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Southeast Alaska: Alaska and BC Discuss Transboundary Waters - For the first time in more than twenty years, government officials with the State of Alaska and British Columbia spent this week meeting face-to-face with Alaska tribes, Southeast municipalities, fishermen, legislators, mining industry and environmental organization representatives to build relationships and discuss the long-term protection of transboundary waters, principally the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds.

Alaska and BC Discuss Transboundary Waters

Lt. Governor Byron Mallott and BC Minister of Energy and Mines William Bennett with the Alaska Department of Fish and Gameon on the Taku, stopping at a fish wheel escapement camp.
Photo courtesy Office of Lt. Gov.

Lt. Governor Byron Mallott invited BC Minister of Energy and Mines, William Bennett, to come to Southeast Alaska and meet the people whose lives depend on the transboundary rivers for their way of life. Bennett was flown up the Taku with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and saw the shuttered Canadian Tulsequah Chief Mine as well as went on the river, stopping at a fish wheel escapement camp and a commercial fish buying station, to understand the salmon journey up the river.

“While I am gratified to see both BC and Alaska at the table, these discussions underscore the international aspect of this issue,” Mallott said during a news conference this afternoon. “We will move forward on several fronts, not only collaborating on a draft memorandum of understanding but also exploring federal engagement from Ottawa and our State Department. “

The BC delegation, including high-ranking mining and environmental regulators, held candid discussions with their Alaska counterparts from Governor Walker’s Transboundary Working Group headed by Mallott, including the Commissioners of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, and Department of Resources, on how to create a framework for further discussions and improvements in specific areas including:

Collaboration on Monitoring: both sides recognize the importance of having a reliable and adequate process for the collection and distribution of baseline, regional and project-specific water quality and related data. There are opportunities to collaborate among different agencies, Tribes, First Nations, Industry and others to collect the data.

Alaska Participation in the Environmental Assessment and Permitting Processes: Both sides are looking for opportunities to build on the existing collaboration whereby members of Alaska’s Large Mine Review Team (technical experts from the state’s departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Game and Environmental Conservation) participate in the Environmental Assessment and Permitting Processes relating to province’s authorization of the development of transboundary mines. The issue of financial assurances during and after the life of the mine by governments and industry was also broached by stakeholders.

Both recognized the constraints that contracting budgets puts on them and the need to prioritize work, build on existing collaborations, leverage existing partnerships and resources, and avoid unnecessary duplication.

Both recognized the constraints that contracting budgets puts on them and the need to prioritize work, build on existing collaborations, leverage existing partnerships and resources, and avoid unnecessary duplication.

They are also looking for opportunities for interested Alaskans, including tribes and NGOs, to have easier access to information about potential mining projects in BC and to have meaningful opportunities to provide input before decisions are made. It is envisioned this will include the holding of public open houses in Alaska during the Environmental Assessment process on particular proposed projects.

In the past, much of the collaboration between the Alaska and BC relating to transboundary mines has been during the Environmental Assessment and Permitting processes. In addition to enhancing Alaska participation in these processes, the parties intend to look at useful means to share information and concerns relating to each stage of a mine’s life, specifically the permitting, operational, shutdown, closure and reclamation phases. A key goal is early involvement and transparency in all aspects with tribes, First Nations, stakeholders and the public.

Thursday, Mallott and Bennett were in Ketchikan to meet with additional stakeholders and tribes before attending the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Other delegation members will visit Greens Creek Mine as the guests of Hecla Mining Company before returning to Canada.

Of the meeting in Juneau Wednesday, Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association said, “The meeting was a productive first step and we’re grateful for the opportunity to meet with Minister Bennett and Alaska Lt. Governor Mallott. While cross-border cooperation is essential for protecting fisheries, it involves more than provincial and state agreements regarding the sharing of data and perspectives. Fishermen want commitments regarding the watersheds that impact our fisheries to be backed up by the full force of the U.S. government and Crown because that offers the greatest chance that they will be binding and upheld over time." - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

 


Southeast Alaska:
AMHS Releases Winter 2015-16 Schedule - The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) announced the release of its 2015-16 winter schedule. Coinciding with release of the winter schedule, AMHS will be applying a new reservations policy for all travel initiating October 1, 2015 and thereafter. The new policy requires payment at the time of booking and includes a revised fee schedule for cancellations or changes.

The intent of the new reservations policy is to limit lost revenue due to late cancellations or no-shows. Late cancellations make it difficult for the AMHS to sell the limited space aboard ferries to other customers. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

Alaska: Anchorage Law Firm Offers Pro Bono Representation for Medicaid Expansion - Alaska Governor Bill Walker announced he will accept an offer for pro-bono legal representation in a suit to challenge his expansion of Medicaid in Alaska. Last week Republican legislative leadership authorized the spending of up to $450,000 to sue the Walker administration in the latest attempt to prevent thousands of Alaskans from receiving access to health care coverage.

Alaska Governor Walker announced he has accepted the offer of pro bono representation from the Anchorage law firm Dillon & Findley to defend the Governor’s actions to expand Medicaid in Alaska.

Dillon & Findley is a boutique law firm that specializes in complex litigation, including medical legal work and tax litigation. Ray Brown, who has worked as an attorney with the firm for the past 23 years, reached out to the Governor’s office last week with the offer.

“When we heard that the Governor was being sued for Medicaid expansion and the Legislative Council had retained an outside Washington D.C. firm at a cost of half a million dollars, all in an effort to deprive poor people of healthcare –Dillon & Findley volunteered to assist,” said Brown. “We believe it is our civic duty to support the Governor in his decision to expand Medicaid, especially with the fiscal climate our state is currently faced with.”

“At a time when the state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit, 10 legislators chose to spend $450,000 to hire an outside law firm to block what more than 60 percent of Alaskans want; they chose to sue to prevent $145 million in federal dollars from being injected into our economy to provide lifesaving care for our fellow Alaskans. Instead of spending money on litigation, we should be working together to pass Medicaid reform legislation, ” said Governor Walker. “In partnership with the excellent legal team at the Department of Law, the experienced attorneys at Dillon & Findley have graciously volunteered to help us stand up and fight for the right to provide health care for low-income, working Alaskans.” - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

 


Alaska:
Tribal Trust Lands: State Files Opening Brief in Akiachak Appeal - The D.C. District Court found in 2014 that the U.S. Secretary of Interior has the authority to take land into trust for Alaska tribes. However, some believed that was not possible after the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed. In 2014, the State of Alaska appealed the district court’s decision striking down the Alaska exception to the trust regulations. The court stayed the case to allow the State of Alaska to examine the issues further. This week, the Alaska Department of Law filed its opening appellate brief in this case on August 24, 2015.

Whether or not the federal government should be able to take lands into trust in Alaska presents complex policy issues for Alaska Tribes, the State, and all Alaska citizens. This would lead to areas of "Indian country" in Alaska where tribal governments and courts would have authority to create their own laws and justice systems.

Quoting an Alaska Department of Law news release, the department "received numerous comments on both sides of the issue, illustrating the interest and passion that surrounds this topic".

“Many of the comments I received, whether pro or con, made good points. It is clear that there are good elements and bad elements about the creation of trust lands in Alaska for both the Tribes and the State,” said Alaska Attorney General Craig Richards. “But ultimately this is a fundamental change to a law that has been in place for over 30 years, and a change of that magnitude requires thorough and deliberative dialogue that can’t occur in just a matter of months. The current legal question will continue before the courts, but the State’s policy position will also continue to develop in dialogue with the citizens of Alaska, including Tribes.”

When the federal government takes land into trust, it holds it for the benefit of an individual Alaska Native or a Tribe. It is the federal government’s position that this land becomes Indian country - a legal status that can be likened to an Indian reservation. Currently, Alaska has only one reservation - the Metlakatla Indian Community’s reservation on the Annette Islands Reserve in Southeast Alaska. Indian reservations are generally exempt from state jurisdiction, including taxation, except when Congress specifically authorizes such jurisdiction. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015


 

Columns - Commentary

jpg Dave Kiffer

DAVE KIFFER: Another Passing Grade - Well, despite all our best parental attempts to prevent all that “lurning” and “edjification,” Liam started high school this week.

I can't figure it out, I'm sure that it was just yesterday when we were chasing him down the aisles at Walmart and triggering Adam Alerts when he was hiding under the clothing racks.

Yeah, yeah this horrific "passing of time" thing happens to all parents.

But we are not just any parents.

We are late model Baby Boomers. This sort of thing does not happen to us. Our kids don't grow up because, well frankly, we haven't grown up.

Which reminds me, a few years ago when my much-much-much older siblings - they are early model baby boomers and therefore senile - were ragging on me about "growing up," my Mom piped up and said "why should he grow up, I haven't grown up yet!" - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

jpg Mary Lynne Dahl

MONEY MATTERS: SURVIVING MAJOR STOCK MARKET CORRECTIONS: DO’S AND DON’T’S By MARY LYNNE DAHL, CFP® - As of this date (August 23, 2015), the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is down more than 10% from its May 19 high of 18,312.39 and the other US exchanges are in similar basement territory. This is technically referred to as a “market correction” and it means that a lot of portfolios of ordinary people are down as well. Is this cause for alarm? What should a small investor do about it?

You probably already know the answer if you have been reading these Money Matters columns for any length of time. The answer is: add money to your portfolio now, if at all possible, and invest it while we have lower share prices. Do not panic and take your money out of the market. I can say that but I know that a lot of people will, in fact, bail out, certain that the sky is falling. This is such a classic mistake, but people are people and they still fall prey to their emotions. Don’t allow yourself to lose sight of the big picture, the long term view, though. Recognize a major drop in share prices as the bargain buying opportunity that it really is.

Maybe you can’t add money to your portfolio because it is all in a retirement account and you are already retired. You can’t add to it because you no longer have earned income. Well, that’s ok. That illustrates why everyone should have a non-retirement investment account in addition to their regular retirement account. You can always add to a non-retirement investment account, and now is the perfect time to do so. Open one if you don’t already have it set up. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

jpg Political Cartoon: Wall Street

Political Cartoon: Wall Street
By Bob Englehart ©2015, The Hartford Courant
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

      

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letter Inuit Circumpolar Council Response to the topic of Global Climate Change By James Stotts, ICC-Alaska President - Climate change poses a tremendous risk to the food security of Alaska’s indigenous peoples, and changes in state and federal policies could go a long way toward mitigating that risk and averting a potential crisis.

Climate change has already impacted traditional food sources, and will likely create more disruption. Changing weather patterns have limited the ability to go hunting. Sea ice has diminished and become more unstable. Species of wildlife have changed their migration patterns. Melting permafrost is reshaping the environment. Changing ocean conditions and rising water temperatures are altering fish runs. Foraging locations continue to change or even diminish as forest fires become more widespread. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter POW Wolf Harvest By Dave Person - Recent reports on KRBD and in the Ketchikan Daily News about the wolf situation in game management unit 2 (Prince of Wales and adjacent islands) certainly were informative but they failed to discuss the most critical issues. First, as someone who studied wolf and deer populations in that unit for 22 years, I don't believe for a nanosecond that the wolf population all of a sudden declined 60% during last winter. During my field work, I observed that population declining substantially for over a decade. It is most likely that the autumn 2013 population estimate of >220 wolves was much too high owing to inappropriate extrapolation from a small study area and study population boundary effects. I designed the initial strategy and protocols ADFG and the USFS are using to estimate wolf population in the unit. As part of my plan, ADFG and the USFS were to use wolf DNA extracted from hair traps to estimate population within a closely monitored study area that was only a portion of GMU 2. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter Are You Ready for Back to School 2015? By Susan Johnson  - The days are getting shorter and summer activities are winding down. School supply lists are appearing in stores and your in-boxes. Kids are (hopefully) finishing their summer reading lists. Back to School time is just around the corner, though it may feel like Memorial Day was just a couple of weeks ago.

As you prepare your kids to return to school this year, you should be aware that some states have enacted tougher immunization laws in the wake of the recurrence of “childhood diseases” that were previously eliminated in this country. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter STOP FEEDING THE BEAST By Wiley Brooks - The Internal Revenue Service has reported that hackers gained as many as 330,000 accounts. Cyberworld hacking is a relatively new phenomenon. Its growth not only threatens our national security but individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Politicians and enduring bureaucracies are far too slow to react to this growing menace. In recent months it has been reported that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of government computer systems resulting in the theft of a vast trove of personal information, including Social Security numbers and some fingerprints. Previous government agency records hacked include the White House, State Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). A politically devised bureaucratically controlled government agency cannot keep pace with today's fast-moving high-technology. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

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