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Southeast Alaska News

Alaska Senate candidates attend forum

Wed, 2014-01-29 01:06

ANCHORAGE — Two Republicans running for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich criticized the Democratic incumbent at a candidates forum, saying he was wrong to oppose the proposed Pebble mine.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan attended the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce forum Monday.

Begich recently came out against the proposed Pebble mine, based on an Environmental Protection Agency study. Begich said the mine would pose a threat to Bristol Bay salmon.

read more

Avalanche danger keeps road closed

Wed, 2014-01-29 01:06

ANCHORAGE — Avalanche conditions remain too unstable to clear a highway into the Alaska city of Valdez, state transportation officials said Tuesday.

Two major avalanches and 10 or so smaller ones dumped snow Friday along 27 miles of the Richardson Highway, the only road access to the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

One avalanche blocked a river and created a half-mile lake that covers the highway.

read more

Halibut harvests cut for 10th straight season

Wed, 2014-01-29 01:06

SEATTLE — Halibut fishermen will see another year of cuts under catch limits adopted Jan. 17 at the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s annual meeting.

Alaska’s portion of the 2014 catch is about 19.7 million pounds, out of a coastwide catch of 27.5 million pounds.

The coastwide catch is about 10 percent less than 2013, marking 10 consecutive years of cuts. The 2013 limit was about 31.02 million pounds coastwide, and 23 million pounds in Alaska.

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Nine applicants considered for Kerttula's seat

Wed, 2014-01-29 01:06

Nine applicants will be considered for the House seat vacated by former Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, who resigned from her position Friday to accept a fellowship at Stanford.

Nancy Courtney, chair of the local Democratic Party, said Tongass Democrats held an emergency meeting after Kerttula’s announcement.

“The Selection Committee has worked quickly and thoroughly on its process and is very pleased to have received applications from very capable Alaskans,” Courtney said in a prepared statement.

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Juneau schools look to cut $4.8M

Wed, 2014-01-29 01:04

The Juneau School District is starting to get a clearer picture of next year’s financial standing now that the two biggest fiscal unknowns — the cost of its teachers and state funding availability — have dollar figures attached.

But for a district facing nearly $4.8 million in budget cuts, clearer does not mean easier, JSD Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich said after a budget committee meeting Tuesday evening.

“There’s still such a large gap between what we want to provide for students and what we can afford to provide,” Gelbrich told the Empire.

read more

Tues Jan 28, 2014

Tue, 2014-01-28 11:41

Listen to iFriendly audio.

The Sitka Assembly will hear a presentation on potential cuts to the community Ride bus program. Other agenda items include, an ordinance that prohibits children from being present in places where smoking is permitted, and a loan to finish construction of the Blue Lake hydro project. A 19 year old man had a run-in with a sea lion at Seafood Producers Cooperation on Saturday. The Sitka Assembly discusses transferring a state-of-the-art Emergency Response Vessel from the Fire Department to the Harbor Department. Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell spoke with KCAW on Friday about public lands, personal privacy, and what, exactly he means by his campaign motto, “bringing decision-making home.”

School Board to review FY ’15 budget proposal

Tue, 2014-01-28 11:15

The Ketchikan School Board will discuss the first draft of the district’s FY ’15 budget at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

The budget proposes reducing the district’s preschool staff by three teachers through attrition. In a memo to the Board of Education, Superintendent Robert Boyles compared this reduction with cuts the Juneau and Anchorage districts plan to make. Juneau plans to cut more than 20 teachers and Anchorage plans to reduce by 219 staff members.

In the memo, Boyle pointed out other budget-tightening proposals. They include refraining from updating the hardware for the Schoenbar 1-to-1 digital learning program for one year and reducing funds for activities.

There will be public forums to discuss the budget on Feb. 4th, from 5 to 6 p.m.; and Feb. 8th from 1 to 2 p.m. There will additional meetings in March.

The School Board will also vote on whether to accept the resignation of Ketchikan High School automotive technology teacher David Sweetman. He has been teaching for the Ketchikan school district for 14 years.

In his letter of resignation, Sweetman writes that he feels it is time to let a younger person take over the auto shop at Kayhi.

The board will also vote on whether to approve an upgrade for one of Kayhi’s computer labs, at an estimated cost of about $39,000. The upgrade would include 30 new iMacs to replace the six-year-old computers currently in the lab.

Wednesday’s School Board Meeting is at 6 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

Avalanches cut off only road to Valdez

Tue, 2014-01-28 01:18

ANCHORAGE — Highway access to the city at the end of the trans-Alaska pipeline has been cut off indefinitely by avalanches, including one that dammed a river and created a lake up to a half-mile long across the roadway in a 300-foot wide mountain canyon.

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Fairbanks schools seek 180-day requirement waiver

Tue, 2014-01-28 01:12

FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District will appeal to Education Commissioner Mike Hanley for a waiver from the state law requiring schools to be open for at least 180 days.

Fairbanks schools Friday closed for a fourth day this school year. To meet the 180-day requirement, students would have to return for one day of school after the three-day Memorial Day weekend, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

read more

Kuskokwim moose census scheduled this winter

Tue, 2014-01-28 01:11

BETHEL — The number of moose allowed to be harvested along the Kuskokwim River may be increased as state game managers prepare for fly-overs for a more accurate count of the population.

read more

Administration gives pipeline project overview

Tue, 2014-01-28 01:07

JUNEAU — An agreement to advance a liquefied natural-gas project represents a “groundbreaking achievement” for Alaska, Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell said Monday.

But the project is far from a done deal, with several decision points over the next few years in which the state — or any of the other parties — can step away.

read more

Reassigned to Harbors, Sitka response boat may see more action

Mon, 2014-01-27 21:51

Sitka’s ERV is a SAFE Boat design favored by the Coast Guard and other agencies. (Don Kluting photo)


Every year Sitka has its share of maritime emergencies and remote rescue operations. Last December, for example, two hunters were seriously injured in Salisbury Sound when their boat slammed into a cliff in the narrows. And while that and other events often make headlines, you don’t often hear about the state-of-the-art Emergency Response Vessel Sitka has available to render aid.

That’s because, in many cases, the $200,000 boat has remained tied up at the dock, while responders take the harbor skiff — or even their own private boats — to the scene of emergencies.


Listen to iFriendly audio.

The controversy over Sitka’s eight-year-old Emergency Response Vessel has been going on for well… about eight years. The ERV was purchased with a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security, and it was designed to accommodate law enforcement, fire, and rescue operations.

The boat has been in the care of the Police Department until now, and reasons for tension over the boat are as diverse as the people responsible for serving these three vital missions. If there is any consensus at all around the boat, it’s that it is not being utilized to its fullest.

At the last meeting of the Sitka assembly on January 14, administrator Mark Gorman suggested that his department heads had charted a new course for the ERV.

“And we are going to look at moving the vessel under the responsibility of the Harbor Department. And it will be dispatched and scheduled out of the Fire Department. And the rationale behind this is to allow better access to other departments the use of the vessel. In particular, Search and Rescue.”

Sitka Search and Rescue director Don Kluting has the numbers to support this idea. “In 2013 we had a total of 54 missions, and of those, 21 required the use of a vessel.”

21 missions is a lot, and no two missions are ever the same. SAR is on the water a lot more than you might think.

“For either transport to a remote location so we can do ground search, or out there providing mutual aid service to the Coast Guard: towing boats and rescuing vessels that are in distress.”

Kluting says that the fewest number of missions SAR has done on the water in any year in the last decade or so is 14. Whether by design or default, SAR has become the go-to organization for this kind of work.

And the boat they take is usually not the ERV.

“So at this point we’re using the Harbor Department boat. The harbormaster and his staff have been wonderful to work with. When the call comes in, we make one call to the on-duty harbor person or the harbormaster and get permission to utilize their vessel.”

Having that kind of ready-access for the Emergency Response Vessel is where Sitka’s administration wants to go. The harbor skiff is a 28-foot aluminum drop bow, with a partial cabin. Depending on ocean conditions, its use can be very limited. The ERV is 30-feet, and its manufacturer, SAFE Boat, is favored by the Coast Guard and other agencies. It’s rated for a sea state of “5,” which means 25-knot winds and 12-foot seas. It also can transport its crew and two patients in litters inside the fully-enclosed cabin.

The sticky part is the Homeland Security grant which purchased the ERV.

This is police chief Sheldon Schmitt talking to the assembly about it in 2008.

“The primary purpose for the boat has been law enforcement. It’s a Homeland Security boat. We’re not using it for patrol. We’ve gone out approximately 125 times with the boat in the two years that we’ve been tasked with maintaining and operating it.”

Schmitt told the assembly at the time that the Department of Homeland Security did not require the ERV to be housed within the Police Department — only that it be available to serve a law enforcement function. He also said that, of those 125 uses of the boat, only six had been for search and rescue.

In an interview with KCAW last week, Schmitt said he is in favor of the administration’s efforts to make the ERV more accessible by transferring it to the Harbor Department, but that law enforcement will have to remain involved at some level to satisfy the terms of the Homeland Security Grant.

“It’s worth trying,” he said.

Both Schmitt and Kluting acknowledge the important role of the Harbor Department in making headway on the problem. Maintaining the ERV is a considerable responsibility. Six of Search and Rescue’s 44-member team are trained boat operators, and they’ll have to do even more training to make this idea a reality. Kluting knows he’s not just being handed the keys.

“You just don’t jump in a boat and go.”

Administrator Mark Gorman told the assembly on January 14 that the transfer of the Emergency Response Vessel to harbors could take a couple of months.

Sea lion lunges at Sitka fisherman

Mon, 2014-01-27 18:47

Sea lions touch noses as one clambers onto a buoy in Sitka Sound. (CoastAlaska photo/ Ed Schoenfeld)

A 19 year old Sitka man had a run-in with a sea lion at Seafood Producers Cooperative on Saturday(1-25-14).

Alaska State Troopers say the man was sitting on the railing of a fishing vessel when a large bull pounced. The sea lion jumped out of the water and attempted to bite him — on the behind, causing the man to fall forward into the vessel.

The bitten man was a crew member on the Sitka-based Fishing Vessel Confidence, which was offloading bait herring at the time, according to State Troopers Spokesperson Megan Peters.

Julie Speegle, a spokesperson with the National Marine Fisheries Service says the man did not require medical attention.  “There were no puncture wounds, just abrasions,” she said.

According to Speegle, quote,  “it isn’t unheard of for big and powerful wild animals to habituate to humans, and see us as a food source.” Troopers do not believe that the crew was feeding sea lions, but, just to be safe, officials are reminding fisherman and hunters to dispose of waste properly, rather than dumping carcasses or scraps in the harbor.

Deserted Island dead(a)head

Mon, 2014-01-27 17:08

You may have seen Dan Gunn behind the counter at the Hames Center working as an Americorps Volunteer for the last six months. But you may not know that Dan is a deadhead and while he’s never seen The Grateful Dead perform live (owing to the fact that he was eight years old when Jerry Garcia passed away) he grew up listening to bootleg tapes and the music stirs his soul. Dan was the castaway on Deserted Island on the 24th of January, 2014. Here is a recording of the show, his list of 10 songs he would choose to have while stranded, perhaps forever, and the one dessert he would have with him, since it is after all a deserted island.

Talking Heads – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) – Remastered
Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky
Grateful Dead – Jack Straw – Live in Paris 1972 Remastered Version
Dispatch – Railway
The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??
Against Me! – Cavalier Eternal
Minus The Bear – Pachuca Sunrise (Alias Remix)
LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Mellow Mood
Grateful Dead – Shakedown Street [Live in San Francisco, December 31, 1984]

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

BROWNIE:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup salted butter, melted
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup mini- chocolate chips

COOKIE DOUGH (EGG FREE!):
**See Tips Below…**
3/4 cup salted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chips + 1 teaspoon shortening for drizzle, optional

Directions:
1. Prepare the brownies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick spray. In a medium glass bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in short bursts of 30 seconds; stir after each burst and remove from microwave when melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk those in too. Mix in melted chocolate. Whisk in the flour and mix just until combined (don’t over-mix). Stir in the chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Watch closely and remove from oven when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix in milk and vanilla. Mix in flour just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Spread cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is quite firm. It’s okay to speed up the process and place it in the freezer too. The firmer the dough, the easier it will be to cut into neat squares. Use a sharp knife to cut the brownies. You may need to wipe the knife off with a paper towel in between cuts since the fudgy brownies and cookie dough will tend to stick to the knife a bit. These brownies are best to serve placed inside cupcake papers and served with a fork.

4. If you’d like to add chocolate drizzle on top, melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon of shortening in the microwave; stir until smooth. Scoop the melted chocolate into a zip baggie and snip off the corner. Squeeze the bag to drizzle the chocolate on top of each brownie. Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top, if desired.

Tips:
*You’ll find that the cookie dough layer is quite sweet. If you’d like a thin layer of cookie dough, prepare the recipe as directed above. If you’d like a thicker layer of dough as pictured, use these ingredients for the dough instead of what is listed above:
1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups miniature chocolate chips

LGBT anti-discrimination bill gets new sponsor

Mon, 2014-01-27 15:17

Legislation to ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has a new sponsor in the House and companion bill in the Senate.

Former Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Juneau lawmaker who resigned Friday, introduced House Bill 139 during the 2013 session after a similar bill she introduced in 2011 never received a committee hearing. Kerttula announced her resignation Jan. 21, the first day of the 2014 session.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, has taken on sponsoring Kerttula’s bill.

read more

Comment period opens on Navy Draft EIS

Mon, 2014-01-27 14:44

The U.S. Navy is seeking comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that will update the Navy’s Northwest military training and testing activities, including the Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility in Behm Canal near Ketchikan.

SEAFAC is the Navy’s only West Coast facility that measures underwater sounds made by submarines. The purpose of the draft EIS is to update mission requirements to fit anticipated needs for the next five years.

According to Navy Spokeswoman Liane Nakahara, no significant changes are proposed for testing activities at SEAFAC. She said that a public meeting is scheduled this spring in Ketchikan to provide details about the Draft EIS.

“It will provide a really good overview if people don’t have time to read through the whole document. It’s pretty lengthy,” she said. “And people can show up, ask questions – we will have subject-matter experts there who can answer them. If they would like to leave a comment during that time, we will have an oral comment section as well as a comment box – people can write out their comments if they choose to. If not, they can take their notes home, think about it and either mail us a copy or go to our public website and submit comments via the comment form.”

The public meeting is March 11 at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, starting at 5 p.m. The comment period for the Draft EIS ends on March 25.

In addition to the online comment form, the full Draft EIS is available at nwtteis.com.

Local basket weaver in state fiber exhibit

Mon, 2014-01-27 14:24

Ketchikan artist Kathy Rousso was among the winners of a statewide juried art show, on display starting in February at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.

“Earth, Fire and Fibre” is a biennial exhibit sponsored by the Anchorage Museum that features pieces by artists who work with traditional craft materials, such as fiber, clay and bone.

According to the museum, more than 100 artists submitted more than 350 pieces for the exhibit. Forty-one were selected for the show, and only five of those received awards.

The top juror’s-choice prize went to Amy Meissner of Anchorage.

Rousso’s award-winning basket is called “All Worlds Intertwined.”  Other winners came from Seward, Auke Bay and Anchorage.

The show opened in October at the Anchorage Museum. The opening reception for the Juneau exhibit is Feb. 7th at the Alaska State Museum. It will remain on display there through Feb. 28th.

Resource fair for the homeless coming

Mon, 2014-01-27 13:18

Ketchikan Wellness Coalition, Love in Action, and First City Homeless Services Day Shelter are sponsoring a fair on February 1st to provide resources to homeless who might otherwise not be served.  Lisa Scarborough speaks about the air and opportunities available.  HomelessFair

Young-growth bike shelter aimed at inspiring old-growth preservation

Mon, 2014-01-27 11:07

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Sitka Conservation Society’s Conservation Solutions Director, Marjorie Hennessy and Executive Director, Andrew Thoms discuss a new young-growth bike shelter. The dedication ceremony is at 3 p.m. on Tuesday (1-28-14). Prior to the ceremony, assembly member Phyllis Hackett will lead a bike ride from totem square to the bike shelter at 2:45 p.m.

 

State of the Union Address 5pm today

Mon, 2014-01-27 10:41

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