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Southeast Alaska News
Besides hosting a weekly show, Freda recorded regular commentaries for KCAW. Her last, from the autumn of 2011, is here.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Although her topic changed regularly, from the war in Iraq to corporate personhood, her theme was consistent: This nation and its leaders are only as good as the outcomes they produce; all the chest-thumping in the world can not help a single-mother living in poverty, or immunize a child.
But her outrage at injustice and criticism of politics were tempered by an all-out joy in just about everything else. She doled it out liberally, like candy at a parade. Joy made her fearless, and makes her absence easier to bear.
JUNEAU – The Blue Lake dam expansion in Sitka is one of the biggest public works projects in that city’s history. And it went over-budget — to the tune of nearly $40 million dollars — the day construction bids were opened last summer.
In any other session, Sitka might have looked to a powerful local senator, and a state surplus to make up the difference. But Sen. Bert Stedman lost the chairmanship of the Finance Committee, and the governor decided that this is the year to cut the state’s spending on public works projects by more than a third.
Observers are not optimistic that big-ticket items will be funded. Still, Sitka officials walked the hallways in Juneau this week, figuring they might as well try.
Just after 9 a.m., Sitka Assembly member Phyllis Hackett walks up to the Alaska Capitol.
“I feel like I’m heading to a funeral,” she joked. “All in black, that is.”
That’s a statement about her business suit, not a prediction for the task ahead.
“Oh, my gosh, no. Are you kidding me?” Hackett said. “I’m way too optimistic for that.”
Hackett is with Mayor Mim McConnell, municipal Administrator Jim Dinley and government relations Director Marlene Campbell.
They’re on their way to see Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. He’s the first of many meetings that day, and they’re among 100 local officials from across the state are doing the exact same thing on this rainy Thursday, at the end of the Alaska Municipal League’s winter conference. During the meetings, each tries to convince a lawmaker why their own community’s needs should take priority.
Haines Mayor Stephanie Scott is among them. She described a meeting with Treadwell on Wednesday.
“And I said to him, ‘Lieutenant Governor, I live on the only toll road in Alaska, and it’s called the Inside Passage. And we need a vessel to drive on that road,” Scott said.
Her priority on this trip is the Alaska Class Ferry. Plans for a 350-foot vessel were unexpectedly changed by Gov. Sean Parnell, who opted instead for two smaller vessels. But these visits are about a bigger picture, too.
“The representatives and senators need to know that they’re not operating in a vacuum,” said Scott, who also is a board member for the Municipal League. “Their constituencies are out there, thinking and learning and questioning and suggesting, so that it really is a process — a democratic process.”
Sitka’s priority on this trip is to get funding for the Blue Lake dam. The city is raising the height of the dam by 83 feet. Bids for construction came in way above engineers estimates — nearly double the cost, in fact. That’s left the city scrambling for money.
Hackett is sitting in a chair outside the office of state Rep. Cathy Muñoz, a Juneau Republican.
“Cathy Muñoz is the only representative from Southeast on the finance committee,” Hackett said. “So it’s really good to hear one of her staffers say she wants to meet with everybody from Southeast.”
Hackett said the day was “a little intimidating” at the beginning, but that she’s getting comfortable meeting with state lawmakers. This is Hackett’s first trip to lobby on behalf of the city.
“You hear all these things about how you’re supposed to talk to people, and what you’re supposed to say, and what you’re not supposed to say,” she said. “I’m pretty homegrown for that.”
Still, she says the meetings have gone well, and that legislators have been receptive to at least hearing about Blue Lake.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re going to be getting assistance this year, because times are tough at the state,” she said. “But at least there hasn’t been anybody closing the door in our face, or yawning while we’re talking.”
So far, the state has kicked in nearly $50 million for Blue Lake — about half the initial cost of the project. Half of the city’s current request would be about $20 million.
“The chances of getting $20 million in this year’s capital budget is near zero,” said state Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.
He’s sitting in a rocking chair at the end of a conference table in his office. And he says there are a few factors working against Blue Lake: The capital budget, which funds one-time projects, is going to be smaller this year. Legislators also aren’t very likely to advocate for a big-ticket project that could take money out of their own districts. But even within a district, the competition for money is fierce. Stedman taps on a nearby notebook with all of the capital budget requests for his Senate District.
“It’s what, a 2-and-a-half inch binder? That’s got to be a good two inches of paper,” he says. “Each sheet is a separate project. I haven’t totaled them up, but there are 23 communities in our Senate district. We’re one of 20 Senate districts.”
Still Stedman says it’s not a pointless trip for the Sitkans, or other local officials who hope to help their communities. Even if Blue Lake doesn’t get much money this year, energy is a huge concern across the entire state, and Stedman says it’s good for legislators to know the whole picture. And if he were in the shoes of Hackett and McConnell and the others from Sitka?
“I’d spend my time on the third floor with the governor’s office,” Stedman said. “And I’d spend some time with AEA, the Alaska Energy Authority.”
Anyway, he says Blue Lake is a short term obstacle in the way of Sitka’s long-term solution – a hydro project at Takatz Lake.
But still, what about those long odds? Why spend time meeting with legislators about something that seems unlikely to happen?
“Never make assumptions,” said Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell. “Don’t assume, always hope. We went in there with the hope that maybe, somehow, we’ll be able to get some funding.”
McConnell says they told legislators that if nothing happens, and the city has to bond out for the entire project, electrical rates could rise by as much as 60 percent. They told legislators that two new businesses make their products using propane because there’s just not enough electricity, and that a third — a proposed fish waste processing plant — called off plans to build in Sitka because it wouldn’t have had enough electricity.
“Obviously nobody made any promises,” she said. “But we got a lot of sympathy. And it was sincere sympathy.”
And some legislators told them that if they felt stonewalled by anyone, to give them a call for help.
“It wasn’t just an empty comment,” McConnell said. “There was actually something behind it, I think.”
The legislative session is about a third of the way through, which means it’s too early for anyone to know exactly whether the budgets will contain even a portion of the $43 million the city requested.
McConnell says she’s willing to make another visit if it will help, but that for now, it’s time to watch and wait.
Allowing school districts to adopt a four-day school week would hand off local control over education and give districts another tool to address families’ needs in rural areas, proponents of House Bill 21 told the House Education Committee Friday morning.
Petersburg residents no longer have to boil their municipal tap water. The latest test results came back negative for total coliform and E. coli bacteria Friday afternoon. The Alaska Department of Conservation subsequently lifted the boil water notice that had been issued the day before.
“It has been lifted and it is very much a relief,” said Borough Public Works Director Karl Hagerman Friday afternoon. On Thursday, Hagerman had his staff take four new samples of water after a routine water test showed the presence of E.coli, which can cause serious illness. Petersburg Medical Center’s lab found that all four of the new samples were free of the bacteria Friday.
Hagerman said it was hard to know what caused the positive results in the first place:
“We probably won’t ever really know the ultimate cause of the sample that showed positive for the bacteria but it must have had something to do with the sampling technique or the sample bottle or something with the lab. It’s really hard to say. We’re happy that the system’s proven to be not contaminated and we’re just happy to move forward at this point.”
Shortly after the boil water notice was put in place, both of Petersburg’s grocery stores were sold out of regular bottled water. The DEC lifted the notice around 3pm Friday.
Energy is an ongoing topic across the nation, including Alaska. In Southeast, a regional power agency is looking for new sources of electricity, and will consider proposals for any kind of power generation concept.
Southeast Alaska Power Agency officials gave some details about their call for power at a recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch.
Southeast Alaska needs more power. Even those communities with multiple hydroelectric dams rely more and more on expensive backup diesel generators as the demand for power increases each year.
Part of the problem is reliability. Hydro power is plentiful when it rains – and it rains a lot in Southeast – but when there’s a dry spell like last October, lake levels drop. When those levels hit a certain point, operators have to power down the hydro generators, and start burning diesel.
To combat that growing problem, various Southeast communities are working on new hydro projects. The City of Ketchikan is moving forward with a new hydroelectric dam at Whitman Lake, and Sitka is starting work to raise its Blue Lake dam. Metlakatla is looking at a new hydro project, too, along with a possible intertie to Ketchikan, which would allow any extra power Metlakatla doesn’t need to flow into the small Southeast Alaska grid.
Right now, hydro and diesel are pretty much the only power sources for Southeast, and hydro will always be the largest piece of a regional power puzzle. But Southeast Alaska Power Agency is interested in options. In late January, the agency released a request for offers from pretty much anyone with a good idea.
SEAPA CEO Trey Acteson said, “Just to kind of throw a couple of things out, you still have wind out there. It could be a really efficient diesel plant. It could be biomass. It’s not just restricted to hydro.”
Acteson said part of the interest in optional power sources is timing.
“Hydro development takes a long time, and it’s very capital intensive,” he said. “Let’s look at Sitka right now. They’re looking at their new project there, and they anticipate that rates are going to go up almost 50 percent. So what we’re looking at is, we can bring in some smaller projects first that are less capital intenstive to fill the void, or the gap, as we forecast forward, and hopefully bring in a larger project down the road as well.”
One potential large project already is in the works. Charles Denny of Saxman invited Acteson to attend the next Saxman City Council meeting to talk about the $46 million Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project. Mahoney is a public-private partnership between Saxman, Cape Fox Corporation and Alaska Power and Telephone. As envisioned, it would result in a 9.6 megawatt lake tap.
SEAPA’s call for power forecasts a very conservative growth in electric needs for the region – only a half-percent per year. That estimate drew some criticism, but Acteson said the number can be adjusted.
An audience member asked about filling the power needs for potential new mines in the area. SEAPA board member Bob Sivertsen, who also is a Ketchikan City Council member, said the mines can’t be included in the estimate until they’re a reality. But, he said, it won’t be difficult to meet those needs. A power-sales structure already has proven effective elsewhere.
“I don’t think we have to look much further north than Juneau,” Sivertsen said. “Juneau (Alaska Light and Power), they have Greens Creek, and they run with an interruptible power sales agreement with them. So they have diesel capacity to run their facility when there’s a lack of hydro.”
A project that SEAPA most likely will work on first is increasing storage capacity at the existing Swan Lake dam.
“We think it’s the low-hanging fruit right now in the area, to raise the dam by six feet and put some … gates in, which the end result is a reservoir increase of about 15 feet,” Acteson said. “That increases the reservoir capacity by about 25 percent.”
Ketchikan has first dibs on all electricity generated at Swan Lake, just like Petersburg and Wrangell get Tyee Lake power first. If there is extra from either dam, it becomes available for the other communities.
SEAPA is run by a board made up of representatives from those three cities. The power agency owns the two dams and an intertie that connects them.
To see SEAPA’s request for proposals, go to www.seapahydro.org/
Sitka drum group, Haa Toow’u Litseen, performs at Crescent Harbor Thursday (2/14/2013) afternoon. Sitkans Against Family Violence, or SAFV, organized the event as part of V-Day, a worldwide call-to-action to end violence against women and girls. To learn more about the event, visit the story, Drumming and Dance for V-Day, on kcaw.org.
A former Petersburg resident has been sentenced to five years in prison for importing and dealing heroin and cocaine in the community. Local police say the multi-year, multi-agency investigation began with an undercover agent as well as help from a local resident who was fed up with the drug activity in their neighborhood. Matt Lichtenstein reports:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here
In a February 1st sentencing memorandum, the Assistant US Attorney for Alaska wrote that Victor Hugo Araujo was a member of a drug conspiracy to import cocaine and heroin to Petersburg from the lower-48 using the US postal service express mail. According to the memorandum, the 51-year-old traveled to southern California to obtain the drugs and mailed them to Petersburg where co-conspirators or Araujo himself distributed them to others.
Petersburg Police Seargent Heidi Agner says Araujo first came to her attention during an undercover drug investigation in the summer of 2010:
“When we had an undercover agent working here, that person was able to besides giving us this information also led the arrest of four people, all who were charged and convicted, and served time for felony convictions for drug related crimes. That person gave us the first inkling that Mr. Araujo was involved in dealing drugs in Petersburg, specifically heroin”
Agner says local residents also provided numerous reports about Araujo:
“One of the reports was that he was actually not only bringing the heroine and selling it, he was making it ready for people in syringes. We were told that high school students along with young adults were using that service he provided.”
According to Agner, Araujo’s activities were not limited to a particular part of town. However, she says one citizen in particular was so completely fed up with what he and his family were seeing in their neighborhood that he let police work out of his home:
“He allowed me to come into his residence and observe what was going on around in his neighborhood. I ended up taking photographs of this Mr. Araujo going into this area and (making) short visits less than five minutes, bringing in a bag, less than five minutes and then leaving.”
At that point, Agner says police had a lot of information, but not enough evidence to file charges. So, she shared her suspicions with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force that works out of the Seattle-Tacoma airport.
“I believed he was probably going out of Petersburg with money, going to various places in the united states and probably out of country and then importing heroin and meth back into Petersburg.”
In January of 2011, when local officers observed Araujo leaving from the airport in Petersburg, Agner alerted the drug task force in Seattle.
“And on one-four of 2011 they made contact with Mr. Araujo. That contact led to the seizure of four ounces of heroin and two ounces of cocaine. Then Mr. Araujo ahd said he would work with the task force. He actually instead kind of took us on a wild goose-chase.”
In fact, according to the US Attorny’s office, between January 4th and March 13 of 2011, Araujo mailed a total of four packages that were seized by US Postal Inspectors and/or Petersburg Police. They contained more than 136 grams of Heroin and nearly 60 grams of cocaine.
By January 2012, Agner says Araujo had moved out of Petersburg. She believes that was the direct result of increased involvement from other state and federal agencies in local drug investigations.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration, State Troopers, SEACAD, the Post Office had come into town and we had done various search warrants and knock-and-talks, getting everybody in the drug milieu pretty excited.”
SEACAD stands for Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs. It’s a regional task force of local and state law enforcement.
In August of last year, a federal grand jury in Alaska indicted Araujo on one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. He was arrested in California and eventually pleaded guilty to the charge under an agreement with the US Attorney’s office.
Agner says the citizen who had let her use his home for surveillance is no longer in town, but she credits him with getting the ball rolling on this case.
“They had said to me when they were allowing me in their hose, ‘Well, is anything going to come of this?’ and I said, ‘You have to understand, this can take years.’ And, you know to be able to say to them, wherever they are now, that what they did yes, three years ago, made a difference. You know, I know there’s still drugs coming into town because there are still people using it and we can’t stop that, unfortunately. But, this was a person of major consequence to Petersburg. I think, again, at least you’ll tell people, ‘Hey. We will be diligent. We will keep looking. Your neighbors are watching. They don’t want this in their town and we’ll keep fighting the good fight.”
In the government’s sentencing memorandum, Assistant US Attorney Jack Schmidt emphasized the effects of drug trafficking in a small town. While he said the amount of drugs for which the defendant was convicted was small, the effect on such a small community made the offense a more serious one. Schmidt wrote that the community was “sick and tired of being afraid of what drugs might be supplied to their children.”
According to Schmidt, Araujo has admitted to being a “serious drug addict whose choices have led him from youthful offender to a life of vehicle thefts, burglaries and his present involvement in a drug conspiracy.” Schmidt wrote that this appears to be Araujo’s first conviction for distributing narcotics.
On February 8th, a federal Judge in Ketchikan accepted Araujo’s plea agreement and sentenced him to serve five years in prison, which is the government’s mandatory minimum sentence in such a case.
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The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour comes to Sitka tonight (7 PM Fri 2-15-13, Sitka Performing Arts Center, advance tickets $15/$10 at Old Harbor Books, or at the door). Organizers discuss some of the dozen films in the tour, including one made by a pair of Australians who skiied across Antarctica. This year’s festival benefits Southeast Alaska Independent Living’s outdoor recreation program.
Skip Hallingstad submitted this commentary last year honoring his grandmother, Amy Hallingstad’s efforts in the civil rights movement. KFSK is re-airing it in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, which is February 16th:
There is an Elizabeth Peratrovich Day Parade scheduled for 4pm Saturday in Petersburg with line up in front of Trading Union. A potluck will follow at 5:30 pm in the ANB/ANS Hall.
Amy Hallingstad, photo provided courtesy of Skip Hallingstad
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Alaska’s congressional delegation introduces new Sealaska land-selection bills. 23-year-old to serve two years in prison for assault. Development expert says SE leaders on right track to improve regional economy. Controversial cruise ship wastewater bill held up for a week. Petersburg issues boil-water notice after E.Coli detected.
Bett Jakubek and Virginia Roginksi from Community Connections joined us to talk about their new facility and a call to artists to decorate it.
The Grand Opening of the new facility is on April 19th at 721 Stedman Street. Local artwork will be for sale and refreshments will be served.
A twenty-three year old Sitka man will spend nearly two years in prison, after pleading guilty to a pair of assault charges.
Jeffrey Bettencourt was sentenced by Sitka Superior Court judge David George on Tuesday (2-12-13).
In addition to prison time, Bettencourt was ordered to pay over $29,000 in restitution to the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.
According to court records, Bettencourt and his father, Christopher Bettencourt, went to a Wachusetts St. residence in December of 2010 to reclaim a gun that the younger Bettencourt had allegedly traded for heroin. They were accompanied at the time by 25-year old Lance Smith.
In the ensuing altercation, Smith shot one of the home’s occupants in the arm. Smith and the Bettencourts then fled the scene, and ran their vehicle over the curb in the 1100 block of Edgecumbe Drive. Police later apprehended the Bettencourts at their home.
Lance Smith was previously sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the assault, and also ordered to pay $29,000 in restitution.
45-year old Christopher Bettencourt’s case is still pending. His wife, Tina Bettencourt, was sentenced last week to serve 22 months in prison for misconduct in the third degree involving a controlled substance.
Days after House and Senate Democrats rolled out an “alternative” proposal to Republican Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil production tax reform bill, it remains unclear whether the Democrats’ bills will get hearings in the committees to which they were referred Monday.
A heavy polar icebreaker reactivated last December will be ready for service by summer, United States Coast Guard Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo told members of the Alaska State Legislature’s joint Armed Services Committee during its first meeting of the year Thursday.
Ostebo, along with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen L. Hoog, commander of Alaskan Command, and U.S. Army Major Gen. Thomas Katkus, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, testified before the committee on the status of the U.S. military in Alaska.
ANCHORAGE — Nome and nearby Port Clarence will get additional scrutiny as possible sites for a deep-water port for vessels in Arctic waters, according to a report by state and federal officials.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget director says there’s a smaller-than-expected hole in this year’s budget.
Karen Rehfeld told the House Finance Committee on Thursday that about $323 million would have to be transferred from reserves, rather than $410 million. She said that is due, in part, to a lower-than-expected supplemental budget request.
Rehfeld presented the administration’s budget amendments for this year and next. The amendments boost the overall supplemental request from $24.5 million to $26.8 million.
JUNEAU — Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday she is not convinced that Chuck Hagel is the right choice for U.S. secretary of defense.
Murkowski said in a statement she is not inclined to support Hagel’s nomination “because of his grasp and vision on the key questions of our time: Iran, complexities in the Middle East and the constant threat of terror networks.” However, she said she wants to hear from Alaskans, and get their thoughts, when she returns home on recess.
A positive test for E.coli bacteria prompted local officials to issue a boil water notice in Petersburg Thursday afternoon. According Borough Public Works Director Karl Hagerman, the results came from routine samples taken the day before from Petersburg’s water supply:
“We received word from Petersburg medical center that our routine water samples tested positive for total coliform bacteria and when that happens, the hospital does a further testing on the sample to determine whether E.coli is present and the sample also tested positive for E.coli”
So, the borough put out a notice telling all Petersburg residents to boil their tap water for two minutes. That includes water for drinking, brushing teeth, and food preparation. According to Hagerman, home water filters do not necessarily get rid of E.coli:
“When we issue a boil water notice, that’s what you should do. Do not rely on a home filter system to filter out any bacteria.”
Along with informing the public, Hagerman said the borough notified the state and took new samples to retest the water. He said the fact that the original sample came up positive for bacteria didn’t mean that the whole system was contaminated. He said there are many other ways a sample can be contaminated, which is why they are doing more testing on the water supply:
“It’s to verify that either the system is contaminated with some bacteria or not, that its safe for everybody to drink. And so when that retesting is done, we’ll have more information on the cleanliness, the safety of the system. I’m confident that this was a probably a sampling anomaly but the safe thing to do in these situations is to issue boil water notices and make sure that any water that’s ingested from the system is disinfected properly so that nobody gets sick.”
Hagerman expected it would take about a day to get results from the new tests. So, he was hopeful they would be available by Friday afternoon. He said the boil water notice would remain in effect at least until then.
Meanwhile, Both of Petersburg’s grocery stores ran out of bottled water Thursday and were ordering more. Petersburg schools are holding classes as usual Friday. They had planned to bring in filtered water from out the road but instead are providing bottled water to kids in the elementary school. The district asked middle and high school students to bring their own bottles of potable water to drink.
E.coli bacteria comes from human or animal waste. Some strains can cause serious illness, particularly among very young children and the elderly.
You can listen to the full interview with Karl Hagerman below:
For mobile-frindly audio, click here.
You can read the Borough’s boil water notice here.
There’s a longer version available here.
The Alaska Department of environmental Conservation also has this fact sheet on boil water notices.
Sustaining deer and salmon habitat was the top priority for several Petersburg residents who turned out to a local meeting with the U-S Forest service this week. The agency is holding a series of such gatherings around Southeast to record public comments on its overall management plan for the Tongass forest. The plan is undergoing a five-year review. Matt Lichtenstein has more on the Petersburg meeting:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
“The easiest way for me to explain a forest plan and the easiest way for me to think about it is just like a zoning map for your community,” said Petersburg District Ranger Jason Anderson, who gave a brief overview of the Tongass Land Management Plan, which was last overhauled in 2008.
“It lays out designations across the ground on what types of activities can occur and where. So, we refer to them often as land use designations. That’s how the plan refers to them. There are 19 and each one of them allows varying degrees of activities, all of which are trying to get to desired conditions which is what the forest plan really establishes. This is the desired condition for the 17 million acres of the tongass. Not all acres are treated equally. Again, you have things like wilderness and on the other extreme you have timber development LUDs where you’re actively seeking to develop the timber resource and there’s a whole host of things in between.”
Eight members of the public turned out to the Petersburg meeting. Those who spoke focused on the impact of timber harvests, particularly clear-cut logging, on deer and salmon habitat. In particular, several raised concerns over the loss of low-elevation high-volume old growth forest that deer depend on to survive in winter.
Lifelong Petersburg resident Eric Lee brought with him a couple large sets of antlers from deer shot by his father and grandfather on Petersburg’s home Island, Mitkof, around 1970. He said you don’t see horns like them anymore. Lee asserted that the Forest Service’s large timber sales have been contrary to the Tongass plan’s conservation strategy to maintain viable wildlife populations.
“You know we can look at our own island and see whats happened to the deer population since big time logging started. It has collapsed basically. There are no hunting opportunities that are meaningful on this island anymore. People go out but a lot of people don’t because the chances of getting a deer are so slim. Now the same thing is happening across the narrows on Lindenberg Peninsula. The deer population’s crashing yet there’s a huge sale going to go be started over there to cut the last of the winter range that’s left over there.”
Lee pointed out that Mitkof Island and nearby Kupreanoff Island’s Lindenberg peninsula had once been Petersburg’s breadbasket for deer. Because of low deer numbers, Mitkof Island has long been limited to a two week hunt with a one buck bag limit. This year, State Board of Game put the same restrictions in place for Lindenberg. The Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Division is worried about deer numbers there because of wolf predation, severe winters and the loss of habitat from logging.
The lack of nearby hunting opportunity has driven some locals to travel further to find deer in potentially dangerous fall and winter weather. Another longtime resident, Dave Beebe blamed the Forest Service for what he called “a failed management strategy in a biological sense and a failed subsistence responsibility to assure huntable populations of deer”
“And I cannot overemphasize the importance of Lindenberg Peninsula as it relates to Mitkof Island and as that whole scenario relates to the ability for hunters to access deer without taking their lives in their own hands. Winter mortality works not only on deer but on deer hunters,” Beebe said.
Petersburg’s Dave Randrup said he had seen the changes since his family bought their land on the Lindenberg peninsula in 1956. He emphasized that the old-growth deer habitat lost to logging over the years could not be replaced.
“There’s supposed to be a tradeoff between timber harvesting and deer habitat. I think we’ve tipped the scales already. I think we’re well past the balance point. It seems to me if your taking one resource and putting the other in the tank, like our deer habitat, I don’t know how you can justify that.”
The concerns were not limited to timber harvest, Petersburg’s Karen McCullough pointed out that there are currently two separate environmental studies underway for a road and electric intertie across Kupreanoff between Petersburg and Kake. McCullough suggested the Forest Service should be taking another look at its broader Tongass plan first.
“I’m very confused, as we go through all these public process which are disconnected yet connected and this seems to be the one that’s at the top which sets guidelines for the Tongass. So, I guess part of me would really like to see us take a really hard look at the Tongass and then come into these other areas which might mean slowing things down a little which doesn’t sound like what people want to do but in the long run, I think might get to what Dave’s talking about is how do we protect this area for the sustainability of fish and wildlife.”
The Forest Service’s Tongass webpage has a link to the five-year review. The public comment period is open through the end of March. U-S Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have requested the agency extend the comment deadline.
A team of Petersburg High School Students took third place in a statewide ocean sciences competition last weekend. The Omnipotent Octopi was one of two PHS teams that took part in the Alaska Tsunami Bowl. The other local team had the even more tongue-twisting title The Opulent Opisthoproctidae. Opisthoproctidae, by the way, is the scientific name for the Barreleye fish, a strange-looking creature with big eyes enclosed in its large, transparent skull.
The Petersburg teams competed against 23 more from 14 other high schools around the state. Each team had to prepare a 20 page research paper ahead of time, give an oral presentation, and compete in a timed ocean sciences quiz. The Omnipotent Octopi took first place for their paper which counted towards half their score. Teams from Juneau-Douglass High and Mat Su Career and Technical High took first and second place overall.
Matt Lichtenstein spoke with members of both Petersburg teams and their coaches Joni Johnson and Sunny Rice after they returned from Seward this week:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.