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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 19, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By AUTUMN HASIBAR

Tracks in the Snow
These bear tracks were photographed Tuesday morning just before 8 AM on Fairview Avenue. According to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, black bears spend the winter months in a state of hibernation; however, occasionally, in the more southern ranges of Alaska, black bears will emerge from their dens during winter.
Front Page Feature Photo By AUTUMN HASIBAR ©2017

Ketchikan: Man struck, killed on Stedman Street by  Leila Kheiry, KRBD - A 68-year-old Ketchikan man was struck by a vehicle and killed Monday night on Stedman Street near the Deermount intersection. - More....
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Ketchikan: NTSB finds Master's role probable cause of Celebrity Infinity's allision with Ketchikan dock By MARY KAUFFMAN - The National Transportation Safety Board has released its findings on the probable cause of the Celebrity Infinity's allision and damage to Ketchikan's Berth III facility on June 3, 2016. The Celebrity Infinity is an 863-foot-long, 90,940-gross-ton cruise ship.

According the the recently released report by the NTSB, the probable cause of the allision was the ship master's failure to plan, monitor, and execute a safe docking evolution.

The report released on December 15, 2017, said the pilot told investigators that dropping the starboard anchor slowed the motion of the bow toward the pier. The master said that he then ordered chain to be paid out so the vessel could move forward and toward the dock; however, the VDR recording captured the master’s order as “hold the anchor.” According to the pilot, the thrusters and anchor were able to control the bow but “whatever maneuvers they made with the pods weren’t sufficient to hold the ship and it made a hard landing on the dolphins back there.” At 1355, with the after part of the vessel pivoting toward berth 3, the VDR recorded someone shouting, “the stern, the stern!” and, at 1356, the vessel allided with the berth.

The force of the allision opened a 9-inch-diameter hole in the vessel’s port side between frames 231 and 233, about 12 feet above the waterline. It also caused the deflection of vessel structural members. The berth suffered extensive damage to its catwalks and structural members. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Alaska: Unbalanced Climate Team Will Cost Alaskans; Review requested By MARY KAUFFMAN - During a time when Alaska should be cutting back on unnecessary spending and encouraging resource industry input and development, Governor Walker is doing the exact opposite in the eyes of Representative Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) who points to the Governor’s Climate Change Team. Recent revelations about the salaries and the obvious left leaning foundation should draw concern said Chenault.

Last week, Governor Bill Walker appointed 15 public members and five ex-officio members of the Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team, established in October by Administrative Order 289. According to a news release, Governor Walker announced the team following an extensive internal review of nearly 100 applications. The team will focus on mitigation, adaptation, research, and response for Alaska.

“This team is going to cost Alaskans in more ways than one. Limited input from resource industries and large expenses from travel, per diem and salary for the state employees on the commission, all add up to bad news for Alaska,” said Rep. Chenault. 

One member of the team, the climate advisor, is reportedly making $145,000 a year in salary alone - the same as the governor. Cayenne “Nikoosh” Carlo is based out of Seattle, requiring air travel commute, receives per diem and associated costs.  She filled the newly-created position of “senior climate adviser" on Walker’s executive team in September 2017 to advise the governor on climate change. Carlo is an exempt employee and the Administration can get salary overrides to increase her compensation.

"We don't need to import and pay environmentalists from Seattle to tell us how to kill our economy. I'm really disappointed with Governor Walker's priorities," said Representative Chenault. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Fish Factor: Cod decline blamed on younger fish not surviving warmer ocean temperatures By LAINE WELCH - Kodiak officials already are drafting a disaster declaration due to the crash of cod stocks throughout the Gulf of Alaska. The shortage will hurt many other coastal communities as well.

Gulf cod catches for 2018 will drop by 80 percent to just under 29 million pounds in federally managed waters, compared to a harvest this year of nearly 142 million pounds. The crash is expected to continue into 2020 or 2021. 

Cod catches in the Bering Sea also will decline by 15 percent to 414 million pounds. In all, Alaska produces 12 percent of global cod fish.

The bad news was announced by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council which sets the catches for more than 25 species in waters from three to 200 miles from shore in the Gulf and the Bering Sea. 

“It’s almost like a double, triple, quadruple disaster because it’s not just one year,” said Julie Bonney, director of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank. She added that the cod decline will decrease revenues for fishermen who use longline, pots, jig and trawl gear and make it more difficult for processors to fill their market demands. It also will be a huge hit to the coffers of local communities which get a three percent tax on all fish landings.  - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Southeast Alaska: New Tribal Appellate Court Administrator Announced - Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) announced that Kimberly Martus is the Tribe’s new Tribal Appellate Court Administrator.

New Tribal Appellate Court Administrator Announced

Kimberly Martus,
Tribal Appellate Court Administrator
Photo courtesy Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

The newly created position is funded by a grant recently awarded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Tribal Justice Support which is responsible for providing support to tribal justice systems throughout the United States. Working with Tlingit & Haida’s Judiciary Committee and Tribal Court Judges, Martus will design, build-capacity, and implement the first unified tribal appellate court system in Southeast Alaska.
“Formation of an appellate court will increase access to justice for tribal citizens and provide for fair and equal administration of tribal justice,” said Presiding Judge Debra O’Gara.
Martus has served in several tribal court related capacities including: Associate Appellate Justice with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Court of Appeals; Pro Tempore Judge with the Native Village of Barrow Tribal Court; Tribal Court and Prisoner Reentry Program Manager for the Bristol Bay Native Association; Tribal Court Needs Assessment Project Administrator for Kadiak, LLC and Tribal Court Training Instructor for the University of Alaska’s Tribal Management Program. She has also served as a Guardian Ad Litem in both tribal and state courts and as an Assistant Public Defender representing parents involved in state court child protection cases. Her most recent work involved designing and developing tribal code development training curricula whereby she authored a chapter on “Incorporating Indigenous Law and Custom into Modern Tribal Codes.” - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Alaska: Alaska Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.84 - The Alaska minimum wage will increase from $9.80 to $9.84 in 2018. A ballot initiative passed by voters raised the minimum wage by a dollar in both 2015 and 2016, and thereafter to be adjusted annually for inflation. 

Alaska Statute 23.10.065(a) requires the Alaska minimum wage to be adjusted using the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers in the Anchorage metropolitan area (Anchorage CPI-U) for the preceding calendar year. The Anchorage CPI-U increased 0.4 percent in 2016, rising from 216.909 to 217.830. As a result, the minimum wage will rise from $9.80 to $9.84 effective January 1, 2018.

“These modest annual adjustments ensure low wage workers don’t have to wait for several years to see their wages raised to keep up with inflation,” said Alaska Department of Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas.  - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Alaska: Marijuana Control Board Revokes Frozen Budz Manufacturing License; Imposes $500,000 Fine - A Fairbanks medical marijuana dispensary's license has been revoked. The Alaska Marijuana Control Board, after reviewing accusations against Frozen Budz, has revoked their license (#10012). That marijuana product manufacturing facility license is held by Destiny and Nick Neade and operated as Frozen Budz. In addition, the board imposed a $500,000 civil fine and ordered all the products made by Frozen Budz to be seized, both from their product manufacturing facility and from all retail stores that have their products.

“The board found the acts of this licensee especially egregious,” said Peter Mlynarik, chair of the Marijuana Control Board. “The licensee disregarded marijuana industry regulations and put the public at significant risk by selling products that were not safe, tested, or tracked.” - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017



Alaska: What caused 39 walruses to wash ashore dead in western Alaska? By PAULA DOBBYN - Four walruses in western Alaska’s Bering Strait region tested positive for biotoxins produced by algae, prompting a public notification to be issued recently from Alaska Sea Grant.

Pacific walrus bull in Alaska.
Photo by Joel Garlich-Miller, courtesy USFWS

The test results emerged from a dead walrus stranding event in late summer involving 39 animals. After the walruses washed ashore, Gay Sheffield, a marine biologist with Alaska Sea Grant, helped coordinate a collaborative response involving agencies and community members of Diomede and Shishmaref.

An algal biotoxin is a potentially poisonous substance produced by harmful algal blooms. It cannot be seen, smelled or tasted and cooking or freezing does not destroy the toxin.

The walrus stranding on the northern Seward Peninsula prompted Sheffield to ask residents of Diomede and Shishmaref to collect samples of the intestines from four walruses (one harvested and three from carcasses that had washed ashore.) NOAA’s Wildlife Algal Toxin Research and Response Network found low levels of domoic acid and moderate levels of saxitoxin in the carcass samples. A high level of saxitoxin was documented in the harvested walrus—over the federal seafood safety limit for human consumers. The final results for this sample are still pending.

Saxitoxin, which has been documented in the Bering Strait region before, targets the nervous system and blocks nerve function. If high concentrations of saxitoxin are eaten, breathing difficulties and paralysis occur in both humans and marine mammals, a potentially deadly condition called paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP.)

“The findings are of interest because of the large number of walruses and seabirds that washed ashore during August and September of this year,” said Sheffield, a Marine Advisory agent based in Nome. “The presence of algal biotoxins in marine wildlife commonly consumed in the region raises many food security questions and requires additional vigilance.”

What caused the deaths of 39 walruses remains a mystery. With results from only four walrus, scientists have not been able to pinpoint what happened to the animals. Hundreds of seabirds were also found dead around the same time. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the seabirds were emaciated and are trying to determine the level of saxitoxin in them as well. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017


Columns - Commentary



SUSAN STAMPER BROWN: An Alaskan Christmas Story - Americans need a good dose of Christmas. 

As a nation, we are desperately lost, emotionally broken, spiritually deprived and headed for the same fate our "unadoptable" Alaskan husky dog was before my husband and I welcomed her into our home.

It's been four years since we adopted Kenai, a skeletal ball of nerves wrapped in cinnamon colored fur with spotty white "socks."Obviously abused, she had zero trust in humans and no confidence in herself. Animal control officers almost deemed her unadoptable. 

She was literally scared of her shadow, fearing door entryways and basically everything inside our home, including us. She parked herself on our new chair in the living room corner. For three months she ate, drank and napped when she wasn't staring at us and only left her perch when we'd take her outside to walk and potty.

One cold and snowy winter night with near zero visibility, we feared this one-sided love affair had come to an end when she got away and bolted up and around our mountain. The more we called, chased and searched, the deeper into the woods and higher she climbed. Though we were forced to give up our search for the night, we refused to give up hope.  - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017


JEFF LUND: Contemplating history - There’s a lot of time between us and the shadowy figures climbing Chilkoot Pass, which is one of the iconic images that represents Alaska and Alaskans.

The first waves of modernization that came at the expense of the land’s original inhabitants happened a long time ago. The stories that have endured are fascinating. Stories of the fools, the courageous and everything between.

But because so much time has passed, it’s impossible to understand the context in which these stories were birthed. Maybe it’s cynical, but one has to wonder how much embroidery has been added and how much that actually matters.

Gunner Kaasen delivered the serum to Nome to save the city stricken by a diphtheria outbreak. Or, Balto and the dogs delivered Gunner Kaasen and the serum to Nome. Semantics. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

jpg Political Cartoon: Mueller Trees FBI

Political Cartoon: Mueller Trees FBI
By Rick McKee ©2017, The Augusta Chronicle
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Opinion - Letter

Alaska Marine Highway thoughts By A. M. Johnson - Some interesting community member thoughts have been brought to my attention and worthy I believe, of public discussion. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 19, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Violence Prevention By Agnes Moran - Alaska leads the nation in per capita incidence of sexual assault and domestic violence. Unfortunately, as the recent headlines in the Ketchikan Daily News indicate, Ketchikan is not exempt from these statistics. Women in Safe Homes (WISH) is working to eliminate violence in our community through community partnerships and primary prevention and education programs. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Opinion - Letter

President Trump should sign ANWR legislation to boost Alaska’s economy, nation’s energy dominance By Gail Phillips - Alaskans are on the verge of seeing the oil-rich coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) opened to leasing for the first time – a three-decades-long quest that was, until now, stifled by environmental it and the blocking-and-tackling tactics of Democrats in Washington, DC. - More...
Saturday AM - December 16, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS PROBLEMS PLAGUE SOUTHEAST ALASKA COMMUNITIES By Mary Lynne Dahl - My husband and I are frequent customers of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system. We have been sailing on the Ketchikan – Prince Rupert run about 6 round trips per year for 16 years, mostly in winter. We have become very familiar with many of the boats and crew over these years. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

These are the Facts By Rep. Dan Ortiz - This letter is in direct response to a December 4th letter to Sitnews submitted by David Nees of the Alaska Policy Forum, out of Anchorage. Mr. Nees states that the numbers I used in my Dec. 1st letter to Sitnews are “inaccurate and misleading.” - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Speechless By A. M. Johnson - I am speechless!! Why so? You ask. I am speechless because of the act of congress to hide, fund and approve of sexual acts performed by elected representatives of Congress. To then hide that action behind a screen not openly viewed by the tax paying public. I am so speechless along with frustration over the extent of abuse towards woman being aided by elected women. Tragic that the intent is to protect abusers over the pain suffered by the victims' being paid off with OUR money. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

IN JERRY’S WORLD By David G Hanger - Ghert Abbott is spot-on with his commentary about Federal income tax policy, but he is also too polite. This is not tax reform. This is not even tax or economic policy. This is pure theft by some of the biggest pigs this world has ever produced. - More...
Thursday PM - December 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE: Alaska's Fiscal Situation By David Nees - In a December 1 opinion piece Rep Ortiz opines that he is unfairly being accused of wanting to implement an income tax and has not done enough to cut spending. He then lays out exactly the same argument as the Walker administration with the inaccurate misleading cuts of 44% and huge loss of state jobs. - More...
Monday PM - December 04, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Tax the Rich By Ken Leland - Jerry Cegelsky is right, after spending your lifetime building an estate through hard work and sacrifice, sometimes failing in your endeavors, but always keeping on that path to financial stability and security in your declining years, with health issues for yourself and your Family to deal with along the way, it's not an easy path, but you deal with it. - More...
Monday PM - December 04, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Alaska's Fiscal Situation By Rep. Dan Ortiz - A misleading internet video posted around Thanksgiving alleged that I “want” to implement a state-wide income tax and that the State of Alaska continues to have a bloated budget. Neither of those statements are accurate. - More...
Friday AM - December 01, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Trump Condones China's Press Restrictions By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump refused to take reporters questions during his visit to China.  He succumbed to Chinese insistence that no questions be allowed from the press. - More...
Friday AM - December 01, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Easy to take money from those who have sacrificed, planned and worked By Jerry Cegelske - Ghert Abbott's letter to Sitnews on November 21st stated that the solution to the Alaska fiscal problem is to heavily tax the investment income from the “rich” people. A problem I have with his solution is the government is the entity which defines the term “rich” or economically advantaged. It is easy for government to lower the definition of rich so that the numerous middle class and lower taxpayers end up paying the bill. Government has an unlimited power to take from people and an unlimited ability to spend more than they should. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

The GOP’s Malevolent Tax Proposals By Ghert Abbott - It is impossible to fully convey the sheer, unbridled malevolence of the GOP tax plans currently being rushed through Congress. In order to pay for permanent corporate tax cuts which will predominately benefit the super-rich, working and middle class Americans will receive a permanent tax increase. At first this tax increase will be masked by temporary tax cuts, but once all the temporary cuts expire 50% of Americans will find themselves with a higher tax bill. These permanent tax increases will be particularly concentrated on households earning below $75,000 a year. The GOP’s tax plan will thus redistribute wealth upwards, increasing the tax burden of ordinary Americans while decreasing the taxes paid by the extremely wealthy. But the costs of paying for these corporate tax cuts won’t stop there. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Open Letter: Thank You By Alannah Hurley Dear Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission, On behalf of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), I would like to thank you for standing in unity with the people of Bristol Bay. The letter from your tribe urging the EPA to finalize protections for our watershed and Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq way of life is a great help to our efforts. Like many in your region, our tribal members still live a traditional way of life in balance with our pristine lands and waters. The health of our watershed is directly connected to the health and well-being of our people and the continuation of our cultures, we thank you again for helping us work to protect this connection for future generations. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

“YOU WHO HATE” By David G Hanger - When next you choose to rant on a subject, Mr. Tim Livingston, I would suggest you at least understand what the subject is lest you again appear as stupid as you do in this instance. The term “plausible deniability” is technically a legal term for a method or action frequently used by extreme right-wing politicians in an effort to advance their agenda of lies, deceit, and ironclad control. In its more pedestrian utilization we have the denials and semi-denials of such as Menendez and Franken, but as refined political utility it is a right-wing phenomenon first developed by Goebbels, and more recently re- invigorated by the likes of Karl Rove. - More...
Monday PM - November 27, 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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