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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

Chinese ban of US shellfish to continue

Mon, 2014-02-03 01:02

BREMERTON, Wash. — The Chinese ban of shellfish imports from the U.S. West Coast will continue indefinitely, according to a letter sent by Chinese officials to a U.S. agency.

The letter dated Jan. 23 was sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and raises new question about U.S. health standards for shellfish, the Kitsap Sun reported Saturday.

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Native groups to meet in Petersburg

Mon, 2014-02-03 01:01

PETERSBURG — The annual Grand Camp of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood will descend upon Petersburg in early October.

More than 300 Native leaders are expected for Grand Camp, which will run from Oct. 7-11, KFSK reported.

Organizers of the event have asked Petersburg’s borough government to donate space at the community gym for the Grand Camp for out-of-town delegates.

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Alaska soldiers train with unmanned aircraft

Mon, 2014-02-03 01:00

ANCHORAGE — The Army is flying a new bird over south central Alaska — and the pilots sit in the back of a Humvee.

Paratroopers with the 425 Brigade Special Troops Battalion on Thursday trained with a RQ7 Shadow unmanned aircraft system. The remotely operated aircraft are designed to provide reconnaissance for troops without putting observers in danger.

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Senate panel advances bill rejecting pay increase

Mon, 2014-02-03 01:00

JUNEAU — The Senate Finance Committee on Friday advanced a bill that would reject recommended pay increases for top state officials.

Committee co-chair Kevin Meyer said he supported the recommendations of the State Officers Compensation Commission. But with the state in deficit spending, Meyer said the timing was not good.

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Legislative roundup: Feb. 2, 2014

Sun, 2014-02-02 01:08

Bipartisan bills to promote Arctic infrastructure introduced

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, introduced companion legislation to create incentives for developers in the Arctic.

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Big dreams for Alaska in Alberta's tar sands

Sun, 2014-02-02 01:07

Could a $15 billion railroad project reduce the cost of living in Alaska overnight? Matt Vickers, a lead member in the startup group G7G Railway Corp., thinks it can.

Vickers’ Vancouver-based group is proposing a 1,600-mile railroad from Fort McMurray, Alberta, into Alaska. About 240 miles of the rail would be laid in the state. The railroad would primarily transport bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Delta Junction, where the project’s creators hope to tap into TAPS, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

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Survey: Outside influences inhibit learning

Sun, 2014-02-02 01:05

There have been countless proposals to improve Alaska’s education system since the Last Frontier became a state 1959. Some suggested changes in the classroom, others sought to amend what was taught, and many altered education funding formulas.

But none of those proposals were backed by data from teachers and community members across the state. That’s because until now no such database existed.

“For the first time, we understand what’s going on in the classroom,” said Andrew Halcro, the president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

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Report provides update on scholarship program

Sun, 2014-02-02 01:05

JUNEAU — Nearly 840 students who graduated from Alaska public high schools last year received $3 million in state-sponsored merit scholarships, a newly released report shows.

An annual report on the Alaska Performance Scholarship program found about 32 percent of graduates in 2013 were eligible for scholarships and about 34 percent of those used their scholarships. In 2012, about 38 percent of eligible graduates used their scholarships in the fall immediately following graduation.

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Straley’s ‘Cold Storage’ finds humor, mystery in small-town Alaska

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:36

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka-based crime novelist John Straley shares insights into his latest work Cold Storage, Alaska, which will hit bookstores on February 4. Learn more about the novel on Straley’s Facebook page. Straley will sign copies in Sitka on Tue Feb 4 at Old Harbor Books. With KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel.

Parent cafe a new venue to discuss teen issues

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:27

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Elena Gustafson, with Sitkans Against Family Violence, discusses plans for the evening’s Parent Cafe at Blatchley Middle School.

Fri Jan 31, 2014

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:24

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Newell assumes command of the USCG Cutter Maple in on board ceremony. After two rough years, SEARHC CEO Charles Clement says finances have stabilized. Homeless Connect event shed’s light on Sitka’s invisible population.

Thu Jan 30, 2014

Fri, 2014-01-31 18:21

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Small bike shelter in Sitka represents a large effort to develop second-growth forest industry. Juneau woman benefits from new insurance available under the Affordable Care Act. Former aide to Kreiss-Tomkins, Kookesh, changes party affiliation to replace Kerttula.

New eye clinics offered in Petersburg, Wrangell

Fri, 2014-01-31 15:07

A regional health provider is starting up new eye clinics in Petersburg and Wrangell this year.

The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium will be offering eye exams at the Petersburg Medical Center February 3rd through the 6th. SEARHC is a non-profit consortium of 18 Native communities in Southeast and offers health care services at Mt. Edgecumbe hospital in Sitka along with Juneau Medical Center.

Dr. Pam Steffes said SEARHC has traditionally contracted with other providers to offer services in Petersburg and Wrangell. “The goal really is to bring core health care services, which includes eye care, out to the communities where our patients are, bringing the care as close to them as possible,” Steffes said. “And we have the opportunity to do that with eye care. SEARHC has expanded our eye care providers over the years. We now have four optometrists working for SEARHC throughout the region and that gives us the opportunity to expand and travel out to Petersburg this year and Wrangell as well.”

SEARHC plans a similar clinic in Wrangell in May, and then will be back to both communities in the fall. The plan is to offer the clinics twice a year in both towns.

“You know you think about going in for an eye exam and getting your prescription for glasses but we do also have the ability to do dialated eye health exams, checking for glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, other eye diseases,” Steffes noted. “We can do cataract surgery referrals, just help anybody with comprehensive eye care.”

To schedule an appointment call the Sitka Eye Clinic at 966-8415.

AP&T continues plans for Soule River dam project

Fri, 2014-01-31 12:10

Soule River. (AP&T photo)

Alaska Power and Telephone is continuing with the complex permitting process for its proposed hydroelectric project close to the Canadian border. Spokesman Jason Custer gave an update to the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

If everything goes perfectly, AP&T could start operating the Soule River hydroelectric dam by 2021. But Custer admits, that’s a very optimistic start date.

To move forward with the proposed dam, AP&T will need a variety of federal permits, plus an amendment to the Tongass National Forest management plan, to change the site’s land-use designation.

Soule River is in Portland Canal just outside of the Misty Fiords National Monument.  Locally, the area is called Glacier Bay, and while it’s not technically wilderness, its LUD, or Land Use Designation, is remote recreation.

Custer described what the proposed project would look like once built: “There’s about a 3.1 mile road. The dam’s 260 feet tall. That transmission connection follows the road and turns into a submarine cable. It follows the U.S. border as far as it possibly can before switching to Canadian waters.”

A slide from Jason Custer’s Chamber of Commerce presentation.

The 77.4-megawatt dam would send all of the power it generates south into the Canadian grid, using a connection through Stewart, British Columbia. AP&T also is working through the Canadian government’s permitting process, and Custer said that adds another layer of complication.

“The thing about the Canada National Energy Board is, even though the processes are unfamiliar, those people are very helpful and very knowledgeable. It’s easy to work with them,” he said. “We’ve just had some preliminary meetings. The biggest challenge so far is that it’s just kind of unfamiliar to us and we’re learning how to work through it.”

Custer said AP&T is the first company attempting to export Alaska’s renewable energy to Canada. He told a story about the risks related to going first.

“When the Corps of Engineers was building dams on the Columbia River, people became concerned about the impacts to fish, and they started putting in fish ladders, and way for fish to get up the dam,” he said. “When they put in the first of those ladders, the corps of engineers guys were sitting at the top, and when the first fish came up, someone grabbed it, bonked it on the head, and mounted it on a plaque, and the plaque said, ‘It never pays to be first.’”

Despite the warning in that parable, Custer said AP&T officials believe the $330 million privately-funded project will be profitable in the long run.

Custer also addressed other potential renewable energy sources in Alaska, and notes that private and public utilities are exploring geothermal, wind and tidal energy possibilities

USDA Farm Service supports SE mariculture

Fri, 2014-01-31 12:01

This Oceans Alaska photo shows oyster seed, spat, after it has set.

Southeast Alaska’s developing mariculture industry was one of the topics mentioned during a joint news teleconference Thursday in Juneau, featuring officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Alaska Farm Service Agency.

The news conference was part of Juneau’s annual Innovation Summit, and included Regional Forester Beth Pendleton, Deputy Undersecretary for USDA’s Rural Development Patrice  Kunesh, Samia Savell of the Natural Resources Conservation; and Danny Consenstein, director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Kunesh focused her remarks on USDA programs in Western Alaska, particularly programs that aim to help rural communities install water and sewage systems.

In his remarks, Consenstein noted that his agency has no employees in Southeast Alaska, but the Farm Service does try to support industry here, including mariculture start-ups.

“We’ve heard this from the people of Southeast that the potential for job creation in shellfish mariculture industry … could help create jobs, particularly in rural areas,” he said. “This is the kind of industry that’s kind of a mom-and-pop. It requires a lot of Alaskan ingenuity and resilience to live in remote area and produce these shellfish, and so the Farm Service Agency has helped through our loan program and other programs we have to try and lower the cost of doing business.”

Transporting materials, for example, can be prohibitively expensive for people trying to set up a shellfish farm in a remote area.

Ketchikan is home to OceansAlaska, which produces some of the shellfish seed used by the state’s mariculture industry. There are oyster and geoduck farms in Southeast Alaska, including remote parts of Prince of Wales Island.

(This story has been corrected. The article originally identified the Farm Service as a state agency.)

Ordinance would require S. Tongass water hookup

Fri, 2014-01-31 11:55

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday will consider an ordinance that, if adopted, would require all new-built homes within the South Tongass Service Area to connect to the public water system, if built within 300 feet of a water main.

The ordinance, which is scheduled for introduction only on Monday, also would require existing homes in that service area to connect if sold. But that requirement would not apply if a home were sold to an immediate family member.

According to the borough, the ordinance allows property owners to appeal the requirement if the site makes hooking up to the system impractical.

If the ordinance passes on Monday, it will come back to the Assembly for a public hearing before it can be adopted.

Also Monday, the Assembly has scheduled a public hearing and second vote on an ordinance to spend an additional $150,000 for the borough’s lawsuit over state education funding. That amount is expected to pay for lawsuit-related costs through the end of June.

The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

UAS Ketchikan names 2013 fall honors students

Fri, 2014-01-31 09:28

The Ziegler Building at the University of Alaska – Ketchikan campus.

University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan students have made the UAS Chancellor’s and Dean’s lists for the Fall 2013 Semester.

The Chancellor’s List is for students who have earned a 4.0 grade point average while completing at least 12 credit hours. Local students on that list are Tuffina Arnold, Andrew Hoyt, Alexis McColley-Edwardson, Arika Paquette and Adriana Mojica.

Sixteen local students were named to the UAS Dean’s List. For that honor, they must have earned a 3.5 grade point average while completing at least 12 credit hours during the semester.

Those students are Starla Agoney, Yasmine Davis, Holly Filyaw, Sarah Fitzgerald, Mattie Ginter, Samuel Graham, Larissa Greer, Chaix Johnson, Summer Lynch, Tamara Molby, Ciara Rado, Caitlyn Sawyer, Vena Stough, Shauna Thornton, Ann Tyler and Alison Verran.

Homeless event sheds light on Sitka’s invisible population

Fri, 2014-01-31 08:19

Mt. Edgecumbe High School seniors hand out socks and toiletries at Project Homeless Connect. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman).

Fewer people than expected turned out for Sitka’s second annual Project Homeless Connect event on Wednesday (1-29-14), but organizers blame the beautiful weather. About 50 Sitkans received vouchers for goods and services, consulted with health care professionals, and connected with social service organizations. Unlike some places — like downtown Seattle — Sitka doesn’t have panhandlers, or people sleeping on the street, so it isn’t very clear who’s homeless. But, on one day a year during Project Homeless Connect, the community’s most invisible population becomes visible.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Homelessness in Sitka might be inconspicuous, but Stormy is not.

Stormy says, “everything from the base of my skull to my tailbone hurts.”

Stormy is the guy with the long braided ponytail who rides around town on a blue tricycle. He walks with a cane and a limp.

KCAW: What happened to your leg?
Stormy: I got run over when I was 17.

Stormy describes his living situation as “in between.” He says he doesn’t have a home because he’s unemployed, and he doesn’t have a job because it hurts to stand. And since there isn’t a drop-in homeless shelter in Sitka he has to be resourceful.

Stormy: You end up having to either crash or someone’s couch, or you come up with a tent and go out and live under a tree.
KCAW: Is that what’s you’ve been doing?
Stormy: I’ve done that. Yes.

Project Homeless Connect is a one day, one stop shop for Sitkans that also might describe their housing situation as “in between.”

People migrate from table to table collecting information, and receiving on the spot care. There’s a physician seated behind partition ready to prescribe medication, or schedule a doctor’s visit if there’s a shorter term solution that could alleviate pain or discomfort. You can even pick up an identity if you don’t have one. Birth certificates, which are normally $25, have been donated to the event.

“You can’t get a job if you don’t have a social security card and you can’t get a social security card if you don’t have a birth certificate,” says Annabel Lund. “That can seem overwhelming if you’re living in a little tent.”

Lund volunteers with the Red Cross, and holds a seat on the local emergency planning commission. She’s passing out information on what to do in the event of an earthquake. Lund says the biggest barrier for the homeless is not having access to information, as well as other people’s misconceptions.

“Even good hearted people still in the back of their heads think this person is stupid, or a criminal, or even worse: they choose that lifestyle,” Lund says. “Please, it’s a way for you to absolve yourself from having to help in any way.”

Lund volunteers because she feels no one should be homeless in a tight-knit, wealthy community like Sitka. And this event helps shed light on the issue.

Even though it’s only a Band-Aid solution, the recipients say it’s much better than nothing.

Tom says, “They do what they can, but they can only do so much, and what little help they can provide is more than welcome.”

Tom lives out of his truck. He used to drive cab, but lost his commercial driver’s license for two years as penalty for a misdemeanor. He hasn’t managed to bounce back – which he attributes to lack of work and affordable housing options. He’s on long waiting list for housing.

Tom is candid about needing help, but he knows of many others in town who aren’t.

“Most of the people in this position ain’t even here. I don’t know if it’s lack of not knowing about this, or a pride thing,” says Tom. “But there’s also a lot of alcohol problems here in town. And you know, when you’d rather go out and drink then get help…”

This event is designed to empower those that have the courage to ask for help. But, what happens the rest of the year?

KCAW: How do you feel like the community has been doing in dealing with homelessness?
Stormy: Sweep it under the rug. It doesn’t exist. Most people don’t see it as a problem because it’s not them, it’s not affecting them.

In the meanwhile Stormy says he’s battling with social services to get proper treatment for his leg, so that he can turn things around. But, at least for one day he can look service providers in the eye and be heard.

Dems introduce legislation to expand Medicaid

Fri, 2014-01-31 01:11

House and Senate Democrats will push legislation this session to expand Medicaid in Alaska.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, told reporters Thursday that expanding Medicaid “makes sense both financially and morally.”

“Congress made a generous offer to the states when it agreed to pay 100 percent of the cost of expansion for the first three years and between 90 and 100 percent thereafter,” he said.

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A new commander for the Maple

Thu, 2014-01-30 19:31

Lt. Commander Michael Newell greeted the crew of the Sitka-based Coast Guard Cutter Maple during the Assumption-of-Command ceremony on Thursday. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Lt. Commander Michael Newell formally took charge of the Sitka-based Coast Guard cutter Maple today (Thu 1-30-2014), in an Assumption-of-Command ceremony held on the ship.

The Maple is Newell’s first command. He previously served as the executive officer – or second in command — of the Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, which is based in Homer.

Speaking with KCAW before the ceremony, Newell said he’d always wished he’d spent more time in Sitka, and he fought for the assignment on the Maple. He said he’s thrilled to be back in Alaska after a brief assignment in California.

District 17 commander Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo; Maple executive officer Lt. Raymond Reichl; and Lt. Commander Michael Newell (left to right) bowed their heads for the chaplain’s invocation during the Assumption-of-Command ceremony. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

“I want to try to instill in my shipmates that we need to value the experience that we have up here in Alaska,” Newell said. “As a Coast Guardsman you can be stationed anywhere in the world, and not many people get to experience in Alaska.”

“It’s important to me to try to instill in the crew that this may be their only two or three, maybe four years in Alaska, and try to hold onto the memories that they make here.”

Newell took over from the Maple’s executive officer, Lt. Raymond Reichl, who had been serving as temporary commander since October 1.

The Maple’s previous chief, Lt. Commander Fred Seaton, was relieved of command this fall, after the Coast Guard received reports of a “poor command climate” on the Maple, and conducted an investigation. Seaton has been temporarily assigned to Air Station Sitka.

Alaska district commander Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo acknowledged that the ceremony was a new start for the Maple.

“The ship’s been through a lot in the last several months,” Ostebo said. He added that the future of the ship “looks bright.”

Ostebo also used the ceremony to deliver a welcome piece of news to the Maple’s executive officer, Lt. Reichl. After serving as temporary commander of the Maple for the past four months, Reichl has been assigned his first permanent command – as captain of the Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, based in Everett, Washington. Reichl will leave the Maple this summer.



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