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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

May 18, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By DOUG BURKMAN

Totem Bight Sunset
Totem Bight State Historical Park is a 33-acre state park located approximately 10 miles north of Ketchikan and home to 14 Native American totem poles. One of the outstanding structures at Totem Bight is a replica of a Tlingit Clan House.
Front Page Feature Photo By DOUG BURKMAN ©2017

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Alaska: Governor Walker Calls Legislature into Special Session to Fix Alaska’s Fiscal Crisis - Wednesday, Governor Bill Walker called the Legislature into special session to pass the operating and capital budgets, fix Alaska’s fiscal and opioid crises, and create the economic certainty the state needs. The Special Session began this morning, May 18, at 11:00 a.m. 

“I thank members of the House and Senate for taking positive steps toward solving Alaska’s fiscal challenges,” Governor Walker said. “However, the work is not done."

Walker said, "Our state cannot afford to continue drawing down savings to pay for schools, roads, and public safety. Alaskans deserve a complete fiscal plan that puts an end to the economic uncertainty we have been facing. It is for those reasons that I am calling the legislature into special session, and urge everyone to work toward compromise to fix the crisis now.”

The First Regular Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature ended Wednesday night with clear differences between the Alaska House Majority Coalition and the Alaska Senate Majority on the need for a comprehensive fiscal plan to address the ongoing recession and the $2.7 billion budget gap. Both majority organizations wanted the ten-day extension allowed for in the Alaska Constitution, but the House Republican Caucus refused to provide enough votes in favor. In response, Governor Bill Walker called the Alaska Legislature into a Special Session to start Thursday.  

Quoting a news release, the Alaska Senate stated they delivered a responsible operating budget and a sustainable fiscal solution while protecting working Alaskans from an income tax, all key priorities in a year with serious fiscal challenges. But without a compromise with the House at the 121-day constitutional session limit, the Senate must adjourn. Members are committed to working diligently in a special session to address these critical fiscal issues facing Alaska.

“We are required to deliver an operating budget and Alaskans deserve a fiscal solution – the Senate has delivered on both counts,” said Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks). “The House has insisted on demands that are not in the best interest of Alaska. We’ll stay as long as necessary to secure the right solution for Alaskans, and encourage the Governor to call a special session to narrow the focus to solving the fiscal problem.”

Quoting a news release, the Alaska State Senate executed promptly this session, delivering a fiscal solution in mid-March and a responsible operating budget in early April. Senate committees cleared the deck of individual priorities by day 90, focusing on key fiscal issues. They say the Alaska House delayed appointment of conference committees to resolve the differences among the two bodies, focusing instead on non-priority and personal legislation. - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

Alaska: Oil Tax Credit Disagreements Continue - Following an Alaska Senate vote Monday, the state will stop offering cash tax credits to oil companies at the end of this year. However, the Alaska House said the vote by the Senate has significantly weakened House Bill 111, which passed the House last month.

“This legislation ending our tax credit program is critical, now, to reduce our cash exposure and protect the state’s treasury,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River). “Without this bill, the state would be on the hook to make cash payments of $150 to $200 million per year, indefinitely, to the eligible small and new companies. We cannot afford to continue this practice.”

House Bill 111 eliminates the state’s cash exposure by ending the program of refundable oil and gas tax credits while protecting the basic components of the tax regime in place today. The current tax regime has boosted production and investment, drawing royalties and tax revenues to Alaska’s treasury and supplying thousands of good jobs to Alaska workers.

“Ending cash credits is a necessary step for the state, but will have serious impacts on smaller companies investing in Alaska’s oil fields,” said Sen. Cathy Giesse (R-Anchorage). “It is more important than ever we maintain a competitive tax system so we can attract the necessary investment for our future oil production, which provides critical dollars we’re counting on to the state treasury.”

With the end of the net operating loss credit statewide, the Alaska Senate and House versions of HB 111 transition to a system of carrying forward lease expenditures that result in a loss for use against future tax liability. Companies with a loss will not be able to use the loss to reduce taxes below the 4 percent gross minimum tax.

The legislation also seeks to provide new opportunities for companies holding refundable tax credits issued before Jan. 1, 2018, to offset prior year tax liabilities related to audits. - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

EPA Agrees to Allow Pebble Mine Permit Process to Proceed; Pebble Agrees to Drop Lawsuits - The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency entered into a settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership to resolve litigation from 2014 relating to EPA's prior work in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska.  The settlement provides the Pebble Limited Partnership (Pebble) an opportunity to apply for a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before EPA may move forward with its CWA process to specify limits on the disposal of certain material in connection with the potential “Pebble Mine.”

Lake Clark Nation Park and Preserve
Photo Courtesy National Parks Conservation Association
Photo By Melissa Blair ©

In 2014, under the previous administration, EPA’s Region 10 completed a multi-year watershed assessment in Bristol Bay, and then issued a CWA Section 404(c) proposed determination, which described restrictions on large-scale mining in the watershed.  Section 404 is the part of the CWA that governs the permit evaluation process for actions that discharge dredged or fill material into a covered water.

Mine developer Pebble Limited Partnership sued the EPA in 2014 over the agency’s decision to block the mine on environmental and tribal sovereignty grounds before the company had submitted its permit applications. 

The 2017 settlement comes on the heels of the new White House Administration and the appointment of a new EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt. Regarding the settlement, Pruitt said, “We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are 'regular'. We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides.  The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome, but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation. We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.” - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

Alaska: Alaska Police Standards Council Addresses Possession, Distribution, and Cultivation of Marijuana by Officers - In February of 2015, following the legalization of recreational marijuana in Alaska, the Alaska Police Standards Council (APSC) examined the applicable state regulations prohibiting certified police, correction, probation/parole, and municipal corrections officers from using or consuming marijuana and determined by a unanimous vote that the regulations should and would remain unchanged.  

In its statewide meeting on May 3, 2017, the Council announced today it determined, by unanimous vote, that possession, distribution and/or cultivation of marijuana by certified police, correction, probation/parole, and municipal corrections officers, is prohibited under applicable state regulations – even by an officer licensed by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board to possess, distribute, and/or cultivate marijuana.  The Council also determined, by unanimous vote that the regulations should and would remain unchanged.  

The Council at both the February 2015 and May 2017, meetings reaffirmed the principle that the use, possession, distribution, and/or cultivation of marijuana are incompatible with the law enforcement profession.

“While we do not have any current cases involving this conduct, in light of Alaskans’ proud entrepreneurial spirit, the council felt it may be only a matter of time before a certified officer considered pursuing a license to possess, distribute, or cultivate marijuana in Alaska,” stated Bob Griffiths, the Executive Director APSC.  “The Council decided to send a loud and clear message to those officers considering such an endeavor, that this activity was inconsistent with the ethics of professional law enforcement and is prohibited under current state regulations.”    

“The direction given by the Council was clear,” said Griffiths, “If a certified officer engages in the cultivation and/or sale of marijuana, the Council will immediately act to revoke his or her certificate.  Revocation of certification results in the officer being barred from serving as an officer for any agency in Alaska.”

In its history, APSC has revoked the certifications of nine officers for drug related misconduct and revoked, or disqualified from certification, 163 officers for a wide variety of other misconduct, Griffiths said. - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017


Fish Factor: New Fisheries Economics Report Released By LAINE WELCH -  The U.S. seafood industry’s contribution to the nation’s economy sank a bit, while Alaska’s output increased slightly and dollar values held steady.

An eagerly anticipated annual report released last week by NOAA Fisheries measures the economic impacts of U.S. commercial and recreational fisheries. It highlights values, jobs, and sales for 2015, along with a 10 year snapshot of comparisons.  A second report provides the status of U.S. fish stocks for 2016.

The Fisheries Economics Report shows that including imports, U.S. commercial fishing and the seafood industry generated $144 billion in sales in 2015, a six percent decline from the previous year, and supported 1.2 million jobs, a 15 percent decline. 

“However, it’s important to consider these figures are still above the five-year average. In fact, 2015 represents the second highest level during that period,” Alan Risenhoover, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs said at a May 9 press teleconference.

For Alaska, commercial fishermen in 2015 landed more than 6 billion pounds of fish and shellfish, a six percent increase from 2014, while the value of the catch held steady at nearly $1.7 billion. 

Fishing and processing in Alaska generated $4.4 billion in sales in 2015 and 53,400 jobs, of which 38,000 were fishermen. 

Other highlights: - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

Southeast Alaska: Woman Charged with Embezzling Approximately $300,000 from a Southeast Alaska Tribal Organization - Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that an Oregon woman has been charged with four counts of embezzlement. 

Delia Commander, 63, of Oregon, is charged in a four-count indictment with embezzling approximately $300,000 from the Skagway Traditional Council, which is a federally recognized tribal organization. 

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward, who presented the case against Delia Commander to the grand jury, from at least 2010 to 2014, the defendant embezzled approximately $300,000 from the Skagway Traditional Council. During that time, Commander was the Tribal Administrator. Commander embezzled the money by using the tribal credit card to make unauthorized cash advances at casinos and other locations, and by making unauthorized purchases with tribal funds. The purchases included paying for personal travel, online university courses, personal vehicle maintenance, and personal shopping, among other things.  - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

Revisiting a dream, 20 years later

Ned Rozell and Cora in 2017
Photo Courtesy NED ROZELL

Alaska Science:
Revisiting a dream, 20 years later By NED ROZELL - Twenty years ago, I was 34 when I walked away from a chain-link fence near Port Valdez and headed east. Those were the first steps on a summer-long trip across Alaska.

In a few days, I will begin to retrace those steps. This summer, I will try to again walk from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay along the gravel path that parallels the trans-Alaska pipeline.

The first journey, with my chocolate Labrador retriever Jane, occupied my whole summer of 1997, from early May until the end of August. With Jane, I ascended and descended the Chugach, Alaska and Brooks mountain ranges. We drank from creeks and rivers, fed a million mosquitoes and slept in a new place every night. We shared miles of trail with friends and family and did not set any speed records.

We walked for 120 days, from the time the geese were touching down until they left in big Vs. I wrote about that summer in a series of newspaper columns and a book, “Walking My Dog, Jane: From Valdez to Prudhoe Bay Along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.”

I’ll again be traveling with a dog, but my life is not as wrapped up in Cora as it was in Jane. This time I’ll also share some trail with wife Kristen and daughter Anna.

Why do it again? A few years ago, former UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers suggested I hike the trail at the 20-year anniversary. I had not thought of repeating the experience. For the most part, I agree with Talkeetna adventurer Dave Johnston’s philosophy: It’s a big world. Why do anything twice? - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017




TOM PURCELL: Fake Dirty Jeans: Just $425 in Real Money - Every now and then, I come across items in the news that make me worry about the future of our country.

Here's one such item: CNNMoney reports that Americans are paying hundreds of dollars for dirty jeans.

According to Nordstrom, a nutty retailer that sells such jeans, they "embody rugged, Americana workwear that's seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you're not afraid to get down and dirty."

They sell for 425 bucks a pair.

And, believe it or not, the distressed-jeans phenomenon has been around for a while.

"The filthy fashion statement isn't actually new," reports CNNMoney. "The jeans have been for sale at Nordstrom as well as at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue for quite some time."

This causes my father to rise up in me as I say, "What the ... ." - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

jpg Dave Kiffer

DAVE KIFFER: Quibbles and Bits - Sometimes you just have to patch a column together with bits and pieces, or in my case - stealing a title from a column I used to write for the college newspaper 30 years ago .... Quibbles and Bits.

Since our school mascot was the Husky, and one of the highly ranked officials at our school was named "Astro" it seemed appropriate to use a pun on the popular dog food for my ramblings.

Natch, whenever the aforementioned Dean Astro would issue a statement, we would title it "Rime Rorry."

Which I'm sure did not amuse him, but it sure amused us - and other fans of the Jetsons' TV show as well.

But, as usual, I digress.

On to the Quibbles and Bits:

Like how I got a flyer in the mail for a book called "101 English Idioms: Learn to Speak Like An American Straight from the Horse's Mouth." Gee, I hate to be a "neigh" sayer, but..... - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Washington scandals

Editorial Cartoon: Washington scandals
By Dave Granlund ©2017,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Oil Tax Credits By Rep. Dan Ortiz - What are the priorities of Alaskans? Does our budget reflect those priorities?

The Senate’s priority is loud and clear: oil companies. The Senate’s revision of HB 111, “Oil and Gas Production Tax,” works only for oil companies while leaving Alaskans worse for the wear. - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

letter Oil Tax Credits By John Suter - Kudos to the Alaska State Senate for holding out on the one billion dollars owed to oil firms in subsides.  The millionaires and billionaires in the lower 48 who own these oil firms are having hard times too and their need for this money outweighs any needs the state may have for this money.  Education and public safety could not possibly be as important as the needs of the millionaires and the billionaires.  - More...
Thursday PM - May 18, 2017

letter High time to do the right thing By Vince Beltrami - As the Executive President of the Alaska AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor organization, I have watched our number of members drop by 3,000 in the last year and a half. In that same time frame, Alaska has lost around 9,000 jobs, so about a third of those jobs came from our ranks. They are evenly split between public sector and private sector workers, in nearly every field imaginable, all around the state. - More...
Friday PM - May 12, 2017

letter Land exchange By Rep. Dan Ortiz - I am pleased with the passage of SB 88 Wednesday morning on the House Floor. The bill, which authorizes a land exchange between the Alaska Mental Health Land Trust Authority and the United States Forest Service, passed the Senate 20-0 and the House 38-1. It parallels federal legislation that our congressional delegation was able to pass earlier this week, and I am proud that the state legislature stepped up to the plate and passed such an important piece of legislation. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Deer Mountain Land Exchange By A. M. Johnson - The moment has arrived that finds the need to announce a Mea Culpa.

Some time back when the issue of logging on Deer Mountain was raised, a local group headed by Bob Weinstein gathered a effort to have the issue ultimately addressed through a proposed land swap with the U.S.Forest Service. Believing that an effort such as that at the local level was doomed even with state input. The federal position and the then political party in control having a track record of saying 'No' I concocted a letter to this publication taking the effort to task with a sarcastic tone. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Cuts to People Experiencing Developmental Disabilities – Supported Time in the Community By Rita Menzies, Roxanne Abajian, Julie Dowling, Alonso Escalante, Ralph Mackie, Adam Thompson, & Bett Union-Jakubet - We write to you today on behalf of not only individuals with intellectual disabilities we serve, but also their families, our staff, and community. One of the budget cuts that is critical for this population is the Day Habilitation Services. With the current budgets proposed for Senior & Disabilities Services (SDS), Day Habilitation Services will be capped at 8-12 hours per week per individual. The number of hours of Day Habilitation currently is individualized according to the plan of care and the needs of the individual, averaging 40 hours/ week/ individual. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Firing of FBI Director James Comey By Rev. Larry Emery - Sen. Murkowski has expressed that the timing of the firing of FBI Director James Comey is a “serious cause for concern.”  This “concern” should be expressed in nothing less than the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to investigate the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Russia Invades White House By Donald Moskowitz - LT GEN Flynn was fired from his position as National Security Advisor because he lied to Vice President Pence about his contact with Russian officials concerning the sanctions on Russia. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter American government cannot be trusted By John Suter - The American government needs to subcontract out to the KGB or the GRU Russian Intelligence Agency to do the investigation on the connection of the White House with the Russians and the 2016 election interference.  They can do it much cheaper and faster.  They are the ones who have the most information on this in the first place.  - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Searching for family and friends of the deceased Joel Mehall By Arve Robert Pisani - In October 1980 I got a letter signed Joseph Mehallic alias Joel Mehall. For some time we corresponded about the Normandy Campaign in 1944 in which he had taken part as a paratrooper in the famous 101st Airborne Division. Also called the Screaming Eagles. As years went by I lost contact with Joel. About 2008-2009 I started to try to find him and made a search on internet. Unfortunately, I found there an obituary for Joel. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Russians Didn’t Orchestrate Trump’s  Election – So Let’s Move On By Gary S. Miliefsky - Ever since Americans woke up on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016, to find out that Donald Trump had won the presidential election and would be the 45th President of the United States, many have been wondering how Trump pulled it off. - More...
Thursday PM - May 11, 2017

letter Alaskans Get the Short End of the Stick By Norma Lankerd - I'm writing to COMPLAIN on why Alaskans who live and reside in the State of Alaska year around ALWAYS get the short end of the stick?  As soon as the Tourist season comes around the price of everything in Alaska always increase.  I live in Metlakatla, i do my shopping in Ketchikan because i can get more for my $$, but now that its the beginning of the summer season the cost of the Alaska ferry system from Metlakatla to Ketchikan has discontinued the 1/2 price off for the driver and the price increased $5.00 more just for a 45 minute ride, IT WOULD BE DIFFERENT if our State would allow the Lituya to run 7 days a week instead of Thursday through Monday.  I believe the Lituya is practically the only Ferry that keeps the Ferries afloat.  Even the hotel prices have gone up in the Ketchikan area, more so that the Tourist season is here. - More...
Monday PM - May 08, 2017

letter Pleased With USCG Work Crew By A.M. Johnson - Recently in the past couple of days, working outside I noticed that the Pond Reef marker beacon was one-blinking during daylight hours and two very erratic in the blinking sequence. - More...
Monday PM - May 08, 2017

letter RE: House Majority Coalition's Bogus School Tax is Disappointing By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Mr. Bockhorst is correct. If the legislature implements the Education Funding Act, we can’t dedicate monies collected to any government spending, as the Legislature can’t adopt dedicated taxes. Our intent is to put the monies into the Public Education Fund to forward-fund education. The bill language says we “may” do this, because we cannot make a law saying we “will” do this. I have spoken with Dan Bockhorst about the inherent inequity in how property taxpayers in organized boroughs bear a greater burden to pay for education compared to those in unorganized areas. I have explored, and will continue to explore, legislative actions to mitigate this inequity. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 03, 2017

letter House Majority Coalition's Bogus School Tax is Disappointing By Dan Bockhorst - The Alaska State House passed the Education Funding Act (House Bill 115) on April 16 by a unanimous vote of all 22 House Coalition members. However, none of the other 18 members of the House voted for the bill. The measure is now under consideration in the Senate. - More...
Monday PM - May 01, 2017

letter Stop Corruption By Andrée McLeod - There’s a very important bill stuck in the Democrat-led House Majority Coalition that needs to be on the books in order to stop corruption in the Capitol.  SB 5 is sponsored by Senator Kevin Meyer (R, Anchorage) and has already passed the Senate unanimously. - More...
Monday PM - May 01, 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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