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Southeast Alaska News

Parnell defends timing of National Guard inquiry

Wed, 2014-04-30 00:02

ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sean Parnell’s call for a federal investigation of sexual misconduct within the Alaska National Guard came nearly four years after allegations first arose, but he said Monday that he could not act before getting specific details of allegations.

Parnell on Sunday was criticized in a newspaper column for the timing of his call for an investigation and responded to reporters’ questions following a candidate debate in Anchorage, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

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Landmark urethane igloo in Alaska for sale

Wed, 2014-04-30 00:01

ANCHORAGE — The embodiment of an Alaska cliche is for sale.

The massive urethane igloo that’s a must-stop for summer tourists heading up the Parks Highway en route to Denali National Park and Preserve can be had for $300,000.

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Gubernatorial candidates spar at forum

Wed, 2014-04-30 00:01

ANCHORAGE — The first forum featuring all gubernatorial candidates has been held, still months ahead of the November election.

Gov. Sean Parnell had declined to participate in any debates while the Legislature was in session. They gaveled out Friday, five days after the 90-day session should have ended, and Parnell attended his first session Monday with independent candidate Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

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‘Never again’

Tue, 2014-04-29 18:26

Sitka residents gathered in Totem Square to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Monday, April 28th, was Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah. About thirty people gathered in Sitka’s Totem Square in a light rain as St. Michael’s Cathedral tolled its bells. Residents paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, but also remembered more recent genocides, in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia — and spoke about the struggle to keep the vow that came out of the ashes of World War II: never again.

KCAW’s Rachel Waldholz was there, and sent this audio postcard, featuring the voices of Sitka residents Toby Campbell, Elliot Bruhl, Annabel Lund and Phil Burdick.



Planning begins for Sawmill Cove dock

Tue, 2014-04-29 17:23

Plans are moving ahead for a multi-purpose dock at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park, but the public can still play a large role in designing the final product.

The Sawmill Cove board convened a special meeting last night/Monday night (4-28-14) in Harrigan Centennial Hall to review possible scenarios for the dock, which — for the moment — is intended to handle barge traffic.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

“We’re open for business,” said Charles Horan of Sitka’s industrial site. (SCIP photo)

The funding for the project comes from a statewide general obligation bond issued in 2012. Sitka’s share is $7.5-million — about $6.25-million of which will be available to spend on actual construction, once design and administrative fees have been taken out.

The current plan is to build a sheet pile bulkhead about 300-feet long, and include sufficient power and water to accommodate just about any foreseeable use, says Garry White, the executive director at Sawmill Cove.

“Having as much dock as we can, that’s going to fit the most uses, but also be set up for future development. So we don’t go, Shoot, we should have put a conduit here, because we want to put this in. We want to have all that stuff in ahead of time so we can use this base infrastructure to build off of, if we do need to.”

The aerial plan of the site includes a diagram of a large ocean-going freighter moored against pilings connected to the dock by a catwalk. White noted that adding deepwater capabilities to the dock were not a part of this initial project.

On a related issue, Sawmill Cove received a federal transportation grant to prepare a feasibility study for a marine service center at the park. That study is now complete. View the study here.

The possibility of docking cruise ships at Sawmill Cove has been the subject of ongoing controversy — and even an Alaska Supreme Court case — but it was not a topic of this meeting.

One member of the public, however, Mary Ann Peterson, urged the board to be thoughtful in the development of Sitka’s waterfront.

“I see our tidelines going away, being bought up. And I’m thinking, way on down the road, how much land will Sitka actually own? That’s a resource for us. And we have a lot of bills coming due for our infrastructure, and if we sell off every last thing we have, are we shooting ourselves in the foot?”

Board member Charles Horan made it clear that, although other properties in the park were for sale, this dock was not.

“That’s why we have that attitude toward waterfront. Those tidelands — we don’t want to truncate our access. We want the public to have access over a long period of time for a large number of users. We don’t want someone to buy that access and then shut their doors. We’re keen to that.”

The meeting was also part visioning session. The Sawmill Cove board’s regular meetings aren’t typically well-attended by the public, so White and his board were eager to hear ideas — especially from the fishing industry — about future development compatible with the dock. He asked for input about a potential work float, and the location and size of a possible travel lift to haul out the largest seiners and tenders working in the region.

The city has retained the firm of Moffatt & Nichol to do the engineering and design for the dock. Project manager Shaun McFarlane outlined the scope and timetable for the work. He said a preliminary design will be ready for public review by mid-August, with additional planning complete in October and November.

Construction of the Sawmill Cove multi-purpose dock will begin in June of 2015.

New Raven’s Trail construction begins this week

Tue, 2014-04-29 15:22

Raven’s Roost Cabin is at the end of the 4.2 mile Raven’s Trail. Photo/U.S. Forest Service

One of the most popular trails in Petersburg is getting an upgrade starting this week. The U.S. Forest Service is beginning work on the Raven’s Trail. The existing trail begins behind the airport and leads up the mountain to Raven’s Roost cabin. Brad Hunter runs the recreation branch of the Petersburg Ranger District. He told Angela Denning that the project has been in the works for over a decade.

Brad: “For a long time we’ve been working towards the reconstruction of the Raven’s Trail and we finally secured an easement through the multi-ownership lands which includes the Borough, Mental Health Trust, and the Department of Transportation with the State DOT lands and then DNR lands.”
Angela: “Okay, multi-agency negotiations sounds like,”
Brad: “It was a lengthy process. We started it 14 years ago and has finally been completed.”
Angela: “Okay, and what is the goal?”
Brad: “The goal is to eventually reconstruct the entire trail which is four miles long all the way up to the cabin. The lower part of the trail, the first mile is going to be a wide gravel trail that will be easily accessible for everybody to use. The first half-mile is going to be accessible for wheel chair use but of course that helps everybody, you know, people pushing buggy carts, it’ll be great for running, for hiking, dog walkers.”
Angela: “And that area’s kind of muskeggy area right?”
Brad: “It is. We’re relocating the trail. The trail head will move from where it used to be. We’re going to locate it down by the Sandy Beach Park across the Sandy Beach Road.”
Angela: “So, the Raven’s Trail that exists now which is, you know, the mountain trail that goes behind the airport and a lot of people walk their dogs and they know where that is. Then there’s the Sandy Beach Trail which is a ways away. So how does it all connect?”
Brad: “The plan overall is to have the first half mile of gravel trail, it will be wheelchair accessible, it will be eight feet wide. The next half mile will still be that wide and be gravel but unfortunately it has to be steeper grades so it won’t meet the laws as far as the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]compliance standards but it’s still going to be a pretty easy trail to hike. Then we hit the bottom of the mountain slope where it just becomes too steep even for that type of construction and then it will just be a single track hiker trail from there all the way, the next three miles clear to the cabin.”
Angela: “Which would include some boards…”
Brad: “We actually got survey and design money for that last three miles and this summer we’re going to start that survey and design and that will determine exactly what type of construction it will be. Some of it will probably be rock. Some of it will probably be wood plank.”
Angela: “Are we talking years before the trail, you know, might be fully complete?”
Brad: “In its entirety, it’s very difficult to say. We have funding right now for that first half mile. We also have secured funding for the next half mile, so the first mile of the trail. The next three miles we have funding for the survey and design but none for construction. And it’s anybody’s guess as to when we will get the funding to actually build the last three miles but we’re going to keep pursuing it.”
Angela: “Now, what about the existing trail that’s there, the boards that kind of go through the muskeg, are those going to be removed?”
Brad: “Mm-hmm right. So, the old trail is going to have to be cleaned up and removed.”
Angela: “Alright, well that sounds good. So, will the area around Sandy Beach, will that be accessible by people while the construction’s going on or are there areas where people should avoid at that time?”
Brad: “Thank you for asking that. Yeah, actually the trail, while it’s under construction, the new trail will be closed to the public. So, the old trail, all the way to the cabin still will be open but this new piece will not be available to be walked on.”
Angela: “And do you have a certain time frame? Do you know when it might be open?”
Brad: “It should be completed, the contract for the first half mile should be completed no later than the end of June and it may be even sooner.”
Angela: “Alright, well that’s pretty exciting for people who enjoy trails and hiking around.”
Brad: “I think the town’s going to really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to it being completed.”
Angela: “Alright, well thank you so much.”
Brad: “You bet. Thank you Angela.”

Construction for the first segment of the trail is being funded through the RAC, the Resource Advisory Committee. It’s funding that comes through the Forest Service which is allocated by a local public committee.

The construction contract was awarded to the Reed Brothers Company.

Former Ketchikan resident gets another film award

Tue, 2014-04-29 13:47

Image courtesy Tallie Medel.

Former Ketchikan resident Tallie Medel has earned another acting award, this time from the Sarasota Film Festival.

During the film festival earlier this month, the jury gave a special Outstanding Performance Award to Medel for her work in the film “Joy Kevin,” a comedy directed by Caleb Johnson.

In the movie, Medel plays a dancer named Joy, married to a stand-up comedian named Kevin. Both characters face challenges as they work on their own acts and their relationship.

This isn’t the first accolades Medel has received recently. In December, she was named in the online independent film website IndieWire’s list of top-10 female leads of the year. That was for her work in the movie “The Unspeakable Act.”

To view the official trailer for “Joy Kevin,” click the link below:


Two Ketchikan students to intern for Sen. Murkowski

Tue, 2014-04-29 12:15

Sen. Lisa Murkowski in February. (Credit: KTOO)

Twenty about-to-graduate Alaska high school students will be interning for US Senator Lisa Murkowski this summer. Two of the students, Austin Ramsay and Samuel Ortiz, are from Ketchikan.

The interns will work for Murkowski in her Washington, D.C., office. Ramsay will be there for the first session of interns, from early June to late July; and Ortiz for the second session, from July to August.

Murkowski’s office says interns rotate responsibilities. Eight at a time work on tasks around the office. The other two get to travel with Murkowski to votes, Senate hearings, closed door meetings, and other places around the Capitol.

The interns are given a modest stipend for housing and expenses.

The two Ketchikan students are graduating from Ketchikan High School this semester.

The other interns and two intern coordinators are from all over Alaska, including Anchorage, North Pole, and Kenai.

Story Project nominated for more regional Emmys

Tue, 2014-04-29 11:49

The Ketchikan Story Project documentary film series has been nominated for additional regional Emmy Awards.

According to the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, the two most recent films in the series have been nominated in nine categories by the Northwest chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“Ketchikan: The Timber Years” was nominated for Best Historic or Cultural Program. And “Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots” received a film nomination for Best Cultural Documentary.

The project also picked up one feature-segment nomination; three nominations for informational or instructional feature-segment; and three for direction, photography and editing.

The project is run through the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and funded by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to promote local culture and history to visitors.

The series won two regional Emmys last year for “Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy.” The series also won several Telly Awards.

This year’s award winners will be announced during a ceremony set for June 7 in Seattle.

Clips from the series are available at www.ketchikanstories.com.

Alaska Supreme Court overturns 2006 conviction

Tue, 2014-04-29 09:56

The Alaska Supreme Court last week overturned the conviction of a 62-year-old Ketchikan man who had been found guilty in 2006 of failure to register as a sex offender.

In its April 25th opinion, the court writes that the original offense for which Byron Charles was convicted occurred in the 1980s, before the State of Alaska passed the Alaska Sex Offender Registration Act. That 1994 law required convicted sex offenders to register with the state, even if the offense took place before 1994.

In 2008, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Doe v. State that the sex offender registration act cannot be applied retroactively. Charles had previously appealed his conviction on the failure to register charge, but had not argued against the retroactive clause in state law. After the court’s 2008 decision, though, Charles added that argument to his appeal.

Lower courts ruled that Charles had essentially waived his right to use that argument by not bringing it up earlier. But in its April 25th decision, the Supreme Court decided otherwise.

The court writes that “permitting Charles to be convicted of violating a criminal statute that cannot constitutionally be applied to him would result in manifest injustice.”

With that in mind, the Alaska Supreme Court reversed Charles’ 2006 conviction of failure to register as a sex offender.

Roll into Spring with a helmet

Tue, 2014-04-29 09:23

Ryan Kauffman and Patrick Williams encourage bike safety. (KCAW photo).

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka celebrates bike safety month. Ryan Kauffman and Patrick Willams discuss everything from physical fitness to injury prevention.

Tues Apr 29, 2014

Tue, 2014-04-29 08:59

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Barry Allen retires from Sitka PD after 25 years. F/V Mirage is no longer grounded. The Alaska Legislature passed Senate Bill 99 authorizing the city to apply for a low-cost state loan to complete the Blue Lake dam expansion. Wrangell-based representative Peggy Wilson is retiring.

Lieutenant Allen retires from Sitka PD

Tue, 2014-04-29 08:37

Former Lieutenant Barry Allen is retiring after 25 years with the Sitka Police Department. (KCAW photo/by Emily Forman)

After over 25 years working for the Sitka Police Department Lieutenant Barry Allen is retiring. He has some anxiety about leaving the community that he loves, but is looking forward to the next stage. KCAW’s Emily Forman met with Allen yesterday(4-28-14) – his last day at the Sitka PD.

Listen to iFriendly audio.
As a reporter in Sitka, Barry Allen is the guy I call when I need information on something I’ve read in the police blotter. He always makes an attempt at sharing what he can.

Forman: Hey how’s it going. I just realized, I never know if I should call you Barry or Lieutenant Allen.
Allen: Barry’s fine. I’m not formal.

He’s 51 years old. And he’s worked for the Sitka PD for 25 years.

Allen: I’ve had half of my life here in Sitka.

Today is his last day. Allen and his wife are leaving Sitka and heading north towards Nenana.

Allen: We got a little room and got a house up there. Just kind of kicking back and doing whatever for a little while.
Forman: That will be an interesting transition I imagine.
Allen: It will be. I’m going from a very structured environment to being left on my own so I guess it’s up to my wife to keep me in line from here on out.

He’s been the Operations Lieutenant in Sitka for the last 10 years.

Allen: The Operations Lieutenant supervises the jail, dispatches animal control, parking investigations, and patrols. I’ve held pretty much every position on the law enforcement side of the Department since I’ve been here.

So, he’s seen a lot. Specifically, how the issues have changed. He says at the moment it’s meth and heroine addiction. In the past he’s seen streaks of burglaries. He says sometimes there’s a disconnect between what he feel should be addressed and what the community actually cares about.

There can be two completely different perspectives on the world and that’s where getting to know people is important,” Allen says, “because you need that feedback otherwise you’re kind of missing the point.”

Allen says it took him 25 years to learn how to be approachable. He’s gotten to know families across several generations. And the effort has paid off. Especially when working with prosecutors.

Forman: So you can provide context and a connective thread to… fill in the whole picture?
Allen: Exactly to fill in the whole picture because a criminal case is just a microcosm of what might be going on with that family or person. Most people that get in trouble in Sitka are not really truly bad people. They’ve made a mistake or some other set of circumstances has caused them to react to something in some specific way.

Forman: Have they hired a replacement for you?
Allen: Yes, they have. His name is Jeff Ankerfeldt and he’ll be on board June 2nd.
Forman: Do you have any words of advice for your replacement? How to be successful in this job?
Allen: Get to know the community.

While this is the end of his law enforcement career in Sitka, he’s not finished with law enforcement altogether. Allen says he might like to pursue forensic photography. But, for now he’ll see how it feels to kick back.

Extended session produces 116 bills

Tue, 2014-04-29 00:03

Legislators took an extra five days this year to complete their business — an extension that likely resulted in additional bills securing the Legislature’s stamp of approval.

In total, 116 House and Senate bills gained the approval of both bodies. That breakdown is 70 House bills and 46 Senate bills. Lawmakers also agreed on 41 resolutions — this time at a more even split of 20 from the House and 21 from the Senate.

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Heroin reaches into rural Alaska communities

Tue, 2014-04-29 00:02

ANCHORAGE — Heroin has crossed beyond Alaska’s urban centers, increasingly winding up in the state’s more isolated, rural communities.

State investigators say the highly addictive drug has become more common in all parts of the state, including villages, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

The state’s annual drug report showed the drug’s availability increased throughout Alaska in 2012 and 2013. The report concludes that heroin is no longer confined to urban areas.

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Bill eyed to limit access to arrest reports

Tue, 2014-04-29 00:02

FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell is considering a bill that would limit public access to arrest records after people were acquitted or charges were dropped.

The measures contained in the bill were a reaction to easily accessible online arrest records that employers and landlords have used to do background checks on applicants, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Sunday.

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Legislature approves Blue Lake loan

Mon, 2014-04-28 22:30

Just before it gaveled out on Friday, five days late, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill of particular importance to Sitka: Senate Bill 99, which includes language authorizing the city to apply for a low-cost state loan to complete the Blue Lake dam hydroelectric project.

The authorization is just six lines of text tacked onto the larger bill, but, for Sitka, it could mean significantly lower electricity rates in the future.

“It comes right down to the family when they write the check to city hall to pay for their electrical consumption,” said Sitka Senator Bert Stedman, who inserted the loan language into SB 99, and ushered it through the legislature.

Sitka needs to raise about $18.5-million to finish the Blue Lake project. Officials originally hoped the money would come in the form of a state grant, but the project didn’t make it into this year’s capital budget.

So the city turned to Plan B: a low-cost loan from the Alaska Energy Authority. The Authority has the power to issue loans with interest rates as low as zero percent. That means a loan from the Authority could be a much cheaper way for Sitka to pay for the Blue Lake project than issuing municipal bonds, which is the city’s other choice.

Those savings would then be passed on to Sitka residents and businesses, said City Administrator Mark Gorman.

The city is already planning a 10-percent electricity rate hike in July, to help pay for the Blue Lake dam expansion. That’s pretty much set in stone, Gorman said. But, he said, if Sitka can negotiate a loan with the Energy Authority, it may be able to avoid further rate increases down the line.

City officials were watching Stedman’s efforts in the legislature with their fingers crossed.

“I think he really pulled a rabbit out of the hat on this one,” Gorman said.

The loan still isn’t a done deal; the governor has to sign the legislation into law, and then the city will enter into negotiations with the Alaska Energy Authority. The final loan will depend, in part, on how much money the Authority has available.


Peggy Wilson ending long legislative career

Mon, 2014-04-28 21:21

Rep. Peggy Wilson will not run for election. (KRBD Photo)

Southeast Alaska’s longest-serving lawmaker is retiring. Peggy Wilson says she will not seek re-election to her Wrangell-based House district.

She’s stepping down for two reasons.

“My mom hasn’t been well. And I just worried about her so much. And because of session I couldn’t go,” she says. “And since December, I’ve had four great-grandbabies being born and there’s another one on the way. I missed it with my grandchildren and now my grandchildren are having children. I feel like it’s given me a second chance.”

Wilson says her own health is fine. But at 68, the long days and late nights are taking their toll.

“I don’t want to be falling asleep in committees. And maybe I need to let somebody younger do this,” she says.

Wilson’s been in Alaska’s House of Representatives for 14 years. She began as the Wrangell-Petersburg-Sitka representative. Then reapportionment dropped all but Wrangell and added Ketchikan, Saxman, Hyder and Prince of Wales Island.

She originally planned to run for re-election this year. But she knew it would be tough.

“Ketchikan really is so used to having their own person that they really want somebody from Ketchikan. But they wanted somebody from Ketchikan last time and I made it,” she says.

Wilson’s first big issue was education. And she’s continued to push for funding and other improvements.

“It was my legislation that got the cost differential into place. And I feel real good about that,” she says.

But she’s very concerned about the Legislature and administration’s recent directions. She says focusing on charter, church and home schools will hurt existing public schools.

“We do need to make changes in education. But we can’t make them and leave people out. We’ve got to make the changes so that it can ultimately reach everyone and not just a select few,” she says.

One of Wilson’s biggest disappointments was the failure of a roads, ferries, harbors, airports and highways infrastructure fund.

The retiring Wrangell lawmaker authored bills for the past six years. One measure made it through the House and to the Senate Finance Committee this year. But it remained there when the final gavel fell.

She hopes to find someone to carry the ball.

“I definitely am going to look for people who will continue, because I firmly believe for the health of Alaska overall, our roads need fixing. We need to have more roads. And it’s not going to happen with the current status quo,” she says.

Wilson continues on the job until her successor is sworn in early next year.

That’ll cap a 19-year legislative career – 14 in Alaska and five in her previous home of North Carolina.

“I’m will miss it. There’s a little bit of emptiness in my heart already and I can feel it. You just can’t walk away and forget it. It’s impossible,” she says.

Hear an interview from her last campaign.

At least two people are running for Wilson’s House seat.

The most recent to announce is Ketchikan Visitors Bureau CEO Patti Mackey, a Republican who ran two years ago. Another is Ketchikan teacher Dan Ortiz, an independent. Others are expected.

Wilson, a retired nurse, says she’ll endorse whoever wins the August GOP primary. Wilson won her first Alaska election in 2000, making her the first woman to serve in two states’ legislatures.

POW Health Network wins statewide award

Mon, 2014-04-28 19:34

Nurses Stacey Mank, Colleen Watson, and Kara McCoy holding the Friends of Public Health Nursing Award. (Courtesty of SEARHC)

The Prince of Wales Island Health Network was honored with a state-wide Public Health Nursing award this month. Three nurses at the Craig Public Health center received the Friend of Public Health Nursing award on behalf of the network.


Colleen Watson is a Public Health nurse on POW. She’s worked as a nurse on the island for almost 20 years.

“Our days vary from day to day,” she said. “Some days we do clinic and so we see clients, for immunizations and exams. [We] provide family planning services for teens and adults.”

And much more. Watson is a full time nurse. She’s helped out by two part-time nurses, Kara McCoy and Stacey Mank. They travel among POW communities to provide healthcare.

“It’s a challenge to get to all the communities with two nurses and meet all the needs,” Watson said.

They do have help from other members of the POW Health Network. Besides the Craig Public Health Center, there’s the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Alicia Roberts Medical Center, Community Connections, Alaska Island Community Services and PeaceHealth Medical Group.

The POW Network was chosen for the Friend of Public Health Nursing Award, which is a statewide honor. They’ll hold that honorary title for the next two years.

“I felt very honored for the network and I realized the benefit that we see by collaborating,” Watson said. “It’s really amazing what’s happened with all the providers working together. We’ve been able to accomplish so much more and have fun at the same time.”

Watson and her fellow public health nurses will present the award to the POW Health Network Steering Committee on Tuesday.

Stranded troller refloated in week-long salvage effort

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:35

Salvagers rigged a 2,400-foot long “Blue Steel” tow line to the Mirage, and pulled her free with the tug Wendy O. (Global Diving photo/Kerry Walsh)

A little more than a week after running aground on a stormy beach in Sitka Sound, the Mirage has been refloated.

The 52-foot steel-hull troller went ashore in surf and heavy seas last Sunday evening on Low Island, a windswept mound of rock off the coast of Kruzof Island, about 8 miles west of Sitka.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Michael Wortman, supervisor of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Sitka, says the Mirage was dragged off the island and refloated at about 1 PM Monday afternoon.

The next step, says Wortman, is to keep the Mirage floating.

“They had divers do an assessment of the vessel underneath, and get on board and make sure it’s not taking on water. The vessel is now transiting to Sitka to be further evaluated.”

See our story on the grounding of the Mirage here.

Throughout last week, and over the weekend, the marine salvage company Global Diving worked to remove fuel, fishing gear, and rigging from the stranded vessel, in order to lighten it. In all, 1600 gallons of diesel were pumped into plastic tanks and flown in sling loads by helicopter to the Sitka airport, as were the Mirage’s trolling poles, anchors, and 40 skates of longline gear.

Kerry Walsh, project manager for Global Diving and Salvage, says the Mirage was not in a very good spot.

“It was a horrible spot, to be honest with you. Very shoaly, influenced by tidal currents, and open to the sea. It’s a windswept, barren, piece of lava rock out there.”

Salvagers plugged and epoxied all the through-hull openings in Mirage, and then flooded her bilges with seawater to keep the vessel stable during high tides. Nevertheless, the Mirage moved onshore 90 feet over the course of the week.

Dewatering pumps were staged onboard the Mirage, in preparation for towing her off Low Island on Sunday. The landing craft Seamount and the tugboat Wendy O encountered 8-to-12-foot swells in Sitka Sound.

A helicopter had lifted a 12-inch “Blue Steel” tow line previously to Low Island. When crews were ready to carry the tow out to the tug boat, Walsh says they ran into problems with the “messenger line,” the lightweight line passed between vessels that carries the heavier line.

“The breaking waves were causing a sideways motion with the water, and it washed the big tow line underneath the bow of the Mirage, and it kind of wedged it between the rock and the keel of the boat. And when it wedged, it also put a surge on the messenger line, and it parted just offshore. But we were able to recover all that line and get it back up on high ground, and go back out this morning.”

On Monday morning (4-28-14), with somewhat lighter winds and seas, the helicopter was able to hoist the tow line out to the tug, and the Wendy O freed the Mirage on the rising tide.

Michael Wortman, with the Coast Guard, credits the Mirage’s owner for taking responsibility for the salvage, and excellent work by Global Salvage for a successful operation.

And when that’s not the case, Wortman says the Guard can take measures of its own to salvage vessels.

“We have funds, we have agreements with companies in the area, and we can hire them to do the same thing Global did, essentially.”

Wortman says the cause of the grounding remains under investigation, and he will not release the results until the case is officially closed.

Kerry Walsh, with Global Diving, says a life raft and small freezer came off the Mirage as she was being pulled off Low Island. He went out in the helicopter and recovered both. “There’s no sign at all that the Mirage was ever out there,” he said.