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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Tuesday PM
December 17, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

It's Christmas Time
Ketchikan's community Christmas tree has a fish as the tree topper. The tree is displayed in the area of the federal building.  The tree lighting ceremony was held November 27th at the downtown fire station and hosted by the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce. The annual Christmas Boat Parade will be held
Sunday afternoon - December 21, 2019.
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER ©2019
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Ketchikan: Removal of Berth II Rock Pinnacle - The City of Ketchikan plans to remove an existing rock pinnacle in front of Berth II. Removal of the pinnacle will bring the entire area to an optimal depth, allowing for improved access and more efficient berthing for existing ships during high winds. Various permits for the project were obtained from federal, state and local authorities over the past year, and the City hired an engineering consulting firm, Moffat & Nichol, with support from BE Consultants, to design, permit, and oversee the project. The prime contract was awarded to J.E. McAmis, Inc. (JEM) from Chico, California (contractor) with Contract Drilling & Blasting LLC (CDB) from Jacksonville, Florida as the drilling and blasting specialty subcontractor.

Similar drilling and blasting techniques to what would be used for quarry and construction rock excavation will be used, with the main difference being that all work will be performed underwater from a barge. Excavator-mounted rock drills will be used to drill the blast holes into the rock at the bottom of the channel, and explosives products suitable for underwater blasting are installed in these holes. A typical blast will comprise dozens of holes, each detonating a few milliseconds from the previous hole to minimize the effect of the blast on the public, nearby marine wildlife, and structures and vessels in the vicinity.

A number of carefully designed and permitted confined blasts will be required to break up the rock. The confined nature of the blasts will assure that energy is directed into the immediate rock pinnacle rather than the adjacent area or water column. Each blast will sound similar to faraway thunder and the entire event will be over in less than one second. People on land may feel ground vibrations transmitted from the blast, but the anticipated very low intensity vibrations will be well below any level of concern for nearby structures. Instruments installed shore side (five locations) will be monitoring these blasting vibrations to ensure the safety of dock-side structures and nearby commercial and residential structures. In-water pressure measurements from the blasts will also be taken (four locations), to ensure the protection of marine wildlife and nearby vessels. Independent 3rd party specialist firms are providing oversight on all these measurements. In addition, a team of marine biologists will be deployed to assure the safety of various species of marine mammals and fish which may be present in the area. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

Ketchikan: Preparing future Ketchikan homeowners; Free online homebuyer education class from Alaska Housing Finance Corporation - Prospective homebuyers throughout Alaska with internet access can receive Finally Home! education that promotes understanding of the home purchase process.

Finally Home! is an alternative to HomeChoice™ that was established in 1994 and is a six-hour, in-person class. Both classes are free, offered by Alaska Housing and cover familiar topics such as budgeting, credit, loan types, closing costs, and home maintenance.

Participants who complete HomeChoice™ are asked to provide feedback and often remark, “I wish I would have taken this sooner!” Finally Home! allows buyers to receive education at their convenience, at their own pace, and with the ability to pause and resume later. It is offered in English and Spanish.

Finally Home! is designed to provide a more convenient learning opportunity for all Alaskans,” said Jan Miyagishima, mortgage director at Alaska Housing. “The flexibility means no more missing family dinners or giving up a Saturday which is when HomeChoice™ is usually offered.”

Nearly 40% of loans in Alaska Housing’s portfolio are first-time buyers. Courses provide tips and insight about homeownership that may be overlooked, especially by first-time buyers such as understanding fees, industry jargon, planning for maintenance and extraordinary expenses, and implementing energy efficiency tools. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019


Alaska: Governor Introduces Priority Setting Budget; House Majority Says Governor defers tough budget decisions to the legislature Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - Last week Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced his Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget, continuing the conversation of setting priorities by implementing fiscal discipline, honoring the law, enacting truthful budgeting, and keeping commitments to Alaskans.

“At first glance, it appears the Governor’s budget is not as draconian as last year. Unfortunately, this budget lacks long-term fiscal stability and vision for Alaska,”  said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage). “With a $1.2 billion deficit this year, the state cannot solely rely on its savings accounts. Significant reductions to oil and gas tax credits are a must for Alaska’s long-term fiscal sustainability. I am disappointed the Governor did not take the lead on this issue. I look forward to working with members of the Legislature and the Governor to craft a budget that provides opportunities for all Alaskans to succeed.”

“I am disappointed the Governor is moving forward with sending prisoners out of state, which tears families apart. It is cost prohibitive for visitation, especially from rural Alaska. The Legislature put money aside specifically for instate correctional facilities. To divert this funding is inauspicious, ” said Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin).

“We agree with the governor’s decision to not further cut the budget. However, spending is only half of the budget, and the governor is deferring to the legislature on how to pay for it. Alaska cannot afford to delay tough decisions another year,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) in a prepared statement.

Rep. Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage) said, “The governor’s proposal would drain the Constitutional Budget Reserve, leaving us unable to withstand any unforeseen financial emergencies. In the last year alone, we saw a record fire season and the largest earthquake since 1964. It would be reckless to drain our primary savings account for the largest PFD in history.”

“The governor’s budget takes a short-term view. He is detailed about what he wants to spend but is shortsighted in his plan to pay for it. The legislature will hit the ground running in January, and we will work diligently with the administration to complete our work within 90 days,” said Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome).

Highlights from Governor Dunleavy’s FY 2021 budget announcement on December 11, 2019 in Juneau. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019


Alaska: PRESIDING JUDGES APPOINTED FOR 2020 - Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger of the Alaska Supreme Court announced the appointment of four presiding judges:  Superior Court Judge Trevor N. Stephens for the First Judicial District; Superior Court Judge Paul A. Roetman for the Second Judicial District; Superior Court Judge William F. Morse for the Third Judicial District; and Superior Court Judge Michael A. MacDonald for the Fourth Judicial District.

The chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court appoints a presiding judge for each of the four judicial districts.  The appointments are for a one year term and cover a calendar year period, and incumbents are eligible for reappointment.

In addition to regular judicial duties, the presiding judge of each judicial district has the administrative responsibility to supervise the assignment of cases and administrative actions of judges and court personnel, to keep current the business of courts, to review and recommend budgets, and to review the operation of the trial courts in the district to assure adherence to statewide court objectives and policies.  

Judge Stephens was appointed to the superior court in Ketchikan in 2000.  Prior to his appointment Judge Stephens worked in private practice, as an assistant public defender, and as an assistant district attorney and district attorney.  He received both his undergraduate and law degree from Willamette University College of Law.  He serves on the court system’s Family Rules Committee, the Statewide Security and Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Child in Need of Aid Court Improvement Project Committee, the Jury Improvement Committee and the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission.  He is also a member of the Three Judge Sentencing Panel.  He was born and raised in Ketchikan. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

Alaska: Adult Enhanced Dental Program for Medicaid recipients reinstated - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is reinstating Alaska’s adult preventive dental program (also known as the Adult Enhanced Dental Program) for Medicaid recipients effective Dec. 31, 2019. 

Program services will also be retroactively covered to Oct. 1, 2019, when the program was discontinued as part of an overall effort to address the state’s budget deficit. 

The decision to reinstate the program was made by DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum in coordination with the governor’s office, and was based on extensive consultation between DHSS program staff and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 

Funding for the program – $8.3 million of state general funds with a federal match of $18.7 million – is included in the governor’s FY2021 budget that was released Wednesday. 

Adult enhanced dental services include preventive and restorative dental care such as cleanings, fillings and restorative work. 

These services were originally scheduled to be discontinued July 1, 2019, but were temporarily extended through Sept. 30, 2019, to allow adequate time for recipients to receive notice of this Medicaid change and adequately plan their preventive dental care. 

After the program ended on Oct. 1, 2019, dental services continued to be available to Medicaid recipients in Alaska through Medicaid’s emergency dental program. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019


Fish Factor: Go Fish! By LAINE WELCH -  A deck of clever playing cards is teaching people about one of Alaska’s most popular yet fragile fishing favorites: rockfish.

During games players can learn how to identify the 48(!) different kinds of rockfish found in Alaska waters and how some, like rougheye, can live beyond 200 years. 

 “Shortraker, the 10 of diamonds, can live 157 years. Yelloweye live 118 years and are sexually mature at around 22 years. Black rockfish mature at six or seven years and can live to be 50 years,” said Andrew Olson, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game groundfish and shellfish coordinator for the Southeast region who helped design the deck. 

Along with identification and biology, the cards also tell fishing rules for sport and commercial fishermen and alerts them about protective gear that will be required next year. 

Rockfish brought up from waters deeper than 65 feet often suffer from decompression trauma due to their having unvented swim bladders and can literally turn inside out. In 2020, all saltwater anglers will be required to use ‘descender’ gear (the 2 of hearts) to resubmerge the fish.

“They must have a functioning deep water release mechanism on board and all rockfish not harvested must be released at a depth of capture or at a depth of 100 feet,” Olson explained.

State managers wagered cards were a good way to get those messages directly into the hands of fishermen.  

“When you go on boats there’s typically a deck of cards on board to keep people busy,” Olson said.

The cards come at a time when plans are underway to better align rockfish management between the sport and commercial sectors. In 2017 ADF&G began a statewide initiative to develop long-term strategies for rockfish with a focus on black rockfish and yelloweye.

“Historically, rockfish caught by sport anglers and commercial fishermen were managed differently by the sport fish and commercial fisheries divisions. This worked fine for decades, but changes in fishing pressure on different species, fish regimes and populations - including rockfish, salmon, halibut, and Pacific cod - have led to more alignment in management between the divisions. Because rockfish are known to be particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and harvests are believed to be increasing in recent years, proactive measures are needed,” wrote Riley Woodford in the December Alaska Fish and Wildlife News

These changes are occurring along the entire Pacific coast, Woodford added, and state and federal agencies are collaborating on rockfish education efforts. 

Thirty thousand decks of the rockfish playing cards were made by US Playing cards at a cost of about a dollar a piece. Artist Kellii Wood of Petersburg did the anatomy drawings and decorated the card backs, Olson said, and Ray Troll’s quirky artwork adorns the Jokers.  

“One says Rockfish, Paper, Scissors with a picture of a yelloweye, and the other one looks like a black rockfish with “rock” highlighted because it has a guitar,” Olson said. 

The cards have only been in circulation for a few weeks and he said the reaction has been very enthusiastic.

“People have said they didn’t realize how old some of these rockfish are, how long it takes them to reach maturity; the fact that we have so many species in Alaska was, I think, shocking. Some folks have said they are using the cards to learn about a rockfish per day and get familiar with them,” Olson said. “It’s a fun and engaging way to interact with the public and express concerns we’re having with rockfish and where we’re making improvements.” 

The rockfish cards are available for free at ADF&G offices at Kodiak. Anchorage, Homer, Douglas/Juneau headquarters, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

The Arctic’s grand reveal

The Arctic’s grand reveal

Louise Farquharson works on the tundra at Kougarok, Alaska. The Seward Peninsula site is one of 28 field research locations that show evidence of extensive permafrost thawing zones previously unrecognized. This could have dramatic implications for subsequent carbon release into the atmosphere.
Photo by Vladimir Romanovsky

Alaska: The Arctic’s grand reveal By FRITZ FREUDENBERGER - “This green line looks like the death of permafrost - it’s flatlining,” Louise Farquharson said to an audience of a few dozen scientists at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco this month.

Her quiet voice came through speakers over the muffled clicking of keyboards and occasional coughs in a dimly lit room at the 2019 American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.

She was showing a graph describing her newest research findings on one of the most important, and ignored, parts of the frozen Earth.

Her reserved tone hid a bombshell message — by 2035 permafrost thaw may continue on its own, disregarding the processes that have kept it frozen for thousands of years.

Farquharson is a research associate at the  University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute. She is an expert on permafrost, the parts of the ground that stay frozen for at least two consecutive years.

Permafrost zones occupy about 24 percent of the exposed land surface of the Northern Hemisphere. However, the permafrost is shrinking. The Arctic is, and will, experience the most dramatic effects of global warming, so it’s no surprise that permafrost is thawing, to the detriment of the sub-Arctic, Arctic and the planet.

Permafrost thaw causes the ground surface to sink, which leads to infrastructure damage, accelerates microbial activity and releases carbon and other gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming even more. Most experts suggest permafrost thaw will continue and even speed up as we go into the next century.

However, calculated rates of thaw may be far lower than what will really happen. According to Farquharson, a key accelerating factor in permafrost thaw has been dramatically underestimated.

“It’s the Arctic’s ‘grand reveal,’” Farquarson said. “We thought we saw what was happening, then it really stepped out from behind the curtain.” - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019


DAVE KIFFER: Hopefully, any blasts are long in the past! - When I was a little kid, my Dad used to scare the holy heck out of me with stories about how Deer Mountain spewed lava and ash when he was a kid. 

Seriously, Dad and his Charcoal Point area hoodlum friends had to FLEE INTO THE OCEAN to avoid the wrath of Deer Volcano!!!!!

Well, maybe not, but I was all of four or five so it seemed possible. Especially with the peak of Deer Mountain looking all volcano-cone like.

Unfortunately for the story, when the state volcano studiers issued a report about volcanos in the state  a while back, Deer Mountain was not on the list. I'm not saying it never spewed ash. But not in any geological time frame worth considering.

So, no fire and brimstone from our nearby peaks is to be expected, at least for the foreseeable millenia.

This, of course, fits in with our general smugness towards natural disasters in Our Fair Salmon City.

We don't get earthquakes (at least not significant ones). We don't get tornados (other than the random waterspout), we don't have wild fires (an acre or two does not count) and we sure don't have volcanoes.

Or do we? - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019


JEFF LUND: When the mall ruled  - There was a time when it was a thing for people from Prince of Wales to go to Ketchikan to Christmas shop. It still happens, but I’m talking about the days before the IFA, when the stars aligned and the Aurora would depart Hollis on a Friday and the LeConte would be island bound on a Sunday. My history is likely wrong about the frequency of Alaska Marine Highway servicing the island, which is probably a hint that I shouldn’t troll those waters and instead keep the research-based journalism to qualified local historians like Dave Kiffer. What I do know is that there was consistent, but not routine service to POW when I was in high school, which meant we sometimes left for cross country meets on a Wednesday even though the race wasn’t until Saturday. My favorite writer John Gierach has a great quote about the reliability of someone’s memory, especially fly fishers, but I forgot it. 

Anyway, a lot has changed since I graduated high school from Klawock in 1999. And I know, some of you are saying, ‘Heck, 20 years is nothing!’ Yes, more things happen given a longer segment of time, but it’s still worth noting that a time not too long ago, the Plaza was the place to shop, and if you had seven hours before the ferry left for Hollis, it was the place to loiter. 

My buddies and I burned through leftover food money on the basketball game and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the arcade which was next to the bathrooms, which was across from Jay Jacobs which was up and to the left of the Walden Books which was next to Foot Locker that sold that Nike Ketchikan shoe that was ironically not water proof. That unpopular shoe was for sale below the Bon Marche which was almost the entire land-side of the mall. I read that went out of business in 2001 which wasn’t just the end of an era for the mall, but also Ketchikan commerce. Apparently, The Bon was opened in 1913 and moved to the mall in 1990.  - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Dems Wish Impeachment

Political Cartoon: Dems Wish Impeachment
By Gary McCoy ©2019, Shiloh, IL
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

City's “Berth Lease Proposals” By Mike Cruise - Mike Holman and Charlie Freeman have recently written opinion / information letters about the City's “Berth Lease Proposals”. These actions would surrender the community’s four downtown cruise-ship docks to private control for up to 30 years. Mike and Charlie have been around and I value their opinions. On this issue I think they are absolutely right……. This is not a wise decision and the process being used doesn’t pass the “smell” test.

We are always reminded that issues like these are too difficult, complicated and delicate for the Ketchikan Voters to grasp and should not be put up for them to advise or decide on. Somehow, those same voters were wise enough to elect the people who make these disparaging remarks. I guess that this proves or destroys the argument, depending on your point of view.

All that aside, the issue of the Berth Lease Proposals is of such importance that any and all impute should be sought, considered and evaluated….. even by those local leaders who believe that the public is too dumb to have anything of value to say. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

“Alaskans for Better Elections” Seeks to Destroy Alaska’s Voting System By Ann Brown - The day before the Independence Day holiday last summer, local progressives quietly filed a petition ironically named "Alaskans for Better Elections," which would destroy the integrity of Alaska's elections. If passed the ballot initiative would bring us ranked-choice voting.* The petition was sponsored, in part, by former District 22 Representative Jason Grenn. You may remember that Mr. Grenn was soundly defeated by now-Representative Sara Rasmussen in 2018.

Are sour grapes on the menu here?

In a ranked-choice general election, voters would "rank” their choice of four candidates for a given office. Candidates garnering more than fifty percent of the vote in the first ranking would win office immediately. If no one person wins a majority, candidates are whittled away, and ranking continues until one individual is declared the winner.

This initiative is backed nearly entirely by outside donations; its major supporter is a Colorado-based organization which gave $500,000 in one pop last month. - More..
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Corruption By Dominic Salvato - Sealaska shareholders are the one's to blame for allowing a handful of native leaders to convert our combined assets into personal wealth for Sealaska's management. Compensation for executives have topped 75 million dollars in the last decade.

We allowed Sealaska's management to continue past the original date for the stock to be placed under each shareholder control. Shareholder never voted to continue. Managements decided to continue because the shares were worthless.

For fifty years we have allowed the corporation to isolate us further from control of our stock, by raising the total percentage of voting stock to sell, form 50% plus1, to 75% plus 1. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

MUCH WORSE THAN WATERGATE By David G Hanger - The words of Michelle Goldberg really say it all, “This administration is rotten to the core and fundamentally disloyal to the country it purports to serve. So is every politician who still tries to explain its corruption away.” This is much worse than Watergate because what we have here is treason specifically intended to benefit the Russians and Trump’s handler, Vlad Putin.

Many of you are the children and the grandchildren of the folks who were here in the 1950s and the 1960s, and a whole bunch of them were John Birchers, right-wing extremists who obsessively believed in a vast “international Communist conspiracy” that in fact never existed. The Russians, the Chinese, and the Vietnamese, for example, are not friends. Albeit over the top with their obsession to a considerable degree, they were quite correct in identifying Russia as an enemy. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

jpg Opinion

Russia and China Missile Threats By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump is correct in withdrawing from the intermediate range missile treaty with Russia enacted 30 years ago, because Russia broke the treaty with its missile development. 

Another problem with the treaty was it did not prevent non-treaty countries from developing intermediate range missiles; and China has developed and deployed intermediate range missiles. The Chinese missiles can outperform our defensive systems that protect Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

As a former Navy enlisted and officer (Penn State 1963, NROTC) I am concerned with the Chinese missiles designed to thwart the capabilities of our aircraft carriers, because the anti-ship missiles can be launched beyond the range of our carrier based aircraft.  This places us at a disadvantage countering Chinese threats in the Far East. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 17, 2019

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