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

Front Page Photograph By A. BLAKE BROWN

Scenic Trails of Ketchikan
View from creek, approaching Perseverance Lake
Front Page Photograph By A. BLAKE BROWN

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Southeast Alaska: Sitka's Blue Lake Expansion Project an Award-Winning Renewable Power Plant - POWER magazine officially announced the winners yesterday of its 2015 Top Plants in the renewable power generation category. Among the six winners, is Sitka's Blue Lake Expansion Project.

Sitka's Blue Lake Expansion Project
Photograph courtesy POWER magazine

This year's six winners are located in very different locations, climates, and political and economic environments around the world. They all deploy diverse state-of-the-art technologies to address both unique and global challenges.

Even in oil-rich Alaska, islands are sensitive to the delivered price of fossil fuels, so when one island saw demand from electric heating increase, it increased its own energy supply by tapping its water resource. The Blue Lake Expansion Project provides exactly that for Sitka, allowing hydropower to supply 100% of the town’s needs reports Aaron Larson of POWER magazine, based in Houston, Texas.

Sitka is located on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage, it is accessible only by air and sea (although once on the island, standard forms of transportation are common). Due to its relatively isolated location, the island is not connected to a larger electric power grid, which means the City and Borough of Sitka must operate its own electrical system and plan for changes in load.

Like Ketchikan, Sitka’s climate is extremely mild for its latitude, on the 57th parallel north. The lowest recorded temperature is –1F, logged in February 1948. However, with its oceanic climate, the area receives abundant rainfall. The average annual precipitation in Sitka is 131.74 inches, more than three times the amount received in Seattle, Wash., which is considered one of the rainiest cities in the U.S. In fact, some form of precipitation is documented in Sitka during two out of every three days on average.

The City and Borough of Sitka owns and operates two hydroelectric projects, which generate electricity for the area. The Blue Lake Project was originally licensed in March 1958, while the Green Lake Project was added 21 years later. In 2002, Sitka began the process of relicensing the Blue Lake Project. At the time, fuel oil prices in Sitka were low ($0.71 per gallon) and electricity demand growth was predicted to be less than 1% annually. In other words, the Blue Lake Project seemed adequately sized to accommodate future needs.

However, from 2002 through 2008, the price of fuel oil rose steadily, to $3.24 per gallon. That increase led many residents and businesses in Sitka to switch from fuel oil to electric heating systems. Although the heating changes played a large role in electricity demand growth, the local seafood processing industry also saw unexpected growth. In 2006 alone, the city experienced a 7% load increase, followed by 5% the next year. Those two years of increases consumed 12 years of expected cushion. Something needed to be done.

The city conducted feasibility studies to determine how best to meet demand. It evaluated hydro, diesel, wind, tidal, and geothermal energy. Based on the results, hydroelectric generation was considered the best alternative. Expansion of the Blue Lake Project made more sense than expanding the Green Lake Project or developing an entirely new project. The Blue Lake Project had more water inflow than the existing turbines could use, and the dam was built in a canyon that could geotechnically support a significantly higher dam.

“Building the dam is the easiest part,” said Dean Orbison, project manager for the City and Borough of Sitka, to Power Magazine's Aaron Larson. “It’s getting permission that’s the hardest.” - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

Alaska: Oil and Gas Tax Credit Working Group Releases Summary Report... Wielechowski: Opportunity Missed to Help Reform Budget Busting Program By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska State Senate Oil and Gas Tax Credit Working Group released a summary report yesterday of its research and proposed several recommendations to the administration of Gov. Bill Walker and the legislature, recommendations if implemented would change the oil and gas tax credit system in Alaska.

The subject of oil and gas tax credits was a topic of discussion throughout the 2015 regular session, extended session, and the first and second special sessions. With the State of Alaska facing a budget shortfall in excess of $3.5 billion, all operating expenses were and continue to be scrutinized.

On June 29, 2015, Governor Bill Walker deferred payment of approximately $200 million in reimbursable oil and gas tax credits. This deferment was in the form of a gubernatorial veto to a portion of the oil and gas tax credit fund, reducing the allocation from $700 million to $500 million. In the veto message to the Senate President, the Governor stated that the current oil and gas tax credit system was unsustainable. According to the summary report, the payment deferral was meant to begin a conversation on the topic.

The payment deferral, and the reactions from spheres such as the commercial finance sector, prompted the creation of the Oil and Gas Tax Credit Working Group in June 2015. The working group was comprised overwhelmingly from the membership of both the Senate Resources and Finance committees and was suggested to be an ideal vehicle to evaluate and assess the subject in greater detail.

The purpose of the working group was: (1) understand the structure and purpose of the state’s oil and gas tax credit system, (2) understand the similarities and differences between the state’s various oil and gas basins, (3) understand the relationship between the commercial finance sector and the state’s oil and gas energy sector (4) produce a report, detailing the findings of the group’s meetings, and offering recommendations to both the Administration and the Legislature. The group held six meetings.

“This report is the culmination of information gathering that began in June,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel, Chair of the Senate Resources Committee and convener of the working group. “It is our hope that it will further inform our colleagues, the administration, and the public on this subject." - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015


Southeast Alaska: Glacier meltwater into Southeast Alaska estuaries influences fish diets By LAUREN FRISCH - In most estuaries, fish feed on ocean- and river-dwelling plants and animals. However, fish living in some estuaries near Juneau also have the option to eat terrestrial and freshwater species delivered by glacier meltwater.

Glacier meltwater into Southeast Alaska estuaries influences fish diets

A handful of Pacific staghorn sculpin at one of the research sites.
Photo by Emily Whitney

Estuaries are coastal water bodies that contain both saltwater from the ocean and freshwater from rivers or streams. The rivers and streams bring a variety of aquatic species to the coast. Southeast Alaska estuaries also get freshwater from glacier melt, which can introduce terrestrial species to the ecosystem. Currently, about 30 percent of the freshwater flowing into the Gulf of Alaska comes from glacier melt.

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences are studying how estuary habitats and food webs are influenced by glacier meltwater. To date, few studies have looked at the effect of glacier melt on the species composition of estuaries.

The study will reveal some of the links between glacier and estuary environments in Southeast Alaska. Understanding the effect of glacier melt on the whole estuary ecosystem is important because 95% of the glaciers in Southeast Alaska are thinning or retreating. As the glaciers continue to melt, this understanding will help researchers evaluate how estuary habitat and community composition are likely to change.

Approximately 70,000 people in Southeast Alaska rely on estuaries and nearshore marine ecosystems for food, recreation, and economic support. Changes in these nearshore species impact not only Southeast Alaska marine ecosystems, but also the communities that rely on them. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

Alaska: Large Loss of Alaska Permafrost Projected by 2100 - Northern latitude tundra and boreal forests are experiencing an accelerated warming trend that is greater than in other parts of the world according to the United Stated Geological Society. This warming trend degrades permafrost, defined as ground that stays below freezing for at least two consecutive years. Some of the adverse impacts of melting permafrost are changing pathways of ground and surface water, interruptions of regional transportation, and the release to the atmosphere of previously stored carbon.

Using statistically modeled maps drawn from satellite data and other sources, U.S. Geological Survey scientists have projected that the near-surface permafrost that presently underlies 38 percent of boreal and arctic Alaska would be reduced by 16 to 24 percent by the end of the 21st century under widely accepted climate scenarios. Permafrost declines are more likely in central Alaska than northern Alaska. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

Alaska: Alaska employment grew 0.8 percent in the first half of 2015 - Employment in Alaska increased statewide by 2,591 jobs, or 0.8 percent, in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. Average monthly employment from January through June was 335,330.

Employers paid $9.0 billion in wages during the first six months of 2015, a 2.1 percent increase from the same period in the previous year, when adjusted for inflation.

Job growth was driven by the private sector, which added 2,663 jobs while public sector employment fell by 72. Government losses slowed in the first half of 2015 compared to previous years, largely because the five-year trend of significant federal job losses subsided.

A mix of industries statewide drove growth in the first half of 2015. Construction added 971 jobs, but much of that was due to a coding change that moved jobs from the oil and gas industry to construction. The two industries combined added more than 1,000 jobs in the first half of 2015. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

Southeast Alaska:Southeast Radiation Oncology Center Announces New Option For Patient Housing - Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, a freestanding radiation oncology facility in Juneau, announced recently that patients who need local housing during cancer treatments will now have access to stay in a private residence in the Juneau area.

"Patients who travel to Juneau for radiation treatments are often here for several weeks," says Eugene Huang, MD, Medical Director at SROC. "We are grateful that many local hotels have offered discounts to our patients for long-term stays, but even with the discount those bills can still be too much of a burden for many patients. Now we'll have another option." - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015


Columns - Commentary

jpg Susan Stamper Brown

SUSAN STAMPER BROWN: The Greatest Environmental Threat To The Planet? - What a dilemma we humans find ourselves in when we discover that fixing one problem serves to worsen another, something a group of Environment Canada researchers recently determined finding environmentalists caused global warming in their attempts to curb it.

In an October 2015 scientific study, "Impact of aerosol emission controls on future Arctic sea ice cover," published in Geophysical Research Letters, these researchers found that efforts to clean up the atmosphere is melting its sea ice. The study found that efforts to reduce harmful aerosols had the unwelcome side effect of quickening Arctic sea ice melt.

So what's next? Choosing between cleaner air for us and Arctic ice for polar bears?

The Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] repeatedly tells us burning fossil fuels like coal must be reduced and recent rules and regulations have drastically reduced those emissions. Additionally, back in 2013, the European Environment Agency reported a colossal 74 percent drop in emissions between 1990 and 2011. China joined the effort, reducing their emissions utilizing clean air programs. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

jpg Will Durst

WILL DURST: Trump's Game-Changing Candidacy - Get out the big black Sharpie and pull down the official Presidential Campaign Manual because its time to redact the rules. Reality television star Donald Trump has altered the way politics is played to an extent that is game-changing. Judged on a scale of one to ten, think somewhere in the mid five figures.

First off, candidates no longer have to worry about looking ridiculous. Actual clowns are now allowed to emerge from the clown car. Opportunism is in, while rationality has been swept off the table, along with class, integrity, decorum, common human decency and hygiene.

Secondly, shooting from the hip requires way too much preparation. Today's impromptu candidate says whatever pops into his or her little brain. With the emphasis on the adjective.

Lastly the truth is moot. Veracity is for dummies. The creepily-coiffed developer hasn't just lowered the credibility bar, he's buried it with a front loader so deep you couldn't find it with a diesel powered metal detector.

Since time immemorial, politicians have stretched the truth, but credit Trump for finally snapping every scintilla of elastic connection to reality. Bellowing and gesticulating across the country under a canopy of cluelessness, he's single-handedly wrecked rectitude. The carnival-barking jester who would be king, the undisputed master of the cheap shot. - More....
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Climate Change Conference

Editorial Cartoon: Climate Change Conference
By Adam Zyglis ©2015, The Buffalo News
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

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Questions, please contact the editor at or call 617-9696
Sitnews reserves the right to edit.

letter What is a Budget Lapsing Organization? By Ken Bylund - Budget Lapsing Accounting is code for “Use it or Lose it” of huge amounts of money being wasted in State and Federal government agencies. Government agencies ‘waste it rather than lose it’ because federal rules require them to return unspent funds at the end of each budget year. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter Refugees By John Suter - On the issue of refugees, the problem is not here, it is over there. If the government wants to help out on this issue, then the government can help out over there where the problem is. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter Horrific shooting By Jim Minnery - The horrific shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs recently has brought out a litany of unnecessary and predictable media accusations regarding senseless murder and peaceful pro-life activism. - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter GOVERNOR URGED TO NOT MIX POLITICS WITH SAFETY By Rep. Shelley Hughes - As Alaskans, we are accustomed to harsh weather and less-than-ideal road conditions that often grace our commutes throughout the state this time of year, but we are also accustomed to an adequate response by our state road maintenance crews. Lately the weather has been winning the battle of man versus the elements. Every year we hear complaints about slow response time or lack of attention to specific roadways, but I find myself asking, why this year more than others? - More...
Wednesday AM - December 02, 2015

letter Fiscal situation solutions proposed By Dan Ortiz - The second session of the Alaska State Legislature is fast approaching, and the Legislature should be poised to tackle our deteriorating fiscal situation. After voting in favor of cutting the operating and capital budgets by more than $900 million in my first legislative session, we were left with a $3.5 billion deficit. We are currently able to cover deficits with our savings. However, at this rate, those savings will rapidly disappear. It’s in Alaska’s best interest to responsibly manage this decline. While some may argue it’s politically expedient to ignore the issue and kick the can down the road to the next post-election legislative session, I’m convinced that would be a grave disservice to Alaskans. I’m serious about finding the right solution for Alaska; therefore, I propose the following: - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter Big Thorne Timber Sale By Joseph Sebastian - The other day a old logger stopped me and said, "Can't you guys do any thing to stop what's going on with the Big Thorne Timber Sale? You should see what they are doing to the Island, 30 log trucks a day dumping logs, all for export, every day! Some of us still have to live here and there is nothing left. The USFS, supervisor, Forrest Cole, ought to go to jail for this, it's criminal what they have done to this place." - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter 2015 Paris Climate Talks By Norbert Chaudhary - I'm proud as I'm sure all Americans are, to see our majority elected President join with the leaders of 150 other nations in Paris gathering in defiance of the fear terrorists (and others) have attempted to spread globally. - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter Fiscal responsibility By Douglas Thompson - It was with great surprise that I read Agnes Moran's letter saying that local government needs to operate with fiscal responsibility as called for in an editorial in the Ketchikan Daily News. Is this the same Lew Williams who as part-owner of the KDN, and as mayor and as councilman, has never met a tax dollar that he did not want to spend ten times over, a bond he couldn't increase? Is this the same man who has supported the incompetent city manager in his never ending spending to the point of sycophancy? - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter Glimmerings of riches in the Gravels of AMP By David Nees - Alaska Measurement of Progress (AMP) has become an Alaska sensation; it reminds me of the everlasting boom and bust economic cycles of Alaska and Canada’s Yukon. For the 19 Alaska School District Superintendents with struggling schools, the test told them nothing. - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter President Obama's trip to Alaska By Michael Nelson - Unless the Alaskan hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other establishments donated their services for free, President Obama's trip did cost more than what a previous writer suggested. - More...
Sunday AM - November 29, 2015

letter Patient Experience Improvement Efforts By Ken Tonjes - Thank you Mr. Plamondon for taking time to let me know your thoughts on how we can improve our organization and facility, both through your SitNews letter and through the surveys you completed. Patient feedback is essential to ensure the continuation of high-quality health care in our community. I'm sorry the patient experience survey process has been frustrating for you. Your comments provide me an opportunity to clarify the survey's purpose and let our community know what we're doing to help address your frustrations. - More...
Friday PM - November 20, 2015

letter Directions for Syrian Refugees By Ed Talik - Just wanted to share my thoughts on the current state of global affairs. - More...
Friday PM - November 20, 2015

letter Freedom of Religion, Our First Amendment Right By Norbert Chaudhary - There are many talking of banning Syrian refugees because they are Moslem... Am a bit shocked at another Fox fueled state of hysteria that so many are buying into. What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" are our elected leaders forgetting? I truly believed after the Ebola thing and countless other episodes of phony fear based lies - the American people would have learned the difference between Facts and Fox. - More...
Friday PM - November 20, 2015

letter Investing in Your Community By Nina Kemppel - In Dillingham, a single nonprofit provides help for domestic violence and sexual assault victims from 33 villages and tribes across the Bristol Bay region. By September, Safe and Fear-Free Environment (SAFE), had already served 607 women, men and children and was in need of financial support. The Alaska Community Foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to SAFE so they could provide meals for shelter clients and assist clients outside of the shelter cover food and other essentials. - More...
Friday PM - November 20, 2015

letter Community Connections By Judith Green - I would like to say a THANK YOU to Community Connections - an organization that is local through and through. Tonight was their staff appreciation dinner held at the Ted Ferry Center for staff and their families. It was a wonderful outpouring of what makes Community Connections the very special program it is. - More...
Friday PM - November 20,2015

letter KGBSD Budget Restraint By Agnes Moran - The Ketchikan Daily News editorial of November 13, 2015, took note of the fiscal difficulties facing the State of Alaska and the federal government. It cautioned the City and Borough governments to reach balanced and sustainable budgets. The editorial pleads, "We should take this opportunity to ensure that we can live within our municipal means next year and in the foreseeable future." The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District (KGBSD) must heed that excellent advice also. - More...
Monday AM - November 16, 2015

letter Great ER in Ketchikan By Walt Hoefer - I lived in Ketchikan for 33 years. I have 3 kids and several grand kids living there. I had the chance to experience an eight hour stay in your ER back in June. - More...
Monday AM - November 16, 2015

letter Cost of Obama's visit By Margaret Cloud - It was recently stated in a letter published on November 11 that the cost of Obama's visit to Alaska was $600 million dollars. That number is very wrong. The cost was just under $600,000 and was for Anchorage police overtime and other expenses. - More...
Monday AM - November 16, 2015

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