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Southeast Alaska News
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Top state official in charge of water quality says cruise ships have cleaned up their act, but copper remains a concern. Winter troll season slow, but prices high. Natural Resources subcommittee to hear smaller Sealaska land claims bill. Petersburg fisherman recovers lost traditional canoe paddles.
The Mitkof Mummers continue the Mayfest tradition of community theater with a trip to the wild old west. This year’s musical melodrama is “Way out West in a Dress”. The first performance is tonight. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by to talk with cast and crew during rehearsal:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
The Mitkof Mummers perform “Way out West in a Dress” tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 in the Wright Auditorium.
A new, smaller Sealaska land-selection measure faces opposition from the federal government.
The legislation would transfer 3,600 acres of the Tongass National Forest to the Southeast-based regional Native corporation.
Sealaska’s timberlands have been logged of much of their harvestable trees. Officials say the acreage will keep timber operations going.
At a Congressional hearing Thursday, U.S. Forest Service official Jim Peña objected to a requirement to transfer the land within 60 days of passage.
“These two parcels would be conveyed without the carefully negotiated replaced to special use authorizations and public access that many stakeholders view as essential,” Peña said.
Peña spoke before the House Committee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. The bill’s author, Alaska Congressman Don Young, chairs that panel.
The acreage is also part of a much larger measure that would transfer about 70,000 acres to Sealaska.
That bill was also before the committee. (Scroll down to read earlier reports on both bills.)
Young said it’s a compromise. (Read the larger bill.)
“First introduced over six years ago, this bill has undergone an extensive vetting process throughout the region. It has resulted in meaningful changes, such as providing for continued public access to lands, and modified certain lands among them,” he said.
The Forest Service’s Peña said the larger measure is much improved. But he wants further changes before the administration lends its support.
He said the bill “leaves out key provisions essential to a balanced solution and adds others that make reaching a solution more difficult. Consequently the Department of Agriculture does not support enactment.”
Some environmental groups and towns near areas to be logged oppose the measure.
Southeast hunting guide Jimmie Rosenbruch spoke for sportsmen’s groups against the land transfers.
He said Sealaska’s logging will reduce access, as well as wildlife numbers.
“It’s kind of Sealaska to offer access for guides to utilize these lands for a 10-year period after their Forest Service permit expires. (But) I don’t know there will be much benefit. Having access to clearcut areas wouldn’t be worth anything. There’s no wildlife there. They are D-O-N-E … finished,” Rosenbruch said.
Last year’s version of Young’s bill passed the House, but not the Senate.
And the Senate’s latest version, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, has undergone more negotiation and changes.
Sealaska board member Bryon Mallott said that measure is more likely to be the final legislative vehicle.
But he prefers the House version.
“In my personal judgment, there is more equity and justice in the House bill. But I also know from long, long experience, that what the Native community can easily and passionately feel is equity and justice for others is often very hard to ultimately make possible,” Mallott said.
Young’s Sealaska bills now head to the full House Resources Committee. If either passes, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.
It would most likely be packaged with other legislation. That’s what happened last year.
Read earlier reports on the legislation:
- New Sealaska land bills introduced in Congress
- SEACC backs Sealaska bill, 9 towns oppose it
- Congress Looking At Sealaska Lands Bill
- Second bill proposes smaller Sealaska land transfer
Don’t let the size of the schools fool you.
Students from the Southeast Island School District traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, recently to compete in the 2013 National Archery in the Schools competition.
Some of the Prince of Wales Island competitors came close to winning their respective divisions; a few did well enough to take their talents around the world.
More than 9,000 archers from across the country entered the competition. The team from Southeast included both boys and girls from grades four through 12. As a team, the SISD kids scored 13th out of 156.
Jared Cook from Whale Pass School scored fourth in his division. He won a $2,500 scholarship, which he said he will use to help him attend University of Alaska Southeast next year. He also said it was a “blessing” to do so well in the competition.
Cook and his brother, Nathaniel, both made the All-American Team, which qualifies them to travel to South Africa to compete this summer.
James Stevens coaches the SISD team.
“What it is, is that we made the All American team, which is the top 16 shooters in the nation,” he explained. “They’ve been invited to South Africa. To help teach orphans how to shoot and also compete against, I think, seven other countries that compete.”
Stevens also noted that the team from Prince of Wales has been the top archery team in Alaska for the past three years.
John McCormick speaks about Saturday’s (May 18th) March of Dimes March for Babies. He is also planning a bike ride in June to raise money for the organization and awareness of the agency’s mission. MarchOfDimes051613
Those wishing to follow McCormick’s bike adventure can go to his website www.39weekstheride.com
ANCHORAGE — An environmental group has given formal notice it will go to court to force the federal government to complete a recovery plan for threatened polar bears.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday gave 60-day notice it also will sue to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete a required five-year status review of the bears found along the northern coast of Alaska and other Arctic regions.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — It may have been the most anticipated package ever delivered to the Buffalo Zoo: an orphaned polar bear cub that arrived Wednesday from Alaska and will spend the summer with another cub born six months ago.
Kali arrived aboard a UPS flight at Buffalo Niagara International Airport shortly before 5:30 a.m., ending a 14-hour trip that was set in motion in March when a hunter in Alaska realized an adult female bear he’d killed was nursing.
SITKA — A buildup of moisture in the soil likely caused a large landslide near the town of Sitka, according to a federal scientist who is taking a close look at Sunday’s slide in southeast Alaska.
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE — A woman suspected of drinking homemade liquor died in her sleep in an Alaska village, State Troopers said.
Ramona Rose Waskey, 57, of Mountain Village, was last seen alive at about 2 a.m. Monday, said Sgt. Aaron Mobley. She was reported dead about 10 hours later.
Troopers think Waskey may have aspirated the contents of her stomach, which clogged her airway, after drinking too much homebrew, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told a Senate panel Wednesday that “Indian education is embarrassing” as she laid out her priorities on issues affecting Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Jewell made her first appearance as Interior secretary before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. The Interior Department includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which oversees a school system for Native Americans.
SAN FRANCISCO — When Liz DeRouen needs any kind of health care services, from diabetes counseling to a dental cleaning, she checks into a government-funded clinic in Northern California’s wine country that covers all her medical needs.
KIRUNA, Sweden — Arctic states agreed Wednesday to let nations that are located nowhere near the Earth’s north to become observers to their diplomatic council, boosting rising superpowers China, India and South Korea that are seeking to mine the region for its untapped energy and other natural resources.
The European Union also was tentatively granted observer status to the eight-state council but must first address several questions about its bid, including concerns about its ban on Canadian seal exports.
Renovations to the Alaska State Capitol are set to begin within the next few weeks, the president of Juneau architectural firm Jensen Yorba Lott Inc. said Wednesday.
Wayne Jensen, whose firm is under contract with the state for design work on the Capitol’s overhaul, said Juneau construction company Alaska Commercial Contractors Inc. is “supposed to start mobilizing about the end of this month.”
The top state official in charge of water quality says cruise ships have cleaned up their act considerably over the last fifteen years.
Michelle Bonnet Hale is the director of the Division of Water for the Department of Environmental Conservation. She spoke to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (5-15-13)
Hale was on the road to assure the public that a controversial bill passed this spring by the legislature would not impair the state’s ability to ensure that cruise ship wastewater met quality standards.
HB 80 repealed several of the regulations placed on cruise ships by the public in a 2006 citizen initiative, and allowed water samples to be taken in mixing zones behind ships, rather than at the point of discharge.
Hale told the chamber that the cruise industry had already begun to upgrade its sanitation technology in 2004, following several high-profile pollution cases involving fecal coliforms. She said “the initiative addressed a problem that had already been solved.”
She said the state’s remaining concerns were the levels of ammonia, copper, nickel, and zinc.
Here’s an excerpt of her remarks on copper:
In 2003 researchers in the state of Washington found in one study (that they’re trying to replicate now) that copper at low concentrations in freshwater had an impact on juvenile salmon’s ability to smell – called their olfactory capability. And we know how important that is because it’s their ability to smell that gets the fish back to their streams and rivers of origin. So it’s a very alarming study. Researchers pointed out that additional research was needed, and that this study couldn’t be extrapolated to salt water. So additional research in salt water was needed. In salt water there are a couple of things that happen: One, fishes’ bodies change when they go from fresh water to salt water. Their physiology changes, the way they take things in changes. And the second is that freshwater, especially in a place like Alaska, is a very pure water. And saltwater is simply not pure – there’s a lot in it. That also has an effect on what happens to the copper. So, recently there’s a draft study by those same researchers on the effects of copper in saltwater on fish. Those same researchers found that the effects on fish of copper in saltwater happen at about 50 times the concentration that it happens at in freshwater.
Hale is a chemist by profession, and a lifelong Alaskan. She told the chamber that her staff knew how to protect water. “We have the tools,” she said.
A Petersburg Fisherman early this month recovered more than half of the hand-carved cedar paddles that had been lost by the One People Canoe Society late last month. A local hunting guide located their missing canoe as well. Two of the group’s canoes broke loose while under tow during bad weather on their journey to the historic Shakes Tribal House Rededication in Wrangell. They were thrilled to hear about the finds. Matt Lichtenstein reports:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
Borealis Brass calls itself America’s Arctic Brass Ensemble. The members are classical musicians, composers and professors who hail from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. They include Dr. Karen Gustafson on trumpet, Jane Aspnes on horn, and Dr. James Bicigo on trombone. They’ve performed around North America, Europe and Asia. This week, they’re playing Petersburg for the Little Norway Festival courtesy of the Petersburg Arts Council. They’ll be joined by their student, Petersburg High School Graduate Campbell Longworth, on trumpet.
Gustafson and Bicigo played a couple duets during an interview with KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein yesterday:
For mobile-frindly audio, click here
Borealis Brass will give a mini-concert at noon Thursday in the Borough Assembly Chambers. We also heard from their student, Campbell Longworth, who will be performing with them. The Quintet’s full concert is at 7 pm Friday at the Lutheran Church Holy Cross House. The performance is sponsored by the Petersburg Arts Council.
Four days of art, food, music, dancing, drama and more get underway Thursday with the start of the 2013 Little Norway festival in Petersburg. It’s the 55th year for the town’s Mayfest celebration, which highlights local Norwegian heritage and commemorates May 17th or “Syttende Mai” which is Norway’s constitution day.
This year’s festival includes new offerings as well as traditional events like the parade, the pageant and, of course, roving bands of Vikings and Valkyries, clad in armor and animal skins. Matt Lichtenstein spoke with the Festival Committee’s Katie Eddy and Holli Flint about the events for Thursday, May 16th, the first day of Mayfest:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
A detailed schedule of all the Little Norway events can be found here or look for the printed version in the Petersburg Pilot and around town.
Also, you can tune in Thursday at noon, when we’ll talk about all of Fridays events.
Winter king salmon trolling was slow in Southeast Alaska for much of this past year, very slow, but the commercial catch brought sustained, record-high prices. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the fleet landed just under 26 thousand, four hundred kings during the winter season, which runs from mid-October through April. The state manages the winter fishery with a 45,000 king cap.
This winter’s total harvest was 55 percent of last year and seventy percent of the five-year average, according to Troll Management Biologist Pattie Skannes:
“Catch rates this year averaged about eight kings per landing and that’s down from the five-year (average) of 10, almost 11 per landing and the 10-year (average) is about 12. So, catch rates do seem to be down. There’s, no doubt, a number of factors that contribute to that. I’ve heard that the water was unusually cold and the fish seem distributed a little differently this year than we normally see. There were actually very low catches in areas where its normally the best and there were some fairly good catches in areas where we don’t often see much action in the winter from”
Skannes says that included Sumner Strait in southern Southeast.
“I looked at the catch distribution since January 1st for this year and what I saw was the most was taken near Sitka, which is normal. However, it was only 44 percent and that was followed by Sumner Strait and that is rather unusual. We don’t usually see a very big portion of the winter catch coming from Sumner Strait. The third highest was Yakutat Bay and the fourth was lower Chatham Strait.”
Skannes says this winter’s dockside prices were higher than ever on a region-wide level. Kings averaged ten dollars a pound throughout Southeast for four straight weeks.
“We’ve never seen that. There have been a couple of years where the price may have reached ten dollars a pound for a few of the processors yet the region average was below ten. So, this was certainly very high. It was over ten dollars a pound between roughly February 17th and march 16th.”
The market held exceptionally high prices through the end of the winter season and into the spring. 441 Trollers made landings this winter which is about on par for the past decade. The kings had an average weight of about 12.5 pounds which is a bit bigger than last year. An estimated 13 percent of the winter kings were Alaska hatchery fish which compares with 11 percent over the past ten years.
Since the winter season closed, Southeast Trollers have been targeting hatchery fish in the spring openings which are much more limited in time and area.
About four years after the first attempt to stop Ketchikan Fight Club from using the city-owned Ted Ferry Civic Center, some officials are bringing the topic up again.
During its meeting Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council will consider a motion barring the popular boxing and mixed martial arts competition from staging events at the civic center.
Council Member Bob Sivertsen requested that the item be placed on the meeting agenda.
“One of the reasons why is we’ve had some issues in the past up there in regards to clean up and some issues we’ve had with inebriates,” he said. “I just think it’s the wrong venue for our Ted Ferry Civic Center. I don’t have any problem with the Fight Club itself, I just think it’s being held in the wrong place.”
Sivertsen said the issues aren’t new. He detailed some of the problems that have been noted by Civic Center employees, including intoxicated people wandering into the wrong bathrooms, and beer or blood on the center’s carpeting.
“I think we had an issue where they used a tarp that was moldy, and the mold got imbedded in the carpet and it took hours to get that cleaned up,” he said. “It’s not one instance, it’s a compiling of a number of incidents that makes us need to take a look at it.”
In a memo to the Council, Civic Center Manager Rhonda Bolling offers some suggestions if the city continues to allow the Fight Club to use the center. They include purchase by the city of tarps that the Civic Center would store and place before each Fight Club event. Bolling estimates that the tarps will cost $5,000 to $10,000.
She also suggests additional fees for cleaning beer or blood, and to pay for additional staff needed to maintain the bathrooms. She’d also like additional private security guards provided by the Fight Club organizers.
Also Thursday, the Council will discuss what to do about the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery, which has been operated for many years by Ketchikan Indian Community.
KIC announced earlier this year that it planned to close the hatchery because it loses money each year. Tribe officials suggested that a subsidy, perhaps through the state cruise head tax, would help keep it open.
The Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.