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Southeast Alaska News

Administration gives pipeline project overview

Tue, 2014-01-28 01:07

JUNEAU — An agreement to advance a liquefied natural-gas project represents a “groundbreaking achievement” for Alaska, Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell said Monday.

But the project is far from a done deal, with several decision points over the next few years in which the state — or any of the other parties — can step away.

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Reassigned to Harbors, Sitka response boat may see more action

Mon, 2014-01-27 21:51

Sitka’s ERV is a SAFE Boat design favored by the Coast Guard and other agencies. (Don Kluting photo)

Every year Sitka has its share of maritime emergencies and remote rescue operations. Last December, for example, two hunters were seriously injured in Salisbury Sound when their boat slammed into a cliff in the narrows. And while that and other events often make headlines, you don’t often hear about the state-of-the-art Emergency Response Vessel Sitka has available to render aid.

That’s because, in many cases, the $200,000 boat has remained tied up at the dock, while responders take the harbor skiff — or even their own private boats — to the scene of emergencies.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The controversy over Sitka’s eight-year-old Emergency Response Vessel has been going on for well… about eight years. The ERV was purchased with a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security, and it was designed to accommodate law enforcement, fire, and rescue operations.

The boat has been in the care of the Police Department until now, and reasons for tension over the boat are as diverse as the people responsible for serving these three vital missions. If there is any consensus at all around the boat, it’s that it is not being utilized to its fullest.

At the last meeting of the Sitka assembly on January 14, administrator Mark Gorman suggested that his department heads had charted a new course for the ERV.

“And we are going to look at moving the vessel under the responsibility of the Harbor Department. And it will be dispatched and scheduled out of the Fire Department. And the rationale behind this is to allow better access to other departments the use of the vessel. In particular, Search and Rescue.”

Sitka Search and Rescue director Don Kluting has the numbers to support this idea. “In 2013 we had a total of 54 missions, and of those, 21 required the use of a vessel.”

21 missions is a lot, and no two missions are ever the same. SAR is on the water a lot more than you might think.

“For either transport to a remote location so we can do ground search, or out there providing mutual aid service to the Coast Guard: towing boats and rescuing vessels that are in distress.”

Kluting says that the fewest number of missions SAR has done on the water in any year in the last decade or so is 14. Whether by design or default, SAR has become the go-to organization for this kind of work.

And the boat they take is usually not the ERV.

“So at this point we’re using the Harbor Department boat. The harbormaster and his staff have been wonderful to work with. When the call comes in, we make one call to the on-duty harbor person or the harbormaster and get permission to utilize their vessel.”

Having that kind of ready-access for the Emergency Response Vessel is where Sitka’s administration wants to go. The harbor skiff is a 28-foot aluminum drop bow, with a partial cabin. Depending on ocean conditions, its use can be very limited. The ERV is 30-feet, and its manufacturer, SAFE Boat, is favored by the Coast Guard and other agencies. It’s rated for a sea state of “5,” which means 25-knot winds and 12-foot seas. It also can transport its crew and two patients in litters inside the fully-enclosed cabin.

The sticky part is the Homeland Security grant which purchased the ERV.

This is police chief Sheldon Schmitt talking to the assembly about it in 2008.

“The primary purpose for the boat has been law enforcement. It’s a Homeland Security boat. We’re not using it for patrol. We’ve gone out approximately 125 times with the boat in the two years that we’ve been tasked with maintaining and operating it.”

Schmitt told the assembly at the time that the Department of Homeland Security did not require the ERV to be housed within the Police Department — only that it be available to serve a law enforcement function. He also said that, of those 125 uses of the boat, only six had been for search and rescue.

In an interview with KCAW last week, Schmitt said he is in favor of the administration’s efforts to make the ERV more accessible by transferring it to the Harbor Department, but that law enforcement will have to remain involved at some level to satisfy the terms of the Homeland Security Grant.

“It’s worth trying,” he said.

Both Schmitt and Kluting acknowledge the important role of the Harbor Department in making headway on the problem. Maintaining the ERV is a considerable responsibility. Six of Search and Rescue’s 44-member team are trained boat operators, and they’ll have to do even more training to make this idea a reality. Kluting knows he’s not just being handed the keys.

“You just don’t jump in a boat and go.”

Administrator Mark Gorman told the assembly on January 14 that the transfer of the Emergency Response Vessel to harbors could take a couple of months.

Sea lion lunges at Sitka fisherman

Mon, 2014-01-27 18:47

Sea lions touch noses as one clambers onto a buoy in Sitka Sound. (CoastAlaska photo/ Ed Schoenfeld)

A 19 year old Sitka man had a run-in with a sea lion at Seafood Producers Cooperative on Saturday(1-25-14).

Alaska State Troopers say the man was sitting on the railing of a fishing vessel when a large bull pounced. The sea lion jumped out of the water and attempted to bite him — on the behind, causing the man to fall forward into the vessel.

The bitten man was a crew member on the Sitka-based Fishing Vessel Confidence, which was offloading bait herring at the time, according to State Troopers Spokesperson Megan Peters.

Julie Speegle, a spokesperson with the National Marine Fisheries Service says the man did not require medical attention.  “There were no puncture wounds, just abrasions,” she said.

According to Speegle, quote,  “it isn’t unheard of for big and powerful wild animals to habituate to humans, and see us as a food source.” Troopers do not believe that the crew was feeding sea lions, but, just to be safe, officials are reminding fisherman and hunters to dispose of waste properly, rather than dumping carcasses or scraps in the harbor.

Deserted Island dead(a)head

Mon, 2014-01-27 17:08

You may have seen Dan Gunn behind the counter at the Hames Center working as an Americorps Volunteer for the last six months. But you may not know that Dan is a deadhead and while he’s never seen The Grateful Dead perform live (owing to the fact that he was eight years old when Jerry Garcia passed away) he grew up listening to bootleg tapes and the music stirs his soul. Dan was the castaway on Deserted Island on the 24th of January, 2014. Here is a recording of the show, his list of 10 songs he would choose to have while stranded, perhaps forever, and the one dessert he would have with him, since it is after all a deserted island.

Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) – Remastered
Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky
Grateful Dead – Jack Straw – Live in Paris 1972 Remastered Version
Dispatch – Railway
The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??
Against Me! – Cavalier Eternal
Minus The Bear – Pachuca Sunrise (Alias Remix)
LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Mellow Mood
Grateful Dead – Shakedown Street [Live in San Francisco, December 31, 1984]

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup salted butter, melted
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup mini- chocolate chips

**See Tips Below…**
3/4 cup salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chips + 1 teaspoon shortening for drizzle, optional

1. Prepare the brownies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick spray. In a medium glass bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in short bursts of 30 seconds; stir after each burst and remove from microwave when melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk those in too. Mix in melted chocolate. Whisk in the flour and mix just until combined (don’t over-mix). Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Watch closely and remove from oven when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix in milk and vanilla. Mix in flour just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Spread cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is quite firm. It’s okay to speed up the process and place it in the freezer too. The firmer the dough, the easier it will be to cut into neat squares. Use a sharp knife to cut the brownies. You may need to wipe the knife off with a paper towel in between cuts since the fudgy brownies and cookie dough will tend to stick to the knife a bit. These brownies are best to serve placed inside cupcake papers and served with a fork.

4. If you’d like to add chocolate drizzle on top, melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon of shortening in the microwave; stir until smooth. Scoop the melted chocolate into a zip baggie and snip off the corner. Squeeze the bag to drizzle the chocolate on top of each brownie. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top, if desired.

*You’ll find that the cookie dough layer is quite sweet. If you’d like a thin layer of cookie dough, prepare the recipe as directed above. If you’d like a thicker layer of dough as pictured, use these ingredients for the dough instead of what is listed above:
1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups miniature chocolate chips

LGBT anti-discrimination bill gets new sponsor

Mon, 2014-01-27 15:17

Legislation to ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has a new sponsor in the House and companion bill in the Senate.

Former Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau lawmaker who resigned Friday, introduced House Bill 139 during the 2013 session after a similar bill she introduced in 2011 never received a committee hearing. Kerttula announced her resignation Jan. 21, the first day of the 2014 session.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, has taken on sponsoring Kerttula’s bill.

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Comment period opens on Navy Draft EIS

Mon, 2014-01-27 14:44

The U.S. Navy is seeking comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will update the Navy’s Northwest military training and testing activities, including the Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility in Behm Canal near Ketchikan.

SEAFAC is the Navy’s only West Coast facility that measures underwater sounds made by submarines. The purpose of the draft EIS is to update mission requirements to fit anticipated needs for the next five years.

According to Navy Spokeswoman Liane Nakahara, no significant changes are proposed for testing activities at SEAFAC. She said that a public meeting is scheduled this spring in Ketchikan to provide details about the Draft EIS.

“It will provide a really good overview if people don’t have time to read through the whole document. It’s pretty lengthy,” she said. “And people can show up, ask questions – we will have subject-matter experts there who can answer them. If they would like to leave a comment during that time, we will have an oral comment section as well as a comment box – people can write out their comments if they choose to. If not, they can take their notes home, think about it and either mail us a copy or go to our public website and submit comments via the comment form.”

The public meeting is March 11 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, starting at 5 p.m. The comment period for the Draft EIS ends on March 25.

In addition to the online comment form, the full Draft EIS is available at

Local basket weaver in state fiber exhibit

Mon, 2014-01-27 14:24

Ketchikan artist Kathy Rousso was among the winners of a statewide juried art show, on display starting in February at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.

“Earth, Fire and Fibre” is a biennial exhibit sponsored by the Anchorage Museum that features pieces by artists who work with traditional craft materials, such as fiber, clay and bone.

According to the museum, more than 100 artists submitted more than 350 pieces for the exhibit. Forty-one were selected for the show, and only five of those received awards.

The top juror’s-choice prize went to Amy Meissner of Anchorage.

Rousso’s award-winning basket is called “All Worlds Intertwined.”  Other winners came from Seward, Auke Bay and Anchorage.

The show opened in October at the Anchorage Museum. The opening reception for the Juneau exhibit is Feb. 7th at the Alaska State Museum. It will remain on display there through Feb. 28th.

Resource fair for the homeless coming

Mon, 2014-01-27 13:18

Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, Love in Action, and First City Homeless Services Day Shelter are sponsoring a fair on February 1st to provide resources to homeless who might otherwise not be served.  Lisa Scarborough speaks about the air and opportunities available.  HomelessFair

Young-growth bike shelter aimed at inspiring old-growth preservation

Mon, 2014-01-27 11:07

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Sitka Conservation Society’s Conservation Solutions Director, Marjorie Hennessy and Executive Director, Andrew Thoms discuss a new young-growth bike shelter. The dedication ceremony is at 3 p.m. on Tuesday (1-28-14). Prior to the ceremony, assembly member Phyllis Hackett will lead a bike ride from totem square to the bike shelter at 2:45 p.m.


State of the Union Address 5pm today

Mon, 2014-01-27 10:41

America Abroad – Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

Mon, 2014-01-27 10:31

Special Broadcast on KFSK this evening, 8pm – details here

Mon. Jan 27, 2014

Mon, 2014-01-27 10:30

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Years of detailed research have shaped Baranof island’s goat hunting guidelines. We now have clues to what the island looked like before there were hunters: mystery ice-age goats.

The Sitka School Board selected three finalists for a new superintendent. Board president Lon Garrison said that prior experience in Alaska was “pretty important” in making the final cut.

Keet Gooshi Heen fourth-grader Hunter Lambdin is headed to auditions for NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

Baranof goat study unlocks clues to island’s paleo past

Mon, 2014-01-27 09:25

Phil Mooney tracks mountain goats’ movements using orange GPS collars. (photo courtesy of Phil Mooney)

It doesn’t take much to trigger an emergency mountain goat closure on Baranof island. Because of recent population declines, if a hunter shoots one nanny, a large swath of the island may become off-limits. Years of detailed research has shaped today’s goat hunting guidelines — which might seem like a lot of effort considering that only a handful of Sitkans have the stamina to hunt goats. But the process has revealed much more than how to manage the goat population. We now have clues to what Baranof looked like before there were hunters.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

On a cloudless September day on Baranof Island Kevin White, a goat researcher from Juneau, and Phil Mooney, Sitka’s wildlife management biologist are looking for mountain goats.

When the helicopter hovers within 30 feet of the goat, White leans out of the open door, with one foot on the skid, and aims at a dirty spot on the goat’s coat the size of a saucer – a natural bullseye of dirt on the otherwise brilliant white coat.

Phil Mooney says, “he’s only missed about two out of 400. So, he’s got it down.”

Mooney says hitting the goat with a dart is one thing, recovering the goat is another.

“I’m sitting on the opposite ridge as I see Kevin bail out of the helicopter going after the goat that’s headed for the cliff,” says Mooney.

White had darted the goat with a heavy tranquilizer that takes seven minutes to kick in. It would be a grizzly end for the goat if it were bounding over the cliff once it did.

“I’m thinking he’s still got his flight suit on and goat horns are sharp. He gets tangled up with that and the goat goes over the cliff he’s gonna go with it,” says Mooney. “And he ended up about 11 feet from the edge of the cliff.”

A helicopter flies from Juneau to assist with Baranof mountain goat tagging. (photo courtesy of Phil Mooney)

Almost a century before biologists were jumping out of helicopters to tackle 300 pound mountain goats, there were no reported goat sightings on Baranof island.

Mooney says, “this place was covered by miners in the late 1800s and 1900s searching for gold and silver. Nobody reported seeing goats.”

Back then, residents wanted more big game hunting options. So, in 1923 the state transplanted 18 goats to Baranof island from Tracy Arm. To protect the population, wildlife biologists have been studying the goats ever since – through aerial surveys, GPS tagging, and tissue samples.

“Which is nothing more than a piece of flesh the size of a pencil eraser,” says Mooney.

The DNA in those samples revealed something unexpected: evidence suggesting that an unknown goat population may have already been living on Baranof Island before the Tracy Arm transplant.

“They were only expecting to find the Tracy Arm DNA in there,” says Mooney. “And low and behold there was other DNA in there that comes from a relic.”

10,000 years ago Southeast Alaska was covered in hundreds of feet of glacial ice, except for a few isolated pockets called “refugia.” The samples Mooney and White found matched DNA from an ice-age goat population near Haines. That means the transplanted goats bred with goats that were already on Baranof Island, but were absolutely unknown. Mystery goats.

Mooney says, “What, a UFO came and dropped off a bunch of goats how could that be?”

Call it a case of wildlife management meets paleo-biology. Phil Mooney plans to tackle that question in time. But right now, it’s about keeping tabs on Baranof Island’s current goat population. Along with gathering tissue samples, Mooney tracks the animals’ movements with a bright, orange GPS collar. GPS stands for Global Positioning System.

“It’s just like a kitchen timer, when that day and time come up it sets up a small explosive charge in the collar that blows the springs on the plate and the collar falls to the ground,” says Mooney.

At $5,000 a piece, Mooney makes sure to retrieve the collars. If a goat dies in an avalanche and is carried down a valley, Mooney might end up in devil’s club up to his head, fishing for the device.

But Mooney says it’s worth it. The goats aren’t harmed. White reverses the tranquilizer with an injection, and within minutes the goat is up and running.

And they’ve learned a lot from the data. Mainly, the best way to protect nannies. It’s the reason why there are goat hunting zones, why shooting a single nanny will close a zone, and why we still have a goat hunting season at all.

Mooney says, “we’ve got a situation up by Yakutat where the population declined significantly. It’s been closed now for 15 years.”

Goat hunting is rigorous. Not many have the stamina to traverse high rocky cliffs, shoot a 250-pound animal, and then pack out a heavy load of meat and hide. But a wildlife management strategy based on science can produce fundamental discoveries important to all of us, and not just to the hunters.

3 things to watch in the Legislature

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:03

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature starts its first full week of work of the session Monday, with lawmakers set to dig into plans to advance a natural gas pipeline project and salary increases for top officials.

The fight over oil taxes also is expected to continue casting a shadow over discussion on issues such as state spending.

The scheduled 90-day session is set to end April 20, Easter Sunday. Senate President Charlie Huggins told reporters last week he’d like to be done before then — and Good Friday — if possible.

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Hydaburg visitors learn conflict resolution as peer mediators

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:02

KETCHIKAN — Six students from Hydaburg traveled via Inter-Island Ferry Authority ferry to spend two days with Houghtaling Elementary School counselor Debbie Langford, and learn how to be peer mediators.

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December unemployment rate stays at 6.4 percent

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:02

JUNEAU — Alaska’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.4 percent in December.

The state labor department says the seasonally adjusted rate is down from 6.6 percent in December 2012. The November 2013 rate was revised from 6.5 percent to 6.4 percent.

Alaska started 2013 with a 6.7 percent unemployment rate.

Nationally, unemployment stood at 6.7 percent last month.

Officials show how to release trapped pets

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:02

FAIRBANKS — Anyone who doesn’t believe a normal person with no knowledge of trapping can open a body-gripping Conibear trap should talk to Sarah DeGennaro.

A wildlife technician at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Fairbanks at the time, DeGennaro, who is also an artist, was asked to draw some illustrations to accompany a brochure the department was putting together for pet owners about how to release their pets from traps and snares.

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Homer debates where to place Asaiah statue

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:02

HOMER — What would Brother Asaiah do?

That question is at the heart of a dilemma many small cities would love to face. Where’s the best place to put a donation of an $18,500 work of art by one of Homer’s finest sculptors?

The issue will be on the agenda of the Homer City Council on Monday night when the council considers a resolution to accept a sculpture of Brother Asaiah Bates to be done by Homer artist Leo Vait.

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Eagle River High hosts JROTC competition

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:01

EAGLE RIVER — “Forward, march. Half-step, march. Platoon, halt.”

Chugiak High Cadet LieutenantKim Julian’s voice echoed through the crowd-packed gym at the 2014 Eagle River High School JROTC Drill Competition on Saturday, Jan. 18.

Thirteen immaculately dressed teams performed in seven rounds of competitions during the daylong event.

Julian, unit leader for the Chugiak’s Regulation Armed division, led her rifle-carrying team through sharply executed turns and marches.

The team moved as if one body, one mind.

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Kodiak will use robots to enhance virtual learning

Mon, 2014-01-27 01:01

KODIAK — Soon, Kodiak teachers will be able to roll into classrooms on two wheels.

The Kodiak Island Borough School District has purchased 12 telepresence robots to expand the district’s virtual learning program. Instead of being tied to a webcam attached to a computer, teachers can use the robots to move around a classroom and communicate through an attached iPad.

“What’s amazing is how fast people move past it being a robot,” schools superintendent Stewart McDonald said. “It’s not a robot, it’s you. You get to be in more than one place.”

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