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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
September 02, 2015

Front Page Photo By HARLEY BREY

Craig Boat Harbor
Midnight at the Craig, Alaska boat harbor as a boat is coming
in with its "crab lights" on.
Front Page Photo By HARLEY BRAY ©2015

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Alaska: Alaska Supreme Court gives Governor go-ahead with Medicaid expansion By MARY KAUFFMAN - Alaska Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner denied on Friday the Legislative Council’s request to stop the implementation of Medicaid expansion in early September. Judge Pfiffner’s decision allows the Administration of Governor Bill Walker to begin expanding Medicaid on September 1st.

Governor Bill Walker said in a prepared statement, “Judge Pfiffner’s ruling [Friday] ensures 20,000 working Alaskans will have access to health care on September 1st. Medicaid expansion will not only save the state over $100 million in its first six years, it will save Alaskan lives. I look forward to working with members of the legislature on implementing the Healthy Alaska Plan.”

Alaska Senate President Kevin Meyer and Alaska House Speaker Mike Chenault were disappointed with the ruling.

“[Friday's] preliminary ruling was not in our favor, but we remain hopeful going forward,” President Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) said. “Regardless of the legal outcome, the Senate will continue to work toward Medicaid reform. We owe it to future generations to ensure the program is sustainable and adequately serves today’s most vulnerable, particularly during these fiscally challenging times.”

“I’m disappointed with [Friday's] ruling on the temporary restraining order,” Speaker Chenault (R-Nikiski) said. “This motion was just one step in the process, and we continue to feel very strongly about our constitutional argument that was presented. We are by no means looking for a way to stop Medicaid expansion; we are trying to do it the right way so that we have a reliable, sustainable system.”

The ruling is being praised by the members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition (AIDC).

“Medicaid expansion does several very good things for the state of Alaska,” said AIDC Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “It saves the state millions of dollars during tight fiscal times, injects billions into the Alaska economy, increases the number of Alaskans with healthcare, and will result in cheaper healthcare insurance for everyone. The Republican Majority should not be frivolously spending public money supporting an outside advocacy law firm dedicated to stopping Medicaid expansion nationwide.”

The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition asserts that during the first session of the 29th Alaska Legislature, the Republican led leadership in the House and Senate repeatedly tried to prevent consideration of Medicaid expansion by refusing to hold hearings on expansion bills, tabling amendments on the floor, and including unconstitutional restrictive language in the FY 2016 budgets.

Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) has been working on the Medicaid expansion issue since 2013. He put forward specific pieces of legislation in 2014 and 2015 authorizing the State of Alaska to accept federal funding to expand eligibility in the Medicaid program.

“By refusing to properly consider Medicaid expansion legislation, the Majority leadership in the House and Senate left the Governor no choice but to use his executive power to help thousands of Alaskans get life-saving healthcare,” said Rep. Josephson (D-Anchorage). “It’s clear to me that the Republican controlled Leadership in the House and Senate didn’t want a vote on Medicaid expansion legislation because it likely would have passed. Instead of allowing an up or down vote, they chose to use the legal system to try to deny healthcare to needy Alaskans.”

Friday’s Superior Court ruling was only focused on the request to stop the implementation of Medicaid expansion on September 1st. The Legislative Council lawsuit will proceed in the coming months. Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau) sits on the Legislative Council and he cast the lone vote in opposition to going forward with the lawsuit against the Governor.

“Only ten members of the Alaska Legislature signed off on the lawsuit despite the public claim that the Legislative Council’s action represents the will of the full Legislature,” said Rep. Sam Kito (D-Juneau). “[Friday] ruling clearly shows that there will be no damage to the State of Alaska from expanding Medicaid this fiscal year. I am confident the Governor will prevail in the lawsuit and thousands of Alaskans will be have better health outcomes through Medicaid expansion.” - More...
Wednesday PM - September 02, 2015

Southeast Alaska: Coffey Named ADOT&PF Southcoast Region Director - Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) Commissioner Marc Luiken has named Mike Coffey as Southcoast Region Director.

The Alaska Department of Transportation's Southcoast Region covers Southeast Alaska, Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, Aleutian Chain, and the Pribilof Islands.

Coffey has over 30 years of maintenance, operations, design and construction experience with ADOT&PF. He exits his current role within the department as the Chief of Statewide Maintenance and Operations where he has displayed great leadership through the implementation of efficiencies and department-wide collaboration.

Coffey has held a versatile range of positions at ADOT&PF including design engineer in Southeast Alaska, project engineer in Southcentral Alaska, Homer area maintenance and operations superintendent, and Northern Region maintenance manager. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 02, 2015


Denali's elevation revised By SUE MITCHELL - Denali has been downsized by 10 feet as a result of data captured during an expedition this past summer.

The elevation of North America’s tallest peak is now estimated to be 20,310 feet. The previous elevation, established using 1950s-era technology, was 20,320 feet.

Surveying technology and processes improved significantly since the last survey and enabled scientists to establish a much more accurate height.

Denali's elevation revised

Rhett Foster from CompassData pauses on a ridge leading to the 17,000-foot base camp on Mount McKinley in June 2015.
UAF photo by Tom Heinrichs

Tom Heinrichs, director of the Geographic Information Network of Alaska at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, climbed the mountain in June with a survey party led by CompassData, a private contractor hired by the U.S. Geological Survey. The team of four experienced climbers carried survey-grade global positioning system equipment weighing about 50 pounds, including batteries. On June 24, they placed the equipment on the summit to gather data. They left the equipment on the summit for about 25 hours, then came back to retrieve it.

After the climbers successfully descended the mountain, teams from CompassData, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Geodetic Survey independently processed the survey data. The teams met to compare preliminary results and found they were very consistent.

The Department of the Interior’s USGS announced Denali’s new elevation Wednesday, Sept. 2. The expedition was funded by the USGS and by the NGS, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 02, 2015


Alaska Science:
Spillways of an ancient Alaska lake By NED ROZELL - Many years ago, geologists stood on the bank of the Copper River and watched Childs Glacier thunder icebergs straight into the river. Using a little imagination, one researcher remarked how an advance of the glacier could seal off the big river.

Spillways of an ancient Alaska lake

The possible boundaries of ancient Lake Atna, a giant water body that existed thousands of years ago.
Courtesy of Michael Wiedmer.

He envisioned a process that has happened many times in the world and is still happening in Alaska: glaciers growing to the point where they block rivers and streams to form lakes.

Proof of a great Alaska lake still exists. Geologist Oscar Ferrians in the 1950s found ancient shorelines high on cliffsides in the Copper River region. Another geologist named the basin Lake Atna.

Lake Atna filled the Copper River valley from about 60,000 to 10,000 years ago. Glennallen, Copper Center and Gulkana were underwater then, in the depths of a water body twice the size of Great Salt Lake.

When glacial ice receded, Lake Atna drained in pulses, some of them immense. Scientists have found six-foot boulders and other evidence of the lake bursting northeast through Mentasta Pass and into the Tok and Tanana river drainages. The lake also drained down the Copper River when the Allen, Miles and Childs glaciers receded.

There are other spillways that helped empty Lake Atna. One is to its northwest near the Susitna River. Another is into the Matanuska River through Tahneta Pass, now the route of the Glenn Highway from Glennallen to Palmer.

Along this route, Lake Atna might have burst free with enough water to deposit dunes more than 100 feet tall near Wasilla. It might have been one of the largest floods ever. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 02, 2015


Columns - Commentary

jpg Dick Polman

DICK POLMAN: Obama Haters' Heads Detonate over 'DenaliGate' - What could be more entertaining, on a hot summer day, than revisiting the American idiocracy, which is obsessed at the moment with the president's renaming of a mountain?

I don't know where this episode ranks on the list of scandals - maybe somewhere between "terrorist fist bump" and the tan suit - but nevertheless it's clear that, after all this time, Obama-haters still have enough teeth to chew a carpet. Which is what's been happening ever since Obama's announcement that Mount McKinley in Alaska shall henceforth be known by its traditional name, Denali.

Alaska Natives have called the mountain Denali since their arrival in the region several thousand years ago - in the local Athabaskan language, Denali means "the great one" - and nothing changed until a white prospector showed up in 1896 and decided on his own to re-christen it in honor of William McKinley, an Ohio governor who had just won the Republican presidential nomination. McKinley had never visited the region, but Congress didn't care and approved the name change in 1917.

Problem was, Alaskans didn't like it. In 1975, the state defied the federal decree and officially reinstated the name Denali - solely for its own use. Since then, Alaska's representatives in Washington have tried to remove "McKinley" from the federal register of place names. But those moves have been repeatedly nixed by McKinley's latter-day protectors, the Ohio Republicans.

Enter Obama, who said in a statement announcing the name chance, "Denali is a site of significant cultural importance to many Alaska Natives. The name 'Denali' has been used for many years and is widely used across the state today."

Cue the ritual outrage.

Right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro on Twitter: "Perhaps we should just be grateful Obama didn't decide to rename Mt. McKinley Mt. Trayvon."

Headline on the right-wing Gateway Pundit blog: "Obama Renames Mt. McKinley (Named After Some White Guy) to Denali." A Gateway Pundit fan on Twitter: "Obama observes Islam practice of eliminating Western names." - More...
Wednesday PM - September 02, 2015

jpg Political Cartoon: Lobbyists Inc

Political Cartoon: Lobbyists Inc
By Bill Schorr ©2015, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Inuit Circumpolar Council Response to the topic of Global Climate Change By James Stotts, ICC-Alaska President - Climate change poses a tremendous risk to the food security of Alaska’s indigenous peoples, and changes in state and federal policies could go a long way toward mitigating that risk and averting a potential crisis.

Climate change has already impacted traditional food sources, and will likely create more disruption. Changing weather patterns have limited the ability to go hunting. Sea ice has diminished and become more unstable. Species of wildlife have changed their migration patterns. Melting permafrost is reshaping the environment. Changing ocean conditions and rising water temperatures are altering fish runs. Foraging locations continue to change or even diminish as forest fires become more widespread. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter POW Wolf Harvest By Dave Person - Recent reports on KRBD and in the Ketchikan Daily News about the wolf situation in game management unit 2 (Prince of Wales and adjacent islands) certainly were informative but they failed to discuss the most critical issues. First, as someone who studied wolf and deer populations in that unit for 22 years, I don't believe for a nanosecond that the wolf population all of a sudden declined 60% during last winter. During my field work, I observed that population declining substantially for over a decade. It is most likely that the autumn 2013 population estimate of >220 wolves was much too high owing to inappropriate extrapolation from a small study area and study population boundary effects. I designed the initial strategy and protocols ADFG and the USFS are using to estimate wolf population in the unit. As part of my plan, ADFG and the USFS were to use wolf DNA extracted from hair traps to estimate population within a closely monitored study area that was only a portion of GMU 2. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter Are You Ready for Back to School 2015? By Susan Johnson  - The days are getting shorter and summer activities are winding down. School supply lists are appearing in stores and your in-boxes. Kids are (hopefully) finishing their summer reading lists. Back to School time is just around the corner, though it may feel like Memorial Day was just a couple of weeks ago.

As you prepare your kids to return to school this year, you should be aware that some states have enacted tougher immunization laws in the wake of the recurrence of “childhood diseases” that were previously eliminated in this country. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

letter STOP FEEDING THE BEAST By Wiley Brooks - The Internal Revenue Service has reported that hackers gained as many as 330,000 accounts. Cyberworld hacking is a relatively new phenomenon. Its growth not only threatens our national security but individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Politicians and enduring bureaucracies are far too slow to react to this growing menace. In recent months it has been reported that 21.5 million people were swept up in a colossal breach of government computer systems resulting in the theft of a vast trove of personal information, including Social Security numbers and some fingerprints. Previous government agency records hacked include the White House, State Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). A politically devised bureaucratically controlled government agency cannot keep pace with today's fast-moving high-technology. - More...
Thursday PM - August 27, 2015

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