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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
May 19, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

Sitka Black-tailed Deer & Fawns
The photographer used a zoom lens to capture this photo of mother & babies.
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER ©2019

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Ketchikan: Floatplane Crash in Metlatkatla Harbor Claims Two Lives - A pilot and a single passenger are deceased after a Taquan Beaver Floatplane crashed in Metlatkatla Harbor Monday afternoon at approximately 4 p.m. There were no other individuals on board the aircraft.

The circumstances of the crash are not being released at this time. The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been notified.

Fifteen members of the Metlakatla Volunteer Fire Department responded to the crash. A seine boat was first on scene.

Two medics were dispatched on board two Coast Guard Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boats. Air Station Sitka dispatched one Jayhawk Helicopter, which has since been rescinded to Sitka. - More...
Monday PM - May 20, 2019

Ketchikan: Two California Men Sentenced for Ketchikan Drug Trafficking Conspiracy - U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced today that two California men have been sentenced for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy to transport methamphetamine and heroin from the Lower 48 to Ketchikan for distribution.

Arthur Castillo, 32, of Fresno, California, and Alfonso Francisco Sandoval, 32, of Clovis, California, were both sentenced in Juneau today by U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess to serve 11 years and 6.5 years in federal prison, respectively.  In 2018, Castillo and Sandoval both pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges. 

According to court documents, beginning in June 2017 and continuing through October 2017, Castillo conspired with Sandoval and other co-conspirators, to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine in Ketchikan, Alaska.  Castillo coordinated and directed the distribution of methamphetamine and the collection of drug proceeds from co-conspirators.  Castillo would then take the money to the Lower 48 to pay for additional drugs for the conspiracy. 

The investigation revealed that Castillo utilized shipping methods to transport methamphetamine and other drugs to various addresses in Ketchikan, and coordinated and directed several individuals to either receive drug packages, or send drug proceeds to the source of supply in California.  Sandoval joined the conspiracy by helping Castillo transport drugs to Ketchikan and by assisting in the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin by driving Castillo to drug deals and acting as a guard during drug transactions.  - More...
Monday PM - May 20, 2019

Fish Factor: Keep Fin Fish Free Act; Pebble Lawsuit Gets Tossed; & Salmon Season Starts By LAINE WELCH - In his 46 years as Alaska’s lone representative in Congress, Don Young helped toss out foreign fishing fleets from Alaska’s waters with the onset of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) in 1976, and today he is intent on doing the same with offshore fish farms. 

The MSA established an ‘exclusive economic zone’ (EEZ) for U.S. fleets fishing from three to 200 miles from shore. Now, a bill introduced by Young aims to stop the Trump Administration’s push to use those waters for industrialized fish farming operations. The fish farms are being touted as a silver bullet to boost seafood production, provide jobs and reduce the $15 billion seafood trade deficit that comes from the nation importing over 85 percent of its seafood.

Earlier this month, Young filed the Keep Fin Fish Free Act which would stop officials from allowing fish farms in U.S. offshore waters unless specifically authorized by Congress. 

“The biggest selling power we have in Alaska is wild caught salmon and other fish products and I don’t want that hurt,” Young said in a phone interview. “If we put in a commercial operation offshore, outside of State jurisdiction, we’d have a big problem in selling our wild Alaskan salmon.”

Rep. Young’s effort follows a push begun a year ago by over 120 aquaculture and food-related industries to have lawmakers introduce an Advancing the Quality and Understanding of American Aquaculture (AQUAA) Act, which failed to get any traction. The campaign is organized under a new trade group called  Stronger America Through Seafood and includes Cargill, Red Lobster, Pacific Seafoods and Seattle Fish Company. 

“I was assured they were not going to grow salmon but they will have to feed all the fish. And that pollution factor can get into the water and contaminate our salmon. And I don’t know who’s going to be involved in it,” Young said. “I’m very supportive of the state waters production of shellfish and kelp, but I’m trying to keep all fish farms off the Alaskan shores, that’s the big thing.” 

Rep. Young, who is in his 24th term, said he believes most other coastal states are opposed to the idea of large fish feed lot operations off their shores. He added that no one likes the idea of so much fish being imported to the U.S. but said “we shouldn’t weaken our natural system to try to feed our appetite. We should try to increase our natural system and make sure we have more finfish and I’m confident we can do that.”

Young’s bill was immediately hailed by numerous environmental organizations. 

“Raising fish in massive cages in federal waters is completely against the public interest and will not solve our food system crisis,” said Shannon Eldredge of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance. 

“This is what I’m doing this for,” Young said. “To keep our fish safe and make sure that the best product gets to the market.” He added that the AQUAA Act has not yet been re-introduced to Congress and he does not believe there is much interest in advancing it. 

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), the bill’s sponsor, is reviewing the legislation and working to find a Democratic co-sponsor before re-filing it.  - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

Alaska: Legislative Inaction Forces Governor Dunleavy to Call Immediate Special Session in Juneau - The First Session of the 31st Alaska Legislature adjourned late Wednesday evening without concluding work on the budget, a Permanent Fund Dividend, and a crime package.

With only minutes remaining in the 121-day regular session and no indication of progress being made, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy issued a proclamation Wednesday calling the Alaska Legislature into special session to complete its work on the constitutionally mandated budget bills, a comprehensive crime package to make Alaskans safer, a full permanent fund dividend as outlined in statute, and properly funding public education.

“It’s painfully clear that after spending the last four months in session, lawmakers will not complete the people’s business by midnight tonight,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Alaskans have every right to be disappointed by the legislature’s inaction, but Alaskans are also expecting final action on legislation to address the most pressing issues facing our state like giving law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to stop criminals and reducing state spending. As a result, I am calling a 30-day special session to give lawmakers another opportunity to complete the critical tasks they were sent to accomplish by the People of Alaska.” 

The special session proclamation called lawmakers back into session in Juneau beginning at 10:00 AM on Thursday May 16, 2019.


“I call the Thirty-First Legislature of the State of Alaska into its first special session in the legislative chambers in Juneau, Alaska at 10:00am on May 16, 2019...,” the proclamation states.

The proclamation directs the legislature to work on five items:

  • An education appropriation bill to bring a solution to the FY20 education budget
  • HB39 – Operating Budget which includes a full PFD under calculation
  • HB40 Mental Health Budget
  • SB19 Capital Budget 
  • HB49 Criminal Reform Package

“I told Alaskans earlier (Wednesday] that these items must be completed before adjournment and we would remove any of the five items from the call if they passed by midnight [Wednesday]. Now, I urge lawmakers to work with me in the remaining days to get these bills passed and bring the special session to a close. If the legislature again fails to adopt a full PFD, operating and capital budgets, fund education and pass an effective crime package, it will be evident we will need to move to a new venue,” added Governor Dunleavy.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, released the following statement in response to the Governor's call for a special session. “The Senate passed an operating budget with significant cuts, fully-funded the PFD, and toughened the state’s criminal code by repealing and replacing Senate Bill 91. We are committed to working with our colleagues in the House, and the governor, in seeing these critical policy changes through to the end. We will not rest until the people of Alaska have safe neighborhoods, a healthy economy and the Permanent Fund is protected for future generations.”    

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) in a prepared statement said, "We are disappointed that the Governor is issuing this call before we have completed our work. It is the responsibility of the Legislative leadership in the House and the Senate to pass a budget, address crime and safety, and resolve the Dividend. The Senate Democrats have worked with our colleagues to resolve these issues before the end of the constitutional session limit. We expect them to be resolved and will continue to work towards the end. It is what all Alaskans expect of us. We are doing our part." 

Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) on Wednesday also released a statement following the governor’s call for a special legislative session: “The Legislature is considering proposals that will determine whether the Permanent Fund actually remains permanent. We are vetting a massive overhaul of our criminal justice system. The proposed budget could fundamentally change Alaska’s economy. The decisions we face are simply too important to rush. We have worked hard to achieve meaningful compromise, and we are committed to continuing our work to get these monumental decisions right for Alaska.” - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

Southeast Alaska: Foundation’s Individual Artist Awardees include 10 from Southeast - Rasmuson Foundation has named 35 artists in 18 Alaska communities as Individual Artist Award recipients for 2019. They include seven Project Award recipients and two Fellows from Southeast, selected by a national panel from a statewide pool of 317 applicants.

In addition, the Foundation’s 2019 Distinguished Artist is Richard Nelson of Sitka, announced  on May 15th. This award recognizes one Alaska artist annually for a lifetime of creative excellence and outstanding contribution to the state’s arts and culture. The honor is accompanied by a $40,000 award.

Drag cabaret performer James Hoagland (Juneau) and writer Vivian Faith Prescott (Wrangell) were selected as Fellows. Fellowships of $18,000 are awarded to mid-career and mature artists to focus their energy and attention on developing creative work over a 12-month period. 

Project Awards of $7,500 support individuals at all stages of their creative careers for specific, short-term projects.  Southeast artists selected for 2019 Project Awards are: - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

The man who broke through the Northwest Passage By NED ROZELL

The man who broke through the Northwest Passage By NED ROZELL
The Manhattan rests in ice during its 1969 journey from Pennsylvania through the Northwest Passage to Alaska and then back to New York.
Photo by Merritt Helfferich


Alaska: The man who broke through the Northwest Passage By NED ROZELL - Fifty years ago, a ship long as the Empire State Building sailed toward obstacles that captains usually avoid.

The icebreaking tanker Manhattan was an oil company’s attempt to see if it might be profitable to move Alaska oil to the East Coast by plowing through the ice-clogged Northwest Passage.

Begging his way aboard was Merritt Helfferich, then 34 and a do-all guy at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Helfferich, whose life of adventures also included the first hot-air balloon flight from Barrow, Alaska, died in New Mexico on May 2, 2019. He was 83.

Back in the late 1960s, Helfferich heard of Humble Oil and Refining Co. executives recruiting a team of Alaska engineers to ride the ship and measure the properties of sea ice it crushed along the way. He wanted in.

When the ship’s launch was delayed and invited professors needed to teach their fall classes, Helfferich shot up his hand. He was soon gasping in wonder at a dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, he saw the giant ship he was to ride all the way north to Prudhoe Bay.

The largest ship ever to fly an American flag, the Manhattan busted its way north in search of heavy ice. If the Manhattan could prove its worth, Stan Haas and others with Humble Oil envisioned the recently discovered North Slope oil moving away from Prudhoe Bay in superships even larger than the Manhattan.

Helfferich remembered bunking on the ship in a section right over one of the nickel-iron propellers, so large the shaft that spun them was 18 inches in diameter.

“At a certain speed there was a maddening wah-wah-wah-wah,” he said in a 2013 interview. “We’d say, ‘Go faster or go slower.’”

When the sea ice bashed a Doppler speed-tracking system — one of the few setbacks for the ice-strengthened tanker — Helfferich and other scientists on board helped track the velocity of the Manhattan by throwing a block of wood to the ice and counting the seconds it took for the ship to pass it. His main duties were to helicopter out to ice in the Manhattan’s path and test its thickness, saltiness and other features he vowed to keep secret from oil companies that had not pitched in for the Manhattan experiment. - More...
Sunday PM - May 19, 2019

Alaska: Best Way to Save Wildlife Babies: Leave Them Alone - A newborn moose calf found alone in the woods – or even in your backyard – can appear helpless and abandoned. But don’t be fooled. Destitute as those big-eyed babies may seem, a protective mother is almost always nearby.

Newborn moose calves, deer fawns, and tiny bear cubs are already being seen in Alaska, the first of many calves, cubs, kits, and chicks Alaskans can expect to appear statewide between mid-May and the end of June. Biologists are warning Alaskans who may encounter wildlife babies to resist the urge to approach or “rescue” them.

Cow moose can be particularly dangerous during calving season, warns Anchorage Area Wildlife Biologist Dave Battle. Attacks on people and pets by cows aggressively defending calves are reported each spring.

“You’ll want to give moose calves plenty of space,” said Battle.

If a moose calf or bear cub is encountered without its mother immediately in view, be alert in case you’ve walked between them. The best course of action is usually to back away and leave from the direction you came. Also, do not assume young animals found alone are orphaned. Mother moose and bears frequently walk out of sight, cache their young, or become separated from them by fences or roads. Sow bears often send cubs up trees to wait before leaving to find food. In nearly all cases, the mothers return to their young. - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019


DAVE KIFFER: Coming Soon, to a highway near you! - Alaska has a budget problem. No question that we just can't keep spending our way blindly ahead without having some money to pay for it.

Especially if we insist upon sweetheart deals for major industries in which we actually pay THEM to extract OUR resources, but that is a topic for another day.

The state has proposed a variety of solutions such as eliminating such absolute non-necessities as the University of Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway System. (sarcasm alert)

But they are also looking for other ways to take a bite out of the $9 Billion state budget.

For example, the other day, I saw an interesting press release from the State Department of Transportation.

Yeah, yeah, I have heard from a few (very few) of you that I am unduly harsh upon the DOT (actually the ADOTPF!). You say that I am always picking on those poor souls. That I mercilessly mock their efforts. That I am always complaining how they seem to manage to screw up every local road project and that they seem relentlessly intent on running the Alaska Marine Highway System into the ground....uh....water. (see above). That I disregard the good that ADOTPF does while playing up the folly.

May it please the court, I plead guilty. It's just that they make it so darn easy.

But I digress.

Anyway, I saw a press release that was released last month (should have been on April Fools Day) that caught my eye. It had to do with roads up north.

Now normally "roads up north" mean absolutely nothing to me. Sure, I use them when I am "up north" but since there is no charge to use those highways (unlike the charge we pay to use ours) I don't think that much about them.

But perhaps I should. After all, the ADOTPF often translates "lessons" learned elsewhere to our local shores. Usually with inane consequences.

Remember how a couple of years ago, they used a striping paint that worked great ELSEWHERE on OUR roads and it didn't dry and ended up all over everything? Yeah. apparently it worked really well in places like Oklahoma and Nevada that have similar issues with rainfall as Southeast Alaska. Not! - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

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Political Cartoon: Immigration Anchor
Trump Immigration Plan in the Basket
By Nate Beeler ©2019, The Columbus Dispatch, OH
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Thoughts & Prayers By Matthew R. Dunnigan - All affected by the collision between the two floatplanes are in our thoughts and prayers. - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

Of the Many Deserving Thanks By A.M.Johnson - Surprised that none have made comment or perhaps they have and will be included in this column.

Charlie Hanas and his wife deserve the highest of accolades for their participation in the saving of many lives. While all the wonderful organizations that did participate are due community, personal, and all, thanks; it was the fortunate event that Charles and his wife were present. - More...
Sunday AM  - May 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

Alaska: Our quality of life is at stake By Rebecca Brice Henderson, Curtis McQueen, Jason Metrokin, Mike Navarre, Kris Norosz and Marilyn Romano -
Rasmuson Foundation Board of Directors - Discussion about the budget continues in the state Capitol and in public forums. Alaskans from every corner of the state are concerned about what proposed deep cuts to close a $1.6 billion budget gap would do to the quality of life we have worked so hard to achieve. We are weighing in on this debate as business owners and executives who regularly interact with Alaska’s great nonprofit institutions. We have something else in common. We are board members of one of Alaska’s oldest, and certainly its largest, philanthropic organization.

As Rasmuson Foundation trustees, it is our job to steward more than half a billion dollars generated by gifts from the Rasmuson family for the betterment of Alaska. We are responsible for awarding approximately $30 million in grants annually to address community needs and support the good work of nonprofit organizations, cities, tribes and the State of Alaska, all while managing the Foundation’s assets to grow over time. We are proud of the rigorous level of due diligence we employ both in our grantmaking and our investment management. - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

The Bitter Bread By Michael S. Queen - A recent op-ed by a SE editor turned a call for a pro-formula PFD (“Let the People Have Their PFDs”) into a derogation, a hit-piece of his neighbors; erroneously connecting small PFDs with the organized labor force of the State in general (“…over-paid state employees {who} want to keep their cushy jobs…”) and the Alaska Marine Highway in particular. His seems an ideal of unfettered entrepreneurialism that targets those earning paychecks rather than those who maximize their profit margin at the expense of those who created that profit for them. He blames those with good, family-sustaining jobs for the many POW business owners’ wretched, sub-poverty level wage scales. I know. I live on the same third-largest island in the US and struggled to find family-sustaining work. I cast a broad net in two years’ worth of work opportunities a decade and a half ago (500+ applications), and was overjoyed, eager to receive the offer to work for the AMHS ‘making beds and cleaning heads.’ I am away from home more than half the year now, but my family has food on the table and a way to access basic health care. We stand on our own and need no Donate button appeal to meet expenses. - More...
Sunday AM - May 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

A change in Alaska's crime law is needed now By Gregg Olson, Angie Kemp, Gustaf Olson, John Earthman, Scot Leaders, Roman Kalytiak, and John Novak - Many of us are lifelong prosecutors who have spent years in the trenches trying to do the best we can to keep Alaskans safe and seek justice. We work side by side with law enforcement to try and get those offenders off the street who are likely to do more harm, get those offenders into treatment who need some help, and achieve the best outcome under the circumstances to protect the community. The current criminal laws tie our hands along with the hands of judges and keep us from achieving these important goals. - More...
Saturday PM - May 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Oil & Gas Tax Reform By Rep. Dan Ortiz - I want to thank Mary Lynn Dahl for her thoughtful letter that ran in the April 29 edition of Sitnews. Alaska’s oil and gas tax system is an important issue that needs to be considered as we work towards a long-term fiscal solution. Mary makes important points and raises issues that have not had much public discussion. I’d like to clarify a few things about our tax system as it stands now, how we’ve been able to fix parts of it in recent years, and the work that remains to be done. - More...
Tuesday PM - May 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

Global warming or global hoax By Rex Barber - The Pleistocene epoch (ice age to us common folk) lasted from 2,588,00 – 11,700 years ago. With in this time period large mammals roamed the earth, saber tooth tigers, mammoths, mastodons, dire wolves ,short faced bears, giant ground sloths, giant beavers and many more astounding and fabulous criters. - More...
Tuesday PM - May 07, 2019

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. - 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. - 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. - 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). - 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?) - 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. - More...
Monday PM - April 29, 2019

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