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Southeast Alaska News
KENAI — For nearly seven years, 2 Sister’s Alaska Seafood operated out of a tiny grey building on Bridge Access in Kenai.
The business, which is driven primarily by internet sales of local and Alaska seafood, finally outgrew its old home and has found a new one in a former liquor and convenience store on Kenai Spur Highway.
“We had no heat, no running water, no insulation, no bathroom,” said co-owner Roylene Stout, with a laugh. When she and founder Annette King needed to use the bathroom “The gas station was just down the road,” she said.
EAGLE RIVER — High-schoolers from Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley and Kenai Peninsula put their engineering skills to the test during a two-day robotics competition Feb. 15-16 at Eagle River High.
The results couldn’t have been better for the hosts.
All 19 Eagle River students, broken into five teams, qualified for the state robotics tournament March 8-9 at UAA.
The Cyber Wolves, made up of Thor Austin, Erik Korzon and Nathaniel Lunod, set a new state record of 410 points in the qualifying round.
The high score surprised the team, Korzon said.
SITKA — Sitka artist Nicholas Galanin has been awarded a $25,000 grant by the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship.
In addition to the unrestricted grant, the honor comes with an agreement to purchase Galanin’s work for the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, Ind.
The fellowship annually honors four juried artists and one invited artist who excel in the field of contemporary art.
JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature will hit its halfway point this week, with the Senate taking the lead on oil taxes as legislative leaders look at the spreading the workload and which bills should move.
An abortion bill, school vouchers and budget closeouts are among the highlights this week.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing Wednesday on a bill that would define “medically necessary” abortions.
Surfers from around the world travel to Yakutat’s remote beaches to catch big waves.
Now, the community, hundreds of miles away from the nearest grid, wants to make another use of that power.
“If we’re able to convert that energy that’s pounding on our shores and displace diesel, the state’s going to save a lot of money,” says Chris Rose, founder and executive director of REAP, the Renewable Energy Alaska Project.
“We’re a place that makes sense to test this stuff, because we have higher energy costs than a lot of other places,” says Rose, who’s been watching the project’s progress.
Yakutat Borough Manager Skip Ryman says the bottom line is to get away from diesel.
He says the municipal power plant sells electricity for about 57 cents a kilowatt hour. The state’s Power Cost Equalization Program halves the residential price. But still …
“People are finding that anywhere from 45 to 60 percent of their disposable income has been going for utilities and home heating,” Ryman says. “This in turn is hurting retailers. We’ve been losing families, losing kids in the school system and essentially sending the community into a bit of a death spiral.”
Yakutat, about halfway between Juneau and Cordova, has been interested in wave energy for some time.
A study completed in 2009 recommended devices installed near the shore, rather than father out into the ocean.
“The device that we’re working on is called an oscillating wave surge converter,” says Cliff Goudey is senior engineer for Massachusetts-based Resolute Marine Energy.
“That’s sort of a fancy word for a paddle that sits on the bottom, that’s hinged at the bottom, the hinge being parallel to the shoreline,” Goudey says. “So as the surge of the waves pass over the top, the paddle gets pushed toward the beach and then back and forth.”
The company is working with federal, state and local officials to research and fund the Yakutat project.
It will use Resolute’s Surge Wave Energy Converter, which powers hydraulic pumps, which drive a generator. (Read more about the Surge.)
The device has been tested off the North Carolina coast. But it doesn’t have a track record.
Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center Director Belinda Batten says its competitors don’t either.
“In terms of commercial arrays of wave-energy devices, they currently don’t exist anywhere in the world,” Batten says.
She says Scotland has taken the lead, testing a number of different devices and systems at a major research facility.
“Until we really get the first arrays of small devices in and producing energy over some time where we learn operating and maintenance costs, reliability, sustainability and those kind of those kinds of things, it’ll be tough to call the winners,” she says.
Resolute Marine Energy was recently granted a preliminary permit allowing more research and planning. But it still must clear other regulatory hurdles.
The company and its partners also need to address environmental impacts and conflicts with other users of the area.
There’s the surfers, of course. (Watch a video of Yakutat surfers in action.)
Borough Manager Ryman says that’s not all.
“It is an area used by trollers. You have whale migration off shore. There’s some concern about the noise these may be making and how that might interfere with whale migrations,” he says.
An Oregon wave-energy proposal has drawn opposition from crabbers and recreational boaters.
Yakutat’s project is being designed to meet the community’s power needs for much of the year.
Ryman says diesel generators would fill the gap when needed, especially when the local fish processor operates.
“We now have 26 wind-diesel projects out there that are using sophisticated control technology to marry the wind and the diesel. Wave power’s actually a lot more predictable than wind power,” he says.
Experts say wave patterns can be forecast a day or two in advance.
Goudey, of Resolute Marine Energy, says the project could have statewide implications.
“If we can make this work in Yakutat, there will be other opportunities to do similar things in other locations around coastal Alaska,” Goudey says.
Research and construction could take years, possibly a decade.
In the short term, Yakutat is considering a biomass energy plant to fill the gap. But Ryman says that’s expensive too.
KETCHIKAN — Four dedicated young Ketchikan musicians have been selected to receive the 2013 Sam Pitcher Memorial music scholarships.
The music scholarship fund was started following Sam’s death in 2003 at age 16, from myocarditis. He was a passionate musician who was a member of several local bands, was a co-founder of The Rubber Band rock group and attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.
KODIAK — Newcomers to Kodiak often struggle with finding short-term housing or places to stay while on vacation or temporary job assignments — Guardian Landing hopes to solve that problem.
Guardian Landing is housed in a 5-bedroom home with a unique setup. The house has rooms to rent, but it’s not quite a bed and breakfast. Residents can rent one bedroom in the home, or multiple bedrooms, either for a few nights or a few months.
The fully furnished house reserves one bedroom for transitioning Coast Guardsmen.
ANCHORAGE — A 36-year-old Girdwood man has pleaded guilty to causing a 2009 Seward Highway wreck that killed two teenagers.
Benjamin Cosper pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of negligent homicide and a count of third-degree assault. He then asked for forgiveness from the victims’ families, The Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton sentenced Cosper to two years in custody, recommending the sentence be served under electronic monitoring.
“There’s no sentence that fixes this for anybody,” Wolverton said.
Nearly every seat in the lecture hall of Egan Library was filled Friday night for a book talk by former state Sen. Victor Fischer, one of Alaska’s “founding fathers.”
Fischer, who helped write the Alaska Constitution, is in Juneau to talk about his autobiography, “To Russia With Love: An Alaskan’s Journey.” His appearance at the University of Alaska Southeast was part of the university’s “Sound and Motion” spring event series.
Genetically-modified salmon is nearing federal approval for human consumption and Alaska’s sate and federal lawmakers have taken up torches against what they refer to as “Frankenfish.”
In the novel Frankenstein; or, “The Modern Prometheus,” author Mary Shelley’s subjects played out the uneasy relationship between man and his science and technology, and examined questions about the morality of man as a creator.
This tension is on more and more minds in the Lower 48 and Alaska as AquaBounty's genetically modified AquAdvantage nears approval for the dinner plate.
Like everything else at the Hames Center, the new climbing was one part inspiration, and ninety-nine parts dedication. The grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, March 9. Listen to a KCAW Morning Interview about the project.
Last Friday afternoon (2/15/2013), a sea lion washed up onto the rocks in Sitka Sound. Soon after, a group of Alaska scientists set out to investigate what happened.
Kaili Jackson is at the University of Alaska dock in Sitka with a small team of scientists and helpers dissecting a female Steller’s sea lion. It was found dead just a few days earlier near the airport in Sitka by a Dept. of Transportation contractor, whose job it is to keep birds away from the runway so it’s safe for planes to land.
Jackson takes a small, serrated knife that looks like a one you’d cut a tomato with, and makes a couple of short incisions — about three inches long — into the mammal’s blubber. After samples are collected, she and her team slice a little deeper and peel back the thick flesh from its abdomen.
“So, Kaili just found out that she’s lactating…so that means she was either pregnant or had just given birth…”
And there it is.
“Awwww look at the little baby flippers…it already has claws. That is amazing. whiskers and everything. it was so close.”
Based on the time of year and how big the baby was, Jackson guesses the sea lion was a couple of weeks from giving birth. She says February is when she starts getting calls about baby sea lions that don’t survive after they’re born.
Jackson works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. She’s with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. She says her job is to respond to dead animals reported in Alaska, and then try to figure out how they died by doing a necropsy.
“So far I haven’t seen any signs of trauma or anything like that,” said Jackson. “Carrying a baby is a pretty taxing process, so it could have just been too much for her, I’m not sure.”
Because there aren’t any obvious clues as to what killed the sea lion, the team will collect samples of all the tissue and send them to a pathologist in Anchorage. They’ll also freeze the fetus and send it to the pathologist for its own necropsy.
“It’s a good way to collect data that is otherwise unavailable to us,” said Jackson. “It’s also a good way to find out if there’s something going on in the environment to be aware of that’s making animals sick, a good indicator that something is wrong.”
When Jackson examined contents in the esophogus, she found a thin, pointed claw-like object that could be the cause of death.
“…What is that? Is that shrimp? No, it’s a, I would say a crab claw. Was that stuck in there? Get a picture of it. Where was it? It was in the esophagus. That could explain thoracic flu. It’s worth collecting that sucker. I just pulled it out of the esophagus. Is it a stingray… spine? It could have caused it to get fluid in its lungs…pneumonia.”
It isn’t clear yet what killed the sea lion, but by bringing in more experts to examine the clues, researchers hope to learn this animal’s story, and how it contributes to our own.
The Bush Caucus is back.
Rural legislators in Alaska are pushing back against the concentrated political power of the state’s urban areas. Twelve members of Alaska’s House of Representatives, in both parties, have organized under the chairmanship of Bryce Edgmon, a Democrat who represents Dillingham.
Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has joined up. In the first month of the session, the Republican agenda on issues like oil tax reform, cruise ship wastewater standards, and school vouchers has been moving at lightning speed.
Kreiss-Tomkins says sitting down with other legislators outside the railbelt proved to be a refreshing change.
“That was probably one of the more enjoyable and exciting meetings I’ve had in the capitol meeting thus far. To have that group of legislators from common backgrounds, both parties, finding a lot of common issues to work on.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says the Bush Caucus has been working on priorities. Since coastal communities are prevalent in the group, restoring Alaska’s Coastal Zone Management Program is high on the list. Other issues include concerns over school vouchers, local control of charter schools, trawl bycatch, and the federal fisheries observer program that now includes the small-boat fleet.
One area where the Bush Caucus is not aligned is on the governor’s proposed oil tax reform. Kreiss-Tomkins will say only that he believes most members of the Caucus are skeptical of the idea.
“Every member of the Democratic minority, I can say with some certainty, is going to vote against an oil tax giveaway: A significant tax cut with nothing in return from the oil companies. There are going to be a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate who feel the same way. The question is how many? And what kind of modifications are made to the bill through the committee process. There’s bi-partisan concern with the fact that too much is being given away, with too little coming back in return.”
Kreiss-Tomkins says the Bush Caucus will release a full outline of its priorities in the near future.
Some bills have already passed despite the objections of Kreiss-Tomkins and others concerned with coastal issues. HB 80, which relaxes wastewater standards for cruise ships, is already on the governor’s desk.
Kreiss-Tomkins says this pace is too fast, even for a 90-day session.
“Tlingit and Haida Central Council wasn’t able to get out there resolution on cruise ship wastewater until the morning it came to the House floor. So I was barely able to speak to it, and certainly Tlingit and Haida didn’t have the opportunity to raise issues when it was in committee. UFA – United Fishermen of Alaska – didn’t have the opportunity to raise that group’s concerns on the cruise ship bill until it had left the House. I think the process is a little too fast. There are groups and constituencies that are incredibly affected by these pieces of legislation who simply don’t have the time to organize and react, and be able to speak their peace.”
Three Petersburg High School students were selected to help represent Alaska at the All Northwest Choir and Music Festival in Portland last weekend. Bud Bergen, Stephanie Pfundt and Fran Abbott rehearsed and performed with hundreds of other top, young vocalists from Alaska, Washington, Oregon , Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Bergen was in the Mixed Choir while Pfundt and Abbott were in the Treble Choir.
Matt Lichtenstein spoke with the local students and their teacher Matt Lenhard, who brought back some audio from their rehearsals and performances.
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
Petersburg’s Lutheran Church is celebrating its 100th anniversary. There are events planned throughout the year to commemorate the centennial, starting off with a Birthday Dinner this weekend (2/24).
Petersburg’s first Lutheran congregation gathered to worship in 1913. Like many religious institutions, the church serves the needy and the broader community of Petersburg as well as its own congregation. The Church’s theme for this year is “Celebrate and Serve”
Matt Lichtenstein sat down at Mountin View Manor with Pastor Mike Schwarte and several longtime congregation members to talk about their church:
For Mobile-friendly audio, click here.
Every year but one since 1994, Ketchikan Indian Community has lost money on the KIC Tribal Hatchery in City Park. Now, with budgets tightening everywhere and federal dollars drying up, the tribe wants to shut down operations.
The hope is that the closure will be temporary, and the facility will reopen later, still producing salmon, but with a different mission.
Before KIC can apply for state and federal grants to do that, though, it needs the City of Ketchikan to remove a clause from the property’s quit-claim deed. The site used to belong to the city, and the deed states that if KIC stops operating the facility as a hatchery, it reverts back to city ownership.
At Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting, KIC officials gave a presentation about their hopes for the facility, and why it’s no longer feasible for them to operate the current program.
KIC Workforce Development Director Chaz Edwardson said, “What we were planning and what we are planning is to close the hatchery under economic development. It’s a dead weight around our neck. So we want to close it as economic development and reopen it under our department over in workforce development and education. It’s two totally different management structures. It’s two totally different financial structures.”
Camille Booth, KIC education director, said that tribal representatives were exploring partnerships with the university and other entities. She said they want the facility to remain a hatchery, if possible.
City Council members also want the hatchery to continue providing fish for Ketchikan Creek. That was the main concern over KIC’s request. Council Member Marty West said she understands KIC’s quandary, but, “the quandary that we’re in is giving quite a valuable hunk of land away without knowing what’s going to happen to it.”
The assessed value of the property is about $800,000. It officially belongs to KIC, albeit with the reversionary clause.
Edwardson agreed it’s a tough decision for the city, and said KIC will go along with whatever the Council decides. He said it would almost be easier for tribal staff if the Council decided to take the facility back.
“We’re ready to walk away, simple as that. But we’re also ready to try to help save it,” he said.
Edwardson noted that there is a natural salmon run at the creek, and that the hatchery only enhanced the existing stocks.
KIC Interim General Manager John Brown said another possible option for the site is a longhouse that would be used to educate tourists about local Native culture. He said it might be possible to combine a longhouse with hatchery operations.
The Council deferred its decision until a later meeting. Members asked city management to bring back more information.
Also Thursday, the Council agreed to help pay for two historic preservation efforts. The city will provide matching funds for the first phase of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s effort to rehabilitate Hopkins Alley, and for initial planning for the Yates Building restoration project.
Seventeen University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus students made the UAS Dean’s List for the fall 2012 semester.
To make the list, students must be admitted to a program, earn at least a 3.5 grade point average, and complete at least 12 credit hours during the semester.
The UAS-Ketchikan fall 2012 Dean’s List students are Starla Agoney, Tuffina Arnold, Meghan Evans, Sarah Hollimon, Jennifer Jones, Alexis McColley-Edwardson, Tara Miller, Amanda Newell, Larissa Otness, Tyler Renojo, Katelynn Ross, Chris Terry, Jeremiah Tucker, Teresa Varnell, Melissa Williams, Carena Wood and Nichole Yoder.
House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, introduced a bill Friday to add “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to the list of traits upon which businesses, unions and landlords cannot discriminate against people under Alaska state law.
The added language is needed to cover people who currently are not protected by anti-discrimination ordinances, Kerttula indicated Friday, shortly after her House Bill 139 was introduced on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives.
The Alaska Board of Education and Early Development will meet on March 7 and March 8 in the state board room on the ground floor of 801 West 10th Street in Juneau.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 7, and 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8. The public is invited to attend.