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Southeast Alaska News

Southeast lawmakers prepare for session

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:04

Lawmakers are preparing for a legislative session full of debates on issues ranging from education funding and whether to pay down the state’s unfunded pension liabilities to the terms of an in-state gas line.

Southeast lawmakers are also focused on ensuring that coastal communities benefit from a proposed gas line as much as Railbelt communities, maintaining funding for the ferry system and completing the State Library Archives and Museums project.

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Sitka Native corp. ends fine arts scholarships

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:04

SITKA — The urban Native corporation in Sitka is no longer providing scholarships for shareholder’s children to attend the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

The board of Shee Atika Inc. has decided to focus its scholarships on educational programs that could lead to better jobs, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

Last year, the corporation spent about $600,000 on scholarships. Of that, about $20,000 went to the summer fine arts program.

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UAF station manager is a music aficionado

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

FAIRBANKS — One of Fairbanks’ top music aficionados, a guy who runs a radio station, promotes bands, hosts touring musicians at his house and has music playing during all waking hours, has zero interest in picking up an instrument.

Brady Gross, a 30-year-old full-time University of Alaska Fairbanks student, is general manager of the the student-run radio station at UAF, a position that has allowed him to promote, share and listen to music he loves.

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100 ukulele strummers to unite in Sitka for 'Firework'

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

SITKA — A Sitka woman hopes to make a big sound — with the help of 100 small stringed instruments.

Jeannie Jay, a ukulele enthusiast and Katy Perry fan, is leading the charge to organize a performance of 100 ukulele strummers playing and singing the Katy Perry song “Firework,” and capturing the event on video.

Jay’s big dream is to attract Perry’s attention, with the object of getting her interested enough to play a concert in Sitka. But at the very least, Jay hopes to inspire people in Sitka to pick up a uke, learn the song and be inspired by the words.

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Number of Alutiiq speakers on the rise

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

KODIAK — A revitalization project to increase the number of Alutiiq speakers in Kodiak is seeing dividends.

Alutiiq Museum executive director Alisa Drabek says there are now 33 elders who speak Alutiiq as a first language and up to 13 who speak it as a second language, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

“We’re not growing as many young fluent speakers, babies and elementary students, yet, but we are growing the next teachers,” Drabek said. “We’re progressing.”

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Alaska flu cases spike; season hasn't peaked

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:03

ANCHORAGE — Cases of the flu spiked in Alaska at the end of December and into January with the state-recorded count triple the number at the beginning of the season, officials said.

Despite the spike, health officials don’t think the season has peaked and are encouraging all people to get vaccinated.

“We haven’t peaked, we don’t think,” Donna Fearey, state nurse epidemiologist, told the Anchorage Daily News. “We expect to see further increase in activity.”

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Tourism courting Indian, South American travelers

Mon, 2014-01-20 01:02

ANCHORAGE — Armed with the allure of vast openness and pristine wildlife, Alaska’s tourism industry regularly courts potential visitors in the more densely-populated parts of the world.

Two of the hottest up-and-coming markets? India and South America, according to Alaska tourism officials.

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Residents of eroding village seek federal help

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

ANCHORAGE — Tony Weyiouanna remembers a time when people played beach baseball in his village on Alaska’s storm-battered western coast. Now, there’s barely enough room for hopscotch on Shishmaref’s eroding waterfront.

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'I'm Just a Bill' How legal review can affect a proposed law

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

Anyone who’s watched classic Schoolhouse Rock! animated shorts can sing through the steps of how a bill becomes a law. It starts as an idea, is then written up by a lawmaker and sent to the capital. It may die in committee or it may make it to the floor for a vote. If it passes the House, it’s sent over to the Senate, and vice versa, where the bill must again make it out of committee and to the floor for a vote.

The catchy “I’m Just a Bill” tune is a great tool for kids to learn about lawmaking, but up close the process seems anything but harmonious and simple.

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Second wave of prefile bills released

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

JUNEAU — Bills related to medical malpractice, the issuance of citations and genetically engineered seeds were among the second wave of measures filed Friday, ahead of next week’s legislative session.

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Federal agency seeks more detail in Shell Arctic drill plan

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:09

ANCHORAGE — The federal agency that oversees offshore petroleum drilling wants more information on plans for Arctic Ocean drilling in 2014 by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which has not decided whether it will resume operations this year.

Shell in 2012 drilled pilot holes and dug mudline cellars in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast and in the Beaufort Sea off the state’s north coast. The company was not allowed to drill into oil-bearing deposits because required response equipment was not on hand.

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Deportations dip by 30 percent in Pacific Northwest

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:08

SEATTLE — The number of immigrants residing in Washington, Oregon and Alaska deported from the United States dropped by more than 30 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year.

New figures released by U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement show that 4,525 people residing in the Pacific Northwest were removed from the country in fiscal year 2013. That’s compared to 6,733 people in 2012 and nearly 11,000 people in 2008.

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Candidates weigh in on minimum wage hike

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:07

JUNEAU — In the lead-up to this year’s elections, The Associated Press plans to publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues.

All the campaigns contacted — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell — agreed to participate. The first subject is on increasing the minimum wage.

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New wildlife refuge visitor center taking shape

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:06

KENAI — Despite an interruption from nature, construction for the new $6 million Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna is on schedule with the completion date set for the end of September.

A bald eagle nesting in the project area halted construction on the building for 45 days late last spring. Jason Hayes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project manager, said when the nest was abandoned in early June, refuge biologist Todd Eskelin gave the OK for work to continue.

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Sitka Assembly goes paperless with new iPads

Sun, 2014-01-19 01:06

SITKA — In an effort to cut down on providing printed materials, the Sitka assembly has gone paperless.

Each assembly member and top staffers have all been provided new iPads as part of the effort.

Previously each member received a packet of paper that was between 60 to 100 pages. Packets that included the agenda, minutes of the last meeting, ordinances and resolutions on the agenda, supporting information and staff recommendations were also made available to the media, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

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Poetry in motion, five days a week

Fri, 2014-01-17 23:25

Post by Daily Sitka Sentinel.

Our colleague Dan Olbrych made this short film about the press run at The Daily Sitka Sentinel, a family-owned newspaper celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. While the film has a nostalgic vibe, we’re pretty sure that — like fresh-baked bread or well-crafted construction — this kind of dedicated, thoughtful newspapering will never go out of style.

Land selection for Petersburg borough could be part of planning effort

Fri, 2014-01-17 15:57

Selection of state land by the new Petersburg borough could be part of the process for revising the community’s comprehensive plan. The city of Petersburg’s last plan revision was completed over a decade ago. Borough officials hope to hire a consulting firm to do an update starting later this year. Meanwhile, a committee considering the state parcels available for selection are hoping to provide some early input for that process.

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Petersburg’s new borough will be able to select at least 10 percent of the state land in the new borough boundaries, from the land not already chosen to be part of a Southeast state forest, or part of land grants to the Alaska mental health trust and the university system. Petersburg officials may seek legislative help to boost the amount the borough could ultimately choose.

In the meantime, a committee of borough residents and officials this winter is looking through the available land parcels identified by the state.

At a January 10th meeting, committee member Dave Kensinger wanted to make it clear the group was thinking in the long term for any benefits from new land selections. “People get excited when you change things that this isn’t something that is even going to happen in their lifetime,” Kensinger said. “But we wanna make for sure that maybe your grandkid might be a beneficiary of this because, you know… I mean we only got the land we got and they won’t be making any more land. So we have to think that this is a long-term deal and hopefully somebody 80 years from now can say that what we did now was, they’re really glad we did it.”

The land selection process itself could be a long one – and it could go hand in hand with long term planning for the future of the borough.

Petersburg’s community development director Leo Luczak told the committee that Wrangell included their land selection as part of that community’s comprehensive plan revision. “And as part of the community process with the surveys and the public meetings it would demonstrate this was approved by the majority of the community. I think it helped their case a lot,” Luczak said. “I think it’d be nice if this group could kind of identify some parcels so that whoever gets the comp plan isn’t going to know our area well but if these are places we feel that would be important,” he added.

Some of the available parcels have already piqued the interest of the committee, including some of the waterfront land, or areas that could be used for rock and gravel pits. Possible quarry sites on the list were identified by public works director Karl Hagerman on the committee’s request. And member Ron Buschmann wanted to get other input from borough staff. “I think another thing we should do and I brought up the rock pits of course last time, but go to all the department heads and say what lands to you anticipate, for example the electrical department, we may need in the future for substations for the electrical or transportation facilities, something like that, just the utility necessities.”

The committee also wants to identify potential harbor facility parcels. Committee members hope to visit some of the parcels this year and document their condition and possibilities for use.

As for the comprehensive plan, the borough plans to seek consulting firms interested in doing the work later this year. Such a plan looks at current land use and zoning along with future needs for the community for both property and infrastructure. Public hearings on the plan would be in the winter and spring of 2015.

Petersburg’s last comprehensive plan was completed in 2000 after more than two years of hearings and revisions of the document. A large part of that process focused on plans for publically owned land at Sandy Beach.
This week borough manager Steve Giesbrecht said he’s still working on the language to seek companies to do the consulting work. “I want something different than just a standard comprehensive plan,” Giesbrecht said. “I want something that’s actually really usable. And I’m not sure that I don’t want it in some ways combined with the harbor development plan, because the harbor’s so important to this community. And I’m not sure I wanna have one firm doing one thing, one firm doing another and then having them go at cross purposes. So trying to get the language right on this proposal to send out to consultants, I’m having a difficult time with it. I want it to be just right.”

Giesbrecht said he hoped to have that request for proposals completed for the assembly to consider in another month or so.

Southeast commercial halibut catch increased for 2014

Fri, 2014-01-17 15:49

Southeast Alaska’s commercial halibut catch limit is going up.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission concluded its annual meeting Friday in Seattle and approved catch limits for Alaska, British Columbia, and the west coast of the U.S.

The combined commercial and charter catch for Southeast’s Area 2C will be 4.16 million pounds. That includes a commercial catch limit of 3,318,720 pounds, that’s an increase of about 11 percent from last year. Southeast is the only area that will see an increased catch from 2013.

The commission also approved a catch sharing plan recommended by the North Pacific fishery Management Council and implemented by federal fishery managers for Southeast and the central Gulf. That’s a first. The catch sharing plan allocates pounds to the charter fleet and replaces the old system of a guideline harvest level for charter anglers. It’ll also allow annual purchases of commercial quota by the charter fleet.

That plan will mean a limit of over 761-thousand pounds to the Southeast charter fleet for 2014. As a result, charter clients will have a one-fish daily bag limit in Southeast with what’s called a “reverse slot limit.” Charter anglers in the Panhandle can keep a fish up to 44 inches, or 76 inches and longer, but not anything between those lengths.

Coast-wide the commissioners did not go with the roughly 30 percent catch reduction as presented by staff in December. The so-called “blue line” numbers, presented to the commission by staff, applies long-standing harvest percentages to the estimated legal-sized halibut for each regulatory area. Instead the commission approved a larger coastwide catch limit of over 27 and a half million pounds.

US commissioner Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, called it the toughest halibut commission meeting he’s attended. “We’re in a trying position with the resource, the halibut resource not rebuilding as rapidly as we’d like it to,” Balsiger said.” We have some issues with that. I think it is important to note, and we went over this earlier but, the decision table which contains the blue line, the entire table contains recommendations from the staff on how to set the catch limits. Where we operate in that decision table is really a reflection of the conservative nature of the various halibut commissioners, because they’re all valid positions it just depends on how much risk is deemed appropriate, how much conservatism has to be cranked into those tables.”

The commercial catch in area 3A, the central gulf, will see a big cut this year, about 33 percent, down to 7.3 million pounds. And the charter fleet’s limit in the gulf was set at 1.7 million pounds. Charter clients there will have a two fish daily bag limit with a 29 inch limit on a second fish.

The commercial and sport catch in British Columbia will see a small reduction, but not the 29 percent cut initially considered in the “blue line” number presented by IPHC staff.

The commission approved a season start date of March 8th and fishing will be open through November 7th.

Seasonal tax repealed; SSRAA eyes hatchery

Fri, 2014-01-17 15:19

The entrance to the Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery is seen last summer. The raptor center’s eagle flight cage is in the background.

A seasonal sales tax increase approved by the Ketchikan City Council last week was reconsidered and repealed Thursday, in favor of a year-round sales tax.

Speaking to KRBD on Friday, Council Member Dick Coose said the measure will have to come back to the Council.

“According to the clerk and the attorney, because we substantially changed the ordinance that was written, we’ve got to rewrite the ordinance and vote on it again,” he said.

City Clerk Katy Suiter said Friday that the ordinance will require two separate votes. The first reading will be Feb. 6th, and the second on Feb. 20th.

Part of the concern over a seasonal sales tax was the added burden to business owners, who would have had to change their systems twice a year. Coose said he also was concerned about taking advantage of tourists.

A year-round, half-percent sales tax increase likely will mean less revenue for the city.

Also Thursday, the Council agreed to move forward with a plan that would allow the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association to operate a fish hatchery formerly run by Ketchikan Indian Community.

To that end, the Council directed the city manager to negotiate an agreement with SSRAA, and to look into removing the raptor center to provide more space for fish-rearing ponds at the facility, located at City Park.

Coose said there wasn’t any debate over that issue.

“Everybody thought that was a good deal,” he said. “Everybody wants that hatchery to run. KIC was having trouble making money running it, so they wanted out but we said we’re gonna have fish one way or another. SSRAA said, ‘We think we can keep it going.’”

The Council also approved contracts to design electric upgrades and a new roof for the Centennial Building, a motion to negotiate a hospital renovation pre-construction contract with Layton and Dawson construction companies; and a 1-percent cost-of-living raise to non-union city employees.

KFSK News of the Week

Fri, 2014-01-17 15:02