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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
The Engineering firm CH2M Hill has been selected to manage the troubled Port of Anchorage project. The project was shutdown after construction problems a few years ago and remains tied up in lawsuits. but today officials said it could be on track again this year.
The role of the project manager will be to oversee the day-to-day operations of the construction project moving forward, setting timelines and benchmarks and selecting and supervising the work of subcontractors. CH2M Hill will not be involved in designing or building the port.
On the top floor of city Hall, Mayor Dan Sullivan said over the past few years his administration has been working to do several things:
“Determine what went wrong with construction; who’s responsible for what went wrong; what is the best path forward, including a review of the design parameters,” Sullivan said. “And then going forward putting together a team to make sure that as this project proceeds into the future that we’ve got the right team on board.”
The right team, Mayor Sullivan said is from CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based engineering firm with offices in Anchorage. The port project was started back in 2003 under Mayor George Wuersch and Port Director Bill Sheffield. The Design was approved in 2006 Under Mayor Mark Begich.
The Sullivan administration has led the push to get the Municipality reimbursed for it’s losses.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration managed the previous project. CH2M Hill released a report earlier this year saying the previous project had failed because of a patented ‘open cell sheet pile’ design that crumpled or separated during construction. CH2M Hill purchased the now defunct Veco Corporation, which was involved in the work that had the problems and is now party to a lawsuit by city. But Mayor Sullivan says that won’t be a problem.
“We think we can compartmentalize that lawsuit,” Sullivan said. “Again it goes back to Veco before they were acquired by CH2M Hill. So we’re confident that we’ll be able to keep the lawsuit separate from any progress going forward on the construction and design.”
Sullivan says the next steps will be selecting a new design, and contractors to build it. CH2M Hill was selected Sullivan says, for their expertise and experience in building ports in areas with seismic activity.
Stacey Jones, a vice president with CH2M Hill who will lead the team says unlike the Maritime Administration, which was criticized for managing the project from afar, CH2M Hill will work closely with the Port of Anchorage, setting up and Anchorage office right in the Port to develop the new project.
“I believe one of the reasons that CH2M Hill was selected is because of extensive experience in managing projects,” Jones said. “We are ranked number one in the U.S. for project management as well as environmental management. We have the skills and the tools and the expertise to do this.”
She added that the previous ‘open cell sheet pile’ design will not be used again but did not specify what design her firm favors. The contract with CH2M Hill is for 30 million dollars over five years with the option for two extensions at 12 more million dollars each.
Design and and engineering work is anticipated to take 18-months to two years with construction likely beginning again in 2016. The selection of CH2M Hill will go before the Anchorage Assembly for approval at it’s Jan. 14tmeeting.
The municipality has been investigating problems with the port project since they arose 2009. They’ve spent upwards of 300 million public dollars on the project so far and are requesting 100 million more from the legislature this year.
Scientists have increased the threat level of Alaska’s Cleveland Volcano from yellow to orange.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory says the volcano appears to have kicked up to an elevated unrest. In the past six days, three brief explosions from Cleveland Volcano were detected.
The color designation indicates that sudden explosions could send ash above 20,000 feet, threatening international air carriers.
Cleveland is not monitored with seismic instruments. Observatory officials say minor ash plumes were observed in satellite data after two of the explosions. The height of the plumes is not known.
The volcano is located on an uninhabited island in the Aleutian Islands.
Last May the volcano experienced a low-level eruption. Cleveland’s last significant eruption before that began in February 2011.
Suspected cases of kennel cough in dogs have recently spiked in Juneau. An animal shelter has cancelled its daily dog daycare and is quarantining its kennel.
“Just like the flu is going around Juneau now or colds go around Juneau, in this case, it’s kennel cough. It’s definitely disconcerting for veterinary clinics, for kennels, for the humane society. It can be upsetting,” says Chava Lee, Executive Director of Gastineau Humane Society.
Lee says cases of kennel cough started showing up at the animal shelter within the past two weeks. She says the staff immediately took precautions:
“Our whole kennel is in quarantine, so that means that we’ve shut down all those programs where dogs come in and every dog kennel, regardless of whether there’s a dog in it, is cleaned every single day. And when I mean cleaned, I mean they are bleached down, bleach is left to stand, so that we kill any germs that have gotten into our system.”
Lee says the quarantine will last three weeks. Meanwhile, the humane society has cancelled doggy daycare and informs people wanting to board dogs about the recent cases of kennel cough. Lee says it’s been at least two years since kennel cough has been at the shelter.
State veterinarian Bob Gerlach says kennel cough is very contagious:
“Kennel cough is very, very similar to the human flu in the fact that kennel cough can be caused by both a virus or a bacteria – the parainfluenza virus or the Bordetella bacteria – and it’s spread by the aerosol from the dog, so when the dog sneezes or coughs, the virus could be spread that way.”
Gerlach says kennel cough is passed between dogs through direct contact, as well as licking or playing with the same toys, or using the same water or food bowl. Dogs with kennel cough should stay away from other dogs.
Gerlach says dogs that are very old, very young, or going through other stressful situations, like traveling, are susceptible to picking up the infection, even if they’ve been vaccinated, “No vaccine is going to give you a hundred percent protection,” he explains. “Oftentimes they protect on a mass basis so that a large percentage of dogs that receive the vaccines will be protected but there’s always going to be some that may not be of the greatest health or maybe that they are under some other stresses that they may not get full protection, and so they still could come down with the disease, but generally they are not going to get it as severely as if they didn’t get vaccinated.”
If you suspect kennel cough, Gerlach recommends taking your dog to a veterinarian. To reduce exposure to other dogs, vets often don’t allow the infected dog into the general waiting area.
Symptoms include dry, harsh coughing, retching, snorting, gagging, and sneezing, but Gerlach says if there is a secondary infection, other problems could arise:
“In most cases, it’s restricted to the upper airways and the cough can persist for several days and longer depending on the extent on the irritation and damage. If there is a secondary infection, then obviously there could be some pretty severe consequences with progression to pneumonia.”
Gerlach says he doesn’t know of other communities in Alaska currently experiencing kennel cough but says it’s not an uncommon time of year for the infection to occur.
A St. Mary’s man is one step closer to saving his cabin. William Alstrom’s small cabin is located on the Andreafsky Wilderness in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, about 31 miles northwest of St. Mary’s.
According to the BLM, that’s illegal and the government said the cabin needed to go.
The struggle over the small cabin has found its way to the US Senate, where an exception to save the cabin recently passed out of the energy committee with a push by Senator Lisa Murkowski.
“Basically it’s the government’s failure, it’s the government’s mistake and they’ve acknowledged that. But basically the only solution they had was to tell this Alaskan family from St. Mary’s that you’re going to either have to demolish the cabin or you’re going to have to move it,” said Murkowski.
The agency didn’t know about the wilderness that when they granted the allotment in 2008. They came back in 2011 to say that the plot was cancelled. By that time, Alstrom had built a small subsistence cabin and appealed the decision. Alstrom got in contact with Murkowski last month and began working for a legislative solution. She drafted an amendment, which passed the committee. Murkowski thanked the lawmakers for being willing to make an exception for Alstrom.
“Very small deal, but for one family, they know the government is actually working with them rather than acknowledging they made a mistake and saying well, sorry there’s not much we can do. I just appreciate the willingness of colleagues at these smaller issues we deal with,” said Murkowski.
Alstrom served in the Air Force in Vietnam. He applied for the allotment as Alaska Native veterans’ allotment. He said he does not want to comment until the issue is finalized.
The amendment was attached to the Green Mountain Lookout Act, originally introduced by Washington State senators for a similar exemption. The bill heads to the full Senate floor for consideration.
Albert Kookesh is stepping down as chairman of the board of directors for Sealaska, the regional Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska.
The company also announced the deadline to apply for its president and CEO position, as Chris McNeil prepares to retire.
Kookesh, a former state lawmaker from Angoon, has been Sealaska chairman for 14 years. He plans to remain on the board, but says he wants to cut back on work and commitments.
Kookesh suffered a heart attack last March. In a message posted to Sealaska’s website Tuesday, he said he’s back to 100 percent, but the incident put a scare in him and his family.
“I want to be here to see my grandchildren grow up,” Kookesh said in the statement.
He said he was honored to have served longer than any other board chair in Sealaska history, and wants to continue to use his relationships in the Native and non-Native communities for the benefit of Sealaska and its shareholders.
Kookesh also decided not to run for reelection as co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives last year, another position he had held for 14 years.
McNeil announced his planned retirement in October after 12 years at the helm. At the time he said he hoped to have a successor named by March and that the actual transition would be made at the corporation’s annual meeting in June.
Sealaska is accepting applications for its next president and CEO through February 28th. The company’s board of directors has hired San Francisco-based recruiting firm Egon Zehnder to help with the search.
According to another statement on Sealaska’s website, the successful candidate will be a company shareholder and reside in Juneau, where Sealaska is headquartered. McNeil lives in Washington state and works in corporate offices in Bellevue.
Throughout her life, Dr. Rosita Worl has been an a fighter, an anthropologist and an activist.
She has made it her life’s goal to preserve Southeast Alaska Native traditions, while building a collective future for Native people throughout the state.
Her early life was full of drama; She has been kidnapped, fled from an arranged marriage, and fought her way though high school.
But, Dr. Worl persevered through these hardships and those early memories have remained an important part of her history.
Alaska Public Media’s Alexandra Gutierrez sat down with Rosita to talk about her life, and her hopes for the future.