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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 03, 2019

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Fish Factor: Forecast is for lower Pacific halibut catches By LAINE WELCH - Lower catches for Pacific halibut are in the forecast for the foreseeable future. 

That was the message from the International Pacific Halibut Commission at its meeting last week in Seattle. The IPHC oversees halibut stock research and sets catch limits for nine fishing regions ranging from Northern California and British Columbia to the Bering Sea. 

There are fewer of the prized flatfish (down 4%), they weigh less (down 5%) and no big pulses appear to be coming into the stock was the grim  summary of the 2019 halibut fishery  and the results of summer long surveys at nearly 1,370 fishing stations, including 89 added to the Central Gulf of Alaska, the biggest halibut fishing hole. 

The numbers of spawning halibut also appeared to continue their decline over the past year, said IPHC lead scientist Ian Stewart. 

“This has been predicted for several years. This is projected to continue for all 2020 TCEYs greater than approximately 18.4 million pounds,” Stewart said. “It’s essentially the breakeven point over the next three years. So, we’re looking at a period of relatively low productivity for the Pacific halibut stock over the next three years.”

TCEY (total constant exploitation yield) is the amount of removals of halibut over 26 inches for commercial, recreational, sports charter, subsistence and bycatch in other fisheries. For 2019, the coastwide TCEY was 38.61 million pounds.

Stewart added that more female fish are showing up in the stock and lower halibut yields will be necessary to “reduce higher fishing intensity.”              

“The primary driver behind that has been the addition of new information about the sex ratio of the commercial fishery catch that has indicated that we’ve probably been fishing this stock harder than we thought, historically,” he said. 

Fishing the stock harder includes the halibut taken as bycatch in other fisheries.

“The non-directed discards, meaning bycatch, was up from a little over six million pounds to a little over 6.4 million pounds,” Stewart said. 

 In the Bering Sea, for example, there is a fixed cap totaling 7.73 million pounds of halibut allowed to be taken as bycatch for trawlers, longliners and pot boats targeting other fish, with most going to trawlers. The cap stays the same, regardless of changes in the halibut stock.

This year, after four years of analyses and deliberation, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council began moving towards a new “abundance based” management plan that would tie bycatch levels to the health of the halibut stock as determined by annual surveys. (Prior to that, the issue had not been discussed for 20 years.) 

Meanwhile, bycatch allowances, combined with new rules in setting halibut catch limits, could mean Bering Sea communities get squeezed out of the upcoming fishery. 

“Last year the IPHC agreed to two allocation decisions that this year may hamstring efforts to provide enough halibut for Area 4CDE (the central Bering Sea) to even go fishing,” said Peggy Parker, director of the Halibut Association of North America and contributor to SeafoodNews.com.  

“The first decision was to provide a fixed minimum of 1.65 million pounds to Area 2A (Washington, Oregon, and California). The second was a formula for the Canadian allocation that was designed to mitigate their current and future losses from the trawl bycatch in the Bering Sea. That bycatch increased this year, which threw last year’s projections off and will likely result in lower catches to that area next year,” Parker added. “Having fixed minimum allocations to Area 2A and 2B (B.C.) will increase the difficulty in providing enough halibut to merit a fishery, in the eyes of quota holders, next year. It is a zero-sum game in the midst of a declining stock where Alaska becomes the only place with wiggle room.”

It’s déjà vu for Jeff Kauffman of St. Paul where emergency measures were implemented in 2015 to enable a halibut fishery to open in the region and fishermen’s catch limits were slashed to half a million pounds. 

 “There has been a de facto reallocation from the directed fisheries to the bycatch fisheries,” he said at the time. “Conservation of the stock is riding solely on the backs of the halibut fishermen.”

The NPFMC will set halibut bycatch limits for 2020 during its Dec. 2-10 meeting in Anchorage. The IPHC will reveal the catch limits for the halibut fishery during its annual meeting Feb. 3-7, also in Anchorage. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019


Alaska: Presidential directive will boost DGGS’ Alaska coastal mapping By MARY KAUFFMAN - President Donald J. Trump’s recent decision to prioritize mapping of Arctic and nearshore coastal areas will advance ongoing state efforts to survey and document Alaska’s coastal conditions, resources and hazards, the director of the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) said today.

President Trump’s memo builds upon a 1983 memo issued by President Ronald Reagan, which established the EEZ to advance the development of ocean resources and promote the protection of the marine environment. With more than 13,000 miles of coastline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean within its territorial jurisdiction, the United States’ EEZ is among the largest in the world and larger than the combined land area of all 50 states.

The Presidential Memorandum issued Nov. 19 establishes mapping of the coast and undersea areas within the nation’s 200-mile offshore Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) as a national priority, reflecting its importance and value to the nation.

“The U.S. EEZ contains a vast array of underutilized, and likely many undiscovered, natural resources, including critical minerals, marine-derived pharmaceuticals, energy, and areas of significant ecological and conservation value,” the president wrote. “However, only about 40 percent of the U.S. EEZ has been mapped.”

DGGS Director Steve Masterman says the memorandum’s call for thorough coastal mapping dovetails neatly with -- and should bring more focus and resources to bear on – an important part of DGGS’ mission.

“Much of the rest of the country’s coastline has already been mapped and is on schedule to be remapped every five years, but Alaska’s coastline hasn’t been mapped even once,” he said. “As the Arctic is emerging in importance both economically and strategically, its welcome, but not surprising, that mapping our vast coastline and the EEZ are of national importance.”

With activity within the EEZ accounting for $300 billion in economic activity, 3 million jobs and $129 billion in wages nationally, the benefits of accurate mapping information are as clear as the inadequate state of data on Alaska’s shores, Masterman said.

“This is an important step for Alaska, especially for the Arctic as we are woefully behind in developing up-to-date maps for the region,” U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a prepared statement. “The Arctic is crucial to our nation’s geopolitical, economic, and environmental well-being. Alaskans know this better than perhaps anyone else. Our waters are home to an abundant variety of untapped natural resources that can be used for food, medicine, and energy. Only a small part of the Arctic has been charted to modern standards, hindering the safety of maritime operations in the region. This Presidential directive builds on my own efforts to secure strong funding for NOAA's hydrographic surveys to address the backlog of charting needs in the Arctic. Mapping the waters around our state will provide valuable information on critical minerals and coastal resources while supporting safer shipping in the Arctic.” - More...
Tuesday PM - December -3, 2019


Ketchikan: Ed Freysinger to leave PeaceHealth - Charles Prosper, chief executive of PeaceHealth, Northwest, announced today that Ed Freysinger, chief administrative officer for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, had informed him of his decision to leave PeaceHealth to be closer to family. Freysinger will be available to assist with the transition through Dec. 31, 2019.

In a statement that was sent to employees, providers and board members, Freysinger said, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with PeaceHealth in Ketchikan, working with amazing caregivers, providers and community members, all of whom I will miss. The pull of my family, however, has led Debbie and I to recognize that the distance is simply too great at this point in our lives. We wish you all the best for continued excellent and compassionate care to this wonderful community.” - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019

Alaska - National: Justice Department: Liberty Tax Service to Enact Compliance Controls Affecting more than 2,800 Liberty Tax Service Stores - The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a complaint with a U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, seeking entry of a court order requiring Franchise Group Intermediate L 1 LLC, (Liberty) the national franchisor and owner of Liberty Tax Service stores, to refrain from specific acts, enact enhanced internal compliance controls regarding the detection of false tax returns, and pay for an independent monitor to oversee Liberty’s compliance with the proposed court order. Separately, the United States and Liberty filed a joint motion and proposed order that, if adopted by the court, would resolve the matter.

Liberty Franchise Group Intermediate has 7 Liberty Tax franchise stores in Alaska. A Liberty Tax store operated in Ketchikan for a number of years; however Liberty Tax does not list the Ketchikan store on its website as one of its seven current Alaska franchise stores.

Liberty is one of the largest tax preparation service providers in the United States, according to its public filings. Through its stores, Liberty filed approximately 1.3 to 1.9 million tax returns each year between 2015 and 2019, and for tax years 2012 to 2018, Liberty claimed over $28 billion in federal tax refunds on behalf of its customers, the complaint asserts. According to Liberty’s 2019 Annual Report filed with the SEC, and as reflected in the complaint, the Justice Department has been investigating Liberty’s policies, practices and procedures in connection with Liberty’s tax return preparation activities. Liberty has cooperated to resolve this matter.

The complaint alleges that Liberty directly controls its company-owned stores and that it maintains a substantial degree of control over franchisees. According to the complaint, returns prepared by franchisees and filed electronically with the IRS flow through Liberty before they are filed. The government claims Liberty failed to maintain adequate controls over tax returns prepared by its franchisees, and failed to take steps to prevent the filing of potentially false or fraudulent returns prepared by franchisees, despite having the capability to do so and despite notice of fraud at some of its franchisee stores.

Between 2013 and 2018 the Department of Justice filed 10 separate civil enforcement actions against Liberty Tax Service franchisees, or their owners, former owners or managers, some of whom Liberty designated as “Elite 18” franchisees because their “performance and attitude set the standard for the [Liberty Tax Service] organization.” The government contends its allegations in those lawsuits show common patterns across top Liberty franchisees of concocting fictitious income for customers to claim Earned Income Tax Credits, fabricating expenses to reduce customers’ reported income tax liability, claiming improper or false dependents, and falsifying education expenses to claim refundable education tax credits. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019


TOM PURCELL: Ok, Tail-End Boomer - I don’t blame millennials and Gen Z for mocking baby boomers with the trending “OK boomer” meme.

I’ve had my issues with baby boomers, too.

“OK boomer,” reports dictionary.com, “is a viral internet slang phrase used, often in a humorous or ironic manner, to call out or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the baby boomer generation and older people more generally.”

It’s sarcasm used to tell baby boomers that they’re too critical, condescending and dismissive toward younger folks’ anxieties and concerns.

I feel those younger folks’ pain.

Technically, I’m a boomer, born near the tail end of that generation, which began in 1946 and concluded in 1964 – but that 18-year span is far too lengthy to accommodate a single generation.

Sociologist and author Jonathan Pontell argues that Americans born between 1954 and 1965 are actually part of their own Generation Jones.

Boy, is he right. I have little in common with front-end boomers.

When front-end boomers were indulging in drugs and free love, we tail-enders were doing our homework. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019


JASE GRAVES: Deck The Halls And Hit The Deck - Yes, I am one of “those” people.

About thirty minutes after Labor Day has officially ended, I feel a strange compulsion to binge on my mother’s iced sugar cookies shaped like snowmen while listening to Nat King Cole croon about chestnuts. I usually resist breaking out my collection of “international” Santa figurines – including Las Vegas Santa indulging his gambling addiction on the slots – until after Halloween. But once I’ve polished off my kids’ trick-or-treat candy, I go into full-out Christmas-prep beast mode.

I realize that my premature Yuletide activities irritate some folks, and I place the blame partly on the retail economy, which starts celebrating HallowThanksMas around the time when we East Texans are suffering from acute Eskimo envy in the sweltering month of September. And I must admit that it’s a little disconcerting to go to Walmart for a new giant unicorn pool float and walk past a tempting display of Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. Thankfully, I can usually limit myself to five or six family-size packs.

Another reason for my pre-season holly-jolly spaz attack is the sheer magnitude of our Christmas swag. I spend most of the year expecting our ceiling to collapse under the mass of nativity sets, Christmas villages, and countless other seasonal dust magnets stockpiled in our attic. In fact, I’m resigned to the probability that I’ll eventually be taken out by a Rubbermaid tub full of decorative nutcrackers. Seriously, though, I figure if I don’t start dragging out the décor soon enough, I’ll still be stringing up lights when it’s time to overdose on Velveeta dip and chicken wings during the Super Bowl. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Kamala Harris quits 2020 race

Political Cartoon: Kamala Harris quits 2020 race
By Dave Granlund, PoliticalCartoons.com
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Newly Elected Officials Training and Alaska Municipal League Conference By Austin Otos - I recently had the opportunity to attend the Newly Elected Officials Training (NEO) and Alaska Municipal League (AML) in Anchorage. For those who’re unaware of or haven’t attended the conference, it’s basically a congregation of local government nerds discussing issues that impact our communities. The NEO training is a crash course in avoiding getting recalled and how to conduct yourself as a representative. The highlights for this training included a look at the opening meetings act, which bars elected officials from gathering outside of public meetings to conspire, proper forms of communication with constituents, and a mock meeting showcasing a proper meeting. Without this invaluable training, our newly elected officials would be handicapped at doing their job and would fall into public traps that might get them into trouble or even worse, recalled!

The Alaska Municipal League conference has been gathering for 69 years. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering local Alaskan governments to influence state and federal decision-making that impacts our communities. This year’s conference slogan was “working together, making a difference” which I assume was in reaction to last year’s tumultuous state legislative session. As attendees, we had the opportunity to choose various sessions and listen to specific topics that are prevalent throughout Alaskan communities. I attended sessions on: ground water contamination, housing and homelessness, funding the Alaska Marine Highway System, and promoting public safety. The groundwater contamination session gave an in-depth look at two contaminates (PFOA’s and PFO’s) which are commonly found in spray foam for firefighting. These substances were recently designated as toxic chemicals and banned from being made within the US. However, many airport fire departments still use this spray foam, which has contaminated whole water systems in certain Alaskan communities. Luckily, our airport is isolated on a separate island away from our drinking water source. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019

jpg Opinion

Plan to Relocate Ketchikan Trooper Dispatch Employees to Anchorage By Ken Bylund - State Plans to Relocate Ketchikan Trooper Dispatch Employees to Anchorage - Alaska DPS (SB 142) Deputy Commissioner and Mayor Rodney Dial open discussions on “unifying regional emergency dispatch services to enhance 911 services across the state for cost savings of $3.5 million combining with Soldotna and Wasilla from center in Anchorage... why not move Wasilla and Soldotna 911 services to Ketchikan? 

State Senators Ortiz and Stedman to seek alternatives to ensure services will not be diminished? I trust Mayor Dial will do the right thing but my first reaction is how comfortable would Juneau or Anchorage be depending on a dispatcher for an emergency call from Ketchikan who has little knowledge of your streets, logging roads, waterways and more remote non-city located citizens.- More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019

jpg Opinion

Commander Of White House Chaos By Donald Moskowitz - As a former Navy enlisted and officer I am highly concerned with the Commander-In-Charge Of  White House Chaos interference in Navy matters. 

The Commander-In-Charge Of White House Chaos overruled the Navy's decision to demote Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seal Edward Gallagher. Gallagher was convicted of posing with a dead detainee. Trump's rationale was that he was standing up for our military. Trump also overruled the peer review ordered by RADM Collin Green, head of the Navy Seals, and by doing this he is undermining the Navy's chain of command and adversely impacting discipline within the Navy. The peer review would have been conducted by senior Navy enlisted personnel. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 03, 2019

jpg Opinion

Second Amendment By A.M. (Al) Johnson - Often in the public square various opinions regarding the Second Amendment is the topic of discussion. Pro or con, the language used by either side reflects opinion often given without any real knowledge, history, or fact. 

To this discussion I would offer the following interpretation to which I have a profound belief reflects the true purpose of the Second Amendment as it relates to the intent. - More...
Friday PM - November 29, 2019

jpg Opinion

Response to Public Records Request By Mike Holman - The City of Ketchikan responded to my October 18 Public Records Act request on November 19.

One of the more interesting documents produced by the City is the response of Market Sensing Survey Respondent A. Pages 3-4 of Respondent A’s survey response are attached. I invite you to read them. If you read them, I’m sure you will conclude that the City should hasten to hand over the keys to our docks to Respondent A on January 21. LOL - More...
Tuesday PM - November 26, 2019

jpg Opinion

Emergency Declarations are for Things That Can Be Changed By John Harrington - Terri Robbins is “appalled” by DEC Commissioner Jason Brune’s statement at the AFN. Apparently the commissioner said, “that climate change is not an emergency in Alaska.” She even accuses him of potential “malfeasance of the most egregious kind.” Terri suggested that he consult with scientists.

Terri’s letter is political propaganda. It is like much of the discussion on ‘Global Warming’ that is reported routinely. It is heavy on half-truths and biased reporting. Like Teri’s attempt to silence the Commissioner, other attempts to silence dissent, and destroy dissenters is happening regularly. The lack of civility, and unwillingness to acknowledge differing data sets and opinions is typical of the anti-science approach to Global Warming theories promoted by the extremists. It is akin to those religious leaders of the past who relied on dogma and tried to silence scientific discussion. - More...
Tuesday PM - November 26, 2019

jpg Opinion

Impressive Work Ethic By A.M. Johnson - Within the past days, a work order on the hook with KPU to install a power pole to provide access to our breaker box in compliance of electrical code, was completed.

Was advised about 20 minutes to their arrival of their coming. The crew of three linemen, all young well fit lads, discharged from the trucks, made a ground inspection, speaking quietly among them selves. Shortly they spread out to their respective positions and actions directed by obvious many such activities with power pole placement.

My view of these lads was made impressive by the work ethic, the safety roles each demonstrated again, as by force of having worked as a team where safety on the site was second nature. Upon completion of the pole placement, the area was cleaned and left in perfect condition. - More...
Tuesday PM - November 26, 2019

jpg Opinion

Open Letter To DEC Commissioner Jason Brune By Terri Robbins - I was appalled to learn of your recent statement at the AFN conference. To say that climate change is not an emergency in Alaska is incorrect, at best, and malfeasance of the most egregious kind, at worst.

We just experienced the hottest summer on record. Sea levels have risen, forcing coastal villages to relocate. Habitat for polar bears and other arctic mammals is disappearing at an alarming rate. The interior experienced devastating wildfires, as did south central and the Kenai Peninsula. The water levels in key salmon streams was dangerously low. Southern southeast communities were forced to rely on diesel power to supply electricity due to low levels of water in lakes supplying hydropower. An extreme drought was declared. In our oceans, whales were dying in large numbers due to starvation, arguably caused by warmer ocean temperatures which killed off plankton and krill. - More...
Wednesday PM - November 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

State Legislature Year in Review By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As the House Representative for District 36, I’m writing to update you on some of the issues currently before the Alaska State Legislature. The 2019 legislative sessions were challenging – we continued to grapple with creating the budget, implementing a long term sustainable fiscal plan, and address declining revenue.

While we were able to hold fast on funding for departments like Fish & Game and Education, the Marine Highway System faced unprecedented cuts. During the interim, I have been focused on re-establishing the AMHS link to Prince Rupert. I will continue to push this issue until we see a long-term commitment by the Alaska Department of Transportation to keep Southeast connected.

New sources of revenue were not addressed, and funding for the budget continues to come predominately from our oil resources and a portion of the Permanent Fund Earnings. I am an advocate for policies that will promote as large of a dividend as possible while maintaining funding for essential government services and allowing for growth in the overall value of the Permanent Fund itself. - More...
Tuesday PM - November 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

Save Our Seas 2.0 tackles global marine debris crisis By Sen. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Bob Menendez - We may have plenty of political differences, but we come from coastal states. That means we have a front-row seat to the peril of plastic waste and marine debris flowing into our oceans at the rate of around 8 million metric tons per year. We understand what it will mean for our fishing and tourism industries when the weight of plastic in our oceans equals the weight of fish in the sea — something projected to happen by mid-century. We don’t have a moment to lose in confronting this problem.

That’s why we built a coalition in Congress and gathered input from environmental and industry stakeholders alike. Despite a divided Washington, that work resulted in a bill that won broad, bipartisan support. When the Save Our Seas Act became law last October, it was a moment of bipartisan progress on a vital issue — one to be celebrated.

Before the president’s ink on Save Our Seas was dry, our bipartisan trio of senators began developing the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act. We sought to harness the momentum behind the first bill to up the ante on combatting the global marine debris crisis. Marine debris requires multifaceted, multisector solutions with a global reach, and the United States ought to be driving these solutions.

In developing the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, we collected hundreds of comments and ideas from researchers, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and industry. We reviewed the latest science on marine debris and plastics pollution. We identified areas ripe for legislative action and others where investments in research are needed. We looked inward at the United States’ own waste management systems and how we could better position the country as an international leader — not hindrance. - More...
Tuesday PM - November 19, 2019

jpg Opinion

Impeachable Offenses By Donald Moskowitz - Article Two of the U.S. Constitution states "The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

The current impeachment inquiry by the U.S. House of Representatives against President Trump is focusing on the allegation he tried to bribe and/or extort President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in the runup to the 2020 election in exchange for $400 million in foreign aid to Ukraine. The investigation of the Bidens did not occur and the $400 million in aid was subsequently given to Ukraine.Therefore no bribery or extortion occurred.

But did President Trump's actions meet the test of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors"?

A recent president to be impeached was Bill Clinton.. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice relative to the Monice Lewinsky affair. Richard Nixon was charged, but not impeached as an outgrowth of the Watergate coverup. He was charged with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and defying subpoenas during the impeachment investigation. The House Judiciary Committee stated that "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" goes beyond crimes to include "behaving in a manner grossly incompatible with the proper function of the office and employing the power of the office for an improper purpose or personal gain." 

Going back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 the founding fathers decided the phrase "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" provided "flexibility and guidance" in deciding on impeachable offenses, which references 400 years of practice in Great Britain. - More...
Tuesday PM - November 19, 2019

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