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From Our Listeners

Southeast Alaska News

The cost of travel by sea

Sun, 2014-04-13 00:09

Not many shipping companies pay more than $1,100 for every passenger they service, but that’s the average cost to the state of Alaska for each Marine Highway System user.

Less than 1 percent of everyone who travels across Alaska without flying does so via the Marine Highway System, yet that budget dwarfs the cost of maintaining the roads used by the remaining 99 percent.

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Sitka bear task force tackles ‘trash caches’

Fri, 2014-04-11 18:51

ADF&G has identified 10 locations around Sitka where bears are taking garbage bags to sort their “loot.” This bear was caught in the act in a Sitka neighborhood last summer. (ADF&G photo/Phil Mooney)

Sitkans will be doing some spring cleaning this weekend — but it’s not the usual sort of neighborhood sprucing up.

The Sitka Bear Task Force has organized work parties to tackle several bear caches — the places around town where brown bears have been dragging garbage bags over the years, to sort through their loot undisturbed.

Alaska Department of Fish & Game biologist Phil Mooney says cleaning up these so-called “trash caches” is no small job.

“Over the years you’ll get some places where you’ll have 2 and 3 pickup loads of material that’s piled back in there.”

The caches don’t have anything edible left in them, but they’ve become large enough to be an ongoing concern.

“It’s not of much value to the bears at that point but it’s an attraction — a curiosity thing. And it’s also a nuisance for other animals, ravens and eagles, that distribute that trash over the landscape.”

ADF&G has identified ten caches around town that need cleanup. Work this weekend will begin at 10AM Saturday on the old Harbor Mountain Road. Cadets from the Alaska Public Safety Academy will provide much of the labor. Mooney says the Sitka Bear Task Force has been in touch with other organizations — like the Boy Scouts and 4H — which might like to help with some of the other caches.

He says it’s important to go in now, before vegetation has leafed out. He’s noticed that people are anxious about cleaning up someone else’s trash — when that “someone” might not appreciate the help.

“And quite frankly, I don’t blame them. In some cases it’s a little spooky to be going in and picking up stuff like that if you think that the bear is nearby.”

Mooney says the caches are actually quite close to housing areas — maybe 40 to 50 meters — but totally out of sight. Bears that use the caches have become skilled raiders, toppling cans, grabbing what they can and heading to their caches.

Cleaning the caches may not stop this behaviour on the part of bears, but it may change OUR behaviour.

“Do I think the bears are going to go back to those after we clean them? Yup. I do. I think those places exist because the bears know they can get in and use them. On the other hand, when we get a call saying, Hey, a bear’s been in the neighborhood, he’s dragged some bags of garbage off, we’ll be able to go in there and pick those bags up and try to find out who they came from. Then we can go to them and say, Look, obviously he’s been getting into your trash. Let’s see what we can do to fix that.”

Mooney says anyone is welcome to participate in the Sitka Bear Task Force’s “Clean the Scene” effort. You don’t have to be a trooper to come out this Saturday morning at 10 AM to the old Harbor Mountain Road. Anyone who would like to join the work can call the department for more information at 747-5449.

Artist explores secret-keeping

Fri, 2014-04-11 18:26

MacNaughton’s portraits will be displayed at Rio’s Wine Bar in Sitka through the end of May. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Juneau artist MK MacNaughton asks people about secrets.

She doesn’t ask them to tell her their secrets – instead, she asks what it feels like to keep secrets. And then she uses their stories to guide her in drawing giant charcoal portraits – three feet tall by three feet wide – that express those feelings.

MacNaughton created a set of portrait trading cards from her work. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Seventeen of those portraits were shown recently in the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, and now about ten of them are hanging at Rio’s Wine Bar in Sitka.

MacNaughton asked her subjects to give her an image that represents the experience of holding onto secrets. The first person she asked was a friend, Shona Strauser.

“Shona’s image was butterflies. She said the weight of one butterfly on my heart is nothing, but the weight of a thousand is too many to bear,” MacNaughton said. “People tell her secrets. Which I realized is why I was drawn to her as a subject, because she was somebody that I feel like I could confide in. And apparently everyone feels that way, and that was one of my favorites.”

During the project, MacNaughton volunteered to do portraits at Juneau’s Glory Hole soup kitchen and homeless shelter. One of the men who showed up to have his portrait taken told her that there was one secret he couldn’t bear to keep.

“His mom had been killed in a gang shooting when he was eight years old and died in his arms,” MacNaughton said. “He described the wounds, and he said, you know I have to talk about it, or it’s like a brick wall on my shoulders.”

The artist based her portraits on what people told her about keeping secrets. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

Another subject, a radiology technologist, talked about the moment when she saw something on a patient’s scan that would change her life, but couldn’t tell her – because telling the patient is the doctor’s job. MacNaughton drew her inside the “cone of silence” from the TV show Get Smart.

MacNaughton has practiced art all her life, but she only recently started calling herself an artist. She was for years the artistic coordinator at The Canvas Community Art Studio, which offers art classes for people with disabilities, and is now the Executive Director of the Alaska Arts Education Consortium.

At a certain point, she said, she just had to take a leap of faith.

“It was just deciding I was gonna do it. Just deciding,” MacNaughton said. “All my life I’ve enjoyed art, and I never called myself an artist until a couple of years ago, probably because I thought it sounds arrogant. Because, does that mean I think I’m good enough to be an artist, or really good? So I avoided that theme, though I would always encourage the children or artists with disabilities that I worked with to call themselves artists. And I finally took my own advice and thought, ‘I need to get over it.’ We all do, we need to celebrate being brave enough to try.”

MacNaughton’s portraits will remain on display at Rio’s Wine Bar through the end of May. Rio’s will host an opening reception for the artwork tomorrow (Sat 4-12-14) from 5 to 9 p.m.

MacNaughton will teach two charcoal drawing classes during the day tomorrow (Sat 4-12-14): an introduction to still life drawing from 10 a.m. to noon, and a class on drawing portraits from 1-3 p.m. The costs for each class is $20. Students in the portrait class should bring a photograph to draw from. 

Let the Good Times Roll!

Fri, 2014-04-11 15:41

There are a million ways to have fun with Raven Radio, but we need members like you to make that fun happen! Please pitch in and make a contribution today to your membership-powered radio station– and let the good times roll! http://bit.ly/1kaYZiU

Sitka Tribe names new general manager

Fri, 2014-04-11 15:25

Lawrence SpottedBird will take over as general manager of STA on Monday, April 14. (STA photo)

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska has hired a new general manager. Lawrence SpottedBird, currently of Washington State, will start work on Monday (4-14-14).

STA’s previous manager, Ted Wright, resigned in October, after about two years on the job. Tribal Attorney Allen Bell has been serving as the interim manager since then.

Speaking with KCAW on Thursday, SpottedBird, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, said he has spent the last 34 years working with tribes and Native American entrepreneurs on business and economic development. He currently runs a consulting firm, SpottedBird Development.

“I consult with primarily tribes and Native American individuals in business development, with a focus on federal contracting development, looking for opportunities in contracting with the U.S. federal government,” SpottedBird said. “A lot of tribal governments and Native American entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the many incentive programs in the federal government and developing contracting enterprises to do so.”

SpottedBird has also spent time in Southeast Alaska: from 1999 to 2000 he served as general manager of Shaan Seet, the village Native corporation in Craig, on Prince of Wales Island.

Tribal Council Chairman Michael Baines said SpottedBird’s background in economic development is exactly what the Sitka Tribe needs. One key priority for STA in coming years will be finding new sources of revenue, Baines said.

SpottedBird agreed.

“Getting a solid footing financially and budgetarily is very important,” he said. “So I will be focusing on looking at ways to address the budget and financial situation that any tribe – or any government really – faces around the country.”

Baines said the Council received about sixteen applications for the position, and flew in three finalists for interviews. All of the finalists came from outside of Sitka.

SpottedBird will be formally introduced to the Tribal Council and public at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, April 16, at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Na Kahidi, immediately before the council’s regular meeting.

Dock improvements on deck for IFA

Fri, 2014-04-11 14:36

Inter-Island Ferry Authority General Manager Dennis Watson took the ferry to Ketchikan this week to give an update to the Chamber of Commerce.

The Inter-Island Ferry Authority carries about 50,000 passengers each year between Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan. And a recent study by Sheinberg Associates shows that over 12 years, the ferry saved those people more than $14 million; that is, if the same number of people had traveled by plane.

Those are just a couple of the benefits both islands have experienced since the IFA started service in 2002.

Watson talked a little about the study, but he quickly opened the floor for questions. One audience member asked about the IFA’s spare ferry. The IFA owns the Stikine and the Prince of Wales. The latter is the port authority’s standby boat, so most of the time it’s not in use. Watson said they looked into selling the Prince of Wales, but it’s a challenging decision.

“It’s a tough one. It costs us roughly $350,000 a year to babysit that boat,” he said. “But I can give you a good for-instance: a couple of years ago we were just getting by Guard Island and the Stikine swallowed two valves. So back to town we went. Three weeks later, we were in operation and got the boat back and going. Had we not had (the Prince of Wales) we wouldn’t have had service for those three weeks.”

Watson said that, with a couple of other mechanical issues that came up that same year, the Stikine was out of service about six weeks. On top of emergencies, there’s also routine maintenance to schedule.

A break in service affects more than passengers, the IFA transports about 3 million pounds of seafood annually, supporting the commercial fishing industry. It also carries fresh produce from Ketchikan to POW, providing faster service than a weekly barge.

“There are an awful lot of businesses and activities that depend on that boat running back and forth, so not only is the issue the expense to us for keeping the lay-by boat, but what happens to other people if we don’t have it,” he said.

In response to another audience question, Watson said that nearly all of the IFA’s approximately 40 employees live on Prince of Wales Island, and the on-board employees work 12-hour shifts, four days a week. He said 12 hours is the limit allowed by the U.S. Coast Guard, and they push it to that limit in order to maximize port time in Ketchikan.

“It would seem nice to come over here and turn right around and go back, but that isn’t the way it works for people who want to come over here and do a doctor appointment and then go back that day, which is one of the huge savings involved with it because a tremendous amount of the medical care for people on (POW) Island happens in Ketchikan,” he said.

The IFA leaves Hollis on POW at 8 in the morning. The trip takes about three hours, so passengers have about four hours in Ketchikan before the ferry departs at 3:30 p.m., headed back to the big island.

Another audience member wondered about the condition of the IFA docks on both sides of the 36-mile ferry trip.

“They’re both a mess,” he said. “If you’ve ever been on the dock that we tie up here in town and gone inside that thing and looked around, you’d walk out with your jaw dropped. It’s a mess.”

The docks are state-owned, and the Alaska Department of Transportation has plans to rebuild them. Watson said the Hollis dock will be completely rebuilt next year. During a portion of that construction, the ferry will change its POW port to Coffman Cove.

“And that will be what we call a ‘turn and burn.’ It’s a four-hour-and-change trip to Ketchikan,” he said. “We’ll be offloading people and vans and onloading the other, and heading right back to the island.”

Watson said that change likely will take place in May or June of 2015. State officials have estimated that the Hollis dock will be closed about two weeks, but Watson believes it likely will be closer to a month.

If you click the link below, you can find a downloadable version of the Sheinberg Associates study, along with more information about IFA.


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Fri, 2014-04-11 14:17

You Can Help Grow Public Radio in Southeast Alaska!

Scientist-in-residence: use me!

Fri, 2014-04-11 13:52


Listen to iFriendly audio.

Whale biologist Dr. Alex Werth, a professor at Virginia’s Hampden-Sydney College, is the April scientist-in-residence at the Sitka Sound Science Center. He and Jan Straley discuss upcoming events at the Science Center. Werth hopes to talk to as many Sitkans as possible over the course of the month about how they relate to the ocean, and is offering to speak with school and community groups, with a special emphasis on the human genome project, evolution, and marine conservation. You can find more information about Werth and his work here.

Fri Apr 11, 2014

Fri, 2014-04-11 13:04

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Sitka Tribe hires Lawrence SpottedBird as general manager. Four running for president of Tlingit-Haida Central Council. Sitka Bear Task Force to clean up brown bear garbage caches. Sitka Historical Museum opens newest exhibit. Juneau jury starts deliberations in 17-year-old Yakutat murder case.

POW, Metlakatla schools awarded tech grants

Fri, 2014-04-11 12:57

Hydaburg and Annette Island school districts were among three Alaska Native groups that received advanced telecommunications technology grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development office.

Hydaburg School District was awarded $500,000 to purchase video conference equipment for distance learning and training, in cooperation with the University of Alaska Southeast. According to USDA, the equipment will serve schools in the Hydaburg, Southeast Island and Craig districts.

The equipment also will be used for staff professional development, virtual field trips, education for all community members and to connect Alaska Native students with other Native American students in the U.S.

Annette Island School District was awarded about $400,000 for video conferencing to connect Metlakatla students with other rural Native students.

The third recipient was the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, which received about $260,000 for video conferencing equipment to rural clinics. The equipment will allow face-to-face medical consultation.

Parnell pitches own retirement bill

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:16

Gov. Sean Parnell introduced his public employees’ and teachers’ retirement system fix in bill form Thursday — a move lawmakers say will expedite the process with only 10 days left in the session.

It’s the same plan the governor announced in December and included in his recommended budget — infuse the Retirement System Trust Fund with $3 billion from savings now so the state can cut ongoing annual payments down to $500 million.

read more

New portal provides digital look at Alaska's coast

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:13

Planning for the weather forecast, tidal movements and a look at the resident wildlife on a new kayak route just became possible — before even leaving the driveway.

Anyone can virtually travel the coast of the Kenai Peninsula using the Alaska Ocean Observing System’s new comprehensive portal called the “Ocean Data Explorer.”

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House begins to debate abortion funding bill

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:13

JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Thursday began debating legislation that would further define medically necessary abortions for purposes of Medicaid funding.

SB49 is similar to regulations that were approved by the state health commissioner and are currently subject of a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. A spokesman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, Erik Houser, said the case is on hold pending what happens in the Legislature.

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Troopers continue to investigate Homer fatality

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:13

Little more than a week after a Homer rally urging respect, not violence, a domestic violence assault ended in the death of 24-year-old Aaron Michael Rael-Catholic of Homer. The incident occurred April 2, on McLay Road, about four miles out East End Road.

The State Medical Examiner’s office has determined Rael-Catholic died from a single gunshot wound to the head, according to an April 5 dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers.

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House speaker pushes for minimum wage bill

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:11

JUNEAU — House Speaker Mike Chenault on Thursday said legislative passage of a bill to raise Alaska’s minimum wage would guarantee that wages go up, while the outcome of a similar ballot initiative would be dependent on the whim of votes.

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Ballot question carries big ramifications

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:10

Juneau - ConocoPhillips’ Scott Jepsen painted a pretty picture of the current activity and future plans on the North Slope to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce Thursday — investment is high and projections indicate production will soon follow.

But everything he told the chamber lunch crowd hinged on a big “if.”

If Alaskans vote not to repeal SB21 this fall, the $1.7 billion capital budget will stay in place and the company will continue to expect up to 50,000 barrels of new production per day within the next four years.

read more

Wasilla man accused of striking troopers with car

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:10

ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers say a 26-year-old Wasilla man has been arrested after he struck two troopers with his vehicle.

Michael Ingersol was arrested on multiple charges, including assault on troopers, eluding and driving with a license suspended.

Troopers say the two officers drove themselves to a hospital. They were released after treatment for non-debilitating injuries.

According to troopers, Ingersol’s mother called Wednesday evening and said she didn’t want her son at her home.

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Prosecutors say 3 indicted in Anchorage death

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:10

ANCHORAGE — Three Anchorage residents have been indicted in connection with the April 1 shooting death of a 15-year-old girl.

Prosecutors say 24-year-old Jamal Townsend and 29-year-old Lammar Burney were each indicted Wednesday on seven counts including first- and- second degree murder and second-degree assault, as well as assault and misconduct involving a weapon.

Townsend also was indicted on one count of misconduct involving a weapon for alleged conduct in March at the same Mountain View home where Precious Alex was fatally shot.

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Kenai patrol car demolished during traffic stop

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:10

KENAI — Kenai police are seeking funds to replace a patrol car demolished during a traffic stop.

The Peninsula Clarion reported Officer Casey Hershberger on March 8 arrested a 27-year-old Soldotna man suspected of driving under the influence and drug misconduct.

Police say the suspect was in the back seat when a sedan driven by 19-year-old Anna Nisler rear-ended the patrol car.

Hershberger was standing at the open right rear door of the patrol car.

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Investigators testify in Kodiak double murder case

Fri, 2014-04-11 00:09

ANCHORAGE — A Coast Guard investigator says murder suspect James Wells had time to leave a Kodiak communications station, switch cars and drive home after shooting two co-workers.

Special Agent Aaron Woods testified Thursday that he recreated the scenario by driving from the communications station to Wells’ home.

Wells is charged with murder in the deaths of Richard Belisle and Petty Officer First Class James Hopkins.

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