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Southeast Alaska News
Salmon trollers will not be able to target Taku River salmon this May.
The Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced the 2014 Taku River large king salmon forecast yesterday (Tue 2-18-14), and predicts a run of only 26,800 fish. That’s just about 3,000 fish shy of what is required to allow trollers to target the early run.
Dave Harris, ADF&G’s Juneau area management biologist for commercial fisheries says the forecast is better than last year, but still poor.
“If the forecast was a higher number then it’s possible that we could have had fisheries. We might of had a one day a week gill-net fishery, or some such thing depending on how strong we anticipated return was,” says Harris. “More fish need to come back before we’d have directed fisheries.”
Biologists want between 19- and 36-thousand kings to reach their spawning grounds on the Taku. Last year, only about 18 thousand fish made it.
Harris says biologists will revise their forecast once the fish start returning in May. It’s still possible trollers could get their shot at Taku kings.
“Once that information is in hand, if it’s doing much better than we anticipate we could actually have fisheries at that point,” says Harris. “Or if it’s doing worse on the other hand we can be more conservative too.”
But, Harris is not particularly optimistic. He believes that it is unlikely that any directed king fisheries will occur in the Taku river district in 2014.
JUNEAU — The sponsor of a bill that would allow municipalities to post certain public notices online rather than in newspapers said Tuesday that he asked that the bill be pulled from the House floor to protect his colleagues.
“I wasn’t going to put my members in the position of having to vote on a matter that I have heard from so many of them was going to cause them problems with their local newspapers,” Rep. Mike Hawker said in an interview.
Last week (Thurs 2-13-2014), about 40 people jammed into the Homeport Eatery in downtown Sitka to speak out against a proposed law, House Bill 77. HB77 is part of an effort by the Parnell Administration to streamline the permitting process at the Department of Natural Resources. But some Sitkans are joining a chorus of critics who say the bill goes too far.
About half an hour into the meeting, moderator Eric Jordan asked if anyone wanted to speak in favor of HB77.
JORDAN: Is there anybody here who wants to speak in favor of the bill?
Nobody did. Instead, most of the evening’s testimony sounded something like this:
BAINES: The Sitka Tribe has taken a stance in opposition of HB77.
SCORZELLI: We’re against it. We’re against HB77.
HARRIS: I think the whole bill should pretty much just be scrapped.
That was Michael Baines, of the Sitka Tribe; Andrew Scorzelli of the Chum Trollers’ Association; and Scott Harris of the Sitka Conservation Society.
HB77 would make a host of changes, large and small, to the way the Department of Natural Resources permits projects on state land. Critics say the bill would severely curtail public input on resource decisions. The Parnell administration says Alaska needs a more streamlined permitting process to ease development.
“We had gotten into quite a hole with backlogs of authorizations,” said Wyn Menefee, the Chief of Operations for the Division of Mining, Land and Water at the DNR. Menefee was supposed to attend the meeting in Sitka, but his flight was cancelled because of snow. Speaking later to KCAW, Menefee said that HB77 will make the DNR more efficient.
“We’re trying to tackle that and trying to make sure that we can be an agency that can provide timely, certain and efficient authorizations for folks,” Menefee said.
But at the meeting in Sitka, speakers said the bill is an overreach.
“I think everybody has seen situations – hatcheries is a perfect example – where the permitting process can seem overly burdensome,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “But overly burdensome is better than irreparable harm. ”
Speakers at the meeting worried that the bill would give the DNR commissioner too much authority, and limit the public’s right to appeal DNR decisions. The bill would restrict appeals to people who can prove they are “substantially and adversely affected” by a decision, as opposed to simply “aggrieved” in the current language; another section stipulates that only people who participate “meaningfully” in the public comment period will be allowed to appeal.
Speakers at the Sitka meeting also raised the question of water reservations.
“Right now, individuals, organizations, tribal governments can apply for permits to protect in-stream flow to make sure there’s adequate water to meet the needs of salmon in a stream at any time of year,” Behnken said. “And that opportunity will be precluded with HB77.”
Whereas a water appropriation takes a certain amount of water out of a river or lake, a water reservation keeps a certain amount in a body of water – for instance to protect fish habitat or water quality. Right now, anybody can apply for a water reservation – including any individual, nonprofit, or tribe. The wording in HB77 would limit that right to government agencies.
Until now, water reservations haven’t been a major issue in Southeast. That’s because it applies to state land, and most land in Southeast is federal. But, speakers said, it represents what they object to most in the bill: stripping away the ability of the public to participate in resource decisions.
Menefee said that individuals can still partner with government agencies to apply for water reservations. He said this section of HB77 grew out of a worry that the reservations were being abused as a tactic to stop major projects.
“There are reservations filed on rivers for pretty much the biggest projects around,” Menefee said. “For instance there’s reservations on the Chuitna coal area, on Pebble, on Susitna Dam, on the coal development in Sutton. I mean, if you go through and you look at the different larger projects that are going along, each one of them has a person applying for a water reservation on them.”
But, Menefee said, in response to public opposition, the DNR is working with legislators to make some changes to the bill before it comes up for a vote in the Senate.
“We heard loud and clear the concerns about still allowing people to apply,” Menefee said. “So we’re trying to find language that we can address that.”
Both of Sitka’s legislators, Senator Bert Stedman, a Republican, and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a Democrat, oppose the bill.
Stedman said that the bill was written too broadly, and pushed through without enough public input.
“This is a classic example where an issue is driven mainly by railbelt elected officials, in an attempt to basically drive it right over the coastal legislators,” Stedman said.
The bill passed the House last year; to become law, it has to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor. The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee — in Stedman’s words, “about one inch away from a vote. ”
Back in Sitka, Scott Harris spoke for many in the room when he said, “The people that manage public resources need to listen to the public.”
“That’s America,” Harris said. “That’s Alaska. That’s democracy. And yes, it’s harder, it takes more time, you have to find consensus among different opinions, but tough, that’s the way it needs to be if you’re talking about public resources.”
The design team behind the renovation of Sitka’s Harrigan Centennial Hall are in town this week, and they want to know what you want from the building.
Architect Garrett Burtner and interior designer Cathy Kerr of the Anchorage-based firm McCool Carlson Green, are looking for community feedback as they complete work on the Centennial Hall redesign. The pair participated in focus groups yesterday (Tues 2-18-14), covering the museum, landscaping, visitor experience, conventions, performances and food service. Today (Wed 2-19-14), focus groups will look at interior design, displays, meetings and assemblies.
The focus groups are all open to the public, and the Burtner and Kerr said they hope people will participate, because they are looking for the kind of fine-grained detail you only get when you’ve actually used the building.
“Let’s say we’re looking at a meeting room,” Burtner said. “People may say, I meet here with my quilting group, and we want to put some things up on the wall, but we’re always told we can’t put tacks in the wall, or there’s really no way to hang stuff without tape sticking to the wall…those little things that can be less of an obstruction for people using the building.”
“Or things like display lighting for different types of exhibits,” Kerr said. “Different types of furniture…We want to make sure that we accommodate all of those needs, as well as build in some flexibility, so that as needs change over time, the facility is still meeting the needs of the community.”
Burtner was also the project architect for the redesign of Sitka’s Pacific High School. He said that that experience has helped him on the current project.
“Architecture, for me it has to be really connected to the people that use it,” Burtner said. “So I think just learning a bit of the nature of the Sitka community and meeting individuals has helped me to feel more comfortable and understand the values and really the level of investment of people in Sitka. You have a beautiful place, and it’s clear that everybody wants to keep it beautiful and improve it. Now, what that means can be different for everybody, and that’s what we try to sort out.”
Burtner said the project is at “about 35% design.” Much of the exterior is set, as are the general outlines of most spaces inside, but the interior is still being planned. Burtner said he hopes to have the design completed by this fall, and a contractor on board and preparing to break ground by early 2015.
All focus groups will be held in the Exhibit Room at Centennial Hall. For more information, you can check the project’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/HarriganCentennialHall.
A delivery truck backed into Kettleson Memorial Library on Monday, damaging the building’s overhanging roof, but apparently doing no serious structural harm.
The library was closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday when the accident occurred. Librarian Joanna Perensovich noticed the damage when she went to empty the book drop and found debris on the ground near the library’s northwest corner, facing Harbor Drive. The roof corner had splintered from the impact.
The truck was making a delivery to a business next door, police said. The city has not yet calculated a dollar amount for the damage.
JUNEAU — Amid cheers and clapping from spectators in a packed room, the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee advanced a bill symbolically making 20 Alaska Native languages official languages of the state along with English.
“I love to see clapping when a bill passes,” committee co-chair, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said. “I have never seen that before.”
Misty eyes and emotional voices accompanied much of the public testimony.
PARKDALE, Ore. — People on the West Coast have counted on fish hatcheries for more than a century to help rebuild populations of salmon and steelhead decimated by overfishing, logging, mining, agriculture and hydroelectric dams, and bring them to a level where government would no longer need to regulate fisheries.
How do you sum up the life of a good man? So many memories and qualities compacted into a few words. Harold Allen Chartier (Harry) was a man who lived a life of integrity and inspired others through his kindness, humility, and humor. Harry gave “a tip of the country hat” and joined up with the Ghost Riders in the Sky on Monday, February 3, 2014. He leaves behind his loving children: daughter Susan Skye, and son Tim, daughter-in-law Brooke, and beautiful granddaughter Laraine Marie — all of Sitka, Alaska — as well as many, many, friends from around the world.
Harry was born on October 4, 1948, in Boise, Idaho. In 1978 he moved north to Alaska to wark as an engineer in Skagway. Harry married Mary Soltis and they moved to Sitka to raise their family in 1981.
For nearly 20 years, Harry worked as a building official with the City of Sitka. He was dedicated to serving the community he loved with fairness and integrity. He approached his job with a heart for service and a can-do attitude.
Harry was a personality! He had a way of walknig into a room bringing cheer in right behind him. When he would meet a new person, he would look them in the eye, find an authentic connection, and leave that person feeling special and truly seen. Magically, Harry could evn do this by sitting alone behind a microphone with his friends — the listeners — of his KCAW radio show Comin’ Up Country, a show he hosted every Friday night for many years.
Harry also helped build community through his volunteering with Southeast Regional Emergency Medical Services (SEREMS). He cared about people in their time of need and was there for Southeast Alaska.
Harry’s bones needed some sun, so after retiring from the city ten years ago, he headed to Eastern Oregon, and was living in Baker City at the time of his death. Many benefited from the gifts of rocks, pebbles, and the arrowheads he would find. He had a smile for everyone he encountered and had two green thumbs on two helping hands. Mr. Chartier was a very patient man, especially while fishing.
Harry respected peace and took time to touch many hearts. His generosity, enthusiasm, strength through adversity, and genuine love for life will not soon be forgotten.
The community can tip our country hats to a good man at a celebration of his life at the Halibut Point Recreation Area on Saturday, February 22, from 4-7 PM. Contributions can be made to the Harry Chartier Memorial Fund at Wells Fargo Bank.
Happy Trails, Harry.
Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell visited Ketchikan on Tuesday as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate. He visited the shipyard, attended a Rotary lunch, met with the Ketchikan Young Professionals Network, visited the hospital and was scheduled to attend a meet-and-greet starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. He also took a few minutes to talk with KRBD’s Leila Kheiry in between a couple of engagements at Cape Fox Lodge. Here is a portion of their conversation.
Treadwell is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. His opponents in the primary are Dan Sullivan and Joe Miller. The winner of that primary will face the incumbent Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and independent candidate Bill Walker.
Ketchikan High School performed well in last weekend’s Debate Drama and Forensics state competition in Anchorage.
According to Coach Dan Ortiz, Ketchikan entered three teams in the Public Forum Debate category, which had a total of 31 teams competing.
Two of the Kayhi teams made it to the semi-final round, and one of those teams — Cheyenne Matthews and Sam Ortiz – made it into the final debate. They lost by just one vote in the final round to a team from West Anchorage.
Petersburg officials will be in the state Capital this week seeking funding for a renovated police station and municipal building. The borough assembly on Friday gave the OK for the borough to pursue additional state money for what could be an almost-10-million-dollar project.
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Back in September the borough assembly decided to pursue a combined police station and borough office project and asked for cost estimates and preliminary designs for renovating the old Petersburg city hall.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht Friday said he wanted the assembly’s blessing keep going with the project. “We’re looking for your blessing to submit this project to the legislature and say, this is going to be our facility. As part of that I want you blessing in the sense that we can continue moving forward on this project. We don’t have the money for full construction. We do have plenty of money to continue pushing forward on the design process, basically moving the project to, it may be an overused term, shovel ready status so that when the construction money’s available we’re ready to move.”
The borough has four-point-one million dollars in state funding originally secured for a new or renovated police building. The station has a sinking floor and separating walls because of a failing concrete slab. Corey Wall of MRV Architects told the assembly the rest of the building is in good shape. “The slab in the police department was never meant to support the framing of the second floor of the police station that was put on it at a later date and that’s why it’s starting to subside. So that slab needs to be removed but our structural engineer determined that basically the rest of the building was sound and did need some upgrades to be brought up to current structural standards to house a public safety facility but it passed that initial test.”
The structure was built in 1958 and used to house the fire department and library, until those two departments moved into new buildings on Haugen Drive. Wall said the structure is just large enough to fit a renovated police department and jail, along with renovated borough offices. He presented drawings of a rehabbed building that he said would look like new. “The finishes, all the piping, all the wiring, pretty much everything you can see is going to be completely like new, including the outside envelope,” Wall said. “But we also have some advantages which is we get to keep structural items that are not at the end of their life span or don’t even really have a lifespan, we’re not throwing those away and starting new again. So it’s kindof the best of both worlds we’ve found. We’ve done this with a number of facilities and what we’ve found is the trend is actually going towards renovation.”
The estimated price tag for the renovation is seven point one million dollars. However Wall said the estimated cost of the project overall will be nine point seven million dollars. That includes the price of redoing the police communications system, the rent for temporary borough offices while construction work is underway along with design work and construction oversight, furnishings and unforeseen costs. That estimate is about seven hundred thousand dollars above the price tag for a stand-alone new police station. However, Wall pointed out that cost of construction was the same. “So again construction is about the same for a building that’s about four thousand square feet bigger than the other facility was but your project costs are a little bit higher because we’ve put more in on the project cost side. We believe that that’s realistic because that’s what it’s going to take to get the project done completely and correctly but that’s the reason you’re seeing that increase in money for the total project cost.”
Wall said design work was about 15 percent completed. The proposed building would have a new entry and parking area for borough offices, enclosed garage for the police station and would use pre-manufactured jail cells. The building would be heated and cooled with air source heat pumps.
Mayor Mark Jensen said he’d be meeting with legislators in Juneau this week. “I mean we’re meeting with the right people, co chair of finance committee, if we get a chance to go to the governor’s office, and Cathy Munoz, who isn’t our representative, but has expressed she would do everything she can to help us and I believe she’s on house finance so. Tight budget up there this year though so we’ll just do what we can do and see what happens.”
Jensen also asked police Chief Kelly Swihart for his opinion. “Yeah this a great concept we’re happy with it. As we continue we may wanna move some doorways or walls a little bit here and there, move those around a little bit, but I think it’s a great concept and the staff’s reviewed it, everyone seems pretty happy with it,” Swihart said.
The assembly voted unanimously to authorize the mayor and manager to seek state funding for the project.
Petersburg’s borough assembly has replaced one kind of counselor with a different kind of counselor.
The mayor and assembly Friday appointed 37-year-old Jeigh Stanton Gregor to fill the seat vacated earlier this month by attorney John Hoag.
Deputy clerk Debbie Thompson swore in Stanton Gregor after he was appointed at the start of Friday’s assembly meeting. Stanton Gregor co-owns True North Counseling and Consultation, a business that provides therapy and mental health counseling for individuals, couples and organizations. He’s also worked as a fishing deckhand and an aide in the elementary school.
He’s put his name in for an assembly appointment before but was not chosen for a seat. This time however, the assembly took a vote by anonymous ballot and the Stanton Gregor was elected 5-1 over former mayor Al Dwyer. Those were the only two residents who put their name in for the spot.
That makes four of the six assembly members who have been appointed. The only remaining elected members are John Havrilek and Nancy Strand along with Mayor Mark Jensen. The seats of the other four will all be on the October ballot this year.
Sitka celebrates the Chinese New Year. “Save our Schools” rally held in Juneau. Stedman leads Alaska lawmakers in travel expenses. Trial of former Blatchley Middle School principal set for May.
ANCHORAGE — Transportation Security Administration agents found what Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport police have described as a “pipe bomb” in the carry-on luggage of a man ticketed on an oil worker flight to the North Slope Sunday, forcing an hour shutdown of the security checkpoint.
The man initially claimed the small explosive was an “avalanche device,” said Jesse Davis, chief of the airport’s police and fire department.
“I don’t know of any avalanche dangers up on the North Slope,” he said.
JUNEAU — In 2010, the state adopted an energy policy that, among other things, set a goal of having 50 percent of Alaska’s electric generation come from renewable and alternative energy sources by 2025.
The likeliest way to reach the goal is widely believed to include a major project in south-central Alaska, the proposed Susitna-Watana hydro complex. But the project, which critics see as unnecessary with the state pursuing a natural gas pipeline, is far from assured.
JUNEAU — Mining is good for Alaska’s economy, but while the state’s six producing mines are holding up well, and some even expanding, a sharp 38 percent drop in exploration spending last year is having ripple effects.
Overall, mining employed 4,600 Alaskans directly last year and the overall employment impact totaled 9,100 including indirect jobs created by the spending. Direct payrolls of mining companies totaled $630 million in 2013.
Sen. John Coghill, R-Fairbanks, questions Christie Jamieson, a staff member of Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, during an introduction of Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. The resolution urges the governor to acquire land in the Tongass National Forest from the federal government
FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell said critics of his administration’s actions in a North Pole oil refinery’s impending closure don’t see behind-the-scenes work that could keep the refinery operating.
Flint Hills Resources announced earlier this month that the refinery would cease gasoline production on May 1 and the production of jet fuel by June 1.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/M6SNuW ) Parnell told the newspaper’s editorial board that the price the state sets for refinery “royalty” oil is under review.
State officials recently released documents showing how much each legislator spent on travel last year. The totals range from a little more than $1,000 to almost $50,000.
Two of the most expensive travelers are from Southeast.
Sen. Bert Stedman spent more on legislative travel last year than any other lawmaker.
The Sitka Republican spent more than $47,000 for airfare, lodging, car rentals, meals, per diem and other costs. That’s about a third more than the previous year.
“I’ve never been No. 1 before. I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” he says.
About 40 percent of Stedman’s charges covered meetings and trainings for the Energy Council, which he chaired for most of the year.
The organization includes lawmakers from energy-producing states and provinces, as well as Venezuela. Members meet quarterly, and Stedman attended additional events.
“So it is important that we get outside and educate ourselves on how the industry works and how to structure policies to keep them competitive in a global environment,” he says.
In all, 20 of Alaska’s 60 lawmakers attended at least one Energy Council meeting.
A lot of Stedman’s other reimbursed travel covered trips to most of the 27 communities in his district. It runs from Metlakatla to Haines.
“So you should see rural legislators really stick out, not for out of state travel, but in-state, just because we’ve got to get around,” he says.
Some other lawmakers with big districts also racked up large travel bills. But most high-spenders were in leadership posts.
The state paid almost a million dollars last year for all 60 legislators’ travel. That’s up about 50 percent from 2012.
Another Southeast Representative, Peggy Wilson, was eighth on the travel-expense list.
The Wrangell Republican spent more than $35,000 during 2013.
“Now that we have a 90-day session, we actually have more committee meetings outside of the session. And for me to go to a meeting in Anchorage, it takes three days for sure, depending on what time of day the meetings are,” she says.
Wilson serves as majority whip, a House leadership position. She’s in her fourth year in that post. She says that sent her to in-state organizational meetings and other events.
Wilson also traveled to meetings and academies put on by the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.
That’s where close to half her total travel costs went.
Does she ever turn down invitations to attend?
“Oh my, yes,” she says. “I could be gone all the time. But you just can’t go to every one. So you try to pick and chose which ones you think are going to be the most meaningful.”
Wilson’s 2013 total showed a five-fold increase from the previous year.
Southeast’s other three sitting lawmakers were in the bottom third of the travel-spending list.
Juneau Republican Representative Cathy Munoz was 42nd out of 60 with about $7,000 in spending. Sitka Democratic Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins was 52nd at $4,500. And Juneau Democratic Senator Dennis Egan was 55th, with only $3,300 spent on travel.
Former House Minority Caucus Leader Beth Kerttula came in 35th, with about $11,000 spent. The Juneau Democrat resigned her post last month to take a job at California’s Stanford University.
JUNEAU — With the scheduled 90-day session about one-third of the way over, at least four different committees are planning hearings on gas line matters this week in an effort to get as many members as possible up to speed on one of this year’s top issues.
The Senate Finance Committee is planning two-a-days Wednesday through Friday, with morning sessions generally focused on the capital budget and late-afternoon hearings on issues related to the liquefied natural gas project. A fiscal analysis of the gas line agreements also is on Friday morning’s agenda.