road. Higher elevations feature winter conditions and the department says drivers should carry winter survival gear and chains.

Still closed is the Boundary Spur, more commonly known as the Top of the World Highway, a connection to Dawson City, Yukon Territory.

The border will stay closed until U.S. and Canada Customs opens. That usually occurs May 15 but depends on breakup of the Yukon River at Dawson, which allows the George Black Ferry to operate.

Judge rejects Trump’s effort to override Obama and open up offshore leasing in Arctic

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 08:10

A federal judge on Friday rejected President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn a decision by his predecessor and open large tracts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans to oil leasing.

Sharon Gleason, a U.S. District Court judge in Alaska, ruled that Trump in 2017 “exceeded his authority” when he issued an executive order moving to revoke withdrawals of lands for leasing made by Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016.

Trump’s order was “unlawful,” Gleason wrote.

[Read the full ruling]

Obama had banned drilling in most Arctic waters with his decision in 2016 near the end of his term closing 125 million acres of the Arctic Ocean and its estimated 27 billion barrels of oil. That drew howls of protest from members of Alaska’s Congressional decision.

“The wording of President Obama’s 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely, and therefore be revocable only by an act of Congress,” Gleason wrote.

The decision is a win for the 10 conservation groups who sued the president, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to stop Trump’s rollback.

The groups included the Alaska Wilderness League, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center and Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands.

The state of Alaska and the American Petroleum Institute had joined the federal government as intervenor-defendants.

Gleason wrote that the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act grants presidents the authority to withdraw unleased lands from the outer-continental shelf. But it does not grant the president the authority to revoke prior withdrawals, she ruled.

Congress has the authority to take that step.

“As a result, the previous three withdrawals issued on January 27, 2015 and December 20, 2016 will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress,” she wrote in a 32-page order.

An earlier ruling in the day by Gleason, an Obama appointee, halted another effort by the Trump administration to undo a decision by the previous administration. In a 31-page ruling, Gleason rejected a land swap deal signed by Zinke and an Alaska Native corporation that set the stage for building a road between Alaska Peninsula communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.

That deal counteracted a 2013 decision by Obama’s Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell. She had rejected a land-swap deal passed by Congress for the road, after the federal government had determined it would damage critical waterfowl habitat in the Izembek Refuge.