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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Front Page Feature Photo By RACHELLE LYNN SPEIGHTS

Dusty Blue Sunset
A recent sunset at the end of a clear day produces hues of blue. The is moon visible rising in the backgroung. Photographed from the Brown Bear Road.
Front Page Feature Photo By
RACHELLE LYNN SPEIGHTS ©2017

 

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Alaska: Budget Compromise Achieved, Alaska Government Shutdown Averted By MARY KAUFFMAN - Averting a looming government shutdown, the Alaska State Legislature passed the Fiscal Year 2018 Operating Budget late Thursday night. The compromise budget totals $4.1 billion in Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) spending and sets this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend at $1,100. The K-12 Base Student Allocation (BSA) will be fully funded at $1.2 billion, the same level of funding as the current year. This reverses the $69 million cut to education earlier advanced by the Alaska Senate.  The budget further reflected a core Alaska Senate Majority priority of reducing state spending and protected Alaskans from an income tax.

The Governor also amended the Second Special Session last Thursday with a second supplemental proclamation for the Legislature to address oil and gas subsidies, meaning the Legislature is still in session.

“I thank legislators for reaching a compromise on the operating budget to ensure government services continue after July 1,” Governor Walker said. “In doing so, they also appropriated a $1,100 permanent fund dividend (PFD) for each eligible Alaskan."

After more than five months in session, the Legislature hit an impasse on how to resolve the state’s ongoing deficit. Concerned with the private and public sector consequences of a looming government shutdown on July 1, Senate leaders earlier this month asked Gov. Walker to narrow lawmakers’ focus to the operating budget. Six days of intense negotiations resulted in a fully funded fiscal year 2018 operating budget that will keep Alaska open for business. 

Earlier Thursday, legislators indicated in conference committee their intent to correct the state’s unsustainable oil and gas tax credit system. Walker said, "That’s why I am amending the call so legislators can complete work on House Bill 111. We must immediately address the subsidies we can no longer afford. It is the next critical component of a much needed compromise fiscal plan, and it must be addressed this year. When we have reduced PFDs for Alaskans, we cannot continue to give out millions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies.”

Governor Bill Walker said he was pleased the conference committee compromised on an operating budget, which means Alaska is one step closer to averting a shutdown of government services. Walker said, "Now, it is time to compromise on a fiscal plan.”

The Alaska Legislature late last Thursday night delivered a reduced budget averting a government shutdown while protecting the Permanent Fund and future years’ dividends. The budget further reflected a core Alaska Senate Majority priority of reducing state spending and protected Alaskans from an income tax.

“The Senate Majority did not achieve everything on its agenda, but both sides compromised for the good of Alaska,” said Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “The Senate and House worked together to deliver a reduced budget in time to avoid the high costs of a government shutdown. This budget makes necessary reductions in agency operations and protects the Permanent Fund and future dividends. We listened to Alaskans,” said Kelly. - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017

Ketchikan: $1,128,941 PILT Funds to Ketchikan Borough By MARY KAUFFMAN - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) announced today that the Department of the Interior is distributing more than $29.69 million to eligible local governments throughout Alaska.  These payments are made to boroughs and counties across the United States that contain federal lands to help offset the cost of maintaining community services, such as first responders, public schools, and road construction.  Unlike private lands, federal lands are not subject to local taxes, often making it difficult for rural communities to budget for these services.  

Through her role as chairman of the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murkowski ensured the PILT program received $465 million, an increase of $13 million above last year’s level, including a $734,000 increase for Alaska. 

“While Alaska continues to face an economic crunch, so many of our communities across the state are grappling with the tough task of figuring out how to direct resources where they are critically needed to provide even the basic core functions of government. I’m happy that at a time when we need it most, Alaskan communities are receiving the funding owed to them,” said Senator Murkowski. “Considering that over 60 percent of Alaska’s lands are controlled by the federal government, the PILT program ensures communities a source of critical funding to help pay for emergency services, roads and other essential services that would normally rely on support via local property taxes.”

With 3,050,826 total acres of non-taxable federal land, the Ketchikan Borough will receive $1,128,941 in PILT funds, or 37 cents an acre. The amount of PILT distribution funds vary. For example the Matanuska Susitna Borough will recive $3,553,659 in PILT funds for 3,009,909 total acreas of non-taxable federal lands, or $1.18 per acre.

The U.S. Department of Interior computes payments authorized under section 6902 of the Act using the greater of the following two alternatives: - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017


New technique could improve Alaska farmed oyster and kelp productivity

Farmed oyster technique: Pictured is Trevor Sande at his Back Island oyster farm
Photo courtesy UAF College of Fisheries & Ocean Sciences


Ketchikan:
New technique could improve Alaska farmed oyster and kelp productivity By PAULA DOBBYN - Sea Grant Marine Advisory agent Gary Freitag, of Ketchikan, is spreading the word about a technique that could enhance farmed oyster and kelp productivity.

University of Arizona researcher Ben Renquist and his coworkers have refined a technique to test fertilized fish eggs for high oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production during metabolism, using a chemical they trademarked Alamar Blue®.

The high oxygen–consuming fish eggs were proven to grow significantly faster, showing promise for improved aquaculture production. Experiments were first done on zebrafish, and have also shown promise on tilapia, trout, oysters and shrimp cultured species.

Freitag’s role in the project is to communicate to the aquaculture/mariculture industry the high potential the method has for Alaska, western states and nationwide.

“This technique could help both kelp farmers and oyster farmers in Alaska. It appears to work on any biological life - plant or animal - and allows for the selection of faster growing individuals,” said Freitag. - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017


New Fish Plant Opens in Hydaburg

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood Plant
Photo by Chris Sannito, Courtesy Alaska Sea Grant

Southeast Alaska: New Fish Plant Opens in Hydaburg By PAULA DOBBYN - A new fish plant opened this month in Hydaburg, a village in Southeast Alaska trying to revive its seafood industry.

Haida Wild Alaska Seafood is located in a former cold storage that hasn’t operated in nearly three decades but is now bustling with activity as the commercial fishing season goes into full swing. Hydaburg is Alaska’s largest community of Haida tribal members. About 400 people live in the coastal Prince of Wales Island village, surrounded by the Tongass National Forest.

“As soon as the trollers come in, we’re ready,” said plant manager Jess Dilts in an interview with Alaska Sea Grant.

The plant is about 7,000 square feet, he said. The Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the City of Hydaburg, who own the plant, hope to eventually include a retail section and smokery.

Dilts flew to Kodiak in recent months to receive training and certification from Alaska Sea Grant in safe food handling practices and sanitation. The training was held at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

“It was very valuable,” Dilts said. “The last time I was in the seafood industry was in 1989, 1990. We didn’t have all these regulations that we have now.” - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017



Alaska: Recent Bear Maulings Bring Focus On Bear Awareness By MARY KAUFFMAN - News of two people recently mauled and killed by black bears in separate incidents on successive days in different regions of the state and the report of two more people mauled over the weekend has some Alaskans on edge. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has information on being bear aware and what to do if encountered by a bear at close range.

Encountered By A Bear, Do You Know What To Do?

Black bear
Photo courtesy ADF&G

The first fatal bear attack occurred Sunday, June 18th, during a popular running event near Bird Creek south of Anchorage. In the Bird Ridge fatal mauling, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game said a black bear believed responsible for that fatal mauling was among four bears shot and killed Tuesday evening, June 20th, by the staff. Small aircraft were used to locate the animals Tuesday after a ground search on Monday was unsuccessful.

An adult male black bear killed June 20th had a recent wound to its lower jaw and has been tentatively identified as the animal suspected in the Bird Ridge mauling. The bear at the attack scene on Sunday was shot at by a Chugach State Park ranger and thought to have sustained a wound to the head. A necropsy on the bear is planned and samples have been collected for analysis.

Three other lone adult black bears were shot in close proximity to the Bird Ridge site of the attack in an effort to ensure the correct bear was killed. Extremely steep, rugged, brushy terrain made the use of tranquilizer darts impractical. In addition to a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter used by the department, Alaska Wildlife Troopers also planned to search for the bear, but were delayed when their helicopter was called to another matter.

The second fatal mauling of a Pogo Mine contract employee by a black bear on Monday, June 19th, remains under investigation by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Early reports suggested the attack showed signs of being predatory, but biologists say further examination of events and the bear involved is needed before a definitive conclusion can be reached.

Two Pogo Mine employees were reported attacked by the bear, one fatally, late Monday morning. The surviving employee was rescued by a mine helicopter after calling for help on a radio. Interviews after the incident indicate the bear broke off a subsequent attack on the survivor when the survivor deployed bear spray. The bear was said to have been killed by a mine employee who returned with a rifle. A department veterinarian who accompanied Alaska Wildlife Troopers to the scene to recover the bear carcass identified it as a cinnamon color-phase adult male. A necropsy has been performed on the bear and analysis is pending.

Over the weekend, two more bear maulings thought to be defensive were reported. - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017


 


Alaska:
Interior Department Issues Permit for Survey Work on King Cove Road - Governor Bill Walker announced today the initial steps to building a life-saving road between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay. The U.S. Department of Interior issued to the State of Alaska’s Department of Transportation a permit to survey the area for an initial assessment of the best place to begin construction.

“Secretary Ryan Zinke called this morning to let me know the Interior Department has granted the State permission to begin looking at the least impactful route between King Cove and Cold Bay,” Governor Walker said.

Walker said, “For far too long, King Cove residents suffering from medical emergencies have had to brave harsh elements just to get health care. They travel by boat or helicopter—often in inclement weather—to access the Cold Bay airport in order to be medevaced out. Our fellow Alaskans deserve better than that."

Walker said, " I’m grateful to Secretary Zinke for recognizing that need and doing his best to advance the process to build that life-saving road. Secretary Zinke is a great partner in our efforts to building a Safer Alaska.”

Quoting a news release from the Governor, the Alaska Department of Transportation survey will carefully identify the least impactful route, based on the environmental review completed in 2013. Survey work is expected to be completed by mid-July.

December 23, 2016, marked the three-year anniversary since former U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell of the Obama administration rejected a life-saving road from remote King Cove, Alaska to the all-weather airport in nearby Cold Bay. Since that time, there have been 55 medevacs from the community, which is often plagued by hurricane-force winds, stormy weather and dense fog.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the decision to reject the proposal for the emergency medical evacuation road two days before Christmas in 2013, inviting comparisons to the Grinch and Scrooge. As disappointing as former Secretary Jewell’s decision was, King Cove leaders and residents were feeling very hopeful that President Donald Trump and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would get the job done. - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017

Fisheries: Ten million tons of fish wasted every year despite declining fish stocks - Industrial fishing fleets dump nearly 10 million tonnes of good fish back into the ocean every year, according to new research.

The study by researchers with Sea Around Us, an initiative at the University of British Columbia's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries and the University of Western Australia, reveals that almost 10 per cent of the world's total catch in the last decade was discarded due to poor fishing practices and inadequate management. This is equivalent to throwing back enough fish to fill about 4,500 Olympic sized swimming pools every year.

"In the current era of increasing food insecurity and human nutritional health concerns, these findings are important," said Dirk Zeller, lead author for the study who is now a professor at the University of Western Australia and senior research partner with the Sea Around Us. "The discarded fish could have been put to better use."

Fishers discard a portion of their catch because fishing practices damage the fish and make them unmarketable, the fish are too small, the species is out of season, only part of the fish needs to be harvested -- as with the Alaska pollock roe -- or the fishers caught species that they were not targeting, something known as bycatch. 

"Discards also happen because of a nasty practice known as high-grading where fishers continue fishing even after they've caught fish that they can sell," said Zeller. "If they catch bigger fish, they throw away the smaller ones; they usually can't keep both loads because they run out of freezer space or go over their quota."

The study examined the amount of discarded fish over time. In the 1950s, about five million tonnes of fish were discarded every year, in the 1980s that figure grew to 18 million tonnes. It decreased to the current levels of nearly 10 million tonnes per year over the past decade. - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017


A restock and recharge along the pipeline’s path

Ned Rozell pauses on the path of the trans-Alaska pipeline near Valdez in 2017.
Photo by Ian Carlson


Alaska Science:
A restock and recharge along the pipeline’s path By NED ROZELL - I left my home here to begin a hike along the trans-Alaska pipeline in late April. Returning in June, I am stunned by the green of it all. It’s like winter to summer in one day.

I’ve been in Alaska’s second-largest city (Fairbanks) for a few days now, resupplying for the trip north as I hike with my dog on the path of the trans-Alaska pipeline. Three hundred fifty miles down, 450 to go.

Walking with my friend Bob Gillis, we left the gravel road that parallels the pipeline in the hamlet of Moose Creek, just north of Eielson Air Force Base. In a driving rain that didn’t let up all day, Bob and I reached his car after seven miles of hiking. We happily got in and cranked up the heater. After lunch in North Pole, he drove me home.

Because I did not get permission from the many people whose land the pipeline right-of-way crosses in North Pole and Fairbanks, I will resume my hike at the pipeline tourist viewpoint in Fox. Since my many detours from the pipe to the highway in the past month have my official walking distance at 356 miles compared to the pipeline’s 350 miles from Valdez, I feel OK about skipping the 20 miles of private land.

Stopping at one’s home with its comfy bed and sunny deck is a hazard during a trip like this. My last hiking day with Bob was wet and quite buggy. While in town, I’ve played softball in the evening heat with my Northern Shrikes, sat in the sunny bleachers for a Alaska Goldpanners game and watched mom and dad nuthatch feed their chicks in a birdhouse visible from the deck.

I’ve also purchased a ton of food and arranged it in 11 cardboard boxes. Friends will deliver those boxes via the Elliott and Dalton highways in the days and weeks to come.

In conversations here, friends have asked me the differences I’ve noticed since I walked the line 20 years ago. Here are some obvious ones: - More...
Monday PM - June 26, 2017


 


COLUMNS - COMMENTARY

jpg Tom Purcell

TOM PURCELL: For the Fourth of July, Let's Have Some Common Sense - In the course of human events it is necessary, now and again, to renew our commitment to the principles and practices that made our country great in the first place.

Our country has always held what the Declaration of Independence says about certain "Truths": They are "self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Regrettably, we forget these simple truths sometimes.

To renew our passion for the free and equal pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we need a new declaration that promotes civility, open conversation and common sense.

Look, when someone disagrees with a political position we hold, it does not make the individual a monster or something subhuman. It does nobody any good to demonize or ridicule this person - not in a country founded on freedom of speech.

To renew our gratitude for the incredible freedoms we enjoy - freedoms that do not exist in many other parts of the world - is it not better to engage your political opponents in civil conversation and debate rather than to prevent them from speaking at all?

Groupthink and political correctness are killing open debate in our country. Too many university students, professors and administrators across our great land are not only shunning individuals who dare to challenge their status quo. They are aggressively, sometimes forcefully, infringing on their right to speak freely. They are issuing authoritarian campus speech codes.

If American citizens cannot openly discuss and criticize any and every idea on university campuses, then where, for goodness sakes, are they able to do so?

How did we arrive at a state of affairs in this country in which a person who criticizes ObamaCare - a person who argues that libertarian and free-market ideas can better address spiraling health-care costs and free up funds to help those in need - is smeared as someone who hates the poor? - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017


jpg Editorial Cartoon: The Republican Legend of William Tell

Editorial Cartoon: The Republican Legend of William Tell
By R. J. Matson ©2017, Roll Call
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

      

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letter Protect Medicaid By David G. Katzeek - One day, we will tell future generations of our choice. Did we help our neighbors when they were sick, or did we ignore their needs? This is the question before all Alaskans when it comes to Medicaid. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

letter Open Letter: Rep. Jonathan S. Kreiss-Tomkins By Gregg Parsley - Several of us in the Southeast Alaska mariculture industry would like you to look into what it would take to begin the process for Federal Disaster Relief funds for our oyster industry here in Southeast Alaska due to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). We, Shikat Bay Oysters, have been shutdown for going on 4 weeks with no relief in sight, we have lost to date over $25,000 and once our parts per unit (ppu) numbers fall below the 80 ppu number we will still have to wait another two weeks before we are able to put oysters back into commerce. I can see us, Shikat Bay Oysters, loosing in excess of $40,000 due to this unusually early and unseasonably PSP outbreak. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

letter RE: Use for Taku By Kay Taylor - The idea of the Ferry Taku being used for lodging for our representatives to save money is great. We need to stop frittering away dollars. If the Ferry system is good enough for us then it is good enough for our representatives. Moving it to Juneau for housing would solve two problems. We need to cut down on per diem for our traveling representatives. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

letter Living Within Means By Lance Clark - I think Senator Gardner shows us exactly what the fiscal problem is. Living within our means is not a foreign idea to her, it's an evil one! To be good people we have to always spend more than we have. I don't know her personally but her way of thinking sounds insane. - More...
Tuesday AM - June 27, 2017

letter RE: Wildlife Recovery Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill By Paul D. Boehm - Just to make sure that your readers have accurate and balanced scientific information you should note that the USGS’s fine work on recovery of sea otters (summarized in Deep Sea Research) largely overstates the effect of the oil spill in delaying recovery of sea otters. - More...
Monday PM - June 19, 2017

letter Why There's Gridlock By Sen. Berta Gardner - I'm not surprised that at day 154 of the 2017 legislature, my inbox is stuffed with messages from Alaskans asking what is going on, asking for a budget, asking for a fiscal plan, decrying or begging for income taxes, opposing cuts to education, etc. Here is the essence of my response to folks. - More...
Monday PM - June 19, 2017

letter Sealaska Board of Directors By Dominic Salvato - The news coming out of Juneau is Sealaska shareholders want to reduce the size of the board of directors. Passing Sealaska resolutions are impossible under current ANCSA election rules. - More...
Monday PM - June 19, 2017

letter The Race to Alaska By Michael Spence - Kudos to the Northwest Maritime Center for running its third successful Race to Alaska. Ketchikan has a long and rich maritime heritage and makes an ideal venue for the sport of sailing and the promotion of maritime trades. - More...
Monday PM - June 19, 2017

letter Use for Taku By A. M. Johnson - As a suggestion regarding the Alaska Ferry Taku currently for sale without any apparent takers at what is soon to be a ridiculous reduced price. Would it not be better than paying a huge mooring sum while making the sales attempt, to move the Taku to Juneau and provide housing and meals for the legislature. Rather than paying out $250 dollars a day per legislator, provide room and board. - More...
Tuesday PM - June 13, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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