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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
October 24, 2017

Majestic Southeast Alaska
An impressive scenic view provided by Mother Nature as experienced from the Deer Mountain to Silvis Lake traverse overlooking Whitman Lake.
Front Page Feature Photo By KELLY OLSON ©2017


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Ketchikan: Deadly plane crash led to creation of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad; 1947 Pan Am crash on Tamgas Mountain killed 18 By DAVE KIFFER - Seventy years ago this week (Thursday), the worst Alaskan aviation accident up to that time occurred on Annette Island when a Pan American Airways DC-4 slammed into the top of Tamgas Mountain killing all 18 passengers and crew.

Deadly plane crash led to creation of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad; 1947 Pan Am crash on Tamgas Mountain killed 18

Photo of Pan American Flight 923's tail section by Pan Am employee Joe Godding shortly after the crash.
"Joe Godding photos©, courtesy of Jessica Foster."

Up until recently, people climbing the mountain could still find pieces of the wreckage and metal from the flight, but the crash had another legacy to the Southern Southeast region. It led to the creation of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, an organization that has saved hundreds of people in the decades since.

Like many early aviation accidents in Alaska, authorities were never able to pinpoint a specific cause to the crash of Pan Am flight #923 from Seattle to Alaska. But it was clear that weather played a significant role as the last communications with the plane indicated that pilot Alf Monsen, one of the most experienced pilots in the state, was fighting to control the plane in severe turbulence.

Ironically, Monsen was Pan Am's "weather guru" and had actually written manuals explaining how to deal with the challenges of flying in Alaska weather. He was also on his final flight before retiring to join his wife Helen in Juneau. Helen Troy Monsen was the daughter of the former territorial governor John Troy. She was also the owner/publisher of the Alaska Daily Empire in Juneau. Alf Monsen – who had been one of Alaska’s pioneer bush pilots in the late 1920s – planned to take over the Alaska Coastal Airlines company when he retired from Pan Am.

Not long before the crash, Monsen had written his wife several letters indicating he was unhappy with Pan Am, particularly in how the company often sent flights and pilots into unsafe situations with a lack of up to date weather info. Monsen's letters and other Troy family material fill up several boxes in the Alaska State Archives in Juneau.

Flight 923 from Seattle to Juneau was a route that Monsen had flown dozens of times. He and his first officer Laurance Foster were very experienced with the run and the plane, a Douglas DC-4, nicknamed the Clipper Talisman. Monson was approaching 13,600 hours of flight time, with more than 500 in DC-4s. Foster – who was normally a captain but had been downgraded to first officer because of  Pan Am budget cuts -  had 12,400 flight hours with 359 in DC-4s. Both pilots had been trained on DC-4s seven months before when the DC 4s had been put into service by the airline.

The plane, with five crewmembers and 12 passengers (plus an infant), lifted off from Boeing Field at 10:30 am. It soon reached its cruising altitude.

"About an hour into the flight, the view was lost when thick clouds engulfed the aircraft, obscuring all outside references," Aviation historian Gregory Liefer wrote in his 2014 book "Broken Wings: Aviation Disasters in Alaska." "Light icing and turbulence were encountered soon after, bouncing the plane with jolts strong enough to prevent the passengers from sleeping. Those passengers inexperienced with flying remained on edge, but the crew considered the conditions fairly routine."

The last weather report the crew received before leaving Seattle indicated normal weather for late October in Southeast Alaska. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017

Southeast Alaska:
GAO: 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment is a "Rule" & Subject to Congressional Review By MARY KAUFFMAN - The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) has determined that the U.S. Forest Service’s 2016 Amendment to the Tongass Land Management Plan (TLMP Amendment) is a “rule” which requires that it be submitted to Congress for review. As a rule, the 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment is subject to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) which became law in 1996. The Congressional Review Act helps maintain the balance of power between the branches of government by allowing Congress to pass a joint resolution of disapproval to overturn executive branch regulations.

GAO: 2016 Tongass Plan Amendment is a "Rule" & Subject to Congressional Review

A small glimpse of the 16.7 million acres of the Tongass National Forest.
Photo courtesy USFS

Following the Government Accountability Office’s release of this determination, the Congressional Review Act provides for 60 legislative days to file a resolution of disapproval that would nullify the 2016 TLMP Amendment.

Chairman of the U.S.Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today welcomed the Government Accountability Office’s determination. Earlier this year, Murkowski asked GAO to determine whether the TLMP Amendment met the definition of a “rule”, and GAO announced yesterday that it does. 

“I welcome GAO’s determination that the 2016 TLMP Amendment is a rule and subject to congressional review,” Murkowski said. “Every sector of the Southeast Alaska economy needs greater access to the Tongass, but this rule failed to provide it. Most concerning was the Forest Service’s decision to accelerate a transition to young-growth timber harvesting, even though it never completed an inventory to ensure it would be carried out successfully. While this rule can be improved administratively or legislatively, disapproving it entirely is now another option that we will consider in the days ahead.”

Since inception, the Tongass timber program has been based on harvesting old-growth trees-in the context of the Tongass, generally meaning trees more than 150 years old-that can be a source of high-quality lumber.  The Forest Service began offering timber sales on the Tongass in the early 1900s.  Although timber harvest increased substantially in the 1950s through 1970s, harvest has since declined significantly.

Spanning a total of 16.7 million acres, the Tongass covers most of Southeast Alaska and is the largest national forest in the United States. Despite its expansive size, the U.S. Forest Service has increasingly restricted access for timber, mining, transportation, renewable energy, and even recreation. Those restrictions increased when the Obama administration finalized the TLMP Amendment on its way out of office in December 2016. The Obama administration finalized the TLMP Amendment without completing a comprehensive inventory of young growth, a key recommendation of the Tongass Advisory Committee, and largely dismissed more than 1,000 objections.

The final 2016 Tongass Land Management Amended Plan scheduled an overall decrease in old-growth clearcut logging over a 15-year time period, prohibited old-growth logging in conservation priority watersheds, and protected roadless areas. The Amended Plan also opened long-standing conservation areas to young-growth timber harvest. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017


Salmon could win and lose in changing climate By SONNARY CAMPBELL - Pacific salmon face an uncertain future due to accelerated climate and landscape change, according to a synthesis paper published in the October 2017 edition of the journal Fisheries.

Salmon could win and lose in changing climate

Chinook salmon
Photo courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Southeast, U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examined patterns of climate, landscapes and fisheries in the past 70 years to help understand where salmon ecosystems may be headed. They focused on the Kenai River in Southcentral Alaska.

Climate and landscape change pose threats to Pacific salmon, especially in lowland streams that can be particularly sensitive to warming and drying, and exposed to concentrated human development. But the future is not all doom and gloom. Other trends are likely to benefit certain salmon populations, such as longer ice-free growing seasons and new lakes that are forming as glaciers retreat.

“Salmon are incredibly adaptable, and right now they are facing serious challenges and new opportunities all at the same time. We should expect some surprises in how they respond,” said report lead author Erik R. Schoen, with the Alaska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at IAB in Fairbanks. “Some of the salmon runs that Alaskans have relied on for generations are probably going to decline, but other runs may become more productive. We can’t predict the future, but we can take action now to help mitigate any losses and take advantage of new opportunities.”

World-class salmon

Alaska salmon support over $1 billion in annual economic output from commercial and recreational fisheries combined. River ecosystems feeding the Gulf of Alaska produce one-third of the world’s wild salmon. Salmon populations and commercial harvests overall are near historic high levels in this region. Salmon provide food, employment, and cultural significance to Alaskans and visitors. The Kenai River embodies the high social value of wild salmon.

Changing climate, changing landscapes

Alaska has warmed at more than twice the rate of the rest of the United States during the past 60 years. The study region is warming rapidly and experiencing drier summers and wetter falls. Habitats are changing from melting glaciers, drying wetlands, more frequent and intense fires, and increasing human development. In sharp contrast to lowland habitat loss, retreating glaciers are allowing salmon to expand to new habitats in some places. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017


Columns - Commentary



Joe GUZZARDI: More Border Patrol Agents Needed to Curb Opioid Crisis - The United States is in the grip of its worst heroin and opioid epidemic since the post-World War II era more than 60 years ago, according to the State Department's International Narcotics Control Report. In 2015, more than 52,000 U.S. deaths were directly related to drug overdoses, with the majority of those involving a prescription or illicit opioid. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. Particularly vulnerable are residents in high poverty areas like West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Los Angeles County. New Jersey governor Chris Christie bleakly compared opioid-overdose fatalities to terrorist attacks, saying, "We have a 9/11-scale loss every three weeks."

The Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Ambassador William Brownfield, told reporters that domestic demand for the narcotics is insatiable, and that the majority of synthetic drugs and 100 percent of all heroin are imports. Brownfield estimates that Mexico accounts for 90 to 94 percent of the heroin smuggled into the U.S. And indirectly, Mexico is responsible for helping to get highly addictive fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent, into wide swaths of the country. China processes raw fentanyl and then ships it to Mexico where it's processed and trafficked north.

Brownfield praised China for its cooperation with the U.S. to control fentanyl and 130 other new synthetic drugs, but said little about Mexico's willingness, if indeed it has any, to slow drug traffic.

The ease with which drug smugglers cross the border to enter the U.S., and the most effective way to stop them, should be a top congressional immigration agenda priority. Expert witnesses have brought the crisis to the Department of Homeland Security often enough to raise ongoing red flags. And some progress has been made, but far from enough. U.S. Border and Customs Patrol's duties take them from the Southwest border to New York's John F. Kennedy airport, a vast expanse for agents to combat resourceful, well-funded smugglers.

Some argue that President Donald Trump's proposed border wall would be the most efficient way to slow the flow of drugs. Since, according to the American Public Health Association, the opioid drug epidemic has cost U.S. taxpayers about $78.5 billion directly and indirectly, even a modest drop in drug traffic would help pay for the wall. Tax dollars not subsidizing drug rehab could be applied to the wall's construction. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Opioid Tornado

Editorial Cartoon: Opioid Tornado
By Steve Sack ©2017, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Opinion - Letter

Say what... Byron "unhinged" perhaps? By Trevor Shaw - Before I get started, although I serve as the President of the Ketchikan School Board, I am speaking on behalf of myself as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Ketchikan School District.

Now, with that out of the way, I want to start by saying that I understand the general direction that the Lt. Governor is coming from. We do need a fiscal solution for our state. That said, I don't agree whatsoever with his rhetoric or ideological approach. His thought process of needing a new broad-based tax or "Alaska will become a colony" is severely misguided and nothing short of fear mongering. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017

Opinion - Letter

If We Are To Succeed As A State, Alaska Can Never Go Back By Lt. Governor Byron Mallott - We need to have a serious conversation about our fiscal crisis.

Over the last 3 years, the Legislature has drawn down over $14 billion of Alaska’s financial reserves. With oil prices expected to stay essentially where they are, we won’t get that money back any time soon. We are down to the last of those reserves – barely $2.5 billion – as we go into the 2018 Legislature and the budget we must present to Alaskans. Governor Walker has called the legislature into special session multiple times over the last two years to pass a complete plan. The plan he presented – a complete plan – would have allowed us to close that gap in the first Legislature of his service. Instead, we find ourselves on the precipice of disaster. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS - profitability By Laura Plenert - The AMHS is top management and overpaid staff HEAVY. It will never be profitable "as is". This is a picture perfect example of what is wrong with Government being in charge of a business that would be better as a private enterprise.

I have watched for years as the AMHS "system has CUT routes and services aboard their vessels. And yet they still cannot make themselves profitable. - More...
Tuesday PM - October 24, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Slashing education budgets is short-sighted By David Lovell - The legislature is now considering several reasonable revenue-raising options.  The alternative to a thoughtful revenue increase is to further cut spending and wreak further damage on the University of Alaska.  Slashing education budgets is an extremely short-sighted way to solve fiscal issues.  We're in this mess because for too long, public services have depended on revenue from unstable markets for things like fish and oil that we take out of our land and waters to ship out of the state. The only way out of it is to grow our human resources and attract employers who need highly skilled workers.  New businesses, bringing new jobs, would also be generated by graduates with the confidence and skills nurtured in college. - More...
Saturday PM - October 21, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Firewood Warning By Cheryl Henley- I have driven by a place with large rounds of yellow cedar that had a sign for sale. I called the number, and ordered a cord of firewood, split and delivered for $250.00 cash. I was so happy to get it, and then ordered 2 more cords. - More...
Saturday PM - October 21, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Uranium scandel By A. M. Johnson - I am compelled to offer an apology for the number of submissions by myself in recent weeks. The news cycle is providing the gist for the thinking which results in frustrations over open traitorous actions by high level placed politicians who are trampling the trust placed on their positions. Must like the current scandal among Hollywood elites, these political elites are allowed to skate free from crimes and high misdemeanors. Those frustrations are compelled to be stated. - More...
Saturday PM - October 21, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS Needs Forward Funding By Rob Holston - I certainly agree with Rep Ortiz re forward funding….. but see a larger problem…… OVERPRICED FARES! AMHS used to be the economical way to get to the lower 48…. no longer. - More...
Wednesday PM - October 18, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Taxes By Lance Clark - So let me get this straight, Mr. Ortiz says we're 2.4 billion dollars short and that's why we need new taxes. If my math serves me right, and correct me if I'm wrong, that's about $4800 for every person in the state figuring there is around a half of million people in Alaska. This doesn't count the money the state is already taking in just how much more they want. We have a spending problem, not an income problem. - More...
Wednesday PM - October 18, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Time to Cut the Fat By A. M. Johnson - Representative Ortiz has been very active in keeping the folks advised of upcoming subject matter regarding the budget shortfall gap. Never too much information and seeking more has been his byword. I thank him for the efforts. Often he and I serve as contrarians to ideas each present. While we pretty much are on opposite on most subjects government or social, there are moments we seem to agree. It all takes place in a gentlemanly process to which we are both pleased. - More....
Wednesday PM - October 18, 2017

Opinion - Letter

POW Hunting regulation By Mike Carney - Thanks Charles Edwardson for being able to see what is taking place on POW. I hunted POW for years as did many others that do not anymore because of the silly hunting regulation that divide Ketchikan from POW. When the Fed's made the rule that kept Ketchikan residents off federal lands in different places on POW the problems started. All it did was make some legal hunters into none legal hunters. - More...
Saturday PM - October 14, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE: Tax Fairness By Lance Clark - I don’t think Ortiz, Walker, and company care about fairness.  They just want MORE money from anywhere they can find it, regardless of the implications down the road, or who they hurt along the way. - More...
Saturday PM - October 14, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Special Session Survey By Rep. Dan Ortiz - On October 23rd, the legislature will convene for its third special session to discuss potential revenue sources. Below, I have outlined two options that I will most likely have the choice to vote on during that session. - More...
Saturday PM - October 14, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE:Demand Tax Fairness By Jon Bolling - Mr. Dial's October 12, 2017 letter to SitNews merits a clarification. While it is true that some areas of Prince of Wales Island are not legally obligated to support local schools, the cities of Craig, Klawock, and Hydaburg are subject to the same required local contribution requirement to fund their schools as is the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. - More...
Saturday PM - October 14, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Demand tax fairness By Rodney Dial - The recent letter by former Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst details the greatest economic threat our community will likely ever face. Citizens of all political persuasions should give it consideration. - More...
Thursday AM - October 12, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Increasing Nonprofit Organization's Efffectiveness By Deborah Hayden - During September we heard often from candidates for borough Assembly that they wanted to increase the ability of nonprofit organizations to operate in a business-like manner or to be more self-sufficient. For the past three years, the Strengthening Nonprofits Collaborative has been engaged in projects that will enhance nonprofit operations in both these categories. - More...
Thursday AM - October 12, 2017

Opinion - Letter

WE ARE CONTINUING TO PROTECT ALASKA’S TRANSBOUNDARY WATERS By Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott - One of the best parts of my job, and one of the most challenging, is to keep working toward Alaska goals that are not easily and quickly achieved. Perhaps my role as an elder has given me patience in dealing with an ever-changing political landscape at the local, national, and international level. But that’s not to say I don’t get frustrated and impatient like you do when incremental movement seems agonizingly slow. - More...
Thursday AM - October 12, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Are there more hunting restrictions on POW targeted on non residents? By Chas Edwardson - My name is Charles Edwardson a native born Ketchikan resident and also an Alaska native, there is no distinction of separation in my view, although both perspectives need to be understood. I am also a dual resident having a home on Prince of Wales and in Ketchikan. - More...
Thursday AM - October 12, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE: Open Letter to the NFL players By Joe Ashcraft - The pushing of the false narrative that the NFL players are protesting the flag, the anthem, or the American military brings into question the motives of any individual doing so. - More...
Thursday AM - October 12, 2017

Opinion - Letter

It’s Past Time to Achieve Parity Regarding State Education Funding: An Open Letter to Representative Ortiz By Dan Bockhorst - On October 23, the Alaska Legislature will convene its 12th session during your 3 years in office (3 regular sessions plus 9 special sessions) – far more sessions than during any other three-year period in the State’s history. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS Needs Forward Funding By Rep. Dan Ortiz - The Alaska Marine Highway System needs forward funding. I don’t think I need to say it twice. If money is allocated to the AMHS for its future expenses, the AMHS can properly plan sailings which would: capture revenue from tourists (including those considering traveling with their RV’s or vehicles), allow businesses to send employees to neighboring islands, and provide more advance planning options for Alaskans. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

SB54: Essential step in addressing public safety By Jahna Lindemuth & Walt Monegan - Crime is on the rise. We’ve been hearing a lot from Alaskans about their cabins, cars, shops, and homes being broken into. People feel scared and that fear is warranted.  The crime statistics confirm what we have been hearing in all of our Alaska communities.   As Alaska’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Public Safety, public safety is our highest concern. We agree action is needed to protect Alaskans. Passing SB54 during the special session is an important first step in this direction. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

NO WORRIES THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL JUST GET YOU TO HEAVEN THAT MUCH SOONER By David G Hanger - Some five hundred eighty-six casualties, 58 dead by gunshot, hundreds upon hundreds wounded by one man’s gunfire, and, wow, did those first responders do one hell of a job. (It took how long to even figure out where the shots were coming from?) You may have to go clear back to World War I to find a single tactical engagement that cost 586 US casualties. And you definitely have to go back to the first day of the First Battle of the Somme to find so many casualties inflicted in so short a time; the Newfoundland regiment, and that was accomplished by trained soldiers with multiple weapons and weapons systems at their disposal. Time to change USA to FFZ, as in free-fire zone. . - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Open Letter to the NFL players By A. M. Johnson - Following is an anonymous letter, author unknown which should be printed in every newspaper across this great Nation. It will not be but it should. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 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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