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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
July 03, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By ODEN SHONG

National Bird: Bald Eagle
Happy Fourth of July

The bald eagle, with its snowy-feathered head and white tail, is the national bird of the United States. It is a bird of prey with a wingspan of 5.9 to 7.5 feet with an adult lifespan of 20 years in the wild.
It's diving speed is an amazing 75-99 MPH.
It has been reported that half of the world's 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska.
Front Page Feature Photo By ODEN SHONG ©2019

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Alaska: $53 Million Approved for Fishermen & Stakeholders Affected by 2016 Gulf of Alaska Pink Salmon Fishery Disaster By Reported & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the approval of $53.8 million to restore losses for Alaska fisheries impacted by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster. NOAA approved the funds Tuesday and transferred the funds to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the agency tasked with distributing the relief payments to fishermen and their deckhands, processors, and for salmon research in the affected regions. 

“This funding has been a long-time coming. We are pleased that Alaskans who have been waiting for this economic relief that was promised to them will finally receive it. By restoring losses incurred during the 2016 pink salmon disaster, our federal government is following through not only on the commitment we made to Alaska’s commercial fisherman, but also to their families, processors, and coastal communities who were hit hard by this disaster,” said the Alaska Congressional Delegation in a prepared statement. “We pushed hard to secure this relief for those whose livelihoods depend on the health of our fisheries. And we will continue to stand up for Alaska’s fisheries to ensure that this industry that is so vital to our state remains strong and vibrant for generations to come.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker declared the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster in January 2017, due to disastrously low returns. The following Alaska areas were included in the disaster declaration for poor pink salmon harvests in 2016: Prince William Sound, Kodiak Management, Chignik Management, Lower Cook Inlet Management, Yakutat, South Alaska Peninsula, and Southeast.

Following the disaster declaration, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced in June 2018 that Alaska would receive $56.3 million in disaster funding to support compensation, recovery, and relief for fishermen, communities, and stakeholders affected by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster. (Note: NOAA’s announcement accounts for the approval and release of over $53 million of the $56.3 million total funding package.)

Previously the State of Alaska in consultation with the Alaska Regional Office of NOAA developed a draft distribution plan for these funds, that will be administered by the Pacific States Marine Commission (PSMFC). Upon receipt of the funds, PSMFC will employ the Alaska disaster distribution plan to administer the funds to the affected entities. The State of Alaska's intent, according to the appropriation language, is to distribute the federal funds to the affected parties as soon as practical.

Disbursement of funds will be prioritized based on the following criteria: 1) funds will be allocated to improve fishery information to better assess and forecast future fishery performance; 2) fishery participants directly involved and harmed by the 2016 pink salmon disaster; 3) funds will be disbursed to positively affect the broadest number of people possible; and 4) address losses to primary business and infrastructure that directly support pink salmon fisheries and that incurred the greatest losses as a result of the disaster. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

Alaska: Alaska Supreme Court Urges Legislature to Restore 3% COLA Increase to Court System Employees By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Supreme Court as a body released a statement today responding to Governor Michael Dunleavy's vetoes announced June 28th. Among the governor's vetoes were two legislatively appropriated budget items for the Alaska Court System.

The first was $1,756,300 that the legislature appropriated for a 3% cost of living allowances for the Alaska Court Systems non-union, non-judicial staff, designed to match union contract pay increases approved by the legislature for similar state employees in other government branches. The second was $337,700 of the legislature’s original $7,217,200 appropriation for Alaska's appellate courts.

According to the Alaska Supreme Court's statement, the second veto by the governor carried a statement explaining it was in response to the governor’s disagreement with a recent supreme court decision.

The Alaska Supreme Court responded to Alaska’s recent financial crisis by recognizing that the court system has a duty to be a good steward of the public’s money by proposing, with legislature making, significant reductions to the court system’s operating budget, reductions that resulted in the closure of all courts statewide on Friday afternoons and a consequent reduction of the Court System's employees salaries by 4% over the past three years, a cut not shared by the other two branches of government.

The purpose of the statement by Alaska Supreme Court was to urge the legislature to restore the FY2020 3% increase in cost of living allowances and return the court employees to equal footing with employees of the executive and legislative branches. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019


Alaska: Governor's Vetoes Will Result in More Than 220 Children Losing Early Educ Services & 500 or More People Losing Supportive Housing Say RurAL CAP By MARY KAUFFMAN - According to Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc., more than 220 children statewide will lose vital early education and more than 500 people will lose supportive housing services currently provided by the RurAL CAP, a statewide nonprofit, as a result of the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2020 state budget.

“More than one-third of our Head Start facilities will close,” said Kristin Ramstad, RurAL CAP Child Development Division Director. “This will cut crucial services from children and their families throughout the state.”

According to RurAL CAP, the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget cuts result in nearly a $5.5 million reduction in funding to essential programming and staff positions provided by the agency statewide.

Impacts of the budget cuts spread from the termination of services that support low-income children and their families to the closure of additional supportive housing facilities, Safe Harbor and Sitka Place. These facilities offer services to individuals and families suffering from chronic homelessness, mental illness and physical disabilities. Children, families and individuals in supportive housing have access to 24/7 tenancy support, case management, skill development and clinical services for substance abuse treatment, therapy and behavioral health assessments.

The cuts in these services result in the elimination of staff positions for direct care and support services statewide, ultimately terminating more than 80 existing jobs between the Child Development and Supportive Housing Divisions and further weakening the economy of rural Alaska, according to RurAK CAP.

“Gov. Dunleavy’s prioritization of corrections funding, expanding the number of prison beds, is short-sighted,” said Patrick M. Anderson, RurAL CAP Chief Executive Officer. “We already know that access to early childhood education and academic engagement is linked to reduced rates of delinquency, violence and crime.”

The state budget overlooks the economic benefit of prevention and health and wellness services. The decision to defund critical community services will undercut our community’s efforts to protect vulnerable populations and particularly impacts children and rural Alaskans, according to Anderson.

The Southeast Alaska service region of RurAL CAP contains the rural areas of Haines Borough, Hoonah-Angoon Census Area, Juneau city and Borough, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Petersburg Census Area, Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Sitka City and Borough, The Municipality of Skagway, Wrangell City and Borough and Yakutat City and Borough.

RurAL CAP currently operates the following programs targeting low-income families in the Southeast region:

  • Head start in Haines, Kake and Ketchikan
  • Parents as Teachers in Haines and Kake
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)
  •  State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Home Modification for person’s with physical disabilities.
  • RurAL CAP AmeriCorps member engaging youth in tobacco prevention and limiting tobacco litter.
  • Resilient Alaska Youth (RAY) Members services.
  • Resource Basket to support rural Alaska Native youth
  • Elder Mentors to support children’s education and cultural awareness

For the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, RurAL Cap's Sources of total funds were reported as $38,052,676. Of that total, federal funds amounted to over $17 million with State of Alaska funding at almost $6 million. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

EPA Says Pebble Mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed

EPA Says Pebble Mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed
Aerial view of braided wetlands and tundra that is typical of the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska.  Upper Talarik Creek (shown here) flows into Lake Iliamna and then the Kvichak River before emptying into Bristol Bay.
Photo Courtesy EPA


Alaska: EPA Says Pebble Mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed By MARY KAUFFMAN - The official comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine closed July 1st and last week the Environmental Protection Agency's General Counsel Matthew Z. Leopold released a memo directing EPA Region 10 to resume its consideration whether to withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination to restrict the use of the Pebble Deposit Area as a disposal site under CW A section 404(c).

Revoking the Proposed Determination would provide some protections for Bristol Bay after the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment determined that the risk of a mine like Pebble to the fishery and the region was great. 

The Environmental Protection Agency released its formal 100 page comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine on Monday. In its comments the EPA states the mine’s environmental impact lacks important information and likely underestimates the risk to water quality and fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.

Water discharges from the pit lake following mine closure would require water treatment in perpetuity, quoting a recent comments from the EPA to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District. (pdf)

"Given the substantial potential impacts and risks of the proposed project and weaknesses in the DEIS, the DEIS likely underestimates adverse impacts to groundwater and surface water flows, water quality, wetlands, fish resources, and air quality. Therefore, conclusions that the project will not violate applicable water quality and air quality standards should be further supported," wrote Chris Haladick, EPA Regional Administrator.

In EPA comments to the Army Corps of Engnerrs regarding the Corps' public notice for a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit to the Pebble Limited Partnership, the EPA wrote they have concerns regarding the extent and magnitude of the substantial proposed impacts to streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources that may result, particuLarly in light of the important role these resources play in supporting the region’s valuable fishery resources.

Alaskans from around the state fear their voices are not being heard according to opponents of the project.

“As salmon return to Bristol Bay, people in this region should be thinking about filling smokehouses, freezers, nets and teaching their children and grandchildren how to fish - not wondering if all of the work to collect data, study the impacts of the Pebble Mine, and participate in the public process will mean anything, “ said Kendra Kloster, Executive Director, Native Peoples Action.

“We will continue to protect our traditional way of life and ensure Alaska will remain a culture and salmon rich state for our future generations,” said Kloster.

“From the beginning, it was clear that the permitting process for the Pebble Mine was corrupt and that the huge investments Pebble Limited Partnership put in to lobbying the Trump administration were paying off.  This latest move by the EPA just confirms that,” said Carly Wier, Executive Director of Cook Inletkeeper, “But as Alaskans, we have weathered many storms and we will not stop fighting for what we know is right.” - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019


Alaska: Weird world of northern dinosaurs coming into focus By NED ROZELL - During Patrick Druckenmiller’s not-so-restful sabbatical year of 2015, he flew to museums around the world. In Alberta and then London, the University of Alaska Museum of the North’s earth science curator looked at bones of dinosaurs similar to ones found in northern Alaska.

The more he squinted at them and chatted with experts, the more he concluded far-north dinosaurs are like Alaskans compared to other Americans: kind of the same, but a little off.

“When we really re-examine the fauna, (northern Alaska) is a very weird place,” said Druckenmiller, who today is also the museum director.

The mini tyrannosaur, duck-billed swamp-stompers, armor-headed plant-eaters and other dinosaurs found in northern Alaska hint of a story that is theirs alone. That tale is separate from the one we learned as kids, told by fossils found in Montana, Alberta, Mongolia and other more exposed and easier-to-get-to places.

Druckenmiller’s examinations of the duck-billed dinosaurs found in Alberta led to the declaration of a new Alaska hadrosaur species due to slight but significant differences in body structure.

“They’re close but they’re different,” Druckenmiller said. “It’s true for fish, dinosaurs and mammals. There’s no obvious gene flow between areas.”

The story of the northern dinosaur is late in arriving because Alaska is late in being explored. But paleontologists have filled the basement of the university museum with the world’s largest collection of polar dinosaur bones and tracks encased in rock. Researchers are using them to write a separate narrative for the creatures who lived in a place of extremes 70 million years ago. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

Ketchikan: Fireworks prohibited on public lands & permits required in the Ketchikan Borough - As the Fourth of July approaches, fire officials remind visitors that fireworks are prohibited on the Tongass National Forest at all times, regardless of weather conditions. With southeast Alaska still in a drought, wildland fires will start more easily and spread more quickly, making the use of fireworks even more dangerous. 

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough also issued a fireworks alert that under Ketchikan Gateway Borough Code 8.3, it is unlawful to sell, possess or utilize fireworks without a permit in the borough.

“With warm and dry conditions, all it takes is one small spark to start a wildfire,” said Acting Forest Fire Management Officer Una Pesata. “Please be safe and responsible with fire when visiting the Tongass this summer.” 

Fireworks are banned on national forests at all times, regardless of weather or conditions. Fireworks are also prohibited on other public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. Violators can be subject to a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail (36 CFR 261.52). Additionally, anyone who starts a wildfire can be held liable for suppression costs.

Over 95% of wildland fires in Southeast are human caused. The majority of those fires are caused by unattended campfires. Visitors are encouraged to practice campfire safety. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

Fourth of July Political Cartoons

jpg Political Cartoon: July 4

Political Cartoon: July 4
By Steve Sack ©2019, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, MN
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon: Dogs and Fireworks

Political Cartoon: Dogs and Fireworks
By Pat Bagley ©2019, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon: A 4th of July Wish

Political Cartoon: A 4th of July Wish
By Jeff Koterba ©2019, Omaha World Herald, NE
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Boondoggle looking for a place to happen By A. M. Johnson - Regarding the upcoming LIO Ortiz Ketchikan meeting, I will not be attending, however were the chance to give Representative Ortiz a piece of my mind on a particular matter it would be:   Title registration of boats over 24 feet.  This legislation is a SNAFU big time. What a mess this will be.

Having to register in person at the DMV office, not on line, required paperwork on boats owned for years without any formal information on the transaction or worst, lost paper work never thinking of this worthless goal legislation would be approved. The worthless intent alone should have told legislators that it will be a nightmare effort to police. More it appears to be a avenue for revenue over the stated intent of its being. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Governor's Vetoes By Elaine Taylor - I read with great interest the letter to the editor from Rodney Dial.   In high school we were taught that when you have a complaint, valid or not, you also offer a remedy.  Dial did not offer any real suggestions.

I am offering one.  

Alaska is a Red State as we all know.  I was born and raised in Washington State, having also lived in California for long periods.

Every year, 2-3 times a year Washington State was having Bond Levy's for the school system and most times the Levy's failed.  People were upset at the state for wanting all people to pay for the schools when their own children were raised and gone from the school system.  Understandable.

I believe it was in 1983 when Washington State adopted the LOTTERY.  Since then, the State Budget has been balanced, to my understanding.   There is a lot of money in the LOTTERY business.  When someone wins big, that state gets a percentage of the win.  Did you know that?  And once the lotto has begun, the interest on the ticket sales grows.  It can grow to where even when there is BIG win, all the Lottery officials are paying out is money off the interest they have  already accumulated. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 03, 2019

jpg Opinion

Governor's Vetos By Rodney Dial - So the Governor has announced his vetoes, cutting $444 million from the budget. Assuming these cuts stand, just about everyone will feel some pain, and it will have an impact on local taxes.

Let’s consider for a moment why these cuts were made. First, if you want someone to blame for this you should start with the legislators who have had nearly 6 YEARS to address this problem and failed to do so.

If you are one of the few that believe that TOTAL State spending has been reduced by any REAL amount then they have successfully mislead you. I worked in the legislature for a decade and I have watched them pull the following tricks over the last several years.

1. Consistently compare the current budget (for each of the last several years) against the FY15 budget, to show how much they have “Cut”. Want to know why? Because that was the year former Gov. Parnell “Paid Off” $3 billion in State retirement liability. He didn’t increase the cost to operate government; he paid down a multi-billion dollar debt. But it makes the budget larger for that year. By doing so he SAVED over $500 million annually in state pension payments. Meaning, that they falsely imply that government spending was far greater then, while ignoring that had Parnell not taken this action our budget situation would be far worse now. (Difference 3 billion)

2. Most of what the legislature is calling cuts are simply spending deferrals. The main ones being the Capital budget and the oil tax credits. Unless you believe that most capital projects are non-essential, then the money will be expended at some point. They just pushed off spending to future years to give the appearance of cuts and we all know the capital budget will increase again. Regarding the oil tax credits, Gov. Walker vetoed about 1 billion in credits that must be paid. This is the functional equivalent of deciding not to pay your credit card. Still has to be paid, and is NOT a cut, although they called it one. (Difference hundreds of millions annually for Capital budget / about $1 Billion for oil tax credits). - More...
Saturday AM - June 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

Cuts Could Have Been Avoided By Ray Metcalfe - The University could have avoided all these cuts had it recognized years ago that we Alaskans, unlike any other state, have a collective responsibility to manage a cornucopia of valuable resources that were given to the people of Alaska to develop and sell on the world market as a means of supporting our schools and other governmental needs.

Not one course has been developed to educate Alaskans on how to determine fair market value for the resources industries around the world are taking from us. If ten thousand Alaskans were able to calculate market value for Prudhoe Bay's oil, we would be getting billions more for our oil, and the university would be funded. That said, today would be a good day to start such a course. - More...
Saturday AM - June 29, 2019

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