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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
May 01, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By GERRY K. BALLUTA

Spring is Bustin' Out
Photo of the blooms of one of the ornamental trees in
front of KPU, North Tongass location.
Front Page Feature Photo By GERRY K. BALLUTA ©2019

Photos of the Month

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Alaska: State Operating Budget Approved By Senate; Includes $3,000 PFD Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Senate today passed the state’s operating budget for fiscal year 2020 with the bill now going back to the House for concurrence. If the House agrees, the operating budget would then go to Governor Michael Dunleavy for his signature.

The budget passed by the Senate today includes $4.3 billion in unrestricted general funds (UGF) for agency and statewide operations – a reduction of $258 million over last year – and $1.94 billion to pay each eligible Alaskan a Permanent Fund dividend of approximately $3,000. 

Including a $3,000 dividend in the Senate’s version of the budget creates the possibility for a House and Senate conference committee to negotiate up to the full, statutory dividend amount. 

“This budget protects the Permanent Fund for future generations of Alaskans, grows the economy, and keeps Alaskans safe,” said Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “The nine-member Senate Finance Committee – representing diverse viewpoints across our vast state – produced a budget Alaskans can be proud of.”  

$18.4 billion of Alaska’s $64.5 billion Permanent Fund is currently in an earnings reserve account that can be spent by the Legislature with a simple majority vote. To protect these funds, the Senate’s budget moves $12 billion from the earnings reserve into the constitutionally protected corpus, which cannot be accessed without amending the state’s constitution.     

“Defending the Permanent Fund is a top priority for the Senate,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “This budget locks away $12 billion into the Permanent Fund’s principal, taking nearly one-fifth of the fund’s assets off the table. This historic transfer will force the Legislature to have a conversation about a sustainable dividend calculation moving forward.”  

The House's operating budget bill passed with a vote of 24-14 on April 11th and was sent to the Senate for consideration. The House did not address the permanent fund dividend in their operating budget referred to the Senate for consideration. The House approved a $4.3 billion of unrestricted general fund spending for Fiscal Year 2020, meaning there was a $200 million reduction compared to what will be spent in this fiscal year. The Senate operating budget passed today included a reduction of $258 million over last year and $1.94 billion to pay each eligible Alaskan a Permanent Fund dividend of approximately $3,000. 

House Bill 39 passed the Senate by a vote of 19 to 1 and is now on its way back to the Alaska House of Representatives for concurrence. Because changes were made in the Senate, a joint House-Senate conference committee will convene to sort out the differences before final passage from the Legislature. The Senate's $1.94 billion to pay each eligible Alaskan a Permanent Fund dividend of approximately $3,000 will be considered by the House. 

Once the operating budget is passed by the Legislature, Governor Michael Dunleavy then has 30 days to sign the bill or to make vetoes.

The Senate’s budget affirms the FY20 forward-funding for K-12 education approved last year. In mid-April, the House operating budget protected K-12 education, with the base student allocation and per pupil transportation fully funded and forward funding for Fiscal Year 2021. Head Start, Early Childhood Education grants, and Best Beginnings were also fully funded, as was public broadcasting infrastructure. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

Alaska: Beware of Scam in Swabbing Cheeks of Seniors for DNA Cancer Checks - The Consumer Protection Unit of the Alaska Attorney General’s Office warns Alaskans that a new health care scam is on the rise and may be coming to Alaska. The Division of Insurance has received reports of groups going to senior living communities, assisted living facilities, senior centers and RV/trailer parks offering to swab the cheeks of seniors for genetic material. The scammers are saying the swabs are to perform tests of DNA for cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

If a non-cancer patient provides material for genetic testing under the pretense that the test would be covered by Medicare, this may be a scam or fraud. Be alert if anyone asking to swab your cheeks requests that you agree to be billed for services in the event Medicare does not pay. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

Chemical records in teeth confirm elusive Alaska lake seals are one of a kind

Chemical records in teeth confirm elusive Alaska lake seals are one of a kind
One of the Iliamna Lake seals seen just off a gravel beach on the east end of the lake, the seals’ primary habitat.
Photo By Jason Ching/University of Washington


Alaska: Chemical records in teeth confirm elusive Alaska lake seals are one of a kind - Hundreds of harbor seals live in Iliamna Lake, the largest body of freshwater in Alaska and one of the most productive systems for sockeye salmon in the Bristol Bay region.

These lake seals are a robust yet highly unusual and cryptic posse. Although how the seals first colonized the lake remains a mystery, it is thought that sometime in the distant past, a handful of harbor seals likely migrated from the ocean more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) upriver to the lake, where they eventually grew to a consistent group of about 400. These animals are important for Alaska Native subsistence hunting, and hold a top spot in the lake's diverse food web.

Scientists now know these "colonizing" seals must have found the lake suitable enough to stay and raise their offspring. Generations later, the lake-bound seals appear to be a genetically distinct population from their ocean-dwelling cousins -- even though they are still managed as part of the larger Eastern Pacific harbor seal population. 

But if the lake seals are distinct and show signs of local adaptation to their unique ecological setting, this would mean that their conservation -- especially in the face of the rapidly changing climate of western Alaska and proposed industrial developments -- should differ from that of nearby marine populations.

Lifelong chemical records stored in their sequentially growing canine teeth show that the Iliamna Lake seals remain in freshwater their entire lives, relying on food sources produced in the lake to survive. In contrast, their relatives in the ocean are opportunistic feeders, moving around to the mouths of different rivers to find the most abundant food sources, which includes a diverse array of marine food items in addition to the adult salmon returning to Bristol Bay's nine major watersheds. These findings are described in a paper published online in March in Conservation Biology.

"We clearly show these seals are in the lake year-round, throughout their entire lives," said lead author Sean Brennan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington's School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. "This gives us critical baseline information that can weigh in on how we understand their ecology, and we can use that information to do a better job developing a conservation strategy." - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

Alaska: Scientists see fingerprint of warming climate on droughts going back to 1900 - In an unusual new study, scientists say they have detected the fingerprint of human-driven global warming on patterns of drought and moisture across the world as far back as 1900. Rising temperatures are well documented back at least that far, but this is the first time researchers have identified resulting long-term global effects on the water supplies that feed crops and cities. Among the observations, the researchers documented drying of soils across much of populous North America, central America, Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Other areas, including the Indian subcontinent, have become wetter. They say the trends will continue, with severe consequences for humans. The study appears this week in the leading journal Nature.

In general, scientists agree that as global warming progresses, many now dry regions will become drier, and wet ones will become wetter. Some recent studies suggest that human-induced warming has intensified droughts in particular regions, including a now near 20-year ongoing drought in the southwestern United States. However, the last report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says confidence in attributing specific ongoing events directly to humans is still chancy. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019


Southeast Alaska: AMHS to Hold Open House on State's First 'Made in Alaska' ferry - In celebration of the Alaska Marine Highway's (AMHS) first Alaska Class ferry revenue voyage and the state's first Made in Alaska ferry, AMHS will hold an open house this weekend on the new Alaska Class Ferry, the M/V Tazlina.

The open house will be held at Juneau's Frank Palmer Auke Bay Ferry Terminal on Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 3 PM to 5 PM. The vessel will be open to the public and will remain docked throughout the event.

The Tazlina is named after the Tazlina Glacier located 43 miles north of Valdez, and was named by Melea Voran who won a vessel-naming essay contest as a 7th grader in the Port Alsworth Tanalian School.

The vessel was designed by Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle, Washington and constructed at Vigor Shipyard in Ketchikan, Alaska. The Tazlina is the first Alaska Marine Highway ferry built in Alaska, along with its sister ship the M/V Hubbard. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

Ketchikan: New officers installed for Ketchikan VFW, Auxiliary - April elections brought a few new faces to Ragnar Myking VFW Post 4352 and its Auxiliary. While some officers remained in their stations to continue their service to veterans and the community, some new members stepped forward to take a greater role in the organization.

All new officers were installed during a post ceremony on April 27, 2019. The VFW Post election took place at their April 9th meeting. The Auxiliary election took place at their April 2nd meeting.

Newly elected officers to the VFW include: Frank Sherman as Junior Vice Commander, Joseph Reeves as Quartermaster, and George Houck as Trustee.

Returning officers to the VFW include: Paul Robbins Jr. as Commander, Edsel Clayton Jr. as Senior Vice Commander, Dennis Spurgeon as Chaplain, Ken Horn as Trustee, and Gwenna Richardson as Trustee. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

Ketchikan: Ketchikan Community Foundation to Announce 2019 Grant Winners - On Friday May 10, the Ketchikan Community Foundation (KCF) will announce this year’s recipients of its grants awards program. KCF expects to award at least $20,000 to qualified nonprofit organizations serving the Ketchikan area.
The grants will be presented at 5:30 p.m. Friday May 10 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, 50 Main St.

A total of 16 organizations submitted grant applications this year, according to Marggie Sweetman, KCF grant committee chair. Of those, she said eight were able to be funded.

The public presentation to grant recipients and their supporters has become an annual affair, according to Sweetman. “It’s a wonderful event that allows many of our local nonprofit organizations to gather together to celebrate the work they all do,” she said. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019



JEfF LUND: Dear summer guests,  - People get really poetic about their fishing trips, hunting trips or cruise ship excursions in Alaska. Those who get the most fired up about it here, talk about Alaska as if it’s a love story, as if it provides the essence to their existence yet when they return home, how many of them can tell their friends about a single person who lives there? What type of person calls this place home, do you have any idea? That’s the real treat. What type of person endures all that rain you hear about and lives all those stereotypes – not just works here for the nice part of the year. The people who are part of a community, not just the work force. 

Chances are you’ve seen photography or read articles inspired by Alaska that were done by people on visits just like you. But we’ve got our own stories to tell. 

That hoodie that says “Net Fish and Chill” was made by a seventh generation Ketchikanian. When worthy members of his family pass, they are honored with Viking funerals. He could probably do the ancestory.com thing, but probably doesn’t have to. 

That kid over there fueling up the plane before you take off to the Misty Fjords? He helped Kayhi win its first state basketball championship in over 40 years. That kid over there? She was on the Academic Decathlon team that won the National Championship last year. Yeah, National. Competed against private schools around the nation, and she and her teammates won. That girl won state in the National Oceanic Science Bowl, that kid is heading to Princeton.

In fact, contrary to what you might think about being sheltered, I’ve found that students in Ketchikan might just be more prepared for the real world than that of their Lower 48 counterparts. I taught high school in California for ten years and would put the best Ketchikan has to offer up with the best I had down there. Why? Alaska kids have summer jobs that require charisma, social skills and combating stereotypes. By the time they are ready to get to college, they have organized schools of you esteemed guests and know that if Ketchikan isn’t like the stereotype, most other places probably aren’t either. - More...
Wednesday PM - May 01, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Stunt Your Growth

Political Cartoon: Stunt Your Growth
By Rick McKee ©, The Augusta Chronicle, GA
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Alaska needs a thoughtful approach to a sustainable budget By Ed Rasmuson - Last November, we were reminded of something that offers us great hope about the future of our state.

In the aftermath of the earthquake last November, we saw Alaskans at their best - neighbors helping neighbors; Alaskans supporting and comforting each other. We saw people rolling up their sleeves, ready to help, whatever the need might be.

For a few days, your political affiliation didn’t matter. Divisiveness was superseded by the shared experience we’d just gone through and our drive as Alaskans to overcome yet another challenge.

Let’s channel that same positive spirit as we address Alaska’s fiscal situation.

When Rasmuson Foundation was created in 1955, its permanent endowment was set up to grow along with our state. It was established to promote the tradition of Alaskans helping other Alaskans. Since then, Rasmuson Foundation has invested more than $400 million in this state, on hospitals and clinics, libraries and museums, senior centers, parks, food banks, domestic violence shelters, treatment centers and more. For each one of the thousands of projects we have invested in over the decades, we have had a partner in Alaska’s nonprofit community. We believe nonprofits are the social fabric behind a strong community, doing critical community work better, with greater innovation, and often more efficiently than if it were left to government alone. Nonprofits are connected to the people they serve and know and understand their needs.
Since Gov. Mike Dunleavy released his proposed budget, we have been talking with nonprofits across Alaska about the impact $1.6 billion in cuts will have on their work and on the Alaskans they serve. We are deeply concerned. Here is some of what we’ve learned:- More...
Thursday AM - May 02, 2019

jpg Opinion

Oil & Gas Tax Reform By Mary Lynne Dahl - I do not make a habit of offering my opinions publicly. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I try my best to judge impartially, on a non-partisan basis. I have spent the last 35 years of my professional life giving financial advice as objectively as humanly possible. With these things in mind, I have decided that I must comment on one aspect of the debate over the fiscal situation Alaska finds herself in and the prospects for solutions to the problems.

I am not going to address the debate about whether or not to solve the financial problems of the state via budget cutting or increased income. That is another subject. My comments in this letter are directed solely to one issue of concern that has not been discussed enough and which, I believe, is critically important to solving our budget crisis. The subject is complex, so I will try here to keep it fairly straightforward, in an effort to make it understandable at all levels and representative of the most important points for citizens to consider.

That issue is the oil and gas tax system in Alaska. The Alaska system is based on a hybrid methodology of collecting taxes on a combination of mostly net tax basis and some gross tax basis. Unlike Alaska, all other state oil tax systems are gross systems.. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

The Income Tax: A Way Out By Ghert Abbott - We should all be very grateful to Representative Dan Ortiz for his efforts to compel a straight answer from the Governor during the April 8th public meeting. Representative Ortiz pointed out that the Governor was being “disingenuous” in claiming his administration’s budget had no taxes, when it essentially necessitated local tax increases due to cost shifting from the state to local governments.

Governor Dunleavy’s reply: “No, we’re not proposing taxes at the state level, but will the local municipalities have to ponder additional taxes? Yes they will.”

And with that the Governor gave the game away; Dunleavy is all for taxation, provided it is the most geographically unequal and socially unfair taxation imaginable. While attention has naturally focused on the existential threat that the combination of AMHS elimination, Medicaid cuts, public education cuts, and state university cuts would pose to our town, this is the long term danger. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

KCCB Collage II Concert By Judith Green - Well, another great evening of music from our own talented community members. Last week end it was 3 in 1: Ketchikan Community Chorus (Director Steve Kinney) with Ketchikan Orchestra Project(Director Jeff Karlson and Deidra Nuss) and Ketchikan Community Band (Director Roy McPherson).

This week end it was the KCCB - Ketchikan Community Concert Band under Roy McPherson.

A wonderful evening with a continuum of music all around the ballroom. The Ted Ferry Civic Center was lovely. Every wall in the ballroom had information about pieces to be played with pictures, hand made quilts, history. The tables were assigned with classical composer names and had decorative hand made lights; hand made soap from AURORA Soap Magic (a local artisan) all about The Man In Ice; and a fortune teller cube with 4 of the pieces that were played along with some notes about the music. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

Lisa Murkowski's Nuclear energy plan By Robert Rice - My god, do we need our own mini Fukishima? She said "the only alternate energy source available in Alaska is Hydro power." No wind or sun available here? Also ended by saying how good this would be for oil and mining operations. (Could this be the reason for this idea?)

I can see the temporary solution to rural energy projects, until it becomes a mini disaster. What about Earthquakes? Also we have NO current permanent solution to nuclear waste disposal. Seems an irresponsible idea. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

Ode To Joy By Judith Green - This past weekend, April 20, Ketchikan was invited to hear the beautiful musical sounds of Beethoven, Rutter, Chilcott and Marcello. Some of these composers may not be well known, but the sounds invoked were good to consider as we listened and learned.

What a wonderful collaboration between the Ketchikan Community Chorus/KCC, the Ketchikan Concert Band/KCB (an ensemble part of the Ketchikan Community Concert Band/KCCB), and Ketchikan Orchestra Project/KOP.

Ktn is indeed a favored community to have at the helm of these 3 musical groups the professional musical talent of Steve Kinney, Roy McPherson, and Jeff Karlson with Deidra Nuss. We hope they will consider coming together again. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

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