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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Thursday - Friday
August 04-05, 2021

6 Fatalities in Plane Crash Near Ketchikan By MARY KAUFFMAN

6 Fatalities in Plane Crash Near Ketchikan
A glimpse of Misty Fjords, a long-popular tourist attraction.
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Ketchikan: 6 Fatalities in Plane Crash Near Ketchikan By MARY KAUFFMAN - Today at approximately 11:21 AM, the Alaska State Troopers were notified of a possible plane crash just outside of Ketchikan in the Misty Fjords area. was activated near the Misty Fjords area. A Temsco Helicopter reported sighting wreckage on a ridgeline in the search area. 

Initial reports indicated that a Southeast Aviation De Haviland Beaver, with tail number N1249K, had five passengers and one pilot aboard and had reportedly triggered an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB.) at 11:20 a.m.

The US Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, US Forest Service, and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad responded to the area to attempt to locate the crash site. Poor visibility and deteriorating weather hampered aerial search efforts for part of the afternoon.

At approximately 2:37 this afternoon, the US Coast Guard discovered the crash site in a steep mountainous area near Misty Fjords; an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sitka located the wreckage at 2:37 p.m. and lowered two rescue swimmers who reported who reported no survivors. One pilot and five passengers were reportedly aboard the aircraft owned by Southeast Aviation LLC. All six occupants of the aircraft were deceased.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sitka located the wreckage at 2:37 p.m. and lowered two rescue swimmers.

The names of the deceased have not been announced pending notification of next of kin.

The five passengers on the flight were passengers from Holland America Cruise Line ship Nieuw Amsterdam, according to a statment. The ship ported in Ketchikan Thursday and has delayed its afternoon departure after the fatal crash. Counseling services are being made available to passengers and crew of the Nieuw Amsterdam. According to Holland America Line, the float plane excursions was offered by an independent tour operator and was not sold by Holland America.

The Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad will coordinate recovery efforts of the deceased from the crash site today and tomorrow. - More...
Thursday PM - August 05, 2021

Ketchikan - Alaska: In Alaska, Commercial Aviation Is a Lifeline. The State Is Also Home to a Growing Share of the Country’s Deadly Crashes. By by Zoë Sobel, KUCB, and Agnel Philip, ProPublica CC Permission SitNews - On a clear day in May 2019, the tourist season was just starting up in Ketchikan, Alaska, a southeastern city of 8,000 that had become a cruise ship hot spot. For Randy Sullivan, that meant another day — his fifth in a row — of flying sightseeing tours and charters.

Sullivan and his wife, Julie, owned Mountain Air Service, a single-plane family business that had allowed Randy to realize his dream of becoming his own boss. Randy was born and raised in Alaska. He grew up in Ketchikan and had been flying in the area for more than 17 years. He, more than most, knew the dangers of commercial aviation in the state.

“When Randy first started flying up here in Alaska, he learned from some of the best pilots up here and he valued everything they taught him,” Julie said. “Safety was number one for Randy.”

For the 10 a.m. flight, his first of the day, he met his four passengers from the Royal Princess cruise ship at the dock. They boarded his single-engine, propeller-driven, red-and-white floatplane for a tour of Misty Fjords National Monument, 35 miles northeast of Ketchikan. This picturesque landscape, filled with glacial valleys and steep cliffs, is such a popular and crowded flightseeing destination that local operators banded together a decade earlier to create their own voluntary safety measures for flying in the area, including designating radio channels for communication and routes for the planes to follow.

After noon, Sullivan’s de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver was on its way back to town. Another commercial carrier, Taquan Air, was flying one of its own airplanes, also on a flightseeing tour, back to Ketchikan. The two planes collided at about 3,350 feet. The accident destroyed the Beaver and killed all five aboard, including Sullivan, as well as one passenger from the Taquan Air plane. All 10 survivors were injured.

Shannon Wilk lost three family members in the midair collision, including her brother Ryan, who was on Sullivan’s plane.

“I didn’t think the next time I’d be in the same room with him, he would be in a casket,” Shannon said. The crash also claimed the lives of Ryan’s wife, Elsa, and Elsa’s brother, Louis Botha. “I thought he’d get home, we’d keep getting pictures, we’d talk about it and we’d just keep going.”

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent governmental agency that investigates transportation accidents, eventually determined that the pilots of the aircraft saw each other too late to take evasive action, calling it an example of the limitations of avoiding midair collisions by relying only on what pilots can see through the window.

Fatal midair collisions involving commercial aircraft are practically unheard of in the rest of the country, but in Alaska, there have been five in the past five years alone. In each of them, at least one plane either lacked a key piece of optional safety equipment or wasn’t using it properly.

More broadly, in recent years Alaska has made up a growing share of the country’s crashes involving small commercial aircraft, according to an investigation by KUCB and ProPublica. In the past two decades, the number of deaths in crashes involving these operators has plummeted nationwide, while in Alaska, deaths have held relatively steady. As a result, Alaska’s share of fatalities in such crashes has increased from 26% in the early 2000s to 42% since 2016. Our analysis included crashes involving at least one plane or helicopter flying under the Federal Aviation Administration’s typical rules for commuter, air taxi or charter service. (The flight safety record of large air carriers is strong in both Alaska and nationally.)

Alaska’s increased share of aviation deaths can be attributed, at least in part, to its continued reliance on smaller operators, which have worse safety records than large airlines but appear to have waned in popularity outside the state, according to experts.

In interviews with KUCB and ProPublica, federal officials, lawyers and aviation safety experts said the FAA, which oversees air travel in the country, carries much of the responsibility for improving aviation safety in the state. Some say the agency has been slow to adopt rules and provide additional support for the unique conditions in Alaska, leaving pilots and customers to fend for themselves. Some critics also say the FAA has struggled to hold operators accountable for questionable safety track records.

While it has long been known that flying in Alaska is more dangerous than in the lower 48, there are fewer safeguards in the state than almost anywhere else in the country. Because much of Alaska is considered uncontrolled airspace, pilots flying in large areas of the state have limited access to weather and traffic information.

That leaves pilots, many of whom come to the state to get their first commercial flying experience, on their own to navigate rapidly changing weather, mountainous terrain and challenging landings at small rural airports with unpaved, poorly lit runways. Flights can turn deadly even in the hands of experienced pilots. - More...
Thursday PM - August 05, 2021

Alaska: Governor Dunleavy Urged to Seek Rehearing and Stay in Campaign Contribution Limits Case Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 30, 2021 rendered its decision in Thompson v. Hebdon that Alaska laws placing limits on certain campaign contributions violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The panel’s decision struck down Alaska’s $500 annual individual campaign contribution limit to candidates, the $500 annual individual campaign contribution limits to political groups, and the aggregate $3,000 out-of-state contribution limit that a candidate can accept. The decision, without further legal action, would mean unlimited amounts of money could be funneled into political campaigns in Alaska. 

A panel of three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its July 30, 2021 decision on Thompson v. Hebdon (pdf) that Alaska’s campaign contribution limits violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit's panel explained that, on top of its danger signs, the limit significantly restricts the amount of funds available to challengers to run competitively against incumbents, and the already-low limit is not indexed for inflation. Furthermore, Alaska has not established a special justification for such a low limit. The panel also concluded that, similarly, Alaska has not met its burden of showing that the $500 individual-to-group limit is closely drawn to restrict contributors from circumventing the individual-to-candidate limit.

The lawsuit was initiated in 2015 by three individuals, David Thompson, Aaron Downing, Jim Crawford and a subdivision of the Alaska Republican Party who sought to contribute funds to political candidates exceeding the donation limits established by Alaska law. The litigants argued the donation limits unconstitutionally restricted their freedom of speech. They sued members of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, contending that Alaska’s individual-to-candidate and individual-to-group contribution limits violate the First Amendment.

Today, the Alaska Senate Democrats sent a letter to Governor Mike Dunleavy (pdf) urging him to direct the state attorney general to seek rehearing en banc as soon as possible. If granted, the Thompson decision will be reviewed by eleven members of the court, including the Chief Judge who dissented in last week’s ruling The Alaska Senate Democrats also asked the governor to seek a stay of the Thomspon ruling until the decision is overturned by the en banc proceedings or until Alaska has enacted new, constitutionally permissible contribution limits.  

In the letter to Governor Dunleavy, the Alaska Senate Democrats observe, “If the court’s ruling stands, there will be no limits on individual campaign contributions to candidates or political groups, and no limits on nonresidents’ campaign contributions. Alaskans recognize the corrosive effects of big money in politics and understand that elections should not be decided simply by wealthy individuals capable of making unlimited campaign contributions—including Outsiders who do not live and work here, and cannot vote here, but seek influence over Alaska’s elected representatives for favorable policy from which they will reap benefits.”

“This decision dramatically shifts the balance of power in our electoral process to the wealthy class who seek influence over the decisions of our elected officials. It has thrown a wrench into the public’s trust and will allow the affluent to steal our elections. The administration should act quickly to prevent the rich from having a greater voice in our democracy than Alaskans,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage). “Governor Dunleavy has the opportunity right before him to seek further legal action to prevent that shift of power before campaigning season kicks into high gear.” - More...
Thursday PM - August 05, 2021


Alaska: Biden Interior Department Criticized for Stalling ANWR - The Bureau of Land Management on August 3rd announced a 60-day public scoping period to assist in the preparation of a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Governor Mike Dunleavy reacted strongly this week to the federal Bureau of Land Management’s plan to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) for oil and gas leasing in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. An EIS was already completed in September 2019 and it determined that oil and gas development could take place without harming the refuge.

This comes on the heels of the Interior Department suspending all oil and gas leases for portions of the non-wilderness 1002 Area of ANWR in June pending the outcome of another environmental review. The leases were issued in January 2021 pursuant to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which authorized responsible energy development in ANWR.

“This announcement is another example of the Biden Administration attempting to shut down Alaska’s primary industry to appease radical environmental groups determined to turn our state into one big national park,” said Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy.

Dunleavy said, “A supplemental EIS only serves to void the results of the environmental study that was already completed and found that oil and gas development in the 1002 area of ANWR, an area set aside for oil and gas exploration, can take place without harming the environment. Alaska is America’s energy warehouse and we can develop the resources in ANWR while protecting the refuge, because no one is more protective of our land and waters than Alaskans.” - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021

Alaska: Lawmaker concerned by governor’s use of state funds for "politically motivated campaign" Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy earlier this week released a plan to rush a no-bid contract for $250,000 to produce what Rep. Zack Fields calls political ads using state dollars.

In an procurement announcement published on August 3rd and closing on August 6th, the Office of the Governor announced it is seeking information from media agencies interested in contracting with the state for a public education and information campaign regarding a proposed constitutional amendment pertaining to the permanent fund, the permanent fund dividend (PFD), and power cost equalization (PCE).  Interested parties must submit a written response by Friday, August 6, at 12:00p.m., Alaska Time.

The contract(s) with the agencies for advertising will include radio and internet within the State of Alaska.  The total budget for this project is estimated not to exceed $250,000.00.  The contract(s) are exempt from the requirements of the Alaska State Procurement Code under AS 36.30.850(b)(34).

Quoting background information provided by the Office of the Governor, "Upon review of a recent statewide poll, the Governor’s proposed constitutional amendment restructuring the Permanent Fund, protecting the PFD and memorializing Power Cost Equalization, is unfamiliar to 67% of the responding public. To amend the constitution, the public must by majority vote, ratify the amendment during a statewide general election. Therefore, the data shows roughly 2/3 of the public is not sufficiently aware of what the administration proposes the legislature approve for the public’s consideration."

Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) released the following statement on the contract: “At the same time every other state agency has endured years of service and staffing cuts advocated by the governor, the Office of the Governor has steadily increased its budget to the point it is now $32 million, an increase of roughly 25 percent. Yet somehow, even with a large staff that includes an entire communications department, the administration is now seeking to use even more public dollars for a political campaign aimed at shredding the Constitution.” - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021


Southeast Alaska: Southeast Alaska Wolf One Step Closer to Endangered Species Protection - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced recently that Alexander Archipelago wolves in Southeast Alaska may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act and started a year-long status review. The decision comes in response to a July 2020 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, Alaska Rainforest Defenders and Defenders of Wildlife.

“These beautiful wolves are threatened with extinction because of increased trapping and rampant logging in their forest home,” said Ted Zukoski, a senior attorney at the Center. “They’re vital to the health of the Tongass forest ecosystem, but they live in a sacrifice zone for timber mills. If these wolves are going to survive, they urgently need the Endangered Species Act’s protection, not traps and chainsaws.”

The petitioners say the "rare" gray wolf subspecies, which inhabits the coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, faces numerous threats. Legal trapping recently killed more than half the wolves in one key population on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. The Trump administration opened hundreds of thousands of acres of the wolf’s forest habitat to clearcut logging. And genetic evidence indicates the Prince of Wales population is in danger from high levels of inbreeding.

The USFWS has recognized the Alexander Archipelago wolf (Canis lupus ligoni) as a subspecies of the gray wolf and as a listable entity. However, not all agree that this southeast wolf is a rare subspecies.

Petitioners have again requested that the USFWS evaluate the Alexander Archipelago wolf subspecies for listing where Southeast Alaska constitutes a significant portion of the range. The petitioners say the best-available science demonstrates that the Alexander Archipelago wolf is threatened or endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

“Threats to the continued existence of these unique wolves have been worsening for many years, in terms both of habitat loss and mismanagement by the state and federal agencies that are responsible for maintaining the populations at a healthy size,” said Larry Edwards of Alaska Rainforest Defenders.- More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021

The closest people to an 8.2 earthquake

The closest people to an 8.2 earthquake
This photo sent via satellite phone shows the interior of a cabin on Chowiet Island a few hours after a nearby magnitude 8.2 earthquake.
Photo by Katie Stoner, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge



Alaska: The closest people to an 8.2 earthquake By NED ROZELL - What if the country’s largest earthquake in the last half century happened as you were getting ready for bed in the only cabin on a tiny island in the North Pacific? What if the epicenter was just 50 miles away?

A magnitude 8.2 earthquake happened at 10:15 p.m. Alaska time on July 28, 2021. The people who were closest to the rupture of the Aleutian megathrust zone were two biologists who are living on Chowiet Island this summer.

Chowiet Island, a tiny speck in the North Pacific, is part of the vast Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the entire sweep of the Aleutian Islands.

The crew of the refuge’s ship, the Tiglax, dropped Katie Stoner and Briana Bode off on Chowiet Island in early May. Their duties on the green island are to climb its rocky cliffs and continue studies on murres, auklets, puffins and other seabirds that biologists have carried out for years.

Stoner and Bode live in what they described by satellite email as “a small, rustic cabin with no plumbing, no wiring and only one appliance (a propane stove and oven).”

The cabin sits on marshy flats on the island’s lowlands, about 90 feet above sea level. Except for a brief resupply visit from the refuge ship, Stoner and Bode will see no one else this summer.

Here is their earthquake story, relayed via their satellite email from Heather Renner, supervisory wildlife biologist at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer:

On the evening of July 28, Stoner had retired to her bunk by 10 p.m. Bode was about to brush her teeth when Stoner asked if Bode had felt an earthquake.

Soon, the shaking intensified. Bode yelled, “Out, out the door!”

Once on the deck, they noticed the cabin swaying. They heard the clatter of stuff falling from shelves.

“Our first thought was, ‘That was BIG!’” Stoner said.

Looking out to nearby Kateekuk Island, they saw a mammoth slab of rock separate and fall to the water. Another island, farther away, was surrounded by a halo of dust (they later think the dust they saw and tasted was not from landslides, but from rocks rubbing together due to the exceptional ground motion).

The women estimated the initial shaking, which seemed to go on forever, probably rocked and rolled their island for less than a minute.

The ocean was just 250 yards from the cabin door. They needed to get to higher ground (the tallest peak on the island is 800 feet high) in case a rupture beneath the ocean floor pushed a tsunami their way.

“We didn’t even take the time to tell anyone (via satphone or satellite texter) there had been a quake,” Stoner said. “We knew from the feel that it was big, and close enough that we might not have much time before a wave arrived.”- More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021



DANNY TYREE: DO MORNING PEOPLE DESERVE TO LIVE? - A 1986 Pantene commercial carried the tagline “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful.”

Similarly, I must ask my readers, “Don’t hate me because I’ve heard a rooster crow.”

I tend to get up at the crack of dawn, even though I eventually encounter a lot of grumpy people who wish they had the energy to show dawn their…well, never mind.

Despite working the graveyard shift from age 23 to age 37, and despite an ongoing ability to burn the candle at both ends, I am basically one of those dreaded “morning people.”

To my credit, I am never “in your face” with cheerfulness and positivity, but I confess to being one of those beings who can roll out of bed and become productive without the assistance of a snooze alarm.

I am part of a sizable group. According to research, 25 percent of people are early birds, 25 percent are night owls, 50 percent are somewhere in betweenand the other 37 percent took Common Core math. - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021


CARL GOLDEN: PETTY POLITICAL SQUABBLES CONTINUE AMID THE PANDEMIC - Even as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus rips through the country, sending infections and hospitalizations soaring to levels not experienced in months, many Congressional Republicans cling stubbornly to the notion it’s no more serious than a hangnail and preventive or protective steps are unnecessary.

From the onset of the most serious public health crisis in a century, efforts to combat and ultimately overcome it have been afflicted by political polarization and ideological divisions that have stymied much of what was expected from the current Congressional session.

Chafing at lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions and restrictions on social gatherings erupted into recriminations and accusations of power grabs when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently reinstated a mask wearing mandate for members and staff.

Republicans defied her order, ambling maskless throughout the Capitol and the legislative chamber, accusing the Speaker of seeking to amass greater control by using the surge in infections as a political weapon rather than a public health measure.

The environment deteriorated to a personal level when Pelosi called Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “a moron” for his anti-mask remarks while a Congresswoman reportedly threw a mask back at a House staffer who offered it to her. - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021


FINANCIAL FOCUS: Are trust services right for you? Provided By BEN EDWARDS, AAMS® - If you’re extremely busy with your career and family and you’ve accumulated a fair amount of assets, you might be concerned about a variety of issues related to financial management and legacy planning. Specifically, you might think you don’t have the time or expertise to deal with these matters effectively. If this is the case, you might want to consider using a trust company.

You might think you need to have a large estate or millions of dollars to benefit from working with a trust company, but that’s not the case. And if you’re not familiar with what a trust company can do, you might be surprised at all the services it can provide, including the following: er using a trust company. - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021

jpg Political Cartoon: Infrastructure Bill

Political Cartoon: Infrastructure Bill
by Dick Wright©2021,
Distributed to subscribers for publication for Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon:  Congress Goes on August Recess

Political Cartoon:  Congress Goes on August Recess
by R.J. Matson ©2021, CQ Roll Call
Distributed to subscribers for publication for Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon: Foreclosures and evictions

Political Cartoon: Foreclosures and evictions
by Dave Granlund ©2021,
Distributed to subscribers for publication for Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon: Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan

Political Cartoon: Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan
by Jeff Koterba,
Distributed to subscribers for publication for Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

jpg Political Cartoon: Covid Messaging

Political Cartoon: Covid Messaging
by Dick Wright ©2021,
Distributed to subscribers for publication for Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Access to Ketchikan Airport By Chris J. Herby - I am writing about a problem that I feel needs to be addressed by our Ketchikan Borough Assembly. It pertains to our access to our airport. I have written about this before.

When the plans were first made public for the Gravina access improvement project currently underway, I wrote that it really won’t be improving access to Gravina. I stated that after spending around $80 million we will still only have the same ferry every 30 minutes.

I received phone calls from DOT officials and airport management explaining that the available funding could not be used for increased ferry service. I understand that. However, something needs to be done to actually improve our access to our airport.

The current improvements are certainly going to be very nice with increased parking, covered waiting areas, and improved passenger pickup areas.

Up until about 8-10 years ago we had 2 ferries operating during the busy summer months. Since then Delta has started flying into Ketchikan and it seems passenger traffic in general has increased. Virtually every time I take a vehicle over to the airport lately, I have to wait for 1 or 2 ferry round trips before I can return. It takes almost as long to transport a passenger to the airport as it does to fly to Seattle. This is absurd and it’s only going to get worse.

Now there are plans being discussed to expand and improve the airport terminal. That is great! It’s good to plan ahead and improve our transportation infrastructure and our airport is vital to our community.

However, our current airport ferry situation is a serious choke point. It is equivalent to having a section of 4 lane freeway connected to another section of 4 lane freeway by a 2 lane highway. Traffic will be backed up on both ends. - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021

jpg Opinion

Word of praise By A.M. Johnson - Recently a trip to the local Ketchikan land fill was made.  This writer was astounded as the approach to the weigh scale was being made.  All the grassy mounds surrounding the entrance were manicured, the road sides clear of any would be anticipated, wind blown debris.  The access road to the designated dumping area was sweeping in design, to the well dressed fill area. - More...
Friday AM - August 06, 2021

jpg Opinion

70% of Sealaska shareholders live below poverty line By Dominic Salvato - Sealaska shareholders used to be the cake and management the frosting. Fifty years of ANCSA and things are reversed. Shareholders are the frosting being spread thin and getting thinner - More...
Monday AM - July 26, 2021
jpg Opinion

Open Letter to Alaska State Legislators By Michael Goehring - I am writing today in response to your May 7 letter sent to the Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, expressing your concerns about the potential impacts of abandoned, active, and future mines on shared waterways between BC and Alaska. standards in the world for environmental assessment, operational permitting, compliance and enforcement, and post-closure monitoring and reclamation. - More...
Sunday PM - July 18, 2021

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