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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
September 20, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By GABE HEATH

Aurora Borealis
Northern Lights on 09/15/17 as viewed from Knudson Cove.
Front Page Feature Photo By GAGE HEATH ©2017

Borough Election
OCTOBER 03, 2017

This is the 15th year, Sitnews has provided FREE web exposure to all local Ketchikan candidates to provide information for consideration by voters.
Tell your possible future constituents about your background, qualifications for the position, etc. Please send a photo. Links to your social media page accepted: Email to

Respond By: 09/26/17
The sooner the better; absentee voters may vote as early as 15 days prior to the Borough election.

Ketchikan Borough Assembly
3 Year Term - 3 Seats Open

jpg Amanda (AJ) Pierce
Amanda (AJ) Pierce
Filed 08/02/17
jpg Alan Bailey Alan Bailey
Filed 08/03/17
jpg Kevin Gadsey Kevin Gadsey
Filed 08/18/17
jpg Joel W. Jackson Joel W. Jackson
Filed 08/24/17
jpg Kent L. Colby Kent L. Colby
Filed 08/25/17
jpg Susan Pickrell

Susan Pickrell

Click here to read Candidate's Statement
Published 09/13/17

Ketchikan School Board
3 Year Term - 2 Seats Open

jpg Diane Gubatayao
jpg David Timmerman David Timmerman
Filed 08/18/17
Glen Thompson
Filed 08/21/17

Ketchikan School Board
1 Year Term - 1 Seat Open

jpg Bill Blankenship
Bill Blankenship
Filed 08/21/17
jpg Glenn J. Brown Glenn J. Brown
Filed 08/25/17

Ketchikan City Council
3 Year Term - 3 Seats Open

jpg Dick Coose
Dick Coose
Filed 08/01/17
jpg Mark Flora Mark Flora
Filed 08/04/17
David Kiffer
Filed 08/18/17

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State of Alaska Accepts Offer to Buy M/V Taku - A Portland-based company will become the new owners of the M/V Taku. The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities announced the approval of a bid from KeyMar LLC to buy the M/V Taku as-is for $300,000. In addition to the sale price, the State of Alaska retains roughly $500,000 worth of lifesaving and other equipment salvaged off the M/V Taku. These will be used on the new Alaska Class ferries and active ships on an as-needed basis.

State of Alaska Accepts Offer to Buy M/V Taku

M/V Taku
Photo Credit Rebecca Rauf, Alaska DOT&PF

“With the value of the equipment the State has already removed from the ship, we can confidently say this offer was the best value possible,” said Alaska Marine Highway System General Manager Captain John Falvey. “We’re happy to have a viable sale and to see the vessel take on a new life down in Portland.”

The purchasing company, KeyMar LLC, offered a sealed bid and vessel relocation plan on Friday. Two other companies offered bids of roughly $50,000. KeyMar LLC intends to renovate and use the M/V Taku as a floating hotel in Portland.

The M/V Taku is currently at a mooring facility in Ward Cove in Ketchikan, Alaska. The State of Alaska certified the vessel relocation plan yesterday. Vessel ownership and responsibility transfers to the new owner when the purchase closes. The sale closing date has not yet been set. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

Ketchikan: Wetter than normal August in Southeast - The lack of truly warm summer temperatures was hard to ignore and June and July of 2017 was in many respects "the summer that wasn`t". However, summer pleasantly appeared in southeast Alaska during the first week and a half of August with daytime highs well above normal and overnight lows also above normal for most southeast locations except the northeast gulf coast.

Graphic Courtesy: The Alaska Climate Research Center, UAF

According to the National Weather Service Forecast Office, some record highs were set as well during the first week of August with temperatures rising to 80 degrees or above.

In total, at least 16 locations in southeast saw daytime highs during the first week of August of 80 degrees or higher. Topping out the list of sites experiencing truly hot temperatures was Skagway, which recorded 93 degrees for the daytime high on August 5th.

Ketchikan's highest temperature for the month was also on August 05th with 86 degrees recorded, but not record breaking. Ketchikan's record high was 90 degrees set on August 08, 1960. The record low was set on August 31, 1973 at 40 degrees. Ketchikan's lowest temperature for the month was 51 degrees on August 19, 2017.

Summer warmth and dry weather was replaced with overly wet conditions by the middle of August. Soon thereafter, nearly all locations had met or exceeded their normal monthly precipitation totals. The exception was, once again, the northeast gulf coast. Yakutat did end the month with above normal precipitation, but that did not occur until the last week of the month.

Multiple daily rainfall records were set in southeast. Ketchikan International Airport was particularly notable with a three day total of over 9 inches and a one day total of 4.18 inches on August 22nd. This smashed a 100 year old record of 2.27 set back in 1917 and coincided with an atmospheric river event that affected the entire panhandle.

Ketchikan also had the dubious distinction of experiencing the rainiest summer on record with a 3-month total of 46.99 inches of rain. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

Ketchikan: Tests Report No Elevated Bacteria Levels at Coastal Areas in Ketchikan - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has confirmed enterococci bacteria levels have tested below water quality criteria for all nine coastal areas in Ketchikan.

From July 18 to September 13, the Department of Environmental Conservation collected water quality samples at nine coastal areas inKetchikanincluding:South Refuge Cove Beach, Seaport Beach, Rotary Park Beacha (Bugges Beach), Thomas Basin, Beacon Hill, Knudson Cove, South Point Higgins Beach, Sunset Beach, and Shull Beach. The latest tests on September 13 show all locations meeting the water quality standards for enterococci.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday it is withdrawing the recreational beach advisory issued in August. DEC will suspend bacteria monitoring in the Ketchikan coastal areas until the 2018 summer recreation season.

Enterococci bacteria can come from any warm blooded animal, including birds, seals, and dogs, as well as humans. Potential sources of this bacteria in Ketchikan may include wildlife and pet feces, human waste from private and municipal treatment systems, sewer line leakage, and/or boats in harbor areas.

Additional DNA marker testing was conducted and is currently being evaluated to help determine whether the bacteria source(s) are human, animals, or birds. The DNA testing for all nine locations indicated bacteria were present from human sources, although animal and bird sources were also identified at some locations. A project report is anticipated in November. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

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Alaska: Sisters Sentenced for Embezzlement from Indian Tribal Government - Acting U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that Sylvia Toolie, 60, and her sister, Peggy Akeya, 57, of Savoonga, Alaska, were sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess for embezzling funds from the Native Village of Savoonga (“Native Village of Savoonga” or “the Tribe”), which is located on St. Lawrence Island and island west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea. 

Toolie was sentenced on September 13th to serve eight months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Akeya was sentenced on Tuesday, Sept. 12th, to a term of five years’ probation, three months’ home confinement, and 120 hours of community service. Toolie and Akeya were ordered to pay restitution to the Native Village of Savoonga in the amounts of $69,563.07 and $14,855.81, respectively. Judge Burgess also ordered Akeya to record statements for a public service announcement to raise awareness of the consequences that follow from embezzling tribal government or other public funds. 

Between April 2011 and May 2012, Toolie and Akeya stole from the Tribe using their positions of trust to do so. Toolie was a full-time salaried employee of Kawerak, Inc. (“Kawerak”) who was assigned to serve as the Native Village of Savoonga’s tribal coordinator. (Kawerak is a regional non-profit corporation that provides services to tribes in the Bering Straits region.) In her position, Toolie handled the day-to-day operations of the Tribe’s office and other duties, including grant reporting and managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. She was also entrusted with ensuring that funds provided to the Tribe were used and accounted for properly. Absent Kawerak’s prior approval, Toolie was not permitted to be paid by the Tribe at all. Toolie nevertheless used her position of trust to obtain numerous unauthorized checks from the Tribe. In all, Toolie tried to fraudulently obtain roughly $83,000 of the Tribe’s funds, and actually pocketed $69,563.07.

Akeya used her position as Secretary and unofficial bookkeeper to sign numerous unauthorized checks to herself and others that were drawn on the Tribe’s bank accounts. Akeya tried to fraudulently obtain over $25,000 in funds, and actually obtained $14,655.96. 

By approximately mid-November 2011, the Tribe had run out of money despite receiving considerable federal funding in 2011. When a large check that the Tribe issued was returned for insufficient funds, that creditor made inquiries, which ultimately led to the underlying investigation and proof that the Tribe’s funds had been misappropriated for years by Toolie, Akeya, and others. For example, the investigation revealed that the funds that Toolie and Akeya embezzled were supposed to pay for, among other things, repairs to homes and public buildings in Savoonga damaged during a severe December 2010 winter storm that prompted the State of Alaska to issue a disaster declaration. Due to the suspicious payments and the Tribe’s inability to account for millions of dollars in federal funding, the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has withheld funding from the Native Village of Savoonga since fiscal year 2012. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By JASON GUBATAYAO
A Wolf Sighting Tale
By Jason Gubatayao ©2017

Jason Gubatayo said he was working on Prince of Wales in June when he ran into this wolf. The wolf watched Gubatayao from about 100 feet away, then lowered its head and trotted to maybe 20 feet in front of Gubatayao before the wolf stopped and crouched behind a small bush. Gubatayao said when he first saw the wolf, he thought the situation was pretty neat so he grabbed his phone to snap some pictures but when the wolf kept coming, Gubatayao said, "I'll be honest, I was terrified". Gubatayao put his phone away and held up some sticks, yelling at the wolf a few times which didn't seem to phase it. Finally, after what seemed like several minutes of this eerie face-off, the wolf sniffed the air, turned, and disappeared into the tree line.

Not long after it disappeared 4 or maybe 5 wolves started howling from almost all around. Gubatayao said it was hard to estimate distance but the wolves seemed to be a couple hundred yards away. Gubatayao said he only walked in the only direction he didn't hear howling and eventually put some distance between he and the wolves. Gubatayao said he was not sure why they approached him. On his way out he said he found a lot of pup tracks so he thinks he may have been near the den, or perhaps they thought he was a deer until they could smell him. Not sure, but Gubatayao said he still feels a little shiver up his spine when he recalls the overwhelming sound of howls echoing through the trees.

Researchers take on atmospheric effects of Arctic snowmelt By SUE MITCHELL - Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute are exploring the changing chemistry of the Arctic’s atmosphere to help answer the question of what happens as snow and ice begin to melt.

Researchers take on atmospheric effects of Arctic snowmelt

Peter K. Peterson studies atmospheric chemistry in the Arctic.
Photo courtesy of
William R. Simpson

The research, led by chemistry professor William R. Simpson, is concerned with the Arctic’s reactive bromine season, which is the period of time when bromine is consuming ozone, producing bromine monoxide and oxidizing mercury.

Reactive bromine events occur during Arctic springtime, when temperatures are low and sea ice is snow-covered. As springtime transitions to summer, with temperatures climbing above freezing and snowpack melting, these events cease and atmospheric bromine quantities become low.

“Atmosphere chemistry really changes when snow melts,” said Simpson. “And earlier melt is changing what is happening in the atmosphere.”

While scientists studying the Arctic typically have a narrow time window to gather information, Simpson’s research group used a year-round data set that included buoy-based observations in the Arctic Ocean.

Peter K. Peterson, one of Simpson’s student researchers, noted a predictive application of the research: An increased understanding of bromine reactivity could help scientists figure out how “the atmospheric composition in the Arctic might respond to rapidly changing sea ice conditions.” - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017


How the latest effort to repeal Obamacare would affect millions By SIMON HAEDER - At the end of July, the nation held its collective breath as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) looked poised to achieve his most formidable parliamentary accomplishment: the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

But Republican hopes were dashed by one of their own, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who cast the deciding vote that appeared to decisively derail the multi-year effort.

McCain called to return to “regular order,” to work through committees, to bring in and listen to experts, to be open and transparent, and perhaps most importantly, to at least listen to both parties.

And indeed, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) went to work, bringing together demands from Republicans like more flexibility for states to waive certain provisions of the ACA, and demands from Democrats to provide cost-sharing subsidies, for example, to stabilize health care markets. The bipartisanship appeared to be spreading as Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) appeared to have reached an agreement on the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Now Republican hopes of repealing the ACA have been rekindled with the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Amendment led by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La).

Like all health care legislation, the bill is complex, but the broad outlines of it are rather clear: It would undo much of the reforms implemented through the ACA and then go a step further.

What’s in the bill?

Senate Republicans are rushed once more as they want to achieve health care reform by September 30, the deadline to pass the bill through the reconciliation process which requires only a simple majority. Indeed, due to their haste, the Congressional Budget Office will not be able to provide any estimates of the bill’s effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage or premiums.

Graham-Cassidy seeks to undo many of the reforms initiated by the ACA. For one, by 2020 it would eliminate the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, which has provided coverage for 12 million Americans for states that chose to expand their program. However, it would prevent new states from expanding their program by 2017. It would also eliminate the insurance marketplace subsidies to assist individuals purchase coverage and with out-of-pocket costs.

To soften states’ financial losses, Graham-Cassidy partially replaces funding for both components with a temporary block grant to states that would run out in 2026. Yet even with the block grant, states would see their funding reduced by a combined US$239 billion over six years, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017


Columns - Commentary


TOM PURCELL: 20 Trillion Reasons to Address National Debt Right Now - "The federal government is how deep in debt?"

"Extremely deep. Last week, our country passed a regrettable milestone when we exceeded $20 trillion in debt."

"How the heck did we get ourselves into such a hole?"

"According to The Hill, last week's debt-limit increase and stopgap government funding bill resulted in one of the largest single-day debt increases in U.S. history. It was enough to push us beyond the $20 trillion mark."

"But haven't our politicians been borrowing big long before last week?"

"That's correct. Since 2002, our politicians have increased the debt nearly $14 trillion. We have been spending, on average, roughly $930 billion per year more than we have taken in in tax receipts."

"That's a lot of cabbage. The numbers are so big, they are hard for average folks to understand."

"TV reporter Jake Tapper explained our debt and spending in a manner that makes it easier to understand. By removing eight zeroes from the federal budget's $4.1 trillion total, he came up with a sum of $41,000, which is easier to comprehend."

"Go on."

"Well, let's say you're a typical American whose bills are $41,000 a year - mortgage, car payments, groceries and so on. Here's the problem: Though you're spending $41,000 annually, your income is only about $36,000. That means you're growing your debt by nearly $5,000 every year."

"I've had such years."

"To make matters worse, you're already accumulated $200,000 in debt - maxed-out credit cards, bank loans, things like that. How can you pay back all that debt when you're earning only $36,000 a year and spending $41,000 a year?"

"You probably can't."

"But matters are worse yet. Because interest rates have been incredibly low, servicing all of your debt is only costing you about $2,000 a year. When rates eventually return to historically normal levels, your debt service will jump to more than $8,000 a year!"

"Let me get this right. I'm already spending $5,000 more than I'm making. When interest rates reset to historically normal levels, my debt service costs jump up another $6,000. That means my total spending will jump from $41,000 to $47,000 - or $11,000 more than I earn?" - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Trump Lesson

Editorial Cartoon: Trump Lesson
By Rick McKee ©2017, The Augusta Chronicle
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Opinion - Letter

Changing the Epidemic of Veterans Suicide- By Verdie Bowen - September is Suicide Awareness Month and we can all play a role in preventing suicide, but many people don’t know what they can do to support the local Veterans, Service member, Guard or Reserve member or their families.

I need to address something about this unspeakable epidemic. Did you know if you are one of the above that you are three times more likely to commit suicide than the average citizen? Today, we lose a veteran to this epidemic every 72 minutes, equaling 20 veterans a day. This number is unacceptable and needs each of us working together in order to see this number reduced and eliminated. - More...
Wednesday AM - September 20, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Capital Budget & District 36 Projects By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Alaska’s Fiscal Year 2018 Capital Budget, although small, has allocated multiple beneficial projects here in southern Southeast. The compromised version of this year’s capital budgetwill meet the minimum needs of the state and its residents in terms of infrastructure investment.

The capital budget is how we fund investment in Alaska’s infrastructure for transportation (including the AMHS) and natural resource development. From 2013 to 2017, we cut the capital budget by over 55%. We cut even more this year. At $122 million in Unrestricted General Funds, the FY2018 capital budget is the smallest since 2000. - More...
Sunday AM - September 17, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Beware! USPS Will Not Go Up Hills! By Megan Heaton - We live at 5109 Surprise Beach Court, and like many of the property owners out in this area, we have been developing and building on our property.

There are several areas of growth that have happened in the South Tongass Area, such as the Gold Nugget Subdivision, Homestead Development, Seawatch Subdivision, Ravenwood Subdivision, Rainforest Sanctuary, Forest Park Subdivision and Surprise Beach Court.

Our quest for mail service started over two years ago. We requested, at our expense a "cluster box" to be positioned up by the four plex buildings and residential homes. Our main reason was a safety issue. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 13, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Anti-this, anti-that By A. M. Johnson - With all the news reflecting 'Anti-this' and 'Anti-that' one becomes confused as to which category one fits. On one side is the world s most successful hate group. Democrats. This organization attracts poor people who hate rich people, black folk who hate white folk, gay people who hate straight people, feminists who hate men, environmentalist who hate the internal combustion engine and a whole lot of bratty college kids who hate their parents.

From news reporting videos, one draws a conclusion. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work (March about with signs instead) because the other half they despise is going to take care of them. We [the workers] figure this out that somebody else is going to get what we work for, that will be the beginning of the end of the country. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 13, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Mr. President, Don’t Settle for FAKE Tax Reform By Wiley Brooks - Mr. President, there is already a bill in Congress that meets your four principles for tax reform. Have Congress get it out of committee and send it over to your desk. 

In Springfield, Missouri you first called for a tax code that is simple, fair, and easy to understand. The FAIRtax, HR25, S18, is simple and easy to understand because taxpayers “do their taxes” at the cash register. There is nothing to do on April 15. The FAIRtax is fair because it provides a refund from the Social Security Administration (there is no more IRS) to every US household with lawful residents. This refund reimburses that household for tax the household pays on essentials. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 13, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Japanese Military Build Up By Donald Moskowitz - As a counterweight to China and North Korea we should encourage Japan to build up its military capabilities.

Japan should increase its frontline military personnel from 250,000 to 350,000 and increase the number of tanks from  700 to 1000 and armored vehicles from 3000 to 4000. - More...
Wednesday PM - September 13, 2017

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Glen Thompson for Ketchikan School Board 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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