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June 01, 2020

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Alaska: Teen responders to Aniak plane crash praised; victims recovering - Three of the four Division of Forestry employees injured in a plane crash in the Western Alaska village of Aniak on Thursday were recovering in Anchorage hospitals Friday while the fourth was treated and released.

The three individuals hospitalized Friday suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and are in stable condition.

The pilot was identified as Mark Jordan, of Eagle River. The three emergency firefighters on board were identified as Albert Simon, of Hooper Bay; Craig Friday, of Hooper Bay; and Kelly Kehlenbach, of Aniak. The plane was en route from Aniak to McGrath, where the firefighters were to be outfitted for an assignment to support initial attack responses at the Kenai/Kodiak Area forestry station in Soldotna.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred shortly after the plane took off from the Aniak airport at approximately 4 p.m. The plane, a state-owned Aero Commander 500 Shrike, crashed into a pond in a gravel pit about one mile downstream from the airport.

Local Aniak residents played an integral role in the rescue effort before Alaska State Troopers and local emergency medical service responders arrived at the crash site.  Several local residents went into the water to help retrieve the injured individuals from the plane after it crashed.

Thirteen-year-old Dylan Nicholson and four of his friends – Trevor Morgan, 17; Mason Dallmann, 17; A.J. Simeon, 19; and Skye Morgan, 18, all of Aniak – were the first ones at the crash scene. They had driven by the gravel pit earlier and were on their way back to town when they looked back and noticed the plane in the water, though they hadn’t seen or heard the crash. They were confused, he said, because the plane hadn’t been there when they first passed the pond.

“Then we saw two guys come out of the plane,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson used his cell phone to call his aunt, Lenora Nicholson, who works as a dispatcher for Alaska State Troopers in Aniak, to report the crash.

“I told her to bring medic trucks and stuff,” he said.

The two people who climbed out of the plane were Friday and Kehlenbach. The teens helped them out of the water, which was about 4-5 feet deep, and into Morgan’s truck to transport them to the local clinic. Dallmann, meanwhile, waded out to the plane and remained with Jordan and Simon until more help arrived. He was in the frigid water for approximately 30 minutes.

“His legs were pretty numb for quite a while afterwards,” said Dallmann’s mother, Julia.

Ricky Ciletti, who works for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Aniak, arrived on scene after Friday and Kehlenbach had been loaded into Morgan’s truck and were being transported to the clinic.

By that time, workers from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Aniak clinic had arrived and were working to extract Simon and Jordan from the plane. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

Southeast Alaska: AMHS to assist IFA with temporary ferry service between Ketchikan and Hollis - The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) has scheduled the M/V Lituya to provide temporary service between Ketchikan and Hollis on Prince of Wales (POW) Island. On May 22, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority’s (IFA) M/V Prince of Wales suffered a catastrophic propulsion system failure. This failure left POW Island with limited options for travel and commerce.

“The IFA provides an important link between Ketchikan and POW, and we are happy to assist by providing some service until their ship is back in operation,” said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner John MacKinnon. 

The AMHS vessel Lituya sailed round-trip from Ketchikan to Hollis on Thursday, May 28, and again on Saturday, May 30. Lituya will continue to provide limited service until the IFA vessel resumes service on June 11. Priority will be given to stranded travelers.

Quoting a news release from Ronald D. Curtis, General Manager Inter-Island Ferry Authority, "The IFA, in conjunction with our partners at the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), developed a limited sailing schedule to repatriate and serve IFA customers. The AMHS ship M/V Lituya will sail round-trip from Ketchikan to Hollis on Thursday, May 28, and Saturday, May 30. The Lituya will continue to provide limited service until the IFA is back in service – priority will be given to stranded travelers. No new bookings will take place until the backlog is cleared. To view the schedule and learn when new reservations open, check for updates on the IFA website. The IFA would like to thank our customers for their patience and thank the Alaska Marine Highway System for their assistance." - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020


Alaska: AMHS Releases Schedule for Returning Vessels to Service - The Alaska Marine Highway System has released schedules in anticipation of the return to service for the MV Tustumena, MV LeConte, MV Kennicottand MV Matanuska.

MV Tustumena is scheduled to return to service on June 2, 2020. The MV Tustumena will depart from Homer round-trip to Seldovia with a late evening departure to Kodiak for the first Aleutian Chain run. It will provide service similar to previous summer schedules.

MV LeConte is scheduled to return to service on June 17, 2020. The MV LeConte will provide service to the Northern Panhandle, commencing with service to Pelican, and will provide service to Hoonah, Gustavus, Tenakee, Angoon, and Kake as well as Lynn Canal. The MV Tazlina will discontinue service on June 7 and remain in Auke Bay. 

MV Kennicott is scheduled to return to service on June 25, 2020. The MV Kennicott will depart from Ketchikan southbound to Bellingham where it will commence a modified cross-gulf run that will stop in Ketchikan, Juneau, Yakutat, and Whittier and provide service to the communities of Prince William Sound every other week.

MV Matanuska is scheduled to return to service on July 1, 2020. The MV Matanuska will replace the Bellingham Southeast run previously scheduled with the MV Columbia. The schedule has been modified to include a northbound stop in Sitka every other week and includes service to Kake. Due to reduced travel demand, it is not feasible for AMHS to operate the MV Columbia at this time. - More....
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

Alaska: Experts call for additional COVID protections during economic re-opening - At a joint hearing of the Alaska House Health and Social Services and State Affairs committees, public health experts and state employee representatives urged the state to take additional measures to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks as Alaska’s economy re-opens. The hearing was held on Wednesday, May 27th in the Anchorage Benson Building.

“It is a false choice to suggest we can have either economic reopening or protect public health,” said Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage), who co-chairs the House State Affairs Committee. “Only by stomping out this virus in Alaska, and preventing re-introduction from Outside, can we resurrect our economy and save lives.”

Health and Social Services Committee Chair, Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel), added, “We heard testimony today that provides an important reminder of how harmful COVID-19 can be, and that there is still a long way to go before the virus is truly eradicated. The State of Alaska must do everything in its power to make sure Alaskans stay healthy as we begin the fragile process of reopening our economy. I encourage state officials to follow the advice of public health experts and labor representatives who testified [Wednesday].”

Andy Elsberg, M.D., urged the state to mandate face coverings in public spaces and to monitor and enforce quarantine measures for travelers entering Alaska. He also recommended expanded testing for high-risk facilities such as the Pioneer Homes and correctional facilities. Dr. Elsberg noted that COVID-19 has resulted in severe infection and death for Alaskans of all ages and stressed the importance of minimizing the viruses' spread. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

Fish Factor: New clothing line from recycled fishing nets By LAINE WELCH - Recycled fishing nets from Cordova will soon help launch a new clothing line by Grundens, the maker of the iconic foul weather gear “built by fishermen for fishermen for over a century.”

The Copper River Watershed Project is “refreshing” its net recycling program underway for a decade that’s been backed by the Pacific Marine States Commission. Now, the program wants to broaden its base and stand on its own, said Shae Bowman, Watershed operations manager.

“The vision with a new program is to create a self-sustaining recycling program that is a valued asset to the commercial fishing fleet. We also want to provide a high quality product to recyclers. And we don't want to have to be constantly chasing down grants and sources of funding,” Bowman said, adding that the project has recycled over 200,000 pounds over 10 years. 

Enter Nicole Baker, founder of Net Your Problem, who since 2015 has jumpstarted net recycling programs across Alaska. Her work so far has included gathering and shipping primarily plastic trawl nets to Europe where they are recycled into pellets for sale to makers of a myriad of products from skateboards to cellphone covers. 

 “I think the gillnet fleet is pretty dialed in, but seines are made out of the same type of plastic that gillnets are, so those two gear types can be recycled together,” Baker said.

A goal is to fill a 40 foot shipping container this summer. But changes in the recycling market mean that unlike before, the nets must be clean and stripped before drop off.

 “You have to collect a really high quality product that somebody wants to buy,” Bowman explained. “We don't want to collect something that's full of garbage and that's the problem we've been struggling with.  I really want to get the word out that we need to recycle nets better. Our nets coming in need to be clean and stripped of any non-nylon material – that’s the cork lines, the lead lines, the hanging twine, all that needs to be removed to increase our quality.”

 European recyclers will turn the Cordova nets not into pellets for making other plastics, but yarn for clothing. 

Enter Grundens.

“Our statement as a brand is “we are fishing,” said Mat Jackson, Grundens chief marketing officer. “We believe it's really important to use our brand voice and strength to help protect and maintain healthy marine environments and to lend a hand where we can.  But at some point, you’ve got to just start doing it and making the process happen. And when talking with Nicole, Cordova became something that seemed like a tangible opportunity.”   

Jackson said the net recycling project also dovetails nicely with Grundens new clothing line.

 “In 2021 we are launching a full line of products from technical outerwear to more lifestyle casual items like shorts built out of “Econyl” regenerated nylon, which is largely comprised of recycled fishing nets and has been a main source that Nicole has been pursuing in terms of shipping this gear out of Alaska and into a recycler supply chain,” Jackson said, adding that he believes it is “a really powerful package.” 

Our consumer base is commercial fishermen, but it also includes recreational fishermen and delivering them a product that fits their needs, performs at a high level, and is built from recycled material that our core customer uses to make a living, we just feel is an incredibly powerful message to help put the spotlight on these efforts and hopefully build a coalition around this process,” Jackson said. “Because it's going to take more than just our brand getting involved. This really has to become an effort that the whole industry starts to embrace.”

Bowman agrees.

“My big hope,” she said, “is that if we can get this program to work out, it can serve as a model for other commercial fishing communities in Alaska as they look into setting up a recycling program. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020


Ketchikan: First Batch of Wastewater Testing Results Received & Hand Sanitizer Refill Stations are Ongoing - The first set of wastewater testing results was received onMay 27th. Acording to information provided by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the data was compiled from a May 7th sample and showed that there was no detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the wastewater as of that date. 

The wastewater testing has been done through the City of Ketchikan Wastewater Treatment Facility to detect whether there is a presence of COVID-19 in Ketchikan.

The testing is conducted each week by collecting a 24-hour composite sample. COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater before someone becomes symptomatic, if they become symptomatic at all. 

The test results can help the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) policy group make more informed decisions relative to when or when not to lift restrictions.  The data will also be shared with the Alaska Department of Conservation (DEC) for statewide consideration. Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are hopeful that they also will receive data from other Alaska communities.  - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

Ketchikan: Free weekly drive-up testing clinics offered in Ketchikan - Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) reported 63 individuals participated in the drive-up testing clinic held on May 27 and 28.  Each person tested will receive notification from a health care provider with the test results - either positive or negative - as soon as the results are received. 

With the ongoing demand for COVID-19 testing, the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will continue to provide a free drive-up clinic each Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Berth 3. 

The testing is conducted by health care providers from Creekside Family Clinic, Ketchikan Public Health, and PeaceHealth Medical Center.

The weekly free testing clinic is offered to symptomatic individuals as well as certain asymptomatic individuals. Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) encourages anyone with any of these symptoms to seek testing:

Cough, chills, difficulty breathing, diminished sense of taste or smell, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, headache, muscle/joint aches, nausea/vomiting, rash, runny nose, or sore throat.

In addition to individuals with any symptom consistent with COVID-19 Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center (EOC) encourages the following self-identified asymptomatic individuals to seek testing: - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

The Bears of McNeil and the Pebble Mine Project

The Bears of McNeil and the Pebble Mine Project
By BJORN DIHLE (Pride of Bristol Bay)
A brown bear with her spring cub in the McNeil River Refuge.
Photo by Drew Hamilton



Alaska: The Bears of McNeil and the Pebble Mine Project By BJORN DIHLE (Pride of Bristol Bay) - In the late 1990s Drew Hamilton followed an old timer who lived on a homestead in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park, on the Alaska Peninsula, to a sedge meadow loaded with brown bears. It was Drew’s first real introduction to the animal, and he watched in awe as bears browsed the greenery and peacefully went about their lives. Then, to Drew’s surprise, his companion spread out a tarp on the grass and lay down to take a nap.

“It was kind of an epiphany. That old timer showed me that what I’d been taught about bears wasn’t true - that they weren’t demon monsters,” Drew remembered

Since then, Drew has put in decades working as a bear viewing guide, mostly on the Alaska Peninsula, as well as five years working as the Fish and Game technician at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge. He is the Board President of Friends of McNeil - a diverse yet unified group of people devoted to protecting the sanctuary and the incredible population of brown bears that utilize it. On one occasion Drew counted 78 bears visible at the same time on a quarter mile of river. The sanctuary has the densest concentration of brown bears on Earth according the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).
“McNeil is where bear biologists go on vacation,” Drew said.

McNeil is open to the public for bear viewing from early June through late August each summer. Due to popularity, and to maintain a “wilderness” experience that keeps both bears and people happy, ADF&G has established a lottery permitting system. A bear has never hurt someone at McNeil and, since ADF&G actively began managing the sanctuary in the 1970s, no bear has been hurt by a person. The flawless track record is based on people being consistent and respectful in their behavior - as well as measures to make sure bears don’t become accustomed to human food. Polly Hessing, a retired ADF&G wildlife biologist who spent around 14 seasons working as technician at the refuge, emphasized the decades and decades of many people’s effort to make McNeil what it is today: a natural wonder and, hands down, the greatest bear viewing area in the world According to recent study made in part by the University of Alaska, bear viewing at McNeil, Katmai National Park and Lake Clark generates 34 million dollars annually.

The future of McNeil’s bears, however, is threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine. Despite decades of local protest - including from Alaskan politicians like Governor Jay Hammond and Senator Ted Stevens - the Pebble Project permitting process is currently being rushed along by a politically motivated agenda. When most people think of what’s at stake with Pebble, they think of the damage that will occur to Bristol Bay’s invaluable watersheds and the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. (The commercial fishery generates nearly $700 million annually.) They also think of sport fishing visitors, and residents dependent on salmon for food. It’s important to also consider the negative effects Pebble would have on bears. Drew Hamilton wants people to understand the consequences Pebble would have on not just McNeil, but brown bears across the Alaska Peninsula and Bristol Bay.

“It’d be a 200-mile gash in the best brown bear habitat in the world. People need to understand that a McNeil bear is also a Katmai and Bristol Bay bear. They move around a lot,” Drew said. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020



JOHN L. MICEK: IN A POST-GEORGE FLOYD AMERICA, IT’S TIME TO LISTEN - Ever gotten the wind knocked out of you? Or been unable to breathe for even a few seconds?

There’s pain. There’s panic. There’s the desperation of trying to restore the vital equilibrium that keeps your heart beating, your brain functioning, and the rhythms of life intact and in sync with each other.

Now imagine that you can’t breathe for eight minutes.

Try to wrap your head around what is surely nothing less than the blind, uncomprehending terror and agony of being deprived of oxygen for 480 seconds, even as your pleas for mercy and those of bystanders are being ignored. And then imagine that the person inflicting this torture on you isn’t some cartoon villain, but someone sworn to protect and serve the community. And then imagine that his colleagues are just standing there, watching a tragedy unfold before them.

Pile it on top of the little indignities. Being stopped while they’re walking for no reason at all. Getting trailed through department stores simply because they’re wearing a hoodie. Having a white woman call the cops on you when you reasonably ask her to leash her dog. These aren’t urban myths. They’re stories and experiences of real people, told again and again, in identical detail.

As a middle-aged, pretty solidly middle class, white man, it’s something utterly outside my experience. I’ll never know what it’s like to go through any of that.

But I’ve come to know someone who does.

Rob Woodfork and his family moved in next door to mine about a decade ago. Like me, he’s a journalist. And we bonded immediately over work. Our kids went to school together. We’d debate sports, chew over the news, and talk about our shared love for comic books and the Marvel movies. And there was a fierce competition to make sure that if one of us was mowing our lawn, that the other was out there immediately to keep the pace. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: The Death of George Floyd

Political Cartoon: The Death of George Floyd
By Jeff Koterba ©2020, Omaha World Herald, NE
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Major oil producers thrive, while Southeast suffers By Robin O. Brena - Five years ago, Alaskans gave up roughly $1.5 billion per year for our oil under Senate Bill 21. In return, we were promised things would be better because there would be more capital investment, more oil jobs, more oil production and more state revenue. Not one promise was kept, and, instead, we got nothing.

While the major producers have taken billions from us since SB21, Southeast Alaska has been left to suffer. The Alaska Marine Highway System can no longer reliably connect Southeast communities. PFDs to Southeast families of four have been cut $28,000 since SB21. State support for Southeast cities and schools have been cut, forcing property tax increases. UAS has being gutted. State workers throughout Southeast have lost their jobs. And, capital projects with construction jobs in Southeast are now a thing of the past.

To economically recover and have a meaningful future, Alaskan needs to quit giving away our oil to the major producers. This is particularly true in these times of lower oil prices when it is more important than ever to ensure the reduced revenues from our oil are being divided fairly among Alaskans and the major producers. Since SB21, the revenues from the sale of our oil have been $57.4 billion. Let’s look at the numbers to see whether this $57.4 billion has been divided up fairly. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

jpg Opinion

Those TV ads you are running for BIG OIL are gonna come back to bite you By Ray Metcalfe - Take Close Aim at your foot and pull the trigger Matt Tomter, owner of Matanuska Brewing. Those TV ads you are running for BIG OIL are gonna come back to bite you.

I was once as naive as you, then I got elected to the legislature, and someone showed me BP's real profit numbers. BP was making five times as much as they were making anywhere else for doing the same thing, all while telling us legislators that they needed a tax break. 

Alaska's wealth was being stolen. It was obvious to anyone willing to read BP's statements to stockholders. But BP Cool-Aid had drenched the halls of the capitol, and most of my fellow legislators would pretend they didn't get it when I showed them BP's statements.

In 1979 BP told their stockholders they were making so much money in Alaska they could not invest it all in exploration. Their stated plan was to buy up other energy companies to grow BP. Over the next 30 years, BP grew from the world's 13th largest oil company to the world's 3rd largest. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

jpg Opinion

Communist China Owes Pandemic Reparations By Donald Moskowitz - Communist China has a history of experimenting with contagious viruses. In 2013 scientists at the Harbin China Veterinary Research Institute produced a new virus by combining the HSN1 bird-flu with a 2009 H1N1 flu virus, and the resultant virus was highly contagious among humans. In 2019 the COVID-19 virus most likely came from the Chinese Virology Laboratory in Wuhan China which was experimenting with  COVID-19 bats. U.S. scientists and intelligence officials said COVID-19 was not manmade or engineered in a laboratory, but they are investigating the COVID-19 source to be bats infecting workers at the Wuhan laboratory who then transmitted the virus to the public. 

The COVIID-19 pandemic throughout the world has caused over 350,000 deaths with an adverse economic impact of $3 to $5 trillion. Communist China should pay reparations to the world for the economic damage it has caused. The value on human life is difficult to quantify, but Communist China should have to compensate relatives of deceased people. - More...
Monday AM - June 01, 2020

jpg Opinion

After a Supreme Court win, Alaskans have the right and responsibility to recall By Joe Usibelli Sr. and Vic Fischer - On May 8, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the right of Alaskans to hold a recall election. As co-chairs of the Alaskan effort to remove Governor Michael J. Dunleavy from office, we write with an urgent message: our state’s future is in our collective hands. If you have not already signed a recall petition in 2020, now is the time to request a household booklet online and sign again. - More...
Sunday PM - May 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Destroying a Fishery Will Not Save Southern Resident Killer Whales By Wally Pereyra, Ph.D. - Soon, a Seattle-based federal judge will decide the fate of some 1,600 Southeast Alaska salmon trollers—fishermen who are already looking at the lowest allotment of Chinook in 20 years, largely due to the past three Pacific Salmon Treaty agreements that have cut by two-thirds their allocation of these high-value, sought-after fish. - More...
Sunday PM - May 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Former Educator Hurts Student Opportunity By Derek Reed - I want Alaska to thrive. That’s why I teach high school. I am a lucky individual who gets to work with the next wave of entrepreneurs, chefs, carpenters, and fishermen, just to name a few. I dedicate my waking hours to ensure Alaskan students have the skills needed to live happy, healthy, productive lives. Investing in students helps Alaska long term; student success equals Alaska’s success. However, due to the constant cuts and politicking from a former educator, Alaska’s success is in jeopardy. - More...
Sunday PM - May 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Fascism and the Alaska Native By Dominic Salvato - Sealaska and the State of Alaska are linked it what could only be called a fascist arrangement. - More...
Sunday PM - May 17, 2020

jpg Opinion

Big and small, UA campuses need our support in the recall of Governor Dunleavy By Therese Lewandowski - During my 25 years as an administrative assistant at the University of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer, I witnessed a profound truth: Alaskans are hungry for in-state higher education. Sadly, with programs all over the state being shuttered, students are now leaving Alaska and taking their bright futures with them. - More...
Sunday PM - May 17, 2020

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