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Southeast Alaska News

Legislature recognizes Ketchikan Medical Center

Tue, 2014-06-24 13:21

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center received a surprise last week when visiting State Senator Lesil McGuire presented hospital officials with a citation on behalf of the Alaska State Legislature.

McGuire, who represents Anchorage, sponsored the citation to commemorate the opening of the Ketchikan Medical Center’s new chemotherapy infusion suite.

According to PeaceHealth, McGuire said she wanted to offer the recognition after she heard of the new infusion therapy suite, and how it was funded through a partnership between individuals, businesses and private foundations.

Campers’ celebrations

Tue, 2014-06-24 13:00

New York City theater professionals and Sitka Fine Arts Camp instructors Michael Eisenstien and Nora Gustuson talk about the last week of middle school camp and upcoming culminating performances – June 25, 26, 27 at 7 p.m. at the Sitka Performing Arts Center and the Afternoon Showcase, June 27 from 1‐4 p.m on the Sitka Fine Arts Campus.


Swollen Clear Creek not enough to halt Thai take-out order

Tue, 2014-06-24 12:42

FAIRBANKS — A little thing like a flooded creek was not enough to keep an Alaska restaurant owner from delivering Thai ribs and fried rice to stranded customers over the weekend.

Anuson “Knott” Poolsawat, owner of Knott’s Take Out in North Pole, forded the swollen waters of Clear Creek to reach two customers stuck along the Richardson Highway, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Mike Laiti and Brandon Borgens were completing a multi-day drive Saturday night up the Alaska Highway when they called in their order to the restaurant, which was near closing.

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Hatchery in Kake closing June 30th

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:43

A hatchery in the Southeast community of Kake is closing its doors this month and has released its final chum, pink and coho salmon. There’s still some hope that a larger regional hatchery organization can figure out a way to restart the salmon enhancement program there.
The Gunnuk Creek hatchery started in 1973 as a Kake High School project. Community members formed a non-profit and incorporated in 1976. General manager John Oliva says they’re boarding up the hatchery this month and will close the doors June 30th . He said the Kake Non-profit Fisheries Corporation did not have enough money to keep operating. “The corporation owes like 22 million dollars to the state. About half of that, maybe a little more than half of that is actually deferred interest, going back to 1981,” Oliva said.

Oliva noted the state could not provide additional funding and the non-profit was forced to close. “The corporation’s shut the doors voluntarily signed over all the assets to the state. So as of right now, we’re boarding up everying. The state’s sold off a good portion of the equipment, incubators, net pens, net pen complexes, anchor systems, forklifts, trucks, stuff like that to NSRAA.”

NSRAA is the Sitka-based Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. That regional non-profit was already partnering with Gunnuk Creek on a chum project off of nearby Kuiu Island. Now NSRAA is considering whether it should operate the Kake hatchery after Gunnuk Creek closes its doors.

NSRAA general manager Steve Reifenstuhl said they’re evaluating whether it pencils out to install new equipment to re-circulate and regulate the water in Gunnuk Creek. “So that we can number one clean up the water quality and then deal with the extremely cold temperatures in winter and the extremely high temperatures in summer. And by reducing the amount of water we need and recirculating it, we think that we can do a much better job at raising high quality eggs and fry.”

Gunnuk Creek has been logged and has increased sediment and greater temperature fluctuations. Reifenstuhl said the high cost of energy in Kake also will enter into the decision. They’re looking into a small hydro electric turbine to generate the needed electricity. They also have to consider the impact to NSRAA’s facility at Hidden Falls hatchery on Baranof Island where chum are raised. Reifenstuhl said it’s difficult to put additional pressure on the production at Hidden Falls. “It’s difficult for staff to manage another 55-60 thousand broodstock fish. It’s tough on the seiners to pull all those fish out of their fishery. And the facility wasn’t built for anywhere near that much. We can do it. But it would be better if we could do it in Gunnuk Creek.”

Ultimately it’s a decision for the NSRAA’s board of directors, based on information from engineers and staff. Meanwhile, that regional non-profit is going forward with new chum production nearby Kake at Southeast Cove. That program will mean 35 million chum released there next year, and 55 million the following year.

Staff at Gunnuk Creek released their final chum, pinks and coho in late May and early June. Gunnuk Creek’s Oliva thinks some of the salmon could continue to spawn after the hatchery shuts down. “I think there’s a good chance the pinks and the coho will,” Oliva said. “The pinks and the coho came from this creek. The coho definitely are a native Gunnuk creek stock. And the pinks, the hatchery back in the 90s was doing pinks and they stopped and the pinks continued to come so they may come back still. The chums on the other hand may be a different story. You know we put our weirs down and removed all our barriers so the fish can go upstream but there’s going to be limited spawning habitat up there for em. So we still might get some chums to come back but I don’t think there’ll be any great numbers.”

The hatchery was impacted when the Gunnuk Creek dam broke in 2000, leaving the community without a water supply for several days. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rebuilt the dam but Oliva said that too caused problems. “Basically had a full building full of alevins and they killed them all off with the construction. Lost all of our water and stuff when they were doing the construction. So we actually had to start rebuilding again and it was just a battle. You know this last year we’re finally seeing some good returns come back but it was a day late and a dollar short basically.”

Oliva says Gunnuk Creek has four full time employees and 10-12 season workers, mostly local kids who help with the egg takes each year. The fish returning to the area are caught by Southeast’s fishing fleets. The bears that congregate on the creek each year, drawn by the returning chums, have also been an attraction for smaller cruise ships.

7.9 quake in Aleutians spawns small tsunami

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:37

ANCHORAGE A strong earthquake near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands triggered a tsunami warning Monday, but only small waves measuring several inches hit coastal communities.

The National Tsunami Warning Center canceled all tsunami warnings late Monday afternoon, about four hours after the earthquake struck.

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Search suspended for French adventurer in Alaska

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:36

ANCHORAGE — The search for a missing French adventurer was suspended along the eastern coast of Katmai National Park and Preserve after aerial searches didn’t reveal any signs of his whereabouts, authorities said.

The search for Francois Guenot was called off late Saturday, a day after park rangers found his kayak containing his identification, food, maps and personal journals, said Katmai National Park Chief Ranger Neal Labrie.

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Fairbanks fugitive found in North Pole

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:35

FAIRBANKS — A man who escaped custody in a Fairbanks police car despite being handcuffed has been apprehended.

Julius “JT” Chambers was arrested Saturday with help from federal marshals after four days on the lam, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Chambers was arrested at an apartment in North Pole. He was found hiding under a futon and a pile of clothes, police said.

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Swollen Clear Creek not enough to halt Thai take-out order

Tue, 2014-06-24 09:33

FAIRBANKS — A little thing like a flooded creek was not enough to keep an Alaska restaurant owner from delivering Thai ribs and fried rice to stranded customers over the weekend.

Anuson “Knott” Poolsawat, owner of Knott’s Take Out in North Pole, forded the swollen waters of Clear Creek to reach two customers stuck along the Richardson Highway, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

read more

Survey: Housing still top local issue

Tue, 2014-06-24 07:15

Businesses and residents agree, the availability of affordable housing is the top barrier to economic development in Juneau, according to surveys conducted by McDowell Group and Sheinberg Associates.

McDowell Group Owner and President Jim Calvin revealed this and more during a presentation on the Juneau Economic Development Plan at Monday night’s Assembly Committee of the Whole meeting. Data from the past decade — including income, employment rates and more — has been collected and analyzed to build the plan’s framework.

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No SE tsunami danger from Aleutians quake

Mon, 2014-06-23 17:58

A map from the National Tsunami Warning Center shows the location of Monday’s 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Western Aleutians, indicated by the house. (Map courtesy of NTWC)

A large earthquake in the Aleutians today (Monday 6-23-14) posed no tsunami danger to Southeast Alaska, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.

The magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck the Aleutians just before 1 p.m. today. It was centered about 25 miles northwest of Amchitka, at the western end of the Aleutian chain. The initial quake was followed by several aftershocks.

The earthquake prompted a tsunami warning for parts of the Aleutian chain, which was later downgraded to an advisory and then cancelled.

A small tsunami wave, of about 7 inches, was recorded in Amchitka around 3:20 p.m. Dutch Harbor recorded a wave of less than 4 inches about ten minutes later.

The Tsunami Warning Center said the depth of the earthquake limited the extent of tsunami danger. The center estimated that the quake took place at a depth of about 68 miles.

You can find more coverage of the earthquake from APRN member station KUCB in Unalaska here.


Morris dance groups perform in Ketchikan

Mon, 2014-06-23 15:46

Preschool children attending Monday’s Morris Dance performance pet a hobby horse, which is part of the English folk dance’s tradition.

A traditional English folk dance that has been around since at least the 1400s came to Ketchikan on Monday. The Anchorage-based Rant and Raven Morris Dance group kicked off its 20th anniversary celebration and ferry cruise with a performance under Ketchikan’s downtown Berth IV shelter.

Cruise ship visitors and locals watched, clapped and laughed while energetic dancers hopped, stepped and rapidly struck short sticks together to the accompaniment of accordions and flutes.

The Alaska dance group has been joined on the celebration tour by dance groups from Seattle, British Columbia, and England.

Click “play” below to hear an audio postcard from the performance.


The Morris dancers head to Juneau next, and plan to perform Tuesday at the marine park in front of the library there. After that, they take the ferry to Yakutat and Whittier before ending the tour in Anchorage.

The celebration was paid for through a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts.





Crow tripped Sunday evening power outage

Mon, 2014-06-23 14:24

A power outage Sunday night was the fault of a crow that flew into a power line near the Ketchikan Shipyard.
Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division Manager Andy Donato says that crews found the dead bird Monday, plus a witness who saw the impact.
Sunday’s power outage started a little after 7 p.m. Crews started bringing sections back on line within about half an hour, and by about 8:45 p.m., everyone had power again.
Donato says that KPU has an “avian protection” program, in hopes of deterring birds from hitting the lines, killing themselves and shutting down the grid. Measures include balls on the lines to make the wires more visible, and triangles on the crossbeams, so they’re less attractive for birds wanting to take a break.
Donato says those measures help quite a bit, but they’re not 100 percent effective.
Sunday’s outage follows another one just last Thursday, but that one was caused by a Southeast Alaska Power Agency engineer who was testing a computer system at the Swan Lake hydroelectric dam. Donato says he has stopped that testing work until he and SEAPA officials can come up with a plan to avoid another mishap.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp happenings

Mon, 2014-06-23 11:17

Roger Schmidt, executive director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, visits the studio to talk about the upcoming Jazz on the Waterfront event (6/28/14) and other happenings during this busy time on the campus.



Petersburg library’s summer reading challenge underway

Mon, 2014-06-23 10:20

Today’s the last day for local youngsters to sign up for the Petersburg Public Library’s summer reading challenge. It’s a chance for kids in grades one through eight to win prizes for reading books while school is out of session.

It’s one of several summer programs that didn’t happen last year as library staff moved out of the old building and into the new. Joe Viechnicki spoke with program coordinator Jess Ieremia and library clerk Barb Steltz about this year’s reading challenge.

Former resident donates catalogue of Southeast fur farms

Mon, 2014-06-23 10:10

Raising foxes and minks for their fur was a big business in Southeast Alaska in the late nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century. Fur farms flourished in and around Petersburg as well as many other sites in the region.

A former Petersburg man has been cataloguing fur farms and fur farmers from Yakutat to Ketchikan on and off for the last three decades. Larry Roberts worked as an archeologist with the U.S. Forest Service from 1980 through 2001. He now lives in Grand Junction, Colorado but returned to Petersburg this month and donated copies of his research to the Petersburg Public Library and Clausen Museum. He stopped by the studios at KFSK and spoke with Joe Viechnicki about his findings.

Hatchery chum salmon forecast close to 2013

Mon, 2014-06-23 10:02

The first returns of hatchery chum salmon are showing up in fishing nets in Southeast Alaska this month. Summer chums play an important part in the early season for net fishing fleets and the troll fleet as well. Hatchery officials are forecasting runs close to last year’s.
A little lost in last year’s record setting pink salmon haul in Southeast was a strong catch for chum salmon. Last year seiners, gillnetters and trollers brought in twelve and a half million dogs in the region. The bulk of those fish start their lives in hatcheries around the Panhandle and most return earlier in the summer than pinks. Fishery managers expect nearly as many chums this year but nowhere near last year’s record setting pink catch.

Juneau-based Douglas Island Pink and Chum expected a good year last year with a forecast of 2.7 million chums – but the actual returns were DIPAC’s biggest ever at nearly five million. Whether or not 2014 lives up to that standard, DIPAC executive director Eric Prestegard expects a strong run. “Well the forecast is up from last year’s forecast. But last year came in well above forecast, so it’s below what returned last year but what we would call a very good forecast about 3.3 million.”

A big portion of DIPAC’s returns are expected back to release sites in Lynn Canal. And Prestegard thinks there are some good early signs for this year’s chums. “The first gillnet opening certainly it looked pretty good from our eyes. That was about twice what we kinda would have forecasted to have happened. Again that’s just sort of built on some averages and what not so it’s not great data but it’s reasonable. So we thought that was good.”

On the flip side, Prestegard says trollers targeting chum along the Home Shore area of Icy Strait are not having the big season they had last year. Nevertheless, he says it’s the time of year to wait and see what comes back. “Now’s when you sort of chew on your fingernails and wait for the days they fish and look at that data. You know we did take some samples from the first opener there in Lynn Canal. They were big beautiful fish, 10.9 pound average, which is very large for us and mostly five year olds. So that’s a good sign.”

Trolling has been open for spring fisheries in May and June, while gillnetters and seiners had their first openings in mid June.

Closer to Sitka, one point one million chum are forecast to return to Hidden Falls and Medvejie Deep Inlet. Those are two sites operated by the Sitka-based Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or NSRAA.

Last year Hidden Falls saw a run of one point three million. Medvejie Deep Inlet doubled last year’s forecast with a return of 2.2 million. NSRAA general manager

Steve Reifenstuhl says he’d be happy with three percent survival rate for the chum released each year. “And that would put the Medvejie run around 1.5 to 1.8 million annually and Hidden Falls, closer to, with three percent marine survival closer to two million annually. You know we’d love to see bigger than that but that’s what my hope is.”

Fishing started slow for seiners catching chum returning to both sites but Reifenstuhl was hopeful catches would be increasing. And Like Prestegard, Reifenstuhl says the fish so far this year are large. “At this point all the data says the fish are big, over 10 pound average, which is fairly unusual and suggests they’re five year old fish. The bulk of the fish are typically four year old fish.”

Further to the south, the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association forecasts three point two million chums back at four different release sites around Ketchikan and Wrangell.
The largest return anticipated is one point eight million at Neets Bay off of Behm Canal north of Ketchikan. Last year that run saw a return of just under a million fish.

The Ketchikan-based association’s Susan Doherty says they’re forecasting an average survival rate for summer run chum at four different release sites. If the forecast holds up it would beat last year’s summer chum total of just over two million. Other SSRAA fish return to Kendrick Bay on southern Prince of Wales Island, Anita Bay close to Wrangell and Nakat Inlet south of Ketchikan. Those returns typically start showing up a little later in the summer.

Stromberg opens second solo show

Mon, 2014-06-23 09:37

Painter Sally Stromberg opens up her second solo art show this month at the Clausen Museum in Petersburg. The exhibit is called “Quotable Impressions” and features 37 new oil paintings of flowers, landscapes and dingies.

Joe Viechnicki spoke with Stromberg about her latest show.

Garden maintenance

Mon, 2014-06-23 09:14

Lee Skidmore of the Ketchikan Garden Club answers questions from callers about garden maintenance.



Sikuliaq readies for Arctic research

Mon, 2014-06-23 00:00

ANCHORAGE — Next summer, there’ll be a new ship docking in Dutch Harbor and Nome on its way to the Arctic. But first, the research vessel Sikuliaq is headed to Honolulu for its inaugural research cruises.

This summer, the 261-foot oceanographic research vessel will make its way from the Great Lakes to the Pacific via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Panama Canal, stopping for testing and research along the way. By February 2015, it is expected to arrive in its homeport of Seward.

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Alaska liquor board job posting raises eyebrows

Mon, 2014-06-23 00:00

ANCHORAGE — A recent job posting for the director of an agency that regulates Alaska’s liquor industry has raised eyebrows.

The job description, when last written decades ago, called for an executive to review the field work of inspectors and to work with state and federal authorities in “taking action against liquor establishments.”

But a recruitment ad posted June 9 said the job of the new director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board would be to support the board’s mission “to ensure responsible growth in the beverage industry.”

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