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Southeast Alaska News
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Cycling advocates in Sitka plan activities for Nat’l Bike Month in May. AMHS 50-year Anniversary interviews, part I: Bob Pickerell. Disaster-prone canoe voyage results in true love for Ketchikan couple. UAS holds simultaneous graduation at three campuses on Sunday.
There should be no power lines over or under Petersburg creek. That’s the gist of a resolution passed by the Petersburg Borough assembly this week. The crossing could be part of the proposed electrical intertie to Kake. While Petersburg has long-supported the intertie, the assembly is asking planners to pick a route that avoids the creek which is a prized recreation area for locals and visitors.
However, the creek is just one of the local concerns over the project and the assembly agreed to schedule more discussions on the intertie, and the road project that may go with it. Matt Lichtenstein reports:
Southeast gillnetters headed to southern Admiralty Island this week for the upcoming Seymour Canal herring fishery. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game put Seymour on two-hour notice as of nine pm Monday. That means an opening could be announced as little as two hours ahead of time.
This year’s guideline harvest level is just over a thousand tons of herring. That’s a few hundred tons less than 2012, but the fleet didn’t end up fishing last year. They waited on the grounds for nearly three weeks before the state called it quits. Managers said the herring return was healthy, but the little silver fish never congregated in large enough schools to make an opening commercially viable.
The department tries to open herring fisheries just before the major spawn, when the females are the ripest with eggs and large schools of fish mass near the beach. Fishermen target the herring for their roe.
Thirty percent of this year’s return is supposed to consist of older, bigger fish. That means more roe and more value.
56 permit holders are registered for this years fishery.
Seymour is the only herring fishery scheduled to open for Southeast Gillnetters. It typically takes off in late April but it has started as late as May 21st.
The Petersburg Assembly approved next year’s borough budget and the millage, or property tax, rate in the first of three readings Monday.
The overall millage rate will actually go up slightly because this is the first year of debt repayment for the town’s new library. However, Finance Director Jody Tow told the assembly the base millage rate, which does not include debt payment, actually dropped a little.
“The base mill rate went down because the total assessed value increased about 11 million dollars. So, at third and final reading once the appeals have been settled, that mill rate might change a little, go a little higher as appeals are settled and perhaps assessed value will lower slightly,” Tow said.
For now, the council approved an eleven mill property tax. It works out to eleven-hundred dollars in tax for every hundred-thousand dollars of assessed value. That’s just one dollar more than this year.
The plan includes a balanced general fund for third year in a row. Unlike utilities, the general fund is mainly supported by property and sales taxes. It covers borough departments that can’t pay for themselves like emergency services, the library, the schools, parks and recreation, public works and more. General fund revenues and expenditures total just under nine-point-4 million dollars. That’s up a little over three percent from this year. There are no major changes to staffing or services.
The assembly voted unanimously in favor of the spending proposal. It will come up for a second reading and public hearing on the 20th.
Nearly 600 Petersburg residents spent a rainy Friday evening aboard the state ferry Malaspina to help celebrate the Alaska Marine Highway’s 50th anniversary. They were welcomed with Norwegian dancing and homemade cookies in the shape of Alaska, the state flag, and a ferry. Many toured the bridge and had dinner in the cafeteria or a drink in the bar. Some shared stories of the first ferry stop in Petersburg a half century ago and memorable rides over the years. The town wrapped-up the event with a fireworks display as the Malaspina headed North for Juneau.
Matt Lichtenstein produced this sound portrait from evening:
KRBD has been awarded a disaster preparedness grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
The station is one of 30 winners nationwide. KRBD will receive $35,000 for its Radio in a Box program, which will allow the station to remain on the air and broadcast important information in the event of a disaster. The equipment will include a portable studio, transmitter, antenna and the accessories needed to make it all work.
Station Manager Deb Turnbull described the equipment: “These units are for emergencies, they’re portable, they’re easy to assemble, they can be picked up and flown to any community in Southeast to aid with earthquakes, tsunamis, dam breaks, all kinds of things,” she said.
The funds awarded through FEMA also will go toward buying 1,000 hand-cranked radios that will be distributed throughout the community.
KRBD will work with local disaster relief officials to distribute the radios. Who gets one is partly dependent on a pre-determined checklist.
“The local emergency group would like to see people prepared in the event of an emergency,” she said. “They’ve sent out fliers and in those fliers they say what should be in your kit. Food, water, for how long, batteries, the ability to communicate, things for your pets. Our intent is to launch a program whereby you bring your kit in and if you have a level of preparedness in your kit, it could be that you have 10 of the 25 things, you would receive one of these hand-cranked radios so you could listen in. Maybe you’d be the contact person in your neighborhood who would be the contact person for people to receive the news if something like that should happen.”
KRBD worked in collaboration with Ketchikan Fire Department Chief Frank Share to prepare the grant request.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board will vote on a delayed motion Wednesday to purchase 60 laptop computers.
The decision to vote on the computers was pushed off from last meeting so more research could be done on the cost of Apple computers versus other brands. Some board members, particularly Misty Archibald, had asked whether a cheaper alternative could be found. Prior research done by school district staff points out that much of the district’s technology infrastructure and curriculum were built with Apple products in mind.
The purchasing request on tomorrow’s agenda will be for Apples. Half of the 60 computers are slated for Houghtaling Elementary School, with the other half going to Point Higgins Elementary. The total estimated cost is a little bit more than $63,000.
Also tomorrow, Superintendent Robert Boyle will discuss home Internet filtering of school computers with the board. The Board is under pressure to address Internet filtering and security issues in light of an incident last week when students at Schoenbar Middle School were able to hack into computers at that school.
The Board also received a request from a parent during a recent meeting that the body address ways to limit what students could access via the Internet while using school-issued computers at home.
The School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Borough Assembly Chambers in the White Cliff Building. Public comment will be heard at the beginning and end of the meeting.
Assembly member Bill Rotecki gives an update on the May 6th Borough Assembly meeting. assembly050713
FAIRBANKS — Experimental biomass-burning generators aren’t working out as lucratively and efficiently as a Fairbanks area businessman had hoped when he launched the idea to turn waste paper into electricity more than two years ago.
Bernie Karl’s project is costing more and generating less revenue than he figured it would, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Karl’s biomass-burning system at his K&K Recycling is, indeed, making electricity out of garbage, but nothing about the endeavor has been easy, Karl said.
ANCHORAGE — The recipe for flooding along Alaska’s river system is abundant snow and ice, cold April temperatures and a surge of May heat, but the National Weather Service says it’s too soon to say whether all four conditions will line up in 2013.
River ice remains thick, the snowpack is above average, and Alaska experienced below-normal April temperatures. But the most critical factor is the weather in the next few weeks, said hydrologist Scott Lindsey, and atmospheric models that predicted April’s cold are giving mixed signals for May.
ANCHORAGE — Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are getting a peek into what city bears do all day.
Six bears were equipped with rugged video cameras attached to collars around their necks, which are allowing biologists to get a good idea of how the four black and two brown bears spent their time last summer.
SITKA — Sitka Sound herring spawn measured close to the 10-year average for spawn miles, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Spawn miles are a measure of shoreline. The spawn from the massive congregations of herring turns the water white along shorelines white and can be detected from the air.
Spawn miles are one of the figures that the department uses to determine the spawning biomass, along with width of spawn and egg deposition.
Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell indicated Monday that he is moving closer to a run for the United States Senate now that Gov. Sean Parnell has ruled himself out of that race.
Parnell’s announcement Friday that he will seek reelection ended months of speculation that he could forgo reelection for a run against Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat elected as Alaska’s junior senator in 2008.
Treadwell announced late last year that he would explore a Senate bid, although he said at the time that he had “no interest” in running against Parnell if the governor opted to enter the race.
In 2008, Sitka became the first community in Alaska to be named a “Bike Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists. Doug Osborne, a health educator at SEARHC, was instrumental in winning that recognition.
He still considers the bike a good way to combine exercise and environmental awareness, with basic utility.
“In the way the bike is the most efficient machine ever made, it’s also one of the most efficient ways to get around. Because you’re checking a lot of boxes. So when I get over to SEARHC, I’ve gotten at least 15 minutes of physical activity, I’ve gotten some fresh air. I’ve had some fun. It’s a nice stress-reducing activity. And I’ve gotten from point A to point B.”
Osborne represents the Sitka Bicycle Friendly Community Coalition, which has planned events for the entire month. Residents are encouraged to log their miles online with the National Bike Challenge to earn points for themselves or their teams. Wednesday May 8 is National Bike to School Day, and National Bike to Work Week begins on May 13.
On Friday of that week, bikers who pedal over the bridge to UAS will be treated to free pancake-and-egg breakfast beginning at 7:30.
If these incentives aren’t enough, Osborne says riders can just enjoy not spending money on their cars for a month.
“The biggest savings that we are sitting on is personal transportation. Nationwide, Americans on average spend something like 14-percent of their income on transportation – a huge amount. Because it’s car dependent and cars are so expensive in so many ways.”
Osborne says that dedicated bike commuters realize huge savings over driving – savings that can add up in dramatic fashion.
“People who can ride – you’re sitting on a lottery ticket. If you were to turn that in and just try it for a year, it’s a $4,000 to $5,000 turnaround a lot of times.”
Osborne has the benefit of experience to back up these claims. He’s been an all-weather bike commuter since moving to Sitka. In fact, moving to Sitka was the catalyst for the change in his driving habits: The relative nearness of everything, the friendliness of the drivers, the good roads – all helped tip him toward becoming a full-time rider.
“Well, you know I’ve had a bike since college in Ft. Collins, but in terms of being a bike commuter, it was really in Sitka. When I lived in east Anchorage I was doing the car commute, which, if you didn’t time it right you could be in stop-and-go traffic for a half-hour or forty-five minutes. So, when I became a bike commuter was really when I came to Sitka ten years ago.
KCAW’s Holly Keen contributed to this story.
KODIAK — Kodiak resident Stacy Studebaker took an idea in hibernation for nearly two decades and turned it into a children’s book.
Her inspiration for her latest book “Hey Bear Ho Bear,” which hit Kodiak bookshelves last week, came from a song her band Waterbound wrote 20 years ago. “Hey Bear Ho Bear” was a song on the band’s CD, “Alaska Animal Tales and Tunes.”
“A lot of people know it and know the song,” she said. “When I recorded the song, friends said I should turn it into a children’s book, and that seed planted in the back of my mind.”
HONOLULU — A group of Hawaii fishermen is asking the federal government to remove northern Pacific humpback whales from the endangered species list, saying the population has steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.
Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc., a coalition of fishing clubs and groups from across the islands, filed a petition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month.
ANCHORAGE — It’s a brisk, sunny early spring day in Seward. Scudding clouds barely break the relentless blue of the sky beyond the chilly, cobalt waters of Resurrection Bay. Inside the city administration building on Adams Street, assistant city manager Ron Long looks at a detail of a map of Seward’s harbors.
“Here’s the existing infrastructure here. So there’s one central portion of the basin that would need to be dredged to accommodate the largest of the vessels in the proposed fleet. “
KENAI — The pounding of nails, honking heavy equipment horns and buzzing of metal-cutting saws made an educational ruckus at the Soldotna Sports Center parking lot on Tuesday, where students from area high schools were getting a hands-on education in various Alaska construction fields.
More than 350 students from Kenai Peninsula schools attended Alaska Construction Career Day. Specialty construction companies and labor unions opened shop to show students what some of their options are, if they are considering a career in the construction industry.