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Southeast Alaska News
Together For a Meth-Free Sitka, an initiative chosen at this year’s Sitka Health Summit, met for only the second time Tuesday night (11-12-13), and has already won state support.
Kate Burkhart, the executive director of the Alaska Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, attended the meeting.
So I’m here tonight, just to kind of be a resource. And as you continue your process, if there are ways that the board or department can support your process, and help you achieve whatever goals you set. That’s what I’m here for.
The task force is still in its organizational stage. Four subgroups have been created: law enforcement, prevention, education, and media. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, groups met separately to outline concrete steps the community could take to address methamphetamine addiction.
Ray Majeski was the spokesperson for the law enforcement group.
“We have four fewer people today on the police department than we had 28 years ago and the problems in Sitka have not diminished in 28 years. If anything they’ve been magnified somewhat,” said Majeski.
Donna Callistini spoke on behalf of the prevention group, whose top goal is to develop a detox facility in Sitka. Her concerns were shared by task force member Eileen Gallagher, who has a masters degree in trauma and addiction.
Gallagher said, “that’s one of the things about methamphetamine. It demands, not requires, it demands that any treatment has to be very structured and it has to be long. One of the things that Sitka doesn’t have is an intensive outpatient program.”
The task force briefly considered changing its name, but no further action was taken on the issue. To learn more about the meetings and activities of what — for the time being — remains “Together for a Meth-Free Sitka,” visit facebook.com/methfreesitka.
Tribal citizens returned Benjamin Miyasato, Lawrence “Woody” Widmark, and Harvey Kitka to the Sitka Tribal Council, in elections held Tuesday (11-13-13). Former council member Thomas Gamble also won a seat. He last served in 2008.
Louise Brady and Stephanie Edenshaw were the runners-up, falling short by just a few votes. Despite having open voting at the Sheetka Kwan Community House for two weeks prior to election day, turnout was disappointingly low. While around 1,900 people in Sitka are eligible to vote in the council elections, Tribal officials estimate that only 140 people cast ballots to fill the four open seats.
Ben Miyasato, who will reclaim his seat as vice-chairman, received the most votes, with 107.
Miyasato says, “what surprised me was that the turnout was extremely low but at the same time that is sending a message that they’re not happy with their tribal government which is understandable given the financial difficulty they’re under. We hear your message.”
Also noting the low turnout, Gamble has this message for tribal citizens. “…I guess just this message to the tribal citizens that in order for positive change to happen their involvement is going to be requested continuously.”
The election results will be certified at the next council meeting on November 20th. The new terms for elected officials will begin December 1.
Sea cucumber fishing is winding down for commercial divers in Southeast Alaska. There is another opening Monday but the fleet is very close to reaching its overall quota and boats have begun calling it quits. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reporting a catch of just over one-million, four-hundred and sixty-four thousand pounds to date.
“We have about a million and a half pounds harvested. That includes some areas that went over their GHL’s a little bit so there’s still approximately 70 thousand pounds in the Ketchikan area to be harvested and a little bit left in the Juneau area,” says Justin Breese, Assistant Area Management Biologist in Ketchikan.
Divers get short, weekly openings to target cucumbers. Each fishing area is closed once the fleet reaches the guideline harvest level or GHL there. The first opening was October 7th.
Breese say this year’s cucumber price has averaged around five dollars a pound, “Which is pretty good and it drew quite a few people out and that’s one of the reasons a lot of some of the smaller areas got more effort than they were anticipating in several different smaller areas.”
Nearly 200 divers have participated in this year’s sea cucumber fishery.
Governor Sean Parnell will discuss Medicaid expansion at a press conference in Anchorage today. Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur will join Parnell at the conference.
Parnell is expected to announce by Dec. 15 whether the State of Alaska will accept federal money offered for the expansion through the Affordable Care Act. He’s said before that he has “serious concerns” about expanding Medicaid because of the cost to the state. He said in a statement earlier this year that Alaska’s Medicaid costs are already growing by $100 million a year.
Interested parties have until Dec. 3 to comment on the proposed oil and gas sale in the Chukchi Sea. The Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management announced Thursday that it was extending the comment period because of the government shutdown in October.
Developers believe Alaska’s outer continental shelf has extensive oil resources, but the site’s remote location and harsh conditions pose challenges to extraction.
Find more information on how to comment here: http://bit.ly/chukchicomment.
U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced legislation Wednesday that would designate 1.56 million acres of land in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.
President Barack Obama announced a fix to the Affordable Care Act that would allow insurers to extend by one year health insurance policies that don’t comply with the act. The fix comes after five million people reported their current policies had been canceled.
Obama announced the fix Thursday.
The opinions expressed in commentaries on KCAW are those of the author, and not necessarily shared by the station’s staff, board, or volunteers.
I’m Shanelle Afcan.
Alaska leads the nation for drinking and suicides per capita. Many have theories as to why Alaskans drink to get drunk, such as: “The Natives aren’t accustomed to it, so they get out of control.” Yet when we peruse songs, movies, history, and even the everyday household, the majority of severe drinking problems are seen as stemming from a loss, as of a loved one, as clearly sung in Brad Paisley’s Whiskey Lullaby in which the main character “put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger in order to drink away her memory.”
The same feeling of loss creates the alcoholism epidemic in Alaskan communities. After Sheldon Jackson’s report to Congress that the Natives needed to be civilized, children as young as the age of five, who had never previously left their villages, were forcibly taken to boarding schools. One man now reaching elder status recounts:
I was eight years old and my brother was six when we were sent away to the Wrangell Institute boarding school in the fall of 1955. Boarding school taught me that everything I knew about my culture, language, and world view were evil, and must be pushed away.
My own grandparents were among the generation to face this abuse. Of the horrors that they were most willing to talk about was their inability to speak a word of their Native tongue inside or outside of the classroom, lest they face severe punishment. They came back to their village after graduation so ashamed of their culture that they never taught my parents Yup’ik, and in turn I did not learn, along with the rest of my generation. Moreover, when the boarding school generation became parents, they could only parent what they knew in their childhood days, and what they knew of was cruel violence. Many, after losing so much became alcoholic.
In modern education, we no longer punish children, nor do we actively try to purge their culture. But the void that was created not long ago still goes unaddressed. I am living proof. As I was growing up I believed whole-heartedly in the power of education. And since the system we have today does not prepare students for hunting, fishing, gathering, or conversing with an elder in their native language to gain wisdom, I do not have any of these skills. Instead, I know how to get a job. But jobs are scarce in rural areas. Therefore, any student like myself who commits herself to her school work is ultimately committing himself or hersellf to leaving their hometown, lifestyle, culture, and family. The student who partially commits to the traditional way of life, and partially to school is inadequate in both, and will usually end up in limbo, in a pit of inability to support themselves either in their homes or in the cities.
This is our void. A void powerful enough to put many people at the bottom of a bucket.
The Alaska suicide and alcohol epidemic stems from assimilation. And it’s time for change.
I attend Mt. Edgecumbe High School — the same boarding school both my grandfathers were forced to attend in their youth. Needless to say, assimilation is a great success. But in that success, a tremendous loss remains for my people and for myself. A long time ago our cultures were taken away, and in their place were left alcohol, suicide, disconnection.
The challenge for us all today is to take away such corrosions, and in their places leave culture.
Shanelle Afcan is a student at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell is expected to announce whether Alaska will move forward with Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law.
Parnell has scheduled a Friday news conference in Anchorage.
Democratic state lawmakers have urged Parnell to expand Medicaid, as have U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and a list of organizations, including chambers of commerce and advocacy groups.
Rick Stromberg, from the Alaska Energy Authority, gave a presentation on Sitka’s wind potential Wednesday night (11-13-13) on behalf of the city’s electric utility. But his remarks about smaller-scale turbines powered the audience’s questions afterwards.
Stromberg said that it was perfectly reasonable for homeowners on islands to use wind to generate power.
“You would do that as a residential system with batteries and an inverter. You may have a diesel generator that that runs to charge the batteries too, or solar panels,” he said.
City Administrator Mark Gorman mentioned that he had set up a wind generator at his place on Middle Island about 15 years ago.
“It lasted, probably about six months before the first one blew off after one of our wind storms coming off the island. Put up a second one and that blew off, and that was enough.”
Stromberg agrees that too much wind in Sitka can be a problem for wind generators. That is one reason to check the Energy Authority’s wind models before building a turbine.
“Sitka is out right on the ocean as opposed to being back in some protected waters so I’m sure that there are some locations where that’s the case, If you’ve been living there a while and you know you have some really severe events, you’re getting 100 mile an hour winds, it’s probably not the place to put up a residential turbine. Again, check that model.”
Home owners who want to check the model can log on to the Alaska Energy Authority website and, using Google Earth, zoom in on their property and look at the best place to catch enough wind, but not too much.
“It only takes about 5 minutes. If you go to the Alaska Energy Authority’s Wind Program Page, there’s a link to our maps page. About 2/3 of the way down there it will say ‘Google Earth’ and there’s a link so that once you have Google Earth loaded onto your computer, just click on that link and it will download a .kml file which is what Google Earth recognizes and it will overlay the wind resource model onto the whole map of the state of Alaska so anywhere you zoom, in the entire state, you can see if you might be in a windy zone.”
Or, Stromberg says, “We’re happy to make a map of your location, help you out with that, at no cost, if you just contact the state.”
Stromberg say there are other considerations in siting your wind generator, like trees.
“Typically you want your wind turbine to be at least 25 feet above that vegetation level. So if you’re exposed to some open areas that would be great but if your’re down in the forest and your trees are 80 feet tall you’d need to go more than 100 feet on a tower and that gets pretty costly.”
So with all the problems he’s had, has Mark Gorman given up on the idea of an island wind plant?
“No, I think we should be looking at these and experimenting. Again, this was 15 years ago. The technology has been advanced. I know of other people who have been more successful. I was kind of a hobbiest at it. Maybe I did not put it in the best location or secured it properly. I think there’s opportunity there.”
It’s about a month into the Southeast Alaska Winter king salmon season and so far, commercial trollers have had some of the best fishing they’ve seen in the last 20 years, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Assistant Troll Management Biologist Grant Hagerman said on Tuesday that the fleet had landed nearly 12 thousand Chinook, “Which…. compared to a 5-year, 10-year average are well, well above that…. more than twice, almost 3 times that 5 and 10-year average….. pretty Impressive…..So, through the end of October ….the effort and harvest has ranked first and second for the last 20 years so It’s been pretty impressive so far.”
The season opened on October 11th and the biggest portion of the harvest has come from the outside waters near Sitka, which is pretty typical. Trollers near Sitka have landed around 6 thousand kings while they’ve picked up nearly 31 hundred in the Yakutat area. Frederick Sound’s District Ten near Petersburg has seen the third biggest share of the harvest with about 12 hundred kings.
According to Hagerman, Frederick Sound trollers have also brought in the most fish per trip, “There’s actually several areas that haven’t been really big contributors as far as total harvest but the boats that have fished these areas…they’ve found fish. [There are] actually some interesting areas. Frederick Sound is one of them. I think they’re actually the top per landing at 22 kings since October 11th.”
Hagerman says the price started out about average for the past decade at just under seven dollars a pound. More recently, he says the value has been closer to eight dollars.
Regionwide, Hagerman says the fish are averaging about 12 pounds each which is just slightly below last year at this time but the size varies depending on the area, “There is quite a bit of difference where the outer coastal fish are a little bit smaller here in Sitka. [They are] a little bit bigger in Yautat where they’re closer to a 14 pound average and then in Frederick Sound as well they’re above a 13 pound average so as you move around the region there is definitely some size difference.”
Depending on catches, the winter season can last until the end of April. It closes earlier if the harvest reaches 45 thousand kings, not including Alaska hatchery-reared fish.
Last year’s season started much slower and totaled about 27 thousand kings by the spring closure. Alaska hatchery kings made up about 14 percent of that harvest.
Under a new rule that took effect last week, passengers on Alaska Airlines flights are now allowed to use electronic tablets, readers, games and other personal devices from gate to gate.
Under previous Federal Aviation Administration regulations, all electronic devices had to be turned completely off and stored during takeoff and landing. The agency relaxed those rules in late October, though, and Alaska Airlines quickly changed its internal regulations to follow.
While tablets, e-readers and smartphones can be used throughout the flight, those devices still must be switched to “airplane mode” so they can’t send or receive signals.
Laptops and larger devices must be stowed during takeoff and landing so they do not pose a safety hazard.
On a related note, Alaska Airlines also announced it will start flying its first aircraft with 110-volt and USB outlets at every seat next month. Most of the fleet will be equipped with outlets by the end of next year.
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Director Elsbeth Poe, and performers Destony Rosas and Ayla McNeilley, preview “The Adventures of Beatrix Potter and Friends,” which opens Saturday (11-16-13), 7 PM at the Odess Theater. A second performance will be at 2 PM Sunday. Tickets ($10, $5 students/seniors, 5-and-under free) available at Old Harbor Books or at the door.
Petersburg’s borough government this winter could be looking for companies to update a long-term plan for land use in the community. The borough’s planning commission this week voted to recommend advertising for a firm to revise Petersburg’s comprehensive plan. The document outlines land zoning, status of facilities and future needs. The latest revision will also need to look at land use and goals in an expanded area inside Petersburg’s newly formed borough.
State law requires a municipal government to have a comprehensive plan and requires periodic updates. Petersburg’s existing eight chapter document covers land use and zoning, transportation, parks and recreation facilities along with other public services and buildings. That document is over a decade old.
“It was passed in 1999 and it needs to be definitely updated,” said Planning Commission chair Susan Thomason at a meeting Tuesday. “And it’s an opportunity for all the borough residents to identify priorities and issues of concern, besides identifying priorities for municipal land selection.”
Other potential pieces of a plan revision could be a facility and rate review for current and future harbors in the borough, or an action plan for economic development in the area.
In 2009, Petersburg’s city council voted against spending money for a plan update over concerns about the cost of the work. Voters have since created a new borough government with taxation and planning authority over an area that’s about 83 times the size of the old city. State funding for creating the borough can be used to pay for a plan update, and the new borough will eventually select state land as a benefit of borough creation.
Commissioner Dona Laubhan wanted to make sure the new comprehensive plan included input from people outside the old city limits now part of the new borough.
Thomason agreed the update should have public input from all borough residents and suggest online surveys could be one tool for gathering opinion this time around. Thomason also thought borough residents will decide their own land restrictions. “For instance, if people choose not to have planning and zoning in their particular area, they may choose not to have it,” she said. “But they need to be aware they could get a logging mill next to their home, or a fur farm, if they choose not to be zoned, rural residential, or industrial, whatever. And that will be choice of all borough residents.
Meanwhile, commissioner Dave Kensinger wanted a economic development action plan and harbor facility review to be separate options in the request for proposals. That’s so the borough assembly could decide on whether to include those or not depending on cost.
Kensigner though the harbor facility review could slow down completion of the plan. “To me that seems like a really big issue that maybe shouldn’t necessarily be right in the middle of a comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan at least my understanding of it is it’s a general document, it’s an outline. It’s not getting into the specifics, it’s not getting into saying, yeah we’re gonna charge everybody 100 bucks a day to park their boat at x and x state dock or something like that. And Im afraid if we do that, that’s gonna bog us down and we’re not gonna ever get the thing done.”
Kensinger also pointed out that just because something is in the document doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. “We have to make sure everybody realizes that this is just, we’re not saying this is what’s going to happen. This is just an outline and then this gives a reference point for the community to says OK look, We have an economic development plan, it says this, these are the recommendations and then those things get discussed by the community and then they get decided, yeah we’ll do this, or we’re not gonna do this.”
A comprehensive plan revision is typically a lengthy process. Petersburg’s last update involved more than two years of focus groups, public hearings and debate. Much of that discussion focused on future plans for 314 acres of publicly owned land near Sandy Beach. That land was ultimately zoned for a mix of residential, recreational, commercial and open space but has yet to be developed.
The commission at Tuesday’s meeting approved a motion to create a request for proposals for the borough assembly to consider. Commissioners are hoping the borough assembly will agree to advertise for a consulting firm this winter and plan to broach the issue with the assembly during the assembly’s next meeting November 25th.
Roy McPherson and Dale Curtis of the Ketchikan Community Concert Band speak about the upcoming performance, Sunday, November 24th, at Kayhi. Concert111413
As Gov. Sean Parnell weighs the decision whether to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, a few Juneau health care providers have varied perspectives on what it might mean for their bottom lines.
A report on expanding Medicaid in Alaska is expected to be released next month when Parnell reveals his 2015 budget proposal. Until then, Juneau’s health care providers aren’t making any guesses.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska residents with ties to the Philippines are closely monitoring news of the disaster from Typhoon Haiyan while trying to raise money and supplies to send to the islands.
More than 19,000 Filipinos live in Alaska and make up one of the state’s largest ethnic groups, the Anchorage Daily News reported. They have begun email chains, organized donation centers and planned events since they storm hit last week.
“Everyone’s joining together,” said the Rev. Luz Flores of Holy Spirit Center.
JUNEAU — The organizers of a citizen’s petition to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Alaska are expressing a sense of urgency in their signature-gathering effort.
An email appeal went out last week that was headlined “Save the initiative — volunteer NOW!” It was signed by Tim Hinterberger, one of the sponsors of the proposed initiative, though he said it was more an effort to “light a fire under our volunteers” than a statement of any worry about the fate of the proposal.
JUNEAU — Two of Alaska’s highest profile politicians traded barbs Wednesday over the federal health care law.
Republican Gov. Sean Parnell told U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in a letter that he should “do what is right for Alaskans” and vote to repeal or “substantially change” the law as it relates to private health insurance choices. Insurance companies have been sending cancellation notices to individuals with policies that do not meet requirements under the law.
JUNEAU — Fifty-three Alaskans signed up for private health insurance during the first month of the online federal marketplace, government figures released Wednesday show.