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Southeast Alaska News
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.
FAIRBANKS — They say once you go whitewater, you never go back.
After my first whitewater kayak trip down the Gulkana River during the Labor Day weekend, I can see why the excitement of rapids could ruin flat water for some folks, including people in my party, even if it didn’t for me.
Of course, I wimped out on the biggest whitewater of the run, so perhaps I’m not the best one to say.
KENAI — All first responder planning requires a certain level of preparation for the inevitable, intense training for that rescue that will eventually come.
This weekend’s water rescue training proved to be a bit of a reversal of that philosophy for the several teams of firefighters who late last month dashed out into the stormy mouth of the Kenai River to save two commercial fishermen after the F/V Six capsized in heavy seas on its way into port on the evening of Aug. 21. They had their high-tempo, real-world experience before training.
A low-profile state commission most Alaskans have never heard of helps keep the oil industry safe. Only rarely does the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission get into the mainstream news, and that’s a good thing according to its three commissioners.
If the AOGCC weren’t doing its job there might be a lot more news, of the unwelcome kind.
The three commissioners appointed to the commission, all long-time members and with extensive prior experience in industry, are Cathy Foerster, currently the chair; Dan Seamount and John Norman.
ANCHORAGE — A northern Alaska village that has been plagued by shortages of treated water and money has been hit by yet another setback that turned out to be temporary — at least for now.
DUTCH HARBOR — For decades, the crab piled up in fishing boats like gold coins hauled from a rich and fertile sea.
But the very ocean that nursed these creatures may prove to be this industry’s undoing.
New research earlier this year shows that Bristol Bay red king crab — the supersized monster that has come to symbolize the fortunes of Alaska’s crab fleet — could fall victim to the changing chemistry of the oceans.
This is the first in a series of profiles on Sitka’s candidates for municipal office.
Steven Eisenbeisz, 28, is not a lifelong Sitkan. But pretty close.
“I moved to Sitka in the summer of 1992 with my mother and brother,” he said. “I started second grade, went all the way through high school, graduated here, and shortly after that moved away for four years in order to join the Marine Corps. Since 1992, that’s been my only time out of Sitka.”
He’s thought about running for Assembly before, and he thought about it before the filing deadline for this election, too. Initially, he decided against it.
“However, when I saw there was only two candidates on the ballot with two positions open, I decided maybe this is the time,” Eisenbeisz said. “I really feel Sitka needs a choice in this election, and I’m proud to be that.”
Eisenbeisz and his wife, Ashley, own Russell’s sporting goods store on Lincoln Street. It’s a third-generation family business, on her side, and Eisenbeisz says it’s offered him a good perspective on Sitka’s economy.
“The business climate in town is interesting,” he said. “There’s definitely room for people who want to try hard and succeed here.”
As an example, he cites the Homeport Eatery, a new food court open across the street from Russell’s.
“One person had an idea in their head and with a lot of drive and ambition and, I’m sure, very hard work, they were able to open up and have quite a nice place for Sitka,” Eisenbeisz said. “If you try hard enough in this town you can succeed. It’s all about finding what the people need here.”
The last several Assemblies have each, at times, heard citizens testify that the city isn’t business friendly. And each Assembly has had members who argue the opposite.
“They could both be very much right,” he said. It’s all in how you define “business friendly.”
“The city needs money to operate,” Eisenbeisz said. “Sales tax is one of the ways they get that money. If becoming business friendly is eliminating the sales tax or giving money to these businesses, I don’t know that that’s necessarily the right way to go.”
Eisenbeisz says there are more discussions that need to happen before he has a strong opinion on whether the city is business friendly.
On education funding, Eisenbeisz says the city should give as much money as it can afford to give to the school system. But “afford” is the key word there, he says. And with costs seeming to rise faster than revenue, Eisenbeisz says it’s important that the city be able to live within its means.
“We are going to have to do something. I know, as myself, if I have $6,000 in the bank, I can’t go and spend $10,000. It just doesn’t work,” he said. “The city needs to be run the same way. We can’t dig ourselves into a deficit and simply say ‘oh, it’ll fix itself later.’ No, it won’t. We cannot spend more money than is coming in.”
Deciding how to ensure long-term fiscal strength for Sitka will be up to the people, he says. And as an Assembly member, he says he wants to spend a lot of time listening to his constituents.
“This is not an elected official’s town. This is not the city’s town. It’s our town,” Eisenbeisz said. “And I really want people to become more proactive in the solutions to the problems that we are facing now.”
Voters who want to pick Eisenbeisz will have to fill in the oval next to the write-in blank, and then write his name on the line. Does it have to be spelled correctly?
“With a name like Eisenbeisz that could be difficult,” he said. “But fortunately, no.”
The Municipal Clerk’s office confirms that. As long as the bubble is filled in, and the voter’s intent is clear, the vote will be counted.
Tuesday, we’ll introduce you to Assembly candidate Ben Miyasato. On Wednesday, we’ll profile Assembly candidate Aaron Swanson. School board candidates will be profiled Thursday and Friday.
NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.
A bleak portrait emerged: Instead of tiered jungles of branching, leafy corals, Fabricius saw mud, stubby spires and squat boulder corals. Snails and clams were mostly gone, as were worms, colorful sea squirts and ornate feather stars.
Instead of a brilliant coral reef like the one living a few hundred yards away, what the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences ecologist found resembled a slimy lake bottom. The cause: carbon dioxide.
About 20 students attended Bob Price’s afternoon math class Thursday at The Learning Connection in downtown Juneau. Adults ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old were learning about fractions and percentages that day. Some of the students in Price’s class have decades of work experience.
After 90 minutes of instruction, Price ends the class with a reminder to all students to finish their General Educational Development testing by Dec. 20, when the center closes for the holidays, or start all over next year.
KODIAK — Kodiak ports officials trying to stop vandalism at a public restroom are considering issuing key cards for access.
“Our Shelikof restroom has been a source of a lot of issues over the years,” said Kodiak Shipyard manager Lon White on Wednesday at a meeting of the Kodiak Ports and Harbor Advisory Board. “Primarily a handful of citizens abuse the use of the facility, they do a bunch of damage to it and make it unusable for the average citizen.”
ANCHORAGE — Anchorage airport officials are looking to manage increased traffic by improving existing infrastructure, without adding a new runway.
However, the Anchorage Daily News reports that a proposed master plan for Ted Stevens International Airport has a new runway as part of a long-term solution, Planners say that would occur only if growth in traffic reaches the highest forecast levels.
FAIRBANKS — About a third of the employees at Fairbanks’ primary mental health organization will lose their jobs next week because of budget cuts.
The staffing reduction is being made at a time when the Fairbanks Community Health Center is overhauling its operations and preparing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. It’ll emerge from a short closure next week with a different name — Fairbanks Community Mental Health Services — and new oversight from the nonprofit organization that provides mental-health care in Anchorage, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
KETCHIKAN — Annette Island School District has received $14.5 million from the state to renovate Richard Johnson Elementary School.
The school was originally built in the 1960s, with major renovations and additions in the 1980s and a roof project in the 1990s, said Superintendent Eugene Avey. In addition to the building showing its wear and tear, the heating and cooling system had not been functioning properly for the past few years, Avey said.
FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Concert Association wanted your opinion on someone witty, outgoing and talented enough to hold his or her own on stage with comedian Martin Short. They asked, you delivered — but there is still a choice to be made.
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.