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Southeast Alaska News
SITKA — A Southeast Alaska community has been named one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in America.
Sitka won the designation from the University of North Carolina’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. The center created the “walk friendly” award in 2010, to shine a light on places making walking a lifestyle.
Participants in a 2012 Sitka health summit decided to apply for the designation to see how the city stacked up, from a pedestrian’s perspective, KCAW reported.
KODIAK — The first thing that struck Katie Baxter about the new Kodiak Public Library was that it was a community effort.
“I could tell immediately it’s a wonderful facility that has the support of the community,” she said. “It’s a very positive energy that seeps through every nook and cranny.”
Baxter is the new executive director of the Kodiak library. She arrived in Kodiak on Oct. 18, the day the library closed to prepare for the move to its new location.
HOMER — An effort to gather enough signatures to put before votes the choice of making Homer a home-rule city is underway. According to Melissa Jacobsen, deputy city clerk, nine petition packets have been distributed.
“Right now my book has only one signature, my own,” said Ken Castner, who, along with Ginny Espinshade, is leading the effort.
Currently, Homer is a first-class city. As a home-rule city, it would write its own charter, or constitution, as Castner calls it. That task would be done by an elected charter commission.
SITKA — You probably already know about mountain ash trees. They’re all over Southeast Alaska, known for their red berries that attract flocks of birds
Here’s a story about a different kind of ash tree, one recently discovered in a big pile of volcanic debris.
Word came late summer of an unusual natural relic found by a young Sitkan, Blake LaPerriere. It was near the Mount Edgecumbe Volcano, just west of the Southeast city.
So a group of scientists and friends headed out for a look. University of Alaska botanist Kitty LaBounty says it was a scramble.
WASHINGTON — The health care law’s seemingly endless problems are giving congressional Republicans a much-needed boost of energy, helping them to move past the government-shutdown debacle and focus on a theme for next year’s elections.
Republicans are back on offense, and more quickly than many had expected, after seeing their approval ratings plunge during last month’s partial shutdown and worrisome talk of a possible U.S. debt default.
KETCHIKAN — On the playground at Houghtaling Elementary School, at least four sixth-grade students walk the playground during the kindergarten through third-grade recess, sometimes in pairs and sometimes not, playing with the younger kids and making sure everyone is engaging in a safe and happy way.
FAIRBANKS — Seeing the tallest on North America’s mountains rise up out of the ground in Denali National Park creates a feeling that’s hard to replicate, but unfortunately, most people never have the chance to witness the peak’s beauty first hand.
Staff at Denali’s Murie Science and Learning Center know that most people will never be able to make the trip to learn from them first hand, but that isn’t stopping them. Education Coordinator Sierra McLane said that if students can’t come to the park, she and her peers will bring the park to the classroom for free.
ANCHORAGE — Two Anchorage Assembly members are reviving an effort to crack down on city towing companies.
Assemblymen Dick Traini and Paul Honeman are drafting a new ordinance that’s intended to make towing more “humane” for drivers, The Anchorage Daily News reported in Saturday’s newspaper. The idea is being revived after failed efforts in 2008 and 2011.
Traini and Honeman want to set limits on towing companies’ charges, toughen enforcement of towing laws and make it easier for people whose cars are improperly towed to get their fees reduced or cut.
SITKA — The White Sulphur Springs bathhouse is finished and ready for use.
“It looks great, it looks fabulous,” said Barth Hamberg, the U.S. Forest Service landscape architect who designed the building.
Just back from a three-day trip to the remote recreation site on West Chichagof Island, Hamberg said Friday that he and engineer Logan Wild were pleased with the final product.
The summer of 2012 was tough for king salmon runs. Economic disasters were declared in the wake of poor returns on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, and in Cook Inlet. Users in all of those areas faced severe restrictions.
Although setnetters and sport anglers on the Kenai River were allowed more fishing opportunity than the near-complete shutdown in 2012, this past summer was a record-low return for king salmon. The minimum escapement goal of 15,000 kings to the Kenai River spawning grounds was achieved, however, but not until early August.
Editor’s note: this is the second part of the Morris Communications series “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”
On a bright July day, Auke Bay’s Don Statter Harbor was overflowing with commercial fishing vessels. Each slip appeared to be filled, as fishermen from across the state and the Pacific Northwest arrived for a scheduled opening for salmon fishing.
Filipinos in Juneau monitored Facebook early Friday morning as one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded tore through their home islands.
More than 700,000 people were evacuated from their homes before Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Cellular service and electricity has been cut off in many regions, but early reports from numerous news agencies say at least 100 are reported dead in Tacloban City on Leyte Island in the east Philippines, and that casualties overall could be as high as 1,200.
SITKA — A Sitka fisherman has received one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s highest civilian honors for his role in saving a fellow mariner last summer.
John Hagen received the Public Service Commendation in a ceremony Thursday at Air Station Sitka, as Coast Guard pilots and officers watched in full dress uniform, KCAW reported.
In June, Hagen intentionally beached his troller in Icy Strait to rescue Tim Lane, who was drifting by in a waterlogged survival suit.
FAIRBANKS — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has denied a proposal to fly tourists between Fairbanks and Canada’s Dawson City, saying the agency cannot provide the staff that would be required.
Holland America Line wanted to begin the flights next summer, using Air North Charter and Training Ltd. to shuttle as many as 19,000 people between the two destinations, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The tour company envisioned nine weekly flights as a way to cut down the time visitors would spend on its buse.
KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — It took the mayor to break a tie vote, but the Ketchikan City Council has approved the selection of a decorative rain gauge that will cost nearly $95,000.
The city manager will now draw up a contract with two Dutch artists that the council must approve at a later date.
If the council ultimately approves the contract, the money for the gauge will come from a tax on cruise ship passengers, the Ketchikan Daily News reported (http://is.gd/ytezpy ).
PETERSBURG — A new king salmon hatchery project, aimed at improving local catches, is planned near Petersburg next spring.
The Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, or SSRAA, plans to release 200,000 smolt near the mouth of City Creek, which is about three miles from downtown Petersburg. The group hopes extra rearing time in a temporary net pen will help more fish live in the ocean, KFSK reported.
Murkowski co-sponsors bill to keep health coverage
As reports of Americans getting kicked off their health insurance come to light, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is signing on to legislation that would prevent that from continuing to happen.
“‘Keep your health care plan if you like it’ was one of the key claims that President Barack Obama used to force this flawed law through Congress, and now over 5,000 Alaskans have seen this promise broken in the first month of its rollout,” Murkowski said in a statement.
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Tribal Council candidate profile: Tom Gamble hopes to preserve cultural identity. Coast Guard honors skipper for role in Icy Straits rescue. Geologists confirm date of ancient, charred tree.
It will be at least a year before state sponsored wolf trapping programs in two areas of Southeast Alaska could begin. The Board of Game in March authorized predator control programs to help boost deer numbers near Ketchikan and Petersburg. However, state game managers say they are still collecting information on deer and wolf populations before deciding whether to go ahead with the wolf kills or other options. Joe Viechnicki reports.
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Alaska’s Board of Game last March approved proposals to authorize two predator control programs, one on Gravina Island near Ketchikan and the other on the islands around Petersburg. State-sponsored predator control is one of the options that state law allows for improving low numbers of deer, moose, or caribou. Other steps can include hunting restrictions and habitat work. Managers are supposed to first investigate what caused the population to drop.
Doug Larsen, regional supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Division, says Fish and Game is still collecting information on the problem, “When we met with the board in spring of 2013, so just this last spring, we made it clear to them this data gathering process was going to take at least through 2013 and into the spring of 2014 and summer of 2014. So the earliest we would even consider doing any kind of active program on the ground would be the fall of 2014.”
The predator-control approach that the state may use would involve paying experienced trappers to kill all of the Gravina wolves and 80 percent of the wolves near Petersburg on Mitkof and Woewodski islands as well as the Lindenberg Peninsula of Kupreanof . There has been support among southeast hunters for the programs however they also prompted written comments from opponents around the globe who urged the state not to kill wolves.
State biologists drafted a feasibility analysis for the program in each area after years of low deer harvests.
Larsen says Fish and Game is trying to find out more about deer populations,“The bottom line is we need to have some indicators, some information in hand with which to assess what is causing deer numbers to be at low levels. Is it weather related, is it vegetation, habitat related, is it predator related? If its predators, is it wolves is it bears, is it a combination? So there’s a number of variables that in our feasibility analysis we pointed out and told the board that it is our intent and remains our intent now to gather information to help inform those decisions.”
Larsen says examples of information gathering efforts include testing whether DNA in deer droppings can inform the Department about population numbers. He also says Fish and Game is looking at habitat quality in the areas proposed for intensive management, “So what we’ve done this last summer is we implemented a pilot effort to look at vegetation on Gravina Island where we set up some specific plots and looked at the amount of shrubs and forbes that are available versus what has been browsed so we could get a better sense for well, is the amount of food here conducive to allowing for more animals to be here or are these habitats at the extent of what they can support?”
The department also hopes to deploy remote cameras for capturing deer, wolves and bear and help with population estimates in the two areas.
Larsen says Fish and Game staff will return to the Board of Game sometime next year with the results of various studies, to agree on the next step.