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The annual Girl Scouts and Girl Guides World Thinking Day is Saturday, Feb. 16, and Ketchikan Girl Scouts plan to participate.
The theme for this year’s international event is child mortality and maternal health. Participants will learn about the issues, and participate in related activities. Previous years’ themes have been combating HIV and AIDS; ending poverty and hunger; empowering girls and women; and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Girl Scouts are encouraged to focus their World Thinking Day activities on specific countries. This year’s countries are Ireland, Jordan, Malawi, Pakistan and Venezuela.
Girl Scout Troop 4071 is organizing the event for all local Girl Scouts to attend. It starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Holy Name Catholic Church parish hall. Participants can earn their World Thinking Day badges.
Board Member Misty Archibald joined us to talk about the Ketchikan Gateway School Board meeting for February 14, 2013. Ketchikan School Board Update 2142013
ANCHORAGE — Exxon Mobil Corp. and Russian partner Rosneft have signed an agreement that will give the U.S. company exploration access to an additional 234,000 square miles in the Russian Arctic.
A separate agreement will give Rosneft the opportunity to acquire a 25 percent interest in the Point Thompson unit on Alaska’s North Slope.
The companies also said Wednesday they will study a potential liquid natural gas project in the Russian Far East.
ANCHORAGE — Confessed serial killer Israel Keyes was mistakenly issued a razor before he committed suicide, according to a report released Wednesday by the Alaska Department of Corrections that also said “it appears that razor was not retrieved.”
The security lapse occurred when Keyes was the focus of heightened security after earlier being found with a makeshift handcuff key, the report states. He also was segregated from other inmates.
JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate on Wednesday delayed a vote on a bill that would change how the state regulates cruise ship wastewater.
Paying higher rates for electricity in Sitka won’t be much fun, but spending that money on the largest public infrastructure project in city history sounds like… well, a blast.
Staff in the municipal electric department outlined the scope of the Blue Lake Hydro expansion project for the Sitka Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (2-13-13). The work, while dangerous and expensive, is also a complicated engineering puzzle that is much more than a paycheck for the people designing and building it.
“If you build the dam bigger than you need, you pay for it earlier than you want to. Let’s design it so that someone down the road can raise it another 23 feet, which is right up to here (points to diagram). So they designed it so that it can be done, and that’s how we can pull this off.”
Pull it off, and then some. The new design calls for raising the dam 83 feet — 60 feet more than the builders intended. The completed dam will go to the very top of the canyon. This increased water height — or head — is where the increased power comes from, not from the increased amount of water in the lake.
“That’s how you make the electricity. We’re using the same amount of water that’s falling into the lake every year for the last fifty years. All we’re doing is using it at a higher elevation, so that we can generate more energy with it.”
Construction began on November 1. Orbison said, “We’ve been up there blowing stuff up since then.” Crews have cleared and leveled a 2-acre site at the end of Blue Lake Road to stage construction materials, and to assemble one very, very large piece of equipment.
“This is the largest crane in the state of Alaska. This crane will sit on the right abutment here, and it will reach all the way across the dam to the left abutment. It’s huge. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
The crane is being hauled up the Blue Lake Road in pieces, each on its own flatbed truck. Orbison put up a picture of the operation. A worker standing on the ground is dwarfed by one of the crane’s giant tracks.
Besides the dam itself, crews will spend the next year constructing a new powerhouse to hold three new 5 megawatt turbines. The old powerhouse, with its pair of 3 megawatt turbines, will be converted into shop space. A new penstock, or pipeline, will connect the powerhouse to the rock tunnel that carries the water out of the lake. Upstream, crews will bore a new intake into the lake, and connect it to the tunnel near where it emerges as a large pipeline in the Blue Lake campground. And those same miners are blasting a vertical shaft, called a surge chamber, through solid rock to the tunnel to absorb changes in pressure — called water hammer — when valves are closed in the powerhouse.
In a new project, all this work could happen on a straight timeline. Not so with Blue Lake. Except for a two-month period in the fall of 2014, when water is diverted into the new powerhouse for testing, the old Blue Lake turbines will keep powering Sitka during the entire project. Managing power supply and construction at the same time is a big part of what Orbison called “the game.”
“Everything that we’re doing here is determined not by when we can get the equipment delivered, or when we get our act together on putting it in. It’s controlled by the lake levels.”
Orbison said that the electric department would impose a temporary rate hike during the planned outage in 2014, as a way of controlling demand. Using price in this way is a relatively recent development in Sitka. And while the Blue Lake project will provide relief from an overall power shortage here, Orbison suggested that the new supply of inexpensive power from Blue Lake was a windfall to be managed carefully.
“If you convert your house from oil heat to electric heat, you can use up this project in a heartbeat. Our plan is to get you to do that for twenty years, until its gone. And then we’ll cut you off!… Right, Chris?”
That’s Orbison turning to Utility Director Christopher Brewton. Brewton, and contract project manager Richard Linden also spoke to the chamber. Brewton referred to the Blue Lake expansion as “a second chance for energy independence” in Sitka. He hoped that twenty years from now a future utility director would speak to the chamber and compliment citizens of today for their foresight in building the Blue Lake project, while also adopting the energy efficiency standards to make the project more than a short-term fix for unchecked growth in electric demand.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and a Sitka violence prevention group is celebrating with drums. Sitkans Against Family Violence, or SAFV, is inviting people to a drum performance by the group, Haa Toow’u Litseen, on Thursday.
It’s part of V-Day, a worldwide call-to-action to stop violence against women and girls. It was started by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues.
The event is called One Billion Rising. It hopes to inspire 1 billion women and those who love them to rise up, dance and strike to demand an end to violence against women. One billion is the number of women in the world who will have been raped or beaten in their lifetime.
Elena Gustafson works for SAFV and says V-Day chose dancing for a reason. She quotes Eve Ensler here.
“Dancing insists that we take up space,” she said. “It has no set direction, but that we go there together. it breaks the rules. It can happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone. It can’t be controlled. it joins us and pushes us to go further. It’s contagious and spreads quickly. It’s of the body and it spreads quickly.”
Gustafson says everyone — including men — is encouraged to attend because violence against women isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a human issue.
The V-Day drum performance and dance is at the Crescent Harbor Shelter from noon to 1 p.m. tomorrow.
For more information about the Sitka event, you can visit the event posting on SAFV’s Facebook page or email Elena at email@example.com. To learn about One Billion Rising, visit onebillionrising.org.
Senate Democrats Wednesday excoriated a bill by Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, that seeks to define a “medically necessary” abortion and restrict state funding for the controversial procedure.
Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, called a provision in Senate Bill 49, which was introduced on Monday, “frankly nothing less than offensive” for requiring rape and incest victims to report the crime “promptly” to police or public health officials in order to receive funding from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for an abortion.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition in the United States. But the ban on alcohol lasted longer and started earlier in Alaska. Then a territory, Alaska got a two-year head start on the rest of the nation outlawing the sale, manufacture and exchange of liquor. Joe Viechnicki has a look at some of the headlines and history from Prohibition days in Petersburg.
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Almost exactly a century ago, in March of 1913, Alaska’s territorial legislature took its first action, granting women in Alaska the right to vote. Here and across the nation, there were close links between the suffrage movement for women’s rights to vote – and the temperance movement to outlaw liquor.
Local resident Sue Paulsen researched the era for a fundraising event for the city’s centennial in 2010. She found an article from 1913 in an early Petersburg newspaper:
“The Womens Christian Temperance Union is circulating throughout Alaska a petition which is being quite freely signed preying Congress to prohibit the importation and sale of liquor in the territory. This association is made up of splendid womenhood backed by some men throughout our northland supported by the proof of depredations brought on by the traffic.”
Paulsen says another article in 1913 reported that a representative of that Womens Christian Temperance Union visited Petersburg:
“Those who have heard Mrs Lemans speak are agreed, she’s a very convincing speaker. In her short time she has delivered six lectures and organized the Petersburg branch of the Womens Christian Temperance Union.Mrs. Agnes Jorgensen president, Mrs C.A. Swanson secretary, Mrs Larrow treasurer and ms emma swanson corresponding secretary. The new organization assisted by mrs lemans has held a street meeting, to which a large crowd gathered and heard very good singing, as well as an interesting address.”
It was three years later in November of 1916 that Alaskans held an advisory vote on prohibiting sale, manufacture, barter or exchange of liquor in the territory. Statewide, prohibition won by a two to one margin, and the results were similar here. The vote count in the Petersburg Weekly Report had 105 people in favor of a dry state, and 51 against.
It took over a year before Alaska’s bone dry law, as it was called, took effect January 1st, 1918. That a full two years before the 18th Amendment was approved and applied the same prohibition nationwide in 1920.
But the law prohibiting liquor didn’t end it’s manufacture or sale, it drove it underground, or in Alaska’s case, sometimes out into the woods.
In a news items from July of 1920, a deputy marshal located a barrel partially full of whiskey in the woods behind the power house in Scow Bay and arrested three men, charged with owning the whiskey. One of the men plead guilty and was fined $250 and sentenced to 60 days in jail. That was just one small news item during a dynamic time in the history of the nation and the world. The local paper featured headlines of strikes in Seattle, fighting in Europe in the first world war, and local items, like the project to extend a road from Petersburg to Scow Bay.
Newspaper advertisements before prohibition touted Echo Springs and Sliver Brook whiskeys at a place called Brennans while the Dory Bar was serving Ranier Beer. After 1918, ads for Brennans mentioned pool and billiards, cigars and soft drinks, but no mention of illegal liquor. A Competitor called Joes place offered cigars, tobacco, cigarettes, and soft drinks and another pool room advertised card tables, musical instruments and sheet music.
In his book From Fish Camps to Cold Storages, Pat Ellis writes the town’s red light district on Lumber Street was closed in July of 1918, but prostitution houses reopened in other parts of town after that.
Ellis also writes about the story of James Brennan, who owned the bar called Brennans, once been called the Gilt Edge, but was known by many as the Bucket of Blood. Brennan got into some trouble when a Deputy US attorney and a Naval vessel came town. They were there to confiscate a moonshine still in Scow Bay and shut down the red light district, according to a family history in the Pioneers of Alaska book Pioneer Profiles. Sue Paulsen reads about Brennan’s involvement:
“Now when this prosecutor and the naval officers began swilling the evidence and pressuring the ladies for their favors prior to running them out of town, Jim would not tolerate such hypocrisy and burst through the door with a U.S. marshal as a witness. Unfortunately this earned Jim a completely fabricated charge of pro-Germanic sedition, a serious criminal allegation in world war one Alaska. He had to put everything he owned up to make a bond, hire a lawyer and locate the witnesses the prosecutor had run out of Petersburg.”
The local newspaper published an account of the prosecutor and naval officers and their drinking party. The publisher later told of being pressured to print a subsequent retraction, despite several witnesses who told the same story.
Another local resident Heidi Lee remembers recording some oral histories while she was in high school. One oral history was with Richard Brennan, son of Jim, the original owner of the bar called Brennans:
“He told me some stories about how what happened during prohibition around here and they would have stills down at Beechers Pass, or down south somewhere. And then they’d bring in the booze in suitcases down to poor mans float. And then they’d have people pack em up to some apartments above town that they could look out and see when the marshals were coming.”
Lee also recalls listening to stories from her grandmother Magnhild Lee, who came to Petersburg at the age of 18, around 1910 and told Lee about those early days:
“Yeah she said it was more an issue of, well there were a lot of really drunk people around. And she also was talking about the womans right to vote. Because they had come from Norway where some people couldn’t vote if you hadn’t paid up on your taxes. And then they came here and they were a territory and they just felt like, I don’t think the women had the right to vote then. So they felt a little squelched. Plus there was a cat house out the road. And you can kindof see the women’s angle.”
The 1920s saw an expanding fishing industry in Petersburg. One headline mentions a seiners union forming. Several sawmills were operating and advertising lumber for sale. The fox farming industry blossomed on the remote islands of Southeast and expeditions left Petersburg to prospect for gold in the area. Meanwhile, there were crackdowns on liquor. Sue Paulsen reads more from her research:
“This was an unbelievable article. Citizens call for clean up. A mass meeting was held last Friday night at the Sons of Norway by a number of residents of Petersburg and vicinity to consider ways and means of abating the evils of the city and the alleged sale of liquor in the red light district and to make a quiet investigation. On Monday night this committee met with the city council but no action taken. The council members are considering securing legal advice. It is the feeling of the council members the houses now in the city be forced to move beyond the city limits.”
And some members of the community also were celebrating prohibition. This is from an advertisement in the local paper.
“A dry celebration. Everyone come to the Sons of Norway Monday evening to rejoice over the dry victory in Petersburg and Alaska. Impromptu program and social time. Refreshments of course.”
While prohibition in Alaska started before the rest of the nation, it also ended here after the nationwide ban was lifted. The 21st amendment was signed into law December 5th, 1933. But it wasn’t until the following April that Alaska’s bone dry law was repealed. A large headline in the Petersburg Press from April 13 1934 reads “Dry Law Repealed” and the article notes “President Roosevelt signed a bill repealing Alaska’s Bone Dry Law.”
Other sources for this story are an online Alaska history course provided by the Alaska Humanities Forum, local newspaper articles and thanks to Sue Paulsen and Heidi Lee for their help.
KFSK is commemorating the prohibition era with a Speakeasy fundraiser this Friday Night at eight in the Sons of Norway Hall. Tickets are available at Lees clothing and you must be 21.
The Sitka Assembly dealt with a variety of tourism issues on Tuesday.
Members unanimously approved a contract for Sitka Tours to transport passengers between downtown and a private cruise ship dock near the end of Halibut Point Road. The contract is valued at roughly $35,000, and the money comes from a head tax imposed on visitors.
They also voted 4 to 3 to have Mayor Mim McConnell represent the city at the cruise industry’s annual trade show in Miami. It takes place in March.
But the most discussion Tuesday night took place around the city’s Sea Walk project. Sitka has about $1.8 million to spend on the pathway, and it’s about to go looking for someone to build it.
Jay Lageschulte is from Omaha, Neb., but visiting some family in Sitka. On Wednesday, we asked him to participate in a little experiment.
We asked this out-of-towner to walk from Crescent Harbor to Sitka National Historical Park.
“I can do that, I think,” he says, standing in the parking lot near Crescent Harbor.
He walks down the long sidewalk next to the harbor, looking at boats, until the sidewalk ends, and a sign tells him to cut across some tennis courts.
“OK,” he says on the other side of the courts. “From here, we’re in the middle of the driveway. We’ll have to go across the street … the only sidewalk there is.”
We head down another stretch of sidewalk, and after not too long the sidewalk ends again and we cross back over to the other side of the street.
After another stretch of sidewalk we arrive at the park.
Thousands of tourists take these steps every summer, and on Tuesday, Sitka took a big step of its own, toward making the route a lot less complicated.
At its regular meeting, the Assembly agreed to start looking for a contractor to build the Sitka Sea Walk.
It’s a wide pathway that will hug the shoreline. Eventually, it will stretch at least to O’Connell Bridge. But this part leads pedestrians from Crescent Harbor, past the Sitka Sound Science Center and Sheldon Jackson Museum, and into the national park without any interruptions.
“I’ve had the opportunity the last two years to watch visitors as they come along the walkway, get stymied right behind the playground, and the tennis courts” and, in some cases, attempt to climb across the rocks that line the harbor and the waterways leading past the science center, said Lon Garrison, aquaculture director for the science center.
“Sometimes it’s comical,” he said, “and sometimes it’s downright scary to watch those folks crawl around on those rocks.”
At the Assembly table Tuesday, Thor Christianson hoped that, in addition to making the route easier, the Sea Walk would help boost the city’s struggling tourism industry.
“Because we have to work harder to get people here than other cities,” Christianson said. “We’re working very hard on trying to get more ships to come here, but we have to have something for them — an attractive city they’ll want to look at and come to — and I think this project really will do that.”
City engineers estimate the project would take more than $6,000 a year to maintain. In addition to the walkway, the Seawalk incorporates landscaping and some support structures. And that’s where Assembly member Pete Esquiro’s red flag went up.
“I am concerned about the kinds of bills we leave Thor’s kids, and my grandkids and others, and the young guys on the Assembly,” Esquiro said.
Funding to build the project itself comes from grants — about $1.7 million from the state of Alaska, and another $80,000 from the federal government. The design of the project is the result of no fewer than five public meetings since 2011, and three presentations from architects to the Assembly.
Once the Assembly advertises for bids on the project it will award a contract, and then work could begin as early as this summer.
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe may be the Alaska Court System’s top official, but she devoted much of her “State of the Judiciary” speech to a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature Wednesday to tribal courts and rural parts of Alaska where the long arm of the law does not always reach.
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers has opened a comment period for proposed road upgrades on northern Prince of Wales Island.
The approximately 12 miles of road work starts at Neck Lake and ends at Sarkar (Sar-car) Creek. The purpose is to upgrade and expand the existing dirt road to improve safety. It would include widening the road by two feet, and paving it. New features would include signs, guardrails, shoulders and pullouts.
The work also would involve retaining walls and access roads, as well as about 70 replacement culverts. Some culverts would be upgraded to improve fish passage. Two new bridges are planned at Chum Creek and Tunga (tunn-ga) Creek.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the project would not harm endangered species or fish habitat.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation also has reviewed the permit application, and has determined the project would not harm water quality.
The comment period ends March 14.
For more information or to comment, contact Estrella Campellone at 907-753-2518; toll free from within Alaska at 800-478-2712; by fax at 907-753-5567; or by email at Estrella.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following a three-month search, the Craig City School District Board of Education has hired a new superintendent.
Bristol Bay School Superintendent Jack Walsh will start his new job in July.
In an announcement emailed Wednesday afternoon, the Craig School Board cites Walsh’s experience in Alaska, management style and personality among the reasons he was chosen.
Walsh has been a professional educator for more than three decades. He worked as a special education teacher in Chicago until moving to Alaska in 1987. His Alaska career includes experience as a special education teacher, school counselor, special education director, regional principal, and director of personnel and student services in Sand Point and Kodiak.
Since 2007, Walsh has served as superintendent of the Bristol Bay Borough School District in Naknek.
Ketchikan, Metlakatla and Craig high school students are among the hundreds of Alaska youth gathering to compete in the Academic Decathlon Thursday through Saturday in Anchorage.
The theme of this year’s Academic Decathlon is “Russia.”
Through the competition, students participate in 10 events based on the theme. Through those events, they take a written test, write an essay, perform prepared and impromptu speeches, and participate in an interview. There also is a team Super Quiz competition.
Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for individual events and total scores. Overall individual winners are recognized, as are the champion teams. The state champions will compete at the national finals, set for late April in Minneapolis, Minn.
The City of Sitka has a new municipal attorney.
Robin Koutchak accepted the Assembly’s job offer last night. She’ll start work no later than April 1.
Koutchak is a graduate of the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University and has practiced in Alaska for more than 20 years. Her resume includes time in Barrow, where she was assistant municipal attorney for about 18 months. She also worked for nearly four years as assistant attorney general and assistant district attorney in Barrow.
Currently, she’s in private practice in Wasilla.
She and Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff attorney Allen Bell both were interviewed for the job by the Assembly. They conducted the interviews Friday, and then met again Sunday to discuss the candidates and vote to make an offer.
Koutchak’s salary will be $111,725. She takes over from Theresa Hillhouse, Sitka’s municipal attorney for more than seven years.
Hillhouse leaves city hall March 1 to take a job in the Anchorage Municipal Attorney’s office.
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Koutchak accepts attorney job at $112,000/yr. Assembly approves 15-percent hike in electrical rates, among other energy decisions. Quarry-lease agreement with S&S trades rock for debt payments. SE utility managers work on regional collaboration. Rural communities look to broader energy solutions.
Sitka’s electric rates are going up effective July 1.
The flat 15-percent increase for all customers will put residential energy charges between 9 and 18 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on usage.
The city is about to issue bonds to pay for the Blue Lake dam expansion. In order to do that, it had to promise its lenders that it would raise a certain amount of money.
The final approval of the rate changes was one of several energy decisions the Assembly made last night. It also purchased a critical piece of Blue Lake infrastructure. The apparatus, known as a switchgear, is expected to cost more than $700,000.
Assembly members also agreed to pay the Forest Service $10,000 a year for the next decade. Because the city is eating up some Forest Service land by expanding Blue Lake, it has to compensate the federal government. The money is expected to be used to fertilize Redoubt Lake and improve sockeye salmon habitat.
And the Assembly agreed to hire S&S General Contractors to blast away some rock near the city’s Jarvis Street diesel power plant, in order to make room for an expansion there. Instead of asking for direct payment, S&S is asking the Assembly to make debt payments of about $107,000 on a quarry lease approved earlier this year.
“We are getting this work done at a fraction of the cost that it would cost if we went out for open bid,” said city Utility Director Chris Brewton. “So, in effect, what we’re doing is saving several hundred thousand dollars of our project funds by going this route.”
The payments amount to just over $4 per cubic yard of rock removal. That compares to bids in place on the Blue Lake project that range between $100 and $4,200 per cubic yard, depending on the difficulty of the work.
Assembly Member Mike Reif wanted to know why the rock removal contract wasn’t put out for bid.
Reif: “Why wouldn’t another contractor look at that rock sitting there on the hillside saying ‘Hey, I can remove that. I’ve got some projects I can use that for. I can store it. Give me a chance to bid on it, and I can do it fairly quick.’ Why aren’t we providing that opportunity to other contractors?”
Brewton: “I would say based on the fact that we have firm prices for rock removal at a large project underway at various locations … and we know what we’re paying for the Blue Lake project. We look at the cost of this is going to be, relative to those prices, and it’s 1,000 times less. So there’s no doubt in my mind that, if we go out for bid, the only thing that’s going to happen is there’s going to be an increased cost.”
Municipal Attorney Theresa Hillhouse added to that. She said the city charter requires the Assembly solicit bids for work like this, unless the Assembly finds circumstances require special treatment. In this case, the city needs the rock moved quickly, and already has a qualified contractor on hand.
Brewton called it, quote, “a rare confluence of events.”