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February 04, 2020

jpg Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

Sea Lion
This sea lion was part of a larger group feeding on Sunday morning (South Tongass).  The dozen or more sea lions stayed near the shore and were very active.
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER ©2020
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National: President Trump Delivers 3rd State of the Union Address; Alaska Senators Respond - Tonight President Donald J. Trump delivered his third State of the Union address laying out his vision for our country saying the agenda he lays out is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda but an agenda of the American people.

Listen to President Trump's address and listen to the responses from Alaska U.S. Senators Murkowski and Sullivan to the president's address. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

Alaska: U.S. Senate Sets Final Impeachment Vote for Feb. 5th - This week U.S. Senators have been making their cases on the floor of the Senate before the final vote scheduled for Wednesday.

With the final vote in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial set for tomorrow, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor Monday making her case for acquittal: - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

Fish Factor: Not Well-known About Alaska Commercial Fisheries By LAINE WELCH - Alaska gets a good return on investment from its commercial fisheries. 

 And surprise! Commercial fisheries expertise also sustains Alaska’s subsistence and most of the personal use fisheries. 

“This is probably not well-known,” said Sam Rabung, director of the commercial fisheries division for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, at a presentation last week to the House Fisheries Committee.

 “Data collected by our division is shared across all divisions within the department as much as possible,” he explained to lawmakers. “We also share the cost of projects and facilities with other divisions. We work as a team. So that investment also carries over to other user groups.”

Rabung pointed out that the commercial fishing industry is the largest private sector employer in Alaska, putting almost 60,000 people to work annually. 

“It contributes about $172 million directly in taxes, fees and self-assessments to state, local and federal governments, and contributes an annual average of about $5.6 billion in economic output to the Alaska economy,” he added.

Of the $172 million in taxes, 43% ($73 million) goes to state coffers, 30% ($51 million) to local governments; 23% ($40 million) funds salmon hatchery management, and 5% ($8 million) goes to the federal government. 

Rabung pointed out that the division’s main charge is sustaining the revenue-generating fisheries long into the future - and that takes good science.

“Most of our budget is used on research, which is another word for assessment tools,” he told the committee. “We assess the stocks to see if there is a harvestable surplus. If we can’t do that work, we can’t open a fishery and say we’re managing sustainably and we revert to being more conservative. We may have less openings or lower guideline harvest levels or in some cases, we might just close the fisheries altogether. We set the bar very high as far as sustainability.” 

Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), fisheries committee chair, stressed that few state investments return as much to the state operating budget.

“When the budget for ADF&G is cut, that directly affects the resulting revenue to the state by affecting the ability to fully prosecute the fisheries that might be involved in the budget reductions,” Stutes said. “My goal in this hearing was to make it clear that Alaska’s commercial fisheries do indeed pay their own way. Investments in our commercial fisheries lead directly to fishing opportunities for Alaskans, great returns to the general fund, and produce benefits in spades for our state economy. We should be looking at targeted increases to the department’s budget.”

Targeted reductions: 

The commercial fisheries division operates on a nearly $67 million budget, of which $36 million comes from state general funds. Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget for FY2021 calls for a nearly $1 million reduction.

Here are targeted programs across the state at this early stage in the budget process, provided by United Fishermen of Alaska. 

Crab lovers in Southeast Alaska could go without if funding (-$315.6) is eliminated for tracking the region’s red king crab population. 

 “A lot of people don't recognize that those stock assessments help evaluate if the personal use fishery can open. So without that assessment, there will be no personal use fisheries for red king crab in Southeast Alaska,” said Frances Leach, UFA executive director.  - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

New thalattosaur species discovered in Southeast Alaska

New thalattosaur species discovered in Southeast Alaska
Gunakadeit, a sea monster of Tlingit legend,
brings good fortune to those who see it.
Artwork by Robert Mills ©2020


Southeast Alaska: New thalattosaur species discovered in Southeast Alaska Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have identified a new species of thalattosaur, a marine reptile that lived more than 200 million years ago. The new species has been given a Tlingit name Gunakadeit joseeae after a sea monster of Tlingit legend that brings good fortune to those who see it. The naming of the new species is thought to be first time a Tlingit name has been given to a fossil.

The new species, Gunakadeit joseeae, is the most complete thalattosaur ever found in North America and has given paleontologists new insights about the thalattosaurs’ family tree, according to a paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Scientists found the fossil near Kake in Southeast Alaska in 2011.

Thalattosaurs were marine reptiles that lived more than 200 million years ago, during the mid to late Triassic Period, when their distant relatives - dinosaurs - were first emerging. They grew to lengths of up to 3-4 meters (118-157 inches or 9-13 feet) and lived in equatorial oceans worldwide until they died out near the end of the Triassic.

“When you find a new species, one of the things you want to do is tell people where you think it fits in the family tree,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, the paper’s lead author and director and earth sciences curator at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. “We decided to start from scratch on the family tree.”

Prior to the discovery of Gunakadeit joseeae, it had been two decades since scientists had thoroughly updated thalattosaur interrelationships, Druckenmiller said. The process of re-examining a prehistoric animal’s family tree involves analyzing dozens and dozens of detailed anatomical features from fossil specimens worldwide, then using computers to analyze the information to see how the different species could be related.

Druckenmiller said he and collaborator Neil Kelley from Vanderbilt University were surprised when they identified where Gunakadeit joseeae landed.

“It was so specialized and weird, we thought it might be out at the furthest branches of the tree,” he said. Instead it’s a relatively primitive type of thalattosaur that survived late into the existence of the group.

“Thalattosaurs were among the first groups of land-dwelling reptiles to readapt to life in the ocean,” Kelley said. “They thrived for tens of millions of years, but their fossils are relatively rare so this new specimen helps fill an important gap in the story of their evolution and eventual extinction.”

That the fossil was found at all is a remarkable. It was located in rocks in the intertidal zone. The site is normally underwater all but a few days a year. In Southeast Alaska, when extreme low tides hit, people head to the beaches to explore. That’s exactly what Jim Baichtal, a geologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Tongass National Forest, was doing on May 18, 2011, when low tides of -3.7 feet were predicted. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

USGS Estimates 3.6 Billion Barrels of Oil in Central North Slope; Assessment Also Includes Estimate for 8.9 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas

USGS Estimates 3.6 Billion Barrels of Oil in Central North Slope; Assessment Also Includes Estimate for 8.9 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas
Oil-industry base camp at Galbraith Lake.
Credit: David Houseknecht, USGS. Public domain


Alaska: USGS Estimates 3.6 Billion Barrels of Oil in Central North Slope; Assessment Also Includes Estimate for 8.9 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas - One of the most productive areas in the world for oil remains rich in the resource, according to the latest USGS assessment. The USGS estimates 3.6 billion barrels of oil and 8.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas conventional resources in Alaska’s Central North Slope. This assessment does not include discoveries made by industry between 2013 and 2017.

“Alaska is synonymous with energy, and this assessment just reinforces that,” said USGS Director Jim Reilly. “The State of Alaska and its industry partners have responsibly produced billions of barrels of oil from Prudhoe Bay, and we think there are still billions more in this region that can be produced.”

The assessment consists of six assessment units that range from significant oil resources to significant natural gas resources. Although the USGS assessed this region in 2005, increases in geologic knowledge and understanding of the rocks and resource potential allowed the USGS to focus more specifically on the six assessment units included in this estimate.

Alaska’s Central North Slope has long been known to be rich in oil and gas resources. The assessment area hosts most of the producing oil and gas fields in Arctic Alaska, and the 800-mile-long Trans-Alaska Pipeline spans most of the region.

The supergiant Prudhoe Bay field is within the assessed area, which lies between the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to the west, the Brooks Range to the south and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the east.

Most of the lands in the Central North Slope are owned by the State of Alaska and Alaskan Native Corporations. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020


Ketchikan: AFA APPOINTS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR; Brings Extensive Experience in Public Policy & Alaska Issues - The Alaska Forest Association (AFA) Board announced the appointment of Tessa Axelson as the organization’s Executive Director. AFA is a non-profit industry trade association dedicated to advancing, restoring, promoting and maintaining a healthy, viable forest products industry in Alaska.

AFA APPOINTS NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR; Brings Extensive Experience in Public Policy & Alaska Issues

Tessa Axelson
AFA’s new Executive Director

“As we embark on our 63rd year of operations, we are pleased to appoint Tessa as AFA’s new Executive Director. Tessa has an array of executive management, external affairs, facilitation, public policy, contract oversight, and program management expertise that will reinvigorate AFA, identify new opportunities, and promote engaged relationships with our stakeholders and program partners,” said AFA Board President Mr. Bert Burkhart.

Axelson comes to this position after having worked over 20 years in a variety of sectors in Alaska, including 15 years at the Denali Commission, a federal agency created by the late Senator Ted Stevens, where she served in various capacities, including Director of Programs. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04,2020

Scientists listen to whales, walruses, and seals in a changing Arctic seascape

Scientists listen to whales, walruses, and seals in a changing Arctic seascape
A herd of walrus, one of the focal species of a recently completed acoustic study of marine mammals in the northern Bering Sea.
Photo Credit: Maxim Chakilev - One time use only



Alaska: Scientists listen to whales, walruses, and seals in a changing Arctic seascape; Multi-year, year-round acoustic study in northern Bering Sea records more than 30,000 whale, walrus, and seal calls - A year-round acoustic study of marine mammals in the northern Bering Sea is providing scientists with a valuable snapshot of an Arctic world already under drastic pressure from climate change, according to WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), Columbia University, Southall Environmental Associates, and the University of Washington. 

Authors of the new study in the journal Marine Mammal Science conducted a 4-year acoustic monitoring project to determine how seasons, sea surface temperature, and sea ice influence the presence, distribution, and movements of five species of endemic Arctic marine mammals. It is the first study to conduct year-round acoustic monitoring for marine mammals off St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea. 

"The data gathered during the study will serve as an important baseline for future monitoring of the effects of climate change, subsequent sea ice changes, and expected increases in shipping on the distribution of the region's marine mammals," said Emily Chou, WCS scientist and lead author of the study.

The scientists conducted the study between 2012 and 2016 with a focus on five species of Arctic marine mammal: bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), and ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata).

With the support of local indigenous hunters and fishermen, the scientists deployed archival acoustic recorders in three locations in the northern Bering Sea. "Working with local residents to deploy and retrieve equipment was an important part of our effort to keep the work as locally-based as possible," said co-author Martin Robards. 

Two of the recorders (attached to flotation devices and anchored to the seafloor with weights) were deployed off the northern shore of St. Lawrence Island, specifically near the Native villages of Savoonga and Gambell. The third recorder was placed in the Bering Strait, a 36-mile wide gap between the Russian Far East and Alaska that serves as the migratory pathway for thousands of marine mammals moving between the Bering Sea and the Arctic Ocean. 

"Acoustic monitoring is the most effective means of determining the seasonal presence of these species in these challenging Arctic areas, given the unpredictable weather conditions and variable daylight and ice conditions," said Brandon Southall, a co-author on the study. "It can also be used to measure variability in ocean noise from both natural and human sources, such as shipping, and how they may affect the behavior and well-being of marine mammals." - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020



TOM PURCELL: THE D.C. DISORDER THAT’S SADDER THAN SAD - Maybe Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is bringing me down – or not.

Overcast winter weather triggers SAD. Lack of exposure to sunlight can cause higher levels of melatonin and lower levels of serotonin in the brain, which can cause depression-like symptoms.

But then again, maybe it’s the news – and not SAD – that’s triggering my listlessness.

According to The Washington Post, the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates show the federal deficit “reached $1 trillion in 2019, for the first time since the Great Recession, and, under current law will average $1.3 trillion through 2030.”

It gets worse: “Federal debt held by the public will grow from 81 percent of gross domestic product to a post-1946 record of 98 percent.”

Didn’t Republicans used to care about this spending stuff? Didn’t President Trump, as candidate Trump, promise to end the deficit in eight years?

This gets me so down, all I want to do is curl up in a blanket and sip hot toddies by a roaring fireplace.

Regardless of who’s president, Democrat or Republican, America has been on a serious spending spree.

Consider: When George W. Bush assumed office, the national debt was $5.7 trillion. He nearly doubled it in eight years to about $11 trillion.

President Obama added nearly $9 trillion to our debt load during his eight years in office.

President Trump is on track to add another $5 trillion to our debt during his first term.

Sure, I get it – partly. Entitlement-program spending continues to grow faster than revenue.

Some blame Republican tax cuts for reducing revenue, though overall tax receipts have increased and are higher than ever. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: Iowa State of Confusion

Political Cartoon: Iowa State of Confusion
By Dave Whamond ©2020, Canada, PoliticalCartoons.com
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Standing up for Alaska’s Pioneers By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Last year, I cosponsored and voted for House Bill 96, which reverses massive rate increases at the Pioneer Homes. This bipartisan legislation passed the House 35-4 and now is being considered by the Senate. If the Senate passes HB 96, we can reverse the devastating rate increases and provide critical financial stability both for residents and our Pioneer Home system.

Lowering and stabilizing Pioneer Home rates is a win-win for residents and for the system’s fiscal stability. We heard testimony from non-partisan Legislative Finance budget experts that massive rate increases actually could reduce revenue. Here’s why: Massive rate increases make the Pioneer Homes far more expensive than alterative care, whether that’s in-home care or an assisted living facility. Prior to the Dunleavy administration’s huge rate increases, more than half of Pioneer Home residents were “self-pay” and paid the department’s rates. Already, the large rate increases have reduced the number of private payers and increased the number who are on “payment assistance,” or state subsidies. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

jpg Opinion

American Government By Hannah Ramiskey - I was shocked to hear that a Ketchikan School Board member has contacted administers and teachers of the school district to gauge their reaction to eliminating a semester of American Government in the district curriculum. Then students were asked how they felt about that and would they rather take subjects that were more interesting to them?

Wow, from the beginning of this country, our Republic has survived because it depends on educated voters to maintain our freedoms. Even in 1776 there were lots of newspapers and citizens reading the news to those who couldn’t.

No matter what side of any issue we are on, everyone should know what is in the Constitution and related documents to allow us to weed out that which is not accurate. And, with twenty-four- hour news on television and on line, someone has to fill the time – every second. Talking heads grab each story, true or false, to engage the public and an agitated public is great for ratings. It also makes for constant conflict as the nation becomes more divided. - More...
Thursday PM - January 30, 2020

jpg Opinion

First Week of Legislative Session By Rep. Dan Ortiz - The Alaska State Legislature began its 2020 session on January 21st. Last Friday, the Legislature held a joint session to vote on overriding two of Governor Dunleavy’s vetoes of House Bill 2001 from August of 2019. The Legislature had five days once we began session to address veto overrides. HB2001 was an appropriations bill created this summer to reverse some of the items that were vetoed from the original operating budget.

HB2001 included $5 million for AMHS, specifically to provide at least some service to areas like Cordova who have been - and will be - without service for months. HB2001 also included the full amount the state is obligated to pay for school bond debt reimbursement (the Governor vetoed 50% of the funding). The State pays 60-70% of school bond debt, which funds voter-approved construction projects or emergency needs. The remaining percentage is paid for by local municipalities. Governor Dunleavy’s veto of the State funded portion will not eliminate the need for funds, but simply transfer the burden to the local level. In Ketchikan, they will need to make up over $1.2 million in lost state funding and in Wrangell it amounts to a little under $87 thousand. When speaking on the Floor, Senator Stedman reminded the Legislative body that paying the promised reimbursement is, while not necessarily a legal requirement, a moral obligation. - More...
Thursday PM - January 30, 2020

jpg Opinion

Focusing on the Fundamentals By Colonel Bryan W. Barlow - I am not new to Alaska or to the Alaska State Troopers, having served more than 20 years in the ranks.  However I write today as the new Director for the Alaska State Troopers (AST), I want to introduce myself to Alaskans and take time to tell you what I want to accomplish while serving as Colonel for this great agency. Sports coaches often tell athletes of all ages that fancy plays aren’t what win games, its learning and mastering the fundamentals. I plan for AST to do just that: focus on our fundamentals. 

What does that mean? It means continuing to prioritize recruitment and retention of high quality state troopers, filling our support staff vacancies, developing employee wellness initiatives, and placing focus on in-service and advanced training.  

Under the Dunleavy Administration, the Department of Public Safety has received a lot of support designed to build this agency into the healthiest it’s been for quite some time. We need to keep this momentum up or risk losing valuable talent from both our civilian and our trooper ranks.  The goals of increasing the numbers of Troopers available to serve Alaska include decreasing the amount of time it takes for a Trooper to respond to a call for service, more active community engagement from our Troopers, and opening more Trooper posts in rural Alaska.  The Alaska State Troopers are, for all purposes, a rural police agency and my focus is on strengthening our agency to serve Alaskans all through this great state more effectively. - More...
Thursday PM - January 30, 2020

jpg Opinion

Alzheimer’s Association Alaska By Molly Pellegrom - Being a caregiver can be isolating. It can be even more difficult for Alaskans who are not on the road system.

You are not alone. Many Alaskans face the same challenges.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control in cooperation with the State of Alaska, 33,000 Alaskans across our state provide care on a regular basis for loved ones with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Association Alaska is here to help all Alaskans affected by dementia. You don’t have to live on the road system to access our services. - More...
Thursday PM - January 30, 2020

jpg Opinion

I DID NOT KNOW THE RUSSIANS ARE OUR DEAREST FRIENDS??? By David G Hanger - I had a conversation a few days ago with a young friend of mine in his mid-30s who spent quite a bit of time explaining to me in detail how much the Russians are and have been our dearest friends. I am real curious what web sites, news sites, etc. are propagating these brilliant observations about our dear Russian friends that I may be informed and educated on the source of this drivel. - More...
Thursday PM - January 30, 2020

jpg Opinion

A Practice in Health By John Cross - Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are required to publish detailed financial reports. One report hospitals are required to release is called the: Schedule H Form. The Schedule H Form outlines how much money-losing care hospitals offer to their patients; hospitals refer to this number as their “charity care” (Internal Revenue Service, 2019). Hospitals, in exchange for receiving tax breaks at the State, Local, and Federal level, are expected to provide a reasonable amount of charity care (Government Accountability Office, 2018). The City of Ketchikan’s hospital lease with PeaceHealth expires in 2023. This paper will argue that the City of Ketchikan should examine PeaceHealth’s local and corporate practices before extending PeaceHealth’s hospital lease. - More...
Saturday PM - January 25, 2020

jpg Opinion

Cripple Iran's Strategic Weapons By Donald Moskowitz - In a New Hampshire Union Leader oped  Dr. Jessica Tuchman Mathews described why the Trump administration should continue the Iranian nuclear agreement. She delved into the value of the agreement and how the U.S. and the world were relatively safe from a nuclear attack by Iran for 15 years if the agreement remained in force. This was terrible thinking. - More...
Saturday PM - January 25, 2020

jpg Opinion

 AMHS Reshaping Draft Report By A. M. Johnson - Regarding the long awaited for report on the future status of the Alaska Marine Highway System, I first was furious at the content as I thought of the thousands of dollars spent on this result. - More...
Monday AM - January 20, 2020

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