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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
July 15, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON

The cruise ship Azamara departing Sunday night
Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON ©2019

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Fish Factor: Governor's Budget Cuts Go Easy on Fisheries By LAINE WELCH - Fisheries fare better than most people in terms of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s budget cuts. 

Just under one million dollars was cut from the commercial fisheries division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, leaving it with an $85 million budget, half from state general funds.

“To give the governor credit, he recognized the return on investment,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, ADF&G Commissioner.  “It’s a theme I had all the way through the legislature that we take a $200 million budget of which about $50 million is unrestricted general funds and we turn that into an $11 billion return to our state. And I think he got that.”

Vincent-Lang added that Dunleavy also did not veto the travel budget for the Board of Fisheries and its advisory committees. 

 It’s indefinite still how the budget cuts will play out, and Vincent-Lang said he is trying to avoid staff cuts to the 700 comm fish positions. 

“I suspect we may have some but we will try to do that through vacancies and a variety of other things as we have retirements,” he said.

Also set to get axed is funding for research projects, such as salmon inseason sampling and Tanner crab surveys at Prince William Sound, and five salmon weirs at Kodiak and Chignik. Salmon counting is likely to be reduced at the Yukon River’s Eagle and Pilot Station sonars, along with various stock assessment surveys for groundfish.  

“I’ve asked my staff to look at their overall program, and not necessarily cut the projects, but take the ones that have the least impact on the management of our fisheries across our state in terms of economic value back and cut those,” he explained, acknowledging that the cut backs could lead to more cautious management. 

“Clearly, any time you reduce your forecast ability you become more precautionary in your inseason management approach until you can become more certain,” he said.

Vincent-Lang said the state hopes to form local partnerships to help fund shortfalls, “like the Bristol Bay Science Initiative and Yukon River tribal groups to try to find ways that we can replace that money to ensure that we minimize the impact to our ongoing management programs.” 

Those partnerships “are the path forward” for Alaska’s fishing industry to jointly fund research, he stressed. 

“If we are going to be continually dependent on state general funds, that presents a challenge,” he said. “We need to look for ways to partner with different groups to get a diversified funding stream.”  

Partnership also will be important to fund ADF&G’s special areas management which is facing a $280,000 budget cut for its oversight of 12 game refuges, 17 critical habitat areas and three wildlife sanctuaries. Vincent-Lang said using hunting dollars with matching grants in some areas will help make up for that budget shortfall.

“The rest of the department, like the sportfish and wildlife divisions, are largely funded by federal funds that are dedicated to those activities and we match them with hunting and sport fishing license dollars. There’s very little state general funds in those divisions,” he explained.

The Habitat and Subsistence Divisions will remain under the auspices of ADF&G, despite reports that two director-level positions and associated funding would move to the Office of Management and Budget. Vincent-Lang said those two positions were open when he took the job and he opted not to fill them. 

“I didn’t want to lose actual staff members in those divisions that were equal to a director position,” he explained. “If a director position cost $200,000 I would have lost three or four staff members in both divisions to make up for that. I willingly gave up those two positions to OMB because they needed them, but the activity they were doing remains under the supervision of ADF&G.”

The total budget for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game is $200 million. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019


Southeast Alaska: Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen Visits Southeast Alaska - USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen was hosted this past weekend in Southeast Alaska by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The trip gave Chief Christiansen a direct look at challenges and opportunities in the Tongass National Forest and an opportunity to hear from local stakeholders and tribal leaders about the need to build a strong, sustainable economy in the region. 

“I thank Chief Christiansen and her team for joining me in Southeast to see and experience our nation’s largest national forest,” Murkowski said. “This was a great opportunity for Alaskans to engage in productive discussion with the Chief and other Forest Service officials, and for the Chief to see firsthand the everyday issues that face communities where the federal government manages the vast majority of the land. I welcome Chief Christiansen’s partnership and commitment to ensure the Tongass is a working forest for all who depend on it.” 

During the visit, the Senator and the Chief toured a portion of Phase 1 of the Alaska Mental Health Trust (AMHT) land exchange, which transferred approximately 2,400 acres at Naukati on Prince of Wales (POW) Island to AMHT in exchange for 2,500 acres near Ketchikan. Murkowski authored the legislation providing for the land exchange, which was enacted into law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017.

“This first phase is providing needed timber to the Viking Lumber Mill in Klawock, as well as revenue to the AMHT to provide mental health services for Alaskans. It is also protecting viewsheds in Ketchikan for visitors and locals alike,” Murkowski said. “There were some real setbacks in the process to get to this point and we cannot afford anymore. I think the Chief understands that after this visit and is committed to keeping Phase 2 of this exchange on track so it can be completed by the deadline in the legislation. Our mills and communities in Southeast Alaska are counting on it.” - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019

Ketchikan: Five fisherman rescued after vessel sunk near Black Island - United States Coast Guard and Alaska State Trooper boat crews, as well as the crew of a good Samaritan vessel, rescued five fishermen after their vessel sunk near Black Island, Sunday.

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew from Coast Guard Station Ketchikan returned four of the five fisherman to Ketchikan, while the master of the vessel returned aboard a skiff after the retrieval of their net. 

At 10:55 a.m., Coast Guard Sector Juneau watchstanders received a distress call over VHF channel 16 from an operator of the fishing vessel Daffnie. They stated the vessel had capsized and sunk, all five people who were aboard had abandoned ship into a skiff and provided the coordinates for the skiff, as well as noted there was only one life jacket.

Coast Guard 17th District watchstanders also received notification from the emergency position indication radio beacon registered to the vessel restating the vessel sank and all aboard transferred to the skiff, as well as that they only had one handheld radio, one survival suit and were holding onto their seine net.

A RM-B crew and an Alaska State Trooper boat crew launched in response.

An Alaska State wildlife trooper arrived shortly after noon and confirmed the location of the skiff. The RB-M boat crew and good Samaritans aboard the fishing vessel Lovie Joann arrived within the following 10 minutes. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019

Ketchikan: Two South Tongass Accidents Within A Week - Alaska State Troopers responded today to a report of a single vehicle motor vehicle collision near 6.4 mile of South Tongass highway.

Today's investigation by the Troopers revealed 19-year-old Eveyln Bercher of Minnesota was operating a northbound 2004 Jeep on South Tongass highway when she lost control of the Jeep after becoming distracted and drove off the roadway.

The Jeep traveled approximately 320 feet going in and out of the northbound ditch and came to rest against a rock wall.

South Tongass EMS responded, Bercher reported wearing her seatbelt and had no complaint of injuries. The Jeep sustained extensive damage.

This is the second accident on the South Tongass Highway within a week. Last Tuesday about 4:11 PM, the Alaska State Troopers received multiple reports of a Motor Vehicle Collision involving a Motorcycle at Mile 3 of the South Tongass Highway. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019

Ketchikan: Water Main Break Repaired - Permanent repairs to the 400 block Schoenbar Road water main broken early Friday morning were completed Saturday evening. The broken main flooded the road with one car trapped in the road's washout before the road was blocked to traffic.

By Saturday evening the repaired water main was refilled and disinfected water was again moving to the Bear Valley Reservoir.

The repair was delayed while waiting for needed repair materials which arrived Saturday afternoon. During the wait, Ketchikan Public Utilities had isolated the water main and drained it preparing to making the permanent repairs. 

During Friday and Saturday while the water main was isolated, the remaining water stored in the Bear Valley Reservoir was the sole supply of water for the entire community until the repairs were completed. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019


Analysis: In divided Alaska, the choice is between paying for government or giving residents bigger oil wealth checks By PAOLA BANCHERO - Alaskans will soon confront the dramatic effects of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes of US$444 million from the state operating budget of $8.3 billion, which went into effect July 1.

The Alaska legislature was unable to get enough support to block the cuts through a veto override late last week.

The budget cuts will be immediate, affecting most Alaskans.

I’m a faculty member at the University of Alaska Anchorage in the Department of Journalism and Public Communications and have served on the community advisory board of Alaska Public Media. Both the university and the public broadcasting network will face budget cuts. In the case of the university, more than 40% of its state support will be lost.

State legislators from both parties who tried to override the vetoes described a ruinous future, with university students bailing en masse, elderly residents moving out of state and domestic violence survivors being left without emergency shelter.

“You’re looking at Alaska at 1869 level of services,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, a Democrat (Sitka).

Dunleavy, who has largely avoided press interviews, told a conservative radio talk show host on July 10 that the vetoes would not “end Alaska as we know it.”

Advocates for the university system, the poor, the arts, public media and other entities on the receiving end of the cuts rallied supporters, from indie music groups to entrepreneurs.

Business groups, including the Alaska Bankers Association, tried to persuade three-fourths of the Alaska Legislature – 45 of 60 members – to override the governor’s vetoes. In the end, only 37 legislators stood against the governor.

How did Alaska, one of the country’s richest states with a $65 billion savings account fueled by oil royalties and leasing revenues, get into this position?

‘Safe landing or nose dive’

The troubles have been a long time coming.

As the state prepared to reap the benefits of its oil reserves in the 1970s as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline neared completion, voters approved in 1976 an amendment to the Alaska Constitution establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund.

The idea was to save a slice of the current oil windfall in a special fund for future generations when the oil ran out. Meanwhile, the rest of the massive oil royalties – $391.5 million in 1976, more than four times the amount collected the previous year – flowed into state coffers. That meant less need to rely on the traditional way government raises money: taxes. So the legislature repealed a state income tax and the Alaska school tax in 1980.

Now, most Alaska communities have no sales tax and property taxes are low. The total state and local tax burden on Alaskans is the lowest in the country. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019



DAVE KIFFER: YET ANOTHER MODEST PROPOSAL - The cruise ships of today are clearly not "your grandfather's" cruise ships.

I was thinking about that when the Queen Elizabeth visited a while back. Once upon a time, those old Cunard ships were the glamour-pusses of the Seven Seas. Of course back then neither your grandfather nor mine would be on one of those cruise ships - or luxury liners as they were called. Granted the modern "Queen Elizabeth" is more floating hotel than it is luxury liner, but you know what I am getting at.

Yes, many of our relatives indeed did sail to this continent, but that was mostly in steerage. The 18th and 19th century equivalent of airline "coach."  Now, I am not saying that flying from Seattle to Ketchikan in a middle seat between two overstuffed sport fishermen from Dubuque, Iowa is quite the same as surviving three weeks sleeping in the bilge of Princess Typhoid Mary, but just about no one I know would ever have been well-heeled enough to cross "The Pond" on of the luxury liners at their peak.

But as usual, I digress.

These new ships are definitely catering to a different group than the morning coat and white spat crowds. They have all sorts of modern amenities ranging from spas to paintball decks to go kart tracks. Whatever your "thing" is, I guarantee that there is a cruise ship out there has it, or can get it for you.

But one thing that hasn't changed much is something that I think could help them transition from 20th Century to 21st Century: the ship names. - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019


CARL GOLDEN: Democrats Risk Irrelevancy in Sprint to the Left - As the roughly two dozen Democrats seeking their party's nomination for president continue to gleefully sink their teeth into one another, the portrait that has emerged is of a band of self-serving pols who've shed self-respect in favor of pandering to a vocal segment of the party base that has abandoned the country's mainstream.

The campaigns have become a panicky, headlong flight to the left embracing ideas that as recently as four years ago would have been dismissed as loony and a guarantee of electoral disaster.

Should this trend continue, consider the following possible outcomes:

- A party with no coherent message aside from "We despise Donald Trump."

- A nominee so bruised and battered by his or her own party that regaining credibility is problematic.

- A party so far to the left that it risks becoming an out of touch fringe group.

- A party in support of ideas which are anathema to most Americans and stand no chance of Congressional approval.

- A party in favor of spending trillions of dollars with no way to pay for it.

And lastly, but most devastating of all, the re-election of Donald Trump.

You know what's not a winning message? Making the case to the American people that entering the country illegally should be decriminalized (essentially, an open borders policy), pledging to provide free health coverage to undocumented immigrants and calling to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). - More...
Monday PM - July 15, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Nancy And AOC

Political Cartoon: Nancy And AOC
By Bob Englehart ©2019, Middletown, CT
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Transboundary Mining: Alaska’s senators are working hard. Now let’s lock it in. By Frances Leach - United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) is grateful to Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan, as well as the senators of Idaho, Washington and Montana, for coming together across party lines to urge British Columbia Premier John Horgan to clean up B.C.’s mining sector and to work towards alleviating the threat B.C.’s large scale open-pit mines pose to the province’s downstream U.S. neighbors. All eight senators representing B.C.’s four U.S. border states wrote Premier Horgan on June 13, informing him on what they have been doing to monitor and sustain rivers that flow from B.C. into their states and requesting he increase the province’s efforts to do the same.

B.C. is rushing through more than a dozen large-scale open-pit mines along the major salmon rivers the province shares with Alaska. Meanwhile, a number of its existing mines are already contaminating U.S. waters — like the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku watershed, and the Kootenai River in Montana and Idaho, where fish and bird deformities and deaths are ongoing. In the case of the AK-B.C. transboundary Unuk River, 59 percent of the total land draining water to the Unuk (around 80 percent on the B.C. side of the border) is covered with B.C. mining claims or leases — and yet B.C. regulators give little consideration to the mines’ cumulative effects on downstream fishing communities. In contrast to how things are done in Alaska, B.C. also does not require mine owners to post the full amount of money required to clean up after production  — in the worst cases, allowing a mining company to declare bankruptcy and walk away, leaving the province and its taxpayers with the responsibility to cover the costs. As the more than 60 years of acid mine drainage from B.C.’s abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine into the Taku River system clearly shows, that doesn’t work out well for anyone except the mining company. In B.C., the polluter does not pay. (Taku River fishermen have been fighting this battle for decades, and they are not backing down.) - More...
Thursday AM - July 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

Argument Proved: State Spending Increasing By Rodney Dial - I was going to keep the debate going and write a long response to Rep. Ortiz; then I realized that he essentially proved my argument…. that state spending is increasing. He previously proved it was unsustainable when he advocated for additional taxes on top of increased use of the PFD earnings.

The rest is semantics, minimization and a difference of opinion.

Per Rep. Ortiz’s response, the Capital budget has been cut from 2 billon to 100 million and Oil and tax credits owed are $740 million.

The difference between our statements is that I said “about 1 billion” in oil tax credits and Rep. Ortiz said it is closer to $740 million. In the end when they finally pay off this debt it will be close to 1 billion… wait and see, especially if they bond. Regardless, $1.9 billion annual capital reduction plus $740 million (at least) in oil tax credits is a significant amount of what they claim as cuts over the last few years. Since spending for both were just shifted to future years I don’t consider it a cut, however he does.

For the other areas we disagree on, Rep. Ortiz will concede that I have a “valid point” but will minimize by saying it is a “Tiny” percentage of “Total” Government spending. Total includes PFD spending, so yes, while it may be a tiny percentage, it is still a lot of money. Last fall the supplemental request (amount needed above what the legislature approved) was $178 million and exceeds $100 million per year. - More...
Thursday AM - July 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

Protect our Seniors and Students By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As the Alaska Legislature debates how to resolve the amount and sustainability of the PFD, and what services should be funded and at what level, I pledge to continue caring for our children and our seniors. Legislators may disagree on many of the ‘hows’, but we should stand together in protecting our most vulnerable.

Earlier this week, it was announced that scholarship programs for post-secondary students are suspended. Governor Dunleavy did an expansive sweep of our funding sources, including the Higher Education Investment Fund, which leaves the Alaska Performance Scholarship, the Alaska Education Grant, and the WWAMI (Medical) program unfunded. Students received notice that they will not be receiving their scholarship awards at this time. This is a travesty, not only for these individual students and their families, but for the future of Alaska’s education and economy. - More...
Thursday AM - July 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

CHLORINE STILL IN KETCHIKAN? By Florian Sever - Does the City of Ketchikan filter the drinking water it provides to the public?

In years past, the Ketchikan Pulp Company brought tremendous amounts of chlorine into Ketchikan to bleach their pulp. Where did it all go? 

Alaska Pulp Corporation did the very same thing in Sitka. APC imported 4,000 metric tons of liquid Chlorine into Sitka every month.  Every bit of the chlorine the APC mill ever used, STAYED in Sitka. It all stayed in Sitka in the form of dioxin-contaminated "boiler fly ash", a by-product burning wastewater treatment plant sludge in the mill's Power Boilers. 

ALL  fly ash produced by APC went, either into the  AIR , the  MILL OUTFALL into Silver Bay , the  ALASKA PULP MILL landfill , or the  City of Sitka Municipal landfill.  No fly ash ever left  the airshed .of Alaska Pulp's mill. - More...
Thursday AM - July 11, 2019

jpg Opinion

Assembly and School Board Need Immediate Fiscal Plans By Dan Bockhorst - A Borough Assembly member (writing as a private citizen) recently expressed legitimate concerns about practices of State officials that have caused acute fiscal troubles throughout Alaska. The concerns expressed boil down to four points:
(1) excessive spending growth; (2) deficit spending which masks true spending; (3) depletion of financial reserves; and (4) the likelihood of new or higher taxes.
Have our Assembly and School Board engaged in similar unsound fiscal practices but at an even larger scale? Consider the following: - More...
Sunday PM - July 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Governor's Vetos By Rep. Dan Ortiz - I would like to thank Rodney Dial for the letter he submitted to SitNews published on June 30, 2019. Even more I would like to thank Assemblyman Dial for his commitment to public service by serving on the Ketchikan Borough Assembly. I offer the following facts that counter many of the points raised by Mr. Dial but I do so in the spirit of open communication and with respect for the arguments being made by him. The following facts & figures come from the non-partisan Legislative Finance Division and are viewable by the general public. - More...
Sunday PM - July 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

Open Letter: RE: Boondoggle By Al Johnson - Good to hear from you Rep. Ortiz during you busy break (I agree with the Senate President as to the Governor calling the location, I disagree that it has to be. I would if asked, suggest that you attend where the Governor has indicated while the lawsuit proceeds (Deal with the determination). That too, disturbs me that the separated powers are in this fix. .- More...
Sunday PM - July 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Boondoggle Looking For A Place To Happen By Rep. Dan Ortiz - In response to the letter submitted by A.M. “AL” Johnson entitled “Boodoggle Looking For A Place To Happen”, I agree with the sentiments/concerns expressed by Mr. Johnson. His concerns centered around SB 92, the “Derelict Vessels” bill, sponsored by Senator Peter Micciche. The bill was submitted at the request of Harbor Masters across the state because of the problems encountered statewide with vessels being abandoned with no or little way law enforcement personnel could trace who were the owners of the boat. - More...
Sunday PM - July 07, 2019

jpg Opinion

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. - 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. - 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. - More...
Saturday AM - June 29, 2019

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