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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
November 02, 2019

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Fish Factor: Roadless Rule Exemption Proposal Facing Strong Headwinds By LAINE WELCH - The federal government’s plan to raze more roads through the Tongass National Forest is facing strong headwinds from fishermen, Native groups and coastal communities throughout Southeast Alaska.

Over 220 Southeast Alaskan fishermen signed a letter to the Trump Administration last week opposing the abrupt push to exempt the Tongass National Forest from a roadless rule in place for over a decade. The exemption would release more than 9 million acres from protection and open nearly 200,000 acres to logging.  

The U.S. Forest Service made the announcement on October 15  that it is seeking a full exemption from rules that ban more road building in the nation’s largest forest. Alaska would be the only state exempted from the current federal law. 

The fishermen’s letter, spearheaded by the Sitka Conservation Society and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, was sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue telling him that fishing is the backbone of local economies and it relies on intact watersheds and salmon spawning grounds in the Tongass, which produces 80% of the salmon caught in the Southeast region. 

The push has quickly generated support from other fronts. 

The Skagway Borough Assembly passed a resolution last week in support of maintaining the roadless rule citing, among other things, the impact logging could have on tourism.

“I wonder what happens to that experience when cruise ships are passing by clear cut areas, or when cruise ships dock in a port and people take a flight through an area that has been clear cut or a place that you used to be able to fish like I’ve done in Baranoff that you can no longer do because the stream has been compromised,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata as reported by radio station KHNS .

Likewise, six tribal governments issued a joint statement condemning the roadless exemption. They include the Angoon Cooperative Association, Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Hoonah Indian Association, Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and the Villages of Kake and Kasaan.

Their statement accused the federal agencies of ignoring the concerns of the tribes and said they were “deeply disappointed” by the process, according to the Juneau Empire

The roll back of the roadless rules has the strong support of Alaska’s congressional delegation and “every statewide elected official in Alaska supports an exemption from the regulation,” wrote   Senator Lisa Murkowski in a September 25 opinion piece in the Washington Post called “Why I support Trump’s proposal to lift restrictions in the Tongass.”

“The one-size-fits-all roadless rule is an unnecessary layer of paralyzing regulation that should never have been applied to Alaska,” Murkowski said, adding that the rule has hurt the timber industry and also affects “mining, transportation, energy and more.”  

“When combined with national monument and other natural-setting land-use designations, more than 13 million acres of the Tongass are already explicitly restricted from resource development or are required to be managed as roadless areas. That’s nearly 80 percent of the forest,” Murkowski wrote. “It is also critical to understand that all of the designations listed above, and all of the protections they afford, will apply to the Tongass regardless of what happens with the roadless rule,” she added.

That doesn’t convince Sitka fisherman Eric Jordan who was highly critical of the way in which the Forest Service began working on new rules shortly after Governor Dunleavy met with Donald Trump aboard Air Force One in July. (That meeting also resulted in the abrupt pullback of protections for the Bristol Bay watershed by the EPA.)   

“Their record is one of irresponsible top down management without listening to their constituents,” Jordan said in a phone interview, adding that more people are actively meeting to make sure their voices are heard.

“ People are taking notice of the draconian policies of this state and Trump’s leadership and there's going to be consequences at the polls and in the courts,” Jordan said. “There will not be logging activities that they are envisioning because we're going to tie it up in courts and demonstrations forever.”           

The Forest Service has so far received over 140,000 public comments  on the proposed Tongass roadless rule with the majority being opposed to the change. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019  


Southeast Alaska: AMHS Vessel Repairs Will Impact Service to Communities – The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) was recently informed that the M/V LeConte is in need of more extensive repairs than originally anticipated. AMHS budgeted $1.2 million for overhaul of the 45-year-old LeConte, but after an extensive survey of the steel hull, it was determined that considerable repair work is needed. The additional repairs are estimated to cost $4 million.

Repair work has temporarily stopped on the LeConte. On Nov. 4, AMHS will bring the M/V Aurora into the Vigor shipyard dry-dock in Ketchikan for annual overhaul and survey to determine the extent of repair required.

Repair estimates for the Aurora should be available by Nov. 15, which will give a more firm estimate for future service.

AMHS does not have the budget to repair both the LeConte and the 44-year-old Aurora. Based on estimates, repair work will proceed on the vessel that requires the least amount of work.

Beginning Oct. 31, there will be no AMHS service to Angoon, Tenakee, Pelican and Gustavus. The following communities will have reduced service: Haines and Skagway will receive service once per week and Hoonah will receive service twice per month. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

Alaska: Alaska Fire Service Award Recipients Named at Ketchikan Conference - Anchorage Fire Department firefighter/paramedic Christopher “Doug” Widener was off duty and driving down the Old Seward Highway this past January when his daughter pointed out smoke coming from a local business. Widener didn’t hesitate. He pulled into the parking lot and went to work, using his training to evacuate and account for everyone in the building, including a woman he found confused and disoriented in a second-floor room filling with smoke.

For his actions, Widener was named Firefighter of the Year at the Alaska Fire Service Awards banquet held late last month at the Alaska Fire Conference in Ketchikan. And he wasn’t alone. 

Department of Public Safety Rural Fire Training Coordinator Lisa Shield was recognized as Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year for her extraordinary commitment to the development and implementation of fire prevention and safety programs for Alaska’s rural communities.  - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

Alaska: State land auction draws nearly $500,000 in bids - The Dunleavy Administration is fulfilling its promise to put “Alaska lands into Alaskans’ hands” with a successful fall auction of residential, recreational and agricultural land generating nearly half a million dollars in bids, Corri Feige, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said today.

Ten Alaskans submitted $245,600 in winning bids on 13 parcels of residential and recreational land totaling 156 acres in statewide fall land auction #488. Three Alaskans submitted $246,300 in winning bids on three parcels of agricultural land totaling 393 acres in auction #487. DNR staff opened bids in Anchorage on Wednesday.

“The annual land auction has been so popular the governor directed the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a second auction this fall, which was clearly a success,” Feige said. “I am proud DNR could also offer agricultural land for sale, so that more land can go into production to help strengthen Alaska’s farming economy.”

“For many Alaskans, owning a piece of land is an important part of realizing their Alaska dream,” said Governor Michael J. Dunleavy. “It’s gratifying to see the public respond so positively to DNR’s variety of land sales programs, and I commend Commissioner Feige for her department’s responsiveness to the public’s needs.” - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

Little brown bats remain a northern mystery

Little brown bats remain a northern mystery
A little brown bat rests on a glove.
Photo by Jesika Reimer


Alaska: Little brown bats remain a northern mystery By NED ROZELL - “There really could be bats in your belfry this Halloween, or it turns out, they may be snuggled up in your wood pile.”

At the risk of plagiarizing myself, that is the lead sentence of my first science column, which appeared on this day 25 years ago. One-quarter century later, we still don’t know a lot about the only bat seen in northern Alaska, the little brown bat.

Seven species of bats live in Alaska, but north of the Alaska Range people only see one - the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). Smaller than chickadees, little brown bats are on the very northern edge of their range in Alaska.

In fall, little brown bats may migrate from dry interior areas of Alaska and Canada to the coast. They may hibernate in middle Alaska, though the only ones found hunkering down here have wedged in crevices of human-built structures.

While living in Fairbanks for 33 years, I have never seen a bat in the city or surrounding forests or rivers. I didn’t see one while walking slowly from Valdez to Prudhoe Bay two summers ago. I have only seen three skittering through the air in Alaska: Once in Anchorage, in Yakutat and once near Tok.

Researchers who surveyed Alaskans in a bat-monitoring project from 2004 to 2012 recorded reliable bat sightings from many Alaska cities and towns.

In the study, authored by David Tessler and Marian Snively of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, people logged in with surprise bat sightings from Kotzebue (the only report from north of the Arctic Circle), White Mountain, Saint Michael and the Semidi Islands off the Alaska Peninsula.

Each of those eyewitness accounts was new to science, extending the range of the little brown bat. The encounter with the best timing was in Saint Michael, when on Halloween a worker for the Alaska Department of Transportation warmed up a warehouse and noticed a bat flying around inside. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019


JEFF LUND: Fishing in the Swamp - I have seen 0% of the Democrat debates live, only clips and recaps. The information I have gathered on the candidates has come from a few long-form interviews on podcasts and reading various newspapers online. Not online newspapers or websites. There is an important distinction. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few of the candidates. Some I can’t get enough of a read on to really comment, so that, and space, are the reasons for omission. 

Read it, but don’t read too much into it.

Bernie Sanders seems like the type of guy who would show up to the river with a Leonard bamboo fly rod worth $1700 but has no idea it’s worth $1700. He’s got a box of dry flies he tied himself and as he’s getting rigged up he’s fuming over the evils of Capitalism. After squinting across the water for a second, he eyes where a fish should be and unravels a textbook roll cast. You’re thinking, “Wait, what’s going on here?” Boom, he’s hooked up. But he doesn’t smile and he hasn’t stopped talking about someone he met in Iowa who can’t afford her medication. By the time he’s on fish No. 8, you’ve stopped fishing and are just watching this cast and blast happen. You thought he was the somewhat charmingly angry, old dude – the idol of some millennials who donated $6, interested in a bumper sticker for their virtue signaling starter kit. But he’s the guy who’s always been like this, it’s just that no one knew until people outside of New England started paying attention eight years ago. 

Tulsi Gabbard would show up early. She’d take out her fly rod, assemble it, and give a quick look down the guides to make sure the ferrules are in line. She’d be the type to be present and only when it’s time to break for lunch, maybe indulge in a political pitch. It’s not that she doesn’t care, far from it, she just doesn’t seem like a person pretending to care, which would allow her to be present. At times you disagree with the fly she’s using, but don’t question her motivation. You also wonder if it’s worth it to wade out that far in the stiff, dangerous current, but she’s not scared. 

You know that dude who can’t seem to keep his fly out of the trees behind him, but seems oblivious to the frustration he should be feeling? I think of Andrew Yang. He’s got more enthusiasm than experience, but if you lose some flies behind you, it’s part of the learning process, right? An angler on the other side of the bank will look at him and think some people just aren’t cut out for fly fishing, but he doesn’t care. He just sticks with it. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Signs of the Times

Political Cartoon: Signs of the Times
By Jeff Koterba ©2019, Omaha World Herald, NE
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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City approach on Cruise Ship Docks Headed in Wrong Direction By Chris Parks - The City has made some pretty significant mis-steps regarding the development of the cruise ship docks downtown. If things do not change course, it could be even worse.

In April 2018, the Cruise Line Association (CLIA-AK) wrote the City Manager expressing the need for 2 docks which could accommodate the larger ships and committed to help provide funding for the projects. The industry met their commitment by working with the Legislature to secure millions in new money which could be used to upgrade any of the berths.

But look at where we are now. Alaska’s largest cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, bypasses Ketchikan for a full day in Victoria. The second and third largest ships, the Norwegian Bliss and Joy, are heading out to Ward Cove, along with all the other NCL ships.

There is no question, the city’s inaction in moving forward to secure larger berths will impact many local businesses downtown and cost the city millions of dollars in docking fees and sales taxes which support our harbors and other government services. For me, it was frustrating to watch many other ports such as Juneau, Hoonah, and even Skagway add infrastructure to meet the demand of the larger ships, at the same time our community was paralyzed with inaction.

As a result, the private sector stepped up an we now have the Ward Cove project moving forward, constructing two large cruise ship berths. It is no wonder the city opposed the Corp permit, as the city stands to lose $9.50 for every passenger that lands outside the city boundaries.

It’s not just about losing the revenue; the city is in a much more precarious position. Ward Cove will have 2 berths, which can accommodate up to 14 ships per week. Project owners are already working hard to fill as many of those spots as possible. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

jpg Opinion

Proposed changes to ethics regs By Andrée McLeod - The Dunleavy administration’s proposed regulation changes to the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act (AEBEA) is best described by Mark Twain as ‘The new political gospel: public office is a private graft.’

Diplomacy aside, the proposed changes are not only questionable, they are ludicrous. They give the governor and attorney general the ‘discretion’ to determine whether public money, our money, ought to be spent to defend the misdeeds of our top officials when ethics complaints are deemed to be in the ‘public interest.’

Simply put, the proposed changes enable bad corrupt practices – the kind of corrupt practices that caused the AEBEA to be put on the books in the first place and rein in conflicts of interest when folks get into positions of power and become heady with authority.

According to a recent memo from legislative counsel, these proposed changes potentially violate numerous clauses of the Alaska Constitution and include the public purpose, the separation of powers, and equal protection clauses.

Additionally, the proposed changes clash with the AEBEA’s prohibitions on gifts, favoritism, self-enrichment, use of state property and resources for personal benefit and financial interests, use of official actions for personal purposes, coercion of subordinates to perform services for private benefit of public officers, use of state resources for partisan political purposes, intentionally securing unwarranted benefits or treatment, among others.

In my view, these proposed changes to ethics regulations violate common sense. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

jpg Opinion

Blundering Untrustworthy President By Donald Moskowitz - After President Erdogan of Turkey spoke to President Trump an inept decision was made by Trump to pull our military forces from northern Syria. This allowed Turkey to invade and attack the Kurds.

Syrian Kurds have been loyal allies of U.S. armed forces since 2015 when they helped to clear ISIS from Syria at a significant cost to themselves. The Turkish invasion and displacement of the Kurds has allowed some ISIS prisoners to escape from prisons guarded by the Kurds, and it appears ISIS could make a comeback in Syria.

Trump's desertion of the Kurds led to the signing of a defense pact between the Kurds and President Assad of Syria. Now Syrian, Iranian and Russian military forces occupy northern Syria. - More...
Saturday AM - November 02, 2019

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