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Southeast Alaska News
Sitka crews react to water main break. School board candidates differ on superintendent’s role. Philippines’ first honorary consul to AK talks about partnerships. Organization promotes weatherization as winter approaches.
Update 4:13 p.m., 9/15/13:
Sawmill Creek Road re-opened to traffic on Saturday, after a nearly 24-hour closure from a water main break that occurred Friday afternoon.
Environmental Superintendent Mark Buggins says the main that ruptured was repaired, and a secondary leak has a temporary fix in place. Eventually, crews will need to go back in and make final repairs to the water main.
Residents in the immediate area of the water main rupture — the 700 block of Sawmill Creek Road — remain under a boil-water advisory. That advisory could be lifted after officials see the results of water quality tests on Monday morning. The city will advise residents when that happens.
Others in Sitka, outside the immediate area of the water main break, should have service as usual.
Update, 9:58 a.m., 9/14/13:
City public works director Michael Harmon says via Raven Radio’s Facebook page that if you have water service now, you don’t have to boil it. A boil water notice has been issued for the residents immediately near the water main break, in the 700 block of Sawmill Creek Road.
He also posted the following, earlier today:
Work will continue through Saturday. The main section of pipe that ruptured was replaced. However, when the water was turned back on and the line was pressurized, another leak was found in a different location. This area had to be worked on through the night and will continue today before the road can open.
Update, 8:34 p.m., 9/13/13:
Sitka Environmental Superintendent Mark Buggins said crews have found the leak, which resulted from a crack in a section of the 16-inch cast-iron water main.
Operators were beginning to cut the pipe around 8:30 p.m., and levels in the city’s water tanks are holding steady. Buggins says everyone should have water, except residents in the 700 block of Sawmill Creek Road, nearest to the leak.
He said the city hopes to have that section back on shortly after midnight tonight.
Update, 6:08 p.m., 9/13/13:
CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld reports from the scene that heavy equipment has arrived and is digging up rocks, gravel and water to reach the broken water main.
Sawmill Creek Road remains closed between Baranof and Jeff Davis streets. Sitka Fire Dept. volunteers and staff are on scene to assist with the road closure.
Update, 5:27 p.m., 9/13/13:
ROAD CLOSURE: Sawmill Creek Road between Baranof Street and Jeff Davis Street. City crews continue working on the water main break.
Original story, 4:46 p.m., 9/13/13:
Sitkans experienced a drop-off in water pressure this afternoon, after a water main break along a major line that supplies town.
City Environmental Superintendent Mark Buggins says the break happened in the 700 block of Sawmill Creek Road.
Police did not close the road, but traffic is slow in the area and drivers are asked to stay clear for the time being, if possible. The area is just past Jeff Davis Street as you head out of town.
Sitkans will likely notice lower water pressure tonight, especially those living at higher elevations. The city says water to all of town will be limited, and they’re asking residents to slow down on their water use and only do what’s necessary tonight. Buggins told us shortly after 4 p.m. that crews are going to keep working on the situation. They’re trying to get the damage fixed tonight, but Buggins said it was too early to tell how long it would take.
The water main break occurred around 3:30 p.m. And there were some immediate side effects to the water main break. A drop in water pressure in the sprinkler system at City Hall ended up setting off the fire alarms and causing the evacuation of the building. That happened around 4 p.m.
A little after noon on Friday, the Ketchikan Police Department learned about an alleged drug-selling operation at a room in a local hotel.
Police obtained and served a search warrant, and allegedly found about a quarter ounce of methamphetamine, paraphernalia and more than $1,000 in cash.
Twenty-one-year-old Lapairs A. Shaw, and 32-year-old Rebecca L. A. Heisler, both of Ketchikan, were arrested and charged with third- and fourth-degree controlled-substance misconduct.
Shaw also was charged with violating conditions of his release.
Petersburg Medical Center is trying a management approach called “Lean”. Proponents in health care describe it as a way to improve value for the customer….. “Customers” being patients as well as staff, like nurses and medical assistants, whose jobs often depend on the jobs of their co-workers.
Toyota is often credited for developing the concept after World War Two in an effort to manufacture higher quality cars at a lower cost. But the philosophy eventually spread beyond manufacturing to other sectors including health care.
The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association has been sponsoring “LEAN” training for some of the staff from Critical Care Hospitals in several Southeast towns including Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Juneau.
Anders Wennerstrom is Director of Operational Excellence with Providence Health and Services and Nels Johnson is Providence’s Clinical Project Manager. The two recently spent a day training Petersburg Medical Center staff in the lean approach. They also spoke with KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein who began with a question to Wennerstrom:
For mobile-frinedly, downloadable audio, click here.
Petersburg’s non-profit movie theater is now fully digital. Northern Nights Theater premiered its new digital projector last weekend but tonight is the official grand re-opening.
The student-run organization was created with the help of a state grant in 1997. As the industry phases out 35 millimeter film, the digital equipment will allow Northern Nights to continue showing first-run movies. To find out more, Matt Lichtenstein spoke with Theater Manager Anne Tate, and her daughter, Sarah, who is president of the theater’s student board.
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
Southeast seine fishermen have finished-up their record-breaking pink salmon harvest for the year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game earlier this week (9/8) announced that directed pink fishing was closed.
Weekly pink catches drop off fairly fast at the end of each season and this year was no exception according to the department’s Regional management coordinator Dan Gray.
“We look at those last few openers as kind of halving every opener as you move on. So when it went from nine million harvest, approximately, down to four to two to one and then I think the last one was about 400 thousand, we knew it was all but done and fishermen were done with it and the processors were done with it. So, we just kind of wrapped it up,” says Gray.
It will be a while before the department has all the data for a final count, but according to preliminary estimates, Gray says seiners landed 85.5 million pink salmon. Trollers and Gillnetters caught an estimated 2.4 million more for a total of 87.9 million.
“It is an all-time record. It beats 1999 and, yeah, it was the biggest one ever,”
Southeast commercial fishermen caught 77-point-eight million pinks in 1999.
Pink salmon escapement, the number of fish making it back to the streams to spawn, has been very good around the region this year, according to Gray. The lack of rain has been a concern for the department which has seen some localized pink salmon die-offs. However, as fall typically brings more rain, Gray is confident the big pink returns will make up for the losses.
“I still think there’s enough fish staging in the inter-tidal areas that are going to back-fill anything that’s killed at this point. There’s just a lot of pink salmon there. There were still reports in some areas when we closed that they were still catching bright fish.”
This year’s price for seine-caught pinks averaged around 40 cents a pound. The biggest catches were in Southern Southeast.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly recently asked the state Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit on South Tongass Highway in the Herring Cove area, but only during the summer.
That request stemmed from a borough study of Herring Cove, a busy destination for summer tourists hoping to see some Alaska wildlife. The Assembly will discuss that study in detail during a work session Monday, part of the regular Borough Assembly meeting.
Some other recommendations the Planning Department drafted include pedestrian bridges and viewing platforms, walkways next to the highway, and a public parking lot with restrooms and trash cans. All that would be funded through the borough’s share of the state cruise passenger head tax.
The Planning Department also recommends working with the state to make sure there is enforcement of parking and traffic regulations, working with the visitor industry to educate visitors about wildlife safety, and an annual review to make sure the area’s needs are met.
Also Monday, the Assembly will consider a resolution to move forward with a wood-fired boiler project at Point Higgins Elementary School. That’s a cooperative project with the Ketchikan School District.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Borough Assembly chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
Bob Fultz of Ketchikan Youth Initiatives, and designers Jason Shomaker and Lori Linville of Liquid Stone Designs provide details about the new skate park layout and its progress. SkatePark
Gov. Sean Parnell has ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff on Tuesday to honor former Alaska Senator Bill Ray, who died September 9th.
The 91-year-old Ray served in the U.S. Navy, and then returned to Juneau to work in his family’s business and fish commercially. He was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964 and served six years before successfully running for the Alaska Senate, where he remained until 1986.
Ray held positions on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and the Federal Fish and Game Advisory Board.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
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Rachel Thompson, with Maine’s Island Institute, is holding a two-part workshop on climate change science. “Communicating Local Impacts of Climate Change” (9AM-5PM Sat Sep 14, Keet Gooshi Heen Room 26, free) will help hone the communication skills of teachers, fishermen, and others interested in communicating climate change research. The “WeatherBlur Orientation” (9AM-4PM Sun Sep 15, Keet Gooshi Heen Room 26, free) will introduce participants to an online learning community. To register, email Rachel Thompson at the address given in this link. With ALFA’s Linda Behnken, and Ashley Bolwerk from the Sitka Sound Science Center.
CREAMER’S FIELD, FAIRBANKS — “As this bird takes off, think about how they have to fly thousands and thousands of miles,” Tricia Blake said to 21 first-graders sitting on wooden benches surrounded by birch and balsam poplar trees.
The biologist and educator then placed a ruby-crowned kinglet in the flat palm of a six-year old boy. The thumb-size songbird was probably born in northern Alaska this spring. During the past hour of its brief life (which will last about 4 years), it had a tiny metal band clamped around its ankle.
ANCHORAGE — The Republican field for U.S. Senate grew by one, or possibly two, on Thursday. Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell officially launched his campaign at a rally with supporters at his headquarters in Anchorage.
The launch came as the governor’s office announced the resignation of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan; there has been speculation that Sullivan, too, will seek the Republican nomination for Senate. Sullivan was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment.
ANCHORAGE — A state court judge has been asked to overturn a 2011 initiative that developers of the proposed Pebble Mine say is an attempt to kill the project.
The Save our Salmon initiative, passed by Lake and Peninsula Borough voters, bans large-scale resource extraction, including mining, that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat.
Nearly 63 percent of voters polled are in favor of a likely 2014 ballot initiative that would prohibit mining in Bristol Bay, according to an opinion poll released by Anchorage-based Hays Research Group. Almost 24 percent said they would oppose the ballot initiative.
The two candidates for Sitka’s school board this year agree on much, but also have one key difference: How they view the role of the superintendent.
Incumbent Lon Garrison and challenger Stephen Courtright answered questions for about an hour at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (9-11-13), in the first candidate forum of the municipal election season.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Courtright, a music teacher at Mt. Edgecumbe, said the district superintendent should leave education to the educators.
“The superintendent is not the person who should be the educational leader, should not be the disciplinary leader, should not be the one doing the nitty-gritty of human resources issues — there are people whose job it is to do all of those things. But the superintendent is the one who sets the tone from the top down, is the face of the entire district, and needs to be absolutely unimpeachable as such.”
Courtright stressed that this was not a personal reflection on current superintendent Steve Bradshaw, who is still dealing with the repercussions of last year’s crisis, when his middle school principal was indicted for sexual assault.
Bradshaw has submitted his resignation effective June 30, 2014. The board will begin a hiring process to replace him, following the municipal election.
The two candidates did not dispute each other much during the chamber forum, but incumbent school board president Lon Garrison disagreed on this point: does the superintendent lead on education, or leave that responsibility to the principals?
“I think they are going to be the educational leader. They are going to be the one setting the tone. There’s no doubt about it. There are going to be others that are going to working for them to help implement that leadership, but it is the superintendent who takes on that responsibility of conveying to the rest of the district what the school board has come up with in policy and in vision, and making sure it’s implemented.”
In most other respects, challenger and incumbent were fairly well-aligned: the importance of early childhood education, closing the achievement gap for low-income students, and the need to educate the whole child through extra-curricular programs beyond the three R’s.
Once in a while, the candidates would reveal a subtle difference in perspective. An audience member asked if the Sitka School District adequately prepared students to enter the workforce.
“I would say for most students, Yes, we are effective in educating our students to enter the workforce, to go to college, or to continue with additional career technical education. But I would say there’s still a considerable percentage of students that don’t get there.”
“My big takeaway from this question is that preparing workers is not the point of schools. The point of schools is to prepare citizens and to prepare thinkers. If we teach them to think, and to be able to ask the right questions, anybody can teach them how to do a job.”
This type of educator’s perspective is what Courtright said Sitka’s current board lacks. He said he felt that this race was not about removing anyone from the board, but about adding something that’s missing.
“It looks different when you’re there every day. The students do things differently, the teachers do things differently. I truly believe that’s a perspective that cannot be gotten by just walking through every now and again.”
Courtright has been a teacher for nine years; Garrison has been on the Sitka School Board for six of those years. He now runs the hatchery program at the Sitka Sound Science Center.
Garrison stressed his history as an advocate for education at the state and federal levels.
“I’ve developed a passion for public education and being a good school board member, and have spent the time and effort it takes to continually improve — and I continue to do that. To bring new ideas to the table and to champion Sitka’s values to both the outside and others outside our state and community.”
Garrison and Courtright are running for one seat on Sitka’s five-member school board. It is a three-year term. The municipal election is Tuesday, October 1.
KCAW News will have detailed profiles of all the municipal candidates during local news beginning next week. You can ask the candidates your questions during our on-air forums, 6:30 PM Wednesday and Thursday, September 25 & 26.
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Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty, hosts (for over 20 years!) of KCAW’s Garden Show, discuss how to prepare our gardens for winter.
New preschool aims to close achievement gap. Stanford’s SoCo comes to Sitka. Pink fishing closes after record-breaking year.
Our One Day Drive is Friday, October 4th. Not long ago we spent up to a week in “marathon mode” every fall. If you like our time and effort going into news and music shows instead, please help erase the need for extended on air drives by taking a moment right now to contribute towards our $55,000 Fall Drive goal. We need everyone, including you, to make it. Thank You!
Sitka sends funding to nonprofit orgs. Electric rate increase moves forward. SE residents testify on ferry schedule. Alaskans oppose military strike on Syria.
Raven Radio News Reporter Ed Ronco is moving to Seattle to become Morning Edition producer at KPLU in Seattle. He starts in October.
Ed came to KCAW in September, 2009, from Indiana, where he covered business, politics and government at the South Bend Tribune prior to joining Raven Radio. He’s a 2004 graduate of Michigan State University.
He’s on the job here through the end of the month, but he plans to remain a proud member of Raven Radio for the rest of his life. Please join us in congratulating Ed on a job well done here in Sitka as well as his exciting new opportunity at KPLU! Ed, we’ll miss you!