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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
March 08, 2017

And it Snowed & Snowed
It's no news that Mother Nature has dumped a load of snow on Ketchikan in the last 10 day. The National Weather Service reported 14 inches snow depth at 13 Miles north Ketchikan over the last 7 days with KTVA reporting climate records tracked by Annette Island, reporting Ketchikan picked up 19 inches of snow in the last eight days. The Ketchikan School District cancelled school on Tuesday and Wednesday and has implemented a delayed start schedule for Thursday, March 9th due to continued unstable and unpredictable weather and road conditions. All bus pick-up times and school start times will be delayed two hours. There will be no zero hour at Ketchikan High School. There will be no pre school at Fawn Mountain, Houghtaling, Pioneer Home, or Pt. Higgins. Afternoon dismissal times and bus schedule are the same as on regular school days. Bus stops will continue to be highway's stops.
Front Page Feature Photo By NATALEE RIPLEY

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Ketchikan: House Bill 155 Supports Alternative to Logging Ketchikan's Iconic Deer Mountain - Monday, Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) introduced House Bill 155, which details the process for swap lands between the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the U.S. Forest Service.

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority uses revenue from Trust-owned property and lands to provide funding for programs and services that benefit people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, and substance abuse disorders.

One piece of Trust-owned land is Ketchikan’s iconic Deer Mountain, which has been considered for logging.

“The vast majority of people of Ketchikan, including myself, are opposed to logging Deer Mountain,” said Rep. Ortiz. “This bill would allow for the preservation of Deer Mountain lands while making other lands of comparable value available to the timber industry.”

By exchanging Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority lands for lands of equal value from the U.S. Forest Service, the Trust Land Office will gain land that can be logged and bring in revenue directed to programs that serve Alaska’s most vulnerable populations. House Bill 155 includes a transaction of approximately 20,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land for 18,000 acres of Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority land. Lands affected by the legislation are in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau, and Meyers Chuck.

“Logging Alaska Mental Health Trust land not only funds important programs for Alaskans, it also sustains the timber industry. Current and upcoming logging projects act as a bridge to the timber industry until young growth timber is ready to be logged. Maintaining the timber industry is particularly beneficial to Southeast Alaska, and this bill would bring new logging jobs to Southeast,” said Rep. Ortiz. “I am excited about the potential of this bill to increase revenue for mental health programs and the timber industry while protecting iconic lands, such as Ketchikan’s Deer Mountain.”

HB 155 was formally introduced on Monday and was referred to the Alaska House Resources and Finance Committees.

House Bill 155 is the state's match for federal legislation sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Representative Don Young.

In January 2017, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, introduced companion bills to accelerate an equal value land exchange between the Alaska Mental Health Trust (Trust) and the U.S. Forest Service. The legislation, which nearly passed last Congress, protects important community viewsheds, local trails, and other conservation values while expediting much-needed timber for local operators and generating new revenues for mental health services across the state.

“Our bill protects lands that are worth protecting, provides critical timber to keep our sawmills running, and raises money for mental health programs in the midst of our state’s ongoing fiscal crisis,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement in January. “This is a widely supported, common sense solution that will deliver real economic and environmental benefits for Southeast communities. It is one of my top legislative priorities, and my goal is to have it signed into law as quickly as possible.” - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

Ketchikan: Tug towed to Ketchikan after grounding near Sumner Strait - Commercial tugs towed the tug Ocean Eagle to Ketchikan for repairs, Sunday, following its grounding at Mariposa Reef in Sumner Strait, Thursday.

The Ocean Eagle's barge was towed to Sitka where a Marine Inspector is conducting additional damage assessments before the barge continues its planned voyage.

Brusco Tug & Barge, the owner of Ocean Eagle, contracted Alaska Commercial Divers to conduct underwater hull surveys of both the tug and barge in Alvin Cove after the grounding. Temporary repairs were made by the divers to cracks in the tug's hull. Minor damage was noted on the barge. Transit plans for both vessels were submitted and approved by the federal on scene coordinator from Coast Guard Sector Juneau and the state on-scene coordinator from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

Southeast Alaska:
Public Safety to Implement Local Emergency Preparedness Plans in Southeast VPSO Communities - Through a new partnership with Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHS&EM), Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Central Council) Public Safety department will be developing and implementing local emergency preparedness plans in the Southeast Alaska communities served under the State’s Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) program.

The collaboration project is funded by the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program supports the implementation of the National Preparedness System by providing federal grants to assist state, local, territorial, and tribal governments.

The partnership between the DHS&EM and Central Council is the first of its kind that creates a unique tribal jurisdiction in Southeast Alaska that will allow the Tribe to seek further emergency planning funding. Initially, the State DHS&EM will provide Central Council $80,000 in salary reimbursement through July 1, 2017 and an additional $160,000 through July 1, 2018. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

Alaska: Bill to Protect the Permanent Fund Dividend Advances to Senate Judiciary Committee - Yesterday, a resolution that would allow the people of Alaska to decide if the PFD, with its current calculation, should be enshrined in the state Constitution passed the Alaska Senate State Affairs Committee and referred to the Judiciary Committee, its next committee of referral. The resolution, SJR1, would allow Alaskans a vote to safeguard the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) in the state’s constitution.

The principal or “corpus” of the fund is already constitutionally protected and cannot be spent. However, the earnings of the fund can be appropriated by the legislature for any purpose. The bill, proposed by Sen. Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), would not preclude the use of the earnings reserve of the Permanent Fund by the legislature, but would require PFD checks to be paid first, utilizing the current formula and ensuring that the full dividend gets paid out every year.

“Alaskans have spoken, indicating that they wish the Permanent Fund Dividend program to survive any fiscal restructure that may happen in the legislature,” said Wielechowski. “But the truth is that the only way we can guarantee a Permanent Fund Dividend that can’t get voted away by a future legislature, or vetoed by a future governor is to put it in the Constitution.” - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

Alaska: Permanent Fund Education Lottery Bill Introduced - A bill introduced Monday would allow Alaskans to voluntarily sign up for a lottery to fund education – and possibly win big money – when they send in their annual application for the Permanent Fund dividend. The bill was introduced by Sen. Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks).

“Senate Bill 78 would set up an education lottery as a fun way to raise money for a good cause – supporting education in Alaska – without having to enact any new taxes,” Sen. Bishop said. “It is a new, voluntary approach to help solve Alaska’s fiscal problems and address concerns about education funding.”

Statewide surveys show that more than 65 percent of Alaskans support current levels or an increase in education funding. The bill creates a new revenue stream for education in a multi-layered structure, while providing a lottery drawing. First, half of the proceeds would go directly to the state’s annual education budget. Second, one-quarter of the proceeds would go into an endowment that – after it grows to $1 billion – would spin off income to the education budget. The final one-quarter would go into an endowment to grow the prizes, and 20 percent of percent of that piece would be used for prizes.

Alaskans can dedicate all or part of their Permanent Fund dividend, in $100 chances, to enter the lottery and support education. The bill structures the check-off in a manner similar to the familiar “Pick. Click. Give.” program (no relation to the prime sponsor). - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017


Alaska Science:
Are we living in a warm peak between ice ages? By NED ROZELL - As another major rainstorm hit California in February, downtown San Francisco surpassed its normal rain total for an entire year. Reservoirs in the high country were spilling over. So ended a five-year drought in the state that some people attributed to human-caused climate change.

Are we living in a warm peak between ice ages?

Syun-Ichi Akasofu works in his office in the International Arctic Research Center.
Photo by Ned Rozell

Those pictures of dried-up California lakes bothered Syun-Ichi Akasofu, who recently gave a talk, “The Forthcoming Ice Age,” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He thinks we humans are perhaps living in a period of warmth between cold periods, and we consider it normal. Mankind’s effects on climate, he said, are a minor act in a much grander play.

Akasofu, who an Anchorage Daily News reporter a decade ago called “Alaska’s best known climate-change skeptic,” is now 86. Every weekday, he walks into the rear entrance of a building with his name on it (home to the International Arctic Research Center) and works in his modest partitioned space until early afternoon.

He came to Alaska from Japan in 1958 to study the aurora. He became a worldwide expert, and transitioned to people-and-budget management as director of the Geophysical Institute and later the International Arctic Research Center. He was essential in the birth of the latter, now a major UAF institution, by bringing in funding from Japan in the late 1990s.

Since he was a boy, Akasofu has been a contrarian, finding himself looking for an alternative explanation when many people agree on an unproven notion. He has spent many hours of his retirement looking for cracks in the argument of the importance of humanity’s role in global warming, one of the noisiest debates of his time.

Upon reading of the drought-ending rains in California, Akasofu said that state is experiencing natural changes that come and go in cycles. His pet peeve is “instant climatology,” in which he says people base an argument on just a few decades of data.

The time period one chooses, he said, support or refute a favorite argument. From 1940 to 1975, he pointed out, the average temperature on Earth decreased 0.2 degrees F, making some believe a new ice age was coming.

Global warming from 1975 on is real, he said, and he agrees that carbon dioxide levels are increasing dramatically. But he thinks warming world temperatures could be mainly Earth’s natural rebound from the Little Ice Age, a period from A.D. 1200 to 1850 when during some winters the Thames River froze in London and so did New York Harbor. - More...



SOCIAL SECURITY MATTERS: Ask Rusty - Working & Social Security; Remarried Ex-Spouse By RUSSELL GLOOR, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor - Dear Rusty: I recently turned 62, and have not yet filed for Social Security benefits. At this point my benefit based on my own record would be about $1,000 per month, but since I still work I know I would lose some of what I earn over the $15,000 limit. I read that if you lose some of your benefit because of working you will get it back later. Is this true? If so, how would I get it back?
Signed: Working Girl

Dear Working: Yours is becoming a much more common question as more and more people are choosing to work even after they are entitled to receive Social Security benefits. Social Security's rules say that if you work and are receiving benefits but have not yet reached your full retirement age (which for you is 66) and you earn more than their annual earnings limit, they will "take back" half of everything you earn over the earnings limit (which for 2017 is $16,920). The way they do this is by withholding what you owe from future benefit payments, which could cause you to not receive benefits for a number of months until they recover what you owe. This would happen every year up to the year you turn 66, which would mean that during that working timeframe you would have gone some number of months without receiving Social Security. In the year you turn 66, the amount you can earn is much more generous and the amount they withhold is much less. After you turn age 66 you can earn as much as you like without penalty. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017


DANNY TYREE: Let's Applaud History's Greatest Teenagers - Help! There's suddenly a teenager in the Tyree house!

Yes, my son Gideon just turned 13. He's a good kid with a bright future, but sometimes the inevitable "attitude" shows up.

I know that many teenagers are creative, hardworking and respectful of their elders; but I still have worries about the coming years. Teens have always faced a mountain of changes, responsibilities and temptations ---- and the pace is only accelerating.

I must admit I led a rather sheltered teen life, but you still couldn't pay me enough to go through all the frustrations and emotional rollercoasters again. And I certainly saw enough classmates who drove too fast, broke curfew, obtained fake IDs, became addicted to nicotine and alcohol and suffered the consequences of unplanned pregnancies.

The sordid events on "Riverdale" (the CW's soap opera reimagining of the Archie Comics universe) do little to ease my concerns about Gideon's challenges.

Besides prayer, the one thing that keeps me going is knowing that others have passed this way before. Some of history's most influential people survived their own stereotypical teenage behavior. For example: - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: GOP Virtuoso

Editorial Cartoon: GOP Virtuoso
By Nate Beeler, ©2017The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Our Rep. Voting to Increase State Spending By Rodney Dial My name is Rodney Dial and I am a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member. This letter is my opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of other assembly members.

A few days ago I posted on Facebook how our local Representative Dan. Ortiz, was voting to increase State spending, at a time when the State budget has a multi-billion dollar deficit. Many of you asked me for the specifics….here they are: - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter WATCH OUT FOR THAT GIANT HOOK By David G Hanger - I had not realized until this latest round of state hearings and testimonies that all of us folks down here in Southeast Alaska are a bunch of welfare kings and queens who have been suckling on the state dole for these past four decades or so. Got guys and gals that are 150 days and more a year away from home even, busting their asses to make their families a living, but, hey, they are just a bunch of goddamned welfare duds, too. It matters not that we already pay the highest tax rates in the state, that as extractive industries shut down here we re-invented ourselves to a considerable degree and established new economies with little to no effectual help from outside sources or entities. We are a bunch of welfare duds; just ask our dear carpetbagging friends in the Anchorage/Fairbanks corridor about the 230,000 or so Alaskans who don’t live in that cesspool of corruption, fraud, and lies. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Transboundary Issues By Rep. Dan Ortiz - I recently introduced a House Joint Resolution regarding Transboundary Mining, and I was pleased to see that it is generating conversation with our B.C. neighbors. On February 26th, an opinion piece by Gavin Dirom was published in SitNews. As President of the B.C. Association for Mineral Exploration, his response focused on the benefits of the B.C. mining industry. I have read his letter and I respect his intent, but there are a few points I would like to clear up. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter to Commission Hartig By Van G. Abbott - I have just been informed that the additional cost of the Departmental Environmental Control program is perhaps as high as $2000 per year per coastal resident. I had said $500 to $1,000 based on the Ketchikan Daily News frontpage article. Apparently, their quoted cost estimate was $2000 per coastal residential property, not per common collector. My mistake. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter: Mis-allocated federal funds By A. M. Johnson - The following letter has been submitted to Representative Don Young for consideration and action. Thank you for your publication services. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter Open Letter to Rep. Ortiz By A. M. Johnson - Representative Ortiz is asking citizens to contact him with concerns so I will submit this post to his attention. Perhaps noting the potential and maybe current cost of dealing with educational cost of mult-national illegal students on a district, and the various medical potential cost to the state Medicaid program plus other's departments dealing with illegal issues now in existence or potentially to come, Ortiz will be proactive and submit legislation similar to the Missouri statutes. Again, while it may not be a huge issue, every dollar that can be addressed in savings or reduction in services to others than those who are citizens should be considered. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 08, 2017

letter New regulations concerning common outfalls By Bill Elberson - Ketchikan residents that have septic tanks connected to an ocean outfall should check out the State DEC new regulations concerning common outfalls. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 01, 2017

letter Resolution to Investigate Possible Downstream Impacts to Water and Fish By Gavin C. Dirom - As an association representing responsible mineral explorers and developers, we read with interest a February 6 story published in SitNews from Ketchikan, Alaska, regarding House Joint Resolution 9 as introduced by Representative Dan Ortiz about mine development in British Columbia. Canadians respect the rights of citizens and legislative processes in other jurisdictions, including the recent American resolution calling “to investigate long-term, region-wide downstream effects of proposed and existing industrial development”. We do, however, find the resolution puzzling given that as long-term good neighbours, the State of Alaska and Province of British Columbia, have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding that was further entrenched by a Statement of Cooperation agreement, to do essentially what Rep. Ortiz’s resolution appears to be asking for. The agreement is already being implemented by Alaska and British Columbia to ensure that water quality and aquatic life will be monitored and studied in a comprehensive, bilateral approach between the two neighbouring jurisdictions on an ongoing basis. This is good. - More...
Sunday AM - February 26, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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