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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — For the second time, the city of Anchorage has rejected an attempt to repeal a rewrite of the city’s labor laws that was passed by the Assembly in March.
The petition was rejected again because the city lawyer said the rewrite involves administrative matters that can’t be legally changed by ballot referendum, according to Tuesday’s Anchorage Daily News.
ANCHORAGE — The state Department of Transportation is considering four possible road extension plans to improve access through the University of Alaska Anchorage.
DOT design project manager Jim Amundsen told the Anchorage Daily News that a new road is needed to allow growth for the university and nearby medical facilities, which include Providence Alaska Medical Center, the Alaska Native Medical Center and medical offices linked to the two hospitals.
Amundsen said city, university and medical facility representatives will have a say in the final choice.
An Anchorage-based program is traveling to Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka this weekend to teach students science and engineering concepts, including how to put together a computer.
The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program is holding its Computer Build event Saturday and Sunday in the science wing of Mt. Edgecumbe High School.
Twenty Mt. Edgecumbe students are slated to participate in the event.
JUNEAU — More than 1 million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Alaska this year, but industry officials fear new fuel standards intended to limit pollution from large ships could drive vessels away and lower that number later.
This will be the first full cruise season in Alaska under rules that require cargo carriers and cruise ships to use a low-sulfur fuel within 200 miles of U.S. and Canadian shores. The U.S. agreed to the standards as part of an international treaty.
Sitka will miss two Alaska Airlines flights a day during the month of May, in order to allow a paving contractor to replace the runway at the Rocky Gutierrez Airport.
Flight 70, which arrives from Juneau at around 11 PM every night, and Flight 73, which departs at 6 AM the next morning with the same plane, have been suspended as of this week, and will resume sometime around Memorial Day weekend.Only the airport terminal building is the property of Sitka. The airport runway, taxi areas, and ramp are owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation.
DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says May has the right combination of decent weather and lighter traffic to accommodate the work.
“The overlay is basically asphalt on the runway. The reason there’s a nighttime closure, and the reason it’s delaying the Alaska Airlines flight is that the construction company needs a long enough window to be able to pave the runway and then allow it to set.”
The contractor has been on site since April, hauling gravel and setting up paving equipment. Woodrow says work will begin each evening following the departure of Flight 67 at about 6:20 PM.
There is one major circumstance when overnight work will be interrupted.
“Medevacs. So we’ve worked with a lot of the medevac companies as well as the hospitals in the region to notify them of the closures. And we have a contract in place, that the contractor will be able to have the runway open at enough distance for a medevac flight to be able to land and take off within an hour’s notice.”
Passengers aboard aircraft using the airport during the daytime should not notice any difference between the old runway surface and the new overlay. Woodrow says the standard for replacing runways is different than state highways, and so is the method.
“Where we’ll tear up the top layer of a long section of road and come back and do the new asphalt overlay and do the next side of the road.”
That’s not the case for runways.
“They’re doing the runway in sections. Basically patches at a time. So when the next plane takes off or lands it will seem like a smooth transition from the old asphalt to the new asphalt until the whole runway is done.”
But that doesn’t mean that aircraft will have the full length of the runway for duration of the project. Woodrow says there will be times when pilots will have to tighten up their landings just a bit.
“We’ve worked with Alaska Airlines quite a bit to see what they need as a minimum to land the plane safely. So there will be parts of the runway that will be closed, but there will be a large enough section of the runway that planes will be able to land on without an issue.”
Woodrow says most of the runway overlay work should be done by May 25. Other work on the ramp could last into June.
42 paddlers with the One People Canoe Society left Petersburg’s North Harbor in three large canoes bound for Wrangell at about 4 pm Wednesday afternoon. They’re accompanied by three support boats. It was windy and rainy but a portion of Wednesday’s paddle runs with the tide through the relatively protected Wrangell Narrows. The canoe crews stayed the night at the Petersburg Indian Association Bunkhouse, where the PIA and others in the community provided the group with food.
Some paddlers started their canoe journey from Yakutat. Others joined the voyage in Sitka, Juneau and Kake. The group is on its way to Wrangell for the historic re-dedication of the Chief Shakes Tribal house. They’ve pushed on despite some seriously bad weather and the loss of a canoe under tow earlier in the trip. All the paddlers were safe thanks to their three support vessels, which take them aboard when the conditions are too dangerous.
Weather permitting, they plan to camp Wednesday night at Vank Island along with two other canoe crews that have paddled North from the Prince of Wales Island communities of Kasaan and Thorne Bay. The entire group expects to make the final leg of the journey to Wrangell Thursday.
The Tlingit and Haida Central Council expects some hits from sequestration. It also honored tribal members, including a Southeast basketball star.
President Ed Thomas told delegates about projected cuts during the council’s recent Tribal Assembly in Juneau.
“I think pretty much across the board, we’re talking about a 5 percent negative impact. Nobody has come up with anything less than that,” he says.
The federal government provides much of the funding. Council programs provide vocational training, public safety, family and youth services, and tribal courts.
The Tlingit and Haida Central Council also uses interest from an approximately $11 million trust fund. But President Thomas says the earnings need to be saved.
“All and all, we can’t keep spending the interest and expect to survive for the long term. We have to have at least inflation-proofing. And the only way to do that is to live within our means and not do things that cost money we can’t pay for,” he says.
The Juneau-based council represents more than 28,000 tribal members in Alaska and the Lower 48.
The tribal assembly voted down a proposal reducing the number of voting delegates by around 20 percent.
Rules require one delegate per 150 tribal members. A proposal from Thomas would have only counted members with active addresses that establish their residency.
Thomas says it’s a problem in bigger cities.
“Seattle and Juneau have the largest number of delegates and the largest number of people that we have bad addresses for,” he says.
April’s Tribal Assembly was the council’s 78th. It was held in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in downtown Juneau. (Read the minutes from the meetings.)
Tribal Assembly delegates also:
- Heard from Thomas also about succession planning, as he will retire at the end of his term in 2014.
- Paid tribute to the late Clarence Jackson, past central council president.
- Seated Aurora Lehr of Anchorage and Bob Loescher of Juneau as Tribal Court judges.
- Named Shirley Kendall of Anchorage as Citizen of the Year.
- Named Konrad Frank of Angoon as Youth Representative.
- Honored tribal citizen and Alaska Sports Hall of Fame inductee Herb Didrickson. First Vice President Will Micklin presented him with the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award and a proclamation that declared Friday, April 19, 2013, as Herb Didrickson Day.
Patti Mackey, executive director of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, is cautiously optimistic about Ketchikan’s 2013 tourist season.
In a presentation to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, Mackey painted a picture of a town on the verge of attaining or even exceeding levels of prosperity not seen since 2008.
That picture shows a significant decrease five years ago in most, if not all, of the critical measures of the health of the tourism industry after the nationwide economic collapse. The number of cruise ships visiting Ketchikan and the amount of tourists both saw a big drop after 2008, but Mackey says they are poised to spring back in a big way this year.
She made sure to address the lingering effects of the recession, though.
“Some of the impacts we have to deal with, of course the recession and folks’ concerns about the general state of the affairs in the country since of course the majority of our visitors are domestic travelers,” said Mackey. “People’s travels are one of those luxuries that get put on hold when they’re worried about paying the mortgage or their kids’ educations.”
Still, the KVB expects 40 ships to visit Ketchikan this year. There will be about 512 port calls, an increase of 10 percent from last year. The number of tourists on those ships will be roughly what they were in 2008, according to Mackey, clocking in at almost 950,000.
In some measures, the tourism economy in Ketchikan is still lagging, however. Retail sales, including jewelry, are still down, as are profits from hotels.
Mackey also told the Chamber she expects the new KVB building on the dock to be open Sunday, in time for the start of the main tourist season. While a couple of ships have already visited, the official start of the tourist season is generally the first week in May.
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A motion to rescind support for an analysis of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency is on the Ketchikan City Council agenda Thursday.
On April 4, the Council decided in a split vote to approve a memorandum of understanding between Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell to move forward with the independent analysis. Among other issues, it would have looked into splitting up the organization. Dick Coose, who voted against the MOU, introduced the motion to rescind it.
There has been concern expressed by some Wrangell officials, in particular, about the agency, and whether it should continue to own and operate the hydroelectric dams that power the three member communities. Coose is one of Ketchikan’s representatives on the SEAPA board of directors, along with Council Member Bob Sivertsen.
Sivertsen also voted against the April 4 MOU. Ketchikan’s third representative on the SEAPA board, Council Member Sam Bergeron, voted in favor of the memorandum.
Wrangell officials want the study, but Petersburg has been reluctant. If Ketchikan pulls out of the MOU, it’s unlikely to move forward.
Also Thursday, the Council will consider a request from First City Homeless Services for a block party on the evening of May 31. The event would include booths and games, set up on Main Street from Dock to Grant.
The Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
The theme for the upcoming Fourth of July Parade is Highway 2 Our Future, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
According to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, the idea was submitted by Terry Wanzer. A draft graphic for the theme incorporates the chemical formula for water, H2O.
The chamber also announced that the parade Grand Marshals will be former Governor and first lady Frank and Nancy Murkowski.
Petersburg officials say they were impressed with all three finalists for police chief, but Kelly Swihart’s (SWEYE-hart’s) Alaskan experience is one of the factors that helped give him an edge. Swihart is currently Director of Public Safety for Hoonah. Petersburg’s Borough Manager offered Swihart the job and he accepted Monday afternoon. The Borough assembly approved the hire that evening. Swihart will take over this summer for retiring chief Jim Agner. Matt Lichtenstein has more on the new hire:
For mobile-friendly and downloadable audio, click here.
Weather permitting; the One People Canoe Society is tentatively planning to leave from North Harbor this afternoon to continue their trip to Wrangell for the Re-dedication of the Shakes Tribal House. They were still preparing as of 3:30p.
Sydney Nichols and Ella Hillberry, participants in “Girls on Track,” speak about their experiences in the program. Aftan Lynch of W.I.S.H. explains more about “Girl’s on the Run” and an upcoming event on Saturday (May 4th). GOR050113
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Mt. Edgecumbe High School seniors Vance Gregory (Galena) and Nelson Kanuk (Kipnuk), and junior Renee Romer (Kipnuk) discuss their team’s success at last weekend’s Native Youth Olympics in Anchorage.
KETCHIKAN — Students at a Ketchikan Middle School tricked their teachers to gain administrative access to school-owned laptops, school officials said.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports at least 18 students at Schoenbar Middle School were involved in the scheme.
KENAI — A bear that attacked a well-known biologist is much older than troopers previously thought.
Alaska State Troopers killed the aggressive brown bear after it attacked 48-year-old Toby Burke while he was on a beach, the Peninsula Clarion reports.
Initially, the bear was thought to be 2 to 3 years old, based on its size. But because its teeth were worn down, authorities say the bear was probably around 10 years old.
ANCHORAGE — George Miller had to wait 68 years to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross medal for bravery shown in World War II when his actions enabled the bomber he was on to safely return to its air base.
The 87-year-old veteran was awarded his combat medal Monday at a ceremony at the Anchorage Veterans Memorial, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Miller was the flight engineer on the B-24 bomber, based in Italy and making runs on targets in Germany and central Europe.
On Feb. 24, 1945, their mission was over Linz, Austria.
FAIRBANKS — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has planned furloughs over the summer for National Weather Service employees, a union representative in Fairbanks said.
Furloughs around the country that will affect the 200 employees in Alaska, said meteorologist Jim Brader, a representative of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.
The furloughs are planned to save money, but the public could see less reliable weather information as a result, he said.