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Southeast Alaska News
KODIAK — They’re locks of love, inspiration and memories.
Take a stroll down the sidewalk atop Fred Zharoff Memorial Bridge, and you too might feel inspired looking at the padlocks known as “love locks” that sporadically decorate the safety fence.
Similar to the “love locks” on the famous Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge in Paris, more than 30 locks decorate Kodiak’s only major bridge. The idea is simple: couples write their name on a padlock, lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the water below as a symbol of their permanent love.
ANCHORAGE — The act regulating America’s fisheries could see changes under the discussion draft proposed by the House Natural Resources Committee.
The Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA, was up for reauthorization this year but that process won’t be finalized until 2014.
The House Natural Resources Committee released draft legislation Dec. 19 with 30 pages of proposed MSA changes that address several major fisheries issues, including catch share programs, electronic monitoring, rebuilding plans and the term “overfished.”
ANCHORAGE — Last summer, workers demolishing an old Alaska Railroad warehouse near Ship Creek found something unusual inside a wall. It was an old-fashioned photo album: Black leather-bound cover with pages made of delicate black paper. “Marie and Irvan Christian” was embossed on the front cover.
WASHINGTON — Republicans count enough competitive races to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, if only they can figure out what to do with the tea party.
Crowded primaries in states such as Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, where tea partyers and social conservatives are fighting for the nomination and pushing candidates farther right, worry many Republicans, especially after they saw their legitimate shots at a Senate majority slip away in 2010 and 2012.
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SITKA — More than two years after they were discovered, old human remains have been exhumed from the basement of the historic building that houses Sitka radio station KCAW.
The bones removed from the Cable House have been identified as Alaska Native and are now in the possession of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, KCAW reported. The tribe will determine a suitable place to inter the remains.
Editor’s note: This is the ninth in the Morris Communications series, “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”
Alaska’s long-lived monarch — the king salmon — has fallen from its throne.
The species, which once thrived as a fabled ruler in state waters, was sought-after by fisherman from all over the world. Their massive presence in rivers like the Kenai, the Yukon and the Taku, to name only a few, brought sport and commercial fisherman to banks and river mouths for a chance to harvest this mighty resource.
The Alaska Court of Appeals has reinstated overfishing charges against former state senator Albert Kookesh and two other men. The court’s decision was released Friday and reverses a Sitka district court judge’s 2010 dismissal of the charges.
Kookesh said in an interview Friday that he’d like to keep fighting the citations, but he’s not sure how he and the other two men involved would proceed.
ANCHORAGE — A woman is suing the municipality of Anchorage, claiming she was falsely arrested for drunken driving after she refused to give her phone number to a police officer.
Nancy Means is seeking to have the municipality scrub any evidence of her arrest, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
Officer David Burns saw a minivan with hazard lights flashing early the morning of Nov. 25, 2011. He found Means and three passengers in the disabled minivan. According to the lawsuit, Means said they were shopping on Black Friday.
ANCHORAGE — M. Marcell Jackson, a medical pioneer as one of Alaska’s first female doctors, has died in Anchorage at age 84.
Jackson’s medical career dated from territorial days. During early statehood, she was one of a handful of women practicing medicine in the state, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
A local funeral home confirms the death, which occurred Dec. 8.
ANCHORAGE — An inmate already serving a 15-year sentence in federal prison has had nine years tacked on.
The U.S. attorney’s office says 49-year-old John Richard Koesterman was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage for filing false tax returns.
He also was ordered to forfeit nearly $20,000 seized by law enforcement and pay restitution of more than $95,000.
Authorities in a release say he directed others in conspiracy to submit 55 false tax returns.
HOUSTON — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell by 11 this week to 1,757.
The Houston company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,382 rigs were exploring for oil and 374 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,763 active rigs.
Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Alaska gained two rigs and Louisiana and Pennsylvania each gained one.
ANCHORAGE — A final report by the National Transportation Safety Board concludes an Australian pilot likely became spatially disoriented in poor weather before crashing near Fairbanks last year.
The NTSB says in the probable cause report it’s likely the pilot lost control of the rented Piper Saratoga and “entered a steep spiraling dive from which he was unable to recover.”
ANCHORAGE — Police say cold weather contributed to the death of a 34-year-old woman whose body was found inside a vehicle near downtown Anchorage.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro says foul play isn’t suspected in the death of Elaine Marie Cleveland of Anchorage.
Police were alerted just before 7:30 a.m. Thursday about a woman who was unresponsive and unconscious in a vehicle at the 1000 block of 6th Avenue. Medics declared her dead at the scene.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers say a privately-owned ATM was stolen from a Palmer restaurant.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the machine was taken from RW’s Hamburger House Saturday morning. It weighs about 200 pounds, and troopers suspect it would require more than one person to take it.
Restaurant employee James Tickney says burglars forced their way into the building’s back door and dragged the ATM about 25 feet outside.
He says there was about $4,700 in the ATM when taken.
ANCHORAG — A small earthquake rattled Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula but didn’t prompt any reports of damage.
The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the quake occurred at 5:42 a.m. Saturday in the Cook Inlet region, and that it was felt in the southern part of the peninsula, south of Anchorage.
The earthquake was located at a depth of about 73 miles.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers say a 38-year-old Togiak man was dragged almost two miles in the village after his clothing got stuck on the back hitch of the vehicle.
Troopers say Rodney Gosuk was injured and intoxicated when he was found partially naked in the middle of a road in the village.
Troopers were notified Tuesday night by the village public safety officer and flew to Togiak the following day.
According to troopers, the truck driven by a Togiak woman dragged Gosuk for 1.7 miles.
FAIRBANKS — The state has issued an air quality advisory for the Fairbanks area through Saturday.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports cold air and temperature inversions are behind the poor air quality.
The advisory from the state Department of Environmental Conservation covers Fairbanks, North Pole and surrounding areas.
It also deems the air quality in Fairbanks as “unhealthy,” the third-worst category behind “very unhealthy” and “hazardous.”
AT&T says it has restored cell phone service in Southeast Alaska after weather caused problems with the company’s microwave equipment this week.
Customers with AT&T cell phone service in several Southeast Alaska communities have reported intermittent problems receiving and making phone calls this week.
A spokesman with AT&T says the outages are caused by dense fog, rain and icy conditions affecting the company’s microwave communications system in the region. AT&T’s Andy Colley declined an interview about the issue but said in an email Friday afternoon that service has been fully restored.
The outages impacted some cell phone customers around Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau.
Petersburg residents and small business owners who want to install an air-source heat pump could soon get some help from their local government. Borough staffers are recommending a new rebate program. As Matt Lichtenstein reports, the technology has grown more popular in Petersburg and elsewhere in Southeast.
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Air source heat pumps don’t create heat. Rather, they use electricity to move warm air from the outdoors to the indoors even when it’s really cold outside. Fleet Refrigeration and Heating owner Wally McDonald has installed 25 to 30 air-source-heat-pumps in Petersburg, most of them just this past year.
“What you’re really doing is taking heat out of the outside air. So, it’s actually harnessing solar energy because the sunshine heats the atmosphere and you’re … extracting the heat out of the atmosphere and concentrating it inside your home,” he says.
Air-source heat pumps can provide cooling as well as heating. They’ve been in use for decades in more moderate climates. However, manufacturers have been improving the technology to make it more efficient in drawing warmth from much colder, outside air. Some manufacturers advertise cold-climate units that can draw heat in below-freezing temperatures.
According to McDonald, the air-source pumps have been economical here, “Of course there’s always going to be savings over oil given oil prices now but what we’re finding now is compared with electric resistance heat, which has become popular lately, the heat pumps will actually run on about a third of the power. They get a mechanical advantage over direct resistance heat.”
There are no recent studies on the efficiency of air-source heat pumps in Southeast according to Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center. However, in a 2013 report on the issue, the center did a review of existing literature, a market assessment and some computer modeling. Center Research Scientist Vanessa Stevens was one of the authors:
“It was a little informal in that we didn’t monitor any existing systems but we did talk to a lot of homeowners that had installed them and we talked to some installers and some regional planners in southeast to see if the air-source heat pumps would be a good option for the region. And we did find that anecdotally they work really well. You know, we heard from a lot of people that it’s a good option. Even though there’s a lot of heating options in Southeast, especially like biomass is pretty big there, air source heat pumps have some advantages like they’re very low maintenance equipment and they use less electricity than electric baseboard,” she says.
Still, the report recommends a back-up system for the coldest days of winter, when heat pumps are least efficient. Most of Alaska’s colder regions are not good candidates for the unit, according to the report, which also says they can be prohibitively expensive to operate in areas with high energy costs. In areas with cheaper electricity, the report found air-source heat pumps are an attractive choice.
Fleet Refrigeration’s Wally McDonald credits homeowner Kim Toland for convincing him to start installing the pumps in Petersburg. Toland purchased one unit in 2009 and two more in 2010.
He says they have helped him save money on energy, “Oh, there’s no question about it. And plus you know, you feel more comfortable about keeping your house at an acceptable level because often times in Southeastern Alaska the outdoor temperature may be 50 degrees, which isn’t brutal, but if you’re inside and its only 50 degrees in the house, that’s not very comfortable. So, with an air-source heat pump, you know, the efficiency is so high when the temperature is above 40 degrees, that the amount of work that’s used to increase the inside temperature of the house is minimal.”
Along with the heat pumps, Toland also uses a catalytic wood stove to heat his home of about 15 hundred square feet.
Installation costs for air-source heat pumps can vary widely depending on the situation. For example, according to the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, a single unit for a small home could run around three thousand dollars. A much larger, more complicated installation might cost closer to 10 thousand.
Petersburg borough staffers are recommending a rebate program to help cover a portion of the cost. People who purchase and install an air source pump would get 450 to 1500 dollars back from the borough, depending on the number and capacity of the units.
According to Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht, the incentive program would benefit the municipality as well as the residential and small-commercial property owners who take advantage of it, “The concept behind it is not only does it help them with what appears to be lower energy bills, it is a solution that is more energy efficient than the old style boiler or using space heaters. So, we’re pretty excited about it and it helps us in the long run from a standpoint of using up very valuable hydro resources in a way that’s more efficient.”
The increasing cost of heating oil has driven many people in Petersburg to switch over to electric heat in recent years, boosting the demand for the power, which is mainly supplied by the Tyee Hydro-Electric plant. Local officials have been concerned that growing demand will eventually exceed the town’s hydro capacity.
Similar concerns prompted the City and Borough of Sitka to offer a rebate program for several types of appliances in 2012 and 40 people received rebates for installing heat pumps.
Petersburg has previously offered a rebate to people who install ground-source heat pumps, which extract warmth from the consistent temperature of the ground. However, they are substantially more expensive than air-source units and no one took advantage of that program.
To try and cut its own heating bills, the borough recently installed a large air-source heat pump in its motor pool building. With its garage doors, Giesbrecht says it’s a tough structure to keep warm and the pump has made a big difference:
“We’re seeing about 5 thousand dollars in savings at this point. Its early in the process and if you talk to employees, they’re saying it’s a lot more pleasant in the room than it used to be and the unit appears to be working pretty flawlessly. So, we’re happy,” says Giesbrecht.
Giesbrecht plans to ask the Borough Assembly for approval before moving ahead with the air–source heat pump rebate program. He is hopes to put it on the Assembly’s January 6th agenda.