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August 13, 2019 / This week from The Signal

Will PFD checks arrive late this year?
Did Alaska peonies arrive too soon?
And is it a good idea to put a nuclear power plant on a boat? (Russia says "Sure!")
Elizabeth Siddon, photographed in her office on Aug. 1, 2019, points to a figure charting sea ice extent in the Bering Sea, which shows a “double whammy” of back-to-back low sea ice winters in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Siddon is the only Alaskan this year to receive the highest honor from the U.S. government for early career scientists. (Photo and story by Zoe Grueskin/KTOO)

But first… Send yourself to Mars

I'm a bit of an interplanetary travel enthusiast (it's good to experience new cultures), so I'm pretty excited that NASA is sending a new rover to Mars next year. And if you're sick of this planet, you can even hitch a ride — well, your name can hitch a ride. When the Mars 2020 rover touches down on the red planet, it's going to carry millions of Earthlings' Earth-names. To be included, all you have to do is fill out a quick form, and you'll officially be a two-planet space creature. My call-to-action for all Signaliens: Let's send as many Alaskans to Mars as we can.

Budget, budget. "Budget?" PFD! Budget budget.

Put another way: Here's the latest news on Alaska's budget issues.
  • Capital cuts: At the end of June, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the state's operating budget — albeit with almost $400 million cut by line-item vetoes. Last week, the governor signed the capital budget — albeit with almost $35 million cut by line-item vetoes. Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes looks at potential impacts from this latest round of cuts.
  • De-vetoed: While Dunleavy isn't expected to change course on many of his budget vetoes, he did announce on Monday that he has agreed to restore funding to the state's senior benefits program. Zachariah reports that Dunleavy was swayed by seniors who spoke in favor of the program.
  • Rancorage: A coalition of over two dozen state organizations rallied for a press event in Anchorage last week to protest the governor's cuts to the budget. Alaska Public Media's Wesley Early got a sampling of sentiments from the "Save Our State" press conference.
  • Permanent FUN: A bill setting this year's PFD at $1,600 is currently sitting on the governor's Desk For Signing Things. Dunleavy has until Aug. 30 to sign it or veto it — and if he vetoes the $1,600 dividend, that means you might be getting your PFD check later than usual. Andrew Kitchenman of KTOO and Alaska Public Media tells us why stores in Alaska might have to push back their annual PFD sales.

Rain here, drought there, hot everywhere

As Southeast endures a drought, it was extra-rainy in Western Alaska recently.
  • Wet: Some Western Alaska communities fared OK after a big rainstorm earlier this month. But Krysti Shallenberger at KYUK-Bethel says three homes in Kotlik flooded, as the city lost about 4 feet of riverbank to erosion in one weekend.
  • Wetter: Farther south, Napakiak lost another 8 feet of riverbank after the storms, putting the city's total shoreline erosion at over 100 feet this year. KYUK-Bethel's Anna Rose MacArthur reports that the Kuskokwim River has taken over one of the main roads through town.
  • Driest: Most of Southeast Alaska is experiencing moderate-to-extreme drought, as Angela Denning of KFSK-Petersburg reports. A meteorologist with the National Weather Service says it'll "take several seasons — and I mean wet seasons — to recover from this." And the next three months don't look promising.
  • Hottest: Alaska's peony farmers had a shorter and faster harvesting season than usual. But wait: Did you know there are peony farmers in Alaska? Did you know the timing of their harvest is especially critical to the international peony market? Alaska Public Media's Abbey Collins tells us how this summer's record-breaking heat is forcing local peony growers to rethink the future.

Video of the week

If you've never encountered the music of Ix̱six̱án, Ax̱ Ḵwáan, then you're in for a treat. Ix̱six̱án, Ax̱ Ḵwáan, or IAK, is a youth music group that formed last year as part of Tlingit & Haida's Native Connections program. This month, IAK released their third music video for a song called "Spirit." The song is performed almost entirely in Tlingit.

Just one more thing…

A story from Alaska Public Media's Liz Ruskin caught my attention this past week: They're putting nuclear power plants on boats now.

Here's the gist of it: Russia has constructed a floating nuclear power plant, and it's currently making its way toward the Chukotka Peninsula — across from Alaska. The first-of-its-kind mobile facility has been dubbed "Chernobyl on ice" by some environmental groups, and some Alaskans next door are a little concerned. The Akademik Lomonosov is expected to begin producing power this December.

More news around Alaska

The Signal is written by KTOO digital media editor Ryan Cunningham
and edited by KTOO managing editor Jennifer Pemberton.

KTOO News is member supported.

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