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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
July 31, 2019

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Alaska: EPA Withdraws Key Mining Restrictions for Bristol Bay Area By MARY KAUFFMAN - Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it is withdrawing Obama-era proposed restrictions on mining activity near southwest Alaska?s salmon- and bird-rich Bristol Bay region. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick announced the withdrawal of the 2014 Proposed Determination issued under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for the use of the Pebble Deposit Area in Southwest Alaska as a disposal site associated with mining of the deposit.

“After today’s [Tuesday's] action EPA will focus on the permit review process for the Pebble Mine project” said Hladick. “The agency has worked closely with the Army Corps to engage with stakeholders and the public on this issue, which has resulted in an expansive public record, including specific information about the proposed mining project that did not exist in 2014."

According to the National Audubon Society, the move clears the path for the Army Corps of Engineers to renew consideration of the massive Pebble Mine, which would be one of the world's largest open-pit mines for gold, copper and other metals.

The National Audubon Society is concerned because the project and its associated waste pits would carve a one-mile wide, one-mile long, and 600-foot deep mining pit in the watershed of habitat for spawning salmon and breeding birds. They say the proposed mine would destroy 3,500 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds, and over 80 miles of salmon streams.

Bristol Bay is home to the world'?s largest salmon fishery, valued at $1.5 billion and 14,000 jobs, as well as one of the world?s greatest concentration of seabirds and a robust tourism economy, all of which would be threatened if construction of the Pebble Mine were to proceed, says the Audubon Society.

"Thanks to Bristol Bay, Alaska feeds the world salmon, not gold,"? said Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska. "?Political pressure from the Trump Administration is prevailing over Alaskans' voices, public opinion, scientific studies produced by the EPA itself, one of the world?s most critical bird areas and the world's most valuable salmon fishery -- all for the sake of a permitting process that is being rushed through agency approvals."

Dawson said, "We call on Alaska's congressional delegation and on everyone who cares about Bristol Bay to hold the federal agencies involved accountable for these politically motivated actions that will bring irreparable harm to Alaska's most valuable, sustainable economic resources. They have the power to end this process and protect irreplaceable fisheries and bird habitat.?"

According to the EPA, by withdrawing the 2014 Proposed Determination which the EPA says was issued preemptively and is now outdated, the agency can continue its focus on fulfilling its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act to work with the Army Corps to review the permit.

However, Tuesday’s action does not approve Pebble’s permit application or determine a particular outcome in the Corps’ permitting process. Instead, it allows EPA to continue working with the Corps to review the current permit application and engage in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

“Region 10’s decision restores the proper process for 404(c) determinations, eliminating a preemptive veto of a hypothetical mine and focusing EPA’s environmental review on an actual project before the Agency,” EPA General Counsel Matthew Z. Leopold.  

“Today’s [Tuesday's] announcement means the Environmental Impact Statement and permitting process for the Pebble Project currently being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers may advance to a final Record of Decision in 2020 without the cloud of uncertainty created by EPA’s unprecedented, pre-emptive regulatory action,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. “The Corps expects to finalize the Pebble EIS in early 2020 and issue a final Record of Decision by the middle of next year.” Northern Dynasty is 100% owner of the Pebble Partnership.

Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier yesterday hailed the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to advance the removal of the proposed determination against the Pebble Project that has long been viewed as a preemptive veto of the project.

“Finally, this Administration has reversed the outrageous federal government overreach inflicted on the State of Alaska by the Obama Administration,” said Collier. “The preemptive veto was an action by an Administration that sought to vastly expand EPA’s authority to regulate land use on state, private and Native-owned lands throughout the United States, and in doing so kill one of America’s most important mineral projects before a development plan was proposed or a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) permitting review was undertaken."

Collier said, "The Proposed Determination ordered to be lifted today [Tuesday] was a preemptive veto that had never before been attempted in the 45-year history of the Clean Water Act – a fact acknowledged by the former Administrator’s senior staff.”

The formal withdrawal of EPA’s Proposed Determination is one of a series of important milestones that Pebble believes demonstrate it is progressing steadily toward a positive Record of Decision.

“The withdrawal of the Proposed Determination... the proposal for a smaller, environmentally optimized mine... the Draft EIS conclusions regarding the Bristol Bay salmon fishery... the published schedule for the Final EIS and Record of Decision... and the favorable political climate in Alaska – together, these factors give us a high level of confidence that we will get a permit,” Collier said. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 31, 2019


Alaska: Lawsuit calls out DOI, BLM, and USFWS for violating FOIA; Public documents concerning Arctic Refuge oil and gas leasing unlawfully withheld- Trustees for Alaska and Bahr Law Offices filed a lawsuit today against three federal agencies for violating the statutory deadlines in the Freedom of Information Act and failing to disclose public information relating to implementation of oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The FOIA requests concern management of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge, including documents used to produce the draft environmental impact statement for oil and gas leasing, communications and other records relating to the Porcupine Caribou Treaty between the United States and Canada, and agency lease sale activities during the 2018–2019 government shutdown. 

“The lack of response across multiple agencies underscores the anti-democratic tactics being used to promote drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” said Trustees for Alaska attorney Maresa Jenson. “FOIA is integral to our democracy. Delaying, ignoring, or withholding information sows distrust, prevents accountability and transparency, and breaks the law.”

Trustees submitted multiple FOIA requests in 2018 and 2019 on behalf of the four plaintiffs in the suit--the Gwich’in Steering Committee, The Wilderness Society, Alaska Wilderness League, and Defenders of Wildlife.

“We need to know what agencies are doing and reviewing when deciding what happens to sacred lands and our way of life,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “We have a right to know what influences are at play when these agencies make decisions about our future.”

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court of Alaska calls out the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for withholding public information vital to holding agencies accountable to the law. 

“The Trump Administration’s rush to drill the Arctic Refuge has been tainted by its energy-dominance-at-all-costs and anti-science agenda,” said Alison Flint, director of litigation and agency policy with The Wilderness Society. “The public is entitled to know what is playing out behind closed doors and to have access to the records the agencies are relying on. Yet instead of devoting the necessary resources to satisfy their FOIA obligations, the agencies ignore our requests and continue to focus only on rolling back protections for the Arctic Refuge.” - More...
Wednesday PM - July 31, 2019


Ketchikan: Bryan Cothren MD joins PHMG Psychiatry - PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Group recently announced the addition of a second psychiatrist to their staff allowing for expanded services for the Southeast Alaska area.

Bryan Cothren MD joins PHMG Psychiatry

Dr. Bryan Cothren was in the Louisiana Air National Guard when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. His time helping people who sought refuge at the New Orleans Superdome set him on the path to medical school.

“I had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to do something more to help people,” he said of his experience at the Superdome. Now his path has led to Ketchikan. He joined Victor Chen MD at PeaceHealth Medical Group Psychiatry in early July.

“I decided on psychiatry when I was doing rotations to explore options in medical school,” he said, “that individual one-on-one connection with a person sitting across from you is very appealing.”

Having two psychiatrists on staff increases the ability of PeaceHealth to provide services across Southern Southeast. Dr. Chen will travel to the Prince of Wales Clinic in Craig while Dr. Cothren will go to Metlakatla once or twice a month.

“It was one of the more intriguing and exciting things we talked about when I came up for an interview,” said Dr. Cothren, “I will go to Petersburg, probably quarterly, and do telepsychiatry between the in-person appointments” - More...
Wednesday PM - July 31, 2019

Extreme melting where glacier meets ocean

Extreme melting where glacier meets ocean
The terminus of LeConte Glacier lies in an ocean bay about 25 miles east of Petersburg in Southeast Alaska.
Photo By Roman Motyka

Southeast Alaska: Extreme melting where glacier meets ocean By NED ROZELL - LeConte Glacier near Petersburg is the farthest-south glacier that spills into the sea on this side of the equator. Where that ice tongue dips into salty water, scientists recently measured melting much greater than predicted.

Scientists like working at LeConte because it’s just 25 miles from the fishing town and the ice has carved a few clifftops upon which glacier watchers can perch. They can also compare the 20-mile-long glacier to larger ones in Greenland and Antarctica that are dumping huge amounts of fresh water into the ocean.

A few generations of Petersburg High School students have taken helicopter and boat rides to LeConte Glacier as part of their science classes. Teacher Victor Trautman, who retired in June 2019, visited the glacier this May with six students.

Trautman was continuing the work of Paul Bowen, a teacher at Petersburg High School who began aiming surveying equipment at LeConte Glacier’s blue-white face in 1983.

In the mid 1990s, Bowen noticed the glacier’s sudden retreat of a mile after it had pretty much remained in the same place for more than 30 years.

That’s when glaciologists became interested in Bowen’s detailed reports and started their own monitoring of LeConte. Roman Motyka of UAF’s Geophysical Institute has been around for all of those professional studies. He was one of nine authors of a 2019 study in the journal Science. He and others documented their direct measurements of glacier ice turning to water beneath LeConte’s thunderous face.

David Sutherland of the University of Oregon is lead author of the new LeConte Glacier study. In August 2016 and May 2017, scientists bounced sound waves off the glacier front to create images of the underwater part of the glacier. They sampled the ocean water for temperature and salinity. They also recorded air temperature and precipitation and videoed the glacier’s behavior.

Sutherland is now on his way to Greenland to study glaciers flowing from the ice sheet into the ocean. The complicated logistics of that trip half a world away make him appreciate LeConte Glacier, which got its name in 1887 when U.S. Navy Adm. Charles Thomas surveyed the Alaska coast and honored his friend Joseph LeConte, a California biologist. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 31, 2019



DAVE KIFFER: And it Was Uphill, Both Ways - As we stumble into the latter part of the Visitor Season (bag limit 2 per person, no collateral taking of women or children) , it seems as though we are seeing more and more unhappy tourists.

This is somewhat puzzling.

Whenever I watch some movie about an ocean cruise, it always seems to be a grand, relaxing adventure. Shuffleboard. Deckchairs. Spiffy jodhpurs. Well, actually not jodhpurs, unless you are have some horses in your stateroom. I just wanted to once use "jodhpurs" in a sentence and this seemed like as good a time as anyway.

Anyway, there seems nothing as leisurely and pleasant as a movie about an ocean cruise, right?

Well, perhaps not "A Night to Remember" or "Titanic" or "Poseidon Adventure" or "Speed 2: Cruise Control."    Any movie in which you are forced to continue your voyage in a lifeboat is probably neither grand nor relaxing.

Speaking of which, what the heck was up with "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure?" How do you get "beyond" a story where a ship sinks and nearly every body dies. Of course, I watched "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" because it had Veronica Hamel in it and I would watch Veronica Hamel in anything, including "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" or "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" or  even "Elmo: The Musical."

At very least, they should have called the Poseidon sequel "Inside the Poseidon Adventure" because it was all about an attempt to extract a valuable cargo of plutonium off the ill-fated luxury liner. Which makes me wonder just how many of the half dozen ships that come into Ketchikan each day have a secret cargo of plutonium on them. One hundred percent if Hollywood is to be believed. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 31, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Democrat Directions

Political Cartoon: Democrat Directions
By Christopher Weyant ©2019, The Boston Globe, MA
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

With Significant Challenges Facing Ketchikan, I Am Stepping Up to Run For Borough Mayor By Rodney Dial - As a Borough Assembly member, the following are my personal thoughts; however I am not representing the Borough or Assembly.

Three years ago, I ran for a Borough Assembly position after many of you asked me step up for our town.

As you probably remember, the borough budget had a nearly million dollar deficit just a few years ago. I spent the first year of my term (2016) going through every aspect of the budget for each department. I made several recommendations for reductions, offered ways to increase efficiency, submitted no expenses and turned down all travel. For more information please see my letters from 2016/17.

By my second year, it became clear that the best opportunity to deal with our future budget concerns was to seek additional/continued federal/state support, and demand fair treatment from the state during the budgetary crisis. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

Announcing Borough Assembly Candidacy By Austin Otos - Since the 2018 municipal elections, the community of Ketchikan has seen some dramatic transitions in our local government. Overwhelmingly, voters chose candidates that were seen in the community, individuals that participated in local events and engaged with everyday people. The elected representatives were focused on community outreach, growth, and most importantly, bring to the table a different perspective to local politics. The political landscape has gained some new issues since then that has challenged our local government’s response and activated passionate citizens to get more involved in local issues.

Tourism is at the forefront of our community’s economic and social issues. We will have to decide whether to facilitate and manage or implement heavy restrictions on the cruise ship industry. I tend to stick in the middle, avoiding hardline economic barriers like capping visitors or advocating for untamed growth without any planning. However, the Borough in conjunction with the City of Ketchikan has to formulate a comprehensive strategy to help ease the legitimate frustrations our local residents have with tourism. Both local governments must set aside their past differences and help mitigate the effects of tourism by using public transportation to diffuse people and capital to other areas of the community, use port funds to improve upon upland infrastructure, and create strategies for tourist encroachment in outlying local neighborhoods.

Energy use has become a reoccurring issue due to less rainfall. Our hydroelectric facilities are experiencing record low water levels that puts a strain on our ability to create environmentally clean and affordable electricity for residents. Renting more diesel generators to produce electricity coupled with high fuel surcharges has skyrocketed utility bills, which harms both household pocketbooks and businesses alike. I believe it is worth exploring new feasible energy sources to supplement our hydroelectric dams during dry times of the year. An energy feasibility study should be a priority for both local governments. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

Proposed Development Superfund Site By Yolanda Bender - Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to read and consider this email.  It is lengthy but it is the only way that I can convey the trepidation that many of us in this small community are facing.  After attending the site informational session on 7/29 I am even more concerned due to the lack of detailed information and disregard for the potential environmental impact.  I will be submitting my concerns to the EPA, Washington Post, Juneau Empire, Ketchikan Daily News and KRBD.

The purpose of this email is to inform you about a potential environmentally disastrous project that has been proposed in Ketchikan, Alaska.  It is being pushed through with minimal oversight or concern for the potential impacts.  If this project is approved it will result in Norwegian Cruise Lines, and the President of the Cruise Line Association of Alaska,  subjecting their passengers to high levels of carcinogenic chemicals.  In addition this could expose this fishing community to return to the days of high toxins in the water in, and around, Ward Cove. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines,  in partnership with the Binkley and Spokley families of Alaska, are proposing to build 2 docks large enough for passenger cruise ships of up to 4500 passengers on a superfund site as well as a retail center, museum and bus loading zone..  John Binkley, who is the President of the Cruise Line Association of Alaska is purposely not listed as a partner as it would present a conflict of interest.

Around 1995 the site of the Ketchikan Pulp Company Mill was declared a superfund.  As part of the remediation plan the site was dredged and a sand cap was placed on top of the affected areas.  The toxic material that was dredged was buried in what is known as the “Uplands”.  The “Uplands” is located within yards of the proposed project. In the Five year Review Report for Ketchikan Pulp Company Superfund Site, dated 9/21/15, the following findings were made with regards to the “Uplands”:   - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

The Killing of Southeast Alaska By Clement Plamondon - The Alaska Marine Highway is the lifeblood of the small communities of S.E. Alaska and small communities are the backbone of this awesome state that we are privileged to call our home. How can it possibly make any financial sense to strangle the economic future from the growing enterprises that contribute to building a sound, diverse and healthy economy for the future. Our ferries are a resource, a crucial infrastructural asset, to be used in the  building our state. If we keep throwing away all the tools that we need to grow and improve the lives of our residents then we will truly bankrupt ourselves.

 What is happening in the politics of Alaska, besides being idiotic, is absolutely criminal. You cannot simply slash budgets with no regard for the consequences to the future of our wonderful state.  We are a state rich in resources that need to be responsibly managed by competent people not used for political gamesmanship. The keys to our democratic form of government are open-minded communication and compromise, neither of which are evident in the current state of affairs.

Our education system is another vital resource that has taken years of dedication and hard work to develop. If we drive our young people out of the state to get the education necessary to become capable stewards of our vast natural bounty how can we hope for any progress toward the bright future that is within Alaska’s grasp. We need to invest in the solutions to our temporary financial problems and there is no greater hope for those solutions than the minds of our young people. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

PDF "Win"? By Michael Fitzgerald - It’s great that the funding for important services has been (or may be) restored. I applaud the effort, BUT.. .it was accomplished by decreasing the PFD by approx. $1,400.

So, in effect our feckless leaders have artificially created “revenue” by essentially taxing every Alaskan to the tune of $1,400 each. The same amount will be involuntary (and some say illegally) taken from me as will be taken from the hardworking Housekeepers I rub shoulders with at the Hospital.

I can’t for the life of me figure how anyone that considers themselves to be “progressive” (or just “fair minded”) could declare this to be the best way to serve those with the greatest need. - More....
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

Governor’s vetoes don’t reflect Alaska’s values By Diane Kaplan - Over the past month, Rasmuson Foundation’s board of directors has urged our elected leaders to compromise and seek solutions that are best for Alaska when addressing the state’s $1 billion plus budget gap.

We have stated our belief that a solution relying primarily on cuts will negatively impact critical services throughout the state, causing harm to many Alaskans. The Alaska Legislature responded with a budget that included $ 190 million of cuts, which was the largest decrease in year-on-year spending in state history, while preserving a high quality of life for our citizens.

The governor’s vetoes announced June 28 will harm Alaska’s most vulnerable citizens and have a significant and detrimental impact on our state’s economy. The impact of these decisions will carry negative consequences well beyond this year, impacting generations to come. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

Wolves bring tourists to Alaska By John Suter - You see in the News that the tourist are not seeing Denali wolves like they used to.

One of the reasons is that the state allows wolves to be hunted/trapped close to the Denali area and of course this brings down the number of wolves there. 

The death of these wolves does not benefit the tourist who want to take photos of these wolves and show the photos to all their friends when they go back home.  Tourist having these photos of these wolves helps make the sale to their friends to come to Alaska on vacation.  - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

U. S. Space Exploration Program By Donald Moskowitz - The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 astronauts landing on the moon is July 20, 2019, and it brings back memories of my involvement in our space program.

I served a two year tour as the meteorology/assistant intelligence officer on an amphibious group staff. Our primary mission was to transport and land marines and army personnel on foreign beaches in support of military operations. I was responsible for forecasting the weather conditions for the transit of the naval  task force and the weather in the landing zone and on the beaches.

Additionally, the naval amphibious groups shared responsibilities with naval aviation units for recovering spacecraft and astronauts involved in the manned space flight programs of the 1960s.

I was the recovery area meteorologist on the Gemini 8 spacecraft recovery ship USS Boxer, which was deployed in the Atlantic in March 1966 to retrieve the astronauts. Due to flight problems the spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

Electroshock By Deborah Schwartzkopff - I worked for many years at leading facilities as a level one trauma nurse. Providers at leading medical institutions are using a device and procedure that has no FDA testing for safety or effectiveness. Procedure called electroshock involves up to 450 volts to the brain and greater. In the past, only approved for use in severe depression & as a last resort, but not so any longer. Used for many conditions, and on our children, veterans, and during pregnancy.

Under the guise of help it is actually inflicting traumatic brain injuries at a minimum, now proven in a court of law. Suits being pursued around product liability, medical malpractice, and against the FDA. There are billions involved in US annually. Trusted providers criminally failing in their duty to warn, protect, and not harm.

Patients have been discounted in their complaints by their providers secondary to fear of litigation. They have been harmed under the guise of help for great profits. It is time to expose this despite the monies, positions, and reputations involved. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

jpg Opinion

The President By Hallie Engel - I just wanted to be helpful and clarify some stuff:

Telling women of color to 'go back' to where they came from is racist. He's implying that they are less than because of their family origins, and that they are not real Americans, when they are. And if you have to come up with explanations to try and make this behavior sound acceptable, you're kidding yourself.

The Squad do love America. That's why they work hard to defend some of its most vulnerable people and make the country a better place. Sure, they have some viewpoints I might disagree with, but overall, they're a top-notch group of women.

The president is just racist and sexist in general. He was racist when he called Mexicans rapists and refused to disavow the KKK. He was racist when he defended white supremacists in Charlotte. He was racist way back in the day when he refused to rent apartments to black people. - More...
Thursday AM - August 01, 2019

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