2013 Year in Review

by Angela Denning-Barnes on December 31, 2013

2013A new nursing home in Bethel, dip netting for Yukon chums, and another King salmon disaster…it all happened in 2013. It is the last day of the year and we are looking back at the top stories and issues in KYUK’s Year in Review:

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January

YKHC launched “Raven” a new electronic health record system. The new system replaces paper files with a computer system that shares patients’ information throughout the corporation. The health corporation spent the previous year readying departments for the switch.

Calista’s new subsidiary, E3-Environmental, LLC got its first business. It began work on a proposed road that would connect the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

Jeff King of Denali won his 9th K300 Sled Dog Race. No one’s won the race as many times as he has.

February

A magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck six miles southeast of Tuntutuliak. While not big enough to do any real damage, it marks the largest quake Southwest Alaska has seen in 40 years.

The village of Kwethluk was concerned about a barge that was sunken in the Kuskoquak Slough. The village told residents to not pack water from there. The barge was later removed by a Bethel construction company.

While half of the teams scratched the Iron Dog Snow Machine Race, Steven Boney and Gux Laraux of Bethel finished the 2,000 mile race in 15th place. The duo, who made up Team 19, finished the race in Fairbanks with total elapsed time of 55 hours, 21 minutes, and 21 seconds.

Pete Kaiser of Bethel won his second Norton Sound 450 Sled Dog Race in Unalakleet.

March

The LKSD board of education selected Jacob Jensen as the new Superintendent. He came from the Valdez City School. Jensen started at LKSD July first.

Bethel hosted a two-day meeting of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission for their 100th meeting. The federal agency establishes research goals on the national level.

Local mushing fans had a special treat as a record four mushers from the Y-K Delta competed in the Iditarod: Pete Kaiser of Bethel, Mike Williams Jr. and Sr. of Akiak, and Richie Diehl of Aniak.

April

Dozens of regional leaders and residents voiced concerns at a subsistence hearing in Bethel hosted by Senator Lisa Murkowski.

That was followed later in the month by a subsistence rally, which had protestors walking through Bethel supporting subsistence rights.

May

A few dozen subsistence fishermen were found guilty in Bethel District Court of fishing for King salmon when the Kuskokwim River was closed. However, the court found that the fishing by the Yup’ik fishermen was spiritual in nature. About a dozen fishermen are appealing the case.

One of the region’s main barge companies, Northland Services, was bought out by the worldwide transportation company, Lynden.

Bethel breakup was official on May 29th when the tripod finally tripped the wire.

June

Commercial Chum fisherman on the Yukon practice catch and release with incidentally caught king salmon. Instead of using gillnets, fisherman uses dipnets to selectively harvest chum salmon. Kings must be returned to the river alive.

Kuskokwim river main stem fisherman were able to fish without gear restrictions until late June. The King run ended up being the lowest on record. The reduced escapement goal of 65,000 kings was not met. That was less than half of what the state expected.

69-year-old former foster parent Peter Tony was arrested for alleged sexual abuse of minors. More charges were added in July. Abuse could date back to the 1970s. The case is still on-going.

July

Three people were medevaced after a gas fire badly burned them at Northstar Gas. 38-year-old Julian Garcia, 19-year-old Brandon Billy, and a 13-year-old male juvenile were injured. North Star Gas employees quickly responded by turning the fuel off to the pump, putting the fire out with dry chemical extinguishers.

August

The Kuskowkiwm salmon working group began work to set a plan for the 2014 salmon run in order to not repeat another year like the last two. They are pushing for significant restrictions on Chinooks in hopes of preserving a king salmon run for future generations.

September

Three people died after their boat swamped on the Lower Yukon River near Alakanuk: 29-year-old Daniel Noble and 50-year-old Cyril Murphy., along with 24-year-old Stanton Sheldon.

Dozens of Cup’iq artifacts like masks, harpoons, and dance regalia ended up in the village dump. The artifacts had been kept in a traditional sod house that was owned by the School District. It was destroyed after it fell into disrepair.

October

Dozens of searchers descend upon the lower Kuskokwim river to look for Jim Lee Napoka of Tuluksak and Nick Cooke of Bethel. Their boat was found submerged near the mouth of the Kialik river. They were never found.

The region’s first nursing home opens after years of work. The 18-bed facility cost over 16 million dollars to build. It will allow elders to stay closer to home while getting the medical attention they need.

Kyle Motgin was sentenced in Bethel Superior Court to 45 years in prison for murdering a Korean cab driver in 2012. He was 21-years-old when he stabbed Young Suk Chong to death.

The Calista board censures 3 current and 3 former directors for violations of the ethics policy and misuse of per diem funds. A year-long investigation showed thousands of dollars in food and lodging expenses that should be reimbursed. The ethics committee says that all six voted to falsify meeting records.

November

Four people died and six were injured in a crash of a Cessna 208 near St. Mary’s. The pilot, 68-year-old Terry Hanson, died in the crash along with three passengers: Rose Polty, 57, Richard Polty, 65, and Wyatt Coffee, five months old. The NTSB has moved the aircraft wreckage to a facility in Anchorage for the investigation. They don’t yet know what caused the Hageland flight to crash into the tundra.

A Bering Sea storm caused extensive damage to homes in Kotlik and scammon bay. A surge of water ripped up water and sewar lines. Kotlik was disconnected from its water supply for several days. The governor declared a state disaster for the storm.

A fire in a 2nd grade classroom at Bethel’s ME school severely damaged the building. School officials determined that a second grader started the fire. No one was hurt, thanks to quick thinking and a fast evacuation by the teacher, Mrs. Hoffman.

December

The Bethel Homeless shelter opened on Christmas Eve. A grassroots effort came together this fall to create a place for the city’s homeless to spend the night out of the cold. The shelter will be open for the three coldest months. Last year there were four deaths from exposure. The goal for this winter is zero deaths.

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