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Southeast Alaska News
A fishing tender that sank in Duncan Canal near Petersburg last Wednesday does not appear to be leaking more fuel.
The Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and an emergency response company have suspended their search for the 71-foot Pacific Queen. The tender hit a rock and sank in about 40 fathoms near Lung Island, about two miles east of Kah Sheets Bay.
A pollution response vessel arrived at the scene last Thursday and spent two days looking for the sunken ship, according to a DEC report released Monday. The search yielded no sign of an additional fuel spill or the ship itself.
The Pacific Queen had an estimated two thousand gallons of diesel fuel onboard, according to the latest DEC report, but the crew reported securing the fuel vents before the ship went down. A light oil sheen was observed on the site on August 14th. The DEC report notes the search could resume if any additional diesel sheens are reported in that area.
The vessel was owned by Joseph Lykken of Wrangell and it was tendering for SeaLevel Seafoods, based in Wrangell.
Petersburg’s borough assembly will be voting this fall on whether several advisory boards and committees will continue or disband. The borough charter approved by voters last winter dissolves the advisory groups within a year’s time unless the assembly votes otherwise. The assembly last night voted down a blanket continuance for the committees.
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The borough charter gives the assembly until next January to decide on continuing elected groups like the public safety, parks and recreation, library, harbor and utility advisory boards along with some appointed bodies like the transient room tax and motor pool committees. Some have gone months without meetings, or long spells without filling vacant seats. Others have had contested seats in recent elections, are active monthly and make frequent recommendations to the assembly.
Assembly member John Hoag said he asked to table the issue when it came up last spring. “Cause I though if we were going to look at this we should look at it one board at a time, let the department heads come in, give us a chance to look at, I would suggest six months of minutes from some of these committees and make a decision committee by committee as opposed to doing it up and down en masse.”
Hoag noted the difficulty in getting people to serve on the elected boards, which may be more difficult with financial disclosure requirements now in place for elected board members in the new borough. Before it became a borough, the city council for Petersburg looked at changing the groups to appointed several times in the past two decades but backed down over objections from the public.
This year borough staff surveyed members of the advisory boards about continuing; all said they wanted to keep going. Assembly member John Havrilek argued for the advisory groups to continue. “The more public input we have the better off we are. And I, except for the finance committee that we’ve already talked about I would be very comfortable with just keeping all these boards. They’ve all said they wanna stay and I would welcome more participation than less.”
Havrilek moved to keep all the advisory boards on, but Hoag argued against a blanket continuance and singled out several of the groups. “I mean having a motor pool board is doing a function that should be done by the department heads and the city manager. I mean the utility board, how much does it really do today? how much does it function?” Hoag wondered.
Ultimately Havrilek joined Hoag, Cindy Lagoudakis, Sue Flint and Mayor Mark Jensen in voting down that continuance. Nancy Strand and Kurt Wohlheuter were the only yes votes.
Instead, the assembly will look at the advisory boards one or two at a time, However, some of the groups won’t have to go through the review process – assembly members discussed continuing the planning commission, harbor advisory board, transient room tax committee and library board. The advisory boards for public safety, utilities and parks and recreation will be up for review, along with the motor pool committee, at future assembly meetings starting up next month.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly decided to remove the hospital renovation project and add the Performing Arts Center to its capital project priority list. Mike Painter gives an update on the August 19th meeting. Assembly082013
An aide to U.S. Senator Mark Begich tells Petersburg officials the U.S. Coast Guard has no immediate plans to relocate or decommission a Petersburg-based cutter and says plans to bring in new larger cutters to Southeast may be delayed.
Bob King, a legislative assistant to Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich, sent an email response to Petersburg mayor Mark Jensen this month. King wrote that he contacted Coast Guard headquarters about the fate of the 110-foot cutter Anacapa, which does search and rescue missions, homeland security and law enforcement out of Petersburg. King writes that officials at Coast Guard headquarters say they have no current plans to take the Anacapa out of service or change its homeport.
Local officials wrote to the senator this summer asking about plans for replacing the fleet of aging 110-footers and asking to keep both the Anacapa and the buoy tender Elderberry or their replacement ships in town. Mayor Mark Jensen Monday said it’s nice to have the Coast Guard here and hopes the ships are in Petersburg for many years. “53 people I believe are associated with that ship being in town,” Jensen said. “There’s kids in school and people in the workforce and be a shame for that to go away for the community I would think.”
The Coast Guard plans to replace the 110-foot vessels with new 154-foot fast response cutters and wants to commission 58 new ships around the country. Two of the larger vessels are planned for Ketchikan, possibly as early as 2015. However, in his email, King writes that only 18 of the 58 larger ships have been funded and postponed delivery of the two ships to Ketchikan seems likely due to budget cuts.
Local merchants and shoppers can look forward to another day without sales tax this fall.
Petersburg’s borough assembly last night voted to have a day without borough sales tax on October 5th. That was a request of the Chamber of Commerce’s retail committee.
Assembly member Sue Flint supported the tax free day. “We are ahead of our budget with sales tax revenues and October is a month where it’s pretty much residents living in Petersburg, or shopping in Petersburg and I think it’d be a better time to have it than it was in May when we’re full of visitors,” Flint said.
October 5th is also two days after Permanent Fund Dividend checks are sent out by the state, giving local residents some money to spend.
The assembly can choose whether or not to designate up to two sales tax-free days a year under an ordinance ratified by Petersburg voters in 2011. Assembly members did not vote on offering a similar tax free day last spring over concerns with impacts to the borough’s budget. The issue did make it to a vote last night and it passed, 6-1 with assembly member John Hoag voting against it.
Sitka fire officials stopped short of evacuating residents along Halibut Point Road early Monday morning, after a nearby fire sent smoke billowing toward neighborhoods.
Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens says the fire began at the end of Granite Creek Road, where three containers of asphalt were being heated on trailers, for use on Baranof Street.
One of the heaters fell off its bracket and landed near the tires of a trailer, which then caught fire. Stevens says officials were concerned about a big tank of diesel nearby. They contacted the airport, which sent its foam truck to help extinguish the blaze.
Smoke billowed toward homes on Halibut Point Road, but the fire was put out before evacuations became necessary.
Stevens says about 15 firefighters responded to the incident, which began just before 1:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters were back at the station by 3 a.m., and on their way home about an hour later.
The equipment that caught fire is owned by Aggregate Construction Inc. Representatives of ACI’s Sitka office could not immediately be reached for comment.
It’s unclear whether the fire will impact the repaving of Baranof Street. Stevens, with the fire department, said the company was hopeful some of the asphalt could be salvaged. But officials in the city’s public works department also could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The street runs alongside two Sitka schools — Baranof Elementary and Pacific High School. Classes in both buildings are scheduled to begin next week.
JUNEAU — Proposed new state regulations would further define what constitutes a “medically necessary” abortion for purposes of receiving Medicaid funding.
The proposed change comes months after new regulations took effect for abortion payment conditions. Alaska’s health department last year backed off language that critics said would have restricted the definition of a “medically necessary” abortion for purpose of payment under the Medicaid program.
FAIRBANKS — Japan and South Korea air forces are participating with U.S. counterparts in military combat training at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks.
The two-week exercises in the Delta Junction area run through Friday.
It’s the first time Japanese and South Korea air forces have jointly trained in Alaska or anywhere, according to Lt. Col. Tom Pagano, commander of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron that plans the Red Flag Alaska training exercise.
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Mark White, a behavioral health clinician at Raven’s Way, says mental health first aid is valuable for just about anyone. Most people wait ten years before seeking help for mental health issues. The 8-hour course will be offered Mon Aug 26, $75.
This is the sound of dozens of feet shuffling in unison. The guy you hear on the megaphone, Nick Nickerson, leads the procession from the front in an orange construction vest. And, as you will soon come to know, everything here is accompanied by music.
The feet belong to a diverse assortment of men and boys: Native or non Native, young or old, short or tall, they all work together, carrying a massive piece of cedar on their shoulders.
But this isn’t just any group of men carrying a giant piece of wood. They are participating in a three-day Tlingit ceremony that will see five totem poles raised into position in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island. This particular totem is the Mythological Raven Pole.
It takes the group of men, followed by onlookers and a traditional Tlingit singing group, only a few minutes to carry the thousands-pound pole from the carving shed to Klawock’s Totem Park.
A large crowd has gathered in the park to watch the men hoist the pole onto a stand. They cheer when the exhausted men finish the journey.
Thankfully today, the sun is out. The same could not be said for past years or even the final day of this ceremony, during which at least a hundred people stood for hours in a drenching downpour.
The weather today is welcome, because the work isn’t done after the men carry the pole to the location. They roll it over and tie ropes to the top. And it’s then, when Nick Nickerson switches from the bullhorn to a microphone, that the real fun begins.
That banging noise you hear — wait, wait, we almost forgot. There’s music for this, too.
That banging noise you hear is a large piece of metal being hammered into the base of the totem – but what’s going on around the pole is worth explaining.
The long ropes tied around the top of the pole are stretched taught – on the other ends are groups of at least 20 people each. Under Nick’s direction, they have hoisted the pole up, and until that nail is hammered in, they are the only thing keeping the massive totem from falling over.
When the pole is finally bolted into place, the crowd cheers again, this time for themselves.
The carving of these poles, along with others in the Totem Park, was led by Jon Rowan, who has been working on totems since he was a child. He says, though, that he owes his knowledge and passion to other masters in the craft.
“I learned at my father’s knee, but when I really got into it was in highschool,” Rowan says. “My teacher, a master carver, introduced me to Nathan Jackson, and where I’m at today is because of them.”
The totems for this ceremony, along with others that have stood in Klawock since the 1990s, are known as “mortuary” poles, commemorating the dead. They are reproductions of original carvings from Tuxecan, an ancestral winter village of the Tlingit people. The Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps had recarved the ancient poles in the 1930s, much like many of the poles found in and around Ketchikan. But due to time and age, Rowan has been charged with reproducing them again.
The carver didn’t create these beautiful totems all by himself. He was helped by a number of his students from the Klawock School, where he teaches carving.
For the past two decades, Rowan has worked with students from early grade school until they are off to college, cultivating new carvers along the way. Around the 8th grade, Rowan knows which students he wants to join him in his workshop.
“School is different. When I’m at the shop, it’s a job,” Rowan says. “Nice Mr. Rowan gets left at the door and mean Mr. Rowan is who they see. That’s when nice Mr. Rowan leaves and mean Mr. Rowan comes in. But they’re learning a good work ethic, which is what I hope.”
During the ceremony, two plaques were unveiled, one listing the names of the carvers from the 1930s, and the other for Rowan and his students.
The celebration in Klawock included more than just totems. Patrons browsed a Native arts market during the days. And each night featured a potlatch feast with food, dancing…and, well, you guessed it. Cue the music.
Hundreds of people gathered in the Klawock School gymnasium each night to dine on crab, salmon, ham, salad, asparagus, potatoes and, well, the list goes on.
Tlingit dance groups from all around the region, including Ketchikan, entertained the crowd with songs of love and life. Devlin Andestrom dances with the group from Yakutat. The 16-year old sees the totem raising as an important uniting force for Tlingits throughout the region.
“I really feel like this pole raising is also raising up our spirit as native people,” Anderstrom says. “It’s healing for us, to be able to do something like this, for Tlingit people throughout Southeast.”
Twenty or so poles have been raised so far since the early 90s – and both Jon Rowan and others in Klawock say there are more than a hundred more to go.
Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member Bill Rotecki filed Monday for re-election. He will join fellow incumbent Alan Bailey on the October 1st ballot.
Rotecki is completing his first term on the Assembly, and he says he spent much of that time “learning the ropes.” He says there are some pet projects that he would like to continue working on, and a second term would allow that.
“I am a proponent of getting Coast Guard Beach into borough ownership so we get to decide what happens to that,” he said. “Currently it’s owned by Mental Health Trust. They have recently indicated their willingness to work with us on that, nothing has happened.”
Assembly members have a two-term limit, but members can return after taking a year off.
There are two three-year terms open on each the Assembly, School Board and City Council. On the borough side, so far, only the incumbents have filed for the Assembly seats, and nobody has filed for School Board.
The open School Board seats are held by Ginny Clay, who has said she will not seek re-election, and Board Member Dave Timmerman.
Rotecki encouraged people to file, especially for the School Board.
“If there’s anybody who would like me to talk them into running for School Board, give me a holler and I’ll try to talk you into it,” he said.
He added that he would be happy if someone else files for Assembly, even if that means he loses his seat.
On the Ketchikan City Council, the open seats are held by Dick Coose and Matt Olsen. Coose filed early for his re-election bid, and recently was joined on the ballot by political newcomer Judy Zenge.
The Saxman City Council has three three-year seats open, and one two-year seat.
The filing period for candidates seeking local seats ends at noon on Monday, Aug. 26th.
Petersburg artist Tammie Wales has completed a new mural.
It’s on the front wall of The Trading Union, to the right of another mural she painted earlier this summer.
CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld visited with Wales at the mural site. Here’s part of that interview.
Wales also created a mural for the Parks and Recreation Department, which she donated to help let people know about her art.
Wales is originally from California and moved to Petersburg last year.
Passengers aboard the Millennium bid adieu to Ketchikan Sunday afternoon. Or, they thought they did.
Trouble with one of the ship’s two propulsion units sent the 965-foot cruise ship back to Ketchikan Sunday evening, so the 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew members have another chance to experience Ketchikan.
Patty Rund and Rachel Pritchard, both from Minnesota, are two of those passengers, and gave a brief account of the trip out, and the trip back.
Rund said, “We started out, and then all of a sudden, they gave us the announcement.”
Then Pritchard elaborated: “We heard the ding-ding-ding-ding that we never heard before. Then … the head guy announced … that we were underpowered and that we could keep moving forward, but at a very slow pace, and therefore, he did not want to do that and made the decision to come back here.”
According to an emailed statement – the only communication that Celebrity Cruise Lines was offering to media – the ship was still able to sail, but the captain wanted to be cautious and make sure everyone on board remained safe.
The Millennium had been on its way to Icy Strait, but that part of the itinerary has been cancelled.
Rund and Pritchard, who are on their first trip to Alaska, say that passengers have been kept well informed, and they agree with the decision to return to port.
It was pretty rainy for their official stop in Ketchikan, so the two were taking advantage of better weather to do some shopping during this unofficial return visit.
“We’re going to go look at some jewelry that she should’ve bought yesterday,” Pritchard said.
Monday was a four-cruise-ship day for Ketchikan before the Millennium was added to the mix, so all four berths were taken, and a fifth cruise ship had to anchor out in the Tongass Narrows until one of the other ships left.
The Millennium had similar propulsion problems earlier this month, and was stuck in Seward for three days for repairs. The ship had to cancel its next sailing, and passengers on that voyage received refunds and credit toward a future cruise.
In the emailed statement, Cynthia Martinez, Celebrity’s Director of Global Corporate Communications, writes that the engineers and consultants have not been able to resolve the issue, and the ship will remain in Ketchikan at least overnight. That means it will cancel its scheduled stop in Juneau.
The Millennium left Vancouver, British Columbia, on Friday and was supposed to stop in Juneau and Skagway before ending the cruise in Seward on Aug. 23.
Karen Petersen who is one of the organizers of the Prince of Wales Tourism Summit speaks about the event being held September 6th and 7th in Craig. This year’s theme is Heritage Tourism. Also being explored is Tourism Outside the Box. POWSummit
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Sitka Mountain Rescue assists two hikers stranded in the fog on Lucky Chance Ridge. Sitka Schools superintendent Steve Bradshaw resigns effective June ’14. Petersburg wins family-friendly award from SF advocacy group. Warm weather creates “marine band” blanketing parts of Southeast.
A new state evaluation system ranks Petersburg’s School District among the top 10 in Alaska. It placed seventh, overall.
What’s called the School Performance Index gives the district nearly 90 out of a hundred points. Results released Friday show Petersburg is the seventh best in the state.
Mitkof Middle and Stedman Elementary Schools were ranked above the 90-point mark. Both earned four out of five stars for their achievements.
Petersburg High was at 84 points and earned three stars, meaning it must implement an improvement plan.
The new rating system was set up after Alaska was granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It evaluates reading, writing and math skills; graduation rates; and student improvement levels.
Ed Schoenfeld spoke with Petersburg Schools Superintendent Rob Thomason about the results.
While Petersburg ranked seventh in the state, six other Southeast school districts were in the top 10.
Yakutat was first, Skagway was third, Sitka’s Mount Edgecumbe was fourth and Wrangell was sixth. Southeast Islands, including part of Prince of Wales Island, was eighth. Haines was ninth.
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KENAI — A group of nearly 20 women were asked recently to describe the emotions they would feel about having a loved one abused without on-looking bystanders reporting it.
Words such as rage, anger, fear, sorrow and disbelief were shouted out.
They were then asked to describe how they would feel if a bystander assisted the loved one in need.
Words such as relief, thankful, grateful and joy were said out loud in response.
“That is why we are here today,” said Jennifer Messina, PhD, and director of training and development with Green Dot Etcetera.
ANCHORAGE — An 8.0 magnitude earthquake sounds like a freight train and feels like the worst-ever air turbulence. Bookshelves tumble. Computers and television sets crash to the floor. It’s a struggle to stay upright.
Even a fake one is scary.
FAIRBANKS — This year may end up as a below-average wildfire season in Alaska despite the hot, dry conditions.
Only about 1.25 million acres have burned so far in 2013, and there’s rain in the forecast that could help bring the fire season to an end this year, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The 10-year average is 1.4 million acres.
Officials pointed to a range of factors, including less lightning, faster responses from fire agencies and cooperating weather patterns that brought timely rainfall.