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December 04, 2022

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Alaska: Governor Dunleavy Poised to Sue EPA over Bristol Bay Veto - In comments submitted earlier this year, Governor Mike Dunleavy called on EPA Region 10 to withdraw its proposed action to prohibit the development of the Pebble deposit in the Bristol Bay area.

Instead, Region 10 has recommended that EPA finalize it; EPA now has 60 days to make a final decision.

If finalized, this action sets a dangerous precedent.  It vetoes a permit that has not been issued and imposes a blanket prohibition on development over 309 square miles of Alaska-owned land.  Alarmingly, it lays the foundation to stop any development project, mining or nonmining, in any area of Alaska with wetlands and fish-bearing streams.

“The State of Alaska has the duty, under our constitution, to develop its resources to the maximum in order to provide for itself and its people, so it’s important that any and all opportunities be explored in furtherance of this idea,” said Governor Dunleavy. “The recent decision on the Pebble mine, which is solely located on State land, is the wrong decision. The State of Alaska does resource development better than any other place on the planet and I challenge others to prove that wrong. Our opportunities to show the world a better way to develop our resources should not be unfairly pre-empted by the Biden administration under a solely political act. This sets a very troubling precedent for the State and the country. If this goes unchallenged, this issue will become precedent-setting, potentially for other states as well.”

“This is an incredible power for a federal agency—staffed by unelected officials, unaccountable to Alaskans—to have,” said Jason Brune, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. - More...
Sunday PM - December 04, 2022

Alaska: EPA Takes Next Step in Consideration of Protections for Bristol Bay - On December 1, 2022, EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator Casey Sixkiller transmitted to EPA’s Office of Water Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox, a Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Recommended Determination to prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed as disposal sites for certain discharges of dredged or fill material associated with developing the Pebble Deposit.  

After evaluating an extensive record, including scientific and technical information covering nearly two decades, and after considering public comments received on the 2022 Proposed Determination, EPA Region 10 determined that these discharges would be likely to result in unacceptable adverse effects on salmon fishery areas in the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds of Bristol Bay. 

“EPA Region 10’s action represents the third step in EPA’s four-step Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process,” said EPA Region 10 Administrator Casey Sixkiller. “If affirmed by EPA’s Office of Water during the fourth and final step, this action would help protect salmon fishery areas that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries, and that have sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, supporting a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world.”

The Recommended Determination proposes to prohibit the specification of certain waters of the United States in the South Fork Koktuli River and North Fork Koktuli River watersheds as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material for the construction and routine operation of the mine plan described in Pebble Limited Partnership’s June 8, 2020 CWA Section 404 Permit application, as well as future proposals to construct and operate a mine to develop the Pebble Deposit that would result in the same or greater levels of loss or change to aquatic resources. The Recommended Determination also proposes to restrict the use of certain waters of the United States in the South Fork Koktuli River, North Fork Koktuli River, and Upper Talarik Creek watersheds as disposal sites for the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with future proposals to develop the Pebble Deposit that would result in adverse effects similar or greater in nature and magnitude to those associated with the 2020 Mine Plan. - More...
Sunday PM - December 04, 2022

SitNews Front Page Photo By RACHELLE SPEIGHTS

Tongass Sunset
SitNews Front Page Photo By RACHELLE SPEIGHTS ©2022
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Alaska: Bristol Bay Tribes Urge EPA to End the Threat of Pebble Mine ; EPA’s “Recommended Determination” follows extensive public support for durable protections for Bristol Bay and a record-breaking fishing season - On December 01, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a “Recommended Determination” detailing potential Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay that could address the threat of the Pebble Mine. 

The release of the Recommended Determination marks the closest the EPA has ever been to finalizing Clean Water Act 404(c) protections for Bristol Bay. The next (and final) step in that process is for the agency to determine whether to issue a “Final Determination” formalizing protections.

“We welcome the Environmental Protection Agency advancing the process for protecting Bristol Bay,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director for the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “After twenty years of Pebble hanging over our heads, the Biden Administration has the opportunity to follow through on its commitments by finalizing comprehensive, durable protections for our region as soon as possible. We look forward to reviewing the EPA’s Recommended Determination in greater detail to ensure it achieves the goal of protecting our people and region from the threat of the Pebble Mine.”

Last May, the EPA released its “revised proposed determination” outlining potential protections for Bristol Bay and took public comments through the summer on their proposal. The agency received more than half a million comments urging the agency to stop Pebble Mine and enact long-sought watershed protections supported by the region’s Tribes, commercial and sport fishery groups, conservation organizations, and millions of Americans. - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

Alaska: Alaska State Fire Marshal Warns of Dangers Posed by Heating Sources; Wood and oil stoves, space heaters, and heat lamps can cause fires if used improperly - As temperatures continue to drop across the state, many Alaskans are firing up their stoves, space heaters and heat lamps. Whether in the house, a barn, shed, or chicken coop, these heating sources have the potential to cause a fire. The Department of Public Safety and the Division of Fire and Life Safety would like to remind residents there are things they can do to help prevent fires. Remember to keep flammable materials such as, blankets, Christmas trees, firewood, flammable liquids, straw, hay, and feed away from heat sources. 

“The Alaska State Fire Marshal’s Office would like to encourage Alaskans to take steps to lower the risk of fire at their home and other buildings on their property during the winter season. Make sure to check that all electrical equipment is free from damage and properly used,” said Acting State Fire Marshal Lloyd Nakano. 

Nakano said, “Check to ensure that all smoke alarms are working and that you have a charged fire extinguisher easily accessible. Taking simple steps can help keep you, your family, and your animals safe from fire.” - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

SitNews Front Page Photo By STEVE SPEIGHTS

Ketchikan Sunrise
In the foreground is the Ketchikan's shipyard, Vigor Shipyard.
SitNews Front Page Photo By STEVE SPEIGHTS ©2022
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Alaska: Alaska Office of Elder Fraud & Assistance Secures Largest Judgment of Elder Fraud in State’s History - On November 13, 2022, the Alaska Office of Elder Fraud & Assistance won a $1.47M judgment against Defendants James Vernon and Carla Sigler, formerly of Yakutat, now living in Bosque County, Texas, for the financial exploitation of Yakutat resident Neva Ogle. The Siglers took $700K in funds from Mrs. Ogle over the course of two years. They used $380K of the funds to fund a cash purchase of a five-bedroom home with a swimming pool for themselves in Texas and spent the rest of the funds to retire early and to purchase a new truck and other items for themselves and their family members. 

Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally granted punitive damages in the amount of $450K against the Siglers, stating that the specific and general deterrence of elder fraud in Alaska is an important goal recognized by our legislature. “The deceitful financial maltreatment of Alaskan elders is corrosive of the values of our community at large. A message must be sent that the swindling of elders is offensive to this community. The protection of Alaskan elders is strengthened through deterrence and punishment of those who take advantage of these valuable and vulnerable citizens of our state.”  - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

Alaska: USDA Expands Local Foods in School Meals through Cooperative Agreement with Alaska - The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently announced it has signed a cooperative agreement with Alaska for more than $520,000 to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

 Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (DEED) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

 “This cooperative agreement supporting Alaska schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.” - More...
Sunday - December 05, 2022

Newly found photos shed light on 1910 Denali climb

Newly found photos shed light on 1910 Denali climb
Sourdough4 - In this photo, previously unpublished until now as far as is known, Charlie McGonagal, left, and Pete Anderson, two of the four-man Sourdough Expedition that ascent of Denali’s North Peak, are shown.
Photo from UAF Rasmuson Library archive


Alaska: Newly found photos shed light on 1910 Denali climb By ROD BOYCE - An unexpected find in a University of Alaska Fairbanks archive has revealed more information about the oft-debated April 1910 Sourdough Expedition climb of Denali, North America’s highest mountain.

Photographs found by UAF Geophysical Institute professor Matthew Sturm in the university’s Rasmuson Library archives in October show the climbing party at about 16,500 feet — far higher on the 20,310-foot mountain than previously seen.

“The photographs took my breath away. We have never seen pictures of these men climbing,” Sturm said. “This is photographic evidence that we've never had before.”

The New York Times on June 5, 1910, carried three full pages about the climb under the headline “First account of conquering Mount McKinley” and included a photograph made at about 11,000 feet. Other photographs were from lower elevations and included a fake photo created to illustrate the summit.

The Times coverage included a lengthy overview story by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Editor W.F. Thompson and a separate detailed account of the ascent told by climb organizer Tom Lloyd. The News-Miner had been a big booster of the summit claims.

Within weeks of the Times story, however, the climb was largely discredited as hoax and remained so until 1918 when Hudson Stuck published his book on his successful 1913 ascent of the south - and higher - summit.

The sourdoughs -  Lloyd, Pete Anderson, Charlie McGonagal and Billy Taylor - didn’t know at the time that the North Peak is about 850 feet lower than the South Peak. The 1910 Sourdough Expedition climb is believed to be the first to summit either peak. 

The archive photographs and Sturm’s additional research in the diaries of the Stuck party support the claim by Sourdough Expedition members that they indeed planted a flag on the North Peak in 1910. All of Stuck’s team saw the 14-foot spruce flagpole three years after it was erected.

Sturm and climbing partner Philip Marshall used maps and digital software to locate where each of the photographs in the Times story and the newly discovered photographs were taken.  - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

Moose such as this one, photographed this year near Whitehorse in the Yukon, may have been present in Alaska as long as people have.
Photo by Ned Rozell


Alaska: Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival By NED ROZELL - When a great deal of Earth’s water was locked up within mountains of ice, our ancestors scampered across a dry corridor from what is today Siberia over to Alaska. Those adventurous souls may have been accompanied by another creature that needed wood — the moose.

That is the notion of Pam Groves, a scientist who recreates ancient landscapes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She recently wrote a paper on moose occupation of Alaska’s North Slope based on ancient moose antlers and bones she has found during decades of floating northern waterways. Dan Mann and Mike Kunz co-authored the paper.

The North Slope is the top third of Alaska, spreading north of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean. Mostly coated with tundra plants, the North Slope is a few hundred miles north of the ideal moose habitat of the boreal forest, which stretches in a wide belt from western Alaska to eastern Canada. 

The North Slope offers a marginal place for a moose because far fewer willow shrubs grow there than in the boreal forest.

And willows are everything to moose; they are fast-growing whips of protein and nutrients that clog river valleys of the boreal forest and, to a lesser extent, the North Slope. A biologist once estimated a moose needs to eat enough frozen willow buds to fill a garbage bag to survive each winter day.

Far-northern places have hosted willows for some time. In her recent paper, Groves wrote of the Valley of the Willows near a now-abandoned village site on the Ikpikpuk River. U.S. Navy explorer W.L. Howard in 1886 wrote of brush there “as large as my wrist.”

“The Indigenous people with whom Howard travelled routinely camped in the Valley of the Willows probably because it was sheltered from the wind and possessed abundant firewood,” Groves wrote.

Groves said moose food might have existed in places like Valley of the Willows for many thousands of years. 

For hard evidence of moose in that hungry country, she and UAF’s Mann have collected moose bones and antlers with permits and support from officials with the Bureau of Land Management. They have picked up the bones while floating northward-flowing rivers each year for the past few decades. Spring snowmelt swells the easy-moving rivers to the point where they erode frozen bones from riverbanks.

Moose bones and antlers have made up just 2% of the 5,000 hardened remains of mostly extinct ice-age creatures Groves and Mann have collected over the years. The most numerous bones belong to horses that once grazed the northern grasslands. In 2012, they found an almost complete steppe bison thawing from a riverbank. It had last breathed air 43,500 years ago. - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

Ward Lake: Trumpeter Swan

Ward Lake: Trumpeter Swan
One of several swans visiting Ward Lake.
SitNews Front Page Photo By SUSAN HOYT ©2022
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Columns - Commentary



DAVE KIFFER: Digging into the holiday meal alternatives  - This is the time of the year when people start publishing helpful hints about how to make do when your store is out of key items for your favorite holiday repast.

Speaking of which, why do they call it "repast?" Shouldn't it be "refuture?" I mean, it is something you are going to make to eat in the future not in the past. The past has already been digested. Or at least, to misquote Faulkner, it is still being digested. Festering away in some bowel fold.

But I digress.

Or maybe we call it "repast" because 99.9999 percent of all holiday meals are something that we have been eating for 50 years now and no one can remember why? - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022


JOHN L. MICEK: SENATE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE VOTE STILL A STEP ON LONG ROAD TOWARD FULL JUSTICE - It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this week’s U.S. Senate vote codifying protections for same-sex and interracial marriage as both a triumph of bipartisanship and fundamental decency.

It’s also difficult to overstate, sadly, how much further we have to go to ensure full equality for LGBTQ Americans.

First, the good news.

Last Tuesday, 61 lawmakers – including 12 Republicans – voted to approve the bill, which came in response to fears that a U.S. Supreme Court, perfectly content to topple abortion rights, might next come for marriage equality as well. The bill must still go back to the U.S. House which, for now, remains in Democratic hands.

The moral arc of the universe, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King famously remarked, is long, but always bends toward justice. - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

DICK POLMAN: BIDEN AT AGE 80: HOW OLD IS TOO OLD? - On the campaign trail back in March 2020, Joe Biden said he viewed himself as merely “a bridge” to the next generation of Democratic leaders, whom he called “the future of this country.”

By all indications, however, the president seems determined to extend his bridge construction deadline to 2028. He’s reportedly mapping plans for a re-election bid (“My intention is that I will run again”), emboldened by the most successful midterm results for a president’s party in decades. He would be 82 when the 2024 ballots are cast. At the close of a second term, barring bad health or worse, he would be 86.

Biden just turned 80, and maybe that’s fine, maybe it’s enough to quip that 80 is the new 70, especially for a guy with a disciplined exercise regimen and the best health care in the western world. But most Americans don’t seem impressed; in an autumn Associated Press survey, 58 percent of voters said that he lacks the mental capability to serve effectively. And we certainly know what his political opponents think. Here’s Jim Geraghty, in the conservative National Review: - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

MONEY MATTERS: THE DEATH OF CRYPTO By MARY LYNNE DAHL , Certified Financial Planner ™ Retired - Cyber money, or crypto, as it is more commonly called, has finally fallen from grace. It is no longer the darling of daring and innovative geniuses whose techno expertise wowed Silicon Valley venture capitalists and greed motivated investors alike. In November of last year, crypto skyrocketed to a value of almost 3 trillion dollars and has now crashed to a low of a little more than 800 billion dollars. That is 2 billion, 200 million dollars that has vanished into thin air in less than a year. Where did that much money disappear to? For more than a million investors and dozens of crypto trading firms, that money is gone for good.

In August of this year, I wrote an article for Sitnews titled “Is Now the Time to Invest in Cyber Currencies?” If you read it (see Sitnews August 2022 archives) you may recall that the answer was no, that was not the time to invest in cyber currencies/crypto. If fact, the time to invest in crypto is never. Crypto currencies are nothing more than a complex, high-tech way to gamble. They appeal to greed, first and foremost. They also appeal to criminal activities because they are unregulated, unsupervised, below the tax radar and promise secrecy. In the November 2022 issue of The Economist, a highly respected journal of all things economic, as well as other subject matters, refers to crypto as “a casino, high octane, shiny and tempting”. - More..
Sunday - December 04, 2022


FINANCIAL FOCUS: COLA is sweet for Social Security recipients Provided By BEN EDWARDS, AAMS® - If you receive Social Security, you’ve probably already heard that your checks in 2023 will be bigger – considerably bigger, in fact. How can you make the best use of this extra money?

Here’s what’s happening: For 2023, there’s an 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits – the largest increase in 40 years. Also, the monthly Medicare Part B premiums are declining next year, to $164.90/month from $170.10/month, which will also modestly boost Social Security checks for those enrolled in Part B, as these premiums are automatically deducted.

Of course, the sizable COLA is due to the high inflation of 2022, as the Social Security Administration uses a formula based on increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). So, it’s certainly possible that you will need some, or perhaps all, of your larger checks to pay for the increased cost of goods and services. But if your cash flow is already relatively strong, you might want to consider these suggestions for using your bigger checks: - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022


jpg Political Cartoon: Biden Silent on China and Iran Human Rights Abuses

Political Cartoon: Biden Silent on China and Iran Human Rights Abuses
by Dick Wright©2022, PoliticalCartoons.com
Distributed to subscribers for publication by CagleCartoons.com

jpg Political Cartoon: China’s Crackdown

Political Cartoon: China’s Crackdown
by Rivers©2022, CagleCartoons.com
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jpg Political Cartoon: Biden's Age

Political Cartoon: Biden's Age
By Dick Wright©2022, PoliticalCartoons.com
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jpg Political Cartoon: Royal Accents
by Christopher Weyant©2022, The Boston G

Political Cartoon: Royal Accents
by Christopher Weyant©2022, The Boston Globe, MA
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jpg Political Cartoons: Election interference

Political Cartoons: Election interference
by Rivers©2022, CagleCartoons.com
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jpg Political Cartoons: Santa Dad

Political Cartoons: Santa Dad
by Gary McCoy©2022, Shiloh, IL
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jpg Opinion

It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource By Deven Mitchell, Executive Director, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation - This October, I was provided the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true. From meeting with Governor Hammond with my third-grade class in 1976, to receiving the benefits of the Fund’s existence throughout my life, to now having the experience to manage the Corporation is truly special.
To tell a little about myself, I was born in Cordova and raised in Yakutat and Juneau, where my wife Erin and I reside and raised our two sons. For several decades, I served as Alaska’s Debt Manager and Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority.

In my career, I often explained and highlighted the strengths of the Permanent Fund and the talented staff of the Corporation. I am pleased to report that during my first month on the job, my long-standing belief in an organization comprised of top-notch talent and a culture of outperformance has been validated.

As we count down to 2023, I encourage you to pause and reflect on what a remarkable decision Alaskans made in 1976 when they voted to set aside money that they could have spent then to ensure future generations of Alaskans would also benefit from the state’s resource wealth. Think about that, every year since the Fund was established, the people of Alaska have made do with less to ensure the Permanent Fund would be able to benefit future generations. That intergenerational foresight for saving and investing a portion of the state’s revenue has helped Alaskans in the past, is supporting us today, and is being managed to continue providing in the future. - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

jpg Analysis

Jobs are up! Wages are up! So why am I as an economist so gloomy? By EDOUARD WEMY - In any other time, the jobs news that came down on Dec. 2, 2022, would be reason for cheer.

The U.S. added 263,000 nonfarm jobs in November, leaving the unemployment rate at a low 3.7%. Moreover, wages are up – with average hourly pay jumping 5.1% compared with a year earlier.

So why am I not celebrating? Oh, yes: inflation.

The rosy employment figures come despite repeated efforts by the Federal Reserve to tame the job market and the wider economy in general in its fight against the worst inflation in decades. The Fed has now increased the base interest rate six times in 2022, going from a historic low of about zero to a range of 3.75% to 4% today. Another hike is expected on Dec. 13. Yet inflation remains stubbornly high, and currently sits at an annual rate of 7.7%.

The economic rationale behind hiking rates is that it increases the cost of doing business for companies. This in turn acts as brake on the economy, which should cool inflation.

But that doesn’t appear to be happening. A closer dive into November’s jobs report reveals why.

It shows that the labor force participation rate – how many working-age Americans have a job or are seeking one – is stuck at just over 62.1%. As the report notes, that figure is “little changed” in November and has shown “little net change since early this year.” In fact, it is down 1.3 percentage points from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

This suggests that the heating up of the labor market is being driven by supply-side issues. That is, there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs being advertised.

Companies still want to hire – as the above-expected job gains indicate. But with fewer people actively looking for work in the U.S., companies are having to go the extra yard to be attractive to job seekers. And that means offering higher wages. And higher wages – they were up 5.1% in November from a year earlier – contribute to spiraling inflation. - More....
Sunday - December 04, 2022

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