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KNBA News - Alaska Sen. Murkowski undecided on which GOP candidate to support for President

April 4, 2016

Sen. Murkowski opposes hearing on U.S. Supreme Court nominee until new president is elected

by The Associated Press

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she hasn't settled on which Republican presidential candidate she will support. But Steve Wackowski, the GOP senator's campaign manager, says Murkowski will not back a Democratic hopeful.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that Murkowski said at a ComFish trade show forum Thursday in Kodiak that she's against giving anyone nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court a hearing in the Senate until after the election.

She says she plans to meet with Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the court last month, to see what Garland knows about Alaska and get his perspective on hot-button issues like Second Amendment rights.

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Platinum mining official gets a year in prison for pollution of Salmon River

By The Associated Press

A former operating officer of a western Alaska mine has been sentenced to a year in prison for violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Federal prosecutors said Friday that James Slade of Calgary, Canada, is the third senior executive of the Platinum Creek Mine to be convicted in the case. Prosecutors say all three had worked for the now-defunct XS Platinum, which had owned the mining claims.

According to prosecutors, Slade was convicted for discharging polluted wastewater into the Salmon River during the 2010 and 2011 mining seasons. Prosecutors say samples of the wastewater showed toxic levels of metals.

Prosecutors say to other XS Platinum officials who live in Australia also were indicted, but have refused to return for trial in the U.S.

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Thawing permafrost complicates road building

By Tim Ellis, KUAC - Fairbanks

The rush-hour traffic was heavy on Thompson Drive during a recent weekday.

Most vehicles were moving along at a brisk pace, probably over the speed limit, along the street that cuts through a permafrost-ridden area just south of the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The smooth flow of traffic may be at least partly due to the smooth pavement on Thompson Drive, which does not suffer from the humps and dips common to most roads built over permafrost in Alaska’s Interior.

“And that’s really what’s probably our single biggest maintenance problem with the roads in the Interior of Alaska – thawing permafrost,” said Jeff Currey, a materials engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation.

And he says Thompson Drive showcases technologies that keep permafrost beneath the roadbed frozen. That prevents the settling that occurs when it thaws, which creates a surface more like a roller-coaster than a roadway.

 “Thompson Drive was sort of a poster child for a lot of the permafrost technology,” said Currey.

Thompson Drive features two technologies. One is a thermosiphon system that uses tubing filled with liquefied carbon dioxide. It’s buried under the roadway and helps transfer cold from the surface to permafrost several feet below.

 “These are intended to either slow down thawing or prevent thawing or, theoretically, supercool the permafrost to make it more stable,” said Currey.

The other technology is the air-circulating embankment, which uses grapefruit-size rocks buried underneath the roadbed and along the shoulders to enable circulation of cold air from the surface to sink to the permafrost layer and warm air from that level to rise to the surface.

“That is a more cost-effective solution,” said Currey.

Currey says both technologies have worked well since Thompson Drive was built 13 years ago. But he and other engineers now believe they’re going to have to come up with new solutions – because of climate change.

 “If the winter temperatures aren’t as cold as they used to be, then these technologies will become ultimately less and less effective over time,” Currey explains.

We’ll talk more about how the warming climate is complicating roadway engineering in the circumpolar north next week.