Rural blog

The Village is a Daily News blog about life and politics in rural Alaska. Its main author is ADN reporter Kyle Hopkins. Come here for breaking news on village issues, plus interviews, videos and photos. But that's just part of the story. We want to feature your pictures, videos and stories, too. Think of The Village as your bulletin board. E-mail us anything you’d like to share with the rest of Alaska -- your letters to the editor, the photos of your latest hunt or video of your latest potlatch. (We love video.)

Pumpkin recycling service - 11/8/2012 11:00 am

Pressed for change, leaders promise a 'new, modern AFN' - 10/20/2012 1:29 pm

Should Alaska Native elders be exempt from fishing bans? - 10/18/2012 3:27 pm

Make way for AFN - 10/9/2012 3:02 pm

Bathtime at 220°F - 10/1/2012 10:09 pm

Where the jobs will be: Mining, health care - 10/1/2012 2:07 pm

First, some advice: Don't cook angry - 9/28/2012 8:55 pm

In Bethel? Say hello - 9/24/2012 12:28 am

Bethel's new liquor rules: A letter from the petitioners

Now that the vote lifting Bethel's ban on alcohol sales has been certified, one of the petitioners behind the vote writes about what's next:

My name is Tom Hawkins. I was the lead sponsor of the Opt Out Petition. I would like to thank all the citizens who voted to help us remove the difficult and divisive rules imposed upon us by the State of Alaska.

The petition sponsors feel somewhat better at this time knowing that law-abiding citizens can go about their lives without undue involvement from the state. Our whole reason for this movement was to put the citizens of Bethel back on an equal footing with the rest of the citizens of Alaska.

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UPDATE: Remembering Pete Brown

Photos by Dave Cannon.
This is Pete with Eleanor Sanbei who did the bead work on the clothes that Pete will be buried in.  Eleanor's sisters from Anchorage and the Yukon River helped make the clothes. More photos, and addresses to send donations, below.Photos by Dave Cannon.
This is Pete with Eleanor Sanbei who did the bead work on the clothes that Pete will be buried in. Eleanor's sisters from Anchorage and the Yukon River helped make the clothes. More photos, and addresses to send donations, below.

Aniak fire chief Pete Brown died Tuesday -- three days after the village held a kind of goodbye celebration in his honor. Brown knew he didn't have long and asked for the get-together as a way to see friends and family one last time.

Sgt. Mike Duxbury, a state trooper who worked in Aniak from roughly 2002 to 2004, describes the party:

There were people from all over the nation there as far away as Florida. I think there were more than 300 people in the school gymnasium.

Many former Dragon Slayers came from across the state and some from other states like North Dakota.

Three boys who are in the Military, one a Marine who wore his dress uniform, got permission to come. I think two of the boys had been deployed at least once. A gal who was one of the best success stories in the Dragon Slayer legacy (to which I can personally attest) who was from a village outside of Aniak came to share her memories and goodbyes. She now is a member of the Air Force -- had to get special permission. She, like so many others with the Dragon Slayer program and under Pete Brown’s influence, was able to transform her life from wanting to quit school because of tremendous personal and family issues to now being now 30 credits away from graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree. She is presently a medic in the Air Force having been deployed once in that capacity and is considering cross training to be a firefighter.

In a place where almost fifty percent of the children do not graduate from high school this Dragon Slayer Program instills self esteem and gives them tools to succeed in life as productive healthy adults most of who want to return to participate in their communities.

The three boys in the military all said (to myself and to another troopers that attended the celebration) that they are thinking about applying for Alaska State Trooper jobs when they are finished with their military commitment. I personally know that Pete Brown was a major influence in each of those boy’s lives.

Furthermore, you could tell by stories told, articles displayed and the lack of dry eyes in the crowd that Aniak Fire Chief, and “Master Dragon Slayer” Pete Brown has been a significant and positively charged life force. Like the notion of a subatomic particle, a quark, he has influenced and changed each person he has interacted with and his life force has passed though and on to many across his region, state, and nation. His sphere of influence had helped to make this world a better place to dwell for a time.

-- Sgt. Mike Duxbury


ORIGINAL POST:

Photo by Dave Cannon
Kayla Morgan watches as Aniak fire chief Pete Brown signs Allisa Morgan's shirt Saturday.Photo by Dave Cannon
Kayla Morgan watches as Aniak fire chief Pete Brown signs Allisa Morgan's shirt Saturday.

...

Dave Cannon.
Nicole Vaides, left, looks on as Pete Brown hugs Jaci McKindy.Dave Cannon.
Nicole Vaides, left, looks on as Pete Brown hugs Jaci McKindy.

Today we ran a story on Pete Brown, the longtime Aniak fire chief who launched the renowned Dragon Slayers youth rescue team and was recently told he has terminal cancer.

Aniak held a celebration for Brown yesterday. I'm hoping to post more pictures soon. (Send them to khopkins@adn.com if you have any you'd like to share.)

“It was really beautiful," said April Kameroff, former Dragon Slayer and the new Aniak EMS chief.

“Several people made kuspuks for the fire department and for his family," she said.

They sewed them in red and black -- firefighter colors.

One thing I forgot to put in the story is an address that people can send cards for Brown or donations for the Dragon Slayers program. Despite all the Oprah and People Magazine fame, the program runs on a shoestring and Brown encourages people to help out if they can.

"We’re basically funded off anything the fire department has left over," he said.

Donations for the Aniak Dragon Slayers may be mailed to:

Aniak Volunteer Fire Department
P.O. Box 307
Aniak, AK 99557

Send cards & donations for Pete Brown & family to:

Jeremiah Brown (Pete's son)
P.O. Box 124
Aniak, AK 99557

Photo by Dave Cannon.
Pete being ushered in past all the plaques, awards, etc. that he and the Dragon Slayers have been awarded.Photo by Dave Cannon.
Pete being ushered in past all the plaques, awards, etc. that he and the Dragon Slayers have been awarded.

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Barrow whaling season comes to a close

Barrow whaling crews landed two more bowheads on Saturday, said Qulliuq Pebley, captain of the Panigeo crew.

That brings the fall season to a close. Barrow is allowed a quota of up to 22 whales, or strikes. They got 19 whales.

"We’ve lost three of them this fall. Because the togglehead harpoon part had come out of the whale," Pebley said.

He's is the uncle of the 9-year-old that struck the killing blow to a bowhead last week. We've had pictures up for the past few days. (Sparking a round of finger-waving from the activist Web site www.care2.com.) Look for a story tomorrow.

Meantime, here are a few photos from the Akootchook Crew's successful hunt last week:


By MARY SAGE, of Barrow

Our whaling crew was blessed with a whale this past Wednesday, Sept. 30. A female whale, 33’6”. We butchered the whale on Wednesday, and on Thursday we cooked all day and served the community at night.

We lost several family members this past year, and we thought of them during this time, knowing they were celebrating with us. Healing, celebrating, working hard and feasting.

Savings for Thanksgiving and Christmas FeastSavings for Thanksgiving and Christmas Feast

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Coast Guard rescues Juneau man from Sitka Sound

This report today from the Coast Guard:

KODIAK – A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka hoisted a 68-year old man from Sitka Sound after his 36-foot fishing vessel Rascal reportedly started taking on water and sank about 9 p.m. Saturday.

Lyle Martin, a Juneau resident, relayed a mayday call to Coast Guard Sector Juneau rescue coordination center watchstanders via VHF- FM channel 16 at 8:35 p.m. stating his emergent situation. Martin abandoned the Rascal and it is unknown if he was wearing any survival gear. A good Samaritan was in the vicinity, located Martin and held him to the side of their vessel.

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A homemade salmon hatchery in Quinhagak

James Barthelman in Quinhagak blogs about catching silvers for a kind of homemade hatchery.

Here's the post. Check out the video at the bottom. Jim suggests you turn on a little Marvin Gaye first.

All this brings back memories of fertilizing kings at the high school hatchery class in Skagway. Everyone would always be a little grossed out. I once had a summer job there walking around the river in waders, picking up the half-dead salmon with a metal-mesh glove.

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Anyone know what this is about?

Troopers:

Location: Newhalen
Case number: 09-91605
Type: Embezzlement

Text: On 10/09/2009, AST received a report from a business entity in Newhalen regarding embezzlement. Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the names of the individuals involved and details of the case will not be released at this time. Investigation is ongoing.

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Vote for city-run liquor sales passes in Kotzebue

Election counters in Kotzebue met today for the final tally on Tuesday's alcohol vote.

The unofficial count: 412-365. That means the city will be able to open its own liquor store, or bar, or alcohol-serving restaurant.

Of the roughly 90 votes that remained to be counted, only 35 were eligible, according to the city. Those split about 2-1 in favor of allowing city-run liquor sales. The vote also calls for creating a city alcohol distribution center and a local liquor board.

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So is Bethel 'wet' or not? (UPDATED)

That was fast.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board says its heard from five or six people interested in getting liquor-license applications for Bethel, following the city’s vote to lift the local ban on liquor sales Tuesday.

Bethel is eligible for two liquor stores, two bars and four restaurant liquor licenses, ABC Board Director Shirley Gifford wrote in an e-mail.

Once again: People who pushed for the change in Bethel say they didn’t want bars or liquor stores but wanted to be free from what they see as arbitrary and ever-increasing state oversight.

That said, the question Bethel residents actually voted on was pretty simple: Should the city remove the local option? In other words, should they remove the local ban on sales?

It looks like they have -- the effort is 60 votes ahead with 163 ballots to be counted. (Earlier reports said there were 114 ballots remaining, but apparently that didn't include absentee.)

I bring this up because a teacher from a Y-K Delta village e-mailed yesterday asking about the Bethel liquor vote and what it means. Is Bethel really “wet” now?

It is wet in the sense that there’s no longer any local ban on liquor sales. The petitioners prefer to call it “unrestricted.”

Either way, anyone who wants to sell booze has to get a license from the state. The city and others can protest those applications, but the state can’t reject a license without a good reason.


UPDATE:The Delta Discovery posted a Q&A with an alcohol control board investigator tackling some of the biggest questions. For example, someone asks if the city can make its own rules restricting alcohol sales once Bethel removes the alcohol ban. The investigator says no.


In Bethel, acting city clerk Cathy Cope says we should see the final tally on Monday night.

I’m waiting to hear back from Kotzebue. If the election results hold there, the city would be allowed to open a liquor store or bar or restaurant that serves alcohol.

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Report from Barrow: 4th grader harpoons whale

Photo and caption courtesy of Bridget Edwardsen
This is Paul Patkotak of Barrow. He is a young harpooner for Panigeo crew. Paul harpooned this whale and once he harpooned it, it officially died. The whale was 32'7". Paul is the son of Maria & Ellis Patkotak and he is only in 4th grade!Photo and caption courtesy of Bridget Edwardsen
This is Paul Patkotak of Barrow. He is a young harpooner for Panigeo crew. Paul harpooned this whale and once he harpooned it, it officially died. The whale was 32'7". Paul is the son of Maria & Ellis Patkotak and he is only in 4th grade!

By BRIDGET EDWARDSEN, of Barrow:

On Tuesday around noon, Panigeo crew struck a whale. Pauyuuraq Brower of Barrow shot the whale with the darting gun. Then Paul Patkotak, 9-year-old son of Maria & Ellis Patkotak, harpooned the bowhead whale and officially killed the whale.

Paul is a 4th grader at Ipalook Elementary School & is very into his culture. He loves to go whaling with his uncle Qulliuq Pebley, who is the Captian of Panigeo Crew, he loves to go subsistence hunting and camping. The family was overjoyed in tears when they heard that their 9-year-old Paul harpooned the 32' 7" whale.

This is big news for Barrow, usually kids are not allowed on the boat until they are a certain age. I think Paul is the youngest kid to actually harpoon & kill a bowhead whale.

Once they arrived & beached the whale, the family was overjoyed. His mother could not believe that her son actually caught the whale.

Photo courtesy of Bridget EdwardsenPhoto courtesy of Bridget Edwardsen

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Efforts to loosen liquor rules winning at ballot box in Bethel, Kotzebue, Kiana (UPDATED)

Following Tuesday's elections two rural hub cities -- Bethel & Kotzebue -- are on pace to relax liquor rules after decades of banning local alcohol sales:


Wednesday morning update: The effort to loosen liquor rules in Kotzebue is ahead by 36 votes, with 90 votes still to be counted.

That according to Kotzebue City Manager Rich Walker, as of 1:30 p.m.

The ballot asks whether the city should be able to own and operate a liquor store, bar or alcohol-serving restaurant. The proposition also calls for the creation of a city alcohol control board to regulate sales and a city-run distribution center.

The election expected to be certified on Monday, Walker said. The city has banned local liquor sales for more than 20 years.

“I think a lot of people realized that what we have right now wasn’t working," said Willie Goodwin, chairman of the Kotzebue elders council. "Or wasn’t working as good as we wanted it to work ... there were problems in the community that were not being fixed.”

But the elders council opposed the change, he said. “Of course the young people that didn’t see what we had 21, 22 years ago, don’t have an idea of what happened back then."

Goodwin worries city liquor sales will lead to more accidental death and suicide.

Joe Garoutte teaches kids who get caught drinking about drug and alcohol abuse for the Native Village of Kotzebue. The fact that a local alcohol board would play a role in planning any city liquor sales may have swayed some voters, he said.

“I think the whole purpose was to establish tighter controls on the liquor industry here," Garoutte said. "I think that’s always been what this is about: How can we get more control on the liquor issues and liquor problems in our community"”

Voters in the Kobuk River village of Kiana were asked the same question. That vote appeared to pass, according to unofficial results.

Kiana voted 78-58 to allow for city-run liquor sales, a control board and distribution center, according to City Clerk Crystal Johnson.

That's with only six questioned ballots and two absentee ballots still to be counted, meaning the vote should stand, she said.

Kiana banned sale and importation of alcohol in 1988, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Meantime, voters in the dry village of Selawik rejected an attempt to go wet 141-73 Tuesday, said City Clerk Alice Mitchell.

Kotzebue is the hub city for both Kiana (57 miles to the east) and Selawik (about 90 miles to the east.)


Tuesday night update: Early, unofficial election results have been posted on the Bethel city Web site. They say the proposition to remove liquor limits in Bethel -- Alaska's largest rural hub city -- is winning at the ballot box.

Click here to read the results. It's Proposition 1.

Voters have chosen to do away with liquor restrictions 543-482 so far, with 110 votes uncounted, according to the city.

Bethel has outlawed local liquor sales for more than 30 years. Petitioners who pushed to remove the ban say they didn't necessarily want the city to be "wet" but were fed up with ever-increasing regulation from the state. Opponents feared lifting the ban would flood nearby dry villages with booze.

(It's worth noting the difference between the origin of the Kotz and Bethel votes here: In Bethel, proponents of lifting the liquor ban say they would actually oppose a city-run liquor store. In Kotzebue, the whole idea is to begin local liquor sales, albeit with local oversight.)

If the numbers hold and Bethel removes the restrictions that make it a "damp" community, anyone who wants to open a bar or liquor store will still have to get approval from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

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Looking for liquor election results in Kotzebue, Bethel (UPDATED: 10:25 p.m.)

I'm hoping to get some numbers from the city of Bethel soon, to see how the local option fared. The city is voting whether to remove local liquor restrictions.

City officials said they'll post preliminary results on their Web site tonight, but nothing yet.

Voters are deciding whether to loosen liquor rules in Kotzebue too. There, the ballot asks whether the city should be able to own and operate a liquor store, bar or alcohol-serving restaurant. Or all three.

The vote also calls for the creation of a city alcohol control board to regulate sales and a city-run distribution center.

The KOTZ radio station is announcing sporadic results from Northwest Arctic Borough villages ... you can listen online here .

(UPDATE: KOTZ DJ Dan Ryder says the turnout today was much bigger than usual, slowing the count. He doesn't expect to have numbers until after midnight.)

Here's how people in the city of Kotzebue voted on the relatively close race for Borough Mayor, according to the station:

-- Incumbent Mayor Siikauraq Martha Whiting: 296 votes

-- Patrick Savok: 92 votes

-- John Lincoln: 237 votes

-- Gia Hanna: 97 votes

(Lincoln was one of the proponents of changing the local liquor rules.)

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Subsistence fishing protest: Marshall council opposes ticket

Here's an announcement from the council this week, opposing the ticket Fish & Wildlife recently gave tribal president and village police officer Jason Isaac. Isaac was the only person to admit to participating in this June's protest king salmon fishing trip.

OHOGAMIUT TRADITIONAL COUNCIL

RE: OTC Press Release: Jason Isaac Ticketed

The Ohogamiut Traditional Council (OTC) as a federally recognized Alaskan Native tribal government opposes the citation issued on Jason Isaac for the protest fishing in late June 2009. On Wednesday, September 30, 2009, two Wildlife Enforcement Officers from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service flew into Marshall three months after the fact that the “Marshall Protest” occurred and ticketed Isaac, who serves as the OTC tribal president, and lone Marshall Village Police Officer. The citation was written for $275.00 according to 50 CFR 100.19 (g). Jason Isaac was the only person that admitted to the “illegal fishing” that prompted international media attention, high lighting the strong message of the dire situation our People are facing. King salmon is our traditional and customary staple food source, and after a long hard expensive winter compounded by the Energy Crisis of 2008, we needed to get the message out that we will no longer sit idle and silent as another injustice was happening at the hands of the state and key federal fishery managers.

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Proof?

Cow moose with six calves, taken a few years ago.
-- Jimmy R. Hurley Sr., EkwokCow moose with six calves, taken a few years ago.
-- Jimmy R. Hurley Sr., Ekwok

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Legislators to hold energy hearing at AFN

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –

State lawmakers will hold a hearing on the cost of rural energy during the upcoming Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, the first time that I can recall legislative committees meeting at AFN.

The resource and energy committees of both the state House and Senate, along with legislators from the Bush Caucus, will hold the hearing Friday, Oct. 23 at the De’naina Center in Anchorage.

The state House energy committee has been holding hearings throughout the state this summer; the question is whether significant legislative action is going to come about as a result of them.

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Report: Village homes are more likely to be cold, crowded or deteriorated

Look for a story tomorrow on the rotting homes in Quinhagak. The big question remains: Just how many homes across rural Alaska need to be replaced? How many are unsafe, or as one engineering report on Quinhagak put it, "unfit for human occupancy?"

There's a recent report that reveals the problem in broad strokes. It's called the "2009 Alaska Housing Assessment."

Click here to read it. It was prepared for the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

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Alaska chickens?

Just found out friends are raising chickens in Kotzebue.

How common is that?

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'Savik' = 'Knife' in Inupiaq

Couple more shots from Barrow this week:

Savik crew: Towing whale home.  Flag is the symbol of the crew (Savik means "knife" in Inupiaq).  When raised it means the crew has been successful.  Pictured: Roy Ahmaogak, Richard Glenn (back), Benny Hopson. Photo courtesy Richard Glenn.Savik crew: Towing whale home. Flag is the symbol of the crew (Savik means "knife" in Inupiaq). When raised it means the crew has been successful. Pictured: Roy Ahmaogak, Richard Glenn (back), Benny Hopson. Photo courtesy Richard Glenn.

...

Willow - constant barker, if you get close enough we can't stop her from biting. Protector of our house.  Photo by Michelle Frantz, Barrow.Willow - constant barker, if you get close enough we can't stop her from biting. Protector of our house. Photo by Michelle Frantz, Barrow.

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AK Dispatch: Bethel prisoners sue state over TV show

The Alaska Dispatch reports:

Prisoners at a Bethel jail have filed a complaint against the State of Alaska Department of Corrections, accusing the state of forcing them to be filmed for an episode of National Geographic Television's show "Lockdown."

At issue are incidents that took place in August 2008 at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center. ...

Click here for the story. One accusation: That an inmate was led to believe he was being released so the crew could film it -- only to be returned to jail, the Web site reports. Ouch.

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Rotting, unsafe homes in Quinhagak? (UPDATED: Your housing stories)

UPDATE: Readers write about housing conditions in their hometowns:

I am sure there are many homes in other communities that are probably in bad shape similar to those in Quinhagak if not worse. I am writing to you in regards to homes in Metlakatla that were built in the 70's, 80's, and possibly in the 90's that are structurally unsound for our climate conditions, extremely wet and humid. Some homes also were supposedly modified to take care of the water and/or dampness and were similar to the vapor lock fix as referred in your article and this fix only compounded the problem with mold. Respiratory problems do exist with many of the community residents and I didn't think about the possibility of the homes they live in being the source. ...
-- Arlene, Metlakatla

...

In rural Alaska, most HUD Home Designs are going to have the same problems in a lot of the different villages. In Wales in a 1976 house, my mother in 1990 was fixing their bed, and by the window her foot punched a hole thru a plywood floor that had a vinyl tile, and if her jacket got soaking wet in the rain she still weighed less than 120 pounds.
In some homes, you can pull plywood off easily once you get a grip on a corner, even the wall studs could be rotted out.
We look forward to seeing how the UAF home (in Anaktuvuk Pass) holds out. The State gets most of its operating revenue from rural Alaska, and spends the majority of it in urban areas - once the oil runs out - most of those people will just move, we live here. Why can't the State & Fed regulators for oil & gas just cap rural Alaska petroleum prices at Anchorage prices.
In the winter these houses are cold, and now very expensive to heat - it is not right that this is happening.
-- Toby

...

I live in Marshall in a house that was built for AVCP Housing Authority in 1978. It was built in Idaho for the low-income housing program. From the beginning, you could see that the building was made from low grade products. Mold and mildew are a major problem, and my wife was recently diagnosed with asthma as a result. It has since been turned over to me, but before it was, the housing authority did a cover up of the rotted wood and drywall inside and out, sealing the mold inside the walls. I pointed out the rotting beams that were uncovered at the time the work was being done, but the superintendent brushed it off, saying they were not to deal with any of those type of problems and just covered up the rot. Right now our floor is rotting out because of the cover up and will be expensive to replace. The high cost of living in the bush prevents people from spending on those things. I think if the government is going to provide these houses, they should make sure they are safe before turning them over, not give people rotten products. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this problem. I can't help but feel cheated after paying so much on the house for years and ending up with a very unhealthy and low grade product.
-- David, Marshall


ORIGINAL POST:

Photo by Aaron Cooke, Cold Climate Housing Research Center.Photo by Aaron Cooke, Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

As many as a third of homes in the Lower Kuskokwim village of Quinhagak are rotting and potentially unsafe, officials with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center said today.

Researchers recently visited Quinhagak to look at 55 homes built in the 1970s, chief projects officer Ryan Colgan told roughly 75 people at a downtown meeting on Alaska housing.

“Our visit revealed a real concern that these structures may be unsafe for occupancy," read the center’s PowerPoint presentation to U.S. Deputy Housing Secretary Ron Sims. "These concerns involve inhabitants’ physical safety due to the soundness of the structures and the health and safety due to the presence of mold.”

They illustrated the point with a photo of a screwdriver someone had pushed into the wooden foundation of one of the homes.

What’s alarming is that Quinhagak can’t be the only village suffering the same problem.

“That’s why you see such a high rate of respiratory illness in the Y-K Delta,” said Aaron Cooke, an architectural designer who visited the village.

He said that upgrading the homes made the problem worse by creating a kind of double vapor lock that traps water in the walls.

Mayor Joe Klejka described almost exactly the same problem in Bethel when I asked about the sagging city fire hall. “The wood turns to powder,” Klejka said back in July.

If you live in a village or city where there are widespread problems with mold and rotting walls, please e-mail me at khopkins@adn.com.

The good news for Quinhagak is that the Cold Climate Housing Research Center plans to work on a prototype home for the village – just as they have for Anaktuvuk Pass.

More later.

Photo by Aaron Cooke, Cold Climate Housing Research Center.Photo by Aaron Cooke, Cold Climate Housing Research Center.

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Tundra Drums: City policeman ticketed for protest fishing

The Tundra Drums reports:

A federal wildlife protection officer flew to the village of Marshall on Wednesday and ticketed a city policeman who said he fished illegally with others this summer in an act of civil disobedience.

The illegal fishing was meant to protest subsistence fishing restrictions on the Yukon River.

Check out the story here.

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