Alaskan Author Don Rearden will be visiting the Haines Public Library on Friday March 14th to...
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Southeast Alaska News
PETERSBURG — Officials at Petersburg High School have been awarded a state grant for suicide prevention education and outreach efforts.
The district is contracting with Petersburg Mental Health Services to provide suicide prevention services. The four-year, $25,000 grant was provided by the state Department of Education, KFSK reported.
PETERSBURG — The U.S. Forest Service is taking public comment on its plan to close nine recreational cabins in the Tongass National Forest.
The agency also is proposing to convert three additional cabins to three-sided shelters in southeast Alaska.
The plan was first outlined last month. The agency estimates it would cost nearly $2 million to replace and convert the cabins.
ANCHORAGE — A winter storm has dumped about a foot of snowfall on the Anchorage area.
The National Weather Service reported Sunday that totals from the storm exceeded 12 inches in some areas. The Anchorage Daily News reports that it is the most snow the area has seen so far this season.
KAKE — Officials say 7,000 gallons of gasoline have spilled into a harbor in southeastern Alaska.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it is coordinating response efforts for Saturday’s spill near at the city of Kake. So far, the response has included the removal of all vessels from the harbor and the use of vapor mist to aid in clean up and to push away fumes.
KWETHLUK — The mere presence of Santa and Mrs. Claus put broad smiles on the faces of many children in an Alaska Yup’ik Eskimo community this week, and it wasn’t just because they were about to receive gifts.
For some of the children, this was the first time they had laid eyes on the man with a white beard in the red suit, the mythical character they have heard so much about over the years.
The experience with Santa even reduced a few toddlers to tears.
ConocoPhillips is ramping up its Alaska investments sharply.
The company increased its 2014 Alaska capital budget by more than 50 percent, to $1.7 billion, and will drill two new exploration wells this winter in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, company spokeswoman Natalie Loman said Dec. 9.
Spending next year will be in projects that are expected to add about 54,000 barrels per day in new North Slope production by late 2017.
ANCHORAGE — After a long journey by plane, two young bald eagles whose feathers were charred by a trash dump fire are recovering in Anchorage.
The two eagles were likely seeking food in a trash dump on Adak Island. Like other rural Alaska communities, the city of Adak burns its trash in a pit before taking it to a landfill. In a recent burn, the flames badly singed the flight and tail feathers of two juvenile bald eagles, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.
KENAI — Every school day, elementary students across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District shimmy on snow pants, glide on gloves and put on hats to brave the elements during recess.
Be it snow, sleet or below zero temperatures, students go out to play. While many often come prepared, sometimes students are missing a glove or hat — which makes outside pay nearly impossible in the cold.
SEATTLE — China has suspended imports of shellfish from the U.S. West Coast, cutting off one of the biggest export markets for Northwest companies and prompting fears of a months-long shutdown.
The Chinese government imposed the ban after discovering that recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters had high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning, KUOW public radio reported.
SITKA — The expansion of the public library in Sitka will enable the building to accommodate the changing role of libraries in the 21st century.
The city assembly has approved the design for Kettleson Memorial Library after hearing from library director Sarah Bell and Paul Voelckers of MRV Architects in Juneau, KCAW reported.
“I think what libraries are evolving to is somewhat of a community center,” Bell said. “It’s a place where people can come and share what they consider important.”
JUNEAU — House Democratic lawmakers announced plans Friday to introduce legislation that would reject proposed pay raises for Alaska’s governor and other top state officials.
Reps. Les Gara and Scott Kawasaki said it would be wrong to allow the raises at the same time other areas of the budget are being cut and Gov. Sean Parnell is calling for spending restraint amid a sharp drop in expected revenues.
Editor’s note: This is the seventh in the Morris Communications series, “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”
It’s a lesson every elected official in Alaska learns firsthand sooner or later, and Gov. Sean Parnell got a fresh reminder this past April in the waning days of the legislative session when his nomination of Vince Webster to a second term on the Board of Fisheries was rejected by a 30-29 vote.
FAIRBANKS — Thanks to one of the warmest Octobers in 100 years in Fairbanks, ice on local lakes and rivers is thinner than normal at this time of year.
The National Weather Service typically takes its first ice measurements during the first week of November but the ice was still too thin to do that this year. Instead, the weather service took its first ice measurements on local water bodies last week and found that ice on rivers and lakes around Fairbanks is thinner than normal.
ANCHORAGE — A federal agency is asking Royal Dutch Shell PLC for more details about possible plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea next year.
The application to drill will not be complete until the oil giant provides additional information in its 2014 Chukchi Exploration Plan, Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management wants questions answered on Shell ships, the Noble Discoverer and the Polar Pioneer, said David Johnston, regional supervisor for the Office of Leasing and Plans. The agency also has air quality questions.
KENAI — ConocoPhillips has filed for a permit to resume liquefied natural gas exports from its facility on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a move urged by the state.
Earlier this year, the company announced it would not seek an extension of a license that expired March 31 but would consider a new license if the needs of the local market were met and there was sufficient gas for export.
The application was filed Wednesday, said ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman.
JUNEAU — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not expect to release a final report on the impacts of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region until early next year.
The agency had planned to release the final watershed assessment by the end of 2013. But spokeswoman Hanady Kader said Friday that the timeline got pushed back by the more than two-week long government shutdown in October.
Despite some wild weather, Sitkans gathered for the lighting of the tree on the Sheldon Jackson campus on Saturday evening. Students from the Sitka Fine Arts Camp After School Carol Choir, led by Lauren Havens and Rhiannon Guevin, performed “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with a Southeast Alaska twist: twelve raindrops falling, eleven boats a-floating, ten fish a-leaping, nine Russian dancers, eight deer a-prancing, sevens swans a-swimming, six eagles flying, five humpback whales, four totem poles, three brown bears, two XtraTufs…and one what? Listen below to find out:
A newly appointed member of the Ketchikan City Council is facing criticism and scrutiny after a document surfaced this week that alleges misconduct while he was a teacher in Washington State.
One day after Russell Wodehouse was appointed to the Ketchikan City Council, he faced his first big controversy when a 2006 document surfaced, indicating that his teaching certificate in the State of Washington was revoked that year following allegations of inappropriate contact with a female student.
During a special Council meeting to review the city’s budget, Wodehouse made a statement: “A document is being circulated which to some would appear to be a court document. It is neither an official court document nor a finding of facts in any legal sense. Some have made assumptions based upon this internal document, none of which have a basis in fact now resulted in any legal actions against me. I’m seeking legal counsel for guidance on how best to address this issue as to not further disturb the work I am to do here. I regret that this issue may have taken away from City Council time and I would like to get on with the business at hand.”
The document, signed by then-superintendent of the State of Washington’s Office of Public Instruction, Terry Bergeson, does resemble a court document, but it is titled “Final Order of Revocation” related to Wodehouse’s teaching certificate.
Wodehouse received that certificate in 1999, according to the document, and worked for the Kennewick School District. He was the drama coach and in 2003 was embroiled in a controversy over a play he directed with a small cast of students. It was a stage version of the R-rated “Breakfast Club,” a popular teen flick from the 1980s. While the play’s dialogue was changed to limit adult language, the Kennewick High School principal canceled the rest of the run after watching one performance.
Some of the allegations in the revocation document were related to Wodehouse’s job as a drama coach. The document states that after cast parties or plays, he would let students stay at his home, and that a male and female student shared a room on one occasion. It also alleges that Wodehouse called, and sent notes and gifts to a female student, and allegedly kissed her intimately in his school office.
The document also alleges that Wodehouse took a magazine quiz titled “Are You Good in Bed?” with a group of students. All those alleged incidents took place in 2002 or 2003, and the document states that Wodehouse was placed on administrative leave in February of 2003. It also states that in May of 2004, Wodehouse was given a notice of termination.
Wodehouse declined to be interviewed for this report. In a written statement released to the media, he says that “The allegations contained in the document, which is an internal administrative paper, not a legal or judiciary document, are false. I was neither aware of these “finding of facts’ nor have I had an opportunity to respond, attend a hearing or refute them after the initial allegations, which were found to be without grounds. I was not fired as a teacher from the Kennewick School District. There was never any litigation. I’m consulting with counsel to seek legal remedies. I fully intend to remain on the City Council as there isn’t anything that prevents me from fulfilling my duties. I would like to thank my friends and family for their continued support.”
While some of the allegations in the revocation document would be criminal, a KRBD records check through the Washington Access to Criminal History website showed no criminal convictions for Wodehouse.
Calls to City Hall seeking comment were referred to Mayor Lew Williams III. He says the revocation document has been circulating, and he first learned of it when it was sent to the Ketchikan Daily News. Williams is co-publisher of that newspaper.
Williams says he knows who sent the document to the paper, but declined to provide a name. He adds that he wishes the information had been available to the Council before Wodehouse was appointed.
“I wish we all would have taken time to Google people that are interested in the Council, but we never ran into anything like this before,” Williams said. “It was a surprise. I’ve given the clerk instruction to make sure that anybody who applies for a position, at least we Google.”
An Internet search of Wodehouse’s name brings up the document, which was posted on the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction website, under the Office of Professional Practices.
Nathan Olson of the Washington Office of Public Instruction confirms that the document is real. He adds that the after the document was signed, Wodehouse should have been notified through his legal counsel, and given 30 days to appeal the findings.
Olson was not able to answer detailed questions about the allegations. A public records request for the investigative file will take several weeks to be processed.
Now that Wodehouse has been appointed and sworn in, Williams says there’s no official action that the Council can take. The only methods in the city charter that allow for removal of a Council member are a felony conviction, or a certain number of absences from meetings.
“City management has looked to verify his residency, which I believe has been verified; we don’t know of any criminal charges in this,” he said. “At this time, the Council has no – I mean, we can talk to Russell and tell him how we feel, but as long as he wants to be on the Council he can be on the Council unless he resigns.”
Wodehouse was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Sam Bergeron, who resigned due to a work conflict. Council appointees serve until the next regular election, which is the first Tuesday of October.
Council Member KJ Harris was one of the four who voted to appoint Wodehouse. Harris says he keeps telling himself that people are innocent until they are proven guilty, “but, again, it puts a real dark cloud over the Council. I’ve had people saying, ‘How could you do that?’ We didn’t know! ‘Why didn’t you Google?’ I don’t personally Google. I have no idea how. I can barely turn on my iPad.”
Harris says that if he’d known about the document, he would have voted differently.
Council Member Marty West, who nominated Wodehouse for the Council position, remains supportive.
“I think people shouldn’t rush to judgment without knowing all the facts,” she said. “I think there’s more to this story than is currently circulating. I hope people will have the grace to listen and to not rush to judgment, and that we can continue to work as a Council. I have faith in Russell and that continues.”
West says she doesn’t believe the issue is something that the Council needs to address, and that it won’t affect Wodehouse’s work as a Council member.
“I do think that he’ll be a good Council member,” she said. “The things I said about him when I made the motion to appoint him were true. And I think that when the rest of the information, the other side of the story, comes out, this will become a non-issue. At least that’s my hope.”
Wodehouse was one of five people who applied for the vacant position on the Ketchikan City Council. He works for a local seafood shipping company, and is a musician and graphic artist. He grew up in Ketchikan, left for a while and recently moved back from Washington State.
In the interest of full disclosure, Wodehouse is one of KRBD’s many volunteer DJs.
When Ed Ronco left KCAW’s newsroom at the end of September, one of the first people we sought out to fill that gap was Rachel Waldholz. Rachel was our 2012 summer intern, cranking out one fine news story after another despite the fairly miserable weather. A piece Rachel produced that summer on geothermal upgrades to the Tenakee bath house made a splash at NPR, and she was named one of the network’s 10 finalists for the prestigious Kroc Fellowship. Rachel is a graduate of Barnard College. She holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. Her master’s thesis, A Confused War, won Best Documentary at the PovertyCure International Film Festival, and the Grand Prize at the Bay Area Women in Film & Media Film Festival. So what were the chances she’d be free to work at Raven Radio while we searched for a replacement for Ed? “I had been working for Current TV, but it had just gone off the air,” she says. Rachel had only seen Sitka in the summertime. “I wasn’t sure if I could hack it in the winter!” But, as often happens in Sitka, her short-term commitment evolved into an interest in sticking around. She applied for the permanent job and, after an extensive search, we found our new reporter already at her desk!
Rachel’s official start date is January 15, 2014.
Scientists are finding more evidence that Southeast Alaska’s first residents arrived more than 10,000 years ago. It’s coming through a new method of locating early settlements. But it’s not easy to search for ancient shorelines in a region where sea level is not a constant thing.
Dave D’Amore digs into a hole on the University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus.
He’s looking for evidence that this spot – around 100 feet above sea level – was once an ocean shore.
“I can kind of see it now. This looks like it’s organic, over that beach,” he says.
D’Amore is a soils expert with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. He’s one of the scientists working with university students to map Juneau‘s ancient shorelines.
They’re hard to find, because of the region’s ever-changing geography.
The weight of huge glaciers depressed the Earth’s crust. Their forward movement created raised bulges of land. Their melting allowed the surface to rise. And then, there’s plate tectonics.
Early residents – Tlingit Indians or their predecessors – lived along these shores. So finding their camps and villages, sometimes hundreds of feet above today’s sea level, can lead to new discoveries.
Dan Monteith is an anthropology professor at the university. He’s scooping water out of another hole, where he hopes to find something interesting.
“We need one of those three-gallon buckets,” he calls to a nearby student.
“We’re going around, following up old river drainages or cut banks looking for evidence of old, ancient, raised marine beaches,” Monteith says.
They’ve already found some. Monteith walks up a small creek to an eroded bank. There, sticking out of the soil, are small, dirty-white seashells.
“By collecting shells and other things from those areas, then we can radio carbon-date those and get kind of a fixed point of when that was a beach at different points of time,” he says.
The technique was developed on Prince of Wales Island.
Forest Service Geologist Jim Baichtal says it can be used to make an educated guess of where early residents used to live.
“Just as you and I today would camp within 2-3 feet above high tide, so would folks in the past. And if you had food and you had good moorage, that’s the kind of places we would camp,” he says.
Baichtal, archaeologist Risa Carlson and other scientists began their effort about four years ago. On an early outing, they headed up an estuary and into the forest to where waves lapped the shore thousands of years before.
“And we dug down about 50 centimeters (20 inches) and dug into the top of over a meter of charcoal and tools and other things that were left there by the inhabitants of that place,” he says.
Radiocarbon-dating showed those items to be around 10,000 calendar years old.
Baichtal says he and other scientists used the technique to find archeological material on more than 70 Prince of Wales Island sites.
About 10 have been dated to around that same time, showing Southeast’s first residents were well-established by then.
“It had been thought in the past that maybe there weren’t large populations here that early. But it was because we never knew where to look. And this is giving us a whole different way of where to look and what to look for,” he said.
Back at the university, Monteith makes sure his students record GPS coordinates for each hole they’ve dug.
“Did you guys get latitude and longitude on any other test bits we got?” he asks.
The group has dug in other areas of Juneau. It’s also inventoried known tribal sites in a bay north of town.
Student Bernadine DeAsis says that helped her learn some of her own history.
“That was really important for me to get a perspective of where the Tlingits were in this area, because I’m Tlingit myself,” DeAsis says. “We know for sure that they’ve been in this area, so it’s kind of like a treasure hunt for me.”
The effort will continue for many years, expanding to other parts of the region.
Others involved include the U.S. Forest Service’s Dennis Landwehr, Jane Smith and Rachel Myron.