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Southeast Alaska News

Sitka man gets medal, 6 decades late

Sun, 2014-07-20 00:07

SITKA — After a delay of more than six decades, Mike Perensovich has received the prestigious Air Medal for the some 200 missions he flew as a flight engineer in the Berlin Airlift.

To say he’s been patient would be an understatement.

“I waited for a while, but then I forgot about it,” said the longtime Sitkan. “It wasn’t until later years, and a friend said if I didn’t press it, they would.”

read more

NASA project to check out summer sea ice

Sun, 2014-07-20 00:07

FAIRBANKS — NASA is using a high-altitude, converted U2 spy plane to test technology over Arctic sea ice for future applications.

The long-winged ER-2 jet is based in Fairbanks for three weeks for testing and developing technology for satellite applications, KUAC reported.

The three-week project using airborne laser technology will allow scientists to get a preview of a satellite mission NASA plans to launch in 2017. It’s also a follow-up to a 2012 scan in Iceland using the laser technology, known as Lidar.

read more

Refinery owner loses water cleanup legal challenge

Sun, 2014-07-20 00:07

FAIRBANKS — A North Pole refinery owner has lost its latest challenge in a long-running attempt to get a petroleum company to pay for groundwater contamination that contributed to the refinery’s closure.

Flint Hills Resources Alaska cannot pursue damages against the former owner of its North Pole refinery, Williams Alaska Petroleum, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

In November 2013, Judge Michael P. McConahy determined that the statute of limitations had expired by the time Flint Hills had filed its lawsuit. He made the same ruling this month.

read more

Gull-egg harvest gets boost from Congress

Sat, 2014-07-19 11:56

Glaucous-winged gulls nest in Glacier Bay. Federal legislation allows Hoonah Tlingits to harvest their eggs.(Courtesy National Park Service.)

A bill allowing traditional gull-egg harvests in Glacier Bay is on its way to the president’s desk. It’s the culmination of years of lobbying to resume a centuries-long practice.

The measure is one of 16 included in a package of land-use bills recently passed by the United States Senate. It’s already made it through the House, so it just needs President Obama’s signature to become law.

The bill is called the Huna Tlingit Traditional Gull Egg Use Act. Hoonah, 40 miles west of Juneau, is across Icy Strait from Glacier Bay. Many current residents are Tlingits who call the area their ancestral home. (Huna is the traditional spelling; Hoonah is contemporary.)

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/18GullEggs.mp3

During a congressional hearing earlier this year, Hoonah Indian Association Tribal Administrator Robert Starbard said the bill will restore a practice that should have never been blocked.

“Since time immemorial, the collection of gull eggs on South Marble Island and elsewhere in Glacier Bay has been a traditional cultural practice of the Tlingit people,” he said.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was established in 1925. Harvesting continued until the 1960s, when a migratory bird treaty and park regulations changed the rules.

(Read about Tlingit history in Glacier Bay.)

Limited harvests have been allowed. But Starbard says they should be managed by Hoonah Tlingits, not federal agencies.

“What is being conserved is not biodiversity in the abstract, but a living community that requires, as a condition of its continued existence, the sustainable management of the resources on which it depends,” he said.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young authored versions of the bill, with support from Senator Mark Begich. It’s been in the works for several years.

The gull-egg act has been opposed by the Sierra Club.

Lindsey Hajduk is with that organization.

“The members of the Sierra Club Alaska Chapter had been somewhat concerned about just the precedent of allowing any collection of wildlife from any national park,” she said.

Board member Jack Hession campaigned against the gull-egg bill.

“There is a risk that if Glacier Bay is opened Alaska Native people living around these other parks might seek the same privilege. And who knows how far this could go,” Hession said in a 2011 interview. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

He said several locations outside the park and closer to Hoonah were better collection sites.

But Hajduk says the club stepped back from that position.

“I think it’s a safe assessment to say that it’s not up to us where we recommend traditional collection of subsistence resources. It’s really up to those tribes and tribal members that are engaged in it to decide,” she said.

The act applies to only glaucous-winged gulls, among the most common of Southeast’s seabirds. It also limits the number and location of egg harvests. (Read more about egg harvesting in the bay.)

Author writes about Southeast Alaska in new book

Fri, 2014-07-18 16:57

At 85 years-old, David Olsen has lived a long, full life. He’s worked on boats, skippered a cannery tender by the age of 21. He even did a stint in the CIA. Although, some of that information is still confidential. “Yes, I have it in the book. It’s one chapter. It’s been cleared by central intelligence. We had to back and forth because they didn’t like some of things that I had put in. Why? I don’t know. It’s over 50 years old. And the people I was writing about were mostly dead, but they found something to quibble about. I guess that’s their job.”

What he can tell you about is growing up in Ketchikan. Olson’s family moved there from Minnesota in 1944. His dad got the job as a seminarian to the Norwegian Seaman’s Mission. Olson says, back then, Ketchikan was a different place. “Oh, my. The changes are immense.”

In the 1940s, the population was about half of what it is now. Norwegian was widely spoken as a first language. “There was no ferry system. And when I was a boy, the three main occupations were fishing, logging, and mining. And I always thought if those three went down the tubes that would be the end of Ketchikan, but then the cruise ships arrived and that changed everything.”

Olson’s father was influential around town. He taught Norwegian immigrants English during his tenure as a Lutheran minister. “He was also a political activist. He didn’t seek causes but when the causes surfaced; he took on those causes and took the bull by the horns.”

Reverend Roy Olson in the 1930s

One day, at a school board meeting, Olson’s dad was presented with a problem: a brothel on Creek Street had opened up. “Some of the young lads in Ketchikan High School went up the creek and came home with a lot of pain. The doctors in town had to treat them they were not very happy with that situation.” The young men had contracted STDs at time when little was known about venereal disease. Doctors didn’t even have the penicillin to treat them. “The only way was to shut them down.”

First, Olson’s dad went to the Ketchikan City Council. But the male-led group wouldn’t hear of closing the brothel’s doors, so Reverend Roy Olson organized the women. “And it was an ecumenical movement. The Methodist. The Episcopalians. The Lutherans. The woman all joined forces. They had the pleasure of going to the dock and watching a number of those nice ladies depart to go back to Seattle.”

Olson left Ketchikan at the age of 17 but continued to work on boats in Southeast Alaskan waters. His new book chronicles his experiences, along with the lives of his father, brother, and daughter. Olson has outlived all three. “I started thinking; If I was really the sole survivor. If I didn’t tell those stories of those book worthy lives, who would?

He began writing Bonded by Water eight years ago.

You can buy David Olson’s book on his website: Bondedbywater.com

A whale of a tale: Sitka pilot goes viral

Fri, 2014-07-18 16:27

Murray’s float plane coming in for a landing, and the mist of the whale’s breath.
(Courtesy of Thomas Hamm/Break.com).

A 48-second YouTube video catching the swift reactions of a Sitka float plane pilot went viral this past week. KCAW tracked down the pilot and the man who took the video to bring us the full story of how a routine flight in Southeast Alaska made waves on news programs and websites around the world.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/18whale.mp3

(News clip from the Today Show) And a close call for the pilot of a pontoon plane in Alaska who just narrowly missed landing right on a humpback whale near Angoon…take a look here you’ll see just before the plane hits the water, the pilot then pulls up and then lands safely a few feet later…

“My name is Rob Murray. I’m chief pilot at Harris Air in Sitka.”

On the morning of July tenth, Murray was flying four passengers into the small Southeast community of Angoon, coming down for a landing in Mitchell Bay.

“I didn’t see the whale…I was definitely looking right at the spot where the whale turned out to be…the first thing that I saw was just before touchdown was the spray, so thank god the whale decided to exhale because that is what I saw,” said Murray.

San Diego resident Thomas Hamm was waiting for a flight back to Juneau when he decided to whip out his smart phone to record Murray coming in for a landing. A pilot himself, Hamm said he started recording because “I love airplanes and I’ve never really seen a floatplane land,” he said.

While he was focused on the landing plane…”Everybody else was looking at the whale, which had been in that area all morning, for at least for the hour we had been down there awaiting the plane to come in.”

“With the salmon returning there have been a lot of whales around so they’ve been on everyone’s mind all over the region,” said Murray. “Flying floatplanes for sure…and it was obvious when the whale spouted that that is what it was….so it was just a basic go-around technique just full power and get the nose up so you can climb and keep from touching down.”

In the video, the plane nearly lands on the surfacing whale, but the pilot yanks up the nose, hovering above the surface just long enough to pass the whale before lightly touching down.

“The only thing he said was that it drenched the windscreen,” said Hamm.

“It’s a fairly routine thing, most pilots practice it…and even the wheel planes that go into places like Kake and Hoonah where there are bear and deer crossing the runway,” said Murray. “It’s a fairly routine thing in southeast Alaska to have wildlife in the way where you want to land…it just happened to be a whale this time.”

After the plane landed, Hamm promised to send around a copy of the video, but his emails didn’t go through.

“And I thought, the only thing I can do is put it on YouTube, which I’ve never done before,” said Hamm. “I’ve never uploaded a video…ever. So I think that works great. So I send a link and as soon as that happened I started getting views on it. I thought that’s interesting, I don’t even know these people who are viewing it.”

By Tuesday morning, NBC anchors Matt Lauer and Al Roker showed the video and cracked jokes about the near-miss on the Today Show. News outlets from CNN to to the Chicago Tribune to the United Kingdom’s Mirror and Telegraph online sites featured the story. As of July 18, the video had just under over half a million views on YouTube — and climbing.

But for Murray, it was just part of the job.

“I’ve been flying for ten years in southeast alaska and most of it been float flying I know there are old timers out there that have probably done this scores of times,” said Murray. “A lot of other pilots out there that are highly skilled that this kind of thing has happened to and it just happened to be a day where someone was filming…this time…yea, flying Southeast Alaska…it’s pretty fun.”

“The Alaska bush pilots are some of the most phenomenal pilots I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Hamm. “That’s probably the most important thing. The flights we took both to Hoonah and later to Angoon on these small planes… just the conditions, low ceilings, low visibilities, I don’t know, I was just beyond impressed by their skill.”

Hamm says he’s grateful for that skill — and so, most likely, is the whale.

Click here for a link to the YouTube video shot by Thomas Hamm. WARNING: CLIP CONTAINS OBSCENITY.

Seiner engine room floods, USCG responds

Fri, 2014-07-18 13:35

Coast Guard Station Ketchikan boarding team members help the crew of the fishing vessel Vernon dewater their engine room near Ketchikan on Friday. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Station Ketchikan)

A six-person seiner taking on water near Ketchikan Friday morning was helped out by U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and escorted back to port.

According to the Coast Guard, a call for help was received from the F/V Vernon, reporting about a foot of water in the engine room. Coast Guard Sector Juneau issued a marine information broadcast, and deployed two rescue boats from Station Ketchikan.

Coast Guard teams used four dewatering pumps to control the flooding, and later escorted the 65-foot purse seiner back to Ketchikan.

The cause of the flooding is under investigation.

POW bat tests positive for rabies, prompts warning

Fri, 2014-07-18 12:45

A Keen’s myotis bat. (ADF&G photo)

A bat infected with rabies was found earlier this month on Prince of Wales Island. The state Department of Health and Social Services sent out a public health advisory Friday, warning of the discovery and asking anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a bat to contact a doctor immediately for testing.

According to the advisory, biologists working on POW trapped several Keen’s myotis bats, and noticed that one appeared sick and was acting aggressively. It was euthanized and the remains were sent to the Alaska State Virology Lab for testing.

The bat tested positive for rabies Thursday. It is only the third bat ever to test positive for that disease in Alaska. The other two were discovered in Ketchikan in 1993, and on Prince of Wales Island in 2006.

The state strongly encourages people who find sick or dead bats to contact state wildlife or health officials, so that the animal can be tested.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Keen’s myotis bat is a medium-sized insect-eater with dark brown fur. They like mature, coastal forests, and tend to prefer cedar and hemlock trees. They are found only in the forests of Southeast Alaska.

A Keen’s myotis bat. (ADF&G photo)

Teen hikers found safe on POW mountain

Fri, 2014-07-18 12:11

Four Prince of Wales Island teenagers were found safe Thursday afternoon after they became lost while hiking Wednesday on a mountain trail.

According to Alaska State Troopers, two 14-year-olds and two 15-year-olds, all from Craig, became disoriented during the hike. A parent with hiking experience in the area spoke to the kids via cell phone and directed them to a clearing at the summit.

The parent hiked up the trail but was unable to reach the party. A team from Klawock Search and Rescue then climbed the mountain, but turned back due to fog.

Ketchikan Dispatch kept in contact with the hikers, who were able to make a fire to warm up as they stayed on the mountain overnight. Thursday morning, search crews hiked up again, found the kids and walked them out. The group was safely off the trail by about 12:30 p.m. Thursday.

Assembly to vote on OceansAlaska, library $

Fri, 2014-07-18 11:58

Public hearings regarding funding for OceansAlaska and the Ketchikan Public Library are on the agenda for Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting.

An ordinance was introduced July 7th to provide a $144,000 grant to OceansAlaska, and to direct Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst to investigate a possible $600,000 loan to the nonprofit shellfish seed producer. That loan would be paid back over 20 years.

In the agenda statement for that ordinance, borough staff writes that if the loan were successfully negotiated, the grant would be rolled into the loan, which would be paid out to OceansAlaska over four years. OceansAlaska officials hope to have details of the loan completed by this fall.

The ordinance regarding library funding also was introduced on July 7th. That measure calls for restoring more than $400,000 in borough funding for the city-owned library.

On a related note, in his report to the Assembly, Bockhorst asks for four-hands direction regarding a suggestion from the City Council that the borough consider taking over library powers.

Bockhorst writes that such a transfer would be complex. Some of the issues include who would take responsibility for the $4.3 million debt that the city holds for the new library, what method would be used for such a transfer, and how transferring library powers might affect taxpayers.

Bockhorst asks the Assembly whether he should investigate the issue further.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

TEDxSitka preview

Fri, 2014-07-18 11:21

Island Institute director Peter Jackson and teen TEDxSitka presenter Skyler Wright talk about Sunday’s TEDxSitka event and Wright’s presentation on growing up in an online world. Other presenters at the third annual TEDxSitka will be Winona LaDuke, Luis Urrea, Alan Weisman, Solomon Endlich, WT McRae and Andrew Hames.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140718_interview.mp3

USFS: Ice caves 'will soon collapse'

Fri, 2014-07-18 09:49

The U.S. Forest Service has issued a warning for people to stay away from the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves because the entrance “appears to be thinning dramatically and will soon collapse.”

The deterioration was noticed during a recent aerial observation of the popular Juneau attraction, and the danger posed to those who enter “has likely increased considerably,” the Forest Service stated in a news release. The cause is presumed to be heavy rainfall paired with “typical summer melting.”

read more

Bridge fishing to continue, at least for the present

Thu, 2014-07-17 22:46

The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday didn’t take any firm action to restrict fishing from the Stedman Street Bridge, but Council members asked city management to bring back some ideas to address concerns.

http://www.krbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/17BridgeFishing.mp3

Pretty much everyone who spoke during the Council meeting agreed that fishing should be allowed, in one way or another. There was some dissent about where, with some advocating the bridge and others suggesting that a new space be built, off the main pedestrian area.

But don’t take away people’s ability to fish. A number of people came to the lectern, speaking in favor of one of Alaska’s most revered activities.

But then there are the problems. While not advocating a ban on fishing – in fact, he said repeatedly that he absolutely doesn’t – Southeast Sea Kayaks owner Greg Thomas said his business takes tourists under the bridge, and those visitors are subjected to harassment on a regular basis.

“We’ve been bombarded with fishing sinkers, hooks, coins,” he said. “We call the police numerously. In fact, we called the police today. It’s just disgraceful.”

The kayak harassment was one of several problems brought up in an email that Ken Arriola sent to Council members, and his email prompted the discussion.

He also wrote that the sidewalk is congested because the fishermen are sharing it with thousands of tourists. Arriola also expressed concern about public safety, citing the potential for flying fish hooks to snag a passing tourist; and about the mess left behind when fishermen clean their catch on the sidewalk.

During Council discussion of the issue, Council Member DeAnn Karlson said she shares some of the concerns that have been raised. She said she’s been down in that area when the hooks were flying, and it’s a miracle that nobody has been seriously injured.

“I’ve also been down there before where I had to weave my way through the blood and guts,” she said. “It’s not endearing for our community.”

Mayor Lew Williams III suggested to City Manager Karl Amylon that the city start enforcing some of its own rules.

“Is there something under disorderly conduct, where we can put some bite into it?” he said.

Amylon answered that it’s possible, and asked whether the Council also wanted to cite people for littering if they clean fish on the sidewalk. Williams said yes, especially if there’s a sign telling them where the existing fish-cleaning station is located.

Council Member Marty West suggested better signage directing people to the cleaning station.

At the end of the discussion, the Council directed city management to talk to the state – which owns the bridge. And to talk with Stephen Reeve of Historic Ketchikan. Reeve also spoke during public comment, and offered his services to the city. Reeve said he’s already looked into some options, including floats that could be built and provided to the fishermen as an alternative.

However, Council Member Dick Coose was a little concerned about that proposal.

“If we do that, we need to think about who takes the liability,” he said. “If we build something, we might be on the hook.”

The Ketchikan City Council also had a long discussion about whether to start the annexation process for property off the Third Avenue Bypass that belongs to Paul and Theresa Hamilton.

The Hamiltons want to develop the property, and the borough has tentatively approved a preliminary play to subdivide. But, the plan first needs to be reviewed by the City of Ketchikan, because the property needs utilities and emergency service.

But, the property isn’t in city limits. The city code doesn’t allow water or wastewater service outside of city limits, and the city won’t provide fire protection or EMS outside of city limits, either.

City officials also are concerned about the condition of the primary access road to the sites.

The Hamiltons hired engineering contractor George Lybrand to help them get started developing the property. He argued that the city can provide those services, but if they won’t, just tell him so and he’ll take that information back to the borough. All he needs, he said, is a statement that “you’re not going to provide the utilities, your clear position on the maintaining the existing access that’s been in there a number of years, and clear statement that I asked for fire service and you’re not interested.”

The condition of the access road is one of the biggest problems. Public Works Director Clif Allen told the Council that it probably would cost at least seven figures to get that road up to minimum standards.

“Let’s just say it’s incredibly steep and I’ll say dangerous,” he said. “Lacking a geotechnical report, we don’t know that it’s stable enough for sustained heavy traffic. Be it truck traffic, fire truck traffic; it’s very questionable. It’s often referred to as logging roads, goat trails, they have a lot of nicknames, but it’s far short of a public roadway.”

Allen said that improving the access road would be the Hamiltons’ responsibility.

The motion to move forward with annexation passed following a 3-3 tie vote, broken by Mayor Williams. Council Members Dick Coose, Judy Zenge and KJ Harris voted no.

Council Member Matt Olsen was absent.

Work on HPR to stretch into September

Thu, 2014-07-17 16:11

Work on Sitka’s Halibut Point Road will extend into the fall, several weeks longer than originally planned, after contractors ran into some unexpected obstacles buried within the road bed.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/16HPRWORK1.mp3

 

Heath Barger knows that Sitka residents are not enjoying the drive down Halibut Point Road these days.

Barger is the project manager at ASRC McGraw, the lead contractor on the Halibut Point Road construction. “We understand this has been a burden to the general public, with their vehicles, riding the whoop-de-doos and bumps and dips,” he says. “But, like I’ve always said, thank you for your patience, and we’ll continue to address this as soon as we can.”

Work on the project began last May, and was originally supposed to be done by the end of this month.

But crews recently ran into a series of concrete patches buried beneath the road surface — patches that weren’t marked on any city or state maps. The unmarked sections date back perhaps to the 1980s, Barger says, when utilities were laid beneath the road and patched over with concrete instead of asphalt.

Concrete can damage the machinery being used in the project, which essentially pulverizes the road bed, mulching and mixing the asphalt and underlying materials so that it can be reshaped.

The work had to be halted while the contractor brought in ground-penetrating radar to map the patches; over thirty have been found so far, and some will have to be torn out before work can continue as planned.

In the meantime, Barger says, he knows the road isn’t fun to drive.

“It’s just a challenge right now because you have exposed areas that when it rains, like it has been, they just turn to potholes very quickly,” he says. “If I was somebody who didn’t know what was going on and driving to work, I’d be pretty upset myself.”

Drivers have been particularly annoyed by the dips in the road — or, as Barger calls them, the whoop-de-doos — where culverts were installed last year. Those dips will go away once crews can get back out there and reshape the road bed,  he says.

Halibut Point Road is a state road, and the project is being overseen by the state Department of Transportation. Barger says the total cost of the project is about $19-million.  So far, crews have completed phase one, resurfacing Halibut Point Road from the roundabout out to Seamart.

Barger hopes that phase two, running from Seamart to Granite Creek, will be done by the end of August.  The final phase, stretching from Granite Creek to the end of the road, should be finished by early fall. The contract deadline is September 15, but the discovery of the concrete patches might stretch work into October.

Barger says he knows it’s been inconvenient for drivers, but his crews are working as fast as they can.

“You gotta have a little patience with it,” he says. “And the end result,  you’ll be very pleased with the end result.”

That end result will be a completely new surface from downtown to the end of the road — and no more work on HPR for a good long while.

 

New, expanded bus schedule debuts Monday

Thu, 2014-07-17 15:38

Starting Monday, Ketchikan’s bus system is expanding service north, south and within city limits. The schedule change is an attempt to reduce — maybe even eliminate — summertime delays while at the same time serving more people.

http://www.krbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/16BusChanges.mp3

Here’s a really brief, overly simplified summary of the changes: Green Line northbound will skip downtown and use the bypass, Green Line southbound will have new stop in the Carlanna area, at Fairview and Hill; the Silver Line will extend North End service to Clover Pass Church, and South End service to Roosevelt Drive; and a second, free summertime shuttle will run between downtown and The Plaza mall.

Now, to explain the details, here’s Transit Director Kyan Reeve. He’ll start with the Green Line, which tends to experience the worst summertime delays.

“After it stops by the library, rather than turning around and backtracking all the way through town, which takes quite a bit of time, it’s going to utilize that fancy bypass – that Third Avenue Bypass – it’s gonna shoot down that, take advantage of slightly faster speeds that are posted on the bypass, and then it’s going to drop right down to The Plaza mall,” he said.

That’s Green Line northbound. Heading south, the Green Line will offer a new bus stop in the upper Carlanna area.

“Because we’re making up that time by utilizing the bypass, something we’ve been wanting to do for years because it opens up service to about 1,000 more residents, is to get a little bit further up Carlanna,” Reeve said. “What we’ve done there historically is we’ve just gone along Baranof, which a lot of people will attest, it’s a bit of a walk, especially that steep hill, and during inclement weather, it’s a long ways up to the top.”

The new stop at Fairview Avenue and Hill Road will see a southbound bus come through every hour. The Green Line southbound then will connect to its old route on Baranof, and hit all the former stops on its way downtown.

Now for the Silver Line, which comprises two buses that previously just went back and forth along Tongass Highway. Now, though, the southbound bus will offer additional service to the public library.

“The only real change for Silver Line South is, it’s going to come in and then shoot up over the bypass once it hits The Plaza,” Reeve said.

Silver South then will stop at the library, and head downtown via Schoenbar Road, which provides additional service for the Gateway Recreation Center, as well.

The Silver Line also will now offer stops further north and south than previously. But only during peak commute times. Transit Project Coordinator Leslie Jackson said that opens up service to people who live beyond the former route limits, but who would like to use the bus to get to work.

“At two times of the morning – 6:01 and 7:01, we’ll be coming by to pick people up and take you into town,” she said. “And we’ll be coming back in the evening, at 5:01, 6:01 and 7:01. That’s an exciting service we have to offer, and just gives more opportunity to get those people into town and back out during work hours.”

The new commuter stop on the North End is at Clover Pass Church; and the new South End stop is at the top of Franklin on Roosevelt Drive.

Reeve said the commuter service could help save residents some money over time.

“A lot of people have come to me just recently, and said, realistically, it takes then a gallon of gas, each way, to drive in and out,” he said. “Anyone that’s getting 14-15 miles to a gallon will attest, if you live out there, at $4 plus a gallon, you’re looking at probably $8 a day round trip, depending on the fuel economy of your car.”

And for North End residents who still live too far from the bus stop to walk – especially on rainy days — Reeve said that Clover Pass Church has agreed to let commuters park during the day in a portion of the church lot, providing a park-and-ride service. Signs will indicate where bus riders should leave their cars.

All these changes aren’t without some sacrifice. Reeve said that the area between E.C. Phillips and the Discovery Center will have somewhat reduced service.

But, he said, the second free shuttle will supplement service in that area.

“That free downtown shuttle is going to go from Berth One and the Federal Building there, between there and The Plaza,” he said. “Probably the most important part of this service, the second shuttle, is going to allow, when the Silver Line comes in from Totem Bight packed full of visitors, once it gets to The Plaza, that little free shuttle will transfer folks off of the Silver Line onto the shuttle so that they can get to Berth 4, Berth 3, and that allows the Silver Line to have room for locals who may be at the rec center or library.”

The new shuttle will run between downtown and The Plaza every 20 minutes. A free shuttle that has been operating for the past few years in just the downtown core area will continue to run every 20 minutes, as well.

Tourist use of the borough’s transit system is the main reason for summertime delays. Often the buses are completely full and have no room for riders, who then have to wait for another bus. Plus, Reeve said, tourists aren’t familiar the system.

“A lot of times, a visitor will come on and they’ll ask the driver questions, they’ll ask other passengers questions and they’ll really slow down the system,” he said. “We try as best we can to speed that process, but the reality is, it’s time consuming.”

The new bus schedule starts on Monday. Reeve said members of Clover Pass Church have something special planned for commuters that morning.

“The church, actually is going to be serving coffee and tea and scones out there,” he said. “So, they’ll be on hand from about 5:45 a.m. until 7 a.m. that day. So there’ll be folks there to help you sort out where to park. And come a little early so you can grab a coffee and a scone.”

Jackson said there also will be coffee and pastries at the new South End commuter stop, as well, starting at about 7 a.m.

New route maps and schedules are available on the borough’s buses, through the transit department and online at http://www.borough.ketchikan.ak.us/145/Transit

B.C. mines get financial boost, one to open soon

Thu, 2014-07-17 14:06

The KSM, Red Chris and Galore Creek projects are among several planned for northwest British Columbia, near the Alaska border. (Map courtesy Seabridge Gold)

Canadian investors are putting millions of new dollars into mining projects near the Southeast Alaska border. They include the KSM and Tulsequah Chief prospects, which critics say could damage regional fisheries.

KSM is a multi-metal deposit about 150 miles northeast of Ketchikan. It’s near rivers or their tributaries that drain into the ocean northeast of Ketchikan and just south of the Alaska-B.C. border.

A group of Canadian financial firms are in the process of purchasing a million shares of Seabridge Gold, KSM’s parent company. They have an option to buy more, with the total new investment between $13 million and $15 million.

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That’s not a lot for a large mine. So Seabridge, headquartered in Toronto, is negotiating to find much larger investors.

“We continue to seek partners and we have confidentiality agreements with several,” says Brent Murphy, vice president of environmental affairs for Seabridge Gold.

Exploration continues at the KSM project, sometimes compared Western Alaska’s Pebble Prospect.

In an interview at a Vancouver, British Columbia, office, Murphy said the company has drilling rigs on site right now.Officials say the more-than-$5-billion project could be built and ready for operations by the end of the decade.

“We currently have about 35 to 40 people in camp and the drilling program will continue until the end of September,” he says.

Seabridge has numerous regulatory steps to complete. But officials say the more-than-$5-billion project could be built and ready for operations within five or six years.

Another near-border project is within a few months of completion.

The Red Chris Mine is already stockpiling copper and gold ore. The project, about 125 miles east of Juneau, is completing its onsite buildings, mill and tailings-storage system. It’s near the upper watershed of the Stikine River, which empties into the ocean near Petersburg and Wrangell.

Officials at its owner, Vancouver-based Imperial Metals, did not respond to repeated interview requests. But Imperial’s website says the $530 million project is expected to open within a few months.

Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine is close to opening. Camp housing is shown in this photo. (Courtesy Imperial Metals

Like most other near-border mines, development is being helped along by a transmission line to new hydroprojects in the province’s northwest.

“The ability to hook up to power is a very important part of development or any considerations for investment,” says Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia.

She says the line is part of a province-wide effort to boost mineral-extraction projects.

Another project in the Stikine watershed is the Galore Creek copper-gold mine.

Development has been suspended so co-owner NovaGold can focus on its Donlin Creek project in Western Alaska.

But Communications Vice President Mélanie Hennessey says exploration continues. During an interview in her Vancouver office, she said the corporation is reviewing drilling and other work conducted during the past two summers.

“It involves quite a bit of work, quite a bit of technical work on modeling. And so it’s more desktop work than it is physical, onsite work,” Hennessey says.

Identifying more ore would allow NovaGold and co-owner Teck Resources, also Vancouver-based, to find new investors.

“We do have a process underway to looking at selling a portion of our interest or our full interest in the asset,” she says.

Another near-border project is the Tulsequah Chief Mine, which Chieftain Metals Corp. is trying to reopen. It’s on a tributary of the Taku River, which ends near Juneau.

Toronto-based Chieftain recently announced it had acquired a nearly $20 million loan to look for ways to lower construction and operational costs.

Those and other mines have raised numerous concerns with Southeast Alaska environmental, fisheries and tribal organizations.

“It’s going to create a lot of acid-generating waste rock,” says Guy Archibald, mining and clean water program manager for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

He says that acidic water can disrupt transboundary rivers, and those nearby.

“It can have very significant impacts, starting with the fisheries. And that leads to problems with the economy, which leads to issues in the small communities, whether they can continue to maintain their populations,” Archibald says.

The group Rivers Without Borders is also highly critical of the projects’ impacts.

Several other mine projects are being explored or developed in the near-border region.

One is Schaft Creek, a copper, molybdenum and gold mine owned by Calgary, Alberta-based Copper Fox Metals and Vancouver’s Teck Resources. It’s in the Stikine River watershed, about 150 miles northeast of Petersburg.

Copper Fox says this summer’s work includes a series of studies aimed at finding more ore and reducing construction and mining costs.

(This report is one in an ongoing series on mines that could affect transboundary rivers flowing into Alaska and nearby waters.)

Reviving the Laundry Building

Thu, 2014-07-17 13:01

26 interns are currently putting a new roof on the Sheldon Jackson Campus’ historic Laundry Building, the first phase of a project to eventually turn the ruined building into a community cafe and art gallery. Crew Leader Larry Jackson and interns Stephanie Gilardi and Lisa Huang, members of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp’s Historic Renovation Program, visit the KCAW studio to talk about the program that brings young people to Sitka to help with renovation projects on the campus. The effort to revitalize the Laundry Building – the last building on the campus in need of restoration – is called the Save It or Lose It campaign. http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140717_interview.mp3

Couple takes over at Salvation Army in Petersburg

Thu, 2014-07-17 09:59

The Salvation Army in Petersburg welcomed two new pastors to town this summer replacing lieutenants Caleb and Christin Fankhauser. It’s the first appointment for 30-year-old John Birks and his wife, 33-year-old Mysti. They’re also bringing a 14-year-old daughter to town.

The couple has spent most of the past two years enrolled in a training program near Los Angeles. Before that, they hailed from Sacramento. Joe Viechnicki spoke with the Birks about their new appointment.
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The Salvation Army offers food assistance programs and runs the thrift store among other programs here in Petersburg. The church phone number is 772-4586.

Schedule slips on two state road projects in Petersburg

Thu, 2014-07-17 09:53

Two state road and sidewalk rehabilitation projects planned in Petersburg might not start until later this year or next year. The state plans to redo pavement and sidewalks along big portions of Haugen and South Nordic drives.
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Pavement, drainage and sidewalk replacement is planned for about one mile of South Nordic Drive, just south of downtown, between Haugen Drive and the ferry terminal. That work was expected to begin this summer.

KFSK file photo


“You know our schedule has slipped a little bit,”said Keith Karpstein, project manager for the Alaska Department of Transportation. “On Nordic Drive we did anticipate that that project would start late summer but we’re still working on trying to clear the right of way. We had quite a few temporary easements to pursue to be able to do that work with replacing the sidewalks. So we’re still working on trying to get that cleared at this point. We’re hoping to get that resolved within the next week or two to where we can certify the project and apply for our construction funding through the federal highways administration.”

Once that happens, the state can advertise the construction contract and seek companies willing to do the job. Karpstein said awarding the contract and getting a company to town will push the start date back into the fall. “So all in all we’re still a few months away from actually having a contractor mobilized to the site to start any work.”

That work is expected to cost anywhere between five and ten million dollars and it’s one of two planned for state-owned roadways in Petersburg. Five to 10 million dollars is also the engineers estimate for road and sidewalk replacement planned for 1-2 miles of Haugen Drive, from downtown up to the airport.

“That project we’re shooting to have it certified by the end of, or more like the mid to end of August, to where we’ll have it to the point where we could apply for the construction funding,” Karpstein said.

He said it’s possible the two contracts could be combined for companies to bid on both at the same time. Both are expected to be going on at the same time in 2015 which will impact vehicle and pedestrian traffic in Petersburg. “At this point it’s looking like the majority of both of those projects will take place next season and when the weather gets good enough to start work in the spring.”

Construction will be staged to allow traffic to get through during the work. The borough is also planning to redo a portion of the sewer line on South Nordic in conjunction with the road work. The state plans include a new driving surface for the potholed Louis Miller bridge over Hammer Slough. The state also hopes to extend the bike path from the airport to Sandy Beach but needs to find additional funding to pay for that portion of the work.

Arts Report

Thu, 2014-07-17 08:30

Kathleen Light, Marni Ricklemann  and Shelly Baumeister of the Arts Council  and Elizabeth Nelson of First City Players talk about events coming up this week, audition opportunities and more. Arts071714