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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Food tastes better when it’s shared

Fri, 2014-04-04 10:05

Chuck Miller(R) and son Jay harvest roe-on-hemlock. (KCAW photo/by Emily Forman).

It’s crisp, crunchy, and salty — and you’ll never find it in a bag in the grocery store. Dipped in seal oil or eulachon oil (hooligan), it is a traditional Southeast Alaskan delicacy that signals spring as surely as a warm, sunny day. But, gathering herring eggs-on-hemlock branches is about a lot more than food.

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ANB Harbor. Stall 10. Small boat on the left. That’s Chuck Miller’s response to anyone looking for herring eggs. Miller has the means to harvest this traditional food in the traditional way. So, sharing the resource is a no brainer. “Food tastes better when you share with people and that’s the way our Native people are,” says Miller.

Like many subsistence fisherman, Miller practices the roe-on-hemlock harvesting method. He invited me to join him and his son, Jay, on a recent harvesting trip.

Miller: We are ready to get some fuel.
EF: With the fuel and everything how much does a trip like this cost you?
Miller: Over 200 dollars easy but it’s worth it.

That includes engine repairs and two trips out to Middle Island. Miller says it’s worth it because he’ll end up feeding at least a dozen people. But within minutes, I learn that he has deeper reasons for the practice. Jay explains.

Jay Miller helps his dad harvest herring roe. (KCAW photo/ by Emily Forman)

Jay: The first time I went out I was 6 years old.
EF: Do you remember what that was like?
Jay: Yeah, I went with my uncle Eli my Dad’s brother.

Miller: The yellow buoy that’s on there is my brother’s buoy and my brother’s been passed away now for ten years. He was 5 years older than me. We used to do this together. This is the last of the gear that he had that he used.

As we pull into a cove on the backside of Middle Island the water abruptly changes from deep blue to a milky aqua. That’s what happens when you add a whole lot of fish sperm — or milt — into the mix.

Miller: So it is still spawning in here.

Plastic bottles and milk jugs speckle the shallow water – all tied to submerged hemlock branches. A handful of those have “Miller” written on them in bold black sharpie ink.

He says people have stolen his sets in the past – which isn’t unusual when branches are left unsupervised overnight to gather eggs. As a result he’s mildly apprehensive around other fisherman.

Miller: He’s probably just staring me down because he doesn’t know who I am. But I’m gonna let him get a good look at me because I lived here my whole life.

Miller has a way of diffusing the tension.

Miller: Hey are you taking my sets? Haha! You guys look like you got a good set in!
Miller: K it’s coming up on your side. Right there, right there, right there!

Jay grabs the milk jug attached to his Uncle Eli’s yellow buoy. He clutches the trailing thick rope. Using all of his body weight he wrestles the egg-laden branch to the surface.

Miller: Get it to where you got some leverage. is it moving? It’s probably super heavy?

When its ready to harvest, a branch can weigh well over 400 pounds.

Miller: What we do is clip off pieces of it to get it in the boat. Holy smokes! That’s a good one right there!

Miller hoists the dripping branch into the boat. It’s coated with eggs and looks like it was dipped in a vat of rubber cement.

Miller: See this is the thickness you want, some people get them a little thicker, but not much more than that.

It’s a bountiful harvest, which according to Miller is thanks to his brother’s buoy.

Miller: It’s my good luck buoy and usual that’s the one every year that produces quite a bit it’s like my brother is looking out for us.

He tosses the leftover branch overboard.

Miller:Gunalcheesh! Thank you! We used the tree to help us.

Take away the power boat, and plastic milk jug buoys, and it isn’t difficult to picture this practice taking place long before Western and Native cultures met.

Miller: If i don’t start sharing what I know right away… I might not be here tomorrow.

When we return to ANB harbor, and pull into Stall 10. I realize that gathering herring eggs on hemlock branches is an expression of gratitude. Gratitude for the the teachings of his ancestors, gratitude for food, and the chance to pass on this way of life.

Police: Meth mailed to Ketchikan man

Fri, 2014-04-04 09:59

A 38-year-old Ketchikan man faces felony drug charges after police and U.S. Postal Inspectors allegedly found 23 grams of methamphetamine in a package mailed to a home on North Tongass Highway.

Christopher J. Kitsmiller was arraigned Thursday on one count of third-degree controlled-substance misconduct. Sgt. Andy Berntson of the Ketchikan Police Department said the package was discovered by Postal Inspectors when it came through Anchorage on its way to Ketchikan.

“A shipment of approximately 23 grams of methamphetamine was intercepted bound for a residence that Mr. Kitsmiller sometimes stays at, which is a primary residence of one of his family members,” Berntson said. “After that was seized, search warrants revealed the methamphetamine was inside.”

Berntson said authorities allowed the package to be delivered, and Kitsmiller allegedly accepted delivery. After that, police served another search warrant at the home and made the arrest.

Berntson said Kitsmiller had been on the police department’s radar, partly because of prior federal drug offenses, and partly due to more recent information that police had gathered.

Berntson added that Kitsmiller took responsibility following his arrest.

“He’s admitting that it was bound for him,” Berntson said. “That it was his shipment. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Berntson said drug-related paraphernalia also was found and seized during the search. Kitsmiller remains in custody on $50,000 bail. His next hearing is set for April 11in Ketchikan District Court.

City Council moves hospital project forward

Fri, 2014-04-04 09:09

The Ketchikan City Council meeting Thursday focused mostly on hospital-related projects, including the relocation of the KAR House. City Mayor Lew Williams III joined KRBD for a recap.

Historians gain some ground in fight to keep records in Alaska

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:09

Alaska’s archivists and historians are gaining ground in a fight to keep federal records in the state, but the Anchorage office of the National Archives and Records Administration is still set to close by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, Alaska State Library director Linda Thibodeau told the Alaska Historical Commission that negotiations are under way to keep roughly one quarter of the archive’s 12,000 boxes of records.

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Pathologist testifies at Kodiak shootings trial

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:09

ANCHORAGE — Two Coast Guard employees killed while on the job were shot multiple times, a pathologist said during testimony Thursday in the trial of a man charged with murder for their deaths.

James Wells, 62, is accused of killing Petty Officer First Class James Hopkins and civilian Richard Belisle at the Kodiak Island Communication Station in 2012.

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Parnell calls committee pension plan 'immoral'

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:09

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday said a House Finance Committee proposal to address the teachers’ retirement system is “immoral” and shifts the obligation to future generations.

Parnell said he wants the proposal removed from his education bill, calling them two very separate issues. The committee added the retirement piece to its rewrite of the bill, HB278. A proposed amendment to pull out that issue failed on a 5-5 committee vote Wednesday.

The bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor Friday. If approved, it would then go to the Senate.

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Proposal to buy Anchorage office withdrawn

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:08

JUNEAU — The chair of the Legislative Council on Thursday withdrew from consideration the potential purchase of a legislative information office in downtown Anchorage.

Rep. Mike Hawker, the council’s chair, provided details on the proposal during a council meeting last month. It was seen as an alternative to a 10-year lease agreement for remodeled and expanded space, the cost of which critics have questioned.

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Nikiski Republican would let Outside residents serve on state gas corporation's board

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:08

The most powerful member of the state House of Representatives is working to quickly pass a bill that would allow non-Alaskans to serve on the board the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.

Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, announced Thursday that he will be introducing the legislation today. The AGDC is a state corporation created last year to advance a major liquefied natural gas project.

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Coast Guard releases report on cutter fatality

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:07

ANCHORAGE — A Coast Guard investigation says equipment failure, improper placement of a crewman and a Bering Sea swell contributed to the crewman’s death on a rescue mission in southwest Alaska.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Obendorf died Dec. 18 from injuries suffered five weeks earlier on the 418-foot Cutter Waesche (WAY’-shee).

The Waesche on Nov. 11 prepared to tow a disabled fishing boat to port and but first planned to ferry fishermen to the cutter using one of the cutter’s smaller boats.

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Report: Poor management led to Shell grounding

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:07

ANCHORAGE — A Coast Guard report says poor risk assessment and management were factors that led to the grounding of a Shell oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Alaska in 2012.

The report released Thursday also says Alaska’s tax laws influenced the decision to tow the Kulluk to Seattle. Royal Dutch Shell PLC believed the drill vessel would have qualified as taxable property on Jan. 1, 2013, if it was still in Alaska waters.

The Kulluk broke away from its tow vessel in late December 2012 and ran aground four days later on Sitkalidak Island, near Kodiak.

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Alaska Senate criminalizes cyber bullying

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:07

JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate on Wednesday passed a bill making cyber bullying a misdemeanor offense.

Senate Bill 128, sponsored by Republican Senator Kevin Meyer of Anchorage, makes it illegal for those under the age of 18 to use electronic devises to bully others.

Meyer says his bill creates a punishment outside the school system for those involved.

It passed the Senate unanimously and goes to the House.

Anchorage mayor appoints new utility manager

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:07

ANCHORAGE — A new manager has been appointed for Anchorage’s city utility company.

The Anchorage Daily News says James A. Trent begins his new post with Municipal Light and Power on Monday. He replaces former general manager Jim Posey, who retired in December.

Trent most recently worked as a consultant to a Colorado industrial automation company.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who appointed Trent, says in a news release that Trent has 30 years of experience and power system planning, and in design and operations of utilities.

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Controversial permitting bill nixed in senate

Fri, 2014-04-04 00:06

A controversial bill from last session that sought to streamline the land and water use permitting process to make mining easier is dead for the session.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and chair of the Senate Resources committee, announced in a press release Thursday evening that she would be holding the bill in her committee indefinitely.

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Sealaska dividends include no corporate earnings

Thu, 2014-04-03 20:57

Sealaska Plaza is the corporation’s Juneau headquarters. Spring dividends were just announced.

The spring dividend for most Sealaska shareholders will be $721, but some will receive less than a tenth of that amount.

The total distribution to the regional Native corporation’s 21,600 shareholders is $11.8 million. Payments will be mailed out April 8 and direct-deposited April 11.

Most stockholders own 100 shares. The amount of dividends differ due to status of the corporation’s Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian members.

Those enrolled in Sealaska plus an urban Native corporation, such as Sitka’s Shee Atiká, receive the full $721. So do at-large shareholders, who are only enrolled in Sealaska.

Those holding stock in a village corporation, such as Saxman’s Cape Fox, get $57.

The difference is a payout from a pool of regional Native corporations’ natural-resource earnings. Sealaska pays resource earnings directly to urban shareholders, as part of their dividends. But it pays the resource revenues to village corporations, which decide whether to pass them on to shareholders.

Descendents of original shareholders also get $57 per 100 shares.  Elders in any category receive an extra $57. Those funds come from Sealaska’s permanent fund.

None of the money is coming from Sealaska’s business operations. CEO Chris McNeil says the corporation is in the second year of restructuring its operations.  That includes last summer’s sale of its share of plastics factories in Alabama, Iowa and Guadalajara, Mexico.

More details on Sealaska’s business operations will be in its annual report, to be released in May.

Ferry LeConte breaks down, Aurora fills in

Thu, 2014-04-03 20:47

The ferry LeConte docks in Skagway in 2009. The ship is tied up for generator repairs. (J Webber/Creative Commons)

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry Aurora is scheduled to take over LeConte sailings on Friday, April 4.

A generator on the LeConte failed on Wednesday, when the LeConte was on its way from Prince William Sound to Ketchikan for a mandated inspection.

Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the ship diverted to Juneau, where the inspection is being done.

Woodrow says the LeConte’s repair time is not yet known.

“They’re still working on assessing the situation. The LeConte will most likely be out for the weekend. But the Aurora will be capable of filling in for it until it is back online,” he says.

The Aurora and LeConte are nearly identical ships. Both carry about 300 passengers and 34 vehicles.

The Aurora missed sailings last month when part of its steering system broke down. The Juneau-based LeConte missed sailings in December due to problems with its bow-thruster, which is used for docking. It sails to Haines, Skagway, Tenakee Springs, Angoon, Hoonah and Gustavus.

Unique in the world

Thu, 2014-04-03 16:56

We are all unique in this world. Raven Radio’s commitment is to find and share the unique voices from around the corner and around the world. On Friday, our One Day Drive begins, and with the addition of Raven Radio’s sustaining memberships our total is more than $37,000 towards our Spring Drive goal of $85,000. If you haven’t renewed your membership, please do so now! Thanks to you and thanks to Nan Metashvili for snapping this photo of our friend in India.

Hundreds of tax appeals settled in new Petersburg borough

Thu, 2014-04-03 14:30

The first year of property tax outside the old city limits of Petersburg saw hundreds appeal their property values. However, in the end, an assessing firm hired by the new borough settled most of those appeals before they made it to the Board of Equalization this week.

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Remote private land owners in the new borough will have to pay property tax this year for the first time and that means putting a dollar amount on the land and any buildings and other improvements. The Appraisal Company of Alaska was contracted by the borough to value property over the past year. That firm’s Mike Renfro told the borough assembly members about his experience visiting properties outside the old city of Petersburg limits within the new borough. Renfro said valuing that land was more difficult than he thought it would be. “This is the fourth community I have done in an annex area. By far the largest,” Renfro said. “I thought Wrangell was going to be the largest that we ever did because it went all the way from Meyers Chuck and Farm Island. There was probably 30 percent of the parcels for this compared to the Petersburg borough. Distances were a little bit longer, well about the same, going down to Meyers Chuck. But again it sort of played like the movie, planes trains and… here it was helicopters and float planes and boats and four wheelers.”

Renfro’s firm looked at over 2,000 land improvements, which can be buildings or other development on a parcel. In total the company visited 978 parcels. Their work generated 213 appeals of property valuations, all but 20 of those were from property owners outside of service area one, the old city limits. Renfro said his initial values were too high on waterfront land in the new borough. “Because they were too high, which is on the bad side, they should’ve been lower, we got a lot more information,” he said. “So this coming year with that information and talking to a number of people, I think we’ll have maybe 10 percent of those appeals next year.”

In general, Renfro said land owners were welcoming although there were some who were not happy to see the tax assessor showing up. “There was a threat. And I felt instead of continuing forward and having a situation where I continued forward, this person was very aggravated that if he went and got a gun, then we’ve got a real problem and then somebody’s gonna get in trouble. There’s no reason for that to happen. I just avoided it. Used a telephoto lens and like I said that appeal was settled, they actually came in here and talked to Arne and it got taken care of. That was the only incident.”

Property tax notices were mailed out March 1st and people had until the end of the month to appeal. Most who did agreed to an adjusted value with the assessor by Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Equalization. That group is made up of the borough assembly and it was chaired by acting mayor Cindi Lagoudakis. “Our purpose is not to change the assessment for the appellants. It’s only to listen to the reasons presented and either agree with the assessor or agree with the appellant,” Lagoudakis said at the start of the meeting.

There were only 16 appeals that were not resolved by Wednesday, although some of those were cases of people simply not responding to phone calls or email from the assessor. Only two people actually showed to make their case to the Board. One was Robert Murray, who sought a reduced valuation for his land at Keene Channel on Kupreanof Island. “Just valuing it on a straight doesn’t take into account the most important thing about waterfront property, the frontage. All of the other lots in my subdivision have an average frontage of 200 feet. My lot tends to be a little bit bigger because it’s pie shaped. It’s two lots wide on the back. That makes my frontage skinnier by about 10 percent compared to all of my neighbors. My contention is if I have 10 percent less frontage, my per-acre value should be 10 percent less.”

The assessing company’s Arne Erickson explained their thinking. “We assessed all the land in the channel in this subject area by size, rather than waterfront. And to maintain consistency, I did not consider waterfront in this appeal.”

The Board of Equalization upheld the recommendation of the assessor 5-0. That was the case in all the other outstanding appeals. In some cases the assessor agreed with the land owners and recommended a reduced value. The board also decided not to consider two appeals that were submitted late.

A biologist’s view of herring season

Thu, 2014-04-03 13:58

ADF&G biologist Dave Gordon disembarks from a float plane after an aerial survey of Sitka Sound, headed for the state research vessel, the Kestrel. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Sitka’s commercial herring season ended on Saturday, after fishermen caught over 17,000 tons of herring in just nine days. As it does every year, the fishery brought a fleet of seiners to town, and drew residents to the waterfront to watch the high speed derby unfold in front of them. And at the center of all this action was a team of biologists, whose job is to strike a balance between protecting the resource, and providing access for fishermen.

KCAW took a ride on the state research vessel, the Kestrel, to find out what herring season looks like when you’re standing in the middle of it all.

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Each year, the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery starts and ends with this voice:

On board the R/V Kestrel, Dave Gordon (right) talks to other ADF&G biologists who have flown in from around Southeast to help manage the herring fishery. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

GORDON: This is the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. The fishery will occur in approximately one minute, one minute. Stand by for countdown.

That’s biologist Dave Gordon, with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Gordon and his team are responsible for managing Sitka’s commercial herring fishery – one of the most lucrative fisheries in Alaska, as fast-paced and volatile as it is controversial.

Each year, Gordon and his team predict the biomass, or the amount of herring they think will return to Sitka. They set the the harvest level, or the amount of fish that seiners will be allowed to catch. In the spring, they fly over the waters of Sitka Sound every day, watching for signs of herring, and announce when the season will open. It’s on their say-so that the boats converge on Sitka, coming from around Southeast, from Puget Sound or across the Gulf of Alaska. They decide when there will be an opening, and where.

And then Gordon counts it down.

GORDON: Six..five…four…three..two..one…open! The Sitka Sound sac roe fishery is now open. The Sitka Sound sac roe fishery is now open.

There is a lot riding on the decisions of this team. Over the last decade, the annual value of the commercial herring fishery, to fishermen, averaged a total of about $7-million dollars — though this year the fleet faced a weaker market. And then there’s intense scrutiny from those who worry that the herring harvest is unsustainable,and argue that there should be no commercial fishery at all.

Gordon has been doing this work for eighteen years. Asked if it ever keeps him up at night, he said:

GORDON: It kinda does. When you look at the machinery involved in this fishery – the tenders and the planes and the seiners…

That’s the forty-eight seiners doing the actual fishing, plus the tenders that deliver the fish to the processors, plus the spotter planes flying overhead to scout for herring, not the mention the test boats sampling the fish, and skiffs zooming around to deliver samples or count the catch.

GORDON: …and the amount of money that’s been invested in this fishery…

Which is a lot. The state estimates that the price of a permit — that’s the cost just to enter the fishery — is now about $430,000 dollars.

GORDON: You try not to dwell on it too much and think about it. But it definitely does keep you up at night sometimes.

***

It’s 11 a.m. on March 24th, the day after the second opening in the Sitka herring fishery. There is no fishing today, as processors work through the previous day’s catch. Gordon gets on the radio for his daily update to the fleet.

GORDON: Attention participants in the Sitka Sound sac roe fishery, this is Department of Fish & Game aboard the Kestrel…

Captain Lito Skeek, of Petersburg, keeps an eye on the Kestrel’s sonar during a survey of Sitka Sound. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Gordon is on the state research vessel, the Kestrel, which is doing its daily survey of Sitka Sound. He’s surrounded by half a dozen other Fish & Game biologists, some of whom have flown in from around Southeast to help out during herring season.

SKEEK: So we’re just doing a zigzag pattern here for Dave, to see where these little buggers are…

That’s the Kestrel’s captain, Lito Skeek.

SKEEK: You want me to go on the inside, Dave, or should I take the outside?

GORDON: Just go around, Lito!

SKEEK: Wherever we can find ‘em, huh?

Skeek is watching the boat’s sonar for the telltale red blotches that indicate the Kestrel is passing over a ball of herring. The Kestrel is mapping these schools and looking for predators like whales and sea lions that might indicate where else the herring are gathered.

It’s all so they can make a decision about where, and when, to hold the next opening. The time between openings can be stressful, Gordon says.

“You’re running around from here to there trying to find that opportunity,” he says. “And the day’s just going by quickly, and you know that every day that goes by that you don’t make progress, that you’re one day closer to the spawning happening.”

Timing is everything. Because Sitka’s herring fishery is a sac roe fishery, the herring must be caught while the eggs, or roe, are still inside the females, in that sliver of time after the eggs mature, but before the herring spawn.

Once Gordon and his team think they have a large enough volume of mature fish, they call an opening. Asked if he has ever called an opening, counted down — and then found no fish, Gordon said: “Yes. A number of times, actually. And those are probably some of the more painful moments, as far as openings go.”

“There’s no fish, there’s no nets in the water, everybody’s getting on the radio, unhappy with the situation. You have a whole fleet that’s mobilized, between the seiners and the tenders and the spotter planes, a lot of fuel being burned, a lot of people putting on their gear and getting ready to do something, and then there’s no fish,” he said. “And that’s just the way it is. That’s herring.”

Throughout an opening, Gordon keeps a running tally of the catch, as Fish & Game staff run skiffs from net to net, calling in estimates of how much each boat has caught. Once Gordon sees the fleet is approaching the target for that day, he closes the fishery — usually with just five minutes’ notice. And then, again, he counts it down.

GORDON: Five…four…three…two…one. The Sitka fishery is closed, the Sitka sac roe fishery is now closed. This is the Department of Fish & Game.

When the season ends, most of the seiners leave town. And the Kestrel leaves town, too. But she’ll be back. Later in April, Fish & Game will field a team of divers to survey this year’s herring spawn. Those surveys are used to estimate the herring biomass and build the model for next year. And then, they’ll do it all over again.

Council to hear about KPU’s new electric meters

Thu, 2014-04-03 11:48

The Ketchikan City Council will hear a presentation Thursday about Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division’s move to new electric meters.

KPU Electric Division Manager Andy Donato provided the slides for his presentation in the City Council’s meeting packet. Those slides start with a history lesson, noting that electric meters first were used in the mid-1880s. Those old-style meters are no longer made, according to Donato. New digital electronic meters are now the norm.

Donato says the new meters provide better accuracy, are more reliable, and have lower maintenance costs. The new meters can allow utility companies to manage a customer’s electric use through two-way communication, but Donato says KPU doesn’t use its meters that way.

He notes that there are critics of the new style of meters, who believe that the new technology is intrusive and potentially harmful to health. Regarding the health concerns, Donato says the radio frequency exposure from smart meters is lower than, for example, the natural radio frequency from the Earth, and much lower than the exposure from talking on a cell phone.

A group called Ketchikan for Meter Choice has formed, and has an online petition asking the local government to not require KPU customers to have the new meters on their homes. The group was formed by Amanda Mitchell, who also is spearheading the effort to stop the city from switching to chloramine water disinfection.

In an email sent Thursday to the Council and cc’d to KRBD, Mitchell writes that Donato’s presentation is based on inaccurate science. She has asked the city to host a forum to provide information about the issue.

There is no Council action related to electric meters on the agenda. Tonight’s Ketchikan City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers, with public comment at the beginning of the meeting.

Petersburg musicians gear up for Alaska Folk Festival

Thu, 2014-04-03 11:08

Scott Hursey performs on stage at Alaska Folk Festival in 2011. Photo/Scott Hursey.

Three groups of Petersburg musicians will be performing at the 40th annual Alaska Folk Festival that’s happening next week, April 7-13. Some are new to the big event and some are veterans.

Angela Denning stopped into Kito’s Bar in Petersburg where a few of them were practicing up.

The knocking of pool balls accent the music coming from the stage. It’s the usual sound at open mic night. The musicians agree–it’s not an auditorium–but it’s consistently available to them every Thursday to play together. And tonight, the duo Mc2 (M-C Squared) is using it as an opportunity to try out some tunes for Juneau.

Couple Nicole and Alec McMurren are Mc2 and they’re performing Arlo Guthrie’s version of “St. James Infirmary”.

“Alec and I met many years ago at different musical fundraisers for the community of Petersburg long before we were a couple,” Nicole says, “and so we’ve been playing together as a duet for about 7 or 8 years now.”

Alec says he’s been songwriting his whole life but he’s gotten more serious about it over the last few years. So, what does he write about?

“I like to write songs about boats and fishing, that’s sort of what started it off,” Alec says. “There’s not that many songs around about local stuff and I thought it would be fun.”

The song “Emily Jane” is about the local boat, which was sunk and then salvaged out of Frederick Sound.

Although Nicole has performed at the Juneau festival with other musicians, it will be the McMurren’s debut together.

Angela: “What are you looking forward to the most out of the festival?”
Nicole: “Hearing some good music and getting inspired to play some different tunes.”
Alec: “Yeah, the whole spirit of the thing, just be a part of it, to participate, yeah, to participate and learn stuff and meet people, yeah, for sure it’s always an opportunity for like-minded or different minded people that would bend you in their direction.”
Nicole: “It’s a good vibe.”

On the stage warming up is Scott Hursey, a long-time Petersburg singer songwriter. He too will be performing at the Juneau Folk Fest as he’s done many times before. In fact, he’s not quite sure how many times he’s been there.

Scott: “This is the 40th annual Folk Festival. I played at…the first time I played at the second one, so it was 39 years ago that I played at the first one. And I played, I don’t know, 10 or 15 in a row and I took a break for a while and been back off and on since then. So many different bands, by myself a few times, I’m going to play by myself this time, I think, so it will be the first time in quite a few years that I’ve done a solo act. . . played with several different bands there before.”
Angela: “What’s it like for somebody who hasn’t been there?”
Scott: “It’s a lot of fun. I mean there’s music all over town. Lots of different venues, the bars, the Silver Bow has a singer songwriter event of Friday and Saturday afternoon, lots of workshops, they’re dances, besides the main stage there are a couple of different dance events. There’s a dance stage that goes on with different bands for two nights. You know, the crowds can be several hundred people on the evening concerts.”
Angela: “Do you ever get the jitters, I mean, you’ve been doing it for so many years, do you ever get jitters still?”
Scott: “I get the jitters but it’s a lot of fun. The crowd there is probably the best crowd you’ll ever play in front of so, it’s really fun to get up in front of them because they’re very, very welcoming.”
Angela: “How often do you play? There’s an open mic every Thursday. . . do you play at home?”
Scott: “Oh yeah, I play almost every day.”
Angela: “And what does that do for you? What do you like about it?”
Scott: “It’s a creative outlet, it’s relaxing. You know, we get wrapped up in the work we do and it’s a nice way to get away from that and then also when I can play with friends around town it’s a good way to interact with people with people and have a great time. It’s really great to play with other musicians because you feed off of each other and it’s fun to create together.”
Angela: “So, a different kind of connection than you’d have any other way?”
Scott: “Oh, yeah, definitely.”

It’s this kind of connection that brings Nicole McMurren and her tambourine back onto the stage to join Hursey for a duet.

The Alaska Folk Festival runs April 7-13.

Scott Hursey performs Friday night at 10:45 p.m.

The McMurrens–Mc2–perform Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

The youth group, Double Rock Band, will also be performing at the festival. They’ll take the stage Friday at 10:15 p.m. just before Hursey. We’ll hear from the young musicians in KFSK news Monday.

KRNN in Juneau is audio streaming the entire Folk Fest, and video streaming each evening at krnn.org There is no video stream during the Sat. and Sun. afternoon stage acts.