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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
March 18, 2019

U.S. Coast Guard station Ketchikan's nightlights
reflecting on the Tongass Narrows.
Front Page Feature Photo By TERRI JIRSCHELE ©2019

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Monday PM

Southeast Alaska: Record of Decision Signing Ceremony Concludes Two-Year Collaboration on POW Project By MARY KAUFFMAN - A signing ceremony of the Record of De A signing ceremony of the Record of Decision for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis project aimed to improve forest health while supporting the resilience and economies of local communities was held Saturday in Craig at the Craig Tribal Association Building. The signing by the USDA Forest Service concluded a two-year collaboration of the Prince of Wales project.

“It is important that we honor the effort of the members of the Prince of Wales Landscape Assessment Team,” said Tongass Forest Supervisor M. Earl Stewart. “Their hard work, meeting monthly over the course of a year to achieve consensus on the collection of actions, helped ensure the Forest Service’s management actions on Prince of Wales will align with the agreed direction of this district’s diverse stakeholders.”

Jon Bollig, POW LAT Chairperson said, “The POW Landscape Assessment Team, made up of residents from Prince of Wales Island, identified a series of goals, ideas, and projects in an open, public, and structured process over the course of a year or more.  Those goals, ideas, and projects are seen by the POW LAT as important to the residents, communities, and the natural function of the forest in the POW Island area. I am gratified that most of the activities that POW LAT identified are included in the landscape assessment document, and look forward to the implementation of timber harvest, restoration, and recreation activities over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The decision will implement a 15-year, integrated resources management plan for federal lands on Prince of Wales Island. It is the result of a highly collaborative, public process that included significant input from an independently formed, broadly based group, as well as local tribes, youth and the general public.

The purpose of the project is to improve forest ecosystem health in the project area, help support community resiliency, and provide economic development through an integrated approach to meet multiple resource objectives. There are a host of actions within the decision, spanning many programs and stakeholder interests, including but not limited to: up to 200 miles of instream restoration, up to three recreation cabins, 12 new three-sided shelters, 4,500 acres per year of pre-commercial and wildlife thinning treatments, and trail construction and maintenance.

Defenders of Wildlife Senior Alaska Representative, Patrick Lavin, issued a prepared statement regarding the signing of the Record of Decision for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis project.

Lavin said, "The U.S. Forest Service committed to transition away from logging old-growth on the Tongass three years ago because there is no future in clearcutting these magnificent forests. But today the Forest Service announced the largest old-growth logging project in decades, doubling down on the U.S. taxpayer-subsidized destruction of rare ancient forest habitat on Prince of Wales Island." 

“Liquidating valuable forest habitat and exporting the logs to Asia won’t create many jobs but will threaten wildlife such as the Alexander Archipelago wolf, Sitka black-tailed deer, northern flying squirrel and many other old-growth dependent species. It will also threaten the region’s real economic drivers, which are fishing, recreation and tourism,“ said Lavin. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

Alaska: Pacific Halibut season Opens in Alaska; NOAA announces 2019 charter and commercial halibut management measures - Pacific halibut season opened Friday statewide in Alaska, according to a final rule just posted in the Federal Register by NOAA Fisheries. The regulations, adopted at the annual meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission February 1, go into effect immediately.  

The United States and Canada reached a new agreement on coast-wide Pacific halibut catch limits at the IPHC meeting, with the U.S receiving a 82.3% share of the 2019 total catch of  29.4 million pounds - or 23.5 million pounds for U.S. fishermen, an 8.2 percent increase from last year. 

“While the overall quota for 2019 is a slight increase over 2018, the catch limits agreed to at the meeting reflect a sensible, conservative approach that will secure the future of this iconic and economically important species,” according to a statement issued following the IPHC meeting by Chris Oliver, Administrator for NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Commissioner to the IPHC.

Alaska’s total halibut catch was set at 22.0 million pounds, up nearly 1.5 million pounds from 2018. There was an increase in allocations in all areas except 3B (western Gulf of Alaska). 

For charter halibut operators in Alaska, the following regulations are in effect: - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

Alaska: Department of Revenue Releases Spring 2019 Revenue Forecast - The Alaska Department of Revenue (DOR) Commissioner Bruce Tangeman released the spring 2019 revenue forecast Friday. The spring forecast includes the Department’s updated FY19, FY20, and long-term forecasts for oil price, oil production, and state revenue. 

Not counting transfers from the Permanent Fund, the Department is forecasting unrestricted revenue of $2.7 billion in FY 2019 and $2.3 billion in FY 2020. 

Additionally, the Permanent Fund is expected to transfer $2.7 billion to the general fund in FY 2019 and $2.9 billion to the general fund in FY 2020. These amounts are available both for payment of Permanent Fund Dividends and for general government spending. 

The forecast represents a decrease in expected Unrestricted General Fund revenue of $89 million for FY 2019 and an increase of $39 million for FY 2020, compared to the projection in the fall 2018 forecast. Beyond FY 2020, the unrestricted revenue forecast has been decreased by between $50 million and $100 million per year for FY 2021-2028. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019


Alaska: Record number of Alaskans testify in support of Alaska Marine Highway System By MARY KAUFFMAN - A record number of Alaskans testified in the House Transportation Committee meetings last week.

The subject that motivated such an incredible outpouring was the existential threat that Governor Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposal represents to the critical services provided to coastal communities by the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Last Tuesday alone, 484 Alaskans signed up to testify to the committee, the highest recorded on any topic since the Legislative Information Office began tracking testimony. Another 133 testified on Thursday, bringing the total to 617. There were so many people in attendance that an overflow room was needed at times. Additionally, 241 submitted written testimony.

“This is irrefutable evidence that Alaskans are unwilling to accept dramatic cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican who co-chairs the Transportation Committee.

Stutes said, “For many coastal communities, especially in winter when seaplanes often get weathered out, the blue canoe is the only way to access affordable food, healthcare, and move timber, fish, and other Alaskan products to market.”

Following the March 14th hearing, Rep. Sara Rasmussen (R-Anchorage) and Rep. Kelly Merrick (R-Eagle River) issued statements regarding the focus on the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) and neglect of other outstanding transportation and infrastructure issues in the State of Alaska.

“While the House Transportation Committee sits through yet another session of testimony [Thursday] afternoon on the Alaska Marine Highway System, the rest of our state’s transportation and infrastructure issues continue to be neglected,” said Rep. Sara Rasmussen (R-Anchorage), a member of the House Transportation Committee. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

Monday PM

Alaska: Excessive Travel Expenditures Plan Irresponsible; House Finance Committee unveils schedule for community budget meetings Monday afternoon- After learning through a public blog of the Alaska House Finance Committee’s plans to spend tens of thousands of state dollars to fly members around the state campaigning for an increase in government spending, Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard (R-Wasilla) called the travel expenditures plan irresponsible.

Sullivan-Leonard said in a prepared statement, “After waiting nearly a month to organize the House, the fact that the Democrat-led House Majority now plans to spend tens of thousands of state dollars to fly members around the state campaigning for an increase in government spending in the middle of legislative session is astounding to me.”

“This is a great depiction of why the people of Alaska do not trust in their legislature – we’re in the middle of a huge budget deficit and House leadership wants to spend money that we do not have to try and advocate for spending even more money that we do not have. Other departments in the government are cutting their state travel budgets down by 50% or more – they didn’t give that money to the Democrat-led House Majority to spend for them," said Sullivan-Leonard. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

Gift Shop Volunteers Give Almost $54,000 to Fund KMC projects

Gift Shop Volunteers Give Almost $54,000
to Fund KMC projects

Photo (left to right): Nadine Robertson, Carolyn Wilsie, Jeanne Sande,
Margaret Lynne, Ruth Tompsett, Marion Nell, Kathy Fitzgerald,
Melody Moniz, and Merri Lystad
Photo courtesy Ketchikan Medical Center


Ketchikan: Gift Shop Volunteers Give Almost $54,000 to Fund KMC projects - The Gift Shop at the Ketchikan Medical Center is a little nook in the lobby full of lovely things – blankets and clothes for babies, socks, jewelry and toys, purses, candy bars…and some wonderful volunteers who donate their time and talent to make it tick.

Each year the volunteers donate proceeds from the shop back to PeaceHealth Ketchikan. They met Saturday, March 9 and decided on 13 projects from a list submitted by various departments totaling $53,948.

Here’s what they funded:

• Replaced a monitoring system for patients having endoscopies for the Anesthesia Department $9978

• Five bassinets to provide for safe sleep and transport in New Beginnings Labor and Delivery $15,110

• Two one-arm drive wheelchairs for residents in New Horizons Long Term Care who have mobility issues $2000 - More...
Monday PM - March 18, 2019

Fish Factor: New Lender Available to Young Alaska Fishermen By LAINE WELCH - A new lender is offering loans to young Alaska fishermen who want to buy into the halibut and sablefish fisheries, and repayment is based on their catches. 

The Local Fish Fund  opened its doors this month to provide alternative loan structures to young fishermen as a way to help turn the tide on the trend called the “graying of the fleet.” The average age of an Alaska fisherman today is 50 and fewer recruits are choosing the fishing life. 

A big part of what’s turning them away is the cost to buy into fisheries that are limited through permits, or in the case of halibut, catch shares that can cost up to $75 a pound. The high values have made conventional loans unobtainable, especially for crewmen who may know how to catch fish but have little collateral. 

" The cost and risk involved in accessing Alaska’s quota share fisheries are comparable to purchasing a hotel as a first step in home ownership,” said Linda Behnken, founder of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust  and director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka. “We’re looking for ways to help the next generation of fishing families get that start and build sufficient equity to eventually access conventional loans.”

The Trust is among a group of entities that collaborated on the unique lending concept for more than a decade. They include The Nature Conservancy, Craft3, Rasmuson Foundation, Catch Together, Oak Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

The Local Fish Fund was jump started with $1.5 million from Catch Together and the Rasmuson Foundation and will be centered for now on fisheries in Southeast Alaska.

“We’re hoping to build the fund to be available more broadly and capitalize at a higher level,” Behnken said.

The Fund’s  flexible “revenue participation” approach will let fishermen repay their loans according to the ups and downs of fishing.

“Part of what has made it really challenging to buy into the fisheries is the uncertainty and how that will affect their ability to make fixed payments that don’t fluctuate as catches or fish prices drop,” Behnken said. “We share and reduce that risk so the payments are based on what fishermen are paid at the dock. If the price falls, so does the payment; conversely, if they go up, it’s a bigger share.” 

The Local Fish Fund comes with another good catch. Fishermen are encouraged to participate in local resource conservation projects, such as electronic monitoring or networking to keep whales away from fishing gear. They are given a one percent break in their loan interest if they do.

“Part of our goal is to involve more fishermen in conservation research and fisheries management. Our perspective has always been that fishermen are the best problem solvers and when we engage them, we find solutions,” Behnken said. 

 “Some of the partners we’re working with are coming specifically from that impact investment sector that is trying to obtain conservation goals through innovative lending,” said Dustin Solberg of The Nature Conservancy in Cordova.  “There are great opportunities for fishermen and scientists to team up to get a better understanding of our fisheries and the ocean environment.”  - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019


jpg Political Cartoon: Cheating on Tests

Political Cartoon: Cheating on Tests
By Daryl Cagle ©2019, CagleCartoons.com
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

The Subdivision That Never Was By Harlan Heaton - About forty years ago the State of Alaska designed a ninety six lot subdivision in the Mountain Point area. The State sold over half of these lots to the citizens of Ketchikan. When these lots were sold forty years ago, the buyers were told by the State that there would be access to their lots.

Fast forward to the present. These property owners still have no access to their property, and have been paying property taxes for the past forty years. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough owns eighteen of the lots in this subdivision, and pay no property tax. Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority was granted several lots in the subdivision from a settlement with the State of Alaska. These lots are also tax exempt.

Last year the Borough put their lots up for sale. I received a five year option to purchase the eighteen lots the Ketchikan Gateway Borough has owned since this subdivision was sold forty years ago. In order for any development to happen the lots that are owned by the Borough and Alaska Mental Health that are tax exempt need to go into private ownership. The Borough and Alaska Mental Health will not accept any portion of the construction cost. I made an offer to purchase eleven lots from Alaska Mental Health so this construction could start to happen. This purchase agreement is set to expire on April 1, 2019 at this time Alaska Mental Health wants twice the appraised value of the lots. Because of the high cost of construction, I cannot pay more than the appraised value. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

jpg Opinion

School District failure to report child abuse By Margaret Cloud - Mark O'Brien is correct that school district employees annually sign that they are aware of their legal requirements to report witnessed abuse as well as report if there is cause to believe that abuse has occurred.  I had to read and sign the same type of document when employed by a private Alaskan school. - More...
Monday AM - March 18, 2019

jpg Opinion

Open Letter: Live Within Means By Byron Whitesides - We have known this time was coming for years, but our legislative leadership has failed to prepare for it, bringing us to this disaster, with no rational, SUSTAINABLE, way out but to cut the size of government, and live within our means. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 13, 2019

jpg Opinion

Open Letter to the Ketchikan School Board By John Harrington - I am here to talk about the Edwards' Mess. With the plea agreement, Mr. Edwards part in the mess has reached a conclusion. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 13, 2019

jpg Opinion

Budget and education By A. M. Johnson - Resolutions aside, the proposed Dunlevy budget pertaining to education, two points. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 13, 2019

jpg Opinion

Sealaska shareholders need Congressional Intervention By Dominic Salvato - 75 million dollars paid to a handful of people collecting it year in and year out over a ten year period. Paid by thousands of shareholders barely surviving. 

With no end in sight! - More...
Wednesday PM - March 13, 2019

jpg Opinion

Ketchikan has been hornswoggled By Mark O'Brien - My brothers and I used to get a kick out of watching Saturday morning Looney Tunes cartoons and always looked forward to seeing Yosemite Sam. Hearing him say, “Dagnabbit! Ah been, I say, Ah been hornswoggled” after Bugs Bunny slipped away always brought a laugh. Now, watching the Edwards’ case play out in our school district, I have new-found empathy for Yosemite Sam’s predicament; and it is not laughable. - More...
Sunday PM - March 10, 2019

jpg Opinion

Funding & the Future of AMHS By A.M.Johnson
- The following has been submitted to Representative Ortiz regarding the funding and future of our Alaska Marine Highway. I'd recommend that those who hold strong feelings or suggestions, be they contrary or debatable, be submitted to Representative Ortiz. He will accept all forms of input. He has asked for our assistance on this budget item, accommodate him. - More...
Sunday PM - March 10, 2019

jpg Opinion

Alaskans deserve a fair chance to weigh in on Pebble Mine By Rep. Andrew Josephson - Twenty members of the Alaska House of Representatives signed a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting an extension of the deadline for Alaskans to weigh in on the Pebble Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement. - More...
Tuesday PM - March 05, 2019

jpg Opinion

Conserving Electricity By Judith Green - Would it help our present Lack of Precipitation if all neon signs were turned off during daylight hours? - End...
Tuesday PM - March 05, 2019

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