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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
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Highest levels of PSP toxin ever recorded; PSP considered a public health emergency, alerts issued - As the State of Alaska Department of Health's Section of Epidemiology investigation into paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in Metlakatla continues, another recent investigation by marine scientists in Southeast Alaska revealed some of the highest levels of toxin ever recorded.

According to SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), in recent weeks there have been at least 14 cases of suspected paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) involving people who harvested and ate different types of shellfish harvested from beaches near Ketchikan and Metlakatla/Annette Island. Several of the people with PSP wound up being hospitalized, including a couple who spent time in intensive care. There were five cases of PSP in 2010, including the first two PSP-related deaths in Alaska since 1997 (in Juneau and Haines, with the Haines case also listing heart failure as an official cause of death).

“Many of our tribal citizens eat shellfish they gather through subsistence and recreational harvests, but this can be a very dangerous practice,” said Dr. David Vastola, SEARHC Community Health Care Services Medical Director. “There are many people who believe myths, such as only gather shellfish in months that contain an ‘R,’ or they think they can cook or freeze away the toxins. Unfortunately, these shellfish myths could make someone seriously ill or even kill them. We join state and federal health officials in urging Southeast Alaska residents not to eat shellfish gathered from local beaches. There’s too much risk involved, especially with the recent PSP levels.”

Two people with suspected PSP were admitted to a local hospital in Ketchikan on Wednesday. The two men both had symptoms of PSP after eating mussels harvested from Rotary Beach.

Toxic levels in shellfish are anything more than 80 micrograms of toxin per hundred grams of shellfish meat. Baby mussels taken May 25, 2011, at a boat dock in Ketchikan had toxin levels estimated at over 30,000 micrograms per hundred grams of shellfish meat. Other tests involving butter clams and cockles also were significantly higher than the safe level of toxin. According to scientists monitoring the algal bloom, butter clams and other shellfish can remain toxic for a long time. They have advised against anyone harvesting local shellfish.

“At those levels, a single mussel is enough to kill several people,” said Kate Sullivan, with the University of Alaska Southeast, a member of the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom (AHAB) monitoring and early warning program - a partnership between UAS/UAF, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, other state and federal agencies, area commercial shellfish growers, and subsistence shellfish harvesters. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has provided funds to purchase toxin testing kits to aid in the response to this PSP outbreak. - More...
Friday - June 10, 2011

Ketchikan: Wells Fargo Donates $25,000 to New Library Fundraising Efforts - A recent $25,000 donation from Wells Fargo is a welcome “jump-start” to the Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library capital campaign for a new library building, according to Susan Fisher who is helping spearhead the funding efforts.

Wells Fargo Donates $25,000 to New Library Fundraising Efforts

Joseph Lanham, Wells Fargo district president for Southeast Alaska, reacts with laughter during a meeting with the Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library. Lanham presented a Wells Fargo check for $25,000 to the Friends’ fundraising campaign for a new library building.

The check was presented to the Friends at its quarterly meeting in May by Joseph Lanham, Wells Fargo district president for Southeast Alaska. He was accompanied by local Store Managers Charisse Seludo and Keith Davis.

The City of Ketchikan is currently planning to build a new $12 million library in upper Bear Valley on Copper Ridge Lane. Ketchikan voters in 2010 approved up to $5.2 million in revenue bonds for the project, and the state Legislature this past session included $6 million in the capital budget for the project.

The Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library's hope is to augment government funds with private donations.

“We recognize the city is counting on private funding, and every dollar we raise in the capital campaign will reduce the taxpayer burden and enhance the building,” Fisher said. “We really want to thank the local bank employees who saw this opportunity to ask for and get corporate funding for our new library. It’s very encouraging.” - More...
Friday - June 10, 2011

Alaska Science: How many Alaska glaciers? There's no easy answer By NED ROZELL - Not long ago, a glaciologist wrote that the number of glaciers in Alaska “is estimated at (greater than) 100,000.” That fuzzy number, perhaps written in passive voice for a reason, might be correct. But it depends upon how you count.

How many Alaska glaciers? There's no easy answer

Barbara Truessel of UAF’s Geophysical Institute sets up a time lapse camera near Yakutat Glacier which will become several glaciers because of melting.
Photograph by Chris Larsen

Another glaciologist saw an example of the confusion when he visited Yakutat Glacier a few weeks ago. Yakutat, near the Alaska town of the same name, is a withering glacier that calves into a deep lake of its own making. As it dies, Yakutat Glacier will increase the number of glaciers in Alaska. And it won’t take long, said Martin Truffer of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Truffer spent a week at the glacier and noticed that a western tributary of the ice mass might melt away within a year, and another lobe will probably disconnect within five years. Because the glacier is melting so fast, it will soon become at least three smaller glaciers.

“You get into that paradoxical situation where a glacier is retreating and you get more glaciers,” Truffer said.

His colleague Regine Hock pointed out a similar situation when pondering a request from a magazine reporter on the number of Alaska glaciers.

“Because of climate warming, the number of glaciers in Germany has increased over the last decades by several hundred percent.” she wrote in an e-mail. “There were less than a handful of glaciers in the 1990s; now there are more because these two have fallen apart into mini glaciers.”

Another problem in counting Alaska’s glaciers arises from the varied names people have assigned to them over the years.

“In Bagley Icefield, it’s really crazy,” Truffer said, referring to a mass of ice where the Southeast panhandle meets the rest of Alaska. “There’s all these different names. Where you separate them, that’s a subjective choice.” - More...
Friday - June 10, 2011


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Questions, please contact the editor at or call 617-9696

letter Taxes, round two By Rodney Dial - Council Member West indicated that the tax increase the Ketchikan City Council passed will result in a $25 increase for the owner of an average home. In my letter I reported that the tax increase would result in a $250.00 increase. - More...
Saturday - June 11, 2011

letter “Southeast Alaskan Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Job Protection Act.” By Jeff Sbonek - We heard Sealaska's Byron Mallott speaking before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recent hearing on S-730 say, “We were here first”. This is plain and simply not true. DNA analysis of the 9600 year old  human remains found in “On Your Knees Cave” on north Prince of Wales Island SE Alaska 15 years ago, and of over 200 present day native volunteers of SE Alaska show no genetic link. It seems pretty clear that the Tlingits, Haidas and Tsimshians were not the first people of SE Alaska. The truth is that humans have been migrating since the beginning of humanity.  The man from “On Your Knees Cave” is ancestor to ALL of us. This land belongs to ALL of us. - More...
Saturday - June 11, 2011

letter Open Letter: Proposed “enterprise” site on Martin Creek By Bonnie Demerjian - As a long time resident of Wrangell and author of a book on the Anan Creek Bear Observatory, I am concerned about the proposed “enterprise” site on Martin Creek near the observatory. Increased fishing pressure in the area may impact the well being of the bear population at Anan Creek. Not only is this important in itself, but the observatory is a prime tourist attraction for visitors to Wrangell. Wrangell has worked hard and continues to strive to diversify its economy with tourism being an important component of that effort. A lodge at Martin Creek may well divert visitors from Wrangell, who generally include a visit to Anan Creek in their plans and are transported their by local charter operators. - More...
Saturday - June 11, 2011

letter Thanks to the Naushon By Jerry Cegelske - For those of us who frequently get out on the water close to the Bar Harbor marina, we get to see some of the material that the wind and tides have deposited on the breakwater as well as the shoreline around the harbor.  For many, the area didn’t look bad as seen from the harbor or shore as the material was deposited on the windward side of the breakwater, but it was very visible from the water. - More...
Wednesday - June 08, 2011

letter E-Verify By Byron “Chilly” Whitesides - Friends and neighbors, recently I sent an open letter to Senator Bert Stedman and Representative Kyle Johansen to be published on Sitnews.  I have been contacting them recently this year, as there were political leaders attempting to pass a law in our state to require businesses to use E-Verify on employees and applicants to assure only legal workers were being employed (Supreme Court: AZ Can Require Employers to Verify Citizenship Status of Workers ) that the legislature had failed to pass this legislation, and found this news very distressing. - More...
Wednesday - June 08, 2011

letter Re: Ketchikan's Tax Burden By Marty West - The Council increased the property tax by 0.1 mills. Not by 1.0 mills. - More...
Wednesday - June 08, 2011

letter BE THE FIRST TO KNOW By Karl Amylon - The purpose of this memorandum is to remind citizens that by signing up for FlashAlert you will receive ‘real time’ text messages and/or email messages from the City of Ketchikan and/or KPU with up to date emergency information, news releases, power outages or other important information. - More...
Wednesday - June 08, 2011

letter Ketchikan's Tax Burden By Rodney Dial - I was optimistically hopeful that Ketchikan government spending was leveling off, and our elected officials were going to cool it on the insane spending over the last few years.  I truly thought… what else can they spend money on?... just about every group has received something, lately, and government spending has been increasing by millions per year even though our population has been declining. - More...
Monday - June 06, 2011

letter M/V Tongass Ranger By P.J. Travis - Now with the M/V Tongass Ranger declared "unsafe" who is going to monitor timber sales, mining, recreation cabins, mooring buoys, archaeology sites, etc.? - More...
Monday - June 06, 2011

letter E-Verify and Drug Enforcement Problems UNSOLVED... By Joey Garcia - I agree with Byron Whitesides on his topic of E-verify format. Not only that, why does the City of Ketchikan not comply with the drug test for new hires and old hands thereby corrupting other non-drug users/pushers to continue their trade within our city? I do not blame the Office of the Ketchikan City Mayor, but the office of the Gov. Parnell, referring to the response made by a certain Ms. Lien that the Office of the Governor has no jurisdiction in Ketchikan. - More...
Monday - June 06, 2011

letter RE: 400 By Charles Mackey - David Hanger, Thank you for your letter "400". You are one of many vigilant individuals in the country yet one of few brave enough to speak out using the last little bit of freedom we truly have. The Freedom of Speech. - More...
Monday - June 06, 2011

letter RE: The 400 By Chris Elliott - The richest man in America according to Forbes magazine's 2010 annual list of the 400 richest Americans is Bill Gates. His fortune is estimated at $54 billion. - More...
Monday - June 06, 2011

letter THE 400 By David G. Hanger - According to CNN reports on February 20, 2011, four hundred individuals in this country now earn more than the combined earnings of half the people.   In other words 400 self-proclaimed living ‘gods’ earn more than 160 million Americans combined.  A few tens of thousands earn much of the rest.  ‘Earning’ is a relative term in this respect, for much of what is being “earned” is via deceit, graft, and corruption. - More...
Thursday PM - June 02, 2011  

letter 8th grade class of 2011 By Judith Green - The 8th grade class had their "Continuation Ceremony" tonight in their new school building auditorium - KAYHI. They move from being Knights to being Kings - as SBA president, Brendan Stanton, mentioned in his welcome to the new freshman class. - More...
Thursday PM- June 02, 2011

letter Education Funding is Astonishing By Agnes Moran - Alaska Statute 14.17.410(b)(2) requires the Borough to make a local mandatory contribution to schools of $5,281,288 for FY2012. The Borough could walk away at this point, consider its education funding obligation fulfilled and go on to other business. But it doesn t. The Borough will grant an additional discretionary cash contribution of $3,368,712 to the school district for operating costs in FY2012. - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Ketchikan School Budget By Chris Elliott - I'm astonished that Mr. Jaqua doesn't know that there's no such thing as a free lunch. The national debt is $14 trillion, a little over $42,000 for each of us. When you speak only of the local contribution and act like the federal contribution is pennies from heaven, you're forgetting something. As US citizens, we pay for everything, including the federal contribution to our schools and to schools across the nation. It's out of one pocket or another. - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Sealaska Lands Bill: Senate Bill 730 Should End By Greg Petrich - The Sealaska lands bill, S.730, has drawn considerable controversy in southeast Alaska. Concerns have also been voiced state-wide because certain aspects of the bill could easily unbalance the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) leading to new claims across the state; complicating development, conservation management, and public access to resources. - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Recall of Kyle Johannsen By Trapper Bishop - I would like to take a moment to voice my opinion on the recall campaign of Kyle Johannsen. I was recently asked by someone, "Where do you stand on the recall of Kyle Johannsen?" I said to this person, "I strongly favor it." She said, "Really? I think District 1 Republican's campaign for recall is just a waste of time." - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Open letter to Senator Bert Stedman and Representative Kyle Johansen: E-Verify By Byron Whitesides - Why?  Why is Alaska not implementing E-Verify?  WHY are you against requiring businesses in Alaska to use E-Verify?  WHY are you against punishing repeat offenders by taking their business license away? - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Condolences By Joey Garcia - I wish to convey my condolence to the family of the late Jack Estipona who passed away last week. Being a pioneer frontman of the Trident Seafoods Inc. in the Tongass facility, Jack has been a man who makes people laugh with his jokes, even in times of helping fellow Filipino-Americans in need of assistance not only in his workplace but in the City of Ketchikan as well. - More...
Tuesday - May 31, 2011

letter Timber Sale Misinformation By Larry Edwards - This month an editorial and a news story in the Ketchikan Daily News have repeated significant misinformation about Tongass timber sales that came from a press release by Governor Parnell. After over two weeks the Daily News has not published a short letter I wrote to inform Ketchikan residents of the error, so now I use this forum. - More...
Friday - May 27, 2011

letter Also Astonished! By Mark Jaqua - I share Ms. Plenert's sense of astonishment regarding the KGBSD budget, however, my friend; I'm not so sure you are as good at math as you propose. The FY2011 Expenditure Authority Request, (available right next to your letter in Sitnews under School Board Packets -- see Meeting Materials, May 11) shows a total operating budget of about $36.6 million. I'm perplexed where your number came from. - More...
Friday - May 27, 2011

letter School Budget By Laura Plenert - First of all, thank you Agnes Moran for caring and asking questions about OUR school budget. The first thing that struck me in your letter to Sitnews was the figure of $40,472,050.00 in the budget to educate 2100 students. Being a math lover, I immediately had to do the division. The answer to my question (how much per student) is $19,272.40. OVER $19,000.00 PER STUDENT PER YEAR. Does it strike anyone besides me that the cost per student exceeds what some of those student's parents make per year, more than many of our fellow citizens make per year. That alone is staggering. I would like someone to factor in the drop out rate and how much money per year is thrown down a rat hole because the school system can't seem to keep students until graduation. - More...
Wednesday - May 25, 2011

letter GIVE KETCHIKAN A CHANCE By Joey Garcia - The influx of tourists docking along Ketchikan ports is something to behold and the brisk revenues seemed to give Ketchikan something to reckon with. I have observed, in my opinion, that dock stores peddling tourist crafts are not Ketchikan owned. Rather, it is sad to note that when the cruise ship season ends, traffic along Ketchikan ports goes to school youths flying on their skateboards, and OT's (old timers) stroll the ports with their leased dogs, children strolling with their folks, and what is left for OT's, again is succumb to the norms of high prices from stores, if they are open. - More...
Wednesday - May 25, 2011

letter Sealaska bill and fisheries By Paul Olson - I am writing regarding the Sealaska bill and the misrepresentations about how it reduces impacts to fishery habitat. The legislation establishes “conservation areas” and adds a temporary increase in buffer size. These measures are superficial and do nothing to offset the prospective impacts of this bill on fishery habitat. - More...
Monday - May 23, 2011

letter Sealaska Bill Bad for Commercial Fishermen By Mickey Knight - One aspect of the Sealaska Lands Bill (S.730) that has garnered little attention on this website is a discussion regarding Senator Murkowski's hollow attempt to gain the support of commercial fishermen. - More...
Monday - May 23, 2011

letter Deja-Vu-Roadless Rule By A. M. Johnson - Well, Déjà-Vu on the "Roadless Rule" controversy. Nice to see Senator Murkowski voice her wonderment at the continued and long standing decline in the "Thread Hanging" timber industry. - More...
Monday - May 23, 2011

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