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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
February 19, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By KEN ARRIOLA

Harbinger of Spring?
Salmon Berry blossom and multiple buddings along the Whipple Road last weekend. Is the an indication of early Spring?
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Alaska: New Analysis Shows Current Oil Tax System Shortchanges Alaskans - Yesterday, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) released an analysis of Alaska’s current oil tax system by the Alaska Department of Revenue’s Tax Division. The analysis shows that Alaskans are being vastly shortchanged by the current oil tax system.

“We can’t fund education, roads, and basic services when all new oilfields pay a 0% production tax,” said House Finance Committee member Rep. Gara. “Some walking the halls in Juneau appear to want seniors, the poor, and working class Alaskans to shoulder the greatest burden in solving our budget challenges. A fair plan should be fair to all, not just the wealthiest among us.”

Rep. Gara supports a comprehensive plan to fill Alaska’s roughly $4 billion budget gap and believes fixing Alaska’s flawed oil tax structure should be part that plan.

“Fairness requires the wealthiest corporations in the state to also pay a fair share towards solving our fiscal gap, especially when oil prices rise again,” said Rep. Gara. “A 0% oil tax is a pathway to poverty for Alaska. It will result in unsafe roads, under-educated children, and the inability to build needed energy and other projects.”

The analysis requested by Rep. Gara shows oil companies will contribute little in the form of production taxes to the State of Alaska up to $100/barrel. All oil fields developed after 2002, and all future oil fields, will pay a 0% production tax at prices up to $70/barrel. That includes any oil fields developed in ANWR, ExxonMobil’s Point Thomson Field, and all fields in the National Petroleum Reserve. All of the pre-2003 oil fields, including Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk, and Alpine pay a minimal 4% tax all the way up to roughly $75 a barrel.

The new analysis made public by Rep. Gara outlines other problems with Alaska’s oil tax structure, including the ability for the oil companies to deduct 35% of their expenses, including big executive salaries, from their taxable income. The 35% deduction is allowed for all post-2002 oil fields despite the fact that Alaska collects almost no oil production taxes on those fields. The deduction also applies to the older oil fields at all oil prices above where the 4% minimum tax is in effect. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

Southeast Alaska: The Value of Alaska's Marine Highway in 25 Stories - From Akutan to Ketchikan, Alaskans are sharing their personal stories in a new publication about what the Alaska Marine Highway means to those who rely on it.

“The Value of Alaska’s Marine Highway in 25 Stories” was recently published by five of the state’s regional development organizations in order to show how AMHS impacts residents in communities big and small.

“It’s a compelling narrative,” said Shelly Wright, executive director of Southeast Conference. “There has been so much talk about the bottom line when it comes to marine highways. This publication speaks to the value of the ferry system in a personal way, community by community. To me, this publication lets people understand that the marine highway, whether they know it or not, touches every single person in Southeast Alaska. These Alaskans’ stories weave together to form a single tale: Transportation is the lifeblood of coastal communities, and a strong ferry system is essential to local economic development, quality of life, and community well- being.”

AMHS serves as an economic engine for the 35 coastal communities that it provides service to in Alaska. Each year, it ferries more than 300,000 people, generating thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in commerce across Alaska. Since the extent of these impacts has never been fully measured, Alaskans who benefit from the state’s ferry system were asked to describe its value. The stories shared came from mayors, tribal leaders, business owners, tourism directors, fishermen, economic development experts and other community leaders.

“Angoon has no road connection, no barge service and no runway,” says former Angoon Mayor Maxine Thompson in the publication. “... It is the lifeblood of the villages.”

“The Lituya is our direct line to Ketchikan in any weather. It gives us access to the hospital. It can be life and death in terms of medical travel. A box of Cheerios here costs $9. To make their dollars stretch further, a lot of people go grocery shopping in Ketchikan because the prices are a lot better there. The Lituya plays a huge economic role between Ketchikan and Metlakatla. Ketchikan’s economy is infused with dollars from Metlakatla. And Metlakatlans enjoy the savings they get in Ketchikan. The Alaska Marine Highway is our highway. It’s our trade route.” Gavin Hudson, Tribal Council Member Metlakatla commented in the publication. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

Inter-Island Ferry Generates More Than $50 Million in Economic Activity Annually

Southeast Alaska: Inter-Island Ferry Generates More Than $50 Million in Economic Activity Annually - The Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) - a public ferry system providing daily service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island - released a study this week showing that the ferry system was responsible for $52.2 million in economic activity in southern Southeast Alaska last year. The 12-page publication, compiled by Rain Coast Data, shows that the IFA provides a high rate of return on investment. In 2015, the system generated $104 in economic activity for each dollar of State investment. Economic activity was measured in the five following areas: tourism, seafood, medical access, retail trade, and spending by the IFA – and includes direct and secondary impacts.

“We have always known that the IFA plays a significant socio-economic role in southern Southeast Alaska,” explains Dennis Watson, General Manager of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority. “However, it has not always been easy to convey this message. This publication concisely describes and calculates the economic and social impacts of daily ferry service between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan.”

Some other highlights of the study include the following:

• Cost Effective Operations: Compared to other public passenger-vehicle ferries, the IFA is run very cost effectively. On average for these systems, farebox revenue covers 53% of operational costs; however the IFA has a farebox recovery rate of 85%.

• Tourism: Visitors coming to Prince of Wales Island on the ferry spend more than $10 million on the island annually.

• Seafood: In a typical year, IFA transports three million pounds of high value seafood, with an associated harvest value of $15 million. The business model to move this product depends on the daily, reliable, affordable service the IFA provides.

• Medical Care: Prince of Wales residents rely on the IFA for affordable access to medical care. Medical trips accounted for 4,500 ferry trips last year. These “medical tourists” spend nearly $9 million in Ketchikan hospitals each year.

• Ketchikan Spending: Prince of Wales residents who ride the ferry spend millions in Ketchikan each year. IFA riders spent $8 million on goods and services in Ketchikan (not counting the millions spent in the health care sector). The IFA itself spent an additional $1 million. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

Alaska: Scientists Establish Baseline to Gauge How Alaska Communities Will Respond to Change - In a new study by NOAA Fisheries, scientists looked at 347 Alaska communities to assess their dependence on marine resources and socio-economic well-being. This is the first time that NOAA Fisheries has used “quantitative” indicators for this type of assessment in Alaska. Scientists hope to provide marine resource managers with a scientifically sound rapid assessment of community resiliency over time.

Scientists Establish Baseline to Gauge How Alaska Communities Will Respond to Change

A small boat harbor in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Courtesy NOAA Fisheries

“In many places throughout Alaska, reliance on marine resources is central to the way people live. Over 90 percent of Alaska’s rural residents rely on wild-caught food for part if not all of the year,” said Doug DeMaster, Director, Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

“We need to carefully consider how changes affect these communities. These changes can be regulatory. They can include national and international forces such as recessions, fuel prices and monetary exchange rates. They can result from environmental factors like shifts in fish stock abundance or environmental disasters. We also need to better understand how well these communities can adapt to these changes,” he said.

In general, the communities with the lowest socioeconomic well-being are found in western Alaska, where few economic opportunities exist. On the other hand, the majority of communities with the highest fisheries involvement indices are located in southcentral and southeast Alaska. Here, local residents are heavily involved in commercial, recreational and/or subsistence harvesting or processing.- More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

Fish Factor: Early signs point to no big price boosts for Alaska salmon By LAINE WELCH - Early signs point to continuing headwinds in world markets for Alaska salmon.

Global currencies remain in disarray, the ongoing Russian seafood embargo is diverting more farmed salmon to the U.S., and tons of product remains in freezers from back to back bumper sockeye runs. (The majority of Alaska’s salmon goes to market in frozen, headed and gutted (H&G) form.)

One plus: aggressive market promotions have kept reds moving briskly at retail outlets at home and abroad and removed some of the back log.

“What the Alaska industry really needs is to move that product through the supply chain – clear the decks - so we are not continuing to deal with that overhang in the following year. Whether we are there yet or not, is hard to say,” said Andy Wink, a Fisheries Economist with the Juneau-based McDowell Group.

“When the supply increases as much as it has over the last few years, especially from Bristol Bay, it has a big impact on what the distributors, secondary wholesalers and retailers are willing to pay to processors who are buying from the fishermen,” he said.

And in the case of salmon, size does matter. In the past two years at Bristol Bay, most of the fish have been on the smaller, two to four pound size, meaning they are worth dramatically less than larger fish. Luckily, sales of smaller sockeyes to Japan have moved well, primarily because of the lower prices, and their use of cut up fish in various dishes makes it less of an issue.

“We have seen good sales volume through the supply chain in the past year,” Wink said, adding that Alaska sellers were surprised at the amounts that went to Japan and Europe, due to the global currency situation. The continued strong value of the dollar means it is more expensive for overseas customers to buy U.S. seafood.

“We’ve seen things move a lot faster, and while the currency situation is still terrible, at least it’s been terrible now for a while,” he added. “People are more adjusted and markets have a better grip on where it’s at. Hopefully, they can figure out what everyone needs to operate at these currency levels.” - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016


Dangerous fishing may be endangered; Catch shares fishery management reduces risk-taking, making fishing safer - Catch shares, a form of "rights-based" fisheries management adopted for several fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, may put an end to the kind of daring exploits chronicled in the Deadliest Catch.

Dangerous fishing may be endangered

Fishermen place Sablefish pots
CREDIT: Ethan Righter

A new study of fishing practices found that the "risky" behavior that makes fishing one of the most dangerous lines of work dropped sharply following the adoption of catch shares management in the West Coast fixed gear sablefish fishery. Fewer boats fished during the stormiest weather, with fishing on the highest wind days dropping by 79 percent under catch shares, according to the research published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The decline in rough-weather fishing represents "a revolution in risk-taking behavior by fishermen," wrote the authors, Lisa Pfeiffer of NOAA Fisheries' Northwest Fisheries Science Center and Trevor Gratz of the University of Washington. The researchers said they expect corresponding reductions in injuries, pollution events, vessel losses, search-and-rescue missions and deaths from fishing accidents under catch shares management.

Indeed, the safer practices corresponded with an 87 percent reduction in the rate of safety incidents the U.S. Coast Guard reported for the sablefish fishery before and after catch shares went into effect.

While fishermen may be known as adventurous risk-takers, the researchers said that traditional fisheries rules promote risky behavior by requiring vessels to compete with each other to catch as much as possible in a limited season.

"Fishermen have the incentive to participate in around-the-clock fishing in all weather conditions, overload their vessels, and ignore maintenance problems to maximize catch," the scientists write. "These behaviors contribute considerably to the dangerous nature of commercial fishing."

NOAA Fisheries' 2001 adoption of catch shares for sablefish changed the incentives around the fishery by giving each vessel rights to a specific share of the allowable catch. Vessels could then choose how and when to fish for their share. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

Giant flightless bird wandered the Arctic 50 million years ago

Massive Arctic bird known as Gastornis
Illustration by Marlin Peterson

Arctic Science:
Giant flightless bird wandered the Arctic 50 million years ago - It’s official: There really was a giant, flightless bird with a head the size of a horse’s wandering about in the winter twilight of the high Arctic some 53 million years ago.

The confirmation comes from a new study by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the University of Colorado Boulder that describes the first and only fossil evidence from the Arctic of a massive bird known as Gastornis. The evidence is a single fossil toe bone of the 6-foot tall, several-hundred-pound bird from Ellesmere Island above the Arctic Circle. The bone is nearly a dead ringer to fossil toe bones from the huge bird discovered in Wyoming and which date to roughly the same time.

The Gastornis (formerly Diatryma) fossil from Ellesmere Island has been discussed by paleontologists since it was collected in the 1970s and appears on a few lists of the prehistoric fauna there, said Professor Thomas Stidham of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. But this is the first time the bone has been closely examined and described, he said. Gastornis fossils also have been found in Europe and Asia.

“We knew there were a few bird fossils from up there, but we also knew they were extremely rare,” said study co-author Jaelyn Eberle, an associate professor in geological sciences at CU-Boulder who conducts research on fossil mammals, reptiles and fishes. In addition to the Gastornis bone from Ellesmere, another scientist reported seeing a fossil footprint there, probably from a large flightless bird, although its specific location remains unknown, Eberle said.

A paper by Stidham and Eberle appears in the most recent issue of Scientific Reports, an open access, weekly journal from the publishers of Nature.

About 53 three million years ago during the early Eocene Epoch, the environment of Ellesmere Island was probably similar to cypress swamps in the southeast U.S. today, Eberle said. Fossil evidence indicates the island, which is adjacent to Greenland, hosted turtles, alligators, primates, tapirs and even large hippo-like and rhino-like mammals.

Today Ellesmere Island is one of the coldest, driest environments on Earth, where temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, said Eberle, also the curator of paleontology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.- More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016



Columns - Commentary

jpg Jeff Lund

JEFF LUND: Digital relationships - Group texts are ridiculous. They drain data more efficiently than the government spends taxes.

If we went back to 2001, when a single text message out of your coverage area was more expensive than a gallon of gas, text addicts would have to sell their vehicles to afford modern conversation.
When you re-enter the world after a day or two in the mountains or on the water, the phone cries out, desperately pawing the landscape for a signal, and when it succeeds, your phone nearly climbs out of your pocket. “Welcome back!! You have so much to read!!!” it chimes or vibrates with the endless enthusiasm of a puppy.

To catch up is impossible. You scroll and scroll but only get a vague idea of what went on, but understand that your digital relationships, like the rest of the world, is more or less just how you left it. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

jpg Robert R. Garver

ROBERT R. GARVER: Movie Review "Deadpool" - Viewers were first introduced to Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) back in 2009 with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” The movie was a critical flop and fans didn’t like its take on the Deadpool character. A spinoff movie seemed unlikely, especially once Reynolds jumped franchises to “Green Lantern” in 2011. Then “Green Lantern” opened and a standalone “Deadpool” movie seemed like a better career move. “Deadpool” opened to $135 million on January 21st, so the risky revisiting has paid off.

Wade starts off as a “mercenary” who does dirty jobs for chump change. He leads such a miserable life that he and his friends pass the time trying to win a “dead pool,” a drawn-out bet over who will be the first to die. Things pick up when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who makes him happy for once. The happiness turns back to misery when he finds out he has late-stage cancer. Against his better judgement, Wade undergoes a dicey treatment from the shadowy Francis (Ed Skrein), who knows how to unlock mutant powers that might be able to heal him. As he undergoes a brutal series of treatments, Wade learns that Francis has nefarious plans for him once he’s transformed. - More...
Friday AM - February 19, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: iPhone Cracks

Editorial Cartoon: iPhone Cracks
By Nate Beeler ©2016, The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Gas Prices in Alaska By Rep. Dan Ortiz - A daily goal of mine, as your House District 36 representative, is to create avenues for constituent communication. A belief in “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, motivates me to make constituent communication easy and inviting. - More...
Monday PM - February 16, 2016

letter IF THE TOILET IS OVERFLOWING AND YOU REPAIR THE SINK, THE TOILET IS STILL OVERFLOWING By David G Hanger - The very first thing everyone needs to get a handle on in this Alaska financial crisis is that the price of a barrel of oil is not the primary cause of this disaster. Nor have production levels on the North Slope in the past two years declined significantly. 200 million barrels went through that pipeline in 2013, and somewhere between 380 million and 390 million barrels of oil have gone through that pipeline in 2014 and 2015. For the last six months of 2015 the oil companies produced 20,000 more barrels per day. In 2015 oil industry employment in the state of Alaska actually increased marginally throughout the year. And the state of Alaska did not collect a dime in oil taxes from those rats, their buddies, in 2014 and 2015. - More...
Monday PM - February 15, 2016

letter Proposed legislature pay cuts By Charlie Freeman - The proposal to cut legislative pay, while sounding noble, is a really bad idea and here's why. Most people have to work for a living and cannot take 120 days off to go to Juneau for free. We already pretty much limit the legislative gene pool to lawyers and the retired, and that does not make for a representative government. What it does do is get you a government with a limited idea of what it takes to live here. - More...
Monday PM - February 15, 2015

letter TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE! By Robert B. Holston Jr. - H & R Block is giving away $32,000,000 in one month to lucky folks who file taxes through them. I’ve seen the ads and done the math. I called the local office and asked, “So where does the $32,000,000 come from?” She had no idea. I told her, “From your customers.” - More...
Monday PM - February 15, 2015

letter Wearable Arts By Dan Ortiz - Another year has passed and another successful Wearable Arts weekend has come. This is the 30th year of the famous Wearable Art Show, fondly referred to as simply ‘wearable’ by its seasoned participants. Thank you to the coordinators, artists, models and backstage volunteers who dedicated their time (and late nights!) to this Ketchikan tradition. I would like to extend a special thank you to Diane Palmer, who has participated in every one of Ketchikan’s Wearable Art Shows for the past 30 years. The hard work and cooperation a large event like this requires is an annual show of special dedication to the life of our community. - More...
Monday PM - February 15, 2016

letter State budget & assumptions By Al Johnson - I sent in a letter to both Senator Stedman and Representative Ortiz specifically asking that they do not use the assumptions that oil prices will increase to cover budget numbers passed prior to oil price decreases. - More..
Thursday AM - February 11, 2016

letter Schoenbar girls emerge as a force on the mat By Matt Hamilton - Practice starts 2:45 pm every day with rolling out the mats and Jr high students buzzing with what they had been up to that day and it ends with me bellowing jogging to signal the start of practice.

This is my 18th year involved with the sport of wrestling and the landscape has not really changed much. Weigh in, warm up, drill the basics, fine tune positions, demonstrate new skills then apply them to drilling, explain grappling ideologies and philosophy and end with a half hour of relentless positional full contact wrestling then do it again tomorrow. Always the same but something has changed this year. - More...
Sunday AM - February 07, 2016

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