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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

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Southeast Alaska: $53 Million Settlement Reached with Indian Health Service - An agreement with the U.S. Indian Health Service (IHS) to settle SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium's outstanding claims against the Indian Health Service for unpaid contract support costs has been reached. Under the agreement, the U.S. Indian Health Service has agreed to pay SEARHC $39.5 million plus interest, totaling approximately $53 million, to settle the organization’s contract support costs claims for the years 1999 through 2013.

SEARHC is a tribal health organization that compacts with the IHS under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) to carry out the federal government's obligation to provide health care services to the Alaska Native and American Indian people of Southeast Alaska. Contract support costs (CSC) consist of those reasonable program expenses as well as other administrative and overhead costs associated with carrying out the health care services SEARHC provides on behalf of the IHS. These costs are required to be paid in full under the ISDEAA, SEARHC’s compact with the IHS, and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. SEARHC’s CSC claims arose from the IHS’ failure to pay these costs in full, which required SEARHC to utilize program funds meant to provide direct health care services to SEARHC patients in order to meet the shortfall. This settlement resolves SEARHC’s claims for 15 years of CSC underpayments by the IHS and will now permit SEARHC to devote more resources to providing direct health care services.

“This is a very good settlement and has concluded several years of legal wrangling and political advocacy in Washington, DC. I could not be more pleased to have these issues come to resolution and look forward to focusing our efforts in a more constructive direction,” said SEARHC President and CEO, Charles Clement.

Since the passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in 1975, tribes have had the option of using federal funding to run their own education, public safety, and health care programs. Since that time, tribal management of health care services have resulted in better delivery of care and have improved health outcomes for Alaska Natives and American Indians.

The U.S. Supreme Court recognized the necessity of tribal contract support costs in the Ramah decision in 2012, ruling that contract support costs are a binding legal obligation that must be paid in full as with any other federal contract. However, according to a news release from U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), because the IHS and BIA are funded by an annual discretionary appropriation, this binding obligation ultimately undercuts funding for the same programs and services it is meant to support. This leads to a reduction in vital programs and services for tribes and tribal organizations across the country.

Since being elect, Senator Begich has been an outspoken member of Congress on this issue. He has been encouraged by the progress that has been made in the recent year, including full funding for CSC in 2014 and several historic claims settled with Alaska Native tribal health providers as an outcome of his leadership to solve the historical CSC underpayments to tribes.

Begich on Thursday introduced two bills to ensure Alaska Native and Native American tribes that administer health care and other services through tribal hospitals, clinics, and other facilities are paid promptly and in-full for the services they deliver.

“The federal government should honor the costs of all contractual obligations regardless of whether or not the contractor is a tribal organization,” said Begich. “Refusing to pay these contracts in full and in a timely manner is a slap in the face to all the tribal organizations who are on the ground, doing the work, and making sure their people get the quality care and services they need. And we shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul by raiding discretionary funds.”

“Contract support costs” are a critical component to tribal self-determination contracting because they fund the overhead costs such as legal fees, insurance, and accounting fees that are necessary to effectively manage IHS and BIA programs and services. The Begich bills would help ensure contract support costs are paid in full, on time, and not at the expense of other critical Indian Health Service (IHS) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) programs. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

 

Ketchikan: Northway Earns Doctoral Degree in Nursing - Maureen Northway, currently practicing at Creekside Family Health Clinic, received her degree from Frontier Nursing University on June 20th. Northway graduated with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree with a focus on evidence-based clinic practice. Creekside Family Health Clinic is a nurse practitioner-owned clinic in Ketchikan.

Northway Earns Doctoral Degree in Nursing

Maureen Northway, DNP, FNP-C
Photo Credit: Charley Starr

Northway's capstone project examined the role that nutrition advice plays in improving the health of Alaskan adolescents. The work also included development of a continuing education module for Nurse Practitioners. Activities for the project included working with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District Wellness Committee and the Alaska State Alliance for Healthy Kids.

Northway has lived in Southeast Alaska for 18 years. Before becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, she worked in many areas of nursing over a 40 year career from big Seattle hospitals to smaller rural community hospitals in Oregon and Alaska. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

Ketchikan: First meeting scheduled for Tongass National Forest Advisory Committee - The first meeting of the newly established Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC) will be held Aug. 6-8 at the Best Western Landing Hotel, Sunny Point Ball Room, 3434 Tongass Avenue, in Ketchikan. All Tongass Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public, with a portion of each agenda open for public comment.

The meeting objectives are to introduce the team members to each other; discuss the purpose, goals, interests, outcomes and vision for the process; and go over committee procedures, protocols, guidelines, and expectations.

The Committee is being asked to make recommendations on forest management on the Tongass with emphasis on young-growth management; these recommendations may be included in the Forest Plan amendment. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

Alaska: Alaska fish consumption guidelines expand species on unrestricted list - Expanded fish testing data and epidemiological studies have prompted the state to release new fish consumption guidelines that increase the number of fish species on the “unrestricted consumption” list . The list will now include small halibut, lingcod, grayling, Dolly Varden and black rockfish.

“These guidelines continue to underscore the health benefits associated with eating fish and the cultural importance of fishing,” said Ali Hamade, the Environmental Public Health Program Manager. “We encourage Alaskans to use these guidelines in addition to the state’s fish monitoring program resources for making healthful fish consumption choices. The guidelines recommend unrestricted consumption of many fish species from Alaska waters, particularly those most frequently consumed by Alaskans.” - More....
Thursday - July 24, 2014


 

Alaska Science: Alaska frogs reach record lows in extreme temperature survival - Freezing and thawing might not be good for the average steak, but it seems to help wood frogs each fall as they prepare to survive Alaska’s winter cold.

Alaska frogs reach record lows in extreme temperature survival

An Alaska wood frog creates a hibernacula from duff and leaf litter in a spruce forest on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus in preparation for the long winter freeze.
Credit: Photographer: Uwe Anders

“Alaska wood frogs spend more time freezing and thawing outside than a steak does in your freezer and the frog comes back to life in the spring in better shape than the steak,” said Don Larson, University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student and lead author on a recent paper demonstrating that freeze tolerance in Alaska wood frogs is more extreme than previously thought.

Although wood frogs are well-studied freeze-tolerant amphibians, Larson’s research is believed to be the first to examine the frogs under natural conditions.

In subarctic Interior Alaska, wood frogs overwinter in the ground covered by duff and leaf litter, creating a hibernacula, where temperatures can remain below freezing for more than six months with minimum temperatures of minus four (minus 20 Celsius).

Tracking wood frogs to their natural hibernacula, and using a fenced hibernacula in the Biological Reserve north of the UAF campus, Larson and co-author Brian Barnes, director of the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology and an expert in cold-climate physiology, wanted to know how cold and how long Alaska’s wood frogs could survive in their natural habitat.

“Imagine what happens when you suck on a freeze pop,” said Larson. “After you’ve sucked out all the sweet stuff, you’re left with just ice. That’s what happens to cells when they freeze. As ice formation pulls the water out of cells, the cells desiccate or dry out and eventually die.”

Frogs prevent this freeze-pop effect by packing their cells with glucose (a kind of sugar) that reduces drying and stabilizes cells, a process scientists call cryoprotection. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014


 

Alaska Science: Tracks across Greenland ice, 60 years apart By NED ROZELL - On top of an ice body more than two miles thick, Chris Polashenski last summer hoped to find a candy wrapper that might have fallen from Carl Benson’s pocket 60 years ago.

Tracks across Greenland ice, 60 years apart

Carl Benson on one of his Greenland traverses in 1953.
Photo courtesy Carl Benson.

As he repeated the Alaska glaciologist’s measurements on the Greenland ice sheet, Polashenski realized that six decades of snowfall, windstorms and glacier movement had wiped out evidence of Benson’s passage.

“Carl’s footprints were entombed in the snow some 30 to 300 feet beneath us as we walked around,” said Polashenski, who works for the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. “The ice moved a few hundreds of yards since Carl was there. These errors in exact positioning are all insignificant for our temperature-measurement replication, but pretty serious for our hopes to bring up candy bar wrappers from a two-inch diameter borehole.”

Carl Benson, 87, is no litterbug, but something was bound to escape his mitts while he zigzagged across the Greenland ice cap in a caravan of tracked vehicles from 1952 through 1955. With five skilled and trusted companions, he traveled across wind-hardened snow the distance from Minnesota to Maine. With a No. 10 grain scoop, he dug 150 snow pits along the way. Benson, a professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Geophysical Institute, is a co-author on Polashenski’s new paper about pronounced warming on the Greenland Ice Sheet. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

      

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letter RECALL THE BOROUGH ASSEMBLY AND FIRE THE KETCHIKAN CITY MANAGER By David G. Hanger - I think it appropriate to seriously consider the recall of the five members of the Ketchikan Borough Assembly who voted to give Oceans Alaska $600,000 of Borough money. Please note, I have never previously called for the recall of anybody, but this is nuts. I do not know if these people take their stupid pills just on nights of Ketchikan Assembly meetings, or also on every other day of the week; but this decision is colossal stupidity. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter The Prudent Alaskan Oil Man By Sen. Bert Stedman - During legislative deliberations, advocates of the Senate Bill 21 oil tax consistently used North Dakota as an example of the ideal tax regime that Alaska should emulate. We were told that because of North Dakota’s tax structure they are more competitive than Alaska resulting in huge increases in industry investment and rapid increases in production. If Alaska would just lower its tax to be more aligned with North Dakota, we would also benefit from rapid increases in investment and production. However the oil boom in North Dakota, along with Texas, is a result of the advancement of fracking technology that releases hydrocarbons previously trapped in shale rock and the private land ownership of the surface and subsurface. This boom is not tax driven. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Why I am Voting “Yes” to Repeal S.B. 21 By Bill Walker - When throughput began to decline in 1988, I joined efforts to put more oil into TAPS. I have been to D.C. numerous times working to get ANWR open for exploration. I joined Governor Hickel and others in an epic battle to ensure Phillips Petroleum (now ConocoPhillips) could purchase ARCO, rather than BP, so Alaska could have MORE, not fewer oil companies. By opening the door for ConocoPhillips to come back to Alaska as a third major operator, Alaskans are better off today having them on the North Slope. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Vote Yes. Repeal the Giveaway By Malcolm B. Roberts & Cindy Roberts - Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond, two of Alaska’s strongest and most beloved governors, fought each other politically for 25 years. Wally’s view of Alaska, based on our constitution and the Alaska Statehood Act, was what he called “The Owner State.” Jay called Alaska “The People’s State.” Same difference. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Eloise Jennings Hancock 1901-1924 (Bayview Cemetery) By Victor Jennings Hancock - I enjoyed the feature article by Ms. Allen and the photos by Ms. Pilcher. A day never goes by that I do not think of my mother, Eloise Jennings Hancock, who died on Sept. 12, 1924 and is buried at Bayview. A cryptic note on the Sexton's card notes that she is buried with Ford. She died of complications of a miscarriage, at the age of 23, a truly beautiful young lady. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Friends of Misty Fjords National Monument By Victoria McDonald - Misty Fjords National Monument, set aside in 1978 to protect one of the most unique wild lands in North America, showcases coastal ecosystems ascending to high alpine lakes and rugged mountains. The monument includes eastern Behm Canal, bisecting Revillagegedo Island and the mainland. Behm Canal is extraordinary for its depth and length, highlighted by the towering granite walls of its fjords and the iconic volcanic plug of New Eddystone Rock. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Audit oil companies By John Suter - The state has not done an audit on the oil companies since 2007. The governor does not want to have the state do an audit because it would expose the fact that the free billions of dollars he is giving away is all going out of state. None of it will be spent in Alaska. The money the oil companies’ are spending now in the oil fields was planned a number of years ago and has nothing to do with the free give away of the state’s billions of dollars to them. The governor is doing the smoke and mirrors thing, the empty hoop dance on this and so far it is working. The governor will be richly rewarded by the oil company’s after he is out of office with a cushy high paid job. So he will be personally out on top with this while we will be stuck for years paying income and sales taxes to make up for the loss of income to the state’s budget. The next thing to go will be the dividend check. Some call the governor Captain Zero, but when he gets that high paid job from the oil companies’ after he is out of office, who will be Captain Zero then? - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Drinking Water Unsafe Without a Filtration System By Cheryl Henley- Why is it that the citizens allow the Ketchikan City Council and Mr. Amylon to pass the usage of cancer causing chemicals to be added to the water system? Numerous, people have stood up and fought about this issue in person at councils meetings , and the newspaper. We don't want it, but it sure got shoved down our throats literally. We have to have a safe filtration plant now. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Creek Street Fishing By Marie Zellmer- I was very relieved when I heard that the Red Bridge on Ketchikan's Creek Street would not be closed to fishing. I remember the first time there was a ban put in place after the walkway was expanded, and everyone went down to the bridge. Ketchikanites put their poles in the water in protest, because fishing off the bridge is more than just a pastime, it is a part of our city. A part of our heritage. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter RE: Un-necessary consequences for Marijuana By Anthony Johnson- Mr. Seibert, are you actually suggesting that the masses of children currently attempting to cross the border of Mexico, are actually smuggling Marijuana to be legally sold in Colorado and Washington? Both Washington and Colorado regulate and monitor this new industry from producer to retailer. None of it comes from Mexico. All of it is accounted for, is produced within the State, and goes through rigorous quality control and testing for dangerous chemicals and pesticides. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter RE: Marijuana law By Alan R. McGillvray - Well folks one thing I have figured out over a lifetime, the worst thing about cannabis are the draconian laws against its use and or possession. If caught with almost any amount (esp in Alaska) regardless of the Raven Decision forwarded to us (citizens) by the Supreme Court of our great State, especially our young people are at risk (I'm 69 so catch me if you can). - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter RE: Collateral for City Loans By Amanda Mitchell - Thanks Ralph for the input about the loans, but I am a bit confused. I thought when a person is unable to afford their city imposed taxes the city confiscates his/her PRIVATE property. It seems to me that Mr. Thompson is right, even if what you are saying is correct and the process is a bit different. What is worse is the city can just keep upping the taxes, by either passing an increase and/or raising the assessed value of a home to continue their lavish credit-card-type spending. Ask yourself, what happens when we fault on our ever growing debt? Allowing collateral for our taxes is the backdoor to eroding our sovereignty. We are essentially being sold into servitude to the highest bidder. But since people are not being put up on blocks and sold in a market, many are unaware of what is happening. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Inmate fatalities By Andrée McLeod - It was a huge disappointment for this registered Republican to only see Democrat legislators at the July 15th Legislative Briefing on Inmate Facilities in Alaska’s Correctional Facilities. Chaired by Senator French, the other attendees were Senator Gardner, and Representatives Josephson and Tarr. The Anchorage LIO director confirmed that Representative Tuck, another Democrat, was patched in by teleconference. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter 43 Senators Block the Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act By Barbara McDaniel - Alaska’s Senators Begich and Murkowski did the right thing in the Senate on July 16th when they voted to move S. 2578, The Protect Women's Health from Corporate Interference Act, forward to a final vote. The vote was 56-43, with a majority of senators favoring women’s reproductive health care wants, needs, and rights. However, 60 votes were needed to block a filibuster, so this outstanding bill died. - More...
Thursday - JUly 24, 2014

letter Tax consumption, not income By Amerigo M Cimino - The Fair Tax in the most simple and efficient way to fund Government! The fair Tax is a tax on consumption instead of income! Our country is an incredible consuming country, and we use up natural resources at an alarming rate. Future generations will be mining our landfills. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter Where Does The Seized Cash Go from Drug Raids in Ketchikan? By Bonnie Abbot Allen - I am writing another letter to SitNews due to the number of individuals that contacted me and wanted to lend their appreciation and to let me know that I should not stop on the subject of addiction an drugs in Ketchikan! It took me two months or longer to decide to type my questions I have today, and along with many others in Ketchikan! Where does all the cash go that is seized from drug raids or individuals that are caught with possession of narcotics when they have cash on them? They do lose it, this I know! But where does all the cash and expensive belongings go to? We all know they auction off seized vehicles and have been so, for years here! But I really would like to know the answer to this question! - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

letter DO WE NEED MORE DRUG ENFORCERS By Joey Garcia- IT IS REALLY SAD TO NOTE THAT THE CITY OF KETCHIKAN, OR THE BOROUGH, HAS CREATED AN OVERSIGHT OF NOT SUBJECTING INCOMING OLD AND NEW FISH PROCESSORS FOR DRUG TEST. BECAUSE OF THESE, THE DRUG ENFORCERS ARE SHORT OF HAND IN CATCHING PUSHERS OR USERS, IF EVER, CAN ONLY BE COUNTED BY ONES FINGERS APPREHENDING TWO OR THREE THAT ONCE RUN LOOSE IN KETCHIKAN FISH PROCESSING COMPANIES. - More...
Thursday - July 24, 2014

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