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From Our Listeners

  • The public is invited to an Easter Sunday service at 10am at the Haines Christian Center. A...

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Southeast Alaska News

Appeals court sides with Alaska on roadless rule

Wed, 2014-03-26 13:30

JUNEAU — A divided federal appeals court panel has sided with the state of Alaska in reversing a decision that reinstated the roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision Wednesday, found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had articulated “a number of legitimate grounds” in a 2003 decision to temporarily exempt the Tongass from the roadless rule.

A lower court judge, in 2011, had found the decision to be arbitrary and capricious.

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1964 earthquake devastated villages, Davis captured survivor stories

Wed, 2014-03-26 12:31

Nancy Yaw Davis and her husband Bill Davis survived the 1964 Great Alaska earthquake in Anchorage. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

March 27th marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake. Many Sitkans have stories from the epicenter. This is the third story in a four-part series.

Sitka residents Bill Davis and Nancy Yaw Davis lived in Anchorage in 1964. Bill was the chairman of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group. He headed the civilian rescue effort at the center of the largest earthquake that North America has ever seen. But, he insists that Nancy’s story is more compelling. After the disaster, Nancy devoted many years to studying the aftermath – culminating in a doctoral dissertation. She remembers the survivors from the village of Kaguyak the most.

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Nancy: Wanna start with Bill?
Bill: Oh OK, I’m Bill Davis. We’ve been living here in Sitka for five years and this is Nancy.
Nancy: Hello.
Nancy: The trauma of the earthquake was something we shared in 1964 at 5:36. Bill where were we?
Bill: Well we lived in east Anchorage at that time.
Nancy: What do you remember about those first five minutes?
Bill: Well, as the bookcase started to walk across the floor was when I decided it was time to get out.
Nancy: I don’t know who left first but I went outside and I kind of held on to the little VW bug.
Bill: But what I remember most was the alders and the cottonwoods across the street, wild swinging back and forth.
Nancy: There was no question it was an earthquake but the seriousness of the earthquake did not register until later in the evening when I was in the car seven months pregnant at the corner of 36th and Lake Otis while Bill was out with… Did you have flash lights or flares?
Bill: Yeah, the standard stuff you know. Set up a grid and section it off and send people to it. There was nothing unusual about that. You’re the one that had more fun though.
Nancy: Well, yes. It gave me an opportunity to gather an incredible amount of data with the villagers of Old Harbor and Kaguyak who were evacuated to Airport Heights school. I met them in Anchorage and actually that’s where I recorded their original stories. That’s where I lugged around this big reel to reel tape recorder. I interviewed 16 of the 19 surviving adults between April 1st and April 10th of 1964. It was American Good Friday and they were just finishing this church that they had built with their own funds. About $1,600 of their own funds. They were able to establish right away who was lost and who was there.
Bill: Nancy was the only one who did any kind of systematic research with the small villages after the earthquake and particularly the follow-up stuff.

Nancy: Well the next year I went to Akhiok and I found the Kaguyak people were there. I think about five houses had been built by the BIA(Bureau of Indian Affairs). I think it was difficult politically for and for the lay leadership in the church. But those are things that would come whenever… and this is often the case as people just assume, you put villages together and it will merge without realizing the cultural richness of each separate village. I think they still mourn Kaguyak but it would’ve been harder to go back when the church was not there.
Nancy: When did I not think about disasters. There continue to be disasters one after another Haiti, Sumatra… Yes it’s embedded in my brain I guess whenever there’s a disaster I think well there’s going to be a convergence. The disaster syndrome will kick in again. There will be a convergence. Outside people trying to tell local people, local survivors how they should do things are there will be levels they’ll be people and goods and money and chaos.

Herring Update: Fishing at 2:30PM in Eastern Channel

Wed, 2014-03-26 12:19

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game released this map, showing where fishing is allowed in today’s herring opening. (Map courtesy of ADF&G)

There will be herring fishing today near the south end of Sitka’s road system.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game has announced a third opening in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, to begin at 2:30 p.m. today, in Eastern Channel. The two previous openings, on Sunday and last Thursday, had taken place north of Sitka, in Starrigavan and Katlian bays.

Fish & Game biologist Dave Gordon said the fishery will aim to harvest about 3,000 tons. That’s a smaller opening than the Department had hoped for. Gordon had initially said he hoped to catch the final 6,500 tons left in this year’s harvest limit in one opening. But during his 11 a.m. update today, he said that a large volume of herring had moved into the closure area, a stretch of water near town that is out of bounds to the commercial fishery to protect subsistence use.

Instead, the fishery will target smaller schools of herring scattered throughout the waters south of town, Gordon said.

Despite the smaller volumes, “I feel compelled to provide this opportunity,” Gordon said, given the quality of fish seen in samples.

ADF&G also revised their counts from the previous two openings, on Sunday and last Thursday. Fish & Game now estimates the fleet has caught a total of about 9,800 tons of herring so far this year, out of a total harvest limit of 16,333 tons.

Gordon said that an aerial survey this morning found a few hundred yards of herring spawn on Middle Island; no other spawn was seen. In the sac roe fishery, the eggs are taken intact from the females. It’s critical to the success of the commercial harvest to land the fish prior to spawning.

Fish & Game will continue to issue updates over the radio, on VHF Channel 10.

Herring fishing possible today; no opening called yet

Wed, 2014-03-26 11:20

There might be fishing today (Wed 3-26-14) in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, but no opening has been called yet.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game said in their 11 a.m. update that a significant volume of herring has moved into the closure area, a stretch of water near town that is out of bounds to the commercial fishery to protect subsistence use. Fish & Game biologist Dave Gordon said he wasn’t discounting the possibility of a fishery south of town, where large schools of fish were found yesterday, but he wanted to give it more time “to find a body of fish that might provide a better fishery for everybody.”

Fish & Game had hoped to target the final 6,000 tons left in this year’s harvest limit; so far, 10,300 tons of herring have been caught in two openings, on Sunday and last Thursday.

Gordon said that an aerial survey this morning found a few hundred yards of herring spawn on Middle Island; no other spawn was seen. In the sac roe fishery, the eggs are taken intact from the females. It’s critical to the success of the commercial harvest to land the fish prior to spawning.

Gordon said he would issue another update over the radio at 12 p.m.. Updates can he heard on VHF Channel 10.

New lease program allows charters to get more halibut

Wed, 2014-03-26 11:10

Charter halibut caught near Petersburg. Photo/Petersburg Fishing Adventures

Tourists coming to Southeast Alaska and going charter fishing this year could get more than the usual one halibut a day. But it will take charter businesses and commercial quota shareholders working together in a new program.

South East charter anglers used to be able to keep two halibut per day of any size. But in recent years, there have been increasing restrictions with more bag limits and size limits. The restrictions have been developed because the charter sector has continued to over fish their harvest level.

But Pete Troy, who owns Petersburg Fishing Adventures, says he’s lost business because of it.

“Incredible amounts of business I lose because of that,” Troy says. “I have lots of interested people and when I tell them what they’re going to be able to keep for fish they say, ‘No, we’ll pass’.”

This year, a new program could give charter businesses like Troy’s a little more leeway. It’s called GAF and stands for Guided Angler Fish. It’s a voluntary provision of the new halibut catch sharing plan and allows Halibut charters to lease commercial quota for more harvest opportunity. There is no size limit on the GAF fish.

Julie Scheurer is a Fishery Management Specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau. NMFS is overseeing the GAF program.

“Using GAF, charter anglers could potentially keep up to two fish of any size per day,” Scheurer says. “Under this new catch sharing plan what the guided angler fish provision allows is for quota share holders is to lease a limited amount of their IFQ to a charter halibut permit holder to be harvested in the charter fishery.”

Charters guides can use GAF in different ways. They could use their charter limit of one fish which has size restrictions and then use one GAF for a fish of any size. Another option would be to use two GAFs for two fish of any size.

The idea for the transfer program came from the Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved the program.

“It’s a razzle dazzle deal they came up with,” Troy says. He says it was very hard to understand at first but now he says he gets it.“It means that when I get a customer on a boat that catches a fish, he’s able to pay an extra hundred and fifty dollars approximately and keep that fish, allowing him to keep two fish a day instead of just one little ping pong paddle,” Troy says.

Troy would like to give GAF a try but he hasn’t found a commercial fishermen who would sell their quota share for a reasonable price. And it will be up to the fishermen like Troy to make the transfer deals. Scheurer says NMFS won’t get involved in pricing what quota shares are worth. She says it could go through brokers like other IFQ sales or fishermen could do it on their own.

“Information is available from NMFS about who holds IFQ and so an interested charter halibut permit holder could get that list from us if they wanted to contact some of these people,” Scheurer says. “I don’t know, I imagine maybe they’ll advertise in the local newspaper or Craigslist or something like that as well.”

Perhaps the easiest scenario is fishermen who have both–charter permits and quota shares. There are 19 of those fishermen in Southeast’s Area 2C.

“They can just transfer some of their own quota to themselves if they’re operating in both fisheries,” Scheurer says.

Interest in the new program is still unknown but Heath Hilyard bets it’s not going to be very popular. He is the Executive Director of South East Alaska Guides Organization or SEAGO.

“I still only heard of about…I don’t know….less than 20 percent of South East operators who have any plan or intention or desire to lease in the guided angler lease provision,” Hilyard says.

While Hilyard understands the need for restrictions he doesn’t think this is the answer.

“We’ve said the whole time that while we appreciate the council’s intent to provide a reallocation compensation mechanism, we don’t think this is really the best approach,” Hilyard says.

He says some fishermen might use GAF this year but not next year when the program will change the conversion formula—or what the amount is for the Individual Fishing Quota to one GAF fish. Currently, it uses about 26 pounds for one fish. But next year, they’ll use an average from GAF fish caught just this season. And Hilyard says that will raise the cost to fishermen.

“So, rather than just assuming 25 pounds or less, it’s going to be, ‘Well, we know the average fish size for the guided angler fish from 2014 was 40 pounds’ and so all of a sudden the respective costs is going to go up dramatically in 2015,” Hilyard says.

GAF catches will count towards the commercial catch limit and not the charters’. The charter limit this year is about 761,000 pounds down about 17,000 from last year.

There are additional reporting requirements for charter guides using GAF. They’ll have to submit an electronic report to NMFS through their website.

And while the new transfer system is voluntary, it’s also permanent in nature. GAF will remain in federal regulations until it is changed through the regulatory process.

James A. Cole pens maritime history

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:29

Author Jim Cole will be in Ketchikan April 2nd to present his book, “Drawing on our History: Fishing Vessels of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.”  Cole provides a narrative history and penned most of the drawings.

MEHS Lady Braves runners-up at state

Wed, 2014-03-26 08:30

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Mt. Edgecumbe girls’ Basketball coach Dane Vincent, and players Joallyn Johnson (Jr-Kotlik) and Renatta Olson (Jr-Golovin) share their thoughts following their loss to ACS in the finals of the state 3A tournament last weekend.

Lady Braves fall just short state basketball title

Wed, 2014-03-26 08:29

Renatta Olson, Joallyn Johnson, and Mt. Edgecumbe girls basketball coach Dane Vincent. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves came within striking distance of the state 3A basketball championship last weekend, but did not quite get there.

The Lady Braves lost in the finals to the ACS Lady Lions by four points, 45 – 49.

Mt. Edgecumbe coach Dane Vincent and two of his players dropped by our studios and talked about the tournament with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Listen to an extended interview with Mt. Edgecumbe coach Dane Vincent and his players on the Morning Interview. (Available after 8:30 AM Wed Mar 26.)

For juniors Joallyn Johnson and Renatta Olson, going to the state tournament in Anchorage is not just about basketball. It’s about having a chance to reconnect with family members whom you’ve been apart from since the holidays.

Many of Johnson’s family traveled from Kotlik, on the Yukon River, to see her play. Olson’s mother traveled from her hometown of Golovin, just outside of Nome.

Seeing familiar faces in the stands of the Sullivan Arena was a big deal for these girls.

“Being here at Edgecumbe it’s hard not having family — like everyone else — to support you during the season. And it meant a lot, for those who had supporters, to go and watch us play.

The Lady Braves were consistent and strong throughout the regular season. With Sitka hampered by injuries, Mt. Edgecumbe was the favorite at the regional tournament.

At state, it was a different matter. The first problem was Nikiski. A big team, and the number 2-ranked school in the Southcentral region.

Olson says Nikiski tried to neutralize the Lady Braves’ low post, Taryn White. But it backfired.

“Nikiski’s team is all really tall compared to our team. Right off the bat they were double-teaming her (Taryn White), and it was hard for us to get it into her. So we started doing a high screen up top, and that opened it up a lot. And we attacked the basket and drew fouls, and that’s what worked for us.”

Joallyn Johnson scored 7 points in that game, as the Lady Braves beat Nikiski 49 – 39 from the outside.

“I was kind of nervous, but I was ready to play them. We had to get through them to get to the semi-finals.”

After Nikiski, the Lady Braves took on Barrow, the top-seeded team from the Western Region. Mt. Edgecumbe had beaten the Lady Whalers by a large margin early in the season. Both teams improved, but the Lady Braves kept Barrow off the basket and won 42-29, drawing only three personal fouls the entire game.

That put the Lady Braves in the finals, against the Anchorage Christian School, the number-1 seed in Southcentral.

ACS had earned their way into the championship with the press — applying full-court pressure to teams for most of a game, forcing turnovers, and then running in easy baskets.

Against the Lady Braves, however, coach Dane Vincent says ACS abandoned the press almost entirely.

“I take it as a compliment that a strong team, who has banked on it all year long, backed out of it and went to a half-court.”

By keeping the Lady Braves off the basket, ACS was able to open up a large lead at times, but they could not shut down Mt. Edgecumbe’s Taryn White, who would go on to score 23 points. With just a few minutes to play, the Lady Braves executed a key three-point play, forced a turnover, and Renatta Olson put in a layup to bring the Lady Braves within two.

Even though they didn’t make it, coach Dane Vincent smiles as he recalls the game. He’s been coaching ten years — but this is his first season at Mt. Edgecumbe.

“Any new coach can tell you going into a program: If the students and the athletes don’t buy into what you have to sell, it won’t fly. But these guys have bought into my offense, bought into this new defense that we’ve put in. And I got a lot of support from them. Renatta’s done an excellent job being a court general. You can tell her what to do, and even if she thinks it’s wrong she’s going to do it. And if it doesn’t maintain, we don’t have to stick to anything. They’ve done a really good job of buying into things, and I appreciate that as a coach.”

The Lady Braves will lose only one senior off this year’s team, Brittany Akaran. Both Joallyn Johnson and Renatta Olson will be back, and looking forward to doing even better next year.

“We went from last year being the runner-up at regions to being the runner-up at state. So I think that it should make us work that much harder. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m already excited.”

At assembly, haircuts and huzzahs

Wed, 2014-03-26 06:00

A well-documented haircut: high school students Salma Zakiyah and Rosie Palof had their heads shaved as part of a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Sitka Assembly. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

The Sitka Assembly took some time out from their usual business on Tuesday night (3-25-14) to recognize local volunteers –and fit in a couple quick haircuts.

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The assembly opened its meeting with a pair of proclamations. Mayor Mim McConnell declared Friday, March 28th, St. Baldrick’s Foundation Day, in honor of the charity, which raises money for research into childhood cancers.

“Worldwide more than 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and childhood cancer is the number one cause of death by disease of children in the United States,” McConnell read from the city proclamation.

Salma Zakiyah and Rosie Palof submitted to a very public shearing to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

The official St. Baldrick’s event will take place on Friday.  More than forty Sitkans have volunteered to have their heads shaved as part of the fundraiser.

But two high school students stepped up for an early – and very public — shearing.

Sitka High School senior Rosie Palof, and Salma Zakiyah, an exchange student from Indonesia, settled into chairs set up before the assembly and audience, and had their heads shaved, to cheers and applause.

Mayor McConnell also declared April 1st to be Americorps Day, in recognition of the volunteers with that national service organization who are serving in Sitka and around Alaska.

Over a dozen Americorps volunteers were on hand to be recognized as the mayor read off a list of their accomplishments, including 24,000 hours of community service provided by the fourteen Sitka program members this last year, over 100 young people recruited for community service serving Sitka senior citizens, and forty Sitka youth recruited and trained in juvenile justice.

The Americorps volunteers left with an official proclamation – but with their hair intact.

It's in a bar, baby

Wed, 2014-03-26 00:03

Senate Finance committee co-chairman Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, has been served a shot of attention after announcing his intent to put pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms as part of a campaign against Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“Ninety-percent of women, when they know they’re pregnant, stop drinking instantly,” Kelly said. “And equally important is the public relations impact of the dispenser and the message.”

As one of two people in charge of the power finance committee, Kelly has said he intends to insert money for the program into the state budget.

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House Finance hears student restraint bill

Wed, 2014-03-26 00:01

JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill covering procedures and training for the restraint of public school students.

Republican Charisse Millett of Anchorage is sponsoring House Bill 210. The bill sets up guidelines for restraining and secluding public school students. It also outlines training for school staffs in dealing with restraining students.

The bill calls on schools to notify the parent or legal guardian within 24 hours of a student’s restraint or seclusion.

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House passes bill to end high school exit exam

Wed, 2014-03-26 00:01

JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Tuesday approved a repeal of the state high school graduation exam.

The vote was 32-5. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The exit exam tests student aptitude in reading, English and mathematics.

House Bill 220, sponsored by Rep. Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, terminates the exam as soon as the bill becomes law. It allows former students who earned enough high school credits to graduate to obtain their diploma even though they failed the exam.

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POW Hwy. 43 construction project to resume

Tue, 2014-03-25 15:35

Ongoing road construction on Prince of Wales Island’s Forest Highway 43 will resume April 1.

During the construction season, pilot cars will be used to guide vehicles that need to get through the area, and there is a daytime schedule for north and southbound traffic, starting at 7 a.m. Drivers planning to drive that section of road should plan for delays. See schedule below.

Once the Federal Highway Administration project is complete, the 11 miles of road between Deweyville Trailhead and Neck Lake Road will be rebuilt, widened and paved. The project is expected to be done this fall.

Schedule (effective April 1)

Barricades will stop and hold traffic on either end of the work zone, allowing traffic to pass North and South at the following scheduled time periods.

  • 6:30 AM – closed to all traffic
  • 7:00 AM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 8:30 AM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 9:15 AM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 11: 00 AM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 11: 45 AM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 1:30 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 2:15 PM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 2:45 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 3:15 PM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 3:45 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 4:15 PM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 4:45 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 5:15 PM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 5:45 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 6:15 PM – Northbound traffic allowed to proceed; 6:45 PM – Southbound traffic allowed to proceed
  • 7:00 PM – Open to all traffic

For more information, call 907-339-2079, or email Mike Sigman

ShakeOut drill set for ’64 earthquake anniversary

Tue, 2014-03-25 15:26

Thursday is the 50th anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake, and to commemorate that 9.2 magnitude event, everyone is encouraged to participate in the Great Alaska ShakeOut, and earthquake drill.

Participation can be as easy as a one-minute “drop, cover and hold on” at 1:36 p.m. Thursday. Those who want to do more can add on to that basic response drill.

To register for the drill, go to

Also Thursday, there will be emergency alert tests of the tsunami warning system. People listening to the radio that day should listen carefully to make sure it is an alert.

In Ketchikan on Friday, emergency response personnel will conduct an exercise.

The scenario starts with a large earthquake that might have damaged Ketchikan Lakes Dam, a fuel tank spill and fire at PetroMarine, and structural damage to a bridge, cutting off vehicle access to and from North Tongass Highway.

The drill is for local officials to practice their ability to provide timely information to the public in case of an emergency. Local media have been asked to participate, as well.

It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!

Tue, 2014-03-25 13:45

Seaman Lindy and Chief Alan from Air Station Sitka guest host on The Speaking Tube and take us on a swing journey. Listen to their favorite songs to swing to, songs you wouldn’t expect to swing to and learn about their love of the pretzel. Oh yeah, they both have thrown a telephone pole in the Highland Games as well.

Listen to the full show here!

School Board to review FY2015 budget

Tue, 2014-03-25 12:55

At its Wednesday evening meeting, the Ketchikan School Board will take a last look at the Fiscal Year ’15 budget before it proceeds to its final public hearing.

Superintendent Robert Boyle said in a memo to the Board that the district expects to maintain programs, including the elementary music program, with the exception of preschool.

The current budget reduction would fund one preschool classroom at Houghtaling Elementary School, instead of the two that enrollment in the program calls for. Boyle cited reductions in state and borough funding as reasons for these cuts.

Members of the public can comment on the budget at the School Board meetings or during public budget hearings on Tuesday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 29, at 2 p.m. at the Ketchikan High School Library.

The Board also will vote on whether to approve a $130,000 director of curriculum contract for Shannon Sines. Sines would replace Dr. Linda Hardin, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

Sines is currently the director of curriculum for the Franklin School District in Zanesville, Ohio.

Wednesday’s School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

Herring update: ‘We’re going after these fish’

Tue, 2014-03-25 11:58

Herring spawn, on the west side of Middle Island Tuesday morning (3-25-14). (ADF&G photo/Dave Gordon)

With the herring spawn starting in Sitka Sound, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game is quickly developing plans for a third commercial seine opening — possibly on Wednesday.

ADF&G biologist Dave Gordon reported seeing one area of intense spawn on the west side of Middle Island, during his aerial survey this morning (Tue Mar 25). Large concentrations of herring were visible along the Sitka road system, as well as between Whale and Galankin islands.

In his 11 AM radio update, Gordon said he had spoken with processors, who are going full bore on the 10,300 tons landed in the previous two openers on Sunday and last Thursday. In addition, longliners took advantage of some nice spring weather and brought in several hundred thousand pounds of black cod and halibut to the already-stressed plants.

Nevertheless, Gordon said, “Given the developments of spawn, I think it’s in our interest to go after these fish.” He said the opener — when it occurs — will likely target the entire 6,000 tons left on this year’s harvest limit.

In the sac roe fishery, the eggs are taken intact from the females. It’s critical to the success of the commercial harvest to land the fish prior to spawning.

Gordon will update the fleet again today (Tue) at 2 PM. Permit holders are scheduled to hold a closed meeting at 4 PM.

Petersburg to consider electric rate hikes

Tue, 2014-03-25 11:09

The cost of electricity in Petersburg may be going up this year. Petersburg’s borough assembly Friday voted to proceed with two percent rate increases this year and next, although that change will still require three readings of an ordinance before it takes effect. The rate hikes will not show up the same for all customers.

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A rate study commissioned by the borough last year recommended raising the cost of electricity four percent over two years, two percent in the first year and two percent the next. That study found that without that rate hike, Petersburg Municipal Power and Light would not be making enough money to cover expenses and the cost of replacing old equipment.

Power and Light superintendent Joe Nelson also pointed out a comparison of local electric rates compared to other Southeast communities. “So you can see that by and large, for larger consumptions, we are the best in Southeast, we are the lowest,” Nelson said. “Making a two percent adjustment in that is not going to change this picture.”

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht wants local enterprise funds, like the electric utility, to make enough money to cover at least some of the cost of replacing equipment, or funding depreciation. That’s impacting the bottom line for the electrical department. So is the possible end of an annual power sales rebate that’s been paid to the borough by the Southeast Alaska Power Agency.

Nelson asked the borough assembly for direction in preparing his budget for next year and saw two ways to proceed. “One is with the recommended rate increases of 2 percent, 2 percent, which we would put into the code and go through the three readings and all that. The other one would be to purposely approve a deficit budget which does not meet Steve’s formula which draws our reserves down and basically kicks the can down the road for a few years, and potentially a couple years down the road do another rate study and find out where we’re at that point. So that’s kindof where we’re at and the direction we need in finalizing the budget.”

The proposed two percent hikes are not 2 percent across the board for all users. The increases are as large as 10 percent, or 30 dollars a month on the bills of the largest residential power users. However, they’ll only mean a 10 cent increase on monthly bills for the average residential customer, someone who uses only one thousand kilowatt hours a month.

“In the newspaper article this week about the potential rate increase it said that for a residential customer using a 1000 kilowatt hours a month which is fairly average, that their rate increase would amount to 10 cents on their bill,” Nelson explained. “Now some people probably thought that was a misprint, but that’s true. And the reason for that is we have flattened the rates out and so the ones on the middle are staying pretty much where they’re at. But the ones out on the end, like me, with my house all electric, my bill would go up like 25 bucks.”

Nelson recommended going with the rate increases. “I think the best thing is to keep a healthy department healthy, which means go ahead and do the rates now and not a bigger rate later because we all recognize that touching electric rates is kindof a lightning rod, even at two percent. So yeah that’s certainly my recommendation.”

Nelson estimated the utility’s reserve was over five million dollars. He wanted to keep that above at least four million.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht was a little concerned with only having that much money on hand for an emergency. “We live in a fairly wet climate,” said Giesbrecht. “Because our staffing level is what it is, we don’t really have a pole replacement system where we’re out there replacing 25-30 poles a year. Joe would be hit really hard if his staff had to start doing something like that. So you’re looking at if we had something happen you’re almost forced to hire contractors or you know, use other muni(palities) that might have extra staff and pay their way to come over here to help him out.”

Assembly members were receptive to the rate hikes. John Havrilek did not want to dip into reserved in case of equipment problems. “If Joe gets in trouble or we have some problems the general fund’s at a dangerous minimum for their reserves. We cant be doing that everywhere and a two percent raise this year and next year is so miniscule on an individual budget and has such a dramatic impact on the whole town that I’d rather pay a little now than a lot later or even risk not having the equipment available if things happen.”

Havrilek, Cindi Lagoudakis, Nancy Strand and Bob Lynn, the four assembly members remaining at the end of the meeting voted to increase rates two percent this year and two percent next year. The issue still will have to be approved by ordinance and that requires three readings and a public hearing before the rate hikes would take effect.

Girardot’s first memory: The Good Friday Earthquake

Tue, 2014-03-25 10:13

Dennis Girardot (left) with his brother John Reitz (right) at the Knik River Bridge in Palmer. Girardot was five year old when he and his family survived the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Girardot).

March 27th marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake – the largest recorded in North America. Many Sitkans have stories from the epicenter. This is the second story in a four-part series that will air through the 27th.

Dennis Girardot lived in Sitka for 20 years. He currently resides in Juneau. While Sitka is likely the place where he made the most memories, he says his earliest memory was set in Anchorage. That was 50 years ago, but Girardot remembers the details vividly – including his brother’s birthday cake.

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Actually my earliest, literally, my earliest childhood memory, I was only five years old, is sitting in the door frame between the living room and the hallway of our second story apartment on Elmendorf Air Force base. We kind of looked out the picture window of the living room and the building was swaying so much that we would see the ground and it would sway back and then we’d see the sky.

All heck broke loose at that point. Things were flying all over the living room including a cage with our pet parakeet. I think we buried it in the yard there at the apartment complex.

Those memories of being in the ‘64 earthquake are with me forever and pretty vivid even to this day, 50 years later.

My mother was in the kitchen preparing a pot of chili and this beautiful cake, birthday cake for my brother in a shape of a guitar. He was a Beatles wanna be at that time. I remember hearing her scream and the chili just went all over the kitchen. All over the cake. A door fell open to the closet and my brother’s presents birthday presents flew out of the closet so he got to see what he was going to get.

Again I don’t remember being scared I just remember being like wow this is maybe even cool. This is cool!

My mother she actual tried to get out of the apartment and she went out into the hallway but didn’t get very far. She just sat down and protected herself. Since that time it’s kind of a funny thing. I’ve often thought, “why did my mother try to get out of the apartment? Why didn’t she come back and be with her family?” I never asked her about that. She’s passed away now. But after her passing I wanted to ask her, “why didn’t you stay us? Why did you try to get out? Or not take us with you?” She was just trying to save herself I guess. I don’t know.

But the next two nights we actual slept in our car my dad had this big Mercury something… it was a blue thing with big fins in the back. The aftershocks were so constant and so strong we didn’t know if the building would hold up.

You know it did alter our future a little bit. My dad had every intention of staying in Alaska and probably even retiring there from the military. My mother would have nothing to do with that after the earthquake she says we’re getting out of here. What’s funny about this is I remember the earthquake and points in time soon after like playing outside among the cracks in the ground. After that everything sort of fades away again for several years until I start having memories again.

Girls can learn about careers in the arts

Tue, 2014-03-25 09:56

Victoria Lord with the Girl Scouts of Alaska gives details on the “Women in the Arts” program coming up March 29th.  You do not have to be a Girl Scout to participate.  WmInArts

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