Registration is still open for the Summer Youth Theater Conservatory. Three weeks of theater...
Submit and View KHNS Postings
Please use the following links to submit or view on-air messages :
Submissions must be approved and may be edited for content before appearing on the website or read on-air. If you would like a confirmation, please email the station at firstname.lastname@example.org. LPs are processed as soon as possible, please allow 3-5 days for process of PSA's . If submitting after 5pm or over the weekend announcements will not be approved until the following weekday.
From Our Listeners
Thanks to our Generous Underwriters, Sponsors and Grantors
Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — Alaska’s challenge to provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act is on hold pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case.
The nation’s highest court heard arguments Wednesday over whether there is an ongoing need for states with a history of discrimination to get Justice Department approval for redistricting plans or proposed election changes.
JUNEAU — Alaska legislative leaders are urging Gov. Sean Parnell to negotiate no raises in union labor contracts amid concerns about state budget costs.
Senate President Charlie Huggins, House Speaker Mike Chenault and the leaders of the House and Senate Finance committees signed the letter. It comes as the administration is involved in negotiations affecting nearly two-thirds of the state workforce.
Legislation sponsors say Senate Bill 7 brings certain corporate tax brackets in line with inflation; the bill is in its final reading on the Senate floor. Senators could cast votes on the bill as early as Friday.
The Sitka Global Warming Group/Sustainable Sitka has announced its Green Business Award winners for 2013. A total of twenty-six businesses met the organization’s criteria for green business practices this year, nineteen of them at the platinum level.
What started out four years ago as a publicity project for Sustainable Sitka has turned in to a source of pride for some of the businesses who participate.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Michelle Putz is a first-term member of Sitka’s Assembly who was elected last fall on an openly-green platform. She helped develop the Green Business Awards in 2009.
Putz says she wasn’t necessarily trying to create change, as much as acknowledge the change that was already happening.
“There were businesses out there that were doing good things. And that was really why it came about. We wanted to say thank you for what they were doing. But also it has led into a list of best business practices for being green, and supporting community, that other businesses now have. Sometimes they can pick up things from this list.”
The Sitka Global Warming Group and Sustainable Sitka score nominations in six categories: waste reduction, energy conservation, transportation, green materials, green products, and community environmental education.
Karen Parker, with the Alaska Computer Center, says she didn’t wait for someone else to nominate her business.
“A lot of these are good business practices, and good for the environment at the same time, so we said, Since we’re doing it anyhow, let’s put in a nomination. And we did.”
The Alaska Computer Center has won a Sitka Green Business Award at the platinum level for all four years. That means they participate in over 15 green business practices.
Rob Parker appreciates the expansion in Sitka’s recycling program he’s seen since 2009.
“We collect cardboard, plastics, and then make a pilgrimage once a week to the recycling place. And as we’ve done that over the years I can see that the recycling people have given us more and more alternatives of materials that we can recycle.”
Rob and Karen Parker display a Green Business Award certificate at their sales counter. Other than that, there’s nothing about the appearance of their business that shouts “green.” But they believe the program has value, beyond just feeling good about the environment.
“There are people who will bring used ink cartridges back because they know we recycle them, when they’re getting their new ink cartridges. Or people who get a new battery backup because it’s more energy efficient than whatever’s been going on, and it preserves equipment. So, in that way I’d say they’re aware of it, and they appreciate we’re doing it, and would like to do it themselves.”
Twenty-six winners is a lot of businesses in Sitka. Even KCAW received a platinum award. The group also gave special recognition to fishermen, for their contribution the the local Fish-to-Schools program.
Putz and Sustainable Sitka want to give out even more awards this year, in another round in April. For Michelle Putz, the Green Business Awards won’t be over until there are no losers.
“I would love to have a big event. Presenting the awards at something very public. That would be a nice next step.”
KCAW’s Holly Keen contributed to this report.
Gov. Sean Parnell visited Washington, D.C., last week for a meeting of the National Governors Association, and he came back believing that “Washington is broken,” he said at a press conference Thursday morning.
But Parnell, who has been tipped as a potential Republican candidate to take on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich next year, avoided talk of whether he wants to go to Congress to work on national issues.
Instead he focused on Alaska and its relationship with the federal government — namely an opt-in Medicaid expansion, which he said Alaska should not pursue this year.
Some lawmakers and Marine Transportation Advisory Board members are questioning plans for a pair of shuttle ferries that will provide service in northern Southeast Alaska. They’re expected to be built at the Ketchikan shipyard.
Ferry officials released preliminary descriptions and drawings earlier this week. They described identical, 280-foot, 300-passenger, 53-vehicle day boats that would serve Juneau, Haines and Skagway.
The plan went before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Transportation Committees today.
Juneau Senator Dennis Egan asked Deputy Transportation Commissioner Reuben Yost about two of the most common concerns –harsh storms and a partially open car deck.
“What happens when that ship has to turn around and the spray comes into the open stern? That really worries me,” Egan asked.
This drawing from the shuttle concept design document compares the proposed vessel with other AMHS ferries. Image courtesy Coastwise Corp.
“You’re talking about a fairly extreme situation. … The turnaround situations with the LeConte are primarily because of the ice spray freezing on the … lifeboats. They don’t threaten the stability of the ship. They threaten the ability to launch if there is a crisis with the ship for other reasons,” Yost answered.
He told legislators the state expects the ships can be built for the $117 million remaining for design and construction.
Wrangell Representative Peggy Wilson asked whether that included terminal modifications.
“For the adjustments to the harbor itself where they have to make adjustments for the … roll-on, roll-off? Is that included in here?” Wilson asked.
“This is just vessel costs and project development costs. There will be required end berths, probably bow berths, in Haines. We estimate that cost now at $20 million. So that’s an additional cost,” Yost answered.
He said the terminal would be eligible for federal funding. Ship construction will not, because officials plan to give a preference to in-state shipyards.
Several lawmakers questioned the shuttle’s safety and passenger comfort level in rough weather.
Chickaloon Representative Eric Feige said the design could cut down on schedule flexibility.
“This is going to really limit the usage of these ships. So these ships are just going to be Lynn Canal only. You’re not going to be able to divert them if you have a need elsewhere in the fleet?” Feige asked.
“We have shown, at least schedule-wise, that this vessel can go to Hoonah, to Angoon, to Gustavus and to Tenakee. And we’ve shown for extended voyages where we have to fill in in an emergency situation going to Sitka, and then housing the crew overnight on shore. This vessel would be designed for those weather conditions as well,” Yost answered.
Yost and Falvey also presented shuttle plans to the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Committee.
There was no time for discussion or questions. But afterward, member Mike Korsmo, a Skagway tugboat captain, said he worried about freight capacity.
“They’re saying right in the report that you can’t put a car on and have somebody pick it up on the other end,” Korsmo said. “Well, the freight comes that way to Skagway quite a bit, where a tractor comes down, grabs the container and takes it off. And that’s where most of our store supplies come (from).”
The two-shuttle plan replaces an earlier effort to build a larger ferry with more amenities.
Juneau Chamber of Commerce CEO and advisory board member Cathie Roemmich said that became too big and expensive.
“Now we see something that I believe is within our grasp. And I hope the governor and DOT move forward with it, and we don’t pause or take too much time arguing whether it’s the right thing or the wrong thing,” Roemmich said. “I think these vessels will be a great addition to the Alaska Marine Highway.”
The change in plans, announced late last year, was made without input from the advisory board or lawmakers. That offended many of those involved.
Board Chairman Robert Venables said the panel is now in the loop and will make sure the public has a voice.
“There is going to be a path forward to receive input from outside DOT into the process of building this next generation,” Venables said.
Public testimony is on the agenda for future ferry advisory board and transportation committee meetings.
The Petersburg Borough and the union representing its electric utility employees appear to have tentatively reached a contract settlement with the help of a mediator. That’s according to Petersburg Assemblyman John Hoag who serves as the borough’s lead negotiator:
“Well, we believe we’ve reached a settlement, I’m pleased to be able to say. There are details that still need to be ironed out between the parties. We have not been able to finalize language for various reasons on a couple of issues. So, I don’t want to provide any more details at this time until the IBEW negotiator and myself are confident that we have a final deal that, on approval by our respective clients, will be signed,” Hoag said.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers represents 11 borough employees at Petersburg Power and Light. They have a separate contract from the towns other municipal workers, who are members of the Petersburg Municipal Employees Association.
Negotiations between the Borough and the IBEW started in November. In Early February, the Borough Assembly approved tentative agreements on some of the contract language. During that meeting, Hoag told the members that the parties were still working on monetary issues at the time.
This week, Hoag declined to go into detail this on what the differences had been, but he said the two sides had met with a mediator on Tuesday:
“This is the same mediator that’s been used in the past for the negotiations with the main borough union, the PMEA folks. So, she’s familiar with the area and, yes, we met with her in mediation yesterday and her services were valuable in assisting the parties in reaching what we hope is a final settlement,” said Hoag.
During Monday’s regular assembly meeting, Hoag plans to give a briefing to members in a closed-door session. If there’s a consensus to ratify the tentative agreement, Hoag hopes to have it up for a vote in open session a couple weeks later.
The agreement will also need ratification by the IBEW members. We didn’t hear back from an IBEW representative in time for this broadcast.
Citing anticipated low returns, Ketchikan-Misty Fiords District Ranger Jeff DeFreest has closed District 1-area federal waters to eulachon fishing through the end of April.
The federal closure coincides with an Alaska Department of Fish and Game emergency order closing all state waters to subsistence and personal-use eulachon fishing.
DeFreest said that shutting down the fishery yet again is an attempt to help the stocks rebound.
“There was a big dive in the population of eulachon a few years ago, and for the last five years, we’ve had temporary closures on eulachon to allow the runs to re-establish themselves,” he said.
Any eulachon caught in District 1 during the closure must be returned unharmed to the water. The timing of the closure order is strategic; DeFreest says the fish run generally starts in March and lasts through April.
The decline in numbers has been dramatic. The eulachon run used to be significant, but then in 2004, only 1,500 pounds of eulachon were harvested. And it kept getting worse.
“In 2010, we actually had fish counts and I think we were only in the double-digits of fish coming back,” he said. “I think we had something like 21 or 50 fish, or something very small.”
DeFreest said they didn’t have an official fish count after 2010, but observers did see
somewhat more than double-digits returning. He said there are various theories about why the area stocks declined so rapidly.
“There’s discussions of overfishing, there’s discussions about changes in the environment, there’s discussions about changes in water quality, but nothing to my knowledge or to subsistence biologists I’ve talked to has been quantified as the reason for the crash,” he said. “I understand it could be a compilation of the reasons.”
Eulachon have a five-year life cycle. The closure is based on the observed runs for the last two years, which show it is unlikely a harvestable surplus will return this year.
DeFreest said the fish is particularly important to the Native community.
“It’s smoked and eaten as fish, and it’s also rendered down for oil, and the eulachon oil is very important to the local Native culture, as well,” he said.
The oil content of eulachon is very high, and the herring-size fish is also called a candlefish. DeFreest said that, while he’s not observed it himself, he’s been told that a dried eulachon can be lit on fire, much like a candle.
For more information about the Federal Subsistence Management Program, go to http://alaska.fws.gov/asm/home.html.
A poorly worded agenda statement led the Ketchikan School Board to unanimously reject a motion to purchase about $60,000 worth of new laptop computers.
The agenda statement had said the MacBook Air laptops were needed specifically for elementary and middle school physical education programs. In an interview with KRBD Thursday morning, Board Member Michelle O’Brien said the agenda statement didn’t tell the whole story. The laptops were intended to replace older laptops, and would be used for more than just physical education.
“But, we felt as a board that we couldn’t just rubber-stamp this purchase when all we had was a write up about this computers being used for PE,” she said. “I think, as we all probably think, that it’s a very important time for us to be prudent with our money.”
The motion might come back to the board with additional information.
Also Wednesday, the School Board talked in executive session about Superintendent Robert Boyle’s contract. O’Brien said the board took no action following the closed-door session, but that a motion will be part of a future board meeting agenda.
The next School Board meeting is March 13.
Michelle O’Brien of the Ketchikan Gateway School Board joined us on Morning Edition to discuss last night’s meeting.
She talked about the Board’s decision not to purchase a number of new laptops for student use, as well as potential budget cuts at the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District. The Board meeting also had a substantial public comment period, as a number of local residents attended to support their support or opposition for a number of issues.