Alaskan Author Don Rearden will be visiting the Haines Public Library on Friday March 14th to...
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Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — The president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. said Thursday that he’s confident the Canada-based company will find a new partner for the proposed Pebble Mine project within the next year.
PETERSBURG — Federal wildlife officials have approved new guidelines for using sea otter hides in clothes and handicrafts by Alaska Natives.
The guidelines aim to clarify how Alaska Native artisans can use pelts and avoid running afoul of federal law regulating the take of the protected marine mammals.
The change clarifies how hides under federal law must be “significantly altered” to be considered authentic Native handicrafts or clothing that can be sold to non-natives, KFSK-radio reported.
A former Apple executive thinks providing every student in Alaska with a tablet computer is possible in the near future — with enough funding.
Bob Whicker used to work as in education development for Apple Computer. Now, he’s the director of the Alaska Association of School Board’s Consortium for Digital Learning, or CDL.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Whicker outlined a strategy for the so-called 1:1 (one-to-one) Digital Initiative for the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (11-20-13).
Whicker’s roots in Silicon Valley were evident throughout his presentation, which was peppered with terms like “beta”, and through the live demos of eReaders.
So what we’ve done with this book we got Shelly, she’s a whale biologist, and then we’ve added narration to it.
[SOUND OF DEMO: TO CHEW OR NOT TO CHEW]
So that helps kids as they’re reading this book. We’ve also made it so that it can change into different levels of reading. So this would be for an earlier reader, but it’s the same content. So teachers can be using this with a broad range of kids within their classrooms.
Whicker says it’s not just about supplying the devices. Results depend on the content and creative ways teachers can craft lesson plans using the devices. He says interactive digital content allows teachers to cater their lessons to a broad range of students.
It’s about the cheapest way to change education there is. If I wanted to really make things happen and if I want to get to a teacher ratio that would really change things I would have to dramatically change the structure of my school to get there.
A $5 million state legislative grant started the initiative in 2004. Whicker says that in order for the 1:1 initiative to realize its full potential it needs a total of $15.6 million from the state and a $9.6 match from local districts, allocated over four years.
Nevertheless, Whicker says over 140 school sites across the state practice a preliminary version of 1:1 at a cost of $200 per student – with the state contributing $120 and local district $80. He says teachers report positive changes.
We’ve had these 1:1 projects out and about for a while and CDL districts across the state we get teachers reporting to us that student engagement is up, attendance is up, behavior is down, We also see that student achievement can really be affected. This was an iPad project across 9 districts in 2011 and it was aimed at literacy and we saw a doubling of expected gains in literacy by all student and for those student 2.5 years behind in reading we actually saw those scores triple. So I’m not saying that’s going to happen, we’re not guaranteed this, but it’s looking like there is something going on.
Sitka School District Superintendent Steve Bradshaw thinks the initiative is appealing because of the cost of replacing outdated textbooks. He believes a digital curriculum could dramatically reduce costs.
You hear more conversation about the fact that we are going to have to change almost 100% of our curriculum materials over the next 24 to 36 months because of the new common core standards. That expensive. I’ve thrown out numbers anywhere between two hundred and fifty to five hundred thousand dollars per curriculum subject material. So I have hopes this is some way we can get material in a less expensive fashion.
Sitka School Board President Lon Garrison emphasized that $28 million statewide is already being spent on technology into the classroom. While the 1:1 initiative would require additional funding, Garrison feels that if it satisfies schools’ technology needs and increases student engagement and performance, districts should be free to reallocate the existing budget.
But, in order for many schools to fully participate they need bandwidth. Sitka’s school board is considering a capital request to the legislature this year to increase bandwidth, primarily to meet the state’s new requirements for online testing. That additional capacity — if the legislature funds it — might make the 1:1 initiative a reality in Sitka.
The Sitka School Board is revising its capital funding request for the coming year, in the hope of finding some money in an unfriendly legislative environment.
The board held a work session earlier this week (11-19-13). Because of bad weather and scheduling conflicts, only president Lon Garrison and member Jen Robinson were present for the board. However, Superintendent Steve Bradshaw and most of his administrative team appeared — all expressing a strong preference for additional money to support the transition to Alaska’s version of the “Common Core” standards.
Bradshaw described the problem in very clear terms.
“I don’t see any way, without cutting positions, of purchasing material.”
Curriculum materials will consist both of new textbooks, and increased digital bandwidth for teaching and testing. Bradshaw said the district would also require more days to train teachers in the new curriculum, and more days to work with teachers on the new evaluation process they’ll be subject to.
The new state standards go into effect for school districts next year, and school boards — like Sitka’s — are working to find a way to pay to implement them. At the district’s last regular meeting, Bradshaw estimated the costs to adopt the new standards, develop online testing tools, and evaluate teachers to be several hundred thousand dollars.
This is a different funding tack for Sitka Schools, which has typically asked the state for large capital projects — like building renovations, and new ballfields. At the top of last year’s priority list, for example, was a complete overhaul of the lower Moller Field track & field complex — at a cost of over $6-million. That request has been set aside, for now. The Republican-led Education committees in both chambers of the the Alaska Legislature have been openly critical of excessive spending for public education.
Board president Lon Garrison has been active on the district’s lobbying team over the last several years. He thought it was important to scale back.
“I really tried to take a different slant on this from the major capital projects which we’ve focused on in the past, to try and focus on — given the political reality of where we’re at, given the reality of what’s in front of us to do — the items I think would make sense to ask the legislature to help us with.”
Garrison ran through a list of small scale projects — like high-efficiency lighting, and Fish-to-Schools — that he thought might win approval of legislators, but the school administrators present wanted to focus on curriculum and staff development to meet the state’s new standards.
Jen Robinson, the only other board member present, agreed that academic achievement should be the top priority. She and Garrison included some smaller construction projects — such as new playground equipment at Keet Gooshi Heen — on their list. They also decided to renew their standing request to the legislature to increase the amount of money it contributes per pupil to districts statewide.
The district’s list of capital priorities for 2014 will not be official until it is voted on by the full board at its next regular meeting.
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Mt. Edgecumbe Intro to Business class members Daniel Active, Kaylyn Riley, and Ayisha Oscar discuss their latest marketing project: selling blankets to benefit Homeless Connect in Sitka. The blankets are $25, available at Alaska Pacific Bank or the Fisherman’s Eye Gallery. With instructor Bill Winslow.
In the back of most Sitkans’ mind is this question: When the big wave comes, will my house be under water? Researchers at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center and the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS) have an answer, of sorts. This month, they released a new map outlining which parts of Sitka would be affected by a major tsunami.
On January 4, 2013, just before midnight, Sitkans woke up to feel the ground shaking beneath them. Then came the tsunami siren, warning everyone to get to high ground.
Fire Chief Dave Miller is responsible for setting off the tsunami siren.
“The thing that got people excited about it was that we actually felt the quake, and we heard the siren,” Miller said. “And we hadn’t heard the siren in probably 20 years.”
In the end, there was no wave. But for many people, it was a wake-up call – what would happen if a big wave did come?
This month, researchers released a new map that tries to answer that question. It shows the state’s best estimate for how far inland the water would reach, and how deep it would be, in a worst-case-scenario tsunami.
Miller studied a copy in his office.
“Lincoln Street seems to be the dividing line through town,” he said. “Everything on the water side would have, eh, 3-6 feet of water.”
So Centennial Hall, in downtown Sitka, is under water. Crescent Harbor is swamped.
But the good news is that most of Sitka is above the high water line.
“[At] the Fire Department – we’d be fine,” Miller said. “We’d be sitting high and dry and wouldn’t have our fishing poles out yet.”
And it’s not just the Fire Hall. Some places that seem very low – like the airport, and SeaMart supermarket– are above the inundation line. Most of Sitka’s main roadways – like Sawmill Creek Road and Halibut Point Road – are also above the high water mark, protected by steep bedrock along the coast.
Elena Suleimani is a tsunami modeler at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, and it’s her model that the new map is based on.
“I’ve been studying tsunamis all my life,” she said.
According to Suleimani, the worst-case-scenario for Sitka – the scenario on which the map is based – would be a big earthquake on the subduction fault that stretches from Kodiak to Prince William Sound. That fault produced the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, the second largest quake ever recorded anywhere.
Closer to home, the Queen Charlotte Fault – which got Sitkans out of bed in January – is a strike-slip fault: the plates are sliding past each other, instead of colliding head-on, and during earthquakes, they don’t produce the kind of vertical motion that makes for big waves.
They can, however, cause landslides, both on land and on the continental shelf, under water. These landslides can cause their own waves – and it’s almost impossible to model them. That’s, in part, because they occur along smaller faults that haven’t been studied.
Rich Koehler works with the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.
“We haven’t looked at these,” he said. “Nobody has. Partially because they’re covered in – it’s rugged terrain, covered in forest, it’s hard to get to. Anyway. There’s nothing known about these faults, how often earthquakes happen, how big they could be, nothing.”
Still, Suleimani and Koehler said that the largest wave caused by a landslide would still be smaller than the worst-case-scenario plotted on the map.
So, at the end of the day, what’s the takeaway? According to Suleimani, no matter what the map says, if you feel the ground shake, go uphill:
“If you are in a coastal area and you feel the ground shaking, just get uphill immediately,” she said.”Don’t wait for any official announcement, don’t wait for sirens. Just go uphill. And stay there for 24 hours.”
Sitka Fire Chief Miller says the key point is to know ahead of time where you’re going, and be ready to head there on a moment’s notice – something many Sitkan’s weren’t prepared for in January.
“You get 9,000 people trying to move all at one time, it’s a zoo at best.” Miller said. “There’s a lot of cars, there were cars going hither and yon at any given time on the street in front of the fire hall.”
Miller thinks people should take a close look at the map. He also thinks they should take it with a grain of salt.
“The thing that you’ve got to remember is, this is a computer generated map,” Miller said “In Japan they had the same thing, they did the same studies, had the same results…and then they had the earthquake and Mother Nature said, get ready. I’m coming!”
You can download the Sitka tsunami inundation map from the DGGS here.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Computer model estimates possible tsunami inundation in Sitka. Science Center hatchery prematurely releases smolt to check infection. USF&W finalizes guidelines for use of sea otter pelts.
Petersburg’s amateur theater group will perform a fresh twist on a classic tale this week. It’s called “Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot” and the premiere is tonight at the Wright Auditorium. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by the Mitkof Mummer’s rehearsal and produced this audio postcard:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here
The Mitkof Mummers perform “Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot” tonight (Thursday), Friday, and Saturday at seven in Petersburg’s Wright Auditorium.
Ketchikan School Board member Ralph Beardsworth gives an update on Wednesday’s meeting, including updates to the budget and an administrative position to coordinate an district-wide IT program. SB112113B
Certification expected for Bristol Bay initiative
JUNEAU — A state elections official expects a proposal to require legislative approval of large-scale mining activity in the Bristol Bay region to be certified next month.
JUNEAU — The legal fight over Alaska’s redistricting plan may be nearing an end.
Jason Gazewood, an attorney for Fairbanks-area plaintiffs George Riley and Ronald Dearborn, says they do not plan to appeal a decision approving the latest map. A spokesman says Alaska’s Democratic party also does not plan to appeal.
Gazewood says those who filed friend of court briefs may have standing to appeal but he didn’t think so.
ANCHORAGE — A severely injured 18-year-old man left to die in a vacant Anchorage house likely had been beaten two to three days before he was found, according to Anchorage police investigators.
James Clinton remained in a coma for weeks and has little memory of what happened before officers, tipped off by an anonymous note, found him Sept. 16, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Four men are charged with felony assault and hindering prosecution in the case.
Less than two weeks ago, Jeff David Jr. learned that his father, Jeff David Sr. of Haines, served in the United States military as a Tlingit code talker. The follow-up surprise to that unknown piece of family history was that his father would be among those honored in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
David Jr. was one of 200 individual code talkers or their family members who received a silver medal at Wednesday’s ceremony. Each of the 33 tribes recognized received a gold medal. The medals were engraved with a design specific to each tribe.
A Southeast Native corporation CEO was one of a dozen Native leaders who met with President Obama as part of last week’s White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Chris McNeil Jr. is president and chief executive officer for Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast.
He and 11 tribal leaders from around the country met with the president to talk about creating jobs and sustainable economic development. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other administration staffers also attended.
McNeil, the only Alaska representative, says he told Obama that federal subsistence rules are not working as they should.
“Alaska Natives are not able to participate fully in the preference as it stands today and the regulations really need a revamping,” he says.
McNeil says traditional hunting, fishing and gathering are part of Alaska’s economy and rule changes could help them grow. He told officials subsistence is also an important part of the state’s food security.
Sealaska’s CEO says he also pushed for changes in what’s called the 8(a) program. Alaska Native corporations use it to win federal contracts without competing against other businesses. They can also partner with non-Native companies.
It’s been controversial, with calls to rein it in or shut it down. McNeil says it’s an important part of Alaska’s economy, and employs Natives and non-Natives.
“In our view, the administration can still reformulate its regulatory emphasis to be able to make that program work much better within existing law,” he says.
He says Obama asked well-informed questions. But most of the time was taken by Native leaders proposing economic development plans. (Read what else McNeil told the president.)
While McNeil represented Juneau-headquartered Sealaska, he lives in Washington state. He plans to retire in 2014 after about a dozen years heading the corporation.
The meeting with the president came before the larger White House Tribal Nations Conference.
Sealaska Board Member Jacqueline Johnson Pata, also executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, says it continued the same theme.
“The focus of this meeting was really about jobs and the economy and how he, through an administrative lens, can strengthen the ability of tribes to be more successful in that conversation,” she says.
She says the Obama administration turned out in force to meet with delegates from Indian Country, including Alaska.
“We had 12 secretaries, which is the most secretaries ever, listening directly to the tribes. And I think that this really shows this administration is really dedicated to try to resolve some of these issues.. And you could tell that by the depth of their knowledge around the particular issues, whether they be Alaska Native or the Lower-48 tribes,” she says.
Pata says they discussed infrastructure needs, trust asset tax issues and strengthening education, among other topics.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Sitka and Port Alexander, in effect until 6am tomorrow (Thu 11-21-13). The forecast calls for 7 to 11 inches of snow on Wednesday night, turning into rain on Thursday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Ainsworth says it’s the kind of weather Southeast usually gets this time of year, but with a twist.
“It really looks like a nice wet, October, November rain storm, but because of the recent cold air that we’ve had in place, it’s going to start out as snow,” Ainsworth said. “But in general, we should see several inches of liquid rainfall by the weekend.”
Between a major snow storm and recent freezing temperatures, it may feel like winter has shown up in hurry. But according to the National Weather Service, the snow is right on time. On average, we see our first snowflakes on November 21. The earliest recorded snowfall in Sitka was on Oct. 24. That was in 1966.
What is different is how cold it is. For the past few days, Sitka has seen freezing temperatures caused by the kind of arctic air mass that usually isn’t strong enough to make it all the way to the outer coast.
And this came after an unusually warm and dry fall: August, September and October were all 3 degrees warmer than usual. So even though, so far, November is on track to be pretty ordinary, the transition may feel more jarring than usual.
“We’re not gonna ease into anything here,” Ainsworth said. “We’re just going to go right for it and get some ankle-deep snow and get winter rolling.”
Ainsworth says warmer weather is on the way: Sitka can expect temperatures in the 40s on Thursday. But warm temperatures bring their own hazards.
“Because of that transition to a wetter precipitation, that snow-removal could be very heavy,” Ainsworth said. “So people should be careful in recognizing that this could be a lot of weight to be moving out of our driveways and sidewalks.”
Thursday will also be windy, with gusts up to 40 to 45 miles per hour.
The release created a minor feeding frenzy on Sitka’s waterfront, as birds and other predators descended on the smolt. KCAW’s Rich McClear stopped by the Science Center to check on the commotion, and to learn more about the unusual timing of the salmon release.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
There was a congregation of birds — gulls, ravens, crows and even a heron — all around the outflow of the Science Center hatchery. I saw one raven holding what looked to me like a baby salmon. But salmon are released in the spring. What was happening? I went into the science center to find out. A worker there told me they had just released thousands of smolt, or baby salmon. But why? The next day I found Lon Garrison, Aquaculture director for Sitka Sound Science Center.
“We recently had to release some smolt we tried to hold on to for a second year and release as two year olds. And we had to let those go because they were developing some health issues with a naturally occurring disease called Bacterial Kidney Disease. The Indian River system has Bacterial Kidney Disease in it as a natural pathogen.”
The hatchery was trying to hold on to the smolt for an extra year because the summer’s weak return of coho did not produce enough eggs for next spring. Garrison hoped that by releasing these baby fish in the spring of 2014, it would improve subsequent runs. But that didn’t work as well as he had hoped. Bacterial Kidney Disease – or BKD — exists all along the west coast but this was a particularly bad year for Indian River, in part because it was such a good summer.
“This year we’ve actually had some of the worst water quality that I’ve seen coming into any hatchery. The water for the SJ hatchery comes directly from Indian River and, of course, this year Indian River had a phenomenal return of pink salmon. Probably somewhere between 300 and 400 thousand pink salmon returned, which is close to 3 or 4 times what the escapement goal would be. So we were well over what we should have had. So what that translated to this year, especially with a low water year where we didn’t have a lot of rain, we ended up with a tremendous biomass in the river and they were using up oxygen like crazy. So the dissolved oxygen in the water that was coming to the hatchery was the lowers I have ever seen.”
The low oxygen level weakened the fishes’ immune systems; the huge numbers of dying fish introduced unusual amounts of fungus and bacteria into the hatchery’s water supply. Unwilling to consider antibiotics, Garrison decided to release the fish before the bacteria spread throughout the rearing pens.
“When those fish are reared in an intense situation like they are in a hatchery the mortality can just continue to increase so the best course of action is to let those guys go and so they got an early release, November is not a general time we try to release fish. Obviously there’s not a lot of food left in the ocean at that time and there’s a lot of predators around at the end of the season so we normally like to release those fish in the spring, but we had to do it a little earlier than we had planned.”
So does that mean that these smolt are a loss? Garrison doesn’t necessarily think so.
“I’m still hopeful that we’ll still see some coho come back, even from this release, I mean the majority of the fish were very healthy, they were a good size, nearly twice the size of the fish released in the spring. They were pretty chubby so they have a lot of energy reserves so I think if they can escape the predators and they didn’t come down with the kidney disease, they probably should do just fine.”
That was Lon Garrison, aquiculture director for the Sitka Sound Science Center. Garrison says now that the fish are released they will disinfect their pens with bleach and try again next year.
Physical therapist Carol Schafer of PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center tells how physical therapy and exercise have been found to help those with Parkinson’s. Parkinsons
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Ketchikan moves forward with controversial public art project. Lecture explores role of shamanism in contemporary Tlingit culture. Gustavus offers reward to end burglary spree.
The Petersburg Arts Council tonight presents Montreal-based pianist Derek Yaple-Schobert who will perform a mix of classical music at the Lutheran Church. Yaple-Schobert was born in Wisconsin and moved with his family to Canada when he was two years old. He studied piano at the University of Montreal and Nordic music in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. He’s been featured on BRAVO television and has performed in seven countries. This is his first visit to Alaska and he also plans stops in Haines and Skagway.
Joe Viechnicki spoke with him about the program for tonight.
For mobile-friendly audio, click here:
Yaple-Schobert performs tonight at 7 p.m. at the Petersburg Lutheran Church.
The federal government has finalized new guidelines on the use of sea otters by Alaska Natives. The change is aimed at better-defining a requirement that hides must be “significantly altered” in order to be considered authentic native handicrafts or clothing that can be sold to non-natives.
“These are guidelines and they are to help the native artisans to understand what exactly qualifies as significantly altered,” Andrea Medeiros is a spokesperson for the US Fish and Wildlife Service which has been working on the revised wording for more than a year
The final guidelines say a sea otter will be considered “significantly altered” when it’s not recognizable as a whole hide and has been made into handicrafts or clothing. The language goes on to define that in more detail.
It’s a positive step, according to the Sealaska Heritage Institute which teaches classes in the native tradition of skin sewing. SHI Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger says the new wording still needs some adjustment but, overall, he says SHI appreciates the change.
Kadinger thinks it helps clear up a term that, he says, has caused significant harm to artisans over the years, “Clarifying significantly altered to more align with the marine mammal protection acts original intent is…. we feel this language is going to help continue a tradition practiced since time immemorial without fear of prosecution….Protecting this inherent cultural right is not only good public policy but it supports and preserves cultural diversity and respects the traditions and lifestyles of Alaska Native people.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new definition of “significantly altered” is very similar to language endorsed last year by the Alaska Federation of Natives. That’s with the exception of a line requiring that an otter skin be changed enough that it cannot be easily converted back to an unaltered hide or a piece of hide. According to Kadinger, S-H-I is concerned over the words “piece of hide” since it would be hard to prevent someone from cutting a piece of fur from finished clothing or handicrafts.
“We feel it is acceptable to require individuals, or an item, that cannot be converted back into an unaltered hide. Conversely, we feel including the few words ‘cannot be easily converted back into a piece of hide’ is unnecessary and problematic. So the real issue there is the four words ‘piece of hide’ that we hope to continue to work with Fish and Wildlife service to understand what that part means,” says Kadinger
Sea otters are a federally-protected species and only coastal Alaska Natives are allowed hunt them. The revised language was, in part, prompted by concerns that unclear regulations and past enforcement actions had discouraged native use of the animals.
According to the agency, the final guidelines are based on input from a 2012 workshop with native artisans and hunters as well as extensive public comments on draft language that came out last spring.
Some commenters had found the draft language too restrictive. Others opposed the change as an attempt to weaken protections and encourage more hunting for the animals which have come into conflict with some of Alaska’s fisheries.