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Fort Yukon wins its first state title in girls basketball after defeating Newhalen

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Fort Yukon wins its first state title in girls basketball after defeating Newhalen


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – For the first time in school history, Fort Yukon Girls Basketball are your 1A state champions.

The Eagles defeated Newhalen 62-51, lead by the dynamic duo of Kylee Carroll and Nellie Wards. The pair dominated on the offensive end, scoring 19 points a piece against the Malamutes. Ward also chipped in on defense, snagging three steals.

“Since day one, I knew this team was special,” first year head coach Josh Cadzow said. “Every day they showed up to play with one goal on our mind, to win a state championship, and we won it.”

The win caps off a run in which the Eagles didn’t lose a single game after Jan. 25.

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“It’s like winning the Super Bowl,” Cadzow said. “Bringing this home is gonna be crazy.”



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Relocation of eroding Alaska Native village seen as a test case for other threatened communities • Alaska Beacon

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Relocation of eroding Alaska Native village seen as a test case for other threatened communities • Alaska Beacon


The Yup’ik village of Newtok, perched precariously on thawing permafrost at the edge of the rapidly eroding Ninglick River, is the first Alaska community to begin a full-scale relocation made necessary by climate change.

Still, the progress of moving to a new village site that is significantly outpacing relocation efforts at other vulnerable Alaska communities, remains agonizingly slow, say those who are in the throes of the transformation.

“There is no blueprint on how to do this relocation,” said Carolyn George, one of those still living in Newtok. “We’re relocating the whole community to a whole different place, and we did not know how to do it. And it’s been taking too long — over 20 years, I think.”

George, who works at the Newtok school, was one of the self-described “Newtok mothers” who made comments at a panel discussion at the recent Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage. The river waters, once at least a mile away, have edged closer and closer, and the village, once sitting high on the landscape, continues to sink as that permafrost thaws, she said.

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Plans to move Newtok started to solidify in 2006 with the formation of the local-state-federal Newtok Planning Group, but that followed many years of debate and study that led to the decision to relocate. according to the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs. The new site, about 9 miles away on the south side of the Ninglick River, is called Mertarvik, meaning “getting water from the spring.”

In 2019, the first Mertarvik residents settled into their new homes. As of now, more than half of the residents have moved to Mertarvik.

The latest count is 220 in Mertarvik and 129 still at Newtok, said Christina Waska, the relocation coordinator for the Newtok Village Tribal government.

Children walk to school on a boardwalk in the village of Newtok in 2012. Residents have been moving in phases from the old site, which is undermined by erosion, flooding and permafrost thaw, to a new and safer village site called Mertarvik. (Photo provided by the Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)

The goal is to have everyone in Mertarvik by the fall, even if that means some people will be living in temporary housing, like construction work camps.

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“Our ultimate goal is to not leave anyone behind,” she said.

With a single local government, a single Tribal government and unified services like mail delivery, Newtok and Mertarvik technically make up a single community. But often it does not feel that way.

George is among those coping with a sense of limbo.

Her five daughters and their father have moved to a new house in Mertarvik, but she remains in Newtok because of her job. That is a hardship, she said. “Being alone, I get anxiety, and I miss my girls, you know. Especially at night,” she said.

And the school where she works, and which is set to be demolished this summer, is in dire shape.

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The four classrooms are heated by a small generator. There is no food cooked on-site for the kids. There is no plumbing – a situation that, for now, is being addressed with a “bathroom bus” that shuttles kids to their homes as needed.

Conditions are notably better at Mertarvik, said speakers at the conference.

Christina Waska, relocation coordinator for the Newtok Village Tribal government, mans a booth on APril 12, 2024, at the Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage. Waska was a speaker in a panel discussion on Newtok residents' move to a new village site. She was also one of the craftspeople displaying works at the conference, and sold earrings. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Christina Waska, relocation coordinator for the Newtok Village Tribal government, mans a booth on April 12, 2024, at the Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage. Waska was a speaker in a panel discussion on Newtok residents’ move to a new village site. She was also one of the craftspeople displaying works at the conference, selling her beaded jewelry. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

Lisa Charles, another panel member, described the difficult conditions her family left behind in Newtok. The family was packed into a too-small, two-bedroom house with thawing permafrost below and mold growing inside. It took a toll on their physical well-being, she said.

But once the family settled in at Mertarvik, things improved, she said.

“After moving over to the new village site, we noticed all of our health improved, especially for my daughter that grew up with asthma,” Charles said. “After we moved over to our new home, she grew out of her asthma problem.”

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There have been complications, like power outages affecting the school, attributed to demand that outstripped capacity.

Among the challenges is a timing mismatch. Waska and new Tribal administrator Calvin Tom started their jobs only recently, too late for them to place summer barge orders, and as a consequence, no building materials are expected to be barged in 2024 and no new houses will be built this summer in Mertarvik, Waska said.

There is still plenty of work to be done aside from construction, she said. And construction is seen as a process that will continue long after all residents are settled at Mertarvik, she added.

“It’ll never be done. If you look at every village, even Anchorage, Fairbanks, it’s always under construction,” she said.

While Newtok is the first Alaska village to relocate, others will follow.

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A new house in Mertarvik is seen during construction in 2011. Mertarvik is the new village site where residents of Newtok, a Yup'ik village on the eroding Ninglick River, are moving. (Photo provided by Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)
A new house in Mertarvik is seen during construction in 2011. Mertarvik is the new village where residents of Newtok, a Yup’ik village on the eroding Ninglick River, are moving. (Photo provided by Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)

Even two decades ago, 31 communities were identified as facing imminent threats that would make their locations potentially unlivable in the near future. Of those, nearly half were planning or considering some form of relocation.

Next after Newtok to relocate entirely may be Kivalina, an Inupiat village on the Chukchi Sea coast that is facing numerous climate stressors along with rapid erosion. The community now has a new evacuation road, completed in 2021, that can better enable movement to a new site.

But plans hit a snag after a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed that the originally chosen relocation site, called Kiniktuuraq, is also vulnerable to the same climate change stressors that are expected to make Kivalina uninhabitable in the relatively near future.

Napakiak, a Yup’ik village perched on a section of eroding land along the Kuskokwim River that is being quickly eaten away in large chunks, has also made progress. The community is now engaged in a partial relocation, a strategy known as “managed retreat.” Some families have already moved from vulnerable sites to safer ground upland, and there is state money available for a new school to replace the erosion-threatened building.

There is no single source of money to pay for relocation work, even for the Newtok-Mertarvik transformation, the most advanced of the projects.

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Carolyn George, who works at the school still operating in the eroding and sinking village of Newtok, speaks on April 11, 2024, at the Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage. Her five daughters and their father have moved to the new village site at Mertarvik. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Carolyn George, who works at the school still operating in the eroding and sinking village of Newtok, speaks on April 11 at the Arctic Encounter Symposium in Anchorage. Her five daughters and their father have moved to the new village site at Mertarvik, but her job keeps her in the old site. The separation from her family can make her feel lonely at times, she said. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The Newtok-Mertarvik move has been funded through various allocations over time. Among the recent infusions were $25 million through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and another $6.7 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Napakiak received a similar $25 million grant through the infrastructure law and a $2.4 million infusion earlier this year from FEMA.

The combined costs of full and partial relocations for all the villages that need them are expected to be staggering.

Of 144 Alaska Native villages with damages from flooding, erosion, permafrost thaw or some combination of those impacts, costs for protecting infrastructure are expected to mount to $3.45 billion over the next 50 years, according to a 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. An additional $833 million is needed to protect the hub communities of Utqiagvik, Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Dillingham and Unalaska, said the 2020 BIA report, which was produced in cooperation with the Denali Commission and other agencies.

The sources for the needed funding remain unclear, and bureaucratic hurdles are delaying progress toward necessary relocations, a recent report from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium said.

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High water laps at the Kivalina shoreline in 2012. The Inupiat community on the Chukchi Sea coast is battered by erosion. (Photo provided by Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)
High water laps at the Kivalina shoreline in 2012. The Inupiat community on the Chukchi Sea coast is battered by erosion, storm surges and other effects of climate change. A relocation plan is in the works. (Photo provided by Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs)

There are fundamental obstacles in rural Alaska that make it extremely difficult for Alaska communities to work through the federal system, said Jackie Qataliña Schaeffer, ANTHC’s director for climate initiatives.

She cited an example during the Arctic Encounter Symposium forum. “Every federal agency requires you to have some type of reporting and in most of the cases you have to apply for the federal funding online. If you don’t have stable internet, how do you do that?” she said.

The ANTHC report recommends an overhaul to streamline a process that is a poor fit for remote Alaska villages.

In some ways, the Newtok-Mertarvik residents said, their split community has successfully overcome difficult challenges, making their relocation a possible example for other threatened communities in Alaska and elsewhere in the United States.

But those successes can also be bittersweet.

Relocation is absolutely necessary because the old village site is now an unhealthy place to live, Waska said. Nonetheless, she feels conflicted about abandoning the hometown she loves.

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“Newtok is my home. It’s kind of sad. It kind of breaks my heart that Newtok is no longer going to be there,” she said.

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The Sunday Minefield – April 21, 2024

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The Sunday Minefield – April 21, 2024


We are almost to day 100 of session, meaning just over three weeks remains until the constitutional session limit of 121 days. There is still a lot remaining to do including the budget, education, and energy. Don’t hold your breath that anything significant will happen on education or energy. The Senate Finance Committee rolled out their committee substitute for the operating budget this week. The House Resources Committee held an explosive hearing where managers from a small oil company attacked Shell and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle. And the Alaska Republican Party held their convention this weekend in Anchorage at the Captain Cook. They elected Carmela Warfield as their new chair.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I am back in Juneau for my sixth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive!

Session End Approaching 

Just 24 days remain until the constitutional session limit. The House and Senate did manage to meet their agreed upon deadline last week to exchange budgets. But the budget is just one part of the adjournment package. Various energy and education priorities are being floating around, but there is still no clear alignment between the House and Senate on them. And Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) has essentially been checked out.

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A problem with the budget could arise in the House. The Senate already cut the dividend down to approximately $1,500 when you factor in the surplus “energy rebate” that was put in place last year if oil prices remain high. That’s a $750 reduction from the House number. If the dividend number that comes out of a conference committee is not acceptable to the mega PFD members of the House majority, the majority will need minority votes to get to 21 to pass the budget. The House majority has 23 members, meaning they can only lose two votes if the minority does not vote for the budget. The House majority has at least eight mega PFD folks.

The House minority will want something for their votes. Probably a guarantee of an education bill like SB 140 and funding to upgrade the railbelt intertie. Those things cost a lot. The good news is it’s the second session. So if some members of the House majority cut a deal with the House minority and the Senate, things probably won’t get too loose because it’s an election year. There will be a new Legislature come January.

The next few weeks will be interesting. The Senate majority is a fine-tuned machine, so they will be taking the lead on the budget. If things do fall apart, they have the option to extend for 10 days. But the will to stick around does not seem to be there, at least now. The weather has been great and everyone wants to get out of town. It’s also an election year so members want to go home and campaign.

No consensus on energy reforms as legislative session nears end

The following is an excerpt from this week’s edition of the Alaska Political Report. You can click here for more information about the Political Report. A subscription is $1,299/year per organization. Discounted pricing is available for non-profits and government entities. Our coverage of the budget starts with the governor’s proposed budget, and we track everything in detail through the entire process. If you have any questions or would like to subscribe, please email jeff@akpoliticalreport.com.

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Even as Southcentral nearly experienced a gas supply crisis, and with a huge number of bills circulating in Juneau, no consensus has emerged around the reforms lawmakers are considering. In January, this session was billed by legislative leaders and GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy as an energy and education session. But with just under a month to go before the constitutional session limit, the Legislature has yet to pass any major energy legislation.

Transmission, natural gas subsidies and storage in Cook Inlet, and renewables are all on the table. But whatever lawmakers end up passing is still far from clear.

In early February, a long cold snap stressed the power grid in Southcentral due to a natural gas distribution problem. This was primarily caused by an issue with some of Enstar’s storage wells in the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska (CINGSA). Declining gas supply and production in the Cook Inlet means importing LNG is likely in the years to come.

Multiple proposals are floating around the House and Senate, including royalty relief and gas storage in Cook Inlet, a railbelt transmission organization, and funding for modernizing the railbelt energy grid.

The Political Report sat down with Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop, the co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, and Anchorage Republican Rep. Tom McKay, the chair of the House Resources Committee, to talk about their energy priorities and get their thoughts on what might happen this session.

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Bishop’s priorities are focused on the railbelt. Gov. Dunleavy introduced legislation in February that aims to increase efficiency and lower power costs in the railbelt. Bishop referenced a trip legislators took to Iceland last year. He said after Iceland formed the equivalent of a railbelt transmission organization (RTO) between their utilities, they saw an improvement. But Dunleavy’s bills have yet to see traction in either body.

Bishop also emphasized the importance of funding the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership (GRIP) with the federal government. This project, which in total would cost the state more than $200 million (with the same amount in federal match) would upgrade the intertie between the railbelt utilities, providing redundancy and allowing more power to be moved.

Bishop acknowledged the need for increased gas storage in Cook Inlet and also the potential for royalty relief. There are two gas storage bills, Senate Bill 220 and House Bill 394. HB 394, a bill by McKay’s House Resources Committee, is likely to be the vehicle for gas storage in Cook Inlet. Bishop said the Senate is waiting for the House to send them Cook Inlet legislation.

There are also several royalty relief bills floating around. But Sitka Republican Rep. Bert Stedman, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Political Report that he does not see any kind of Cook Inlet royalty relief passing the Legislature until they get proper input from their oil and gas consultant, GaffneyCline. It is not clear if that information will be provided in time for lawmakers to act before the end of session.

McKay is much more concerned with Cook Inlet. He wants to see increased gas storage and royalty relief. He acknowledged the benefit of upgrading the railbelt, but his clear priority is Cook Inlet. McKay said he is not interested in tapping the treasury – what occurred a decade ago when the Legislature approved cash credits for Cook Inlet – but instead, through royalty reduction, he believes more gas will be produced.

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McKay told the Political Report, “My agenda to address our energy needs is natural gas from Cook Inlet in the short-term and a gas pipeline from the North Slope in the long-term.”

Any energy legislation that passes the Legislature will likely be part of an adjournment package as only 27 days remain in session. And after the Superior Court ruling ruling on the correspondence program last week, education is sure to take up a lot of time in the final weeks of session. The House and Senate have different energy priorities, and Gov. Dunleavy has not made any public statements on energy in several weeks.

Early on in session, there was agreement between both bodies and Dunleavy that Alaska is facing an energy crisis. But so far, no meaningful action has been taken. The Legislature has the ability to extend 10 days or call a special session. But it’s an election year and legislators want to get home. Bills need to start moving quickly in order to pass before the end of session. We are watching closely and will provide updates in the weeks to come.

Other Happenings 

If you have not seen the debate I hosted on Friday between John Sims, president of Enstar Natural Gas, and Brad Keithley, managing director of Alaskans for Sustainable Budgets, on the natural gas supply issue in Southcentral, you can check it out here.

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The Alaska Republican Party held their biennial convention this weekend in Anchorage. Carmela Warfield was overwhelmingly elected as the new chair, getting more votes than the other three candidates combined. Congrats to her! And good riddance to Ann Brown, an extremely dishonest and nasty person. I stopped by for a bit yesterday to check it out. Several Republican legislators were in attendance. But my big takeaway was that many of the attendees are living in the past. The biggest and best thing the single primary and ranked choice voting did was diminish the role of the already waning political parties. But a lot of the people in both parties have failed to grasp that. These party types should familiarize themselves with the term “adapt or die.”

A House Resources Committee hearing on Monday (4/15/2024) got explosive when two representatives from the independent oil company Narwhal gave a presentation on oil leases they hold in West Harrison Bay. The West Harrison Bay Unit (WHBU) is currently controlled by Shell, but Narwhal holds adjacent leases. Check out this Landmine article to read about what happened.

Check this out. The plaintiffs in the Texas lawsuit against Furie, owned by John Hendrix, sent letters to Governor Dunleavy, Senator Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage), Senator Jesse Bjorkman (R – Nikiski), and former Governor Bill Walker requesting their depositions and asking they preserve any correspondence related to the matter. The chickens are coming home to roost for John Hendrix.

Representative Andi Story (D – Juneau) filed a letter of intent for re-election this week. No one else has filed for the seat yet. The filing deadline to run for office is June 1.

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Representative Mike Prax (R – North Pole) picked up an opponent this week, North Pole Mayor Michael Welch. Prax was unopposed the last two cycles. Sources say Welch is running because Prax won’t request money for capital projects for the district.

There has been a lot of chatter thar former Republican Representative David Nelson is going to challenge Representative Cliff Groh (D – Anchorage). Groh beat Nelson in 2022 by 3.8 points. But that district includes JBER and it’s a presidential election year, meaning turnout will be higher. Turnout in that district was only 18.7% in 2022. If Nelson runs, that will be a race to watch.

This Week’s Loose Unit 

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There were plenty of good candidates in Juneau this week. But a weekend trip home made this week’s designee clear. This week’s Loose Unit is Anchorage. I got back on Thursday night and right away noticed the sheer amount of trash on the roads. Ok, it’s break up and this normal, I thought to myself. But the squalor I noticed this weekend was just fucking depressing. In addition to the large amount of garbage all over town, there are tents all over the place, homeless people congregating and sleeping all in public spaces, abandoned vehicles in parking lots, and just a general feeling of decay.

I went to Barnes and Noble this evening. I discovered an old Ford Expedition in the parking lot that looked like something out of Sarajevo in the 1990s. One commenter on the Facebook post said it’s been there for weeks. And one reported another abandoned and stripped vehicle in the Applebee’s parking lot, just down the road.

If you drive around Anchorage, especially Midtown, you will encounter tents all over. It’s only April. Just think how much worse it’s going to get. There’s also that large encampment at Cuddy Park. In addition to the homelessness, Anchorage just feels like a city in decline. I was driving down Lake Otis yesterday and saw several properties that were being used as storage for old cars and RVs. It looked horrible.

I remember when I moved to Anchorage in 2004. The city was clean and it felt thriving. The last decade has been a steady decline. And no one seems to want to fix it. Sure, we all talk about it. But the problems just worsen. Old roofs have been collapsing. We can’t seem to figure out how to plow the roads. Housing prices are continually rising because we can’t build more homes, which leads to people leaving and/or not moving here. The whole situation is depressing. We have to fix this town.

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If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at jeff@alaskalandmine.com.





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National Guard delays staffing changes for Alaska Air National Guard

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National Guard delays staffing changes for Alaska Air National Guard


The National Guard’s country-wide plan to level out personnel numbers is being pushed back a year for Alaska’s Air National Guard. Instead of going into effect this October, the National Guard Bureau will push implementing the new changes to Sept. 30, 2025. That delay, Alaska’s congressional delegation says, will allow “the Air National Guard to complete a more comprehensive assessment of the impact the proposed changes will have on critical Alaska missions, and decide whether the proposed changes should occur at all.”

The change was announced on Friday, April 19. The National Guard’s plan, Program Element Code Leveling (sometimes referred to as “code leveling” or “PEC leveling”), would have cut 80 Active Guard and Reserve positions in the Alaska Air National Guard. ARG members of the Alaska ANG are essentially full-time active-duty personnel. Instead of making those cuts this year, the Alaska Air National Guard will use the extra time for a wider analysis of what PEC leveling would mean for operational readiness.

The National Guard’s other 53 units covering the other states and U.S. territories, are still set to complete cross leveling by Oct. 1. 

The Alaska ANG carries out a number of important missions, including handling urgent emergencies and playing a key role in defense strategy. Alaska ANG’s 2,400 members staff air defense missions under the purview of U.S. Northern Command, while crews also provide aerial refueling for U.S. military planes. Given harsh weather conditions and the remote nature of many communities, rescue operations are often done by air, and due to the risks are handled by the Air National Guard. There can often be several missions in one day. 

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The National Guard Bureau’s plan called for cutting 80 full-time active positions in the Alaska ANG, including several pilots and pararescuemen. Other jobs would be cut were more than a dozen of what are called “scope watchers,” the guardsmen who crew early warning systems. Task & Purpose reviewed an analysis made by the Alaska ANG, which said that the proposed cuts under the plan would lead to shortages as high as 50% on those missions.

The PEC leveling plan was heavily criticized both by state officials and Alaska’s three-member congressional delegation, citing national security concerns. Under the National Guard Bureau’s plans, the 80 AGR positions that would be lost would be replaced by 88 “dual-status technicians” with lower wages that the Alaska ANG said wouldn’t be able to meet the actual needs of those around-the-clock alert missions. Members of the Alaska ANG also voiced concerns over what the changes would mean for pay and benefits. The National Guard Bureau told Task & Purpose earlier this month that the proposed changes would not impact readiness. 

After the delay was announced, the state’s congressional delegation applauded the decision. In a joint statement all three members, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Mary Peltola all pointed to the important role the Alaska ANG has in public safety and emergency services for people in Alaska. 

“These cuts would have undermined not only our state’s security, but our national security as well,” Sen. Dan Sullivan said. 

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