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Southeast Alaska News
Katherine Cessnun, Clinic Dietitian and Manager of Nutrition Services at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center has been chosen by the Alaska Journal of Commerce as one of this year’s Top Forty under 40.
According to the journal, a committee of Morris Media Network management selected the 2013 panel from more than 140 nominees.
The honorees represent the state from Ketchikan to North Pole, according to the journal. They were chosen for making a difference professionally and personally in the state’s private, public and non-profit sectors.
The 40 honorees will be honored at a ceremony April 5th in Anchorage.
Borough Assemblyman Alan Bailey joined us by phone to talk about highlights from last night’s Borough Assembly meeting. boroughassemblymeeting252013
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Greater Sitka Arts Council members Shannon Haugland and John Stein discuss this Friday’s Night on Broadway, a fundraiser for community theater. 6-8 PM Friday February 8 at the Westmark Sitka. Advance tickets $30 at Old Harbor Books.
JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who is gearing up for an election fight, ended 2012 with about $950,000 on hand.
A federal fundraising disclosure, provided by his campaign, shows the Alaska Democrat raised about $334,000 during the last quarter of the year. About $182,000 of that was from individuals; the rest was from political action committees.
For the sake of comparison, Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, had about $360,000 in the bank at the end of 2008, heading into an expensive, and history-making, race in 2010.
NEW YORK — McDonald’s says it is offering its first new Happy Meal entree in a decade: Fish McBites.
The world’s biggest hamburger chain said the Fish McBites will be widely available at U.S. restaurants starting this week through March, to coincide with Lent. The Happy Meals will come with seven pieces of Fish McBites, French fries, apple slices and a drink.
The company had already announced last month that the Fish McBites would be sold on the standard menu in three sizes — snack (10 pieces), regular (15 pieces) and shareable (30 pieces).
JUNEAU — State officials are looking at ways to lower the growth of Alaska’s health care costs, including an alternate retiree plan and developing an employee wellness program.
The path the state is on isn’t sustainable, Administration Commissioner Becky Hultberg and Health Commissioner Bill Streur told the House Finance Committee on Monday. Streur said he believes something can and must be done to address the issue.
JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Monday passed legislation that critics say would roll back requirements that cruise ships meet state water quality standards when dumping wastewater.
The 27-9 vote followed unsuccessful efforts, led by minority Democrats, to amend HB80, including requiring the location, date and volume of discharged wastewater be posted online.
A bill sponsored by Gov. Sean Parnell to relax cruise ship wastewater standards passed the house House on Monday (2-4-13). A similar measure is nearing a floor vote in the Senate.
In committee hearings on Senate Bill 29 and House Bill 80, much of the testimony has focused on a preliminary report by the Cruise Ship Wastewater Science Advisory Panel. The report concludes that cruise ships have gone as far as possible toward meeting the state’s standards, and that there’s little benefit to the environment to be gained – even by spending millions more on technology.
A member of the majority opinion on the Science Advisory Panel stands by that claim, but the co-author of the 2006 ballot initiative which imposed the standards disputes it.
Haines resident Gershon Cohen’s background is in molecular biology. He’s frustrated by how proponents of the bills are framing their argument.
“Well the department’s trying to say they’re doing this on the basis of the best science. And that’s completely backwards. The best science are the water quality standards – those are the limits which have been found, through scientific experimentation, to provide protection for fish, or humans, or whatever standard you’re using.”
In this case, the standard is for marine organisms. Cohen calls the administration’s effort to relax wastewater standards risk management, not science.
Sitkan Steve Reifenstuhl has a different perspective. “That’s a black-and-white world. And we don’t live in a black-and-white world,” he says.
Reifenstuhl has been on the Cruise Ship Wastewater Science Advisory panel since 2009.
“It’s important to look at the context. If we applied these standards to the City of Sitka, the Blue Lake dam would look cheap.”
Blue Lake is priced at roughly $140-million, the most expensive project in Sitka’s history. Reifenstuhl is a biologist, and a pragmatist.
“The effluent and the waiver that every city that’s on the ocean’s gotten – from Anchorage to Ketchikan – puts out way more effluent, even the metals (they don’t even have to document nickel and zinc) copper, ammonia. It’s many times what the cruise ships put out.”
Gershon Cohen was initially appointed to the science advisory panel, but his name was pulled three weeks before the group convened, because of opposition from the industry, he says. Cohen, who co-wrote the language in the initiative that created the panel, says it was supposed to be looking at alternative technologies, like reverse osmosis.
“And they ended up spending a lot of their time talking about how they were going to change the rule, and whether or not the discharges there now are okay, and the equipment satisfactory. And that wasn’t what they were supposed to be doing.”
Cohen says there is no recognized standard for Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems used by cruise ships. He calls AWTS a “public relations term.” The bills before the House and Senate would sample wastewater – not at the point of discharge, but in a mixing zone outside the ship. Proponents say this is what coastal cities do. Cohen says ships are cities – that move.
“You can’t survey the organisms, and what the water quality is like before, during, and after the discharge. So there’s absolutely no accountability.”
Reifenstuhl says cruise ships have been toeing the line since the late 1990s, following a series of egregious discharge violations. He suggests they’re less accountable than the rest of us for the cleanliness of the water.
“If you just look at the million people that visit Alaska on cruise ships every year, and take 70-percent of those – 700,000 – compared to the 700,000 citizens of Alaska who are here 365 days. You do the math on that – which I’ve done – and it’s twenty times more.”
As the general manager of the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, Reifenstuhl has a vested interest in fisheries. He’s visited several ships and seen the effluent that’s discharged – it often looks clear. But heavy metals wouldn’t color a glass of water. I asked him what if a cruise ship discharged in front of Bear Cove, where NSRAA’s Medvejie Hatchery sits just outside of Sitka. He said this was already happening in Juneau, where every ship calls.
“There’s 15 million chum salmon, there’s chinook salmon released right there. Those fish are going to swim right by the cruise ships. There’s also 100-million chum salmon released just north of Gastineau Channel. And so those fish are in those waters. And so would I be comfortable? As long as it’s [comparable to] what’s happening in the Juneau waterfront, I would be comfortable.”
Cohen says the passage of the bills would be a setback to Alaska’s image, and provide a toehold for the farmed fish industry.
“So much for Alaska producing fish that’s coming from pristine water. I think it’s a serious mistake, and it’s basically caving in to an industry demand that’s absolutely unnecessary.”
The 191-page report from the Cruise Ship Wastewater Science Advisory Panel is preliminary, and references about 500 pages of data. Reifenstuhl thinks the panel could meet for at least another two years to finish its work. He welcomes peer review of the group’s findings.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is developing a feasibility study to determine whether the M/V Susitna, a 195-foot experimental icebreaking ferry owned by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, could fit into the ferry system’s operations, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities acknowledged Monday.
The Sitka Jazz Festival brought some of the world’s greatest musicians to Sitka last week. Along with performing in nightly concerts, artists also visited schools and conducted workshops, from basic jazz theory to learning the art of improvisation.
On Friday, Katherine Kramer tap danced and taught basic rhythm to students at Baranof Elementary School and Tom Scott played songs like, Toy Story’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” for a gym-full of kids at Keet Gooshi Heen.
This is the first of a series of audio postcards that take a behind-the-scenes look at the 2013 Sitka Jazz Festival. In this, Kramer and Scott discuss what sparked an interest in jazz and how it feels to perform.
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Local and state disaster response teams powered up emergency communications systems in Sitka this weekend, testing the compatibility and coverage of their two-way radio systems. The Alaska National Guard brought equipment to keep radios working for police, fire, and mountain rescue teams even if local antennas are lost. Sending a portable system to the top of Harbor Mountain enables continued communication with outlying communities as well.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, rolled out an energy report she said has been a year in the making in a speech to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington, D.C., Monday.
Murkowski’s report, entitled “Energy 20/20: A Vision for American’s Energy Future,” calls for federal action to partially open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, invest in research and development for clean energy technologies, and speed up the permitting process for certain types of development, among other actions she said will improve the United States’ energy picture.
A Sitka woman will spend about another year in jail for her involvement with methamphetamine. Sitka Superior Court Judge David George sentenced 45-year-old Tina Bettencourt to 22 months in prison for third degree misconduct involving a controlled substance.
Bettencourt has been in jail since November 2011. She was charged after a drug bust two months earlier at her home in the 1500 block of Johnston Street. Police found guns, cash and a variety of drugs including meth, cocaine, heroin and assorted prescription medication.
Bettencourt’s sentence is 22 months, but that includes the time she’s already spent in jail. She has less than half her sentence left to serve. Originally, she faced seven drug-related counts, but the other six were dismissed.
The drug bust that led to Tina Bettencourt’s arrest also included her husband and son. Charges in the drug case against 23-year-old Jeffrey Bettencourt were dismissed, but the he did plead guilty last week to assault in connection with a 2010 case.
45-year-old Christopher Bettencourt’s case is still pending before the court.
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Lawyers argue merits of Sitkans for Responsible Government initiative. Forest Service to hold TLMP review, take public input in Sitka. Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduces legislation to build 18-miles of road to mines in roadless areas of POW. Remembering Kake elder Clarence Jackson.
Diane Gubatayo from Women in Safe Homes joined us to talk about the Women of Distinction Dinner on Saturday, February 9 at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. WISHinterview242013
This is the time of year many commercial fishermen get a voluntary safety inspection from the coast guard in Petersburg. Vessel examiners typically come to town every February, shortly before the start of the tanner and golden king crab seasons. The free dockside inspection gives fishermen an opportunity to make sure they have all the safety gear and other required items that the coast guard normally checks for during an at-sea boarding.
Petersburg’s fleet is known for extensive participation in the program and several people have signed their boats up for safety inspections this week, including KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein. He asked Coast Guard Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiner Scott Wilwert for a preview:
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The Coast Guard’s Scott Wilwert and his colleagues will be available to do dockside exams in Petersburg Wednesday through Friday of this week. To sign up, you can stop by the Harbormaster’s office or call 772-4688. The safety-checklist generator and other information can be found here.
Peter Jensen from the Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Education Center spoke to us about the Safe and Competent Worker Series beginning on February 11. seatecinterview242013
HOMER — What does a pink-haired, tattooed, ear-pierced, outspoken, former hairstylist, current college student, 20-something single mother of twins from the central peninsula have in common with a soft-spoken, married, former nurse, current Homer author with sometimes evident strands of gray hair that hint at her age have in common?
Not much unless you’re talking about Maggie Winston of Kenai and Marianne Schlegelmilch of Homer. When it comes to these two women, you don’t have to look too far beneath the surface to discover a strong connection.