Somewhere in Haines between downtown and Letnikof a brown postal package fell out of the back of...
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Southeast Alaska News
The international health community is celebrating the recent announcement by the United States and others to commit $12-billion to the Global Fund.
Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund has raised billions to treat three major killers in the developing world: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Any one of these diseases is a huge problem on its own. But because HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system, many people often get all three — at the same time.
KCAW’s Robert Woolsey recently met one such person, who traveled 12 time zones to share her story.
“My name is Joyce Kamwana. I come from Malawi, which is in the sub-Saharan region of Africa.”
Joyce Kamwana is an ambassador. But she’s not the kind of ambassador who rides around in a limo with flags on the fender.
“The reason I’m here is to basically give a face and a voice to HIV/AIDS.”
Joyce traveled to Sitka to speak our local RESULTS group in support of the Global Fund. The anti-retroviral therapy she received — that saved her life — was paid for through one of the first grants to Malawi by the Global Fund.
Joyce doesn’t want to impose her religious beliefs on anyone, but she feels God has given her a second lease on life — and she’s not going to waste the opportunity, even if it means bundling up like the “Michelin woman” and speaking to a reporter in another hemisphere of this planet, who may as well live on another planet.
“I look at this as my ministry. At the same time I look at what I went through: I was someone who had gone to college. I had a well-paying job in a managerial position as a bottom-line manager at a central bank. I went through thick and thin. I went through hell.”
Joyce learned she was HIV-positive in 1988 when she was 25 years old. She had two children, and the one still breast feeding also tested positive. So did her husband. In Malawi, Joyce says, people were quick to judge.
“If somebody was HIV-positive people tend to think that you are someone of loose morals. You got it because you were promiscuous and what have you. But when I got it, I was married. I was infected on my marital bed.”
Three years later her husband developed full-blown AIDS and died.
Joyce says he died in ignorance. She does not know where he contracted the virus, but she believes that — had he known he was exposing his family to the disease through his behavior — he would have taken measures.
“And that has taught me to forgive. Not to hold a grudge against him. He died in 1991 and I’m still here to share this story.”
Her story is painful to recount. Although her husband’s behavior infected her, she was stigmatized. She lost her job at the bank. Her immune system deteriorated, and she contracted tuberculosis. Malaria, which she had fought continuously since childhood, got the upper hand.
“I literally stared death in the eye. I got very sick to the point that I would fear I was dying. I remember on several occasions when I was whisked to hospital I would hug my children and start crying, Lord, I don’t want to die because I don’t want to leave my children very young. I still have responsibilities to look after them because their father was already gone.”
She had two bouts with tuberculosis and malaria. Each would leave her seriously weakened, and unable to walk more than a few steps without resting. A simple task like lifting a pail of water was impossible — for months at a time.
Despite the social stigma, Joyce decided to be open about HIV, and joined a support group. There she learned about anti-retroviral therapy, and programs offered in Malawi sponsored by the Global Fund.
When she recovered, Joyce met friends — even family members — who told her they were sure that they would hear news of her demise any day. Joyce says that was not an uncommon attitude in Malawi: HIV is a death sentence, and you probably are getting what you deserve.
That angered her a little, because she believes death is God’s call, and no one else’s.
“That probably drove me into doing what I do now. Because I feel there are people who also need support. Somebody to talk to. Somebody to encourage them. To say, You know what? Testing HIV-positive is not the end of life. It’s actually the beginning of a new life. And I do that quite a lot: Giving hope to others.”
Joyce Kamwana is fifty years old, and happy. What I can see of her face beneath the wool scarves and hat seems to radiate joy at the prospect of giving yet another interview about her nightmare of HIV. When I ask her why, she says, “I never thought I would live this long.”
Father James Blaney, who had served as a pastor in Catholic Churches throughout Southeast Alaska for over twenty-five years, died last Wednesday, December 4, in Sitka. He was 76. The cause of death was cancer, according to family members.
Blaney had served as the pastor of St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Sitka since 2011. Before that, he served in virtually every parish and mission in Southeast Alaska, including 12 years as the pastor of St. John’s-by-the-Sea Parish in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island; and time in Haines, Skagway, Hoonah, Petersburg, and Wrangell.
Blaney was described by friends and family as a life-long outdoorsman who loved Alaska.
“When he came to Alaska, he said, you know, I’ve come to heaven without having to die first,” said his younger sister, Mary Johnson, of Port Orchard, Washington. “He just loved it here. Always wanted to be in Alaska.”
Father Peter Gorges of Sitka and Father Pat Casey of Juneau remembered a man who could – and would – talk to anyone.
“He was always good company,” Gorges said. “He would talk to anything that moved.”
“I think one of the unique things about him as a missionary Oblate, is that he was able to reach and talk to the most marginalized people,” Casey said.
Blaney made a point of joining the volunteer fire departments in the communities where he served, Gorges said. In Sitka, he was a part of the Coast Guard auxiliary. When a local food pantry was overwhelmed, he started a Saturday lunch for Sitka’s homeless in the church basement.
“He called them, ‘my guys,’” Gorges said.
A procession to the funeral mass was to be held on Tuesday, December 10, in Sitka, weather permitting, from St. Gregory’s Church to Harrigan Centennial Hall. Blaney will be buried on Thursday at the home of his order, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in Tewkesbury, Massachusetts.
Some Ketchikan residents were without water service until Monday afternoon following a water main break at the intersection of Baranof Avenue and Hill Road.
A segment of Baranof between Tower and Buren was closed while crews worked to fix the line.
Cast iron has been used for water pipes for hundreds of years, and it’s pretty durable. According to Ketchikan Public Utilities Water Division Manager John Kleinegger, if it’s properly installed and supported, it has an indefinite life span.
“There’s some cast iron in service in France that’s over 300 years old, (but) if it’s not properly supported, and through the years if the supporting material around the pipe settles in one place but doesn’t in another, that puts extra strain on the pipe,” he said. “When it gets to a certain point, it just snaps.”
That’s what happened on Baranof. The ground supporting that cast iron water main settled unevenly over the past 50 years, pressure built up, and it broke.
If all this sounds a little familiar, it’s because this issue has been in the news before.
“We probably have this discussion at least once or twice a year,” Kleinegger said.
And it will be in the news again in the future.
“Unfortunately, we probably have close to six miles of cast iron pipe still in service,” he said. “Ultimately, there will be future failures until we get rid of all of it.”
So far, Baranof isn’t at the top of the list for replacement, but Kleinegger said it might jump ahead of other projects if more failures take place.
While the broken section of pipe on Baranof has been replaced, and water is flowing to homes, there’s still a big hole in the street.
As crews finished up work on the pipe replacement, KPU Water Division Foreman David Johnston pointed out one end of the hole, which tunnels under the street. Daylight is visible from the other end.
“This whole thing was undermined,” he said, and the city had to block traffic.
Simply stated, water gushing from the broken pipe washed away all of the fill from under the street, leaving a potentially dangerous gap beneath the seemingly sturdy pavement.
It might take a couple of days before the street is again safe for vehicles.
And that replacement section of pipe is made of ductile iron, which Kleinegger said will not break.
We asked, and 101 of you answered.
Between November 25th and December 9th, we have collected responses to our Programming Survey. Please find the results below, and if you haven’t contributed to the survey yet, you can still find it here.
Thank you to everyone who participated!
The Ketchikan City Council meets in special session Monday to continue its ongoing discussion of next year’s budget, and to appoint a new Council member.
Elected Council Member Sam Bergeron resigned his position recently because of a work conflict. When a Council member resigns in the middle of a term, those remaining on the Council appoint a temporary replacement who fills the seat until the next regular election.
The city advertised for applicants interested in filling the seat for the next year, and five people filed for the job. They are former Council Member Dick Coose, who lost his bid for re-election in October; Ty Rettke, who works for the city and would have to resign his job if selected; Dale “Mickey” Robbins, who operates a bed-and-breakfast and a fishing charter business; Jacquie Meck, a local business owner who is involved in numerous organizations; and Russell Wodehouse, who grew up here and recently moved back to Ketchikan.
The Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
A decade ago, when Les and Evy Kinnear proposed creating a bear rescue center from the remains of Sitka’s decommissioned pulp mill, the plan raised some local hackles. Ten years later, the Fortress of the Bear is home to five brown bears and two new black bear cubs — and it’s about to embark on a major expansion, building a black bear enclosure this winter. Along the way, it has converted some skeptics, including local biologist Phil Mooney. But it still has a ways to go to fulfill the Kinnears’ ambitious vision.
Les Kinnear may sound like he’s talking to a toddler…
KINNEAR Put your foot here. Foot! Balloo, foot! Foot! You’re not paying attention.
But Balloo is an 800 pound brown bear.
KINNEAR No? OK. [Laughs]
Kinnear runs Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear with his wife, Evy. He’s standing nose to snout with Balloo, a four-year-old, seven-foot-tall brown bear, separated by only a couple inches and a metal grate door.
Kinnear was a hunting guide for years, hunting bears along with other big game. Now, he and his wife care for seven bears in the remains of Sitka’s old pulp mill. The bears were all orphaned as cubs, and would otherwise have been euthanized. Asked why he started the Fortress, Kinnear says, “Well, all you gotta do is have one of those little bears sit there and lick you on the hand, and you know the answer to that one. That’s simple.”
The two giant clarifying tanks from the old pulp mill have been converted into bear pens, with high concrete walls.
WALDHOLZ It has kind of a post-apocalyptic feel in here.
KINNEAR [Laughs] Yes, it does.
It’s not just the bear pens. All the facility’s buildings were salvaged from the pulp mill or hauled over second-hand. Everything is rusty. There are piles of tires, sacks of supplies. A flock of assorted poultry roams around. It’s a scrappy operation.
When the Fortress was first proposed, a lot of Sitkans weren’t thrilled. Phil Mooney is the area wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Game.
“We have one of the highest known density of brown bears in the world. In the world!” Mooney said. “So people were saying, why would you put a zoo here? It’s a good question.”
Mooney was skeptical at first. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Letters went to the governor,” he said. “It was pretty divisive in the beginning. There was a big campaign to keep our bears wild, that people come here to see wild bears, not zoo bears. There was a lot of very strong emotional response.”
But Mooney has since changed his mind. He remembers a delegation visiting from the Bronx Zoo. One of the women kept saying how impressed she was with the facility.
“[And] I’m like, OK, I’m missing something,” Mooney said. “And she turned to me and said, you’re missing it because you’re thinking about this facility as a person. You have issues with the aesthetics of it. The bears don’t care about the aesthetics. They care that they have three quarters of an acre in there and they can dig, and do anything they want, like a real bear would.”
But what really made Mooney a believer was when the Kinnears invited Sitka’s third- through fifth-graders out to the Fortress. The Kinnears pitched two tents in the bear enclosure. Inside each was a sleeping bag with a hot dog in the bottom.
“And the bears ran straight over to the tents, slit them open, pulled the sleeping bags out, ripped the hotdog out, held the hotdog up and showed the kids,” Mooney said. “And the kids were like, I’m never taking food in my tent again!”
Mooney was impressed. He spends a lot of his time on bear education, trying to train people to avoid the kinds of interactions that lead to dead bears and orphaned cubs – in other words, the kind of situations that brought these bears to the Fortress in the first place.
KINNEAR This is Killisnoo. If you hold the mic up here you can probably hear him breathe. [breathing]
Killisnoo was the Fortress’s first bear. Mooney captured him as a cub in the summer of 2007, after his mother was shot trying to enter a lodge near Angoon.
“He was malnourished, dehydrated, terrified, traumatized,” Kinnear said. “He had all the hair burned off his front paws clear to the shoulders, a belly full of tapeworms, a mouth full of broken teeth.”
“We started working with him right here in this training room, and by the second day we could hand-feed him.”
Kinnear says he understands why some folks object to the idea of the Fortress – in an ideal world, brown bears shouldn’t live in old clarifying tanks. His grand vision for the Fortress is much more ambitious. He wants to expand the habitats and eventually start rehabilitating bear cubs to return to the wild. This has been done in British Columbia and the lower 48, but isn’t permitted in Alaska.
“We aren’t going to save a lot of bears,” Kinnear said. “We’ve only done a dozen in the last ten years. Some of the other places around the country where they process and release, they’re into the hundreds!”
Mooney says releasing bears isn’t likely any time soon. But he says the Fortress has a role even without that: He thinks these bears in captivity might turn out to be some of his best tools for keeping the rest of Sitka’s bears wild.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear: 10 years later. SE halibut fishermen could see small increase in 2014 quota. Petersburg to use Sitka as model for city/hospital relationships.
Author C.B. Bernard will be at the Ketchikan Public Library Wednesday at 6:00 pm to present his book, “Chasing Alaska: A portrait of The Last Frontier then and now.” He speaks about his book on Morning Edition. (note that there are conflicting times posted around town. Show up by 6:00 to be safe). Bernard
Southeast Alaska commercial salmon trollers, hatchery organizations, businesses and municipalities have their last shot this winter at millions of federal dollars meant to make up for a lower king salmon limit in the region. The Southeast Alaska Chinook Salmon Fishery Mitigation program is expected to have paid out over 13 million dollars by the time it’s finished in 2015. The money has been doled out in direct payments to the commercial troll fleet and has also funded improvements to hatchery programs and sport fishing projects.
For mobile-friendly audio, click here:
The 2009 Pacific Salmon Treaty agreement with Canada resulted in a 15 percent cut to the king salmon catch in Southeast. Along with that reduction came federal appropriations of over 14 and a half million dollars. The state of Alaska created a Chinook salmon fishery mitigation program to spend that money.
“It was recognized that the primary impact of these reductions was going to be onto the hook and line fisheries in Southeast and to the industries and the communities that are affected by those fisheries,” said Gordy Williams, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s program coordinator. “And that’s where these funds have been targeted.”
The state formed a stakeholder advisory group to makes recommendations on spending the money in three different areas. Williams said one use of the money has been direct payments to commercial permit holders. “The commercial trollers have the most one to one direct impact of this reduction in their summer fishery is where the largest amount of this 15 percent reduction is felt. So providing some compensation to those trollers for the reduced amount of fish that they harvested in that summer season was recommended and approved by the state and its gone forward.”
Payments to fishermen will total about $6 million by the time the program wraps up next year. Amounts vary depending on whether a permit holder has fished in recent years and the pounds caught during those years. The latest application period for direct payments closed in early December.
Williams said another use of the money has been hatchery enhancement projects, primarily for king and coho salmon rearing and releases. “To provide some extra opportunity it’s included some hatchery upgrades and infrastructure, some additional production, development of some remote release sites, especially to aid the sport fishery to put some opportunity into different areas. So it’s been a suite of projects.”
Once it finishes up, that part of the program will total around $3 million in enhancement projects. In the Petersburg area, the money has helped fund a heat exchanger for the king and coho hatchery at Crystal Lake on southern Mitkof Island. It’s also financing a new remote release of Crystal Lake kings near City Creek that’s scheduled to start in 2014. Elsewhere, its paid for rearing capacity expansion, heaters, filters and water supply upgrades for hatchery programs around Southeast.
Another round of grants for enhancement is planned in 2014 and the application period for that program is open until early January. That’s also the case for another grant program funded by the mitigation money. About five million dollars is going to infrastructure projects proposed by municipalities, companies and fishing businesses.
“There’s been work done on providing additional ice for sport and commercial boats in the region, been some infrastructure for helping with unloading and handling fish,” said Williams. “There’s been some efforts put into fuel availability and there’s been a fair amount put into recognizing issues with the fish waste in the sport fisheries in the harbors. I know Petersburg and Sitka have used some of the funds to look at those issues.”
In Petersburg, one grant will pay for a new fish cleaning float that the borough plans to install in South Harbor. Petersburg’s borough assembly voted to spend some of the 225-thousand dollar grant for design work on that new float this month. Another grant of 45-thousand dollars goes to the Petersburg borough for a troller work float in the harbor.
And the Petersburg seafood processing company Tonka Seafoods also plans to offer a fish cleaning station for the sport fishing fleet next year at Tonka’s new location, about a mile south of Petersburg. The company won a grant of nearly 300-thousand dollars for the work.
“The plan is to remodel an existing float system we have here on the south side of the building,” said Tonka’s Seth Scrimsher. ‘And we’re going to turn that into a fish cleaning station complete with a grinder to disburse the waste out into the Narrows there.”
Scrimsher hopes that grinding up and discarding the fish waste away from Petersburg’s harbors could help with problem sea lions plaguing harbor users. The local sport fishing fleet will also have a new spot to get ice for their catch at Tonka’s planned float. Scrimsher said Tonka plans to start work on that float in the spring. Tonka also won a grant to expand its troll buying.
Around the region, infrastructure grants have paid for ice machines, freezing and processing equipment for fishing boats and processing companies. Other examples are a fuel line extension in Yakutat along with fuel tanks and a hoist for the fish buying station at the wooden wheel trading post in Port Protection on northern Prince of Wales.
The application period is still open for both salmon enhancement and infrastructure grants but closes in early January. That will be the final round of grants under the program.
For more information on the mitigation program and the projects funded, click here:
Here are links to the open grant application periods with the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development for infrastructure grants or hatchery enhancement grants.
KFSK has an open airwaves policy. We encourage the public to express opinions, ideas and creative works. The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of KFSK. The following was submitted for broadcast by Jim Demko:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here:
FAIRBANKS — Dressed in a pair of black Carhartt bibs and sporting long, white hair past his shoulders with a bushy white beard and tattoo-covered arms, Thomas McGee doesn’t fit the mold of your prototypical driving instructor.
But sit in the back seat of his Chevy Cobalt and listen to McGee teach a young driver the rules of the road and there’s no mistaking he’s good at his job.
ANCHORAGE — A disease has killed hundreds of seabirds on an island in the Bering Sea — the first documented outbreak in the state.
Avian cholera is to blame for the birds found dead on the beaches of St. Lawrence Island, 200 miles from the mainland, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The disease is common elsewhere, including in California, Nevada and Texas, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks residents are preparing for a bout of freezing rain.
A National Weather Service special statement says rain was expected to hit the Interior city by about 7 p.m. Friday.
Meteorologist Cary Freeman tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the precipitation is not expected to be as damaging as a storm last month but could cause problems such as icy roads.
KODIAK — A 46-year-old Kodiak man convicted of two counts of sexually abusing girls has been sentenced to 22 years in prison.
The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports Ah Limchantha was sentenced to 40 years in prison with 26 years suspended in one case and 30 years in prison with 22 years suspended in the second case.
Limchantha will serve the terms consecutively.
JUNEAU — The state has denied a recall effort against state Rep. Lindsey Holmes, with the attorney general’s office finding her decision to switch party affiliations doesn’t amount to a “lack of fitness” for the job.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell is scheduled to unveil his budget proposal at a chamber event in Anchorage on Thursday.
Parnell is slated to discuss his 2015 budget plan at an Anchorage Chamber of Commerce event at the Dena’ina Convention Center.
Parnell has already said he wants to see spending well below current levels with revenues expected to be sharply lower compared to last year.
FAIRBANKS — Col. Sidney Zemp has taken over as commander at Fort Wainwright, Interior Alaska’s largest military installation.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that Zemp is new to Alaska and this will be his first time serving as a garrison commander. His duties include overseeing the services and training space used by 14,000 soldiers, civilians and military families.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska state flags are set to be lowered next week in memory of former Fairbanks state Rep. Niilo Koponen, who died Tuesday at the Fairbanks Pioneers Home.
Koponen was 85 years old.
Gov. Sean Parnell issued the order for state flags to be lowered Wednesday in Koponen’s memory.
FAIRBANKS — Several state and federal grants that pay for 10 percent of Fairbanks police force are set to expire in 2014.
The News-Miner reports that for three of the jobs — two traffic officers and a drug investigator — there’s a “very high chance” that funding will be renewed next year.
FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ ice climbing tower opened for its second winter this week and the ice-making operation has gone smoother this year than it did last, both in terms of quality of ice and the production process.
“The ice has formed up to resemble more what a real waterfall would be; it’s more vertical this year,” Sam Braband, outdoor facilities manager for UAF’s Department of Recreation, Adventure and Wellness, said earlier this week.
Climbers got their first whack at this year’s ice when part of the wall opened on Wednesday.