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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Wednesday AM
January 31, 2018

Front Page Feature Photo By ARETHA HAYWARD

Early morning at the AMHS Ketchikan Ferry Terminal.
Front Page Feature Photo By ARETHA HAYWARD ©2018

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Alaska: EPA Suspends Withdrawal of Proposed Mining Restrictions By MARY KAUFFMAN - In a surprise move Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will withdraw for now its plan to cancel the Obama Administration's proposals to restrict mining in the Bristal Bay fisheries area in Southwest Alaska - home to the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.

EPA Suspends Withdrawal of Proposed Mining Restrictions

 View of Kaskanak Creek in the Kvichak watershed. The vast amount of aquatic habitat and the complexity of that habitat give a hint into the reasons why these watersheds harbor such large and genetically diverse salmon communities.
Photo courtesy EPA

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is following through on his promise to restore the rule of law and process to the previous Obama Administration’s action to restrict mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

In 2014, the Obama Administration issued what was widely considered a preemptive veto of the Pebble Limited Partnership mining project. This effectively brought the mine’s application process and, due process to a halt. Litigation resulted and continued into this Administration.

In May of 2017, Pruitt took the first step to rescind this due process denial and allow the Pebble mine proponents to proceed and progress through the process. EPA received over one million comments from interested stakeholders. Administrator Pruitt’s action allowed the litigation to be resolved and the proponent’s application was allowed to finally move forward. That application is proceeding through the Army Corps’s permitting process.

As a result of Pruitt’s actions last summer, proponents of mining in the region were allowed to apply for a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. However on Friday, after hearing directly from stakeholders and the people of Alaska, EPA is now suspending its process to withdraw those proposed restrictions, and will be leaving them in place while the Agency receives more information on the potential mine’s impact on the region’s world-class fisheries and natural resources. 

Last week's action is important for several reasons. First, EPA has serious concerns about the impacts of mining activity in the Bristol Bay Watershed. From public comments to community meetings, stakeholders stressed the importance of balancing a singular mine venture with the risk to one of the world’s largest commercial fisheries. Second, for EPA not to express an environmental position at this stage would be disingenuous.

“We have restored process, reviewed comments, and heard from a variety of stakeholders on whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions in the Bristol Bay watershed,” Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “Based on that review, it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection. [Friday's] action allows EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”

Governor Bill Walker on Friday offered the following statement in response to Administrator Scott Pruitt’s action: “I have spoken to Administrator Pruitt about the Pebble Mine Project many times in the past year, and I have shared with him my belief that in the Bristol Bay region we should prioritize the resource that has sustained generations and must continue to do so in perpetuity. I thank the Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump Administration for listening to my input, as well as the input of thousands of Alaskans who oppose rescinding the EPA’s Bristol Bay assessment.” 

Pruitt's decision on Friday willl neither deter nor derail the application process of Pebble Limited Partnership’s proposed project. The project proponents will continue to enjoy the protection of due process and the right to proceed. However, according to the EPA, their permit application must clear a high bar, because EPA believes the risk to Bristol Bay may be unacceptable.

EPA intends to solicit additional public comment on the impact of the mining application on the existing proposed determination to better inform that analysis.

“Administrator Pruitt is taking a balanced approach by allowing Pebble to enter the permitting process, while noting EPA’s duty to fully protect the region’s world-class fisheries,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “With the company now having filed its application, I expect that a fair, rigorous, and transparent process will soon begin so that Alaskans can understand the impacts and risks, as well as the potential benefits associated with this project.” 

Murkowski, the Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has worked with EPA to extend the comment period on its proposed withdrawal by 90 days. This was necessary to ensure that all Alaskan stakeholders, including commercial fishermen, would have an opportunity to weigh in. The agency also conducted public meetings in Dillingham and Iliamna in October 2017.

Northern Dynasty acknowledged the statement issued by the EPA that indicated the federal agency will continue to support Pebble's due process rights as agreed in the settlement, though the EPA has suspended withdrawal of a pre-emptive regulatory action under CWA 404(c) initiated at Pebble in July 2014.

"We expect the permitting process for Pebble to advance expeditiously over the next few years, and that a draft and final EIS will be completed upon which final permitting decisions for the Pebble Project will be made,"said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. "Ultimately, we believe the Pebble EIS will describe a project that protects clean water and the world-class fisheries of Bristol Bay, and presents the opportunity for substantial economic benefits for the people of the region and the state. We'd encourage all Alaskans and all interested stakeholders to participate fully in the thorough, objective and rigorous review of the Pebble Project."

The tens of millions of salmon that return to Bristol Bay each year fuel a $1.5 billion fishing economy, support 14,000 jobs, and dozens of businesses run by hard-working American families. Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian mining company and principle backer of the Pebble Partnership, has proposed to build a massive open-pit mine that, if built, would be in the headwaters of rivers that supply nearly half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, and in the heart of some of the world’s most sought-after destinations to fish and hunt.
Last July, following settlement of a lawsuit by the proponent of the mine, the EPA proposed to withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination. During the subsequent public comment period and several hearings in Alaska, EPA received more than one million comments opposing the withdrawal. More than 26,000 Alaskan comments poured in expressing support for protecting Bristol Bay’s salmon and jobs, including dozens of business owners whose livelihoods depend on wild salmon.  

Following years of extensive scientific analysis and public comment, the 2014 Proposed Determination recommended limiting the amount of mine waste that could be disposed of in rivers and wetlands in the heart of the Bristol Bay region's salmon-producing rivers because of high potential for major harm to fish, drinking water, and recreation, among other things. Sportsmen and women and dozens of Alaskan business owners commend the Environmental Protection Agency for recognizing the overwhelming importance of the Bristol Bay region and its salmon and waters.

Brian Kraft, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge and president of Katmai Service Providers (Anchorage and Iguigig, AK) said, “This is an encouraging step for many Alaskan businesses and families that depend on Bristol Bay salmon. The EPA made the right decision by listening to local people, dozens of Alaskan business owners, and sportsmen and women around the country. I am thankful the EPA has ensured that widely-supported restrictions on large-scale mining in Bristol Bay will remain an option to protect our fishery. Alaskans have known for years that the Pebble mine does not belong in Bristol Bay – it’s too big of a risk to our jobs, businesses, and a sport fishing paradise. It is reassuring to see the EPA acknowledge the uniqueness of this region, and the risks Pebble mine poses.” - More...
Wednesday AM - January 31, 2018


Alaska: Rescued beluga calf cannot be released back into the wild - NOAA Fisheries has determined a male Cook Inlet beluga whale calf found stranded in Cook Inlet in September 2017, and rehabilitated at the Alaska SeaLife Center, is not capable of surviving on his own, and cannot be released back into the wild.

Rescued beluga calf cannot be released back into the wild

This male Cook Inlet beluga calf has been cared for at the Alaska SeaLife Center since it was rescued from a mudflat in western Cook Inlet on Sept. 30, 2017.
Photo taken by ASLC under MMHSRP permit #18786-02.

Experts from NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program say the calf, named “Tyonek” by staff at the ASLC, was a newborn when he stranded and less than one month old. He is nutritionally and socially dependent, lacks both survival and socialization skills needed to be successful on his own in the wild, and it is likely his mother either abandoned him or died. The calf also experienced a collapsed lung - a condition which may recur and compromise survivability in the wild by limiting his ability to dive.

This non-releasable decision comes after 24/7 care by experts at the ASLC for more than three months. - More...
Wednesday AM - January 31, 2018

Alaska: Alaska House Health & Social Services Committee Approves Medical Aid-in-Dying Legislation - The nation's oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization, Compassion & Choices praised the Alaska House Health & Social Services Committee for voting 5-2 Tuesday to approve the End-of-Life Option Act, House Bill 54, which would authorize medical aid in dying in Alaska

Medical aid in dying is a medical practice which gives mentally capable, terminally ill adult state residents with six months or fewer to live the option to get prescription medication they can decide to self-ingest to peacefully end unbearable suffering.

"We are thrilled that the House Health & Social Services Committee voted to approve this important end-of-life option," said Joe Barnes, Regional Campaign Manager for Compassion & Choices. "We will work to continue to build support in the legislature for this compassionate legislation."

"House Bill 54 would give peace of mind to all Alaskans facing terminal diagnoses," said Ella Saltonstall, Kodiak Alaska Action Team Leader for Compassion & Choices. "This law would simply give a compassionate end-of-life care option to those who face suffering in their final days." - More...
Wednesday PM - January 31, 2018


Alaska: Declining glaciers may affect water availability this century By SUE MITCHELL - The annual volume of water from melting glaciers has begun to drop in almost half the 56 large river basins investigated in a recent study, a trend that the authors say will expand to other basins and affect water supplies across the globe.

Declining glaciers may affect water availability this century

A glacial icefall spills through a steep valley in the Alaska Range, home to thousands of glaciers covering an area of roughly 13,900 square kilometers.
Photo courtesy REGINE HOCK

Research conducted by Regine Hock of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and Matthias Huss of ETH Zürich in Switzerland  projected changes in glacial runoff for the 56 basins through the year 2100.

As glaciers around the world melt, they first provide more water to their river basins. But as the glaciers become smaller and smaller, the glacier runoff decreases.

The 56 large glaciated basins studied by Hock and Huss cover more than a quarter of the Earth’s land surface and are populated by nearly one-third of the world’s population. The researchers found that almost half of these basins have already passed their maximum annual runoff — or “peak water” — which means that their runoff is already decreasing.

The other basins — ones with larger glaciers or that have greater ice cover — will experience peak water later. One-fifth of the basins will not hit peak water until after 2050.

The declining runoff could affect freshwater availability, hydroelectric power and ecosystems, even in basins with low ice coverage.

Huss and Hock reported that, in the worst case, over the course of the next 82 years the total volume of glaciers will decrease as much as 74 percent. Even the best case shows a 43 percent decrease. - More...
Wednesday AM - January 31, 2018

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Political Cartoon: Trump State of the Union
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Basic Rules &
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jpg Letter / Opinion

Airport Ferry Service By Ken Leland - Several years ago, I posted a link to the real story on "The Bridge To Nowhere". It showed that it was tied to the environmental lobby and their plans for the Tongass.

I had to deal with the ferry several times a day. You know about the aggravation of having to watch the ferry leave without you, knowing that it would be another half-hour until you could finally complete your journey. Imagine having to deal with a van full of passengers and their frustration. - More...
Saturday PM - January 27, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Sealaska: Four Decades of a False Promise! By Dominic Salvato - Over a decade ago the rules of elections governing Sealaska's election were suspended in order to pass the new shareholder resolution.

The resolution was modified to allow 50% plus 1 of VOTING shareholders to approve the resolution. Sealaska's management budgeted 1.5 million dollars on the campaign to assure the passing of the resolution. It passed guaranteeing the need for management into the future. - More...
Saturday PM - January 27, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Dear Somebody: Why Not Us? By A. M. Johnson - Out of the gate I allow as I am not close to the literary level Dave Kiffer proffers in his humorous article titled Dear Amazon: Why Not Us? published in your fine publication.

The intent is not to rebut Dave, rather be supportive of the local Very Strong Proponent of Ketchikan through Dave's humorous article. - More...
Saturday PM - January 27, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Inconsiderate and irresponsible dumping By Jerry Cegelske - I recently went to the dog park area off of Revilla Road to see what additional trash and solid waste had been dumped there.  This has been a dumping area for many years despite the fact that homeowners in the Borough has already paid a monthly landfill fee so there is no charge for residential trash.

Construction debris is charged a nominal fee.

I was glad to see that the largest area of the dog park had been fenced in and that the group has been working on their dream of a safe place to let their dogs run loose.  To those who have worked so hard and continue to do so “Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and continuing efforts”. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 24, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Gravina Access By Dave Kiffer - Chris Herby's recent letter about Gravina Access touches on some very important points. Most notably that, after all the years and all the millions of dollars of federal money that was appropriated and spent, access to the airport, on the most basic level, will not appreciably improve.

As an elected official who was involved in many of these debates and discussions, I find the final State decision of how to proceed as disappointing as Chris does. - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Airport Access By Vera Plumb - Just a comment regarding Chris Herby's letter about airport access: It was Governor Sarah Pallin who coined the phrase "bridge to nowhere." Governor Pallin was responsible for killing the bridge. - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Exploitation of ancient tradition By Rosita Worl - It has come to our attention that the group, Dance of the Deer Foundation, is planning a shamanism retreat in Juneau, the ancient homeland of the Auk people of Aak’w K?wáan, and that you are charging a substantial fee for this experience.

This is another form of appropriation from Native cultures and societies that began with the taking of our lands and our ceremonial and sacred objects, and now our spiritual practices. Shamans played an important role in our societies in caring for the welfare of the tribe. Shamanism was not a commercial enterprise. This is a violation of a most sacred tradition of Native peoples. We support the people who have called your practices an exploitation of their people’s ancient traditions and we request that you not come into Aak’w K?wáan. - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Women's March By A. M. Johnson - Observing the 2nd annual women's march across the nation, one has to have a quandary of thoughts. One that seems to provide conflict.

The congressional Liberal's legislative goal claims that DACA Illegal Aliens should be granted Amnesty because they had no choice in being brought to the USA was apparent in the numerous signs .... but that Innocent babies should be murdered by way of abortion, even though they had no choice in being conceived in the USA. - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Tax Supported Racism By Robert B. Holston, Jr. - Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, believed in eugenics and promoted "good" breeding and aimed to prevent "poor" breeding. The idea was that the human race could be improved through encouraging people with traits like intelligence, hard work, cleanliness (thought to be genetic) to reproduce and those populations lacking such traits should have reproduction controlled.  Eugenics was taken to its horrifying extreme during the Holocaust, through forced sterilizations and breeding experiments.  

Margaret Sanger wrote in a 1921 article , “As an advocate of Birth Control, I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the "unfit" and the "fit", admittedly is the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes.”  - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

The hypocrisy of political correctness By John Grimaldi - A professor at NYU was shunned by his colleagues because of "the content and structure of his thinking."   That's right, the "thought police" were after him.  They didn't like the fact that he was using social media to expose the hypocrisy of political correctness on campus.
Because he exercised his right to free speech, Professor Michael Rectenwald claims he was the target of defamation and harassment by his colleagues.  And so, Rectenwald recently filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court.  The New York Post reported that "the politically incorrect NYU professor accused of 'incivility' by liberal colleagues and put on leave is now suing the college and four fellow profs for calling him everything from a drug addict to Satan."  - More...
Monday PM - January 22, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Ketchikan Airport & Access By Chris J. Herby - As a community we all had no choice but to watch our long anticipated bridge to Gravina Island die a slow and miserable death. After our congressional delegation worked hard to get funding for our bridge, it was taken away from us due to negative coverage in the national fake news media. However, we were still left with roughly 90 million dollars to improve access to Gravina. Of course that isn’t enough to build a bridge but nevertheless it’s a large amount of money that should surly be able to improve access to our airport. Or maybe not. From what I have read, it appears that we are going to burn through that money and actually not improve our airport access at all. It is my understanding that after we spend all of that money, we are still only going to have access by a ferry every 30 minutes. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 17, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Open Letter to Alaska Delegation By Laura Plenert - Senators Murkowski and Sullivan and Representative Young, please encourage your Democrat counterparts to show up the State of the Union address.  This is a time honored tradition.  It is about respect for the Office of President, not the current occupant.  

I cannot imagine how harsh the cries would have been if a group of Republicans did not attend President Obama’s State of the Union address. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 17, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Jones Act By Timothy J Droke - In response to Mr. Art Johnson I would like to put forward some thoughts regarding the Jones Act, which is simply a form of protectionism. With protectionism you see the protected group benefit and those outside the protected group see a negative impact. In this day and age when ships fly a flag of convenience (think Panama or Liberia) the Jones act is ripe for repeal or some modifications. Residents outside the contiguous states such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam all pay out of their pocket higher costs than they should due to this act due to the higher costs associated with operating these US built ships, why should Alaskans pay more for the food on their table to protect a small class of jobs? - More...
Wednesday PM - January 17, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

SENATOR “BOUGHT & PAID FOR” JUST ANOTHER DAMNED LIAR By David G Hanger - The first problem with being owned, Senator Dan “Bought & Paid For” Sullivan is that ‘ere long you cannot see the forest, let alone the trees, because of the self-deception born of your own filthy lies. Be aware that assuming the position of lapdog licking fundamentally distorts reality.

Explain to your audience, Owned One, how opening up ANWR is going to make us all so wealthy? Under the provisions of SB21 the state treasury is currently being raided by the oil industry to the extent of $900 million to $1.2 billion a year in payouts to the oil companies to cover their exploration costs. The state of Alaska collects no tax revenue of any consequence from the oil industry until the price of a barrel of oil exceeds $110 a barrel, so what is very obvious is no matter what is or is not discovered in the way of new oil reserves in ANWR and elsewhere will cost the state treasury and ordinary Alaskans billions of dollars more in these goddamned tax credits. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 17, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Why Protect the Jones Act? By Art Johnson - I believe the Jones Act is necessary for several reasons and if it is repealed, it will be detrimental, not only to the maritime industry and those who work in it, but it will harm the country's ability to build ships, both Merchant Marine and Navy and to carry cargo to our forces overseas in time of national emergency. Ship building requires many skills and it is foolish to think we can have foreign yards building our ships and then if necessary find enough skilled workers to build them in the USA. It would be beyond foolish to build out military vessels in foreign yards. The same goes for having foreign ships and foreign crews carrying our country's cargoes. Where will we find trained seamen in time of need? Senator John McCain is frequently mentioned, because he is in favor of repealing the Jones Act, but it should be noted that he flew airplanes in the Navy and that is a whole lot different than being part of operating ships and all that goes with it. It should also be noted that our politicians have little to say about maintaining a healthy U.S. Merchant Marine, because only a small number of our citizens even know what the Merchant Marine is and very likely, even some of our politicians have only a slight knowledge of this vital industry. They can't get many votes promoting something that people know little about, let alone understanding the importance of the maritime industry. - More...
Saturday AM - January 13, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

The Governor’s Tax Proposal: A Free Ride for the Rich By Ghert Abbott - If one has any doubts as to the power that the rich currently exercise over our state government, then one has only to consider Governor Walker’s recent tax proposal, designed with the aim of appeasing the Republican state senate. The governor’s proposal combines a 1.5% payroll tax, capped at the first $150,000 of income, with a $1,100 cap on every Alaskan PFD (which amounts to a roughly 50% tax of the PFD’s current value). It only takes a few numbers to reveal the extreme inequity of this plan. According to the Census Bureau, in 2016 the average household income in the city of Ketchikan was $53,937 a year. According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, only roughly 7% to 10% of Alaskans have a yearly household income of over $150,000. The richest 1% of Alaskan households, those who earn $532,590 a year or higher, have an average income of $1,282,900 a year. - More...
Saturday AM - January 13, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Never Trump By Robert B. Holston, Jr. - I have a brother in Montana who is a “never Trumper”. I wrote him months ago saying I would not defend Trump on a daily basis for things this president says because I didn’t need a full time job, but his recent “DACA/Defecation” remark prompts me to defend Trump, just a bit, and warn the “never Tumpers” just a bit. - More...
Saturday AM - January 13, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Optimism for Alaska in 2018 By Senator Dan Sullivan - As Alaskans, there’s no doubt we face significant challenges, including high crime rates, domestic violence and sexual assault, thousands of Alaskans struggling with addiction, and a continuing recession that has left too many without jobs. These are issues that I’ll continue to focus on in the coming year. But when I look out at 2018, I am struck by one overriding feeling for our state: optimism. There are numerous reasons for this.

First, the cornerstone of Alaska’s economy - responsible resource development - is making a dramatic comeback. Congress’s recent action to open the 1002 area of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is a key part of this. For decades, thousands of Alaskans - Democrats, Republicans and Alaska Natives - have advocated for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And despite millions of dollars spent by opponents of this Alaska dream, reinforced by the stale and truth-challenged talking points of their allies like Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and a national media that was consistently hostile to opening ANWR, we did it. - More...
Tuesday PM - January 09, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

On rescinding Obama-era marijuana enforcement guidelines By Wiley Brooks - Marijuana by U.S law is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. I extracted the below from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEC) official site.

“The abuse rate is a determinate factor in the scheduling of the drug; for example, Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence.” - More...
Tuesday PM - January 09, 2018

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