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Southeast Alaska News
A second measure transferring Tongass National Forest land to Sealaska is before Congress on Thursday.
It’s stopgap legislation turning 3,600 acres over to the Southeast-based regional Native corporation. Two parcels are proposed, one on the Cleveland Peninsula and the other at Election Creek on Prince of Wales Island.
A much larger bill before Congress would transfer about 70,000 acres.
Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil says it’s needed to keep logging operations going.
“Obviously we’d like the more systemic bill, but it’s important for us to be able to recognize that we have important timing and operational considerations to achieve. And that’s why there’s the second bill, which is really a subset of the first,” McNeil says.
Both measures are sponsored by Alaska Congressman Don Young.
They and four others will go before the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs at 10 a.m. Thursday, Alaska time.
Similar legislation is before the Senate.
The House version of the larger measure includes more of what Sealaska asked for. The Senate bill shows more changes resulting from negotiations with environmental groups, small communities, tour operators and other critics.
Young’s measures are House Bill 740 and House Resolution 1306. The main Senate bill, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, is Senate Bill 340.
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The Southeast Alaska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is seeking locals interested in entering the health care field. AHEC Director Carlen Williams and Education Coordinator Christa Bruce speak about the recruitment and training center and opportunities available. AHEC051513
For more information, contact Carlen Williams at (907) 228-8455 or go to www.seakahec.org
Laura Murph reminds those working toward their GED need to complete testing by December or they will have to start over again. Also, the campus and Learning Center are open for summer. UAS051513
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Sitka High senior Chatham Connor took first in shot put and discus in the regional Track & Field meet in Juneau last weekend. Both the Wolves boys’ and girls’ teams captured regional titles. They head to Anchorage for state next week.
Sitkans Against Family Violence will receive $50,000, and have its own line item in the budget – meaning it will not have to compete with other non-profits for city funding next year.
The move prompted a discussion weighing the value of social services in the community against other expenses, like maintaining streets.
Restoring SAFV funding has been a consistent theme of assembly member Thor Christianson over the past few months of budgeting. During his previous term ten years ago the assembly dropped SAFV from the budget, and created a pool of money that all non-profits could apply for.
“I didn’t like that. I didn’t realize at the time just how big of a change that was going to be. So, I’d like to move that we appropriate $50,000 to SAFV specifically as a line item in the budget.”
Christianson’s amendment was welcomed by Mayor Mim McConnell and Phyllis Hackett, both of whom had interest in raising the amount the city contributes to local non-profit organizations – currently budgeted at $100,000.
The trouble is that Sitka’s 2014 budget was built on an almost-Faustian bargain by the former administrator.
Interim administrator Jay Sweeney reminded the mayor of this.
McConnell – Jay, if the assembly had decided to spend another $100,000 on non-profits, what kind of impact would that have on the future budget?
Sweeney – I don’t know that I can tell you what kind of impact it would have on the future budget. The one thing I can tell you though – and this hasn’t been brought up in tonight’s discussion – and that is that a portion of the reason that the administrator delivered a balanced budget in the first place, is that the amount of money the public works director has recommended be designated for capital improvements and repairs of infrastructure was trimmed far below the recommended amount. That’s the trade-off.
The Public Works Department has identified road maintenance projects alone totaling over $3-million dollars – with Edgecumbe Drive at the top of the list. The 2014 budget provides $500,000.
Increasing funding for the rest of Sitka’s non-profits proved difficult, as Phyllis Hackett soon learned.
“I’d like to amend this to increase support to non-profits by $100,000…”
Hackett’s motion received no second.
The issue for Pete Esquiro was less about pitting the value of social services against the value of roads, and more about a deficit budget. The 2014 budget was $125,000 in the red. This was his line in the sand.
“The part of the recommendation that has to do with the $50,000 to SAFV – I’m for that. However, I’m totally against deficit spending. Always have been, always will be.”
Esquiro was willing to increase the amount of money going to SAFV by deducting that amount from the $100,000 set aside for all non-profits. Mike Reif and Matt Hunter agreed, but their amendment failed.
The fear of a projected deficit was tamed by some good news. Interim administrator Sweeney reported that higher-than-expected state revenue sharing in 2012, plus federal Secure Rural Schools funding, had produced a surplus for this year – about $1.1-million – which the city could have at its disposal for next year.
Now it was Hackett’s turn to question Sweeney.
Hackett — Jay, if we do accept this amendment and we do approve this budget the way it is, do you feel it’s deficit spending? Knowing that we have this anticipated surplus coming in? Because it doesn’t feel like deficit spending to me. I just want to get your take on that.
Sweeney – It depends on your perspective.
Sweeney said if you looked at 2014 as an isolated year, it was in deficit. But, if you took a multi-year perspective, not a deficit – and also not unprecedented. Previous assemblies had used surpluses to balance deficit budgets.
Only Pete Esquiro remained unconvinced. The motion to give SAFV $50,000 and its own line on the budget passed 6-1.
Before closing out work on the budget, Mike Reif decided to use some of the remaining surplus to address the document’s biggest flaw.
“The amendment I’m making is to increase the amount allocated to Edgecumbe Drive from $223,000 to $720,000, an increase of $500,000.”
Reif agreed to make the increase contingent on the projected surplus becoming a real surplus, at the end of this fiscal year on June 30. Sweeney put the odds of that happening at 75-percent.
The assembly unanimously approved.
KENAI — Buccaneer Energy has started drilling its first Cosmopolitan Prospect well with the Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up rig, which arrived nine months ago from Singapore.
The company began drilling near Anchor Point on Sunday, the Peninsula Clarion reported. The area off the Kenai Peninsula is known for its shallow gas reserves and deeper oil prospects.
FAIRBANKS — The state Department of Transportation has acquired property used by a half-dozen businesses that will allow widening of a busy Fairbanks street and is negotiating with one more.
Spokeswoman Meadow Bailey told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that widening of Third Street near the Gavora Mall on Fairbanks’ east side still depends on acquiring property used by a Holiday Station, which includes gasoline pumps and a convenience store.
The project, however, needs only the property occupied by the gas pumps and not the store.
ANCHORAGE — Scientists say small lava flows have been detected on two restless volcanoes in Alaska.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory says satellite images show the lava partly down a flank of Pavlof Volcano Tuesday in a low-level eruption 625 miles southwest of Anchorage. Geophysicist Dave Schneider says minor steam and ash emissions are visible from the community of Cold Bay 37 miles away.
Pavlof is the second Alaska volcano to erupt this month.
ANCHORAGE — Scientists monitoring Alaska’s volcanoes have been forced to shut down stations that provide real-time tracking of eruptions and forgo repairs of seismic equipment amid ongoing federal budget cuts — moves that could mean delays in getting vital information to airline pilots and emergency planners.
Say so long to summer drivers riding the ferry for free.
Wave goodbye to the winter roundtrip discount.
And printed schedules? Those are on their way out too.
They won’t happen for a while. But the changes are some of the ways the Alaska Marine Highway will address a $3.5-million spending cut mandated by the Legislature.
Ferry Business Enterprise Director Dick Leary described the cuts at Tuesday’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board meeting.
He said managers won’t cut sailings where tickets have already been sold. That means no reductions to the summer schedule that runs through September.
“We also feel very strongly that the winter schedule as it now exists is a bare-bottom service level and so if possible, we don’t want to cut any of the winter schedule,” Leary said. “And that takes us from October first to April 30th. So, of course, you put one and two together and you’ve only got May and June left.”
Managers also agreed that none of the system’s 35 port communities should lose service for an extended amount of time.
But there will be some cuts.
The Taku will not operate on its Prince Rupert-to-Juneau run in June of 2014. That reduces sailings to Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Kake and Sitka. Another ship, the Malaspina, will continue to offer that service.
The Juneau-based fast ferry Fairweather will sail less often during the first two weeks of next May. That affects Sitka and Lynn Canal routes.
Advisory board member Gerry Hope of Sitka said that hurts his hometown.
“It seems like we’re a frequent visitor to your cut-budget system. I want to support you; I want to back you up. But it feels at this point that I can’t get fully on board, no pun intended,” Hope said.
Business Director Leary said other cuts were chosen to avoid further service reductions. The roundtrip discounts will go away this fall. The drivers-ride-free program will end at the same time.
Board Chairman Robert Venables said the marine highway should prepare for further reductions.
“It was obvious that the Legislature’s squeezing all areas of the state budget and that’s going to be a trend that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. This year’s cuts were probably more of a nick than an amputation,” Venables said.
Officials said they would consider raising ticket prices and retiring ferries if further cuts come in future years.
A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Sitka searched the waters of Wrangell Narrows near Petersburg over the weekend after reports that a distress flare had been spotted in the area. Coast Guard spokesperson Sarah Francis says the call came in Saturday Night:
“Well the coast guard received a report of a single red parachute flare in the vicinity of Wrangell Narrows Saturday night and they launched an Air Station Sitka MH60 Jayhawk helicopter and issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting the assistance of mariners in the area. That helicopter proceeded to the Wrangell Narrows area and conducted a search. Weather in the area was clouds and fog and there was some poor visibility preventing a good over flight search pattern. So, they remained in Petersburg and conducted a first light search with visibility improved. We ran the urgent marine broadcast overnight and didn’t receive any further reports.”
Francis says conditions were optimal for the search Sunday morning and the helicopter crew saw no signs of anyone in distress. Also, she says there were no reports of overdue vessels in the area so the helicopter eventually returned to Sitka.
Francis emphasizes that the Coast Guard takes flares and other signs of immediate distress very seriously:
“We’d like to remind folks in the area that when they are out boating as we are approaching that spring and summer boating season to be sure that they’re prepared. Make sure your flares are not expired, that you have communication devices with you. More than one is preferable. A VHF Marine Band radio is the primary communication device for the maritime community but having cell phones if you’re close to shore or a satellite phone or e-pirb (electronic position indicating radio beacon) are also good backups.”
Francis says it’s OK to fire off flares for training or testing purposes but the Coast Guard should be informed about it ahead of time. Otherwise, it could result in an emergency response and the unnecessary use of resources, like a helicopter, that might be needed elsewhere.
Petersburg’s Viking Swim Club Wrapped up its season late last month after three members competed at the Junior Olympics in Anchorage. They included 17-year-old Shania Dahlberg, 11-year-old Madison Whitethorn, and 10-year-old Meghyn Parker.
Parker finished third in three of her events and third overall for her age group. Dahlberg broke two club records. Matt Lichtenstein spoke with the swimmers and their coach, Andy Carlisle:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
On Friday, club members will be selling beer bits for a fundraiser under the covered play area by the school parking lot.
Their season starts up again in September.
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Amanda Taylor, with Brave Heart Volunteers, discusses plans for a free Foraker training for board and commission members (May 16-17, various venues around town). Any board or commission member is welcome to participate. To RSVP, or for more information, please call 747-4600. Visit Brave Heart Volunteers online.
Even for Southeast Alaska, this is a lot of rain. Teams of at least a dozen men at a time slog through downpour, grunting and groaning as they carry the nearly 1000-pound load the few hundred feet that may as well have been miles.
Singers stand nearby, providing a thousands-year old soundtrack to the soggy affair. About 200 people look on; though some are under tents or others umbrellas, water is still everywhere, including on sensitive recording equipment.
It takes the crews about an hour to get the pole from carving shed to the stand. But, finally, ropes are attached, and a beautiful raven totem is slowly raised into position at the top of Saxman’s totem row.
Once the pole is secure, Captain Joe Thomas gives an invocation in both Tlingit and English.
Governor Parnell, who was in Saxman to be adopted into the local Eagle Killer Whale Clan, also speaks at the totem raising Saturday. He draws attention to the values shared by all cultures.
Carver Donnie Varnell makes an appearance and thanks a number of local people, including his grandmother.
Saxman’s mayor Joe Williams then thanks those responsible for the pole’s funding, including the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the National Highway Administration.
And then the real fun begins: Williams invites the crowd to a warm – and dry – potlatch at the Saxman Community Center. There, a number of people, including Governor Parnell, are adopted into the Eagle Killer Whale Clan.
The Cape Fox Dancers entertain the crowd in traditional dress as families and friends chat over a hearty lunch.
Then, Mayor Williams adopts Parnell into the clan. He gives the governor the name Tan Taal. Williams tells the crowd that the name means “Tell the bear to leave us alone, we’re hunting for food just like you.”
Williams also adopts a number of others into the clan, including his daughter-in-law.
The governor says his adoption was arranged by Mayor Williams, who invited him to Saxman.
About 10,000 years ago, give or take a couple thousand years, a volcano blew its top in the middle of Behm Canal. The crater is still there, covered by 150 feet or so of ocean. But when the volcano exploded many thousands of years ago, it was not underwater. That’s what makes it so interesting.
Well, that and the fact that nobody currently living knew it was even there until just a few weeks ago.
U.S. Forest Service Geologist Jim Baichtal, who is based on Prince of Wales Island, and Anchorage USGS geologist Sue Karl were looking at some hydrographic surveys, something geologists tend to do.
When we were done, I noticed the area from Thorne Arm to Rudyerd had been surveyed,” Baichtal said. “I zoomed in and there was this large… some kind of volcano, and two other dome-like structures.”
Karl added that, “This new NOAA survey allowed us to see things that people had never seen before.”
Baichtal and Karl were in Ketchikan recently. They came by KRBD, along with UAS Juneau geology professor Cathy Connor, to talk about the underwater volcano.
Baichtal said that after spotting the cone-shaped mass, he used a special computer program to look more closely at the surveys, and they could see the vent still was intact. They also could tell that it erupted in the air, even though it’s now under quite a bit of water. But, how could they tell that, just by looking at it?
“Because of the shape of the feature itself, it talks about cinders, or some kind of ash that’s airfall,” he said. “It’s an airfall deposit that forms this … cone.”
Karl said a modern example of a similar eruption is Surtsey, a volcanic island in Iceland, which erupted from the sea floor in the 1960s, building itself up and eventually breaching the surface to form the island.
Karl points out that when the newly discovered volcano erupted, sea levels also were lower than they are now, but even with that, “We still have too much depth. We have to call on glacial loading and rebound.”
OK. What does that mean?
“When you get a thousand feet of ice sitting on the ground, it is very heavy,” she explains. “It actually depresses the earth’s crust. After the glacier melts back, the earth will rebound.”
Like a trampoline, or waterbed, but at a much slower pace.
“So at one time, in Misty Fiords, there was close to 4,000 foot of ice on that site, so the weight of that ice at least pushed down (created) as high as 400 feet of displacement,” Baichtal added.
So, in summary, the volcano erupted within the last 13,000 years, after the ice retreated, as the land was slowly bouncing back, and when sea levels were lower. They figured out most of this stuff just from examining the surveys.
But Baichtal wanted to see it in person, or as close to in person as possible. Luckily, he knows some people who can make that happen: Gary Freitag, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Marine Advisory Program, and Barbara Morgan with Oceans Alaska. They have an ROV, or remote operated vehicle. It’s a small device that can dive to the bottom of the ocean, get clear video or photographs, and collect samples.
On an unseasonably snowy May morning, they went out with Baichtal on an Allen Marine boat to look for what he calls the “wee beastie on the bottom of the sea.” Using location data from the survey charts, the skipper was able to “park” the catamaran right on top of the crater, and they quickly sent the ROV into the water.
“From that, we could see the angle of the slopes,” he said. “We did one deep dive, about 340 feet down. You could kind of tell the way the thing was put together. The lower material was … lava that was quenched in the marine environment, and the upper stuff was the airfall.”
They also grabbed two rock samples, which will be chemically analyzed to determine a more exact age for the eruption.
Baichtal notes that southern Southeast Alaska isn’t well known for its volcanoes, but there are quite a few in this region.
“We know that we have a lot of volcanoes out in the Aleutians, but if you talk about volcanoes in Southeast, everybody imagines Edgecumbe … when in fact, south of Craig and south of Ketchikan here, we actually have a much larger number of vents and a bigger volcanic complex. It’s just less known,” he said.
That’s because some are underwater, and those that aren’t are covered by trees. Karl said as people explore more of the area’s wilderness, they’re discovering more vents.
Volcanoes show up along faults in the earth’s crust, so when the fault moves enough to expose magma, that can lead to a volcanic eruption. Since faults don’t go away, volcanic eruptions in Southeast Alaska are possible in the future.
“With the evidence that we have and the geologic age of the things that are there, there is no reason why it couldn’t,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.”
But, Karl said people shouldn’t get anxious about it.
“We have much better technology for detecting the initiation of one of these sorts of things now,” she said. “I don’t think people need to get too worried.”
The newly discovered volcano is very close to New Eddystone Rock, which is what’s left over from another volcano, which may have erupted around the same time frame. They are both near the entrance to Misty Fiords National Monument.
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell has ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff Wednesday, in observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day and Law Enforcement Memorial Week.
President Barack Obama issued a proclamation establishing May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day. U.S. flags also should be lowered Wednesday in accordance with the president’s proclamation.
Parnell issued a separate proclamation establishing this week — May 10-17 — as Law Enforcement Memorial Week in the State of Alaska.
State and U.S. flags should be returned to full-staff on Thursday.
Saturday, May18th, is the Ketchikan Rain Boot Run – an attempt to break a Guinness world record for the most people running/walking in rubber boots. Plaza owner Rob Hill talks about that, and other events planned for the day. RainBoot
Library Director Linda Lyshol gives an update on events happening for the rest of May, including the beginning of the summer reading program with opportunities for all ages. Library051413