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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
January 08, 2010

Front Page Photo by MIKE GATES

Bugge Beach Sunrise
Front Page Photo by MIKE GATES


Ketchikan: 2009 Year In Review; Some Times No Big News is Good News By DAVE KIFFER - Unlike some other years in recent memory, there was no single story that dominated Ketchikan and set local tongues to wagging in 2009.

The local economy was down this year, but not nearly as far as some had predicted as Ketchikan - and much of the rest of Alaska - avoided the economic meltdown that struck other communities in the United States.

Rather the year was punctuated smaller news stories than popped into and out of the collective local conscience. If nothing super wonderful happened, then at least you could say that - as a community - nothing super terrible happened either.

One of the quieter stories that built up over the year was the high number of suicides that have afflicted Ketchikan for the last year and a half. Local mental health providers estimated that there had been an average of between one and two suicides a month, the highest rate in anyone's memory. Several public meetings were held toward the end of the year and a committee was formed to begin addressing the causes of the epidemic.

Economy slightly down, but steady

Economically, much of the community was in a holding pattern in 2009.

Two high profile, long-time Ketchikan businesses went out of business in 2009. Waldenbooks, which had been in the Plaza Mall since 1986, announced it was closing due to a corporate restructuring.

Skinner Sales and Service, which had previously been Lewis Chevrolet for more than two decades, announced it was closing shortly before Christmas because its owner faced financial difficulties at his other locations.

The Plaza Mall itself experienced a bit of a resurgence as a new owner lowered rental rates and attracted numerous smaller Ketchikan businesses to relocate to it and both floors of the mall were nearly full for the first time in more than a decade.

But on the other hand, there was significant vacant shop space in the community, particularly in the Downtown area as there was retrenchment in the visitor industry and numerous businesses either closed in 2009 or chose not reopen at all during the summer.

The picture won't improve in 2010 as several cruise lines announced projected cutbacks for the 2010 season with passengers totals expected to drop up to 160,000 visitors . Cruise West, which had operated smaller ships out of the Ketchikan for many years, announced that it would be basing its ships in different cities for the next few years.

One bright spot in the economy was continued growth at the Ketchikan Shipyard with an additional drydock and approximately 170 employees by year's end. The shipyard also moved more into original vessel construction with a new ferry for the Mat-Su, a fueling barge for Chevron Canada and a replacement ferry for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

There were two prominent "accidents" in the area in 2009.

The Alaska Marine Highway System experienced an embarrassment but not a disaster when the ferry Lituya broke free from its moorings in Metlakatla during a January storm and drifted onto a small island nearby.

A section of hillside gave way on North Tongass Highway in February, dumping tons of rock onto the highway and cutting off the north end for several hours. Two houses, left hanging by the new cliff, had to eventually be destroyed and the state Department of Transportation has planned significant new road work in the area in 2010. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

Alaska: State health officials release results from two 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys; Alaska's youth face risks from alcohol use, violence, sexual activity and other behaviors - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health, published results from two Youth Risk Behavior Surveys Thursday.

In spring 2009, the department surveyed 1,373 students from 43 high schools that were scientifically selected to represent all public high schools (excluding boarding schools, alternative schools, and correctional facilities) in Alaska, said Patricia Owen, state coordinator for the survey.

At the same time - and for the first time - 1,020 students from 15 alternative high schools (defined as serving high-risk students) were surveyed. The results of these anonymous surveys are posted online. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

Southeast Alaska: Forest Service seeks comment on Petersburg outfitter and guide use plan - The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on its Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Outfitter and Guide Management Plan for the Petersburg Ranger District. A decision on the plan will determine how recreation visitor capacity will be allocated to outfitters and guides through issuance of special use permits.

The project area comprises about 1.9 million acres in central Southeast Alaska on the Petersburg Ranger District, including Mitkof, Kupreanof, Woewodski, and Kuiu Islands, a section of the mainland, and several smaller islands. It encompasses the communities of Petersburg, Kupreanof, and Kake.

The EA describes two action alternatives. Alternative 1, the Proposed Action; and Alternative 2, Increased Solitude. Although Alternative 2 is the preferred alternative, the final decision may include either alternative, a combination of alternatives, or a new alternative.

Both Alternatives propose to allocate outfitter and guides up to 10 percent of the capacity within and 25 percent outside an identified home range. These allocations would be proportioned out by season, and would authorize up to 39,605 Recreation Visitor Days annually. Alternative 1 proposes: - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

Southeast Alaska: Lifelong resident to help communities get off diesel and onto renewable energy - The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council on Thursday introduced Juneau resident Dan Lesh as their Energy Coordinator, a new position the organization will use to help advance renewable energy in Southeast Alaska.

"Developing a sustainable, affordable energy supply is the biggest challenge facing Southeast Alaska," said Lesh. "I'm excited to join with SEACC to assist community efforts throughout our region, especially in areas currently relying on diesel."

Lesh was born in Juneau and raised in Gustavus, a town that recently completed construction of a hydroelectric dam, enabling it to largely switch off the town's diesel generators. Before centralized power, his family operated its own generator to power their inn, started in 1965. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010


Alaska Science: Bitter weather may have wiped out reindeer By NED ROZELL - Six thousand reindeer once lived on a remote island in the Bering Sea that was briefly their paradise. In what has become a classic story of wildlife boom and bust, no reindeer live on St. Matthew Island now. Three scientists just looked back at the St. Matthew's reindeer herd and found that an extreme winter probably pushed the stressed animals to their deaths.

Bitter weather may have wiped out reindeer

Reindeer of St. Matthew Island in the 1960s, before they disappeared.

The story began in August 1944, when the U.S. Coast Guard corralled 29 Nunivak Island reindeer on a barge and floated the animals north to St. Matthew Island, more than 200 miles away and one of the most remote places in Alaska. Coast Guard officials had earlier in the year placed a radio navigational system on the island, along with 19 men. The reindeer were intended as a roaming food source should the men be cut off from supply shipments.

The men never shot a single reindeer; the Allies were winning the war, and the Coast Guard pulled its men from the island. They left the reindeer.

This was a fine situation for the animals at first-their only predators had disappeared, leaving them on a 32-mile long, four-mile wide island rich with their favorite food, lichen.

Biologist Dave Klein first stepped on the island in 1957, 13 years after the Coast Guard had abandoned it. Klein, 82, now a professor emeritus for the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Institute of Arctic Biology, hiked the length of the island with field assistant Jim Whisenhant in 1957. They noted that the herd of 29 reindeer had increased to more than 1,300 animals. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

Columns - Commentary

DAVE KIFFER: Char and Dave's Excellent Adventure, Parte Tres - Tere comes a time in every trip where you must "use the facilities."

And in Europe that always seems to be an adventure.

For example, folks are obviously really quick at using the bathroom in Spain and obviously really concerned about using two much electricity while using the bathroom, or WC (water closet) as they call it in English in Spain (and I always thought it was a "servicio.")

I found this out when I was using the bathroom, ummm the WC, in a lovely little pastry shop not far from our hotel in San Sebastian.

Just about 15 seconds after I perched myself on the "throne" the bathroom light started to dim. In five seconds, the tiny stall was completely dark. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010


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letter Audit/Investigation Needed at Public Library By Robert D. Warner - Recent letters to SITNEWS describe waste and careless spending of $1.4 million dollars for planning and blueprints by the public library. One letter called this spending "obscene." Isn't it time for the Mayor and City Council to launch a complete investigation as to why and how this money was squandered? Today, we do not even have funding to provide essential safety and security in our local high school. - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

letter$$$$ if Kpu sells ????? By Brad Cota - Do the residents of Ketchikan get a dividend from the sale of KPU telephone? As a public utility, I do believe the owners are the residents of the city of Ketchikan. We're voting to sell or not to sell, but we're not voting on what happens to the money? Does anybody know where the money is going? - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

letterMy Dog's life By Don Borders - My dog sleeps about 20 hours a day. He has his food prepared for him. He can eat whenever he wants, 24/7/365. His meals are provided at no cost to him. He visits the doctor once a year for his checkup, and again during the year if any medical needs arise. For this he pays nothing, and nothing is required of him. He lives in a nice neighborhood in a house that is much larger than he needs, but he is not required to do any upkeep. If he makes a mess, someone else cleans it up. He has his choice of luxurious places to sleep. He receives these accommodations absolutely free. He is living like a king, and has absolutely no expenses whatsoever. All of his costs are picked up by others who go out and earn a living every day. I was just thinking about all this, and suddenly it hit me like a brick in the head; Holy Cow, my dog is a democrat! - More...
Friday - January 08, 2010

letterKPU Sale By John A. Beck - I am responding to the letter by Mr. Edwardson. The sale of KPU Telephone is a much discussed item around our breakroom table. My personal view, and I have stated this in front of the City Council, is how can a resident of the City vote on a sale if the price and the buyer is not disclosed. Let me sell your house but the price will surprize you. The whole thing stinks. - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letterFine qualities, yet NOT SUBJECT TO CONSIDERATION By Jose Garcia - The purpose of this letter is to react on how the HR Manager of the Ketchikan Borough composes letters to job applicants. It appeared to be vague and rather not within the norms of an equal rating good ethics, much more coming from the government employee as such. - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letterHigh school cop By Robert McRoberts - We've got to make up our mind about this. I've heard people say just having the cop car parked outside the school is a deterrent. I feel the students are use to the cop and they know how to avoid the cop now. What I would like to see is what has been accomplished by having a cop at the high school for the last few years. How much drugs have been confiscated and have the people that supplied the drugs been caught? This is where I feel we are wasting money if nothing is done. If we're not going to make life a living hell for the cooks and the dealers that supply the kids, we are wasting our time. - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letterMake a difference, Healthy Living! By Terri Bermudez - Recently I did a PSA radio ad, what I feel is a honest attempt to reach out to an addict, or someone who may still be suffering with Meth addiction. I learned the hard way, and believe me it does not need to end up like my situation did. Long story short, I was BAD. I sold drugs in this little town to SUPPORT MY METH habit. - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letterEvan Bolling's Rants By Richard Easbey - Time to get a new schtick Mr. Bolling. - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letterRE: Obamas Czars (Ooooh Please) By Bill Nelson - When I was in Biology class, Evan, we respected our teachers, classmates and the learning institution enough that we were not disruptive or trying to draw attention to ourselves. We were there to learn, Evan, can you say the same? - More...
Wednesday - January 06, 2010

letter Officer in our Schools - SAFETY FIRST By Roberta "Bobbie" McCreary - Thank you Chas for speaking out about our responsibility to support measures that protect our youth... we DO need to make our community safe for our youth and we DO need to take our community's rep down a few points (quite a few actually). What about our rep as the community in the US that has highest per capita prescriptions for the drug OxyContin? How do we stack up with meth labs, domestic violence, drop outs? Not so good, I'm told. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2010

letterRE: Obama Czars (Ooooh Please) By Evan Bolling - When I was in biology class, we would have "periodic" lab hours (lame pun, I know). I strolled into class one day, rather groggy but was immediately stimulated by the congested smell of formaldehyde, latex and VERY raw pork. "Heck Yes! We are going to be dissecting pig fetuses today!" I said out-loud. We picked and pried at all the little parts inside, and that is exactly what Al Johnson's article "Obama Czars" is in desperate need of, a painstaking dissection. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2010

letter Be a part of the Solution By Diana Chaudhary - You are right Teri J. Wilson.... there are a lot of serious problems in our community and it sounds like you have ideas on how to solve them. I would urge you and everyone else with concerns and ideas to come to the Community Conversation on January 12th to participate in a discussion that will address not only problems, but also what is currently being done or needs to be done to help solve those problems. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2010

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Ketchikan, Alaska

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