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Southeast Alaska News
University officials say their policies prohibiting guns on system campuses are legal and constitutional. The primary backers of a bill to strike down the prohibition say it ain’t so.
The University of Alaska System released a 13-page legal analysis Wednesday defending its gun policy. The Empire received a copy Friday.
The analysis states that lawmakers in Juneau have prohibited municipalities from expanding firearm regulation but have not done the same for the university.
Lawmakers will increase school funding this year — but with the majority of the session in the books, no one is saying by how much.
In the fight over the per-student Base Student Allocation, the final result likely will be a compromise between Republican and Democratic proposals. School districts are scheduled to receive $5,680 per student in fiscal year 2014. That amount has not changed since 2011, and school districts say they need more money to balance rising costs.
JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has proposed a bill that would have a federal official help Alaska with a major project to export liquefied natural gas overseas.
The bill would allow the federal coordinator for Alaska’s gas-pipeline projects to work on the effort to build an 800-mile pipeline that would deliver liquefied natural gas for overseas export. Alaska is weighing an equity stake in the project alongside pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. and the BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corp. Those oil companies have major operations on the North Slope.
JUNEAU — Prisons.
Those words for Alaska may mean something radically different if a sweeping crime bill, shepherded by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, passes the Legislature.
Coghill, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has taken the lead in a bipartisan effort to keep Alaska’s incarceration rate from swallowing up millions of state dollars badly needed elsewhere in such places as education.
The Sitka Wolves have won the Southeast region 3A basketball tournament.
The Wolves decisively beat the Mt. Edgecumbe Braves Saturday afternoon, 62 to 45.
The game was a rematch between these same two teams from the previous afternoon. In Friday’s contest, Mt. Edgecumbe trailed Sitka by 14 points going into the fourth quarter, but rallied, tied the game with less than a minute to play, and eventually won by 5.
On Saturday, however, Sitka was a different team. Mt. Edgecumbe athletic director Andrew Friske, calling the game on the Juneau-Douglas High School web stream, summed up the Wolves’ play like this:
“Sitka has had a solid game. They’ve had a couple of turnovers, but overall they’ve controlled the tempo of this game, they’ve owned the glass, and had a good game plan coming in here to get the ball inside. Minimal 3-point shots. Pound it inside with AJ (Inman) and Brian (Way). A good game plan by the Sitka Wolves so far.”
Sitka will represent the Southeast region in state tournament action beginning later this week in Anchorage. The challenge for Sitka — and all teams in the 3A classification — will be overcoming Monroe Catholic, a perennial powerhouse which has dominated even some 4A schools in the Anchorage area this season.
The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves defeated Sitka on Friday to capture the regional 3A crown in girls basketball. The score was 49 – 42.
Sitka was the defending Region V champion, and was expected to repeat this season. However a broken wrist kept point guard Sid Riggs sidelined until this tournament.
Daily Sitka Sentinel sports editor Tom Hesse, who covered regional tournament play, says the Sitka girls were starting to show signs of their early promise, but just ran out of time.
“They saw a little bit of Sid Riggs at the end of the regular season, as Sitka was trying to work Sid back into the lineup. And you could tell there was a difference when she did play, and when she was playing well, you could see Mt. Edgecumbe having to adapt to the speed. It’s like borrowing your friend’s BMW and realizing that you get a lot more kick when you step on the accelerator.”
The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves will face either Galena or Valdez when the state tournament kicks off later this week.
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves have come out of the loser’s bracket to challenge Sitka for the Region V Basketball championship.
The Braves defeated the Wolves 66 – 61 in what could have been their last game of the season. Instead, they’ve forced an “if” game, scheduled for 3:45 PM Saturday (3-8-14). In a double-elimination tournament, a playoff is required if a team has only lost one time. Friday evening’s defeat was the first loss for Sitka in the tourney.
Trailing Sitka nearly the entire game Friday evening (3-7-14), Mt. Edgecumbe rallied in the last two minutes of the 4th quarter — sparked by a gutsy basket and free throw from a first-time player. Listen to the call by Daily Sitka Sentinel sports editor Tom Hesse and MEHS athletic director Andrew Friske here:
All Region V Tournament games are streamed live by the Juneau-Douglas High Video class. View the stream here.
You might not expect an ancient Aboriginal instrument from Australia to find its way to Alaska. But walk around downtown Ketchikan on a warm day and you may hear 15-year-old Kinani Halvorsen playing her didgeridoo. She’s played the unusual instrument for three years.
Kinani remembers the response she got from a boy in her 7th grade band when she played her didgeridoo a couple years ago: “What the heck is that?” [he said.] And his jaw literally dropped.” ‘Cause you wouldn’t expect that sound to come out of a little tube thing like this.”
The tube thing is actually not so little. Kinani is a tall girl, and the didgeridoo is a tall instrument. It comes up to her shoulders, at about 5 feet.
You can’t play any Katy Perry or Macklemore on something like this. So why is a high schooler here in Ketchikan playing this ancient Aboriginal instrument?
It all started with an Australian substitute teacher in Kinani’s fourth grade class at Houghtaling Elementary School.
“He brought in his didgeridoo and I thought, “Wow! That is coolest thing I’ve ever seen,”” Kinani remembers.
“It’s really interesting to hear and see someone play such an intriguing thing like the didgeridoo,” Kinani said. “And it’s a memory that really sticks in your head. So when you see one, and you’re like hey, maybe I could play that, it’s a want you really get.”
“I said no, no, no,” Kinani’s mom, Krissy Halvorsen, said. “Because she likes to pick up things like that and of course, they end up in the closet or elsewhere.”
Kinani swore to her mom that she wouldn’t throw the instrument in the closet. She brought it home and started practicing. Her older brother, Keelan, was upstairs.
“I rushed downstairs because I thought it was a wild animal,” he remembers. “I saw her with a long tube and was even more confused.”
Kinani has been playing her didgeridoo for three years now. She’s had to teach herself, because there isn’t anyone else she knows in Ketchikan who plays the didgeridoo.
“She’s definitely improved a lot,” Keelan said. “It went from a semi obnoxious noise, to be honest, to something we all enjoy hearing.”
The didgeridoo is over 1,000 years old. It’s still used to accompany song and dance in the Arnhem Land region of Australia.
“What really motivates me to keep playing is it’s such a unique instrument,” Kinani said. “Unless you’re in Australia, you really don’t get a chance to see, hear, or play something like this.”
Kinani is in four bands. Three at Ketchikan High School, and one other outside school, called Soundwaves.
“We haven’t had occasion or any particular reason to hear her play it in here, because this is a big band that is mostly saxophones, trumpets, trombones, rhythm section,” said Roy McPherson, the director of the Soundwaves band, where Kinani plays trombone.
The didgeridoo is nowhere to be seen at a recent Soundwaves practice. But in a couple weeks, that’s going to change. Kinani has a didgeridoo solo in the band’s April show, during “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book.
And she’s going to keep trying to play her didgeridoo in different settings. She’s attending the Sitka Fine Arts Camp this summer.
“And so I’ll bring it and I’ll talk to whoever is running the class and I’ll say, “Hey I have a didgeridoo, is there anything I should bring it in for?” she said.
And if Kinani keeps spreading the sound of the unique instrument, maybe she’ll get fewer “What the heck is that?” responses, and more people saying, “Oh, that’s a didgeridoo.”
Some small Southeast Alaska communities have struggled to keep their girls high school basketball teams alive because of low numbers. In Thorne Bay, the girls team dissolved halfway through this season when their coach and her daughter left town.
17-year-old Maggie Avila wants to play basketball in college and maybe even after. So, when the Lady Wolverines team fell apart, she had to keep playing.
“So I joined the guys’ team and they let me play so I was really happy about that,” she said. “‘Cause basketball is the one sport that I truly love and it inspires me to be better.”
Maggie, whose nickname “The Bullet,” has been playing with the boys team now for three weeks.
“Maggie’s always had great desire to play basketball, and she really wanted to play with us,” said her coach, James Hughes.”She’s been a good asset to the team. She has a lot of spirit, a lot of determination.”
“They welcomed me with open arms,” Maggie said. “It’s just one big family so we’re all happy and deal with each other equally.”
Coach Hughes said he was concerned for her safety at first.
“I was afraid for her safety, having a girl come in with a bunch of guys,” he said. “I was hoping nobody would try to prove a point and say there shouldn’t be a girl on the team or something like that. So that was my only hesitation. But she’s a strong girl.”
In the past few weeks, Maggie has only feared for her safety once. Last Wednesday, when the Wolverines played Klawock, a team with a 6-foot-4 dunking machine named Tyrus Morgan.
“When Tyrus went to dunk the other day, I was right under the basket and I was like oh my gosh, I’m gonna die!” Maggie said.
The Wolverines’ captain, junior Kaiden Hughes, said he was a little hesitant when he heard Maggie wanted to join.
“I just didn’t know if she’d be able to do everything we could,” he said. “But she’s done it just fine.”
Having her on the team has taught him that “girls can do it too,” he said.
Although there are some weird moments. “It’s kinda awkward when we’re changing in the locker room,” Kaiden said.
Maggie was not going to let awkward scenarios like that keep her from playing basketball.
“Basketball gives me the feeling that I can try harder and always give 110 percent,” she said. “And it just is something that allows me to push myself to the breaking point where I can do better.”
She says competing with the boys is helping her become a better player.
The Wolverines competed in the Southeast Regional 1A Tournament in Ketchikan. They lost to Klawock Wednesday, and played Angoon Thursday.
Maggie played for the last five and a half minutes of the game against Angoon. The 5’ 3’’ athlete sped around the boys, her long braid flowing behind her. A couple of her teammates from the Lady Wolverines were in the stands watching.
“I’ve got a sense of pride seeing her out there, just a girl doing it,” said one of them.
They lost to Angoon, 82-46. It was the last game of the season.
“I think it was a good experience altogether,” Maggie said after the game. “I learned endurance, how to stay strong. We learned good communication over the three weeks we were together.”
Maggie has been working on convincing junior high girls to join the Lady Wolverines team next season, so she’ll probably be playing with the girls next year. She says she’ll miss playing with the boys, but just a little bit.
The 3A girls championship has been settled today. The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves defeated defending champions Sitka 49 to 42. The Lady Wolves stayed within striking distance the entire game — closing to within 3 points with a minute to play — but could not shut down the Mt. Edgecumbe offense, which has been strong all season.
Boys basketball update:
The Mt. Edgecumbe Braves and the Sitka Wolves are vying for the Region V basketball title in a game getting underway about now (5:15 PM Fri Mar 7).
The Braves defeated Petersburg this morning, to eliminate the Vikings. Daily Sitka Sentinel sports editor Tom Hesse is in Juneau covering the tournament.
He says that the Braves held nothing back against Petersburg, even though they knew they’d be up against a strong Sitka team this evening.
“Sitka has played fewer games in this tournament. Mt. Edgecumbe will be playing their fourth game in three days. And they really only rotate six players. Every once in a while they’ll throw in a seventh player. But for the most part these guys see a lot of minutes, in a short amount of time. It will be interesting to see how they come out tonight against a Sitka team that’s deep, experienced, long, and rested. So, it’s going to be an interesting matchup to see how they respond to that exhaustion.”
Again, the Sitka Wolves and Mt. Edgecumbe Braves are playing now in Juneau at the Region V Basketball tournament. You can find the link to the live stream of the game on our website kcaw.org.
If Sitka wins tonight’s contest, the Wolves will have the regional title and travel to Anchorage for the state tournament next week. If Mt. Edgecumbe wins tonight, these two teams will meet again tomorrow to determine the regional champion.
The 3A girls championship was settled earlier this afternoon. The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves defeated Sitka 49 to 42. The Lady Wolves stayed within striking distance the entire game — closing to within 3 points with a minute to play — but could not shut down the Mt. Edgecumbe offense, which has been strong all season.
The state tournament begins March 15 at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
Water disinfection was the hot topic in Ketchikan this week, with several presentations, two from a water treatment specialist who works with national consumer advocate Erin Brokovich; and one by a water treatment consultant who is member of the Alaska Water and Wastewater Advisory Board.
The controversy is over the City of Ketchikan’s plan to start disinfecting its public water system with monochloramine – a combination of chlorine and ammonia – in order to bring the city’s water into compliance with federal regulations limiting certain byproducts.
About 250 people showed up at Ketchikan’s Ted Ferry Civic Center for Bob Bowcock’s presentation about why chloramine is not a good idea. Bowcock works with Erin Brokovich, and gives similar presentations all over the United States. He argues that merely meeting Environmental Protection Agency regulations doesn’t mean the water is safe, or free from dangerous byproducts.
“There are thousands of studies that tell you how bad chloramines are, but the EPA hasn’t had time to look at them, so in the next generation or two they might get around to it and then, there will be regulated byproducts,” he said. “But until then they’ll tell you chloramines are safe because none of the byproducts are regulated. Does this mean that Ketchikan consumers should be forced to suffer from the medical conditions and property damage while we wait? I say no.”
Potential medical conditions Bowcock mentioned include skin irritation – sometimes severe – from bathing in chloramine-treated water, respiratory reactions from breathing the evaporated chemical and more. Property damage includes rubber seals for plumbing that have been shown to disintegrate more quickly when exposed to chloramine-treated water.
Bowcock also warned about the potential for large fish kills if a lot of chloraminated water leaks into a creek, through a water main break, for example.
During his nearly two-hour-long public presentation and his shorter presentation to the Ketchikan City Council, Bowcock recommended that the city consider alternatives. The byproducts that the city is trying to reduce form when organic material – leaves, tree bark, etc. – come in contact with the chemical used to clean the water.
So, Bowcock said the best way to reduce those byproducts is to remove the organic material. And he recommends a granular activated carbon contact vessel system.
“What a contact vessel is, it’s not a filter,” he said. “The water gets in there like a washing machine and moves around with the carbon.”
And the carbon attracts bacteria and other organic compounds, thus removing them from the water. In a separate interview with KRBD, Bowcock estimated that the cost of such a system for Ketchikan’s water needs could be $4 to $8 million.
He also suggested an aeration system – basically a pump that floats in the storage tank and sends air through the water. Such a system could help reduce the byproducts, which he said dissipate in air.
Mike Pollen is a water and wastewater consultant based in Fairbanks. He serves on the state water wastewater advisory board and was in Ketchikan to conduct training for some of the city’s water treatment employees. He spoke during the Council meeting, and disagreed with much of what Bowcock presented, calling the information “subfactual.”
Pollen said chloramination has been used since 1917, and is used in many communities, including Denver, Colorado. He said about 20 percent of the United States uses chloramine-treated water.
“That represents something in excess of 65 million people. The vast majority of those people are not dropping dead on the streets from chloramines, I’m here to tell you,” Pollen said. “The bottom line is the EPA has continued along with AWWA – American WaterWorks Association – to recommend this particular technology as an alternative for a secondary disinfectant.”
Pollen described numerous water treatment options used in Alaska – many of which are very expensive. He notes that the one option that has failed miserably in the state is granular activated carbon.
“GAC does not work here for a couple of reasons, one is the characteristics of the type of organic matter that’s in our surface water,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s some kind of organic goo, but it doesn’t take well to activated carbon.”
Pollen also said that the aeration system Bowcock mentioned won’t take care of Ketchikan’s byproducts problem. It will remove one kind of byproduct, but is not proven to remove or reduce haloacetic acids.
Bowcock came to Ketchikan at the request of a citizen group called United Citizens for Better Water. That group is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would prohibit the city from using chloramine as a water disinfectant. But the city was going to turn on the new system this spring, and the initiative process could take a few months.
Amanda Mitchell, who helped start the group, asked the Ketchikan City Council to delay the implementation of the new water system until after the petition process was complete. The Council agreed to wait at least until after its March 20th regular meeting, when the issue will be on the agenda.
Ketchikan’s new water treatment plant has been developed over the past 10 years. There were delays in starting the new system on because of contractor issues and then a long wait for the state to issue an operating permit.
A video from Bowcock’s presentation, posted on YouTube by an audience member:
Previous news stories:
Hydaburg’s 400-person community has been without a high school girls’ basketball team for two years.
This year, high school principal and basketball coach Brad King, along with superintendent Lauren Burch, decided that needed to change.
“We talked all year about it — if we don’t start a program for the girls there never will be one,” King said. “So we need to work our way through it and just go for growth game to game.”
Here’s the problem: there are only three girls in the 15-student high school. So, the Lady Warriors brought in three 8th graders.
“It was scary because everyone was not only bigger than me and stronger, but they were taller too,” said 8th grader Rachel Guymon, who is five feet tall.
Some of the Lady Warriors hadn’t played basketball before. Including Courtney King, a high school sophomore.
“For me, not playing basketball ever in my life, it was stressful,” she said. “And I was kind of scared.”
With a six-player, fairly inexperienced team, it’s been a challenging season. The girls haven’t won a single game.
“It is really hard. Because I don’t like losing,” said point guard Andrea Cook. “But it’s okay cause we’re a young team and the next couple years it’ll get better.”
“So it’s a kind of tough experience for them,” said Coach King. “But they’ve been really upbeat most of the time, and they work hard at improving and keeping Hydaburg having a girls program.”
Pam Penrose is a teacher at the high school who is chaperoning the team while they travel.
“I give them a lot of credit for the courage it takes to almost know before you get on the court that you’re gonna be defeated,” Penrose said. “And they still get out there and give it their all, so I’m really impressed with the courage that takes.”
At the Southeast Regional 1A Tournament in Ketchikan, the Lady Warriors’ first game was Wednesday against the Yakutat High School Lady Eagles – a team twice their size, with 12 players. One of Hydaburg’s girls is injured, so they went into the game with five players. Halfway through, one of them fouled out. They played the second half with four girls, three of them eighth graders.
The game ended 48-23, with another loss for Hydaburg. But the girls and the coach were exhilarated, saying it was the best they’ve played yet.
“That went great, even though we lost, it felt pretty good,” said Andrea Cook. “Our team tried their best and gave it their all. So that’s all you could really ask for.”
The Lady Warriors played Angoon Thursday, losing 48-27. It was the most points the Hydaburg girls have scored this year. They’re looking forward to improving on that number next season.
Governor Sean Parnell, who is running for re-election this year, was in Petersburg on Monday. He met with some community leaders and interviewed with KFSK. He said he’s very supportive of hydro-electric projects in South East and all over the state. Although there are no South East hydro projects in his capitol budget right now, he said he’s relying on regional legislators to bring projects like that up.
Parents discuss SAFV’s new resource for talking to their kids about healthy relationships.
The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday directed staff to explore options for the fate of the aging Centennial Building that houses the museum. Council member Dick Coose gives a meeting update. City030714
The Sitka School District is drawing on the district’s savings account to mitigate its budget deficit. The Ketchikan School District is considering moving to a four-day school week. A Sitka seventh-grader has won the state spelling bee. Sitka Wolves edged out Mt. Edgecumbe in the second round of the Region V basketball tournament in Juneau.
Victoria Merritt with the Craig Parks and Recreation report for March 7th. CraigPR030714
JUNEAU — Borough mayors want to ensure they have a say on terms that will affect local communities and be negotiated by the state in pursuit of a mega-liquefied natural gas project.
JUNEAU — The Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow state backing on low-interest loans for students interested in college.
The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, would allow Alaska’s general obligation debt to be used as a tool in funding education loans.
“Our students are borrowing at a higher rate than they can achieve nationally,” Fairclough said.
Constitutionally, the debt can only be used currently for capital improvements and housing loans for veterans.