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Southeast Alaska News

Report finds weaknesses, solutions in Sitka’s food system

Fri, 2014-04-25 11:05

Lisa Sadleir-Hart distributes excess produce from her garden at Sitka’s Farmers Market. (SLFN photo)

The reliability of the food supply is not something most communities devote much thought to. Agriculture, transportation, and grocery stores all work pretty well — even in relatively isolated parts of Alaska like Sitka. And depending on where you live, there can be abundant wild foods.

But a recent report called “The Sitka Community Food Assessment” reveals that our food system is vulnerable — especially to the unpredictable costs of fuel.

Lisa Sadleir-Hart coordinated the assessment. She stopped by KCAW recently to talk with Robert Woolsey about what Sitka — and communities like it — can do to become more food-secure.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/25FOOD.mp3
Listen to iFriendly audio.

The idea for taking a look at Sitka’s food supply took root, so to speak, at the Community Health Summit in the fall of 2012. At that time, food security was still kind of abstract.

That changed on the night of January 4, when Sitka was rocked by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. We had 45-minutes to get to high ground, leaving behind all of our grocery stores, and most all of our food, at sea level.

“And it became very real, on a community level, when we actually had that event.”

But even before the threat of a tsunami focused Sitka’s attention on food security, people were feeling the pinch of the high cost of groceries, aggravated by the economic recession beginning in 2008.

“Many of us working in the food arena for a long time also realized that because we were seeing rising food prices, we had a lot of concerns about what that meant for household food security. So we’ve got two layers: Overall community food security — can we provide for ourselves and feed ourselves as a community? And secondarily, Can households do the same?”

With the goal of finding answers to those questions, Sadlier-Hart and her work group adopted the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Security Assessment Toolkit and went to work. They surveyed over 400 Sitkans, conducted focus groups, met with community leaders, and explored alternative sources of information like the Cooperative Extension Agency at the University of Alaska.

A year after the earthquake, food security was no longer abstract. Sadlier-Hart has hard data. Her report brings home several key points.

Read the 2014 Sitka Food Assessment Indicators Report.

“I think a big one that’s a real plus, is how generous our community is. And how reliant we are on customary and traditional foods — what people often call subsistence foods. We eat a lot of deer in this town. We eat a lot of fish and seafood, and we also forage and harvest. And a lot of that gets shared from one household to another. Sometimes related households, sometimes they’re friends. That really jumped off the page at me.”

Sadlier-Hart says that the use of food stamps has increased by 40-percent in Sitka since the mid-2000s. Grocery prices began a sharp climb in 2008, harnessed to the cost of fuel. The assessment shows clearly who is bearing the brunt of this perfect storm of economic insecurity.

“When we talked to elders in a focus group, some of them go without. They don’t eat. And others get real creative. Some single-parent families, they’ll show up at church potlucks to try to get a meal for them and their kids. Some real interesting strategies. That sort of stuff also popped out at me.”

The food assessment is a huge source of information about economic conditions in Sitka. It’s also a tool for making policy. Sadleir-Hart says a first step is to begin to make more public land available for gardening.

We know that for many households, 95-percent of their food is imported. Most of the food we eat in the state is imported — 95-percent of it from somewhere else. As recent as the 1950s, that was only 50-percent. I think we can get to 50-percent over the next couple of decades. This is a long-term venture. It took us a long time, with cheap oil and transportation to kind of get us into this really — I don’t know if you would call it lazy — but we’ve not had to work very hard at accessing our food.
KCAW — 50-percent is a lot of potatoes.
Sadleir-Hart — It’s a lot of potatoes, it’s a lot of seaweed, it’s a lot of deer, it’s a lot of lingcod. It’s a lot of gardens. You can grow a lot of food. I grow a lot of food out of my garden. A lot of which I don’t eat, which I donate to the Farmers’ Market. So if I can do it, I think other people can do it.

Sadleir-Hart also believes it’s important to maintain eligibility for food stamps, as much for the economic impact of the program as for its contribution to nutrition. She says it pumps about over $1-million annually into the economy.

She also says Sitka’s rural subsistence designation — and the access it allows to customary and traditional foods — is more than a lifestyle choice. Hunting, fishing, and gathering are a major economic component of food security.

“Deer meat alone was almost $1.5-million in a year. So if we were going to try to replace deer meat out with some other equivalent protein source, most households couldn’t afford to buy it, quite frankly.”

Canoe paddle workshop coming to Klawock

Fri, 2014-04-25 09:39

A recent One People Canoe Society paddle-carving workshop in Angoon. (credit: Mike Chilton)

The One People Canoe Society will lead a canoe paddle workshop in Klawock next week. Native carvers Doug Chilton and Jim Zeller will guide participants in carving 15 red cedar paddles for the 2014 Paddle to Celebration Canoe Journey.

The 2014 Celebration is a gathering of tribes from around Alaska in Juneau starting June 11th. It’s a Sealaska event that takes place every other year.

Juneau-based artist Doug Chilton is one of the leaders of the Klawock paddle workshop. He’s taught paddle workshops in about five other Alaska towns in preparation for the canoe journey.

“The idea is to help people connect with who they are,” Chilton said. “I think that it’s making big difference, we’re out in all the different communities, but we’re making them active and reconnecting them with their background.”

Canoe paddles carved by One People Canoe Society at a recent workshop in Angoon. (credit: Mike Chilton)

The One People Canoe Society is hosting the carving workshop in partnership with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, or SEARHC. An employee from SEARHC will incorporate a 20-minute youth suicide prevention training into each day of the paddle carving workshop.

Chilton says the purpose of the class is to foster team work.

“The idea is to not teach them how to make a paddle, but to teach them to work together,” he said. “We want them to create a whole set of paddles for their canoe, for their crew. And doing it in such a short amount of time, they have to be able to work together or they don’t get it done. And it’s the same way on the canoe, you have to be able to work together, or the canoe doesn’t move.”

The workshop takes place Monday, April 28th through Thursday, May 1st from 3:30 to 8 p.m. each day. It’s open to anyone 15 years or older. Call 965-0040 to sign up in advance.

Good wind hunting

Fri, 2014-04-25 08:31

Mt. Edgecumbe science teacher Matt Hunter cuts the ribbon on the school’s full-size turbine in 2010. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Gentlemen, start your turbines.

A researcher with the Alaska Center for Energy and Power in Fairbanks is visiting Sitka and Angoon this week (Apr 21 – 25) to test student-built wind turbines.

Chris Pike will be working with students studying turbine technology in a program called “KidWind,” a school curriculum originally funded by the National Renewable Energy Lab.

“The students design a wind turbine — just a mini-wind turbine about 2 feet in size. And they do things like design the blades for it, they design the gearing for it, the bases, and all this kind of stuff. And test it. Then we have a little contest where different schools from around the state can compare data with each other. We put them in front of a fan and measure how much power they produce. There’s a little generator in the back of them, and they can see the current coming out of it, the volts, and then the watts, which is what we use in our houses.”

Pike himself holds a master’s degree in renewable energy technology. He says KidWind is about more than building a machine, it’s about integrating systems. Wind power is variable, and really isn’t practical all by itself.

“When they watch how their wind turbine performs in front of the fan, you can really see how the power level is moving around a little bit. So you kind of get it in your head, Okay, I don’t want my lights flickering all the time in my house, or how is my computer going to work on that? So I think that gives them a real-life example of some of the challenges that we’re trying to face right now: integrating renewables into traditional systems. It’s not going to be an all-or-nothing game. We’re going to have to work together and integrate different types of systems.”

Pike says the coastal areas of Alaska are more promising for wind power than the interior of the state. Nevertheless, some of the first utility-grade wind turbines in Alaska have been installed at Eva Creek in Fairbanks. Running at peak, the Eva Creek turbines supply 20 megawatts of power, roughly the same as Sitka’s two hydro plants.

Pike says it takes a broad spectrum of interests and abilities to make alternative energy a reality in Alaska.

“And one of the neat things about some of the technologies is that it’s really interdisciplinary. So you might have a student that really loves a blade design, the physics, and maybe they’re going to go more into the science and engineering part of things. And you might have someone who is taking a look at the policy side of things, integrating renewables and the changing structure of utilities. And you might have someone else who is interested in the public relations side. So there are a lot of different things you can go into.”

During his swing through Southeast, Pike will test turbines in Matt Hunter’s class at Mt. Edgecumbe, and in Jim Parkins’ class in Angoon. Pike and the Alaska Center for Energy and Power are not Good Will Hunting with KidWind; rather than inspiring one or two brilliant students, they’re trying to lay down a new pattern for Alaskan energy for decades to come.

“And I don’t know about finding the next Thomas Edison of wind — I guess it’s a possibility. Having talent within Alaska, and building that education base for kids that are raised in the state is really important to building Alaska’s future, and keeping that talent within the state so we can really continue it as a form of economic development, and invest in our own future.”

Pike says there is no prize for the top turbine in the KidWind program. “Just knowing you’re the best,” he says.

Still. Not. Done.

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:10

Ukulele players serenaded the quiet halls of the state capitol on more than one occasion Thursday, but they weren’t celebrating the end of session.

That’s because the 2014 Legislature hasn’t finished its business yet.

Despite having time to clean out their apartments, play golf in the capitol building lobby and pull pranks in the chambers, lawmakers aren’t happy.

read more

Tea party big wigs in Nebraska for Sasse

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:07

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — A slew of tea party favorites are heading to central Nebraska this week to support Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ben Sasse, less than three weeks before the May 13 primary election.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be at the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte on Friday for a rally to support Sasse, president of Midland University in Fremont. Former Republican Gov. Kay Orr will also attend.

read more

Inmate injured in assault at Goose Creek prison

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:07

ANCHORAGE — An inmate was hospitalized after he was assaulted at the Goose Creek Correctional Center, the third man attacked by another inmate this month and the second that day.

Ralph Hernandez, 52, was taken to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center after the assault, which took place about 10 p.m. Monday, KTUU reported (http://bit.ly/1roYQed ).

Alaska State Troopers are investigating the attack, which happened after Hernandez had been moved to Goose Creek last month from the Anchorage Correctional Complex.

read more

Work starts on new power plant at Anchorage

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:07

ANCHORAGE — City and state officials helped break ground Wednesday for a $275 million power plant in east Anchorage.

Municipal Light and Power says the natural gas-fired plant will be 35 percent more efficient that the utility’s current turbines.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the plant should be completed in the summer of 2016 and last for 40 to 50 years.

Attorneys give arguments in Coast Guard killings

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:06

ANCHORAGE — A man accused in a double homicide at a Coast Guard communications station in Alaska is the only possible killer in a circumstantial case, federal prosecutors said Thursday, countering defense arguments that the government failed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a case built on speculation.

read more

Magnitude 6.6 quake off British Columbia coast

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:06

PORT ALICE, B.C. — A magnitude 6.6 quake was recorded Wednesday night in the Pacific Ocean off the northwest corner of British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. There was no danger of a tsunami, according to the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska.

read more

Tentative education deal overshadowed by Knik Arm Bridge

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:06

JUNEAU — While lawmakers reached a tentative agreement on the education package that sent their session into overtime, another long-simmering issue re-emerged.

The House late Wednesday rejected a Senate-passed plan for financing the proposed Knik Arm bridge to connect Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, setting the stage for a conference committee to hash out differences.

Talks were taking place behind the scenes Thursday, as lawmakers hoped to find resolution to bring the extended session to a close.

read more

Alaska stake in LNG project approved

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:05

Before finishing all of its work in Juneau, the Alaska Legislature approved state participation in a large North Slope gas pipeline and liquefied natural gas project, one of the major pieces of business for the 28th session.

Lawmakers approved a plan late April 20 for the state to negotiate a partnership with North Slope producers BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and TransCanada Corp., a pipeline company, in the proposed pipeline and liquefied natural gas, or LNG, export project.

read more

No harmful bacteria in shots given to UAF students

Fri, 2014-04-25 00:05

FAIRBANKS — Nothing harmful was found in a solution given to students in the medical assistant program who practiced by giving themselves shots, the University of Alaska Fairbanks said.

The university hired a toxicology lab to analyze the solution known as Demo-Dose. The lab found three strains of bacteria, but none are known to cause disease in healthy people, UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

read more

Breaking News: Anti-chloramine petition denied on legal grounds

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:56

City of Ketchikan voters will not be heading to the polls to decide whether or not they support the city’s new municipal water treatment system. The anti-chloramine ballot proposition has been denied on legal grounds.
Of the 623 signatures on the petition, 492 were deemed valid. It’s more than enough, but the city attorney says the ballot language proposes an ordinance that’s not enforceable.

According to the decision, “The proposed ordinance relates to administrative matters which are not subject to the initiative process.”

The ballot prop, if voters supported it, called for the city to stop using chloramine to disinfect the city’s public water supply within a month.

City of Ketchikan attorney Mitch Seaver argues that means the city would be out of EPA compliance until a new facility is built, which could take years and could lead to significant fines for the city.

The city attorney also argues that the proposed ordinance is administrative, and an initiative process isn’t appropriate.

The group sponsoring the initiative – United Citizens for Better Water – was contacted for comment. A response was posted to their Facebook page.
“We are saddened by the turn of events, but we are not surprised by it as our City officials have already spent a tremendous amount of money to fight us. It is a long document that we were sent and it will take us a little while to review it. We are seeking outside assistance at this time.

One thing is certain, we are not done fighting and our City officials have just polarized many of those they are supposed to represent.”

School Board postpones chloramine resolution indefinitely

Thu, 2014-04-24 17:51

NOTE: Discussion on this issue occurred prior to a decision being issued on the anti-chloramine petition. Late Thursday City Attorney Mitch Seaver released his findings, stating the initiative was legally insufficient. The issue therefore will not be brought before voters.

On Wednesday night, the Ketchikan School Board voted to indefinitely postpone a resolution taking a stance on the use of chloramine in city water. The City of Ketchikan switched to a chloramine disinfection system earlier this month.
The proposed resolution was prepared by School Board member Trevor Shaw. Shaw says there is a lot of conflicting research and the use of chloramines is a personal issue. He says he drafted the statement after a public request for the school board take a stance.
City water is used in many school buildings, and the Gateway Aquatic Center is often used for school programs. The resolution states that the School Board takes no official position. Shaw made the motion to postpone.
“I think it could be a dangerous precedent to set as to how we are going to tell other governmental bodies to do their work. For example the City Council wants to tell us how to run our schools or the City Council wants to tell the Borough how to do this or the Borough wants to tell us how to do that. We talk about micromanaging and I feel that the city did this because it was the most viable option, and the voters will make their decision. That’s a personal decision that has to be made. That’s why I ask that we postpone this indefinitely.”
Several board members agreed with Shaw and felt the issue would be decided by voters. School Board member Ralph Beardsworth says this is a city issue and the school board should not interfere.
Student member Evan Wick says the proposed resolution fails to address the public request.

“I think it would be appropriate for the board to take a position on this issue because of the impact it has on our schools. I’ll come right out here and say I haven’t drank any water from the school since they have started putting into the system. I believe that the board should take a position because we’ve been asked by the public to do so.”
Board member Collen Scanlon says she is not comfortable telling the city what to do. She says only one person has spoken publicly to the School Board about the issue.
“I don’t know where I stand on this yet, and I certainly haven’t gotten any phone calls from constituents saying ‘I want you to do this for our schools.’ For that reason I can’t support taking a position at this time. I don’t have enough information. This issue did go before the voters of this community 10 years ago when the bond was approved, and it’s happened. We can take a position, but it’s not going to change anything.”
The motion to postpone the resolution indefinitely passed with Wick and Board members Stephen Bradford and Michelle O’Brien voting against postponement.

3-D whale research to be presented in Petersburg

Thu, 2014-04-24 16:15

Humpback whale. Photo courtesy of Don Cornelius

Scientists know that whales travel thousands of miles to Southeast Alaska waters to load up on herring in large groups not seen anywhere else in the world. They’ve learned this and much more by tracking the giant mammals with state of the art devices. Friday in Petersburg, a presentation on the latest 3-D technology will be shared by an expert in the field.

Dr. Ari Friedlaender has studied whales in Alaska, the Lower 48, and Antarctica. He’s an Associate Professor at the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. He’ll be giving a presentation at 7 p.m. at the borough assembly chambers.

This past week, Friedlaender was on a boat in Southeast Alaska researching humpback whales. I talked with him about his latest tagging project:

Dr. Ari Friedlaender. Photo/Oregon State University

Dr. Ari Friedlaender is an Associate Professor at the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. He plans to be in Petersburg Friday to share his latest findings. He will show the software that they are using and some of the data they collected this past week. The presentation happens at 7 p.m. at the Borough Assembly Chambers.

More Ketchikan high school students taking online classes

Thu, 2014-04-24 10:37

Maddie Robinson (right) and Naomi Updike (left) are juniors. They each take one online class.

Online classes are becoming a more common part of Ketchikan high school students’ schedules. The classes started out at Revilla Alternative School in 2007 and were first introduced at Kayhi in 2010. Ever since, more and more students are choosing to do at least part of their learning online.

On a recent school day, there were about a dozen students sitting at computers in Mark Woodward’s classroom. Woodward is one of four teachers at Kayhi who supports students taking online classes. The classes are offered by a company called Edgenuity. They range from core subjects like English to electives like Health Science.

Cheyenne Savage, a Fast Track senior, is currently taking four online classes.

Cheyenne Savage logs onto the website where she takes all four of her classes.

“Here’s the science class I’m taking,” she says. “There’s the target completion, which is how much you’re supposed to have done. And then it tells you the day you started and when you’re expected to be done with the class.”

Cheyenne is a former Revilla student, now Fast Track – which means she takes all online classes.  She was behind in school, but she’s catching up by taking a year’s worth of courses online in just one semester.

“If a student is like me and slacked off earlier in high school, this is pretty  much a second chance, if they really want to graduate,” she said.

With the online classes, Cheyenne can choose how much work she does each day. If she wants to, she could earn a half credit in a week with hard work. Through traditional classes at Kayhi, you earn half a credit for a semester-long class.

Lizzy Riley, a Kayhi senior, takes two in-person classes and three online.

Across the table from Cheyenne, Kayhi senior Lizzy Riley is working on her psychology class. Lizzy started out taking classes online her sophomore year.

“At the end of my freshman year I got pregnant, and so I did the first semester of normal school at Kayhi, and then couldn’t do it anymore ’cause I was due,” she explained. “I didn’t really want to go to Revilla, so I did Fast Track. I was able to finish a whole semester in about two months, and was able to stay caught up with my class and do more classes than I really need.”

Now Lizzy is back at Kayhi. She’s taking two classroom courses – Government and Medical Terminology — and three online classes.

“I definitely think I learn better online,” Lizzy said. She gave an example — in both her online psychology class and her in-person Medical Terminology class, she was learning about the eye. She was able to understand the teaching better in the psychology class.

“We’re shifting,” teacher Mark Woodward said. “We started [using online classes for] credit recovery, and now a lot of it is credit advancement. So that’s how our numbers are increasing. Because we’re pulling more of that Kayhi base.”

Maddie Robinson, a Kayhi junior, is one of the students Woodward is talking about. She’s taking one online class, Personal Wellness, to free up room in her senior year schedule.

“I like how can work at own pace,”Maddie said. “I’m a good 20 percent ahead right now. If you’ve got a big test coming up or something, you can study. If you’re ahead, you can relax.”

Working at your own pace is one of the main reasons students say they take online classes. They say it gives them more flexibility in their schedule. They can do a lot of work one week and no work at all the next, depending of what else they have happening in their school, home, or work life.

Allen Bohler, a Kayhi junior takes his English class online.

It’s also helpful for students who struggle keeping up with certain subjects, like junior Allen Bohler.

“I realized that I wasn’t doing really good in the English classes with the teacher teachers,” Allen said. “A lot of them, they go pretty fast paced, I like to go my pace. So when I found out about [online courses], I joined it as fast as I can, and now I’m ahead in credits.”

Allen says if he had to take English in a classroom setting, he would probably fall behind or even fail.

For all the students who take online classes, there is a teacher at Kayhi there to support them. Mark Woodward, Leigh Woodward, Dave Mitchel, and Allegra Machado are those teachers.  They answer online students’ questions, grade their tests and essays, and keep track of their progress.

In 2011, Alaska’s Learning Network, or AKLN, asked the Ketchikan teachers to serve as support for high school students taking online classes throughout Alaska. That means that Mr. and Mrs. Woodward, Mitchel, and Machado check the quizzes and grade the essays of students not just in Ketchikan, but in Dillingham, Haines, Klawock, and more.

Naomi Updike answers questions for her online Government class.

Each year, the number AKLN students taking Edgenuity courses increases. And so does the number of Ketchikan students opting to learn online. For fall semester, there were about 150 Ketchikan students enrolled in Edgenuity courses. The numbers for spring semester aren’t certain yet, but Woodward predicts it’ll double.

This summer, AKLN is sending the Ketchikan teachers to AP training. So next year, students will likely be able to take online versions of Advanced Placement English, Spanish, and Psychology. AP Spanish and  Psychology will be new offerings for Ketchikan students. So will other online electives like Nursing Assistant and Engineering Design.

Assembly votes down heat pump rebate

Thu, 2014-04-24 09:50

Cold water and hot air: those were the issues up for debate at the Sitka Assembly on Tuesday night, as members discussed the Blue Lake hydro project, heat pumps, and how to manage the city’s electric future.

By the end of the night, the assembly had decided not to offer rebates for homeowners who install energy-efficient heat pump systems in their homes. But their path to that decision had less to do with heat pumps than with concerns about the city’s long-term electricity use.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/23HEATPUMP.mp3

Utility director Chris Brewton had proposed offering rebates for residents who switch their home heating systems from diesel stoves or boilers to electric heat pumps. His goal, he said, was to encourage people to migrate from fuel-based systems to electric ones – and increase the city’s electricity sales.

“The purpose is to really try to manage your system load in the most efficient way,” Brewton said. “That’s why we’re trying to generate more electric use and less fuel use to generate more revenue.”

With the expansion of the Blue Lake dam, the city will have more hydroelectric generating capacity — and it needs to sell more of that electricity right away to pay back the costs of the project, Brewton said.

The proposal would have offered homeowners $1,000 toward the cost of a heat pump system; the systems themselves cost from $3,000 to $6,000, Brewton said. The full program would have cost Sitka about $50,000, but Brewton said the city would have earned that back in increased electricity sales within a year and a half.

Several assembly members started the night supporting the rebate, arguing that heat pumps are more energy efficient than other home-heating systems, and will make good use of Sitka’s new hydroelectric capacity.

But Assembly Member Mike Reif objected.

“I don’t think we need to jump-start this program, this program is jumping all over,” Reif said. “People know what it can do for them.”

Reif argued that the city doesn’t need to encourage people to switch to heat pumps because the market incentive is already there.

Reif himself took advantage of an earlier city rebate program a few years ago, to install a heat pump. He said the rebate was a good idea at the time, because the systems were relatively new and people didn’t understand how they worked. Now, he said, it simply isn’t necessary.

“I’m basically saving $3,800 a year,” he said. “I’m paying back those two units in two years. That’s an incentive. That’s a huge incentive. That’s driving this market.”

But the larger issue, Reif said, is that he isn’t sure the city should be encouraging more electricity use in the first place. According to projections from 2011, the city was then on track to outgrow the capacity of the expanded Blue Lake hydroelectric dam by about 2025. That estimate is likely out of date, but Reif said the city needs a strategy to make sure it doesn’t exceed Blue Lake’s capacity. Otherwise, Sitka will have to look at hydroelectric projects, like a dam at Takatz Lake, that are prohibitively expensive.

“Blue Lake was our biggest construction project ever,” Reif said. “Takatz is going to blow that right out of the water. You hear $400-million, $500-million, half a billion dollars! We can’t afford it…I think as a community, as an assembly, we should start looking at a strategy of how we are going to control our demand.”

Brewton agreed that, long term, the city needs to manage its electricity demand. But he said that must be balanced, in the short term, with the need to pay back the costs of the Blue Lake project.

“The other part that I’m deeply concerned about is what I call our utility death spiral,” Brewton said. “If our rates start going so high that people are forced to conserve — to the point of sitting in the cold with a blanket wrapped around them because they can’t pay it! — then our sales go down and we have to ratchet up the rates again. And it’s a death spiral.”

The assembly was split on the issue. Deputy Mayor Matt Hunter spoke for several members when said he wished he could vote both ways.

“I walked in here convinced this was the best idea and now I wish I didn’t have to make a decision here in the next couple minutes,” Hunter said.

In the end, only member Ben Miyasato voted yes, saying he thought the rebate would help many people in town.

The proposal failed, six to one.

 

School board approves budget

Thu, 2014-04-24 09:40

The Ketchikan School Board approved the FY15 budget Wednesday night.  The board also considered revisions to the student nutrition policy.  Board member Trevor Shaw gives details. (CORRECTION from Shaw…The local contribution requested from the Borough is $8.5 million.  24board

After disaster, the long road to recovery

Thu, 2014-04-24 09:22

Former KCAW general manager Barnaby Dow has worked the last eleven years for King County in Seattle. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)


President Obama’s visit to the landslide in Oso, Washington, this week (Tue Apr 22) was timed to refocus the nation’s attention on this disaster, long after the headlines have moved elsewhere.

The task in Oso is huge, and it will take a sustained federal, state, and local effort to restore anything close to normalcy in the devastated community.

A former Alaskan is closely involved in orchestrating relief work. Barnaby Dow is the external affairs manager in the King County Office of Emergency Management in Seattle. Dow was in Sitka briefly last week. He stopped by KCAW and spoke with Robert Woolsey about the ongoing effort in Oso.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/24DOW.mp3
Listen to iFriendly audio.

Barnaby Dow has been with King County since 2003. Prior to that he was Parks and Rec coordinator for the City of Sitka for four years, and before that he was general manager of KCAW in Sitka, and KHNS in Haines.

Barnaby Dow doesn’t work out of Oso, which is in neighboring Snohomish County — in fact he hasn’t spent a single shift at the site of the slide — but it’s consumed him from the moment it happened just over a month ago.

He say it took a while for the scale of the Oso disaster sink in for people. And now it’s taking a while for the scale of the job ahead to sink in.

“We’re moving from the response phase into the recovery phase. Reuniting people with their belongings. Trying to identify the missing. Trying to recover the deceased.”

Dow says it’s not just about digging. Care is needed, because Oso is also a burial site.

“It’s a painstaking effort that’s going to take a lot. They’ve carved it up by parcel, based on the planning and zoning maps they have, and they’re going through it systematically from where the slide ended up into these zones where these lots are. So, it’s going to take a while.”

The aerial pictures, the thumbnails on the internet, don’t really do justice to the slide. Dow says university seismologists have released a report on Oso that strains belief. The slide rolled in like a freight train, at highway speeds.

Dow – The total amount of that slide was equal to the metric tonnage of the concrete in the Hoover Dam, times two. It’s an enormous amount of soil and vegetation that was moved as a result of the slide.
KCAW – And this happened in a matter of minutes?
Dow – In a matter of seconds, really. The scientists that are involved in looking back at this event say that this massive slide, as it moved in across the river and through the populated area, was probably traveling at somewhere around 60 miles per hour — and I find that amazing, considering this thing was anywhere between 30 and 70 feet deep when it did that.

Once emergency managers absorbed the scale of the disaster, Dow says it was a quick ramp up into action. His first job was to help set up a joint information center in Arlington, which is next-door to Oso. Up to a dozen public information officers a day were detailed to the center to manage the crush of worldwide media that descended on the site.

But Dow’s responsibilities don’t just involve the press.

This is a situation that emergency managers train over and over again for. There’s a certain foxhole mentality in emergency management, and when the event comes along you hope all the players can cooperate well with each other. In my job in King County Emergency Management, I coordinate the assets and the people that are available within King County and our 39 cities, and all the different firehalls and fire mobilization units, and search and rescue units, sheriff’s offices. It’s kind of like being in air traffic control. Your job is to get a list together based on experience and expertise, line up suggested teams, send them through the emergency operations center, where they will select and send out people to the field.

Dow was in Sitka a little over a week before President Obama’s scheduled visit to Oso, on a stopover at the beginning of his Asian tour. A presidential visit brings unimaginable headaches for emergency managers, but Dow says it’s an important time, as media attention wanes on Oso, and the heavy lifting of recovery could last a year.

A month after is symbolic, and I think helpful and appropriate for a national leader to appear. I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to decide when to go or not to go to a major event. But the public has an expectation that after a major disaster the Commander-in-Chief — some people say the Comforter-in-Chief — to report and offer solace to the community.

Dow’s visit to Sitka was welcome relief. He says the emergency management system builds in time and resources for people to decompress. There may not be another Oso, but the next disaster could roll at any time.

We’ve had 13 presidentially-declared disasters in King County alone, but they’re usually floods or a severe storm of some type. And frankly, we’re geared up for that: We know what to do, we have volunteers on the ground, we have people who know the drill when something happens. The utility companies know where to go and what to do. This slide is unprecedented. It’s probably going to go down in the books as one of the worst disasters in Washington state history.

MEHS girls wrestling strong at int’l tourney

Thu, 2014-04-24 08:58

Mt. Edgecumbe wrestling coach Mike Kimber and athletes Deirdre Creed (Sr), Brittany Woods-Orrison (Jr), and Blatchley 8th-grader Sydnee Kimber discuss their success at the Reno World Wrestling Championships.

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