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Southeast Alaska News

Two dead after boating accident

Mon, 2014-06-30 17:02

Two people are dead after a boating accident between Petersburg and Wrangell that happened on Sunday night. The 18 foot skiff overturned near Level Island—just south of the Wrangell narrows.

Coast guard spokesman Grant Devuyst said the victims called the Petersburg Police Department on their cellphone after their vessel tipped over. The police contacted the coast guard around 6pm.

“We immediately launched the coast guard cutter Naushon as well as a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter out of the air station in Sitka to begin searching for these two individuals. An overturned skiff was located. Our coast guard crew located two persons in the water. Alaska state troopers, who were in small boats, were also helping with the search as well as Wrangell Search and Rescue, who had a fixed wing plane. The small boats were able to recover those two bodies,” Devuyst said.

The victims were 45 year-old Jonathan Comfort from Clayton, Delaware and 58 year-old Kenneth Rupprecht from Tammassee, South Carolina. According to Alaska State Troopers, neither was wearing a life jacket at the time. They were also not equipped with immersion suits. Their bodies were transported to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage for autopsy.

Music on the house

Mon, 2014-06-30 15:05

Sitka Summer Music Festival artistic director Zuill Bailey explains some musical backstories at Sunday’s final concert. (KCAW photo/Greta Mart)

Sunday marked the final public concert of the 43rd annual Sitka Summer Music Festival, titled “Brunch with Schubert.” Barbara Hames hosted the event at her Halibut Point Road home, and a sold-out crowd enjoyed a full concert and post-concert brunch buffet of crab cakes, moose sliders and cream-and-berry-stuffed french toast.

Guests line up for a brunch buffet. (KCAW photo/Greta Mart)

SSMF artistic director and cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Natasha Paremski performed Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne for Cello and Piano, while the Cypress String Quartet (Cecily Ward, Tom Stone, Ethan Filner, and Jennifer Kloetzel) opened the concert with Schubert’s Quartettsatz in C Minor, D. 703, and closed with the rarely-played “2 Sketches Based on Indian (Native American) Themes, A.99″ by Charles Tomlinson Griffes.

IFA Hollis dock breaks, cancels Sunday sailings

Mon, 2014-06-30 13:57

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority canceled its Sunday sailings between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan because the Hollis dock was broken. That left about 150 people stuck on one island, or the other.


This is the IFA’s busy season, so the timing was not good. The problem was with the motor that raises and lowers the bridge, allowing vehicles to get on and off the ferry.

“The ramp was stuck in the down position, so when we figured we weren’t going to be able to fix it in the short term, we had to have everybody get off the vessel, and fly somebody over from Ketchikan to help us out,” said IFA General Manager Dennis Watson.

He said the ferry Stikine’s run from Prince of Wales Island to Ketchikan was somewhat light, but the return trip was packed.

About 150 people and 33 vehicles had booked passage for Sunday’s IFA voyages. That doesn’t include the passengers who don’t book in advance, which often adds another 20 percent.

A lot of those people decided to wait for the next day’s ferry trip.

“Yeah, today is going to be a real massive load coming back from Ketchikan,” Watson said.

And Monday’s sailings were sold out, with a waiting list. People can fly between the two islands, but that’s a more expensive option.

Watson said the Hollis dock, which is owned by the Alaska Department of Transportation, is due for a complete rebuild soon.

“The contract has been advertised,” Watson said. “All proposals are due in soon and they’re going to open on the seventh of July. State DOT will be in charge of administering that contract.”

If all goes well, construction will start next spring.

“It would be most convenient for us if it could be early in the spring, before our busy season started,” Watson said. “That would be easier on everybody. We’ll see how that works out, though.”

The Hollis dock and related equipment are about 30 years old. It was installed for the state ferry Aurora, which used to serve POW. The Aurora now sails in Prince Williams Sound.

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority has daily trips between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales. http://www.interislandferry.com/

State flags to be lowered Tuesday for Fred Brown

Mon, 2014-06-30 12:03

Gov. Sean Parnell announced Monday that state flags will be lowered on Tuesday in honor of former Representative Fred Brown.

Brown died on Friday at the age of 70.

First elected in 1974, Brown served four terms in the Alaska House of Representatives. He represented Fairbanks, and was an active member of that community.

State flags will be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday. Flags should return to full-staff on Wednesday.

Greenhouse gardening in Ketchikan

Mon, 2014-06-30 09:43

Broccoli in Teri Hoyt’s greenhouse garden

Ketchikan gardener Teri Hoyt discusses the joys and challenges of greenhouse or hothouse gardening. Listen to the call-in conversation here:


Alaska boy meets seal he named in contest

Mon, 2014-06-30 00:05

ANCHORAGE — Logan Thompson traveled across the country from his remote Alaska community with a top priority — to meet an orphaned northern fur seal pup he named last year in a school contest before it found a home in Boston.

The 12-year-old boy from tiny Sand Point near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands initiated the appointment with 11-month old Chiidax this week at the New England Aquarium soon after he arrived to visit East Coast relatives.

“I wanted to see if he was healthy and had a good home,” Logan told The Associated Press on Friday in a phone interview.

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Bering Straits Native Corp. seeks land for future Arctic port

Mon, 2014-06-30 00:05

The prospect of new port facilities in Western Alaska will rely heavily on Arctic oil and gas development, according to a recent Northern Economics study.

Commissioned by Bering Straits Native Corp. and marine services company Crowely Maritime Corp., the feasibility analysis released June 6 focused on Port Clarence, northwest of Nome on the Seward Peninsula.

BSNC found that a “basic” port and man camp could be up and running within four years of a firm oil and gas industry commitment to engage in developing the Alaska Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS, energy resources.

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Polish engineer sets sail for Northwest Passage

Mon, 2014-06-30 00:04

KETCHIKAN — Ryszard Wojnowski slid his finger along the perimeter of the polar ice cap, pausing on the village of Dikson on Russia’s north coast.

“In Dikson we stayed two and a half weeks,” Wojnowski said, still pointing to the map. “Here was the most difficult part.”

The Kara Sea, on the edge of the northern cap, catches and holds sea ice, which last year was thickest in the area since 2006.

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Anchorage club closure displaces Latin dancers

Mon, 2014-06-30 00:04

ANCHORAGE — The recent shuttering of downtown Anchorage nightclub Platinum Jaxx had at least one unintended consequence: it displaced members of Anchorage’s small but spirited Latin dance community, a longtime fixture of the nightclub’s dance floor on Friday and Sunday nights.

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Sitka campers sound it out with beatboxing

Mon, 2014-06-30 00:03

SITKA — Kids taking the beatbox class at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp say you can start building your skills in this art form with “boots and cats.”

Those are the first words they learned when they signed up for Austin Willacy’s course at the middle school camp.

Beatboxing and vocal percussion are two related ways of making drum-like sounds with your mouth. It’s not as easy as it looks, and the students are spending a lot of time on fundamentals, Willacy said.

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Begich talks climate change, veterans in Sitka

Sun, 2014-06-29 21:06

Alaska Senator Mark Begich, with his wife Deborah Bonito, visited Sitka on June 26, 2014. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Senator Mark Begich is criss-crossing the state during Congress’s 4th of July recess. He arrived in Sitka last week (Thurs 6-26-14) having just escaped the swampy weather in Washington D.C.

Begich: It was 80 degrees and 85% humidity, so I was like, get me out of here!

But a big part of his job right now is getting Alaskans to send him back into the heated politics of the nation’s capital.


Begich is running for a second term in November, and the race has taken on national dimensions. Republicans needs to pick up six seats to take control of the US Senate, and Begich is one of their top targets.

But Begich doesn’t sound like a man afraid of his Republican opponents. One of the first issues he touched on was ocean acidification, raising the hot-button topic of climate change.

“I’m not afraid to talk about climate change,” he said. “I live in a state that I see it, whenever I travel. Doesn’t matter if it’s western Alaska or down to Southeast where acidification is affecting our fisheries, or you go up the interior and the permafrost is melting, impacting infrastructure: I see it. Even though we have a strong, important part of our economy, oil and gas, it doesn’t mean that we only are one side of the equation.”

Begich argues that Alaska is well-placed to meet goals set under new regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Those regulations, if adopted, will require states to significantly cut emissions of greenhouse gases. Many election-watchers expect them to dent the chances of Democrats, like Begich, from energy-producing states.

But he says that renewable energy projects around the state mean that Alaska is already on the right track.

“The national debate on this is, ‘If you’re for oil and gas you’re over here. If you’re for renewable energy you’re over here,’” he said. “In reality, in Alaska, we’ve figured out how to meld these things the right way, and I think that’s the goal that we have to have on a national level.”

That said, Begich isn’t willing to contemplate a slow-down in Alaska’s major industry.

“We will always be producing,” he said. “As long as we can find oil and gas we’ll produce it.”

Begich also addressed another hot-button issue: veterans’ care. He sits on the Veterans’ Affairs committee, and outside groups have attacked him over recent revelations of long wait times at V.A. hospitals.

Begich said he’s been aware of these issues ever since he was elected — and he says that one solution to the problem is a program being piloted in Alaska. A new policy allows veterans to receive care locally, from the state’s network of tribal health care organizations, instead of requiring them to travel to V.A. hospitals in Seattle or Anchorage.

“Access is the issue,” He said. “You have to think out of the box. We forced it here, and we probably could because Alaska, we can kind of do things a little differently, because they forget sometimes we exist. We made our case, we changed the system here, we get better access. I think this is something we need to do around the country.”

Begich says that the biggest issue facing veterans’ care is the sheer number of new veterans who have entered the system in the last decade, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And he says the US should not re-open its war in Iraq, despite the increasing chaos there.

“I’m not for it, I’ve made it very clear, no ground troops. I think even these advisors are risky, because it leads to other things,” he said. “And we’ve got a lot of work here to take care of, a lot of issues back home.”

Begich touted his ability to work across party lines with Alaska’s senior senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, and says Alaskans benefit from his seniority and seats on crucial committees.

Being on the appropriations committee, both Senator Murkowski and I, this is like the holy grail,” he said. “That is a powerful role that we have.”

The appropriations committee controls most funding bills.

As for his opponent, he won’t know who he’s running against until after the Republican primary on August 19. Recent polls have shown former attorney general Dan Sullivan ahead of Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. But Begich says he’s making no assumptions.

“Alaska politics are very different,” he said. “I know outside pundits like to predict what’s gonna happen here and I wish them all the best, but they never get it right. And at the end of the day, voters will make these decisions and the primary is two months away.”

“That’s a long time in politics.”

Boiler room fire delays Alaska-bound cruise ship

Sun, 2014-06-29 12:25

Holland America’s Westerdam anchors up in Juneau about two years ago. (KTOO)

An Alaska-bound cruise ship had to return to Seattle late Saturday after a small fire broke out on board. But it was able to restart its voyage.

No one was injured in the incident.

According to the Coast Guard, the crew of the Holland America cruise ship Westerdam reported a fire in a boiler room around 5 p.m. Saturday. That was about an hour after the cruise ship left its summertime homeport of Seattle for a seven-night Alaska cruise.

Coast Guard petty officer George Degener says tugboats escorted the Westerdam back to its pier with no injuries reported.

“Thankfully, the crew members on board the vessel were able to safely extinguish the fire and they were able to make it back to port on their own,” he says.

Degener says Coast Guard investigators boarded the cruise ship to assess the damage. It resumed sailing after inspection and repairs.

The scheduled route called for stops in Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka and Ketchikan.

Holland America said in the statement that the Westerdam was fully booked with more than 2,800 passengers and crew.

Farmers’ market season opens in Sitka

Sun, 2014-06-29 12:08

The ANB Hall was packed with shoppers during the first 2014 farmers’ market. Photo by Greta Mart.

The Sitka Farmers’ Market is back. Now in its seventh year, the summer market is held every other Saturday morning – rain or shine – until the beginning of September. 400 or so shoppers walked through the entrance to the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall during the market’s first hour on June 28, according to a volunteer stationed at the door. Other shoppers took advantage of the party sunny weather to grab a bite at one of the food booths set up in the ANB parking lot.

“If you asked me what’s the most important thing to say about the Sitka Farmers’ Market is that it’s locally harvested food, that is our main drive is to get locally-grown food and locally-made items from our great artists and our wonderful farmers,” said Debbie Brincefield, co-manager of the Sitka Farmers Market.

“And the number two thing you need to know is to get there early! It’s from ten to one…by eleven o’clock the produce is gone.”

The market is a project of the Sitka Local Foods Network and this year, for the first time, the Network’s board decided to hire two people to share the job of running the market. Brincefield is in charge of public relations and Ellexis Howey works with the vendors.

Brincefield said she was introduced to the market – and to the co-manager’s job – by Sitka Local Food Network members Maybelle Filler and Lisa Sadleir-Hart. And for her, the job is very personal.

“I just wanted to be associated with these two very strong, successful, healthy women. I have surrounded myself by people who are eating healthy and I’ve lost 77 pounds. I’m working on a daily effort to eat better, live better so I can be around for my grandchildren,” said Brincefield.

Much of the produce sold at the market is grown in the communal garden and greenhouse at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, behind St. Peter’s By the Sea Episcopal Church. This week, Lisa Sadleir-Hart explained the market’s beginnings.

“It came together out of a health summit – we have an annual health summit and set priorities for our community – and in 2008, there were several priorities focused on food.”

Local backyard farmers bring in their harvests to sell too. Lori Adams is among the vendors at this year’s market. She owns Down to Earth U Pick It on Sawmill Creek Road, a spacious garden open to the public during the summer. She said she uses the market as a way to advertise her u pick it operation, and the book she wrote about growing vegetables in Sitka.

“I take a little bit of produce. I also make a value added product called a gift basket so I always take one to the farmer’s market so people can see what we’re producing out here. And then everybody can sign up to win the basket, and at the end of the day, one person gets it.”

Sitka’s Farmers Market is about more than locally-grown produce. It’s got seafood, arts and crafts, black cod tips you can eat right then and there, and even…

“…barley cereal, barley flour, we’ve got some roasted barley tea, barley cous-cous as well as some pancake mix,” said Sadleir-Hart.

Thanks to a farmer in Delta Junction.

For more information about the summer schedule of the Sitka Farmers’ Markets, visit the Sitka Local Foods Network online.

Community volunteers search for missing family

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:17

A month has passed since Brandon Jividen, Rebecca Adams and her two daughters, Michelle Hundley and Jaracca Hundley, vanished from their home in Kenai.

While the Kenai Police Department has devoted all the resources at its disposal toward finding the family, to this point, the search efforts have not revealed their whereabouts. Lead investigator Lt. David Ross said without any leads to point police to a particular area, the department couldn’t continue to coordinate searches.

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Voting officials knew of poor translation

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:17

ANCHORAGE — The official who coordinated the Division of Election’s Yup’ik language program knew the translation for a radio announcement was off but suggested ignoring it anyway.

Emails entered as exhibits during a federal voting-rights trial include a 2009 back-and-forth between the division’s then-language coordinator in Bethel, Dorie Wassilie, and her boss, Shelly Growden. The emails came in the midst of a prior lawsuit, settled in 2010.

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New ad buys in Senate race

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:16

JUNEAU — Two third-party spending groups this week announced dropping more than $900,000 for ads in the Alaska U.S. Senate race.

The buys — in addition to the millions that groups have already spent or are expected to spend on the election — underscore the intense interest in the race, which could help determine which party controls the Senate.

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Fukushima radiation not found in Alaska seafood

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:16

ANCHORAGE — Alaska health officials say testing of Alaska seafood revealed no radiation contamination from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by a tsunami in 2011.

Officials from the Alaska departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and Social Services on Friday announced results of U.S. Food and Drug Administration tests.

The FDA monitors radiation in both domestic and imported food. Alaska officials called for specific Alaska samples, including fish that migrate from western Pacific waters off Japan.

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4 big hospitals face penalties for infection rates

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:09

ANCHORAGE — A federal program aimed at improving safety at the nation’s hospitals could mean financial penalties for Alaska’s four largest hospitals.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Anchorage’s Alaska Native Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center are in the lowest-performing 25 percent of hospitals for rates of infections and complications during in-patient stays, according to preliminary data analyzed by Kaiser Health News.

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Judge requires CIFF to reimburse state for lawsuit costs

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:09

ANCHORAGE — A judge ruled Wednesday that a commercial fishing group should pay part of the state’s cost for the lawsuit regarding management of the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries in 2013.

Alaska Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi issued an order asking Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund to pay the state Department of Law $12,924. That amount was 20 percent of what the state spent defending itself in the fisheries management lawsuit, according to a Department of Law memo filed with the court June 18.

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Fairbanks dealing with plethora of potholes

Sun, 2014-06-29 00:09

FAIRBANKS — Interior Alaska has endured one of its rainiest Junes, and that has opened a plethora of potholes in Fairbanks.

State and city road crews are working overtime to patch them, but have had a difficult time keeping up because anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain has fallen in the past week.

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