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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

August 16, 2019

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Alaska: University of Alaska and Governor Reach Budget Agreement;Agreement Includes Multi-Year Step Down in Funding, Totaling Reductions of $70 Million Over Three Years Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN –The University of Alaska and Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy have reached an agreement on a multi-year compact that preserves $110 million in state funding for the university for Fiscal Year 2020, reducing UA’s budget by $25 million for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2019. The agreement also means that budgets submitted to the governor by the Board of Regents over the next two fiscal years will reflect $45 million in additional reductions. The compact was signed Wednesday by UA Board of Regent Chair John Davies and Governor Michael J. Dunleavy.

“This agreement, worked out following a number of budget discussions by the Board of Regents, provides a clear, gradual multiyear year funding glide path,” said John Davies, chair of the UA Board of Regents. “Most importantly, the supplemental operating budget provides much more certainty and confidence for our students, staff, faculty, and the communities we serve.” 

“As an educator, a father, and a graduate of the University of Alaska, I believe in a strong university,” said Governor Dunleavy. “I also believe we must balance state support for the UA system with the very serious fiscal situation we face today. This agreement, which comes after extensive conversations and work with the university, is an honest attempt at balancing both realities. By choosing a multi-year, step-down approach, we provide our communities, campuses and students the certainty they’ve been asking for, while also taking on the serious challenge of reforming the university into a more efficient system. I thank both the UA Board of Regents and university President Jim Johnsen for engaging on these difficult discussions and for endorsing this three-year agreement.”

The agreement includes a multi-year step down in funding. In FY20, the budget will be reduced by $25 million in state general funds from the current level of $327 million; in FY21, the university would see another $25 million reduction from the state; and, in FY22 another $20 million cut in state funds. The total amount of reductions between now and FY22 would be $70 million – about half of the $136 million originally proposed.

“A $70 million reduction, even over three years is a serious reduction. It will require careful review and streamlining of administrative structure, academic programs, and services to ensure that resources are focused on student access and achievement,” said UA President Jim Johnsen. “But by restoring the legislature’s appropriated funding for this fiscal year, and by spreading reductions out over the next two years, the required restructuring can be done more methodically, with less impact on students.” - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Alaska: Full Restoration of Early Learning Funding Announced By Governor By MARY KAUFFMAN – Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy announced on Wednesday a full restoration of Early Learning funding for Fiscal Year 2020, which includes nearly $9 million in funding for Head Start Grants, Early Childhood Grants, Parents as Teachers Grants, and Best Beginning Grants.

“We are thrilled at the restoration of both Head Start and Parents as Teachers [PAT] funding,” said Kristin Ramstad, RurAL CAP Child Development Division Director, “and are eager to work with DEED [Alaska Department of Education and Early Development], our partners, and each community to meet the unique needs of our kiddos and their families.”

Governor Dunleavy confirmed during the announcement that he would be signing House Bill 2001 restoring all the funding for early education programs previously vetoed by the governor.

Funding restored in HB 2001 includes:

$6.8 million to Head Start Grants – Head Start provides free and comprehensive early childhood programs for children meeting federal poverty guidelines between the ages of 0-5. DEED has been providing State funds for grantees that may be used towards their 20 percent match since 2001. In FY19, funding was disbursed to 17 organizations, including RurAL CAP Head Start, Kawerak Head Start, Chugiak Children’s Services, and Kids Corps. Inc.

$1.2 million to Early Childhood Grants - Early Childhood Grant funding was an extension to the Moore lawsuit – eligible districts to continue providing early childhood education services to students as they fully established their programs. In FY19, 10 districts received funding.

$474,000 to Parents as Teachers Grants – Parents as Teachers funds are in addition to $2 million enacted in the FY20 budget for Pre-Kindergarten Grants, as well as the $4.2 million unspent grants carried forward from FY19. DEED has provided Pre-K funds to districts since 2009, and in FY19, eleven districts received funds.

$320,000 to Best Beginning Grants – Best Beginning is a public-private partnership that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaska children begin school ready to succeed.

These funds, retroactive to July 1, 2019, come in addition to the $2 million enacted in the FY20 budget for Pre-Kindergarten Grants, as well as the $4.2 million unspent grants carried forward from FY19. DEED has provided Pre-K funds to districts since 2009, and in FY19, eleven districts received funds.

Although the funding has been restored at the state level, allocation decisions determined by DEED are still pending. In the event that RurAL CAP’s allocation is reduced, Chief Executive Officer Patrick M. Anderson said RurAL CAP Head Start classrooms in 10 communities throughout Alaska remain at risk for closure or service reduction. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Warm waters across Alaska cause salmon die-offs; Cold water refugia to become increasingly important with climate change

Warm waters across Alaska cause salmon die-offs; Cold water refugia to become increasingly important with climate change
A dead female chum salmon, her eggs unlaid, along the Koyukuk River this July.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Quinn-Davidson

Alaska: Warm waters across Alaska cause salmon die-offs; Cold water refugia to become increasingly important with climate change By MARY CATHARINE MARTIN - From the Koyukuk River, to the Kuskokwim, to Norton Sound, to Bristol Bay’s Igushik River, unusually warm temperatures across Alaska this summer led to die-offs of unspawned chum, sockeye, and pink salmon. Warm waters also sometimes this summer acted as a “thermal block” — essentially a wall of heat salmon don’t swim past, delaying upriver migration.

Stephanie Quinn Davidson, the Director of the Yukon Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, took a team of scientists along 200 miles of the Koyukuk River to investigate a die-off of chum salmon at the end of July. The team counted 850 dead, unspawned chum — and that, she said, was a minimum count.

“We were boating, going about 35 or 40 miles per hour, and we know we missed a lot,” she said. “On a boat going by relatively fast, we were probably getting at most half the fish and at the least about ten percent of the fish.”

Locals to the area said this same thing happened four or five years, ago, she said, but not to the scale it did this year.

She attributes the deaths to heat stress.

“We cut open the fish, looked for any size of disease, infections, parasites…. By all indications, these fish looked healthy,” she said. “They didn’t have any marks on them, or any sign of disease or stress otherwise. And the die off event coincides with the week of heat we had.” - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019


Southeast Alaska: Skagway Man Sentenced for the Illegal Export and Import of Walrus Ivory – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that a Skagway man has been sentenced for illegally exporting a raw ivory tusk, using falsified forms to have it admitted to Indonesia, and thereafter illegally importing the carved tusk, for sale, back into the United States. 

James Terrance Williams, 67, of Skagway, d.b.a. Inside Passage Arts, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason to serve two years of probation and to pay a $5000 fine.  Williams pleaded guilty to one felony count of Lacey Act false labeling and one felony count of smuggling goods into the United States.

According to court documents, in October 2014 and March 2016, Williams illegally exported raw, unworked, walrus ivory tusks from Alaska to Bali, Indonesia for carving.  He would then smuggle the carved walrus ivory back into the United States, disguising the illegal nature of the transportation by falsification of records, all in furtherance of illegal sales of the ivory.  - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Alaska: Funds dedicated to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault – Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson and the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC) announced on Wednesday an agreement to use restored FY20 funding – totaling $759,000 – towards providing legal help to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Governor Michael J. Dunleavy has agreed not to veto state grant funding to ALSC within HB 2001 under this joint agreement, calling it “an important step in protecting Alaska’s most vulnerable.”

"Helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is a vital service provided by our organization," said Nikole Nelson, executive director of ALSC. "We are relieved that this funding will remain available and excited to continue our efforts in addressing the unacceptable rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence that plague our state."

Nikole Nelson, Alaska Legal Services Executive Director, recently approached Attorney General Clarkson following his remarks on the revitalization of the Department of Law's pro bono program at an event celebrating the enactment and implementation of Senator Dan Sullivan's POWER Act . The discussion centered around focusing resources on Alaska's high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Alaska: DOL Awarded $100,000 for Employers Who Hire People With Criminal Records or History of Addiction – The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $100,000 to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development for fidelity bonds, which reduce financial risk for employers that hire people with criminal records or a history of addiction.

Fidelity bonding has two goals: Alleviate employers’ fear of loss at no additional cost, and give at-risk Alaskans the opportunity to reduce their chances of recidivism by finding self-sustaining employment.

The “Fidelity Bonding Re-entry Project” is a four-year grant that increases access to fidelity bonds and promotes this hiring incentive by funding better outreach to businesses, community and industry organizations, employers and unions. The Division of Employment Training Services will partner with the Department of Corrections to educate re-entering citizens, before and after their release from prison, about the availability of fidelity bonds. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

When biologists stocked Alaska with wolves

When biologists stocked Southeast Alaska with wolves
Biologist Dave Klein, pictured here in 2012 on St. Matthew Island in the Bering Sea, recently has completed a life history book with writer and researcher Karen Brewster. Klein helped the state decide to launch Alaska’s first wolf-introduction experiment in Southeast Alaska in 1960.


Southeast Alaska: When biologists stocked Alaska with wolves By NED ROZELL - Alaska had been a state for one year in 1960 when its Department of Fish and Game conducted a wolf-planting experiment on Coronation Island in Southeast Alaska. At the time, the remote 45-square-mile island exposed to the open Pacific had a high density of blacktailed deer and no wolves. That summer, biologists from Fish and Game released two pairs of wolves on the island.

The experiment was the only wolf-stocking effort undertaken in Alaska and probably worldwide at that time, said Dave Klein, a professor emeritus with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Institute of Arctic Biology. Klein, who had studied deer on the island for his Ph.D. thesis, helped the state make the decision to transplant wolves on Coronation Island.

“Alaska had just become a state, and you had a brand-new Department of Fish and Game staffed with young biologists who wanted to do things based on biology rather than a mix of politics and science. It’d be much more difficult to do it now,” he said.

Fish and Game biologists released two male and two female wolves at Egg Harbor on Coronation Island. Before they left, the researchers shot five deer to provide food for the wolves.

Biologist Paul Garceau visited the island the next May and found tracks, deer remains and wolf scats containing deer hair and bones, showing that the wolves had adapted to life on the island.

Two months later, a commercial fisherman shot the two adult female wolves, but Garceau saw tracks of wolf pups on the island when he returned later that summer, indicating that the females had given birth before they died, and the pups had survived. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Ketchikan: Margaret Creek Watershed Restoration, Enhancement Project decision signed – The Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan Misty Fjords District Ranger Susan Howle signed the decision Tuesday to approve the Margaret Creek Watershed Restoration and Enhancement Project. The project will provide watershed and fish habitat restoration, recreation development, wildlife enhancement, and invasive plant treatments to the area. 

The Margaret Creek Watershed is located approximately 22 miles northwest of Ketchikan between Traitor’s Cove and Naha Inlets on Revillagigedo Island.

Activities approved under the decision include instream wood placement, road reconditioning, riparian and wildlife silviculture treatments (e.g., thinning), floodplain connectivity and improved fish passage. Other forms of watershed restoration activities include landslide stabilization and invasive plant control. Recreation enhancement activities include dispersed campsite development, picnic area development and floatplane/boat dock expansion in Margaret Bay. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019


Fish Factor: Many Alaska Chamber positions are at odds with coastal members By LAINE WELCH - The Alaska Chamber of Commerce touts itself as “the voice of Alaska business” but seafood industry and coastal community members are largely left out of the conversation. The Chamber isn’t entirely at fault; it appears that most of those members are not speaking up.  

Three cases in point. 

In February the Chamber was one of the first to “applaud Governor Dunleavy for proposing a spending plan that matches current revenues.”

In April the Chamber testified in support of the Pebble Mine draft environmental impact statement “in the name of due process.” (The Pebble Partnership is a Chamber member.) 

The Chamber’s top federal priority is to “support oil and gas exploration and development in Alaska’s federal areas including the Outer Continental Shelf, National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Cook Inlet, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

But just about every Alaska coastal community strongly opposed the Dunleavy budget; likewise, they spoke out strongly against the Trump Administration’s plans for oil/gas development in Alaska’s offshore waters, and nearly all fishing interests have protested what they perceive as sloppy and biased science in the Pebble DEIS.   

In a canvassing of nearly 25 coastal chamber members and trade groups, not one said they were aware of those policy positions nor were they queried (including at Bristol Bay).

“No, we were not contacted, period,” said Clay Koplin, Cordova mayor and Chamber member.  “We disagree with the state chamber’s executive committee or whoever formulated that. Granted, we seldom attend meetings,” he added. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

Fish Factor: Boot camp competition underway By LAINE WELCH - Investment that comes from within, not from without, is the motivation behind a boot camp that will jump start and nurture businesses in communities throughout Bristol Bay. 

Through September 15 locals with good ideas, start-ups or existing businesses across the region will compete to attend a three day boot camp that provides in-depth business education, networking and advice. First, they must make the grade in a simple application process. The 10 or 12 who make that cut will go to the boot camp and be judged on business feasibility and contributions to their community. Three winners will receive up to $20,000 in grants for consulting and technical assistance.

The business boosters include the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, The Nature Conservancy of Alaska and the Bristol Bay Development Fund, a subsidiary of BBNC that is infusing $5 million of “nurture capital” into local businesses that benefit its nearly 10,000 shareholders.

“Guided by our traditions, we also know that investing in the culture, education, and sustainable future of our communities pays off for all of us,” BBNC states on its website. 

The group has partnered with the Path to Prosperity (P2P) program by Spruce Roots, Inc., an arm of the Juneau-based Sealaska Native Corporation that focuses on business coaching, technical assistance and tailored loans. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

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Political Cartoon: Global Records
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$3000 Dividend Is Not the Law By Lance Parrish - In a recent editorial, the extreme, Pro Dunleavy Anchorage Daily Planet gushes praise on a group of legislators who wrote the Governor a letter voicing support for a $3,000 dividend. Virtually all of these "supporters" are Republican legislators.  Republicans are supposed to be "Fiscally Conservative" but this batch is content to ignore that portion of the platform. 

All of the listed "supporters" signing the letter were excluded from the Majority and chose to meet separately in Wasilla to shore up the Governor's extensive vetoes.  Either sour grapes or "if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem".  You choose.

The Planet Editor congratulates this minority coalition declaring:

"Instead of relying on the 1982 statute to set the dividend’s amount, some lawmakers have opted to instead use political whim and expediency to set the amount. It is nice to see some lawmakers still have respect for the law."

Respect for "the Law" the editorial boldly claims.  What is "the Law" that is "being respected"?  The Permanent Fund was created as an Alaska Constitutional Amendment.  As "law", it states in part:

"All income from the permanent fund shall be deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law."

The Alaska Constitution also requires that all spending by done by "appropriation". 

"No money shall be withdrawn from the treasury except in accordance with appropriations made by law."

So, the "provided by law" in the Amendment creating the Permanent Fund means no PFD can be paid until an "appropriation" of money is made "by law".  The statutory PFD formula is clearly not an appropriation. And, in "law" the formula is actually nothing more substantial than a previous legislature's suggestion. The Constitution's Drafters wisely concluding that one legislature cannot "bind" future legislatures to an appropriation by simply passing "a law", such as the PFD formula.  According to the Governor's sycophants, adhering to the Alaska Constitution, as the 2019 Legislature did, is "political whim and expediency".  - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

jpg Opinion

Open Letter to Rep. Ortiz By A. M. Johnson - Knowing your mind is made up on the matter of the dividend payout will not prevent me from reminding you of a simple fact, aside from the claim of the court, it remains a matter of "Law".

"If you don't like the law, change the law, If you do not follow the law, then you do not have lawful government, you have anarchy."

Current law directs the trustees of the Permanent Fund Corp. to transfer fund revenue into the Earnings Reserve Account for PFD distribution. These funds are never placed in the general fund for government spending according to this law. The entire PFD process is automatically governed by statute; no further appropriation or action is required by the Legislature or the governor to make the full payment to every Alaskan. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

jpg Opinion

Fiber Optic Cable vs LEO Satellites By Joe Ashcraft - At the Coffman Cove Seaside event last weekend several people stopped by to inquire on the status of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites which will begin to deliver high speed low latency internet connectivity in Alaska in 2020.  With latency always as good or better than fiber and as much or more speed and bandwidth capability, and the fact that Alaska will be first to have that service delivered from Starlink Space X, Oneweb, Amazon, Norsat, Telesat and some others,; it would seem that return on investment in fiber optic rollout might become very minimal.  While last mile fiber may become more important as satellite connectivity is dependent on line of sight from tops of buildings, middle mile fiber from undersea cable or requiring runs over difficult terrain will be very cost ineffective.  Fiber that has been in place for years is not at capacity normally, but companies do add to their networks to provide “ring” capability and the consequent redundancy as GCI has done in SE Alaska.  A single fiber line, as ACS found out in Juneau and SE a couple years ago, is easily compromised by earthquakes.  

The management of KPU refused a fiber spur from GCI before the turn of the century and blocked APT from landing fiber about the same time.   Then, intentionally did not put fiber along the power lines to the 4 dam pool sites which would have made a ring redundancy with GCI in Wrangell and here, with management saying to me in person that the fiber would make the power lines too heavy for the towers.  When KPU partnered with Prince Rupert and Canadian companies to run a pieced together system around 2000 or so which barely worked and was disbanded shortly, Marty West made the statement at a council meeting: “I don’t know a thing about it, but I’m voting yes anyway.” - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

jpg Opinion

Economic Art By Sidney Hartley - According to The Midnight Sun’s article: “Dunleavy’s budget cuts from schools, seniors and pretty much everyone else: ‘I think they expected a budget like this’,” Dunleavy’s administration is to cut “$693,500 cut from the State Council on the Arts, eliminating the funding completely.” But while his objectives are to prioritize economic development by cutting out every single fundamental service to Alaskans, he dismisses the fact that the arts are directly intertwined with the economy of most Alaskan communities, especially those in the Southeast. So, in eliminating the budget on the State Council on the Arts, he is essentially deterring the tourists he evidently prioritizes above his own constituents. 

When visitors come to visit Southeast Alaska, they are coming for the artistic and historic allure. Without its presence, where would we be? It’s no mystery that the target of visiting merchants is art. Ketchikan is known for holding more totem poles than anywhere else in the world. This fact alone is what puts our community on the map. Ketchikan is abundant with local artists that sustain our reputation, bringing visitors whom contribute to our local economy. Some tourists will settle for mass produced bobbles and t-shirts, sure, but it is authentic, locally produced art which keeps Ketchikan a relevant place to sojourn. Art is the really the only purpose for tourists to show up. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

jpg Opinion

Danger Of Social Media By Donald Moskowitz - We are electing unqualified people to political offices based on their ability to master the output of social media outlets Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The newest group in Congress exhibit this dangerous phenomenon, with greenhorn Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the group leader, which includes leftist  anti-American anarchists Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who hate America. These people and their followers could become a "fifth column" in the U.S. The anti-Americanism spewed by these Democratic agitators might get President Trump reelected. Trump's comments about the four congresswomen are not racist. In his carelessly inarticulate way he called out their anti-Americanism.

Ocasio-Cortez has 4 million Twitter followers she instantly contacts and influences with her anarchistic and anti-American views. Other politicians, including Beto O'Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, Peter Buttigieg and Kamala Harris have developed large numbers of Twitter followers, and they are unqualified candidates for President. President Trump, who spews venomous rhetoric at times, instantly accesses about 60 million followers on Twitter. - More...
Friday PM - August 16, 2019

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