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October 20, 2019
A view of the lake on October 15th, a day with 5.64 inches of rain recorded. Just the day before, 2.41 inches of rain was measured. As of October 19th, 15.56 inches of rain has been recorded for October in the Ketchikan area.
Front Page Feature Photo By SUSAN HOYT ©2019
Feature Story: 75 Hours at Sea on the Columbia; End to end in Southeast Alaska, Possibly for the last time BY DAVE KIFFER - When the State Ferry workers went on strike this summer, one of my friends - who obviously needs to get out more - was surprised.
"My gosh," she said. "I didn't even know we still had a ferry system."
A lot of locals have gotten used to not using the ferry system to get around. It is just quicker, and in some cases cheaper, to fly these days. And in today's world, people don't seem to travel within Southeast as often as they used to. We no longer have the ties we had with people in places like Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka and, if we do, we seem to think that keeping up with them on Facebook is somehow good enough.
So, when we travel, we hop a jet to Seattle or Anchorage, swearing all the way about the uncomfortable seats, the Transportation Safety Administration hassles and the lack of anything resembling actual food.
Meanwhile, the ferries - at least for now - continue to sail past us, offering a different option, offering something more like the travel that we grew up with, the travel that once marked our lives in Southeast Alaska and our connections to the Outside world, either through Prince Rupert or Seattle. Of course, now the southern connection is Bellingham, a decision the state made three decades ago that still rankles anyone who wants to get somewhere and not be dumped off hours away from Seattle.
And as for Prince Rupert?
To use a common social media phrase: It's Complicated.
Late in the summer, the state announced it was ending Prince Rupert service at the beginning of October, cutting the ties between Ketchikan and its closest sister city, a city that probably has more in common with Ketchikan than any other place, but has watched that the connection wither over the last couple of decades as the ferry service has been cut further and further, until the final trip, the first week of October, was a completely depressing anti-climax.
I thought about taking the last trip to Rupert. But, it was too short to seem worth the money, and it would have been too sad, in light of the many times I have made that trip in the past, in rapt anticipation of "getting of the rock" for one good reason or another. And so the last trip was made to Prince Rupert, but without me.
Then just this past week, the state announced there would be at least two more runs to Prince Rupert, one in October and one in November and that it hoped that a long term solution could be reached. I've long since given up getting any good long-term ferry options from the people who decide the fate of the Marine Highway. The purse strings keep getting cut by people demanding the AMHS "make money" and yet they dump millions of dollars into maintaining the highways of the "rail belt" without an inkling of making those roads "pay for themselves"
Anyway, I decided to take - in mid-September - one of the last trips on the largest ferry, the Columbia, which is now laid up for the winter. It may never come back on-line. A few years ago, the Taku went into lay-up and never came back. It sat sadly in Ward Cove for a couple of years before it was finally sold for scrap last year. I had always meant to take a final trip on the Taku, which was the first ferry I remember traveling on in the early 1960s, but I never did.
So I decided to take an end-of-the-season trip on the Columbia. The rumor mill, which has been the best place to get accurate Alaska Marine Highway System info for some time, says that the state plans to try to sell the Columbia off because it is the most expensive ship to run and if there is any clear direction in the current AMHS it is in any direction that will save money in the short-term, even if the long term costs could be catastrophic to the coastal Alaska, including Southeast.
You can clearly see that in the new winter schedule which basically cuts off places like Cordova, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor for months at a time. It is part of a clear, unspoken policy of choking off the system, making it expensive and its schedule unreliable, and then saying "hey nobody rides the ferries, let's get rid of them."
There are also rumors that - also in order to save money - the state will begin carving up the longer runs into shorter runs because vessel and crew costs are lower on day, or shuttle, ferries. The two newest ferries, the Tazlina and the Hubbard, are such short run ferries, designed to make the Lynn Canal run between Juneau and Haines/Skagway. No staterooms, limited passenger amenities, Basically the Staten Island Ferry with a car deck and better views out the windows.
So, if I wanted to get on one ferry and go from Ketchikan to Skagway and back in three and a half days of isolated ocean bliss, my window of opportunity was closing. I swallowed the fact that fare and state room was half again as much as a plane ticket and hopped on, early on a Sunday morning heading north.
Yes, I could have saved a bundle by not getting a stateroom. But I am not that young, adventurous traveler anymore. I don't want to pretzel myself into an observation lounge chair. I don't want to lay in a sleeping bag on the hard deck. And I especially don't want to huddle in the cold Solarium, especially this time of year as the temperature is dropping. I was never a solarium person anyway. I like my privacy. I don't like other people talking, a mediocre guitar player strumming, or any number of people blowing pot in my face. - More...
Sunday PM - October 20, 2019
Fish Factor: Board of Fisheries' To Take Up 2 Detached & Live Kelp Proposals By LAINE WELCH - As more Alaskans eye the lucrative opportunities in growing kelp, many others are heading to beaches at Lower Cook Inlet to commercially harvest the detached bunches that wash ashore. That practice is now getting a closer look by state managers and scientists and could result in new regulations by year’s end.
Detached kelp harvests have occurred at Lower Cook Inlet under special permits since the 1970s but matters of who needs permits, for how much and for what purposes are not clearly defined. Currently, a special permit is needed for commercial takes.
“A commissioner’s permit is needed that describes where and when harvests will occur and how much will be taken. It needs to be documented thoroughly to make sure they are not taking the wrong species, or not taking from below the high tide line,” said Glenn Hollowell, area manager for finfish at the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game office in Homer.
Owners of the Anchor Point Greenhouse, for example, take 6,000 to 7,000 pounds from local beaches each September and over four decades they’ve created a booming business for a potting soil blend that is sold statewide.
In the past, the detached seaweed has been considered dead. More recently, it’s been discovered that many clumps continue to release live spores. Hollowell said that may mean it’s important to sustaining those kelp populations, and all that beached seaweed might also serve other purposes.
“Whether this is for reproductive reasons, or to provide shelter and food for a variety of wild animals, as well as a carbon source. It does feed a lot of other ecological needs. And we're just not certain that the wholesale removal of this stuff in large quantities might not have a negative impact on the ecosystem in general. So, we're approaching this very cautiously,” he explained.
The state Board of Fisheries will take up two detached and live kelp proposals at its December 10-13 meeting in Seward. One (#21) submitted by Al Poindexter of the Anchor Point Greenhouse, aims to better identify the commercial harvest of detached kelp off of beaches.
“First, Fish and Game does not know production rates of seaweed and what keeps it sustainable…Another issue is what is commercial or home use and what amounts are those?” Poindexter wrote. “For instance, I will collect 6 small pickups and it is called commercial, but my neighbor will collect 10 pickups for his berry patch and that is called home use. Another may just collect a bucket full for his flower patch. Who needs a permit and who doesn't? And for what purpose? Does anyone get grandfathered in or who decides by what criteria, amounts, geographic area or timing? Parameters would be based on what data?”
“At this time, I believe that out of all the folks who collect seaweed from the beach, I have been the only one who has been required to get a permit for this activity,” he concluded.
Another proposal (#241) would allow for the personal use harvest of aquatic plants in the Cook Inlet area outside of subsistence areas, similar to rules the Fish Board created in Southeast Alaska last year.
Researchers at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks are working with ADF&G to learn what happens when kelp is removed from areas and how such harvests affect rejuvenation.
“The department wants to be very cautious as we start doing new things with it, to make sure that we don't allow something we will later regret. It might cause damage to that kelp population, or to other species of invertebrates or vertebrates that utilize it such as birds and fish,” Hollowell said.
The outcome of those projects, he added, will likely shape future regulations.
Comments can be made to the Board of Fisheries through November 25. - More...
Sunday PM - October 20, 2019
Alaska: Living dead can be found scattered across Alaska landscape By NED ROZELL - Their bodies cooling with the October air, wood frogs are now snug in leafy blankets all over Alaska.
Down there inside those thumb-size frogs, even smaller creatures are hitching a ride. These tiny parasites have the power to make frogs develop up to a dozen extra legs, or no legs at all.
Don Larson just defended his University of Alaska Ph.D. thesis on the fate of wood frogs that are at this moment becoming camouflage ice cubes. While taking a course in physiology of northern creatures, he became fascinated with the parasites attached to some wood frogs. How could a creature that leeches off another organism endure that animal freezing solid?
Wood frogs, which exist from the Brooks Range all the way south to Georgia, are the only amphibians in northern Alaska. Larson’s advisor Brian Barnes years ago found that the Alaska version of the wood frog is special, able to tolerate frigid temperatures under the snow that would kill Lower 48 wood frogs.
They do it by becoming sweet.
Right now, frogs are freezing and thawing with the daily swings of air temperature. Larson found that with each nip of frost, frogs’ livers produce more glucose. That glucose floods their bodies, helping them avoid the cell dehydration that happens when we get frostbite.
Alaska wood frogs are fine out there, even though their brains and eyes and legs will soon be frozen solid.
“This animal has no heartbeat,” Larson said. “In a lot of ways, it’s not a living organism.”
After a half year in the living-dead stage, wood frogs thaw in springtime and hop away to a nearby breeding pond as if nothing happened.
During his research, Larson collected 18 wood frogs in Fairbanks and fit them with tiny glue-on transmitters. He then let them go and tracked them to crevices on the forest floor where they stopped moving in fall. For two years, he checked the temperatures where they hibernated, finding that even when Fairbanks air dropped to minus 40 F, the frog-level temperature under a cushion of snow was still above zero. - More...
Sunday PM - October 20, 2019
JEFF LUND: Reading and re-reading - Four nights into reading Roderick Haig-Brown’s classic Fisherman’s Fall, I realized I had already read it. It took me hours over four nights to realize this. Later I found an empty package of 6X leader near the end of the book – the bookmark that charted my progress. In my defense, I figured I read it a few years ago when I bought Fisherman’s Winter, Fisherman’s Spring and Fisherman’s Summer.
I know at this point my next statement is going to sound absurd, but I really do enjoy the book. How do you enjoy a book you don’t remember you read and that apparently you didn’t finish? Well, it’s not because I like to fly fish or because I teach high school English. It’s because it fits in the genre of books that just sooth the mind before bed. It’s not a plot driven, deeply symbolic masterpiece that warns society of a totalitarian government, drug cartels, censorship or anything like that. It’s simply the opposite of a screen’s blue light that is the antagonist of sleep. Honest words about fishing are the perfect ramp into unconsciousness.
As an English teacher, I realize that an English class may temper the love of reading for a student. So, I wonder how often it does. For the students who do well on the in-class essays I attempt to make unGoogle-able, I wonder if it was just a chore, or if they did enjoy it. - More...
Sunday PM - October 20, 2019
DANNY TYREE: Are You Throwing Away Too Much Clothing? - Remember when big news meant scientific breakthroughs, assassinations and economic meltdowns?
Now the international headlines are reserved for the scandal (or heroism, take your pick) of Meghan Markle (the Duchess of Sussex) wearing the SAME GOWN she wore on a tour two years ago!
(“Glycemic index, celebrity fashion statements. Which shall I watch today?”)
This fashion development dovetails nicely with a Wall Street Journal report about consumers (especially wasteful Americans) buying ever-increasing amounts of clothing, wearing each item an ever-diminishing number of times and consigning the castoffs to the overburdened landfill.
(Yes, the landfill – or incinerator. For various reasons, less than one percent of the fiber used to produce clothes is recycled into new garments.)
Perhaps it’s because of frugality ingrained by parents who grew up during the Great Depression, but I feel ashamed that the duchess’s commonsense actions must raise so many eyebrows. - More...
Sunday PM - October 20, 2019
Political Cartoon: Defying Gravity, Making History
By Jeff Koterba ©2019, Omaha World Herald, NE
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
RESPECT ALASKA TRIBES' RIGHTS ON THE TONGASS QUESTION By Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson - The Central Council Tlingit and Haida Constitution declares as our peoples’ inherent right that our tribal government, “Protect, preserve and enhance Tlingit ‘Haa Aani’ and Haida ‘Íitl' tlagáay’, our way of life, its ecosystems and resources, including the right to clean water and access to native foods and traditional practices through our inherent rights to traditional and customary hunting, fishing and gathering.”
Tlingit & Haida works constructively with all elected officials of any political party without partisanship. We aim to be collaborative partners, working together in the best interest of Alaska- our homelands. Yet today we are challenged by our disagreement with Alaska elected officials that support the proposed full exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule. Any elected official in Alaska who supports a full exemption, is disregarding their constituents, undermining the public process, and ignoring the sovereign Tribal governments – who’s people have lived and depended on these lands and waters since time immemorial.
The indigenous tribal governments of southeast Alaska know our traditional territory, we have lived, depended on, and stewarded these lands and waters since time immemorial. We know that the full exemption for development activities would forever harm our homelands.
The Tongass National Forest is the United State’s largest national forest and the largest remaining temperate rainforest on earth. Some see it as a salmon forest, a timber forest, a vast wilderness to visit and explore. Indigenous people see it differently. The Tongass is the traditional homelands of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people, a lineage that stretches so deep in time, we call it immemorial. Our origin stories are derived from these lands. Our ancestors are buried here. Our songs and dances are created here. Our languages have always been spoken here. - More...
Wednesday PM - October 16, 2019
AMHS: WHY SUCH A BIG COST HIKE? By Norma Lankerd - I’m writing because I have a friend and her husband pay for a same day ticket from Ketchikan To Annette Bay, a 45 min. ride on the Lituya which supposedly made specifically to run between Annette Bay and Ketchikan. (Her cost went up from $206.00 to 286.00) because the ticket was bought the same day. Then my friend looked online and a ticket one way from Ketchikan To Wrangell is $102.00 and 102.00 back.
SO WHY SUCH A BIG COST HIKE (traveling from Ketchikan To ANB)?
My only beef with AMHS is that the ferry was supposed to run about 6 times a day and 7 days a week just so the people from Metlakatla could have people go to Ktn. To work and go back to Metlakatla on the last ferry. But the ferry only runs Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, and Mon. (making a run in the morning leaving Met. At 900a.m., and leave Ktn., at 10:45a.m arriving at Annette Bay at 11:30. Then heading back to Ketchikan, at 245a.m. arriving in Ketchikan at 3:30p.m.
Our little ferry Lituya was where the driver went free (then) that dropped and our price went to 1/2 price for the driver, then that was dropped and now charged full price for car and driver. - More...
Wednesday PM - October 16, 2019
Ketchikan's Cruise Ship Project By Janalee Gage - For full disclosure, I’m serving my second term on the Ketchikan City Council. These are my views and information I’ve gathered working on the cruise ship project, speaking only for myself as a resident, and not for the council.
The question I’ve heard a lot lately is, why solicit a port expansion Request for Proposals when most residents don't want more tourists? This RFP wouldn’t be looking at expansion; it’s about reconfigurating the port to accommodate ships already visiting Ketchikan.
The question should be: Why haven’t we investigated every opportunity that benefits our community with an RFP?
For the past 30 years we’ve given the cruise industry huge breaks in docking fees — as if they need a break. The three major cruise companies, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, control up to 80% of a market worth nearly $80 billion and growing so fast that, by 2020, nearly 30 million people will take a cruise somewhere.
Yet, because of maritime law, we cannot use fees that the city collects on things these ships and passengers use outside the port. Meanwhile, Ketchikan struggles to maintain infrastructure that isn’t built to withstand the mass numbers of tourists who use these services here: Emergency response (Fire, EMT, hospital), Wi-Fi, electric, sewage, garbage, public trails and roads.
First, the reconfiguration isn’t about adding ships, it’s so the current ships can accommodate passengers on and off the ship efficiently. - More....
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019
Domestic Violence Will Never Be Tolerated By Amanda Price - He is the monster under my bed, saboteur of my dreams. His résumé includes schoolteacher, felon and, more recently, retired country “gentleman.” He is a specter of my past, a stalker who lurks within waiting to spring into view and set my heart pounding. He is the Devil at my doorstep, progenitor of my greatest fears. Most poignantly, though, his blood is my own. He is my father.
Only last week I was startled awake after 3 a.m. by a house-rattling “bang!” It was him. He was in the hallway outside my closed bedroom door, beating my mother. My mother screamed and, smothered by darkness and too terrified to move I cowered beneath my blankets, trembling as I had so many times more than 45 years before.
The impulse is to sneer and shout: Let it go already! Take responsibility for your life and move on, for Christ’s sake. Stop blaming your father. Be a man.
Perhaps those jeers are his; the voice delivering them, after all, sounds familiar. But the fear is imbedded deeply within, like a virus. And it’s not going away. Ever. The heart-racing terror I felt in the wee hours last Tuesday was as sheer and stark as any imaginable. The roars and screams, the breaking glass and panic of decades ago were not nightmares. They were real.
That is how a colleague of mine - a professionally successful and well-regarded associate, and a middle-aged survivor of domestic violence— described a recent nightmare. Similar frightening dreams, once common, haunt him less frequently now, he says. But the scars remain. And the horrors reflected above, along with others far worse, will remain with him – and his mother, and his sister – forever. Healing from domestic violence is a lifelong endeavor. - More...
Saturday PM - October 12, 2019
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