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January 11, 2019
Hummingbirds in Winter
For hummers that spend the winter in cold weather and what we humans can do to help ease some of their struggles, we can attach hand warmers to their feeders or rotate the feeders or ... for more suggestions click here.
Or to learn more: Surviving Cold Temperatures
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National: Landmark Rewrite of NEPA Rules Unveiled; Comments Invited By March 20th - By MARY KAUFFMAN - On December 9, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a proposed rule to overhaul the enforcement of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) representing the first major change to NEPA regulations in over 40 years.
Called “Update to the Regulations Implementing the Procedural Provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act”,
President Donald Trump said in his remarks Thursday, "Today, we’re taking another historic step in our campaign to slash job-killing regulations and improve the quality of life for all of our citizens."
The president, during remarks at the White House with supporters and Cabinet officials, said he wanted to fix the nation's "regulatory nightmare" through new guidelines for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act.
President Trump said, "From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority. And we want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways bigger, better, faster, and we want to build them at less cost."
Signed into law in 1970, NEPA requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed major Federal actions as part of their decision-making. The NEPA process can impact a wide variety of projects affecting Americans’ everyday lives from the construction of roads, bridges, highways, and airports to water infrastructure, conventional and renewable energy projects, and land, forest, and fishery management activities. CEQ’s NEPA regulations date back to 1978 and have not been comprehensively updated in over 40 years.
Over time, implementation of NEPA has become increasingly complex and time consuming for Federal agencies, project applicants, and Americans seeking permits or approvals from the Federal government. The Council on Environmental Quality has found that the average length of an environmental impact statement is over 600 pages, and that the average time for Federal agencies to complete such NEPA reviews is four and a half years.
The Council on Environmental Quality’s proposed rule would modernize and clarify the Council on Environmental Quality regulations to facilitate more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA reviews by simplifying and clarifying regulatory requirements, incorporating key elements of the One Federal Decision policy, codifying certain case law and CEQ guidance, updating the regulations to reflect current technologies and agency practices, eliminating obsolete provisions, and improving the format and readability of the regulations. The proposed rule seeks to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays, and to promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA’s statutory requirements.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) welcomed President Trump’s decision to propose a modernization of federal environmental review and permitting processes under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970.
“While I am still reviewing the details of this proposal, antiquated federal regulations often stand in the way of critical infrastructure and other important projects that can create jobs, improve our standard of living and energy security, and yet still fully protect the environment,” Murkowski said. “The President and his advisers deserve credit for leading the charge to bring our 1970s-era permitting processes into the 21st century.”
Back in February 2013, then-Ranking Member Murkowski released Energy 20/20: A Vision for America’s Energy Future. The blueprint called for “mandatory timelines for completion of the NEPA process” and a broader reform plan “that consolidates, but does not deteriorate, the input of the various federal agencies” involved in the process.
In response to Thursday's announcement U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) released a prepared statement saying, “Because of our broken public works and environmental approval process, our country’s infrastructure is in serious disrepair.”
Senator Sullivan said, “Our bridges, our water mains, our transportation corridors, our energy grid - the very foundations of our country- are crumbling. Reform is desperately needed and I applaud the Trump administration’s proposed rule to modernize our NEPA regulations to provide more certainty and consistency during the permitting process. The administration’s proposal in many significant ways parallels a title of the Rebuild America Now (RAN) Act, a bill that I introduced which would set realistic deadlines for NEPA reviews, simplify NEPA documents, and streamline the NEPA process - all of which would help us build vital infrastructure projects faster as well as create jobs for the hardworking men and women who build our country. As the Trump administration proposal is being considered, I’ll continue to work on the RAN Act and support other reasonable reforms both through regulations and legislation.”
“CEQ is proposing practical changes to modernize environmental reviews and make the process more predictable and efficient. The proposed rule would ensure Federal agencies consider the significant environmental impacts of proposed projects and activities, while accelerating the process so that timely decisions are made on major infrastructure and other projects affecting Americans’ everyday lives. Americans deserve a government that is efficient, effective, and responsive,” said CEQ Chairman Mary B. Neumayr.
“Overhauling the NEPA regulations for the first time in a generation is another promise kept by President Trump. Over the past 40 years, NEPA has been used as a tool to slow or completely kill important infrastructure projects across the country. Our Administration continues to uphold environmental standards while streamlining the permitting process and removing frivolous litigation. No American city should be waiting over 30 years for a better highway because NEPA has their infrastructure project held up in unnecessary paperwork,” said Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought.
"The purpose of NEPA is noble; its application, however, has gone off the rails. The action by CEQ is the first step in bringing common sense to a process that has needlessly paralyzed decision-making. We can ensure that our views are well-informed and that the public is heard without tying ourselves in knots. CEQ is to be commended for seeking public comment on this initiative," said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Ketchikan: Ketchikan's First Baby of the Year Arrived January 7th - Braven Hunter Gillen is Ketchikan’s first baby of 2020 arriving at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on Tuesday, January 7, at 2:39 p.m. He weighed 9 pounds, 1 ounce and is 21 inches long.
Braven is the son of Micaelah Larsen and Tyver Gillen from Wrangell. The couple planned to travel home to Wrangell by ferry this week where Braven will be introduced to and greeted by their large extended families. “I’m related to half of the community and he’s related to the other half!” explained Larsen. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Alaska: Alaskans for Better Elections turns in over 41,000 signatures for certification to the Division of Elections Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaskans for Better Elections ballot committee started a statewide collection of signatures after the Superior Court ruling October 23, 2019 certifiying the Alaskans for Better Elections Initiative, clearing the way for signature gathering to begin. The court ruling overturned the Alaksa Division of Elections' initial denial of their application - made on the advice of Attorney General Kevin Clarkson - and allowed the initiative to move forward to appear on the ballot next year.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020, the Alaskans for Better Elections announced they turned in over 41,000 signatures exceeding the 28,368 signatures needed to get onto the ballot.
This submission marks the first step to being certified and placed on the ballot in 2020. Alaskans for Better Elections is the first ballot initiative group to have turned in the required signatures this year, and will now await certification by the Alaska Division of Elections. The group was told Wednesday by state election officials they will receive word of certification no later than ?60 days from today.
"?Literally, tens of thousands of Alaskans said 'we are ready for positive reforms to our elections'," said Chair of the initiative and former independent State Representative for District 22 in West Anchorage, Jason Grenn. "?It’s incredibly exciting that so many Alaskans see the benefits of this initiative and have ?signed their name in support.?"
Alaskans for Better Elections said the initiative would put an end to secret "dark money"- much of which comes from outside Alaska - that anonymous, big-money spenders use to influence our elections. It would also open Alaska's primary elections to all Alaskans, regardless of political party, and ensure majority winner elections. The measure gives voters the option to rank candidates in general elections, or, if they choose, voters can vote for just one candidate as they do now.
"We are excited to see such a comprehensive and quick gathering of support and signatures from every district in Alaska for this needed policy change. This is yet another step towards Alaska voters taking the power back through their voice and their vote”, said Anchorage resident and campaign manager of the group supporting the initiative," said Shea Siegert.
"With the court allowing this initiative to move forward, the path is clear for Alaskans to usher in cleaner, fairer, and more open elections," said Jason Grenn, a Co-Chair of the ballot group and former independent State Representative for District 22 in West Anchorage. "Alaskans will now have the opportunity to choose real structural reform to improve our elections."
The court’s decision came after the nonpartisan group Alaskans for Better Elections (“ABE”) challenged the Attorney General’s opinion in 2019 that the initiative violates the Alaska Constitution's “single-subject” rule. ABE’s attorneys argued that the elements of the initiative clearly concerned the single subject of election reform - an argument with which Superior Court Judge Yvonne Lamoureux agreed, concluding, “The sole legal question is whether the proposed initiative embraces one general subject. The answer is yes.” Judge Lamoureux agreed with ABE that the initiative clearly complies with 50 years of Alaska Supreme Court precedent in which the single subject-rule has been applied. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Alaska: New legislation would require K-12 mental health curriculum along with a comprehensive package of education legislation announced - Friday, Rep. Matt Claman (D-Anchorage) pre-filed legislation that expands existing health education requirements to include mental health curriculum in all K-12 health classrooms. The goal is to make sure students are adequately educated on vital information about mental health symptoms, resources, and treatment.
House Bill 181 requires the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (“DEED”) to develop guidelines for mental health instruction in consultation with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (“DHSS”) as well as representatives of national and state mental health organizations. The standards will be developed with input from counselors, educators, students, administrators, and other mental health organizations to form a comprehensive course for students.
The Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development and DEED would be responsible for implementation of the new curriculum. As with existing health education curriculum, DEED, DHSS, and the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault will provide technical assistance to school districts developing personal safety curricula. An existing school health education specialist position will help coordinate the program statewide.
“According to the 2017 Alaska High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which surveyed 1,343 high school students across the state, more than one in three students reported feeling sad or hopeless,” Representative Claman said. “The state has a responsibility to treat the current mental health crisis in Alaska as a serious public health issue.”
HB181 aims to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness and increase student knowledge of mental health, encouraging conversation around and understanding of the issue.
As he was developing this proposal, Representative Claman met with students to discuss their ideas on ways we could improve mental health outcomes.
HB181 will be formally introduced and receive committee assignments when the Legislature reconvenes on January 21. For more information, please contact Lizzie Kubitz in Rep. Claman’s office at (907) 465-4904.
Also this week, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers released a comprehensive package on Friday of education legislation aimed at making Alaska the best place to raise a family.
The suite of bills addresses a wide variety of issues, including expansion of Early Head Start, universal Pre-K, an effort to increase reading skills for children by the third grade, removal of caps on scholarships Alaska students receive when attending an in-state university, and rolling back years of funding cuts to K-12 students and programs that benefit young and disabled children. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Alaska: Court Allows Recall Dunleavy Campaign to Proceed - On Friday, January 10, 2020, Alaska Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth reversed the Division of Elections’ wrongful refusal to certify the recall application. The decision certifies the recall application and orders petition booklets to be issued no later than February 10, 2020.
“Today we stood our ground to defend Alaskans’ right to Recall Dunleavy, marking a critical step in advancing this historic, bipartisan movement,” said Meda DeWitt, Steering Committee Chair of Recall Dunleavy. “This governor has acted illegally and made unconscionable decisions; we are working towards a stronger future for all Alaskans.”
The Court addressed the recall application, which detailed the Governor’s disturbing displays of careless and illegal decision making, refusal to uphold and follow the law, and multiple abuses of power. After review of legal filings and hearing oral arguments, the Judge ruled that the recall should go to a vote of the people. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Alaska: Alaska population declines - Alaska’s population decreased by 3,048 people (0.4 percent) from July 2018 to July 2019, based on estimates released this week by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This was the third straight year of decline for the state’s total population, which peaked at 739,649 in July 2016 and stands at 731,007 as of July 2019.
Net migration — in-migrants minus out-migrants — accounted for a loss of 8,308 people. The migration-related losses were driven more by a decline in the number of people moving to Alaska than to an increase in the number leaving the state.
Another contributor to the state’s population loss was a decline in births and, to a lesser degree, an increase in deaths.
Of Alaska’s 29 boroughs and census areas, 19 lost population between 2018 and 2019. The biggest loss was in the Municipality of Anchorage (-2,643), followed by Fairbanks North Star Borough (-954). The Matanuska-Susitna Borough grew the most (+1,024).
Among the state’s six economic regions, Anchorage/Mat-Su lost the most over the period (-1,619), and only Gulf Coast (60) and Southwest (47) grew overall. All six regions showed net migration losses.
Alaska’s under-18 and 18-to-64-year-old populations each declined by more than 1 percent while the 65-and-older group grew by just under 5 percent. Haines Borough’s median age was the state’s highest at 48.6 while Kusilvak Census Area was lowest at 24.3. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Alaska: NOAA-approved harvest plan said to threaten federally-protected Chinook and killer whales; Concerns that overharvest of Chinook salmon in S.E. Alaska threatens the coast-wide survival of wild salmon, Southern Resident killer whales, and coastal fishing communities - The Wild Fish Conservancy sent a legal notice this week warning that NOAA and the US Department of Commerce are failing to protect federally-listed salmon and Southern Resident killer whales, as required by the Endangered Species Act.
At issue: overharvest of Chinook salmon in the Southeast Alaska troll fishery and the harm it causes to Southern Resident killer whales and wild Chinook. Nearly all of the Chinook harvested in the fishery were born in rivers from British Columbia to Oregon. Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) explained: “It is irresponsible for NOAA to authorize this harvest in Alaska when they know it undermines efforts to restore imperiled wild Chinook populations in Washington, British Columbia, and Oregon rivers, and contributes to the starvation of endangered Southern Resident killer whales and fishing communities all along the coast.”
The Endangered Species Act requires NOAA scientists to ensure that their management of the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery does not cause further decline of these federally-listed salmon and the Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) that rely upon them. The most recent NOAA review, called a Biological Opinion, determined: “Under the existing management and recovery regimes over the last decade, salmon availability has not been sufficient to support SRKW population growth.” As a result, the analysis concluded that current management was inadequate: “more would be required to mitigate the effects of harvest and other limiting factors that contributed to the reduced status of Puget Sound Chinook salmon and SRKWs.” WFC’s letter warns that continuing to implement the fishery despite these findings - without demonstrating that the mitigation proposed would sufficiently offset the harm the fishery does to salmon and Southern Resident killer whales - violates NOAA’s legal obligations.
“Most people don’t realize that over 97% of the Chinook salmon caught in the ocean off Southeast Alaska are not from Alaska, they’re actually from rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. These salmon are not Alaskan salmon, they belong to the rivers and peoples of the entire coast, as well as the killer whales and coastal ecosystems that depend on them,” said Beardslee.
After they leave their home rivers from California to Alaska, Chinook salmon migrate along the coast for years, feeding, growing and mingling with salmon from other regions in the rich waters off the coast of Alaska before migrating home through the feeding grounds of Southern Resident killer whales, and ultimately back home to the rivers where they breed. Data from the Pacific Salmon Commission show that only 3% of the Chinook caught in Southeast Alaskan ocean waters each year are actually from Alaskan rivers; roughly half are from the Columbia River and the remainder come from other rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. As the Chinook migrate south along the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, they are the much-needed primary prey for the 73 surviving Southern Resident killer whales.
“Fishermen are not at fault,” said Beardslee. “NOAA has failed fishermen, salmon, and orcas for decades by authorizing Southeast Alaska’s overharvest of non-Alaskan Chinook. Fishery managers and NOAA could resolve this by moving Southeast Alaska’s Chinook fishery in or near the Alaskan rivers where their Chinook were born, allowing Chinook from down the coast to migrate back to their home rivers along the coast, and giving Southern Resident killer whales a chance to feed.” - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
MICHAEL REAGAN: (Fake) World War is Over!!! - The shortest world war in history is history.
Did you miss the news?
I’m talking about the big war between the U.S. and Iran that Democrats and the liberal media were hoping and maybe even praying would explode in the Middle East this week and prevent the re-election of President Trump.
The war never really happened, though. President Trump called it off before it started just before noon on Wednesday.
Actually, he never planned a war with Iran or wanted one in the first place. But I suspect some desperate Democrats did.
I think they were secretly hoping Iran’s feeble missile attack in response to the obliteration of its terrorist-in-chief Qasem Soleimani by a drone really had killed a few American soldiers in Iraq and ignited a full-scale U.S.-Iran war.
(It would have been a very short war, too, and the Iranian mullahs know it. They are thugs, but they aren’t stupid or suicidal, and they now understand the penalty for crossing one of Trump’s bright red lines.)
It’s a cynical thing to say, but a new war in the Middle East with Iran was the last hope Democrats had to achieve their dream of unseating President Trump.
The Russian Collusion Hoax was a dud. The Trump Recession didn’t happen. Trump didn’t lose the trade war with China. - More....
Saturday PM - January 11. 2020
Political Cartoon: Iran Dark Ages
By Rick McKee ©2020, CagleCartoons.com
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
Update is in progress on additional opinions. Thanks for your patience.
Working both sides By Charlie Freeman - There was a Ketchikan Daily News story recently that reports one council member as saying that, concerning the RFP on the Ports, "what’s wrong with getting more information”, and that led me to wonder just how many Council Members believe that is really all their looking for.
In my experience, information is why you hire a consultant, and that consultant should be acting for you, and you alone. Turns out that neither the information statement, nor the consultant conception are true.
What is true is that the RFP is a flat out business proposal and that our so-called, consultant, by his own public disclosure, is working both sides of the street. - More...
Saturday PM - January 11, 2020
Oversite and management of our docks By Ken Duckett - As a growing number of folks in the greater Ketchikan area are aware, the Ketchikan City Council is considering contracting out the oversite and management of our docks, berths 1 thru 4, to a private company for up to 30 years. I believe the main reason they are considering this is that they see the need to increase the capacity of the individual berths in order to accommodate the new larger cruise ships and to improve some downtown areas to better handle the additional passengers they would bring. These improvements would have a significant cost and the Council doesn’t believe the citizens of Ketchikan would support another bond issue. Frankly, I think they are correct. The visitor industry is a very important part of our economic fabric, but the ever increasing numbers of tourists is threating to, or already has begun to change the quality of life that year-round residents enjoy and value. I oppose the city implementing any such management contract for our port facilities for the following reasons:
• Most private companies are doing everything they can to eliminate middlemen and make their operations as cost effective as possible. Probably one of the most prominent examples of this is Amazon. The city is hoping to get a large cash infusion, in the neighborhood of 35 million, from the company that would be awarded this management contract. We all know that one of the first objectives of any private company is to make money, and certainly this management company would be no different. Where do you think that money would come from? It’s not going to come from the cruise ship companies. I believe the management company’s profits will come from funds that would have gone to the community of Ketchikan, in one form or another, over the period of the contract. The port management company would have to recoup the upfront 35 million in addition to their annual operating profits.
• The term of the management contract is to be for an estimated 30 year period. I know I don’t have the wisdom to see what would be best for our community for the next 30 years, and I really don’t believe our City Council members do either. Just think back to the past 30 years and the changes, good and bad, that have taken place. Who would have seen the change from the timber industry being the main economic activity 30 years ago to the tourism industry of today?
• I don’t want a company whose main concern is making as much profit as possible and whose employees don’t live here year around, making decisions about port operations that we Ketchikan residents wilI have to live with not just during the tourist season, but all year. Our city and borough governments make lots of decisions that I don’t agree with, but at least I know that they have to live with their decisions just like I do. That would not be the case if the city hires a middleman manager to control our port system. - More...
Sunday PM - January 05, 2020
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