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Southeast Alaska News
KETCHIKAN — The Ketchikan School District said it had to spend $7,000 to conduct background checks and to fingerprint 31 preschool staff members to satisfy new state requirements, which it called redundant.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports new state rules require teachers and paraprofessionals in preschools to meet security regulations more stringent than what districts require of certified teachers.
Certified teachers already are fingerprinted and they undergo background checks during the certification process.
ANCHORAGE — Robert Paniyak looks back wistfully to a time more than two decades ago when he and other Alaska Native youths helped scientists capture and band geese to address declining numbers of migratory waterfowl in the state’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
SITKA — The state has released a tsunami inundation map for Sitka, showing the estimated high-water mark in the event of a tsunami.
But Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller said not to take the map as the final word on how high the water might rise in a tsunami.
“This tells us what the computer-generated study has found,” said Miller, the city’s emergency coordinator.
ANCHORAGE — At Romig Middle School, Kendall Johanson tunes her trumpet before band class using an app.
In her social studies class, the seventh-grader looks up geography facts on the same iPod Touch that she uses to Instagram and text-message, with the help of a wireless network provided by the school.
At Dimond High, government teacher Missy Nurmi hasn’t confiscated a note for years. Her students don’t pass them anymore.
They text surreptitiously, staring down at their laps.
KETCHIKAN — When Historic Ketchikan, Inc., has its sights set on a project, Executive Director Stephen Reeve doesn’t wait around for conveniences like heating to move in and set up shop.
When he’s ready, he’s ready.
In agreement with the Episcopal Church, Historic Ketchikan has begun the project of saving the Yates Memorial Hospital building from the wrecking ball and restoring it to its former glass-paned glory.
FAIRBANKS — There are a lot of custom-built homes in Fairbanks, but Andy Lyon almost certainly has the only one with a ceiling fan as the centerpiece.
That fact says more about the fan than the house. Above the living room, a Douglas DC-6 propeller slowly spins, moving air through the handsome wood-accented building off Chena Ridge.
Lyon designed his house specifically to accommodate the 131/2-foot propeller. For Lyon, a pilot and the director of maintenance for Everts Air, it was a chance to bring his love of aviation home.
ANCHORAGE — A high school teacher in Anchorage won $50,000 after placing second in a “Jeopardy!” game show competition for teachers.
Dimond High School teacher Mary Beth Hammerstrom told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that she’ll use her winnings to pay off her car, travel and fix a bathroom her husky destroyed.
“I like to think of it as winning the silver medal at the nerd Olympics,” Hammerstrom said.
Anchorage television station KTUU and GCI have reached a tentative agreement to keep KTUU news programming on the air in rural Alaska at least through December 6. See the story from KTOO’s Rosemarie Alexander here.
The dispute over rural television coverage started over 14 months ago, when GCI began negotiating for the purchase of the two NBC stations in Southeast, and one CBS station in Anchorage.
At least one individual deeply involved in that transaction is surprised that GCI and KTUU are struggling to reach a deal.
“It was so simple, we thought. Just send a check,” says Dan Etulain, the Sitka businessman who founded KATH-TV in Juneau, and KSCT-TV in Sitka, and who sold both to GCI on November 1 of this year.
While Etulain is content to be on the sidelines of this particular contest, he’s still in the middle making television. He owns one other Anchorage television station (KACN), and in Sitka he’s seldom seen without a video camera, providing 24-hour content for the local public access channel. He spoke with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey.
Although his empire is smaller, he may be the closest thing we have in Southeast Alaska to our own Rupert Murdoch.
But Dan Etulain isn’t in the news – he’s too busy making it. Selling the two stations is his version of scaling back.
“My primary interest is community TV. Actually NBC here was primarily a translator of our Juneau station – it just repeated. I didn’t have much to do with it. Also, we could pay off a few bills. And my wife has move to Bellingham, so I go see her about three or four times a year.”
That would be Kathy Etulain, the former director of the Sitka Campus of the University of Alaska Southeast. And Etulain’s inspiration for KATH-TV in Juneau.
“And so it was a matter of convenience. And I still own the station in Anchorage, and spend a lot of time making trips to Anchorage. And the station you own is which? The call letters are KACN. And it’s a very small, independent station.”
And when Etulain is not taking care of his remaining television station, he’s filming meetings, concerts, school programs – just about anything – and putting it up ‘round the clock on cable channel 11 in Sitka. Something he’s done for the last 16 years.
But even back then, Etulain was no newcomer to media. He first bought the now-defunct KIFW-TV in 1983.
“So I started TV 30 years ago. And this was your second career? Yes, I came to Sitka to be the first full-time dean of students. And that would have been in 1974? 1971.”
And also, 31 years ago, Dan Etulain became a founding member of the board of KCAW-FM, Sitka’s public radio station. A seat which he still holds.
Throughout our conversation, Etulain never mentions the “R” word.
“I’m not interested in retirement. I like what I do. It’s not only a job, it’s kind of a fun thing to do. It’s my hobby.”
Rupert Murdoch should be so lucky.
Most Sealaska shareholders will get a $713 check or direct deposit in about two weeks.
This year’s winter distribution to stockholders totals $11.7 million. The Juneau-headquartered regional Native corporation has nearly 22,000 tribal members. Most live in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest.
Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh says the twice-a-year distributions strengthen regional communities.
“Since inception, Sealaska has paid more than a half billion dollars total to shareholders and village corporations,” he says.
The majority of stockholders own 100 shares. Payments differ due to status.
Those also enrolled in an urban Native corporation, such as Juneau’s Goldbelt Inc., receive $713. So are those only enrolled in Sealaska.
Shareholders also enrolled in a village corporation, such as Prince of Wales Island’s Klawock Heenya, will get $71.
The difference is income from a pool of regional Native corporations’ natural-resource earnings.
Sealaska pays that directly to urban shareholders, as part of their dividends. But it pays the resource revenues to village corporations, which decide whether to pass them on to shareholders.
Descendents of original shareholders also only get $71 per 100 shares.
And elders in any category receive an extra $71.
Sealaska will mail or direct-deposit dividends beginning December 6th.
Some shareholders say the dividends are too small. They point to the fact that only about 10 percent of the payments come from Sealaska operations and investments.
“Let us not fight of the tiny piece of pie Sealaska chooses to distribute; let us work together to elect a board interested in growing the pie,” says critic Brad Fluetsch on a shareholders’ Facebook page.
ANCHORAGE — An Eagle River cupcake baker and her assistant are set to star in an episode of “Cupcake Wars” this weekend.
Cupcake-truck owner Kastle Sorensen and her assistant, Amy Grue, have studied the long-running show, analyzing past episodes for as many as 12 hours at a time, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The episode featuring them is set to air at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Food Network. The episode has already been recorded, but Sorensen can’t say who won because of the network’s confidentiality agreement.
ANCHORAGE — A soldier based in Anchorage has been awarded the military’s highest honor for heroism in a non-war setting for saving a man from a burning car.
Sgt. 1st Class John Kerns of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was awarded the Soldier’s Medal on Thursday, Alaska Public Radio Network reported. The medal is awarded for saving a life without regard to losing one’s own.
Kerns is paratrooper with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — The U.S. will assert its sovereignty in the Arctic, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Friday, even as Russia, China and other nations stake claims and expand their use of the icy waters for military exercises and transit.
Speaking at a security forum, Hagel said energy exploration in the largely untapped Arctic region could heighten international tensions, but that countries must work together to avoid conflict,
JUNEAU — Insurance companies that sent cancellation notices for policies that won’t meet requirements of the federal health care law have until Dec. 31 to file and extend those policies in Alaska.
State insurance director Bret Kolb said Friday that if carriers opt to do this, coverage would be extended one year under the existing policies.
He said by email that the division is working with companies operating in Alaska but did not say if any indicated that they wanted to extend existing plans, recommending instead reaching out to the individual companies.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth part in the Morris Communications series, “The case for conserving Kenai king salmon.”
The Yukon River draws into its mouth the largest migration of chinook, chum, and coho salmon stocks in the world. For the chinook, or kings, the river offers passage from the Bering Sea to spawning streams across Alaska and Yukon Territory all the way to British Columbia. The iconic fish run is one of the longest freshwater fish migrations on earth.
The State of Alaska’s Department of Revenue is on a mission to educate Alaskans about Senate Bill 21, saying it’s “tax reform” and not a “tax break” for major oil companies. The effort to influence the public’s opinion on SB 21 comes ahead of an initiative on the 2014 primary ballot attempting to repeal the bill.
ANCHORAGE — A New York attorney is running against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska in next year’s Democratic primary without leaving home.
William “Bill” Bryk wants Begich to have some competition, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The Alaska Democratic party has already offered a rare, pre-primary endorsement of Begich, whose seat is coveted by Republicans looking to reclaim control of the Senate.
The Coast Guard is asking local boat owners to check their vessels after a spate of sinkings this fall. The F/V Skeeter was hauled out of the water this morning (FRI 11-22-13), after it sank at its mooring in Eliason Harbor in early November. It is one of five boats that have gone down in area harbors since August, according to Chief Warrant Officer Michael Wortman of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Detachment.
Wortman is worried that he’s seeing a trend.
“It seems to be higher than normal,” Wortman said. “The fleet is getting older, and people leave for long periods of time and don’t take care of the boats. And the people they’re hiring to watch the boat aren’t very well trained. So there’s things that we do need to address.”
The Coast Guard doesn’t yet know what caused the Skeeter to sink, but Wortman suspects that local boat owners are not maintaining their bilge systems, which pump water out of vessels.
“I definitely highly encourage all the owners in the area to check their bilge systems,” Wortman said. “Make sure the pumps are working properly, batteries are in good condition…because, with all the rain around here, your boat can go down pretty quickly.”
After it sank, the Skeeter was turned over to the harbormaster, who worked with the Coast Guard to tow the boat across Sitka Channel and haul it out of the water at Japonski Island for disposal.
Morning host extraordinaire Melissa Marconi-Wentzel returned to the KCAW fold this October, bringing her unique blend of poise and warmth to our early AM weekday sound. Melissa has served both as program director (2007-2008) at Raven Radio, and as reporter (2004-2007), before taking some time to raise her family. Melissa’s also wrapping up her degree in Communications at UAS, and plans to make broadcasting her career. “I knew I wanted to come back to Raven Radio,” she says. “But when I sat down in that chair (in the air room) I knew that this is who I am.” We never had any doubt!
Melissa will be our primary local voice on Morning Edition, with backup from the capable (and early-rising) Peter Apathy. Welcome baaaaack, Melissa!
Alaska fishermen want to broaden the experimental use of cameras and other monitoring devices in the federal government’s fishery observer program. Under the recently-revamped program, many more vessels, including smaller boats, can now be required to carry an observer at times. A new industry proposal is aimed at making electronic monitoring available as an alternative to carrying that extra person on the boat. Matt Lichtenstein reports:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
The federal government expanded its fishery observer program this past year. For the first time, that meant halibut boats and smaller vessels, 40 to 60 feet long, could be selected to carry an observer. But according to Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association Director Linda Behnken, that’s not feasible for many, “There’s a lot of the small boat fleet that simply cannot accommodate another person. They don’t have a bunk. They don’t have the safety equipment. They just don’t have space for that. So, we saw a number of people apply for a release to observer coverage on those grounds. Actually 65 percent of the boats selected in the first three quarters of the year, which is the data I’ve seen so far, those 65 percent of the boats that were selected applied for a release and were granted a release.”
Behnken credits Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner and North Pacific Fishery Management Council member Cora Campbell for helping to make sure that relief was available. Behnken thinks the releases were needed to lessen the burden of the expanded program.
However, she says it also meant that the National Marine Fisheries Service fell short of its goals for observer coverage, “So, to our mind, you’re not getting representative data if you’re not hitting those target coverage levels which can mean some problems with extrapolating that data to the remainder of the fleet.”
Behnken says the situation shifted more of the observer burden to boats that were able to accommodate them. Also, she says some fishermen chose not to use their own small boats and instead opted to fish with other skippers who had bigger vessels. She says a few others chose to sell their fishing quotas because of the new regulations.
So, Behnken says ALFA is working with other fishing groups to pursue electronic monitoring or EM as an alternative to carrying observers on small boats. In October, they applied for a federal permit to broaden the experimental use of cameras and other electronic monitoring equipment.
“We all recognize there will continue to be a need for some….for observers on the water but that there are places, there are times, there is a significant portion of the fleet that is better served by having electronic monitoring to insure you get representative data and you get it in a cost effective way. So, we’re looking to integrate EM, to use it where you can get the data that managers need, and to use it in a way that’s less intrusive and less costly than deploying human observers,” Behnken says.
Federal fishery managers are taking a slower approach to the issue than the industry would like. NMFS has a small-scale EM pilot program that involved just a handful of participants this past year. ALFA wants to incorporate that into the broader, industry-backed project to test technology on more boats. 60 vessels would be the goal for the first year of a five-year effort.
NMFS has been considering the proposal according to Martin Loefflad who is director of the agency’s Fisheries Monitoring and Analysis Division. While he won’t comment on the industry application while it’s still under review, Loefflad says NMFS is also trying to advance EM, “What we’re trying to do is improve the quality of imagery we are getting from vessels. There’s a lot of hype on this EM stuff going on worldwide right now and what we’ve seen is that a lot of work has been done all over the world that has been duplicating the same sorts of things. We want to get out of duplication and actually move this stuff forward. I personally think EM has massive potential and could revolutionize the way we sample, if we do it right.”
Observers record catch data and other information for use in fishery management and research. Loefflad says electronic monitoring will never do exactly what a person does, “People can do a variety of things. EM can do some things very, very well and we want to figure out what things it does well and then so we can use that potentially as a tool to supplement those areas where putting a person on a boat is not a feasible process.”
Loefflad says together, NMFS and the industry may be able to make some progress on moving electronic monitoring forward.
The agency has told the North Pacific Council that it will have the capacity to deploy EM equipment on 14 vessels in its pilot project next year. As an incentive for participation, NMFS proposed that volunteers would avoid the possibility of being selected to carry an observer. That would also be the case for the industry proposal.
National Marine Fisheries Service Staff will be in Petersburg to hold an informational meeting about the fishery observer program in general on Tuesday, December 3rd from 4 to 6 pm in the new Library’s large conference room.
Petersburg’s mayor is pleased with this weeks court decision in favor of the state’s latest redistricting plan. The legislative boundary map will put Petersburg in a district with Sitka and 22 other small Southeast communities, including Kupreanof, Kake, Angoon, Craig, Coffman Cove, Port Protection and Point Baker. Petersburg is in a district with Juneau under the interim plan that’s currently in place.
Mayor Mark Jensen said this week the new map makes more sense. “I just think we’re more alike than we are with downtown Juneau,” Jensen said. “I think we’re more of a working town, fishing town and they’re more of a government type run city. So I think there’s differences. Not that I have any bad things to say about the representation we had after redistricting happened from Dennis Egan and Beth Kerttula. I just think we’re more on the even grounds having the smaller communities in with us.”
The Alaska Redistricting Board’s latest plan got approval from Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy this week. The Associated Press reports that two of the plaintiffs who challenged that map do not plan to appeal the decision.
The Petersburg borough assembly this summer voted to back the new configuration which was the result of a Supreme Court ruling. That’s after the municipality joined the lawsuit against the interim plan which put Petersburg with Juneau.
That interim map will still be in place for the upcoming legislative session – meaning Petersburg will continue to be represented by Juneau democrats Beth Kerttula in the house and Dennis Egan in the Senate.
Ultimately, Jensen thinks the new district gives Petersburg a better chance of securing state funding for projects. “Instead of trying to get funding competing with the bigger municipalities. But as all of us know that the funding is going to be harder to come by anyway just the state of the, well the conditions of the state’s finances.”
Assuming no other parties to the redistricting lawsuit appeal the judge’s decision, Petersburg and Kupreanof voters will be deciding on representation for the new district for the state primary next August. Sitka democratic state representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins plans to run for the new Sitka-Petersburg house district. Petersburg resident and republican Stephen Samuelson plans to challenge him for that seat.
Petersburg’s new house district is 35. Its paired with the Ketchikan-Wrangell house district to make up Senate district “R.” Sitka Republican Bert Stedman does not have to run for re-election in 2014 and will represent the new Southeast Senate district including Petersburg in 2015.