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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
January 26, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By STEVEN SPEIGHTS

Night Bird
This Great Blue Heron was photographed at night around the Ketchikan airport ferry dock. Whether poised at day or night, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight.
Front Page Feature Photo By STEVEN SPEIGHTS

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Fish Factor: Budget cuts, new fishery taxes & fishing opportunities By LAINE WELCH - A single Chinook salmon is worth more than a barrel of oil.

The winter kings being caught by Southeast Alaska trollers are averaging 10 pounds each with a dock price of $7.34 a pound, according to state fish tickets. That adds up to $73.40 per fish, compared to less than $25 per barrel of oil.

Those who depend on fishing for their livelihoods want to make sure that budget cuts combined with any new fishery taxes, don’t cut core services that result in missed fishing opportunities.

“Not all cuts are equal, and if there are cuts that interfere with the science needed for responsible and sustainable fish harvesting, many times in the absence of information, it will throttle down fisheries and reduce opportunity,” said Mark Vinsel, Executive Administrator for United Fishermen of Alaska. UFA is the nation’s largest commercial fishing trade organization, with 35 member groups.

“When we are able to count fish and make sure enough get up stream, then people can harvest them, get them to market and bring the revenue back to their communities and to the state general fund through taxes. So we have to be careful that we don’t put a tax on something or increase taxes while the overall opportunity goes down. That can be a net decrease,” Vinsel added.

“We are willing to listen to any proposal,” said Jerry McCune. “If there is going to be raises in the taxes we would like to see it across the board to be fair for everybody.”
Governor Walker has proposed a one percent surtax on both the Fisheries Business Tax and the Fisheries Landing Tax, which would raise an estimated $20 million.

A resolution provided to each legislator states: “Budget cuts, though equal in value, are not equal in impact to industry or represent the same overall loss to the State of Alaska in terms of lost revenue and benefit. Emphasis should be given to find efficiencies without reducing economic opportunities for industry.”

A second UFA resolution urges that the state “should not further reduce the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's budget in a manner that negatively impacts the Department's delivery of core/essential services.”

The ADF&G now has an operating budget of $200 million; the Commercial Fisheries Division gets the largest chunk at $73.3 million.

Another UFA resolution supports the existing Division of Investments’ Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Funds and continuation of other financing programs that “bring benefits to Alaskans and the economy of the State of Alaska in perpetuity.”

UFA also sent a letter to Governor Walker saying it “supports the recommendation of the legislative audit that CFEC remain as an independent agency, separate and distinct from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.”

McCune said UFA is working closely with Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins (Sitka) regarding a bill he plans to introduce that would create permit banks to help reverse the trend of salmon permits migrating out of the state. The bank would buy nonresident permits and lease them to young fishermen who otherwise could not afford them. A permit bank would not cost the state any money, according to Kreiss-Tomkins, because it would fall to local communities to raise the money.

“I think it’s a noble idea, but we have some fears,” McCune said. “There are concerns with an entity holding a permit and giving loans and being able to take them back, and there are IRS and constitutional considerations. We will continue to work with the bill sponsor to make sure our concerns are considered and that we are within legal rights of the Limited Entry Act.”

Regarding the bill that would allow “fisheries enhancement permits” for groups and individuals (HB 220), McCune said UFA has been assured by ADF&G that “safeguards are in place.”

“You can’t move one stock to another area, and you must go through all the things that a normal hatchery operator or anyone who wants to do fishery enhancements is required to do,” McCune said. “You can’t just willy-nilly run out and start a hatchery and not have any consideration for wild stocks where it’s going to located and things like that. I don’t think it will move until some things are fleshed out.”

Other fish issues and bills will surface as the Alaska legislature gets into full swing.

“It’s a big agonizing for everyone waiting to see what will happen,” McCune said. “But you’ve got to work the process. It’s not going to be up to just UFA, but different groups and individuals are going to have to weigh in on different issues. My message to all the fishermen in the state is pay attention to what’s going on and make sure you have your say." - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016

Alaska: Public Integrity Unit Proposed - Alaska Attorney General Craig W. Richards announced Friday that the Alaska Department of Law proposes to establish a Public Integrity Unit within the Office of Special Prosecutions, as mentioned in Governor Bill Walker’s State of the State address. The unit would work to improve public trust in government and eliminate fraud, waste, and corruption.

“Ensuring the public’s trust of those in public service is one of the cornerstones of this administration,” said Attorney General Richards. “The public needs to have confidence in its government, and to that end, this office would seek to bring a new level of accountability through rigorous review and oversight.”

The unit would focus on three specific areas - use of force by law enforcement, corruption and fraud perpetrated upon the State, and prisoner deaths in correctional facilities. By consolidating these matters into one unit within the Office of Special Prosecutions, the department says the matters can be given the attention they deserve by experts in the area while relieving some of the burden from other attorneys and staff.

Officer involved shootings and other claims of unlawful force by an officer receive intense scrutiny from the general public and can erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. It is important that government conducts a thorough investigation into the officer’s conduct in these cases to determine whether the officer followed the law. Law enforcement officers risk their lives on a daily basis to keep our communities safe, and this unit will help to ensure the integrity of our hardworking men and women in uniform is protected by public confidence that there will be a fair and thorough review of an officer’s use of force.

The unit will also investigate prisoner deaths occurring in Alaska’s correctional facilities. The trust in the State’s correctional system has been shaken over the past year due to some high profile inmate deaths, and the extra layer of review provided by the unit would serve to reassure the public that these situations are handled properly. - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016


Southeast Alaska:
Burgeoning sea otter population in southern Southeast Alaska depletes commercial fishery species By LAUREN FRISCH - Sea otters enjoy feeding on sea cucumbers, sea urchins, Dungeness crabs and geoducks. Unfortunately, so do people.

Burgeoning sea otter population in southern Southeast Alaska depletes commercial fishery species

Sea otters feeding in Tokeen Bay near Prince of Wales Island.
Photo by Deborah Mercy

In southern Southeast Alaska, commercial fisheries for these invertebrate species provide income for local economies. At the same time, a growing population of sea otters is consuming the invertebrates. Predation from the otters is already having an economic impact on commercial fisheries, and the effect is likely to be even greater as the sea otter population continues to increase.

Zac Hoyt, a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, worked with professor Ginny Eckert to study the proportion of commercially important invertebrates in sea otter diets. This research was part of a larger collaborative project between US Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska Sea Grant, evaluating the implications of increasing sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska.

Sea otters were depleted in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of abundant fur trading. In the 1960s approximately 400 sea otters were reintroduced in Southeast Alaska. The population has grown rapidly since to approximately 25,000 sea otters in 2012. Since the 2000s, fishermen have reported declines in invertebrate fisheries, spurring researchers to gather scientific information on the impacts.

While working as a dive biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the mid-2000s, Hoyt noticed changes as sea otters began to colonize the outer coast of Southeast Alaska. “There was a lot of observational and anecdotal evidence that sea otters were seriously impacting some of the commercial invertebrate fisheries in Southeast Alaska,” said Hoyt. He decided to pursue a PhD in fisheries at UAF to study this question in depth. - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016



Columns - Commentary

jpg Dave Kiffer

DAVE KIFFER: Life, it seems, causes cancer - A day just doesn't go by without an announcement that something I love causes cancer.

Bacon, butter, 120-ounce ribeye steaks, eggplant (just kidding).

Now of course it is soda. 12 ounces a day increases heart trouble risk by 23 percent, if you are Swedish (like those meatballs don't jack things up too).

At least those are the people in the study. Swedes. Thank goodness it wasn’t Norwegians, of which I am something like 1/256th . The lutefisk control group would be too large.

I'm starting to get the impression that everything worth consuming causes cancer. And it is also giving me a nasty suspicion that I may not get out of this world alive.

Of course, this new info comes on the heels of a story out of England in which Pepsi "killed" a 38-year-old woman.

Natch, that got my attention even though I don't drink Pepsi.

Coke has always been my drug of choice, something about that slightly burning aftertaste that has always appealed to me. In comparison, Pepsi is like drinking sugar water. Speaking of which, I wonder if anyone has checked with hummingbirds to see if excessive sugar water consumption causes them heart trouble.

What's that? They only live 3 or 4 years?

Maybe, they'd live longer if they didn't drink so much sugar water. Or stop beating their wings so danged fast.

Oh well, no chance of a long term survey on hummingbird health, so move along citizens, nothing to see here.

But I digress.

Anyhoo, this relatively young woman apparently Pepsied herself into an early grave despite the fact that "You've got a lot to live and Pepsi's got a lot to give."

Sorry about that, Chief. Just couldn't resist. - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Hillary Tough Sledding

Editorial Cartoon: Hillary Tough Sledding
By Rick McKee ©2016, The Augusta Chronicle
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter CALL TO REVOLUTION By David G. Hanger - "These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are betrayed; are being betrayed every minute, every hour of every day by a state legislature purportedly elected to serve the people, that is no longer a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but rather a sordidly sold out and corrupt mess that is of the oil companies, by the oil companies, and for the oil companies. This government has forfeited its legitimacy and must be expunged and replaced by an institution that in fact represents the state of Alaska and its citizens. What this government has intentionally done is to peonize, impoverish, and bankrupt its entire citizenry. By intentionally forfeiting essentially all of its current revenue sources it has left a financial hole in the road that will require 80% of the income of every Alaskan to fill. That is not a joke. The crash will be irreversible as early as January 1, 2018. - More...
Tuesday AM - January 26, 2016

letter Let's Cut Legislators Lavish Accommodations By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Legislators should be held to a high standard. They should lead by example in this fiscal crisis by cutting their own per diem and getting their work done in a timely manner. Legislators will primarily need to address our fiscal situation this session. The per-barrel price for Alaskan crude is below $30, so we now have a projected budget deficit above 3.5 billion dollars. Despite the fact that I voted to cut the budget by $900 million during the last legislative session, cuts will continue to be part of the solution to our budget crisis. I've co-sponsored two pieces of budget-cutting legislation. One will cut government spending on legislative per diem. The other will hold legislators accountable to a ninety day session. This is common sense for any fiscal conservative. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter 50th Anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska By Laura Charlton - My name is Laura Charlton. I am a 25+ year resident of Ketchikan, a Registered Consulting Arborist, and also current Chair of the Alaska Community Forest Council. We have put together a number of small grants offering money to non profits 501.C3 or municipalities to help communities celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Arbor Day in Alaska. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter Navy Boats In Peril By Donald Moskowitz - As a former Navy enlisted and Navy officer, I am disappointed with the capture of our two riverine boats and crews by the Iranians in the Persian Gulf. - More...
Friday AM - January 22, 2016

letter What We Heard During Six AMHS Community Engagement Meetings By Michael Neussl - The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) held six community engagement meetings across coastal Alaska last month. During this time the department also held numerous meetings with AMHS vessel and terminal staff. The purpose of the meetings was to involve Alaskans in the decision making process that AMHS is facing due to the reality of a declining operating budget. - More...
Monday PM - January 18, 2016

letter THE STATE FINANCIAL CRISIS IS A SHAM & A SCAM AND SO IS THE PROPOSED SOLUTION By David G Hanger - The average price paid for North Slope oil in fiscal year 2015 was $73 a barrel which exceeded by a fair margin the state’s forecast of $67 a barrel. In the meantime in the second half of calendar year 2015 North Slope oil production was 20,000 barrels per day more than last year. (Figures from State of Alaska, various reports.) Total production levels for 2014 exceeded 95.25% of the production levels of 2013. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 13, 2016

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