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4/21/15 - Legislators do not reach agreement on budgets

Legislative majority leaders have not yet worked out an agreement with minority members last night that allows legislators to pull money out of savings to pay for state government. A 3-quarters majority is needed to tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The House and Senate were scheduled to adjourn Sunday but negotiations on the capital and operating budgets continue behind closed doors.

The Democratic-led minority, among other things, sought to restore $52 million in one-time funds for schools between 2016 and 2017. Legislators worked late to wrap up the legislative session, which was scheduled to end Sunday.


Tribal health organization turns to crowd sourcing for water and sewer project

By Johanna Eurich

The cost of conventional piped water and sewer systems is too high for many of Alaska's smaller villages, and in some cases even small water hauling systems cost too much.  That's why the state has a challenge program underway to develop alternatives.

In the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta, where half of the households outside of Bethel don't have conventional water and sewage systems, the regional health corporation has decided not to wait for the results of the state’s project.  They have started a crowd sourcing campaign.

If you go on the web to one of the largest crowd sourcing sites,, you will find the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation's "Dump the Bucket" campaign.  Brian Lefferts with YKHC says the idea is to test a couple off-the-shelf systems for recycling gray water -- that's not water used to flush toilets, which is called black water.  

They hope that by using some of the water at least twice, people can spend less money to deliver water to their homes. Studies say that in Alaska, the health issue isn't drinkable water.  Instead, to stay healthy, people need 15 gallons per person a day to wash, bathe, and stay clean.

"People on a small haul system tend to conserve because of the cost and they use less than 4 gallons per person per day,” said Lefferts, “ which is more closely related to what you find in a community with no running water at all."

In Alaska, there are also some villages where the water supply is so poor it won't support large demands for the water without causing salt water to intrude and that raises another set of very expensive problems.

Lefferts says gray water recycling and treatment technology should be the answer but they have to make sure it is safe in arctic and subarctic conditions.  It's certainly safe to use grey water to flush toilets. He suspects they will have to modify some of the equipment... but first YKHC need a lab.

"We need a small pot of money to be able to purchase all the equipment to set up the lab - around 20-thousand dollars,” said Lefferts. “We're seeking 20-thousand dollars form the Indiegogo campaign."

Another 25-thousand dollars would cover the costs of year-long testing and modifications. 

"There's significant lab fees. A lot of the things we'll need to test for - your radionuclides, your nitrates and certain things you have to send samples to a lab in Anchorage or even in Seattle to test for,” said Lefferts. “And we're hoping to test a couple of different type of systems.  So that's a lot of samples."

The health corporation intends to share the results of their work with the state's Challenge program and anyone else interested. 

What Lefferts needs is money to conduct the tests to prove these systems are safe and later... build and install a demonstration project. He needs help from ordinary people to make this happen.

"Our project is going to be on,” said Lefferts. “You can get more information on it on or email us at

The challenge facing the Yukon-Kuskokwim region along with the rest of the state is to keep these alternative water systems durable and affordable. The exciting thing is that if an alternative system works in subarctic conditions, it will probably work just about anywhere.

[Text was corrected as Legislators did not reach agreement as previously reported.]


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