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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
Following a disastrous year for king salmon runs on Alaska's Yukon River, fishery managers have decided, months earlier than usual, to announce fishing prohibitions for 2013. The fishing ban will apply to the first wave of king salmon headed up the river from the Bering Sea. Generally, two or three “pulses” of the fish make their way to spawning grounds beginning in late Spring and start tapering off mid-summer.
Oil major BP has announced that its top Alaska executive, John Mingé, has been picked to succeed Lamar McKay as chairman and president of BP America, and Janet Weiss, the current Alaska vice president of resources, will be taking over for Mingé as BP's Alaska president. The company says the leadership changes will take effect on Feb. 15.
“Alaska is the third most dependent on fluctuations in the global economy” Senior economist, Gary Schlossberg reported at the Statewide Economic Forecast Luncheon hosted by the World Trade Center of Alaska on January 15. Schlossberg describes what’s changed for international and national economies going into 2013, followed by a Statewide Economic Review and 2013 Forecast presented by Pat Burden of Northern Economics this week on Addressing Alaskans.
BROADCAST ON KSKA: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
REPEAT BROADCAST: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. (Alaska time)
RECORDED: January 15, 2013 at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage
- Gary Schlossberg, Vice President and Senior Economist, Wells Capital Management
- Pat Burden, President and Principal Economist, Northern Economics
HOST: World Trade Center of Alaska
EVENT: Statewide Economic Forecast Luncheon (Anchorage)
Addressing Alaskans features local lectures and forums recorded at public events taking place in Southcentral, Alaska. A variety of local organizations host speakers addressing topics that matter to Alaskans. To let us know about an upcoming community event that you would like to hear on Addressing Alaskans, please Contact Us with details.
Audio will be posted following radio broadcast
Suicide is a tough topic in Alaska. Too many of the state's young people, including members of the state's Native communities, consider killing themselves. Some will have failed attempts to end their lives. Too many will succeed. Increasingly, Alaskans are starting to talk about it, to bring the despair out from its quiet, pained darkness and into the light. “We Breathe Again,” a film dedicated to the topic, aims to be a part of the solution.
A bill that would relax the wastewater standards placed on cruise ships by Alaska voters is on the fast track in the Senate.
The Senate Resources committee took the first public testimony on Senate Bill 29 last Friday (1-25-13). Proponents of the bill advocated for the lower standards, saying that the current law unfairly puts ships under tighter rules than Alaskan communities. The leading opponent of the bill was a marine ecologist, who was dissenting from her colleagues on the science advisory panel that studies cruise ship wastewater.
Gov. Parnell is putting his weight behind SB29 to expedite permitting for cruise lines by this summer.
Karla Hart, with Alaska Community Action on Toxics, urged the Senate Resources committee to slow down.
“The risk of quick action on your part is that you’ll betray the voters of Alaska, who voted to have this higher standard of clean water.”
Hart reminded the committee that the amount of discharge was significant. More people visit Alaska on cruise ships each summer than live in the state. She did not think leveling cruise ship discharge with local communities made sense.
“If an Alaska community doesn’t meet discharge standards, it’s in our front yard. We know where it comes from. We know who’s responsible, and we have to clean it up. Ships discharge anywhere, so remote areas that you might go to for subsistence harvests or commercial fishing that you might go to because you think they are clean, because they are far away from any apparent discharge, could be getting a pretty substantial burden over time, because a lot of these things are heavy metals that bioaccumulate.”
Alaska voters in 2006 passed the statewide Cruise Ship Initiative, which set wastewater standards “at the point of discharge.” The Department of Environmental Conservation subsequently granted cruise lines temporary relief from these requirements, to allow them time to install the necessary treatment systems.
Putting ships on a different standard than Alaskan communities was a major argument against the initiative. John Kimmel, with Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska told the committee that Senate Bill 29 would correct a flaw in the law that voters adopted.
“The cruise ships really need to be held to the same standard as everyone else. The original initiative held them to a higher standard than everyone else. This fix is going to make it more fair for the cruise lines.”
A variation of this theme has made it to the table from a different direction: The Alaska Cruise Ship Wastewater Science Advisory Panel, in a preliminary report, says that many ships now meet or exceed Alaska water standards, except for a few key heavy metals, like copper. The report concludes that there would be little, if any, environmental benefit to requiring cruise ships to adopt additional treatment methods in the future.
The report gave advocates of the cruise industry an opening to talk about science. This is Andy Rodgers, the deputy director of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. He testified that his organization has now adopted a position “Advocating for legislation and regulations that are based on sound science, as opposed to a precautionary method.”
And this is Bob Janes, a tour operator from Juneau.
“I am not a scientist, but I think this subject is all about science.”
But at least one bona fide scientist who testified before the Senate Resources committee disagreed with the conclusions of the Science Advisory Panel – which she herself sits on. Michelle Ridgeway, a marine ecologist in Juneau, believes the other members of the panel underestimate the potential harm from the consistent discharge of heavy metals.
“Quite frankly, I think we’ll be appalled by the long-term degradation to the marine ecosystem if we allow this to go forward in this form.”
Ridgeway thinks applying rules for shore-base treatment plants – which allow for mixing zones – to cruise ships will ultimately create a kind of Sophie’s choice for the state.
“I believe it will be exceedingly excruciatingly difficult for Alaskans to concur on where it is between a 0 to 3 nautical mile area – our state waters – that we find it’s acceptable for vessels to discharge water that contains copper, zinc, nickel, and ammonia at levels that are known to be acutely and chronically toxic to marine life that we all depend on.”
Read an open letter from Michelle Ridgeway to DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig.
Chip Thoma, president of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, said it was his organization’s preference that ships discharge all waste in federal waters. He urged the committee to maintain the water quality standards set by voters, saying it was likely that much of the copper contamination would eventually be reduced as ships modernized with the use of flexible plastic plumbing.
Senate Resources chair Cathy Giessel scheduled another hearing on SB29 for Monday afternoon, January 28, at which she invited members to propose amendments. A companion bill in the House, HB 80, was heard in that body’s Resources Committee on Monday afternoon as well.
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Students at Sitka High School are building furniture that’s truly Alaska grown. The wood in their furniture projects has come from red alder trees harvested in young-growth forest in the Tongass National Forest.
“It is exciting to bring local wood back into the classroom,” says Sitka High School construction tech instructor Randy Hughey. “It has been a great opportunity for the students to learn about the local resources available and how using them can support our local economy.”
Young-growth lumber is an increasingly available resource in Southeast Alaska, and a new guide published by the Sitka Conservation Society profiles a variety of projects – including two at the Sitka High School – that are testing the limits of how young-growth can be used.
“Alaskan Grown: A Guide to Tongass Young Growth Timber and its Uses,” is a practical tool for builders, woodworkers, consumers, and others interested in learning more about the quality of Tongass young-growth timber and how it can be used. The guide, published with support from the National Forest Foundation, explores the common species of young growth on the Tongass and profiles projects throughout the region that use young growth in a variety of ways.
Projects featured in the guide include:
● Furniture built by Sitka High School students from young-growth red alder harvested and processed in the Sitka Ranger District. The purpose of the project was to experiment with local young-growth and build knowledge about its properties. “This carpentry project is a great model for demonstrating new ways to use Tongass young-growth, while supporting local businesses and youth education,” says Andrew Thoms, executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society.
● A bike shelter that will be built by Sitka High School students for the Sitka Sound Science Center this spring. The shelter will be constructed with young-growth Sitka spruce and old-growth red cedar and yellow-cedar, all harvested from Prince of Wales Island. “The wood [young-growth spruce] cuts easily and makes beautiful boards,” observes Mel Cooke, who owns the Last Chance Enterprises sawmill in Goose Creek. “I could see it being used for almost any kind of building material.”
● The Bosworth home in Gustavus, a private cabin constructed with young-growth spruce and Western hemlock from Prince of Wales Island. “We have been cutting and milling second growth here on P.O.W. for a few seasons now,” says Bill Thomason, a small-mill owner who provided the wood and built the cabin. “It is great wood for a number of purposes, particularly in the construction of log and timber cabins as we are now doing. We are really encouraged by the start of its use here in Southeast Alaska.”
● The Starrigavan public-use cabin on the Sitka Ranger District, which is constructed of young-growth Sitka spruce and Western hemlock logs. “It is a good, tight building that is stabilized and weathering nicely. You come to the conclusion that if you want young-growth spruce or hemlock logs, they work great. It’s a beautiful cabin,” says Dr. Allen Brackley, Director of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in Sitka, who has studied young-growth timber and monitored the Starrigavan cabin since its construction in 2008.
“There are a lot of opportunities for using young-growth timber from the Tongass, but consumers and others need to understand what those are, and why it’s important to buy locally when possible,” said Sitka contractor Marcel LaPerriere, who owns Southeast Cedar Homes and uses Tongass wood. “I believe this is an opportunity to raise awareness and increase the commercial use of local young-growth around the region.”