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Southeast Alaska News
Southeast Alaska has more residents – and more jobs – than ever.
That’s according to a report released during the Southeast Conference’s annual meeting in Sitka.
Meilani Schijvens of Juneau-based Sheinberg Associates assembled the report, called Southeast Alaska by the Numbers. (Read the report.)
She says Southeast has finally come back from the 1990s timber-industry crash. It’s also largely recovered from the more recent global economic recession.
“Nearly every single economic indicator in the region is up and continuing to rise. It has taken nearly two decades, but the Southeast Alaska economy is now in a cycle of growth and is stronger than ever,” Schijvens says.
The report says the region added 2,800 residents from 2010 to 2012, the period studied. The total population hit 74,423.
Schijvens says Juneau grew the most. Ketchikan, Sitka and Haines attracted many of the other new residents.
“The largest group moving here are the 20-somethings. This group is particularly having trouble in the Lower 48 job market. They move here for jobs in the summer in the visitor industry and they stay because they have no jobs to go to,” Schijvens says.
She says Southeast’s payroll topped $2 billion for the first time in 2012, a 10 percent increase over two years.
Those wages went to 46,000 people, which is also a record.
“Leading the way were gains in mining, professional and business services, the visitor industry, construction and the Coast Guard,” she says.
The report projects the tourism, mining and health-care industries will continue to grow in future years. It says the seafood sector will remain about the same. And government and timber will shrink.
A number of Herring Cove residents vented their frustration at the regular Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting Monday.
Marlene Steiner lives near Herring Cove south of Ketchikan, and she is not happy.
“When I go out there and have to stop, and taxi drivers are waving you on to pass them?” Steiner asked the Assembly. “No. Something needs to be done.”
Steiner was one of many Herring Cove residents that spoke at the Assembly meeting on a recent study conducted by the borough’s Department of Planning and Community Development.
That study addresses residents’ concerns over tourist traffic at Herring Cove, a popular spot to catch a glimpse of Alaska summertime wildlife. The study offers a number of proposals to both deter taxis and tour buses from blocking traffic and keeping pedestrians from walking on private property.
The Planning Department reiterates its support in the study for a summertime reduction of the speed limit on South Tongass Highway around Herring Cove; the Assembly approved a resolution to request that speed reduction from the Alaska Department of Transportation earlier this month.
The study also suggests using a portion of the borough’s share of the cruiseship head tax to pay for infrastructure improvements around Herring Cove. Those improvements include viewing platforms, walkways, a parking lot and others to funnel walking traffic into designated areas.
Herring Cove residents voiced their support or opposition to components of the plan at the Assembly meeting; the speed limit reduction idea was met with almost universal support by the residents who spoke.
The Assembly batted around a number of other ideas, such as providing funds to have a paid employee to monitor traffic near Herring Cove, similar to what is seen in downtown Ketchikan during summer months.
Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer cautioned against those types of moves, however, citing the difficulty in enforcing rules that far south. He warns against increasing the governmental powers of the borough.
“The reality is, I don’t see anything coming out of these efforts,” Kiffer said. “And we’re going to be back here next year having the same arguments.”
Despite that, one suggestion made by Assembly Member Agnes Moran during public comment about traffic near the Herring Cove bridge was met with enthusiasm from the crowd.
“What if we just had a zero tolerance for anyone stopping or standing on that bridge?” Moran asked to applause.
The Assembly took no action on the Herring Cove issue at the meeting, but agreed that something must be done.
The Assembly also voted unaminously to award management of a new wood-fired boiler project at the North Point Higgins School to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District. Assembly Member Moran raised the issue of whether the contract for the project would have a request for proposals as a company had initially offered to donate the boiler. Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst acknowledged that the project would indeed have an RFP.
A big run of coho salmon in Southeast Alaska means commercial trollers have an extension of the summer fishing season.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced a 10-day extension for the troll fleet, with fishing remaining open through September 30th. Fish and Game is projecting a coho return of 5.7 million fish this year.
“Both the wild projection and the commercial catch are definitely above average, well above average, second only to 1994 and that was the year when the coho run was the largest on record,” said Pattie Skannes, Fish and Game’s troll management biologist for Southeast. “We don’t expect our harvest this year will come close to that of 1994. During that year we had higher effort and we also did not have trollers targeting other species such as chum for part of the summer.”
The record commercial catch for all gear groups in 1994 was 5.5 million coho. Fish and Game projects the all-gear catch this year will hit 3.3 million.
Skannes said coho landed by the troll fleet are average size this year. “Unlike the most recent years when they were very small, the coho average weights have increased steadily throughout the summer. Right now they are, last week’s average weight was 6.8 pounds and the average price was $1.90 (a pound) and both have gone up steadily throughout the season.”
Trolling was scheduled to close on September 20th but the season can be extended if enough fish are making it back to spawn.
Coho haven’t been the only target species for trollers this summer. The fleet harvested over 1.1 million chum salmon this year, a new high mark for troll caught chums in the region. The summer also saw a directed pink salmon fishery in lower Chatham Strait with a small portion of the fleet targeting humpies. “Over a five week period they took close to half of the total taken for the whole year,”Skannes said. “So far trollers have caught about 684-thousand pinks and so roughly half of that or close to half of that was taken during the five weeks in lower Chatham.”
Pink and chum salmon are typically lower value and higher volume fish, targeted by the region’s net fishing fleets. However, the record setting pink return, strong coho numbers and healthy hatchery chum returns have helped make up for the troll fleet’s normal target catch, king salmon. The summer season had only one short six-day opening for Chinook salmon at the start of July, the fewest days open for king fishing since 1992. The fleet will be able to keep king salmon again starting October 11th with the opening of the winter season.
KENAI — The future is unclear for a church-run cafe in Kenai that provides low-priced meals for families and individuals in need.
The landlord plans to sell the building that houses The Way Cafe, and it will be up to the new owner whether the establishment is allowed to continue serving meals there, the Peninsula Clarion reported.
Yvonne Meek, the cafe’s volunteer organizer, said it’s the best location organizers have found because people can walk to the cafe. She hopes the new owner will consider that.
HILO, Hawaii — It appears at the end of a palm tree-lined drive, not far from piles of hardened black lava: the newest addition to the Northwest’s famed oyster industry.
Half an ocean from Seattle, on a green patch of island below a tropical volcano, a Washington state oyster family built a 20,000-square-foot shellfish hatchery.
Ocean acidification left the Nisbet family no choice.
ANCHORAGE — Loose dogs are a serious problem in a northwest Alaska town where a 5-year-old boy was mauled to death by at least one loose canine, according to the mayor.
Jordan Lee Reed was found dead early Sunday in field on the outskirts of Kotzebue, the Anchorage Daily News reported. He was reported missing Saturday night.
Police said the boy had been playing in front of his family’s home that evening.
Kotzebue Mayor Nathan Kotch said loose dogs have been an increasing problem in the town of about 3,200 people.
HOMER — As summer slides into fall, Alaskans track the fading of the season by an iconic flower and plant: the persistent, sturdy fireweed. Weeks ago, fireweed lost its flowers and has now gone to fluff, its stems and leaves turning into red tinged with golden. Only summer-long visitors or residents can actually see that transformation. Thanks to a new mural by Homer artist Dan Coe, that change has been visualized. Coe installed the six-panel mural in late August on the Driftwood RV Park fence on Bunnell Avenue.
The vessel speed limit in mid-Glacier Bay will be 13 knots beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve acting Superintendent Lisa Etherington announced Monday. The limit will be implemented because there are currently more whales in the area.
Whale waters restrictions remain unchanged in Whidbey Island and Lower Glacier Bay.
All Glacier Bay waters restrictions will expire at 11:59pm on September 30 unless otherwise announced.
A trumpeter swan stretches its wings on Potter Marsh on Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Anchorage, Alaska. Trumpeter and tundra swans feed at the marsh on their southern fall migration every September and October. (AP Photo/Dan Joling)
FAIRBANKS — Two hours with Fortymile country miners persuaded Gov. Sean Parnell that federal environmental officers last month were overly aggressive in investigating possible clean water violations.
Environmental Protection Agency agents clearly used excessive force on mom and pop placer miners, Parnell told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in an interview Saturday.
This is the second in a series of profiles of Sitka’s candidates for municipal office.
Benjamen Miyasato is one of three candidates for Sitka Assembly. It’s his first run for municipal office, but not his first time as an elected official. Miyasato is presently vice chairman of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s tribal council.
If you’ve seen Benjamen Miyasato in person, you’ve probably seen his hat: a baseball cap with the word “VETERAN” emblazoned across the top in gold.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom,” he said. “I went to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005 and served my first deployment over there.”
Miyasato is retired from the military now. But he says the lessons he learned as a sergeant in the Army have prepared him for elected office.
“What are the hard decisions that need to be made?” he said. “A lot of times, when you make decisions, especially when it concerns others, and you are an elected official, sometimes you have to make those hard decisions, and that’s one of those where people can take the easy decision. When it comes time to make the hard decisions, I think I can do those.”
Miyasato is presently vice chairman of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Tribal Council. As part of those duties, he represents the Tribe when it gives updates to the Sitka Assembly.
“Before that, I had no idea how STA and the city interacted,” he said. “So all of it is all new. From what I’ve seen, I think the communication and the working together part, I think it’s very good.”
Miyasato says he’s considered a run for Assembly before. But this year, he was approached by members of the community.
“There seemed to be interest out there by the public that they were coming up to me, asking me to run,” he said. “That was another reason why I thought this year would be the right time to run.”
Miyasato was born in Sitka in November, 1963, just a few days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was a time of tremendous change in the United States. And Miyasato says he’s seen changes in Sitka, too.
“The Sitka that I live in now, I like the fact that it’s small town, that people know each other, that you’re able to go and do your day to day business, and you’ll always run into somebody you know. Always,” he said.
Miyasato says he likes that change comes slowly in Sitka, that the town is steadfast. But we also asked him to talk about the Sitka he wants to see.
“I’d like to see a little more change come about a little quicker on some items out there, and that’s one of the things I’m hoping I’ll be able to do?” he said. “The one thing I keep hearing again and again… it’s to be seen how the decisions that are being made now, how that will affect the future. Like affordable housing, they’re opening up part of the Benchlands.”
The city finalized a sale of four lots in the Benchlands neighborhood to Sound Development LLC, a locally owned company, for just more than $340,000.
But Miyasato doesn’t elaborate on his exact feelings about the Benchlands. He says on that, and other city issues, he needs to learn more before he can give an honest answer. His only information on the issue has come from media reports.
“When you read or hear news, you’re getting not the full picture,” he said. “That’s the one thing I do like, is to get the full picture. I like to study the issues and see both sides of it to get better understanding. That’s one of the things I’m hoping to be able to do on Assembly, is to get the full picture of issues out there.”
Ben Miyasato is on the ballot with Aaron Swanson. Steven Eisenbeisz is the third Assembly candidate, running as a write-in. The municipal election is Oct. 1.
Other profiles in this series include Steven Eisenbeisz and Aaron Swanson (coming Wednesday) for Assembly. We’ll also have profiles of Lon Garrison and Stephen Courtright, both candidates for school board.
Boil water notice lifted. Eisenbeisz running as a write-in candidate. Juneau airport drill rehearses crash scenario. Public safety commissioner resigns.
Juneauites concerned about the well-being of state parks in the area have an opportunity to get involved.
Alaska State Parks is looking for two citizens to fill vacant seats on the Juneau Area State Parks Citizens Advisory Board. The board is responsible for gathering public input and providing information to the state officials about activities at a number of nearby parks.
Anchorage-based First National Bank of Alaska purchased the Bill Ray Center for $3.1 million from the University of Alaska Southeast, the bank announced Monday.
John Pugh, UAS chancellor, said the sale will allow the University of Alaska Anchorage nursing program and the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension program to lease space in the building for at least the next year until the programs make decisions about whether they want to stay in the building.
The building is located downtown on F Street, near the Juneau side of the Douglas Bridge.
An app developer on Prince of Wales Island has launched his newest app for smartphones, with the goal of encouraging more people to learn the Tlingit language. The free download is the first of three planned apps based on the southern Tlingit dialect, and is the start of what he hopes will be a series of applications.
Simon Roberts wants to help preserve Northwest Coast indigenous languages, starting with his own. And he’s using modern technology to achieve his goal.
Roberts is Tlingit, and lives in Klawock, a village on Prince of Wales Island. He started his new technological adventure about a year ago, looking into app development for smartphones and tablets.
“My primary focus when I got into app developing, to learn it, was to get the language out there,” he said. “I’d seen that the southern … Haidas had their own app out there on the android, and I was a little shocked that I didn’t see anything on there for Tlingit.”
As Roberts learned to develop apps, he turned it into a business, and got a little sidetracked from his original goal. He got back on that track recently, and approached some nonprofit agencies, to see whether funding were available.
That didn’t work out, so Roberts reached out to regional business owners instead, and had more luck. A Juneau-based financial management company agreed to sponsor the first Tlingit language app in exchange for some advertising within the application.
“With this app here, it’s based on the southern dialect of the Tlingit language,” he said. “I’ve been working with my grandmother, Alicia Roberts. She’s well known in the community. Most people know her for the Alicia Roberts Medical Center.”
His grandmother lent her knowledge of the language, as well as her voice to the app.
The first app features 100 simple words, written in English, with an audio cut pronouncing the Tlingit equivalent.
Roberts explains: “I decided to find, what would be the easiest way for me to learn and others to learn, and I always seen those commercials, ‘In order to learn a new language, think like a child,’ and I got to thinking, ‘OK, if I were to think like a child, what would be the first words I would learn? Mom, dad, food, door, toys.’”
Roberts said he talked with a language teacher, who told him that method is the best for teaching beginners. This first app is one of three. The second, sponsored by a Ketchikan business owner, will kick up the teaching a notch. And the third, which has the support of a Prince of Wales Island business, will build on the lessons of the first two, helping students learn complete phrases.
Level 2 should be out by the end of September, with level three done about a month later. After that, Roberts plans to start work on apps teaching other regional Native languages.
“For the (northern) Haida language, I’ve been networking with Ben Young,” he said. “Every Haida I spoke with has pointed me toward him as the best in speaking the Haida language.”
Roberts hasn’t yet confirmed who will help him create a Tsimshian language app, but he has some promising leads.
In each case, he hopes to increase interest and awareness, and inspire others to learn languages spoken by the region’s first people.
To find the app for android or iPhones, search for Southern Tlingit 1. For more information about Roberts, visit http://www.zimonzayz.com
A 41-year-old Ketchikan man was arrested Saturday night on felony drug charges following a traffic stop on Baranof Avenue.
According to the Ketchikan Police Department, Karl L. Seierup was a passenger in the vehicle. During the traffic stop, police allegedly found in his possession two oxycodone pills, a small amount of suspected marijuana, six baggies of suspected methamphetamine, a digital scale, other drug related items, and $985 in cash.
Seierup faces four separate drug charges, as well as one count of violating his conditions of release.
He had his first court appearance Sunday, and his next hearing is set for Sept. 25.
Petersburg’s new library opens on today (Monday). Staff have been busy getting everything ready for the public. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by this week to tour the new facility with Librarian Tara Alcock and staffmembers Kari Petersen and Jessica Ieremia:
For mobile-friendly and downloadable audio, click here.
In addition to the features mentioned in the interview, there’s also a smaller conference room and a small archives room. The Grass outside the facility is temporary according to Librarian Tara Alcock, who says the borough is working on a lower-maintenance landscaping plan for the long term.
JUNEAU — One of the partners in a massive and contentious proposed gold and copper mine in Alaska is pulling out.
London-based Anglo American PLC announced Monday that a subsidiary, Anglo American (US) Pebble LLC, is withdrawing from the Pebble Mine project, leaving Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. as the sole owner.
Lauren Oakes is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University. She’s spent the past two years studying yellow cedar decline in the Tongass. Oakes is not trying to learn why yellow cedar are dying — that’s already been attributed to climate change. Rather, she and her team are studying what’s next: How will the forest plant community be affected by the loss of cedar trees? How will their loss affect us?
Oakes is based in the Sitka Sound Science Center; she did most of her field studies on West Chichagof Island, and as far north as Glacier Bay. She stopped in recently to talk about her work with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey.
Oakes was a regular contributor to the New York Times Environment Blog before that feature was discontinued. Read her posts here.