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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

August 05, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By DOUG BURKMAN

Northern Lights
Looking northwest from Murphy's Landing approximately 6 miles northwest of Ketchikan. A little fog is also visable. Early Monday morning.
Front Page Feature Photo By DOUG BURKMAN ©2019

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Alaska: Bow of World War II submarine discovered off the coast of the Aleutian Islands - The bow of WWII Submarine USS Grunion (SS-216) has been discovered in 2700 feet of water off the Aleutian Islands, Alaska by a team pioneering robotic ocean exploration.

The finding of the lost bow section of the USS Grunion completes a vital missing part of the puzzle and answers the questions posed on many expeditions undertaken 13 years ago by John, Bruce and Brad Abele, sons of the USS Grunions captain, Mannert L. Abele, USNA class of 1926. Taylor states, "I am honored to add to the discovery that was accomplished by the Abele bothers."

USS Grunion was a Gato-class submarine commissioned on April 11, 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Mannert L. Abele. On her way through the Caribbean to her first posting in Pearl Harbor, she rescued 16 survivors from USAT Jack, which had been torpedoed by a U-boat. Her first war patrol was, unfortunately, her last. Sent to the Aleutian Islands in June 1942, she operated off Kiska, Alaska, where she sank two Japanese patrol boats. Ordered back to the naval operating base in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on July 30th, the submarine was never heard from again. She was declared overdue from patrol and assumed lost with all hands-on October 5th, 1942. She is the final resting place for 70 Sailors.

She wasn't seen again until the sons of the Grunion's commanding officer began searching for it and found the wreckage in 2007 off the coast of the Aleutian Islands.

In October 2018, the Lost 52 Project team returned to the site of the main wreck and found that the ship's bow had slid down a steep volcanic embankment, Taylor said. The announcement of the discovery was made publclly by the Lost 52 Project last week.

The Lost 52 Project team put together a 3D scan of the bow and presented it to the family of USS Grunion's Commanding Officer Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele.

The historic discovery was made utilizing a combination of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV's) and advanced photogrammetry imaging. These ground breaking new technologies and methods are at the forefront of underwater business technology and forging a new frontier in subsea exploration.

The ongoing WWII submarine discoveries lead by ocean explorer Tim Taylor are applying comprehensive 3D imaging pioneering a new frontier in ocean exploration.

The project is taking the large data sets collected on their discoveries and having them processed into amazing 3D archaeological photogrammetry models. This scientific approach extracts geometric information from equipment that is already integrated in most of the modern underwater remote filming systems, advancing imagery collection into high-quality 3D data sets that will be used in archaeological research, historical archives, virtual and augmented reality, and educational programs and applications.

"This goes so far past video or still imagery, it truly is the future of recording historical underwater discoveries. Spending minimal time on site collecting a comprehensive 3D historical baseline model allows archaeologists and historians to spend months back home performing detailed research," states Taylor. who coordinates his discoveries with the Naval History and Heritage Command.

"Our mission at the Naval History and Heritage Command is to make certain the memory of our Sailors' service will always be remembered, honored and valued. As Tim Taylor, and others like him, discover the final resting place for our lost Sailors, they help to carry out that mission," said Robert S. Neyland, Naval History and Heritage Command's Underwater Archaeology Branch Head. "We are grateful for the respectful, non-intrusive work he performs and the closure he brings to their families, their shipmates, and to the Navy."

The Navy says 52 US Pacific Fleet submarines were lost during World War II, and more than 3,500 submariners remain on "eternal patrol."

The USS Grunion expedition is part of the ongoing "Lost 52 Project" supported in part by STEP Ventures and has been recognized by JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) as the first and most comprehensive offshore underwater archaeological expedition in Japanese waters.

Taylor proudly states that the "Lost 52 Project honors the men, their memory and their mission". The USS Grunion expedition marks the fourth WWII Submarine discovery by Tim Taylor, CEO of Tiburon Subsea - founder of Ocean Outreach, Inc. based in New York City.

Also recently discovered was the final resting place for the 49 Sailors of the U.S. submarine S-28 (SS-133) off Oahu, Hawaii. The U.S. Navy recently validated the identity of the wreck, which Taylor located in 2017. - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019


Fish Factor: Trade wars are the seafood industry’s biggest challenge By LAINE WELCH - It’s been one year, so how’s that trade war with China working out for the nation’s seafood industry? 

As with farmers, there’s not much winning and ongoing tweeted skirmishes have global fish markets skittish.

The quick take is the 25 percent retaliatory tariff imposed by China on US imports last July caused a 36 percent drop in US seafood sales, valued at $340 million, according to an in-depth analysis of Chinese customs data by Undercurrent News.

“Chinese imports of US seafood fell from $1.3 billion in the 12 months prior to tariffs (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018), to $969m in the twelve months after (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019), underlining the heavy impact of weaker demand for US seafood subject to tariffs, while poor catch of US wild-caught seafood was also to blame,” the News wrote.

Until then, China had been Alaska’s biggest seafood buyer purchasing 54 percent of seafood exports in 2017 valued at close to $1 billion.  

The tit for tat taxes hit nearly all Alaska seafood; exempted were millions of pounds of frozen Alaska pink and chum salmon and cod that are sent to China for processing into fillets or portions and exported back to the US and other countries. Those numbers took a big slide.

Over the past year, China imported $136 million of Pacific salmon, down 56 percent, and reflecting a 62 percent drop in volume.  Imports of frozen cod decreased to 53 million pounds valued at $91 million, both down 37 percent.

The 25 percent tax also pushed the US from China’s second largest seafood supplier to fourth place, behind Russia, Ecuador and Canada. 

The trade uncertainties have had a downward press on many fish prices and forced Alaska salmon buyers into a more “conservative mode,” especially with pink and chum salmon, said a major Alaska processor.

“The tariffs are not on but they are not off. Could they be on tomorrow or never hit? The threat is always out there,” he said.

Meanwhile, China is turning away from the US market, and selling products to Europe in direct competition with American producers, said John Sackton, market expert and publisher of SeafoodNews.com. 

“Products that China is not shipping to the US due to the trade war are going elsewhere, and where they compete directly with US products, it means US exporters face a more competitive situation,” he said, adding that American brands will suffer. 

“To the extent buying American in China becomes unpatriotic, the Chinese will begin to shun US seafood products and actively seek out other sources, such as Norway, Ecuador, and Russia,” Sackton said. “In my view, the greatest long term danger from the trade war is that it could lead to a generation of Chinese who look down on American products.”

Doug Vincent-Lang, commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game, said he believes the escalating trade wars are the seafood industry’s biggest challenge.

“In talking with processors, they are uncertain as to the economic viability of delivering their products and getting them onto the shelves of their consumers,” Vincent-Lang said. “When I took this job I understood how we managed our fisheries but I didn’t really have a good appreciation of that dance between how we manage our fisheries in the context of the global economy and world markets.”

Meanwhile, Trump tweeted that beginning September 1 the US will impose a 10 percent tariff on the remaining $300 billion in goods the U.S. imports from China which will include more seafood.

The Wall Street Journal reports that: “The total value of bilateral goods traded with China, $271 billion in the first half of the year, fell short of that with both Canada and Mexico for the first time since 2005. Mexico is now the U.S.’s top trading partner.”   - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019


Alaska: Number of U.S. fish stocks at sustainable levels remains near record high Says Report - Friday, NOAA released the 2018 Status of U.S. Fisheries Annual Report to Congress that details the status of 479 federally-managed stocks or stock complexes in the U.S. to identify which stocks are subject to overfishing, are overfished, or are rebuilt to sustainable levels.

Building upon the trend of the past few years, the report notes that the vast majority of U.S. fish stocks were at sustainable population levels in 2018, and the number of U.S. fish stocks subject to overfishing remains at a near all-time low. The report also documents a newly-rebuilt stock, smooth skate in the Gulf of Maine. This brings the total number of rebuilt U.S. marine fish stocks to 45 since the year 2000, an encouraging indicator that the U.S. fishery management system is achieving its long-term sustainability goals.

“The U.S. is an international leader in fisheries management, and through our work in partnership with the regional councils, we're on track to maintain that high standard,” said Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., NOAA’s assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere. “Our fishing communities continue to succeed and contribute to the Blue Economy. In 2016 alone, U.S. commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and the seafood industry generated $212 billion in sales, contributed $100 billion to the gross domestic product, and supported 1.7 million full- and part-time jobs.”

A stock is on the overfishing list when the harvest rate of that species is too high. Of 321 stocks with known status, 293 (91%) are not subject to overfishing. The remaining 28 stocks (9%) are subject to overfishing. Seven stocks were removed from the overfishing list, and five were added in 2018. As required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (the U.S. ocean fisheries law), NOAA Fisheries works with regional fishery management councils and other partners to implement measures to immediately end overfishing.

A stock is on the overfished list when the population size of a stock is too low, whether because of fishing or other causes, such as environmental changes. Of 244 stocks with known status, 201 (or 82%) are not overfished, leaving 43 stocks (18%) listed as overfished. No stocks were removed from the overfished list in 2018, but eight were added. Several of these stocks are impacted by factors outside the control of domestic fisheries management. For example, for three stocks of coho salmon in Washington state, warmer water, drought or habitat degradation contributed to less than ideal spawning conditions. - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019

Alaska: Anchorage Doctor Pleads Guilty for Prescribing Medically Unnecessary Opioids in Health Care Fraud Scheme; As Part of Scheme, Physician received Portion of the Drugs and Profited from the Medicaid Claims - U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that Michael Don Robertson, 67, an Anchorage physician, pleaded guilty last week before U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason, to one count of conspiracy to commit controlled substance fraud and one count of health care fraud.  Robertson knowingly and intentionally distributed controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose. 

According to court documents, from May 2015 to March 2018, Robertson issued 465 prescriptions of meperidine to 30 different recipients, totaling 32,109 meperidine pills, knowing that the recipients did not truly need the medication for a legitimate medical purpose.  The investigation revealed that Robertson issued the meperidine prescriptions as part of a conspiracy in which the recipients filled the meperidine prescriptions and, then, distributed the meperidine to Robertson.  In exchange for the recipients diverting the meperidine to Robertson, Robertson provided prescriptions for controlled substances, including fentanyl and oxycodone, to the recipients.  Meperidine, commonly known as Demerol, is a Schedule II controlled substance, and is an opioid with an abuse liability similar to morphine. 

The investigation further revealed that Robertson failed to make and preserve accurate records regarding approximately 790 prescriptions for controlled substances, and failed to keep any medical records whatsoever regarding five patients to whom he wrote prescriptions for controlled substances.  In a scheme to obtain money from Medicaid, Robertson caused claims to be submitted to Medicaid regarding these 790 prescriptions, resulting in Medicaid paying $3,286.87 to Robertson’s medical practice.  Further, Medicaid paid $3,601.52 to pharmacies for these 790 controlled substance prescriptions.  - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019


jpg Tom Purcell

TOM PURCELL: Elderly, Beware: Scams on Rise - A phone scammer made a mistake when he called my mother.

The young male caller pretended to be her grandson. He said he'd been arrested for fishing on an Indian reservation - unaware he was breaking the law - and needed bail money so a judge wouldn't throw him in jail.

My mother's response, which I'll share in a moment, is now a classic part of family lore - but the threat that increasingly sophisticated scammers pose to elderly Americans is nothing to laugh about.

In this era of smartphones, email and social media, scammers have their choice of tools to attempt to fleece us all.

They use fraudulent texts, "spoofed" emails that appear to be from people you trust, or robocalls and other phone scams - all with the goal of separating us from our hard-earned money.

Posing as U.S. government representatives is a preferred technique. The Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection says that this spring reports of such scams "reached the highest levels we have on record."

Scam callers pretend they're IRS agents demanding back taxes, or say your Social Security number has been suspended, or tell you the Department of Health and Human Services just made you eligible for some medical device. 

Such scams are increasing in number because they're profitable. In the past five years, the FTC received 1.3 million reports of government-impostor scams. About 6 percent of those targeted reported losing money.

People ages 20 to 59 fell for these scams more often than older people, but older victims lost considerably more money. People 80 or older reported a median loss of $2,700 per scam.

The solution: Be careful who you share personal information with - and protective of personal information you make public. - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Hate and violence

Political Cartoon: Hate and violence
By John Darkow ©2019, Columbia Missourian
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

On the Budget By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As the District 36 Representative, my primary assignment now in the Legislature is to serve as the Vice-Chair on the House Finance Committee. In that duty, I traveled to Juneau, Anchorage, Wasilla, and Fairbanks between July 15-18 in order to hear Public Testimony on HB 2001, the special session budget bill. During those three days of testimony, we heard over 600 people testify in person. During the month of July, we had over 2,300 Alaskans provide testimony to the House Finance Committee. Over 85% of the testifiers were in support of restoring the budget that we had sent the Governor back in June.

On Monday July 29th, Senator Stedman and myself, along with the majority of the Alaska Legislature, voted yes on our Special Session budget bills, Senate Bill 2002 and House Bill 2001. These ‘round two’ budgets include funding for programs and items that the Governor vetoed earlier.

SB 2002, the capital funding budget, leverages state spending of $171.5 million (combined Unrestricted General Funds and Constitutional Budget Reserve funds) to capture over one billion dollars in federal funds. The bill passed the Senate 19-0 and the House 32-6 (with the vote on how to fund it passing 31-7). It includes: - More...
Monday PM - August 05, 2019

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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