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Southeast Alaska News
A bill requiring the state to create a rapid response and management plan to deal with invasive aquatic species moved out of the House Fisheries Committee Tuesday and will now come before the House Resources Committee.
House Bill 89, introduced by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would authorize the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to control or eradicate invasive species in Alaskan waters, following the plan it would craft in conjunction with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and other entities.
A planned mine on Prince of Wales Island was the subject of this Tuesday’s “Lunch and Learn,” a lunchtime meeting hosted by the House Resources Committee featuring presentations from industry representatives and others on topics of interest to committee legislators.
Ken Collison, chief operating officer for Nova Scotia-based Ucore Rare Metals Inc., talked about his company’s plans to mine for rare earth metals at Bokan Mountain on Prince of Wales Island, along the shores of Kendrick Bay and a short distance from a derelict uranium mine.
Waterfront vistas, fishing boats, crew, and freshly-landed catches feature prominently among the top images from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Fishing Families Photo Contest. The organization announced the winning photo’s at the end of January.
One of them shows a troller headed out of Petersburg’s harbor past Icicle Seafoods with the coastal range and the peak of devils thumb in the background. Petersburg resident Carey case snapped the picture this fall while on her way out to a cabin with her daughter and friends. She was using a point and shoot Nikon:
“It was a beautiful day in October and we were getting popcorn at the fuel dock and I turned around and said ‘Oh Wow! The harbor sure looks nice this morning.’ So, I took a few pictures and I thought it would really be nice if a boat would come along here and that would make it perfect and out came the Viennese from the harbor. So, I snapped a couple shots and I let the owner know ‘Hey I took this picture that I’d like to throw into a contest’ and they were very excited about it and away I went.”
Case’s snapshot won Best Scenic Photo which was one of six categories. Other winners included Sitka’s Rafe Hanson for best boat photo, Kyle Pattison of Springdale, Pennsylvania for best fish, Amanda Johnston in the Humor category, Amy Grannum for best family picture, And Peter Thompson of Kodiak for best action shot.
This was the first time the organization has held the contest. The response was overwhelming according to ASMI communications director Tyson Fick, who said there were close to six hundred entries for judges to consider:
“Well, we looked for a lot of things; the quality of the composition and the colors. Then we have a special eye that, you know, at the end of the day we’re talking about somebody’s dinner so what might be an interesting photo in some other venues weren’t quite what we were looking for but we sure got a lot of good ones”
The winner of each category received an apple Ipad. Runners-up received duffel bags and sweatshirts. ASMI will use the images in its marketing efforts around the world. To see all the winning images and the runners up, you can check out ASMI’s contest website.
A regional electrical provider is soliciting proposals for new energy projects. The Southeast Alaska Power Agency has put out a “request for offers of power” in an effort to eventually tie more electricity into the grid that currently serves Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan. SEAPA explained the effort during a regional energy meeting in Petersburg this month (2/06). Matt Lichtenstein filed this report for part two of our coverage of that gathering.
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
As demand for electricity grows in in the region, the Southeast Power Agency is working on several initiatives aimed at increasing the supply of hydro-power and other alternatives to diesel generation. One of SEAPA’s most recent efforts is called a “Request for Offers of Power and Energy”. It’s basically a call-out to any public or private energy developers who are interested building new projects and selling electricity to SEAPA.
“It does a few things I think are very important,” said SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson. During a regional energy meeting in Petersburg this month, Acteson explained the request for offers to a group of about thirty Southeast municipal leaders and other officials.
“First of all, it kind of helps address the concern that the current power sales agreement in our area is a detriment to new hydro-development. Basically, it provides a mechanism for all people to all people to propose to selling into our system.”
SEAPA operates under a long-term power sales agreement with the three municipalities that created the agency. Under that agreement, the power from SEAPA’s two hydro plants and other infrastructure is dedicated to the public utilities in Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan at a firm wholesale rate. That’s resulted in some of the cheapest hydro-electric power in the state.
According to Acteson, the request for offers is not limited to hydro-power:
“I think we may even see, it may propose some new options we really haven’t fully considered yet such as biomass. I’ve already had people approach me for biomass that have basically an unlimited source of fuel and have a potential location right under the intertie. So, there are things out there that are outside of just hydro as well. The RFO opens the door to that.”
Acteson explained that the RFO has options for smaller-scale offers of energy as well proposals for developing a major project in partnership with SEAPA:
“Maybe they’ve got a project and they’ve got a preliminary license or they bring some type of value to developing some type of a resource and they can bring that forward ans we’ll look at that. Maybe that makes sense. So, options 1,2, and 3 are kind of short, mid-term options and option four could be a long-term, bigger project.” :21
Acteson emphasized that hydro-development takes many years. So, he said people need to consider how best to use their current resources including diesel generation:
“Diesel’s going to be our transition fuel to get to the next increment of hydro and as mentioned, it’s OK to burn a little diesel. I know everybody doesn’t want to burn any diesel but the fact is, we are going to burn diesel and how can we best manage that with the resources that we have and the resources that we’re trying to implement.”
As for choosing a new hydro site, Acteson urged caution, saying there were good reasons why some proposed projects have not been developed.
“So, when somebody says ‘Oh wow! This license came up. We should go get it!” Well, I just think that should be a very measured approach and people need to think really hard (about) why wasn’t that project successful the first several years that somebody was trying to develop it. And perhaps is there a different approach. Is there something we can do different? Was it designed wrong? Was it a funding issue? Was it the wrong size? Was it the revenue base? There are just so many things that you have to consider.”
The legislature has provided three-million dollars to help SEAPA pursue several initiatives. More than half will help fund the gathering of stream and weather data to evaluate potential hydro-development sites in central and southern southeast. That will include field work as well as the use of existing data.
Eric Wolfe is SEAPA’s Director of Special Projects:
“We’re going to look at every site in the next five years that we can get a permit for that we’ve already vetted on an economic basis that takes the extended system from Metlakatla to Kake. Now, some of them don’t need much work. Some of them need a lot”
Wolfe listed some of the sites SEAPA plans to look at such as Ruth Lake and Cascade Creek at Thomas Bay near Petersburg and Virginia lake near Wrangell, among others.
The Alaska Energy Authority has endorsed SEAPA’s efforts to seek out new sources of power and Deputy Director Gene Therriault said he was glad to see them go forward.
However, he cautioned that new projects will likely need to pay for themselves over time because the state’s ability to give away grant funds, as opposed to loans, is diminishing.
“The days of just 100 percent state grants and, you know, just keep going back to the trough. They may be coming to a close and it’s not just because the shift in the legislature and your elected officials are not in the key positions. Money’s getting tighter. Throughput in the pipeline is going down. And so that’s all part of the future.”
SEAPA is governed by a board of directors with representatives from Petersburg, Ketchikan and Wrangell. The request for offers of power can be viewed online at SEAPA’s website.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Levi Eggerton is hoping to start the first Alaska chapter of the Mule Deer and Blacktail Foundation in Sitka. The Foundation will be holding a banquet this Saturday (5PM Sat Feb 16, Harrigan Centennial Hall, tickets $60 ea./or $85 per couple). Eggerton, along with the Sitka Conservation Society’s Scott Harris, discuss the project.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Troopers decline to name cause of death in homicide of Kake 13-year-old. Assembly meets over weekend, offers municipal attorney job to Wasilla lawyer. Speaker’s office accidently distributes “crock of s–t” reply to Valdez LNG proposal. Yakutat to explore wave-energy converters.
Joann Flora from Big Brothers Big Sisters joined us to talk about free hotdogs and bowling, coming up in February and March. bigbrothersbigsisters2122013
Legislators from Southeast Alaska reacted cautiously Monday to minority Democrats’ introduction of an oil production tax reform proposal competing with Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s legislation, with most saying they have yet to read and form an opinion on the plan.
Democrats introduced bills in the House of Representatives and Senate Monday morning that they said provide an “alternative” to Parnell’s proposal. No cosponsors from the majority caucus in either chamber have signed on yet.
Governor Sean Parnell’s cruise ship wastewater legislation was introduced on the Senate floor Monday morning. Senate Majority Leader John Coghill R-North Pole asked to have the bill held at second reading until the next floor session.
While Juneau’s Democratic and Republican Legislative delegates may disagree on their support of Parnell’s wastewater bill, they agree that pushing back a deadline to meet water quality criteria “at the point of discharge” to 2020 is preferable to the elimination of those five important words.
After advancing out of the Senate Special Committee on Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Throughput last Thursday, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s legislation to reform Alaska’s oil production tax regime was heard for the first time Monday in both the Senate Resources Committee and its House counterpart.
Parnell’s bill, numbered in the Senate as Senate Bill 21, would remove progressivity from the tax structure, leaving a base 25 percent rate in place, and rework tax credits offered by the state to oil producers, eliminating some and restructuring others.
JUNEAU — A bill introduced Monday in the Alaska Senate would define “medically necessary” abortions as those needed to avoid serious risk to a woman’s life or physical health.
JUNEAU — Since taking office in 2009, Gov. Sean Parnell has made strengthening public safety in rural Alaska a priority, particularly as he seeks to crack down on domestic violence and sexual assault.
But being a village public safety officer is a tough job, and the turnover rate is high — 29 percent last fiscal year, nearly six times more than Alaska State Troopers, according to one estimate.
ANCHORAGE — A $2.5-million federal research vessel that sank while docked in Kodiak likely will not be repaired because of the high expense, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell’s crime bill is raising legal concerns.
The bill, HB73 in the House and SB22 in the Senate, would allow investigators to intercept private communications in sex trafficking cases and strengthen sentencing laws in child pornography and sex trafficking cases. It also would allow judges to order GPS tracking of people with protective orders against them. It is a continuation of the Parnell administration’s effort to crack down on domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Sitka High School Drama, Debate and Forensics team is off to the state tournament this weekend.
On Monday, they gathered at Raven Radio to hold a public forum debate live on the air, similar to the way they’ll compete in Anchorage. The students debate the merits of a resolution chosen well in advance. February’s resolution reads:
Resolved: On balance, the rise of China is beneficial to the interests of the United States.
They must prepare arguments on both sides, learning only moments before (by virtue of a coin toss) who will argue in favor and who will argue against the resolution.
We’ve included audio below. Part 1 is a brief introduction and the first part of the debate. The arguments continue in Part 2, followed by interviews with the judges and the team members. Each part is about 30 minutes long.
The FDA is considering approving genetically engineered, or GE, salmon to be sold in the U.S. It has sparked renewed protests by opponents of genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s. Sen. Mark Begich on Thursday introduced two bills in the US Senate that would ban these new salmon. Sitka held a demonstration at Crescent Harbor on Saturday.
About 100 people rallied in Sitka to protest what they see as the first step in introducing scientifically modified animals into the American diet. For Southeast Alaska, it’s especially worrisome because the area depends largely on fishing for its livelihood.
Lance Preston owns and operates a boat called, “The Sea Boy” in Sitka. He’s made a living as a fisherman since 1993 and says these new fish could bankrupt Alaska.
Commercial fishing is the number one employee in the entire state,” said Preston, “and the vast majority of those jobs are salmon jobs, so it’s really the economic engine of the state. It’s a big deal. You know, it could put the state out of business. You’ll watch the population decline and suffer.”
Nicknamed “frankenfish” by critics, this new fish is an Atlantic salmon developed with an added growth hormone from a Pacific Chinook salmon and a gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that activates the growth hormone. While a natural Atlantic salmon reaches 28-30 inches long and 8-12 pounds after two years at sea, the new GE salmon will reach that in half the time.
Protesters Saturday said they’re worried the genetically engineered salmon could escape aquatic farms and crossbreed with wild fish.
The company behind developing this new hybrid is called AquaBounty. It’s a biotech company in Massachusetts that formed in 1991 and has spent nearly $70 million since it started. It claims that the fish are not a threat to wild stocks, and that the genetic modifications are no greater than changes that occur naturally in species.
UPDATE: 2/13/2013 — The FDA has decided to extend the comment period through April 26.
During the dark months of the year, there are numerous activities in Ketchikan to help residents ward off the winter blues. Square dancing has become a regular and popular event for locals.
Each month throughout the year, a bunch of square-minded folk get together in Ketchikan.
The Free Radicals plays old-time dance tunes, and a live caller tells everyone how to move.
Well, the caller tries to tell them what to do; they don’t always listen. It’s square dancing, Ketchikan style.
Most of the time, the caller is longtime resident, artist and art teacher Halli Kenoyer, although she’s happy to share the spotlight if anyone wants to fill in.
She walks the dancers through each dance before the music begins.
The monthly dance isn’t just square dancing. There are circle dances and the occasional waltz. And the night just isn’t complete until the Virginia Reel.
Kenoyer tried to explain the appeal of old-time square dancing. She said it’s a community effort, and it brings out the child in everyone who comes out to play.
“I go home and my mouth is sore. What can I say? I guess maybe I’m not smiling enough the rest of the week?” she said.
You can check the Alaska Square Dance page on Facebook for upcoming dances.
An interesting discussion item is on the Ketchikan School Board agenda for Wednesday: new public boarding schools in Alaska.
The state Department of Education and Early Development is taking applications from public school districts that want to operate boarding schools. Those schools can take students from anywhere in Alaska. Through a state program, school districts receive money to help pay for room and board.
For the current application period, a qualifying district must be ready to offer a residential high school program by this coming fall.
There are three approved public boarding schools already operating in Alaska: Sitka’s Mount Edgecumbe High School; Bethel Alternative Boarding School; and the Nenana Student Living Center.
The board also will vote Wednesday on whether to approve tenured-teacher contracts.
Also on the agenda is a motion to approve recommendations from the Indian Policy and Procedures Committee. The recommendations call for the superintendent to meet quarterly with local Native officials. They also call for an increase in the amount of Alaska Native culture taught in the schools; cultural training for school staff; regular discussion of Native education by the School Board; and research into different instruction methods for Native children.
The School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.