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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
February 28, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By JIM LEWIS

American Robin
One of a flock of Robins sighted at the North Point Higgins School on Sunday. The American robin (Turdus migratorius) is a migratory songbird of the thrush family.
Front Page Feature Photo By JIM LEWIS ©2016

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Ketchikan: MV Sustina finally leaves Ketchikan but its fate remains uncertain; Ambitious goals eventually led to the $80 million ferry that could not meet its civilian, military objectives By DAVE KIFFER - After nearly a decade, the MV Susitna left Ketchikan in mid-February, under decidedly less pomp and circumstances than accompanied its construction at what was then Ketchikan Ship and Drydock.

On February 19th, an Olson Marine tug pulled the 195-foot ferry, once called one of the most unique vessels ever built, away from the docks in Ward Cove and on its way to a shipyard in Puget Sound to determine whether the Susitna - which cost nearly $80 million to build - would ever go into service or would be scrapped.

That final decision belongs to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly. The Philippine Red Cross has offered to buy the Susitna for $1.5 million, but only after three of the four ship engines are repaired. Estimates for the work range from $500,000 to $3 million and some members of the MatSu Assembly have suggested that the best course might be to just scrap the vessel.

The story of the MV Susitna is a controversial one.

It is one of the most hi-tech ships ever built, but its complexity and high operation costs ensure it will never be used for its intended purpose, to bridge Knik Arm between Anchorage and Port Mackenzie in all weather, including heavy ice.

And the US Navy - which spurred the development and construction of the vessel - now appears to have no interest in using the design in its new generation of landing craft.

On the other hand, the challenging project put the Ketchikan Shipyard on the boat building map and led directly to larger projects such as the two Alaska Class ferries currently being built in Ketchikan. Two years ago, Alaska Ship and Drydock was purchased by Vigor Inc. and became part of Vigor’s multi-state shipbuilding enterprise.

After the Susitna was launched in 2010, it remained in Ketchikan, with the MatSu Borough paying around $1 million a year for insurance, moorage and upkeep. Borough officials total those costs as more than $5 million.

The genesis of the MV Susitna began with a local boy who grew up in Anchorage and went to sea.

Lew Madden was a graduate of West Anchorage High School who became a US Navy helicopter pilot and served three tours of duty in Vietnam, according to a 2011 story in the Anchorage Daily News.

Madden spent 26 years in the Navy, at one point as the Director of Anti-Submarine Warfare Systems Architecture and Engineering. He received two masters degrees and retired with the rank of Captain.

Madden then went to work as a program manager for defense contractor Lockheed Martin. In the early 2000s, he and several other Lockheed engineers were working on a new landing craft for the Navy.

According to the Daily News, the biggest challenge facing Madden was coming up with a design that bridged the biggest challenge for the landing craft that had been in use since World War II. In order to land successfully, the craft had to be shallow draft. But that same shallow draft made the ships notoriously unstable when faced with the rough seas that would be encountered close to shore.

"Madden had an idea," the Daily News reported in 2011. "Why not combine the best of very different ships? Make a boat that would transform from a catamaran-like ship to a barge while at sea...he envisioned a barge deck that would lower until it hit the water, adding buoyancy. The twin hulls would rise up until the ship's draft was only three or four feet, allowing it to beach. An onboard ramp would drop down so that a military tank could roll off."

His team began to develop the idea.

In 2002, Madden came to Anchorage for his 40th high school reunion and began seriously thinking about a way to bridge the 80-mile drive from Anchorage to Port Mackenzie, just three miles across Knik Arm.

A bridge had been proposed, but it was projected to cost at least $500 million and Madden thought that a ferry would be cheaper, at least short term. He pitched his idea for a Knik Arm ferry to the Mat-Su Borough and found a receptive audience. - More...
Sunday PM - February 28, 2016

Ketchikan: Ketchikan Museums Selected to Participate in National Museum Assessment Program - Ketchikan Museums has been awarded the opportunity to participate in the Museum Assessment Program (MAP), funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and administered by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). Through a one-year process of self-assessment, institutional activities and consultative peer review, Ketchikan Museums will gain a better understanding of how to strengthen operations, plan for the future, and meet national museums standards.

“We are honored to have been selected for an organizational museum assessment through MAP,” writes Lacey Simpson, Ketchikan Museums Director. “As we continue to improve our operations and advance our mission to serve our community, MAP will provide us with the tools to further evaluate our strengths, improve deficiencies, and build towards a thriving and sustainable future while adhering to the best possible level of stewardship standards.” - More...
Sunday PM - February 28, 2016

Ketchikan: Federal subsistence fishery for eulachon closed in Federal waters within District 1 - Ketchikan-Misty Fiords District Ranger Jeff DeFreest, under authority delegated by the Federal Subsistence Board, is closing the Federal public waters that flow into District 1 to the taking of eulachon from 12:01 a.m., Tuesday, March 1, 2016 until 11:59 p.m., April 30, 2016 due to anticipated low eulachon returns. Any eulachon caught in this area must be immediately returned into the water unharmed. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) is closing the State managed eulachon fisheries in District 1 on the same date.

Few eulachon have returned to the Burroughs Bay area since 2005. Similar closures have been issued by the USDA Forest Service for eulachon within the Burroughs Bay area from 2005 through 2015.

The eulachon life cycle is typically a five year period. Based on returns observed the last three years it is not likely a harvestable surplus will be present in 2016. It is anticipated that all eulachon returning to District 1 during 2016 will be needed for spawning to rebuild area eulachon populations. - More...
Sunday PM - February 28, 2016


Herring fishery's strength is in the sum of its parts, study finds - A wise investor plays the financial market by maintaining a variety of stocks. In the long run, the whole portfolio will be more stable because of the diversity of the investments it contains.

Herring fishery's strength is in the sum of its parts, study finds

Young adult herring from Puget Sound.
Photo by Margaret Siple, University of Washington

It's this mindset that resource managers should adopt when considering Pacific herring, one of the most ecologically significant fish in Puget Sound and along the entire West Coast, argue the authors of a paper appearing in the January 2016 print edition of the journal Oecologia.

Just like a financial portfolio contains shares from different companies, the diverse subpopulations of herring from different bays and beaches around Puget Sound collectively keep the total population more stable, the study's authors found.

"This paper shows that all of these little subpopulations are important to the stability of Puget Sound herring as a whole," said lead author Margaret Siple, a University of Washington doctoral student in aquatic and fishery sciences.

"If you're a manager and you need to invest in multiple pieces of a natural resource, it's helpful to know what the impact will be of diversifying your efforts instead of just focusing on a few spots."

Pacific herring swim close to shore to spawn in eelgrass or seaweed, and each subpopulation usually returns to the same area year after year. This life pattern has traditionally created a close relationship between the herring and First Nations peoples and tribes who harvest herring and their eggs on Pacific Northwest beaches, as well as the marine mammals and larger fish that feed on these small, silvery fish.

Siple and senior author Tessa Francis, lead ecosystem ecologist with the Puget Sound Institute at UW Tacoma, analyzed 40 years of herring biomass data in Puget Sound to try to understand how the nearly 21 distinct subpopulations behave and relate to each other.

They found that each smaller group varied out of synch with the others -- despite sometimes spawning near each other. They also found that high year-to-year variability, which is common in forage fish such as herring, was dampened by the existence of many distinct subpopulations, buffering the wellbeing of the entire Puget Sound herring population from the failures of any single group. - More...
Sunday PM - February 28, 2016



Columns - Commentary

jpg Will Durst

WILL DURST: We Can Trust the FBI, Right? - This huge brouhaha between the FBI and Apple has escalated into a battle royale between the righteous and the wicked. And, as often happens, both sides are claiming to be on the side of the angels. With so many good guys in attendance, it's amazing that world-wide badness is still so pervasive. But you can't blame television for everything.

The Feds want Apple to create specialized software in order to bypass the auto-erase feature of the San Bernardino terrorists' iPhone. They don't just want access to a backdoor, they want Apple to design a backdoor, construct it then hand them the only key. And snacks. They want snacks too.

It's the age-old battle between security and privacy, safety and confidentiality, minty freshness and chocolaty richness. But once breached, there's no going back. It's a slope more slippery than a caffeinated eel in a bathtub full of bacon grease. No such thing as a virgin repair kit, you know.

The FBI says they only need to do this once. Yeah, right. Federal investigators in 11 other jurisdictions have already filed motions seeking access to suspects' iPhone data. A Manhattan DA has 175 phones he wants to crack. Get ready to open a Pandora's Box of 4th amendment violations, full of venomous snakes ready to spring out and bite us in the butt. Repeatedly.

The problem is, you let one government into your back door and every other government is going to break land-speed records to stand in line to do the same and not all of them are familiar with the concept of lubricant, if you catch my drift. Besides, no global company, not even one located in Cupertino, California, can say yes to Obama and nyet to Putin. China? North Korea? Seriously?

The FBI says we need to trust them. Isn't this the same FBI that vowed for years they weren't conducting illegal surveillance on Americans until it was revealed they were? And the same FBI that offered flawed testimony in thousands of court cases resulting in prosecutions, some of which led to executions? You mean that FBI? I wouldn't trust that FBI as far as I could throw two handfuls of glue. - More...
Sunday PM - February 28, 2016


jpg Editorial Cartoon: Leap Day 2016

Editorial Cartoon: Leap Day 2016
By John Cole ©2016, The Scranton Times-Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Ketchikan Town Meeting Monday, Feb. 29th By Rep. Dan Ortiz - You may have heard that Governor Walker is coming to town on Monday. It is an honor for me to join Governor Walker for this trip that will allow him and members of his administration to learn first-hand about the issues affecting our island. I will co-host a town meeting with Governor Walker on Monday, February 29th at 5pm at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. - More...
Thursday PM - February 25, 2016

letter Ketchikan Ports & Harbors By Steve Corporon - The following information is provided in response to the letter Mr. Douglas Thompson sent to the Editor of Sitnews which was published on February 25, 2016. - More...
Friday PM - February 25, 2016

letter City of Ketchikan Mismanagement By Douglas Thompson - I wonder if the reality of the Ketchikan municipal budget has sunk in to local taxpayers? Most of us have received this year's tax bill recently and it is not pleasant. Right now you could be paying zero in property tax. Zero. A sum that would not impact any perceivable services to the citizenry. All that is required is a little maturity and fiscal discipline. Qualities which are totally absent at present. This is due to the unrestrained rule of "King" (called that by the Ketchikan City Council) Karl Amylon. The council in their sycophantic frenzy to curry favor with Amylon costs local taxpayers millions of dollars. Not only is he paid an absurd salary for a town of 7,000 people but the council then 'gifts' him with additional tax dollars. - More...
Thursday AM - February 25, 2016

letter Be the Change By Christine Furey - In the last few weeks a dark cloud has been painted over our beautiful little town. It happens every year, sometimes more. Drugs, drugs and more drugs! Is it not yet completely obvious that we are dealing with what some may call an epidemic and yet we seem to be doing very little to combat it on a large scale level. I am not in any way trying to discredit those agencies that are working very hard to do what they can and this includes the Ketchikan Police Department, among many others and their efforts don't go unnoticed. - More...
Tuesday AM - February 23, 2016

letter Missing Men in Ketchikan By Irene Anderson - I am a family member of one of Ketchikan's Missing Men, his name is Roy V Banhart and he has been missing since 12/30/14. I am very concerned about the Ketchikan community due to all the missing men that have not been accounted for. In addition to Roy (he would be 40 years old in April), there is Gary Hamilton, 69 years of age, almost blind. Mr. Hamilton was last seen on 11/13/15 at a bank (prev known to be beaten and robbed), Justin Nathan a 20 year old young man that did not make it down from Deer Mountain he ws last seen on 11/11/15. I found a post from a former family member (Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad) from Nov 2015 asking why the Alaska State Troopers would not answer their phone/return calls as that former family member had contacted the Juneau Coast Guard from what I read, it appeared that they were ready and willing to assist in the search for Mr. Nathan (helicopters,etc). Also missing is Thomas Booth, a 30 year old father of 2 children (4 months old and 10 yrs old. Mr. Booth was last seen on 1/2/16 at Safeway buying diapers. And, Angeline Dundas was found in the water in July 2015. She was a young mother. - More...
Tuesday AM - February 23, 2016

letter Marijuana advisory board By Kenneth G. Reese - On February 10, 2016, I provided the following testimony to members of the Alaska House. The purpose of my testimony was to to persuade the reconsideration of the current legislation the State is trying to pass in regards to A.S 17.38. The first priority is to pass an amendment to allow more time to work on current legislation. - More...
Tuesday AM - February 23, 2016

letter Tired! By A. M. Johnson - The following piece by a Robert Hall, whom I have no information on his validity, I fully agree with. I have adjusted Mr. Hall's piece to reflect my age and work history and an opinon which I believe is shared by many in my age group. - More...
Tuesday AM - February 23, 2016

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

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