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The Board of Directors for Buccaneer Energy has a new look again, just weeks after an attempt to overtake the Board by two Singapore-based investment companies was only partially successful.
In a press release, the company announced three of the six Board members resigned effective August 14th. Nicholas Davies, Clinton Adams and Shaun Scott had only been on the Board since July 2nd, when they were nominated by Pacific Hill International and Harbour Sun Limited, both based in Singapore. Those two companies hold approximately five and a half percent of the Buccaneer’s issued capital funds.
The Board split earlier this summer was about Buccaneer’s future plans for the jack-up rig Endeavour. The Singapore faction felt the focus should narrow to onshore development of natural gas, while the rest of the Board, which includes Buccaneer founder and CEO Curtis Burton and executive chairmen Dean Gallegos supported using Endeavour in Cook Inlet.
Now, Buccaneer will enlist the help of a search firm to find a new Board member. It will also have to work out another Board appointee with yet another investment firm. Meridian Capital, which has an almost twenty percent interest in Buccaneer, gets to appoint its own nominee as part of the deal it signed back in June.
That Buccaneer’s board is in a prolonged game of musical chairs should be of interest to Alaska taxpayers. They’re one of the company’s partners by way of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. AIDEA has invested more than $23 million into Kenai Offshore Ventures, which co-owns Endeauvour with Buccaneer and another investment company, Ezion, which took a 50% interest in Kenai Offshore Ventures when it signed on in 2011.
The original Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Bethel was totaled by a fire early Sunday morning. The structure still remains but the inside is blackened. The emergency call came into the police and fire departments at about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 25. The caller said the outside of the building was burning.
The fire department worked on putting out the fire for about 3 and half hours.
The old church was built in 1943-44 and was used for about 12 years until a new church was built. At that point, the old church became the parish hall. About 16 years ago, a third Catholic Church was built. The second one became the new social hall and the oldest one was used for things like AA meetings.
A few years ago, it became the rummage room where the church would sell donated items for next to nothing. The church made about $7,000 a year on those sales. They say it was more about providing a service to the public. They plan to continue to hold rummage sales once they figure out a new location.
The old church building was insured.
Interview with Gov. Sean Parnell; record pink salmon numbers; the man who swallowed a toe.
Local News for Aug. 27, 2013
Volunteers from Petersburg were not able to free a humpback whale tangled up in a gillnet near Petersburg on Friday and Saturday.
Members of Petersburg’s whale entanglement team Friday morning responded to the call of a whale caught in a gillnet in Frederick Sound. Petersburg Marine Mammal Center president and team member Barry Bracken said he and other volunteers boated out to the tangled whale, caught in gear still connected to the fishing boat around 11 a.m. Friday just north of Sukoi Island. That’s more than five miles north of Petersburg.
“We worked with the whale attached to the boat for a couple of hours,” Bracken said. “We were not making much headway with it. The whale at one point had swept under the boat and so we had the gillnet gear wrapped around the prop shaft so the boat was immobilized. We decided at that point it probably would be better to cut the whale free and try to work at it on it as a free swimming whale and allow the vessel with escort to return to Petersburg.”
Photo courtesy of Don Holmes
The entanglement team kept trying to cut the gear loose for several more hours Friday but were unable to free the animal. Instead they attached a buoy and tracking device, allowing them to find the whale again Saturday morning. By that point, the humpback had passed by Cape Fanshaw headed north in Frederick Sound.
Bracken described it as a large adult humpback with what looks like two wraps of lead-line from the gillnet. “It looks like those go back underneath the pectoral fins to a large mass of gear below the fluke,” he said. “The fluke is relatively clear, the blowhole itself is clear, there’s not much netting on the back of the animal, but it appears that there’s a very large mass of combined corkline, leadline and web that is just below the fluke so he can’t even raise his tail up out of the water and really can’t raise it close enough for us to get any kind of purchase on that.”
The North Pacific Large Whale Disentanglement Network, which includes the local team members, is tracking the whale. Local volunteers may try again to free the whale Wednesday if weather conditions are better and the animal has not travelled too far away from Petersburg. Otherwise it could be up to a disentanglement team from elsewhere in Southeast to try.
Frederick Sound has seen expanded fishing area for gillnetters this year due to strong returns of salmon, although the entanglement did not happen in the expanded fishing area near Mitkof Island. Boaters have also been reporting an unusually large number of humpbacks in local waters.
Bracken said this is the first response for the local entanglement team this year. “We were a little bit nervous when the expanded area was opened in Frederick Sound and we’d had more whales in the in the area than we’ve had for a number of years and so we’ve been kinda been keeping our fingers crossed that we’d make it though the season, not only for the sake of the whales but also the sake of the fishermen because it’s certainly no fun for them to have that level of involvement and the loss of fishing time and the destruction of gear and everything that goes with it. So we were really keeping our fingers crossed that it was gonna work out but unfortunately these things happen.”
Bracken notes the entanglement was documented by the National Marine Fisheries Service observer program. That program is in its second year of cataloging the gillnet fleet and interactions with marine mammals around Petersburg and Wrangell.
A multi-day totem-raising celebration is taking place in Klawock. Here’s KRBD’s Sean Carlson, who called in from Prince of Wales Island Friday with a quick report with KRBD’s Leila Kheiry.
80 million pink salmon and counting – Southeast Alaska’s fishing fleets have set a new record for pinks this summer and are not far from passing the region’s record for all five species of salmon.
As of this week, preliminary estimates compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on it’s website put the Southeast pink catch at just over 80 million, topping the previous record of 77 point 8 million landed in 1999. The total for all five species that year was just under 98 million, and that’s still the record, but maybe not for long. Gillnetters, seiners and trollers have topped 93 million salmon this summer in Southeast and the season’s not over yet.
Fish and Game’s preseason forecast for the region was for 54 million pinks. Last year’s catch was just over 21 million.
And as for statewide numbers, the pink salmon catch statewide has topped 203 million; the total for all five species is over 253 million.
Here’s the daily rundown beginning Tuesday, September 3, 2013:
Morning Edition, 6-8:30 AM
Local Hosts: Peter Apathy, Robert Woolsey, Emily Reilly, Melissa Marconi-Wentzel.
5:59 – Sign on, local weather
6:00 – NPR Headline News
6:04 – Local Headlines, Marine Weather, Things Happening
6:10 – NPR Morning Edition
6:19 – Sitka Weather, Things Happening
6:21 – NPR Morning Edition
6:34 – Local News I
6:40 – NPR Morning Edition
6:49 – Things Happening
6:51 – Marketplace Morning Report or Local News Feature
6:59 – Local weather, Station ID
7:00 – NPR Headline News
7:04 – Local Headlines
7:06 – Alaska Morning News
7:10 – NPR Morning Edition
7:19 – Sitka Weather, Lunch Menus, Things Happening
7:21 – NPR Morning Edition
7:34 – Local News II
7:40 – NPR Morning Edition
7:49 – Things Happening
7:51 – NPR Morning Edition or Regional News Feature
7:59 – Local weather, Station ID, What’s coming up on the Good Day Radio Show
8:01 – NPR Headlines
8:04 – Local Headlines
8:06 – Alaska Morning News
8:10 – Marketplace Tech Report
8:18 – The Morning Interview
8:25 – The Writers’ Almanac
The Good Day Radio Show, 8:30-9:30 AM
Local Hosts: Amy Gorn, Taylor White, Jessica Gibson, Grace Brooks, Lily Herwald and others.
8:30 – Good Morning
8:31 – Music
8:39 – Birdnote
8:41 – Music
8:49 – Things Happening
8:51 – Music
9:00 – Local weather, Station ID
9:01 – BBC Headlines
9:04 – Local News Roundup with KCAW News Staff
9:06 – SoundBeat
9:08 – Music
9:12 – Good Day Radio Show Interview
9:19 – Pulse of the Planet
9:21 – Music
9:30 – 1-hour music/entertainment feature (Except Tuesdays: NPR’s All Songs Considered, followed by APRN’s Talk of Alaska at 10 AM.)
Members of Petersburg’s Borough Assembly are telling the board of the Petersburg Medical Center to be transparent about the facility’s financial status before seeking public financial support for equipment and renovations. The two elected groups continued their discussion about medical center finances last week.
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Petersburg Medical Center is a non-for-profit organization owned by the borough and run by an elected board of seven local residents. That board has approached borough officials about public support to pay for capital costs, that is, new construction, renovations and major equipment.
Borough assembly member John Hoag told the board Thursday that local voters will need more information on day to day operations of the facility. “I would suggest that before you say to the voters alright even though we’ve got some reserves we’ve built up over time, we need your help for big capital projects, they’re still gonna say show me that what you’re doing for expenditures is in line,” he said. Hoag suggested the board be able to show that hospital salaries and benefits are on par with other hospitals in Southeast Alaska.
For years the medical center has operated at arms length from the local municipality without requesting funding. That could be changing this year. The new borough government is reviewing and revising its ordinances. A proposed version of the new hospital ordinance requires annual medical center budgets and audits be presented to the borough. It also requires the medical center to start following state open records law, public bidding procedures and notify the assembly of a contract with the facility’s administrator. All that’s not yet set in stone, it will have to be approved by the borough assembly.
Last month the borough told the medical center to repay a line of credit it took out to pay for capital costs and an operating shortfall.
For the meantime, the two sides are focusing on how to fund those major capital costs in the future. Board member Kris Kissinger thought people would accept spending for new capital project items. “And I think I have confidence in the city or whatever if they go and add something or need something new that I’ll look at that and OK, they need that. I have confidence in the council and the board,” Kissinger said.
Hoag responded, “The feedback that I think (borough manager) Steve (Giesbrecht) has received and a lot of us has received, the public has a healthy skepticism on the now-borough’s spending habits.”
Board and staff from the medical center outlined the facility’s financial status for assembly members. PMC CEO Liz Woodyard noted the facility has a higher amount of bad debt and charity care than ever before. That’s potential revenue that has to be written off as a loss. “It’s about 8-10 percent is bad debt and charity care,” Woodyard said. “And that also supports our community. And then we have people you know that have large bills, 50-thousand dollar bills, that don’t pay.” Woodyard said another big question mark is future state and federal reimbursement levels for Medicare and Medicaid services.
Assembly member Sue Flint thought the medical center should focus on accounts receivable, known as AR, or the money owed to the hospital. “To me the answer is in your AR. I’m hoping the people that are working are training your employees so that you can get that down. Because like you say in a year it increased a million and a half. What could you do with a million and a half today? That would solve so many problems.”
Board president Tom Abbott agreed. “If we are collecting the billing, we don’t have a problem,” Abbott said. Outstanding money owed to the medical center has reached as high as three point 75 million dollars and the medical center is trying to collect money and reduce that amount.
CEO Woodyard brought the focus back to major expenses for the building. “I do believe it with my whole heart we can make it on operations. And I believe too our salaries are right in line. I have no problems with that. But it’s an old building and things fall apart and you get a new roof and you find out you have to have insect screens.”
PMC is currently replacing part of its roof. State grant funding has paid for $275,000 dollars of that cost. However, the medical center board last week approved spending just over $76,000 dollars for the project.
The biggest cost on the horizon is a new medical information system already being installed this year. It could cost PMC 700-thousand dollars but the medical center is hoping for state funding to offset that amount. Other big price tag items in the future could be new beds, medical imaging equipment and a remodeling of the long term care wing among other projects.
The two elected groups plan to have another work session in early December to continue their discussion.
This summer has been a busy one, and while I have many things to write about here, I simply have not been able to slow down long enough to actually write. (Look soon for posts on making birch syrup, making salmon caviar, milling lumber with a chainsaw and more!)
In the meantime, I decided to make my first little “how-to” video. I went out with the boys and picked 10 lbs of red currants the other day to make my annual batch of currant-raspberry mead. I was dreading cleaning all those berries, then a simply idea dawned on me.
As reported earlier, Sitka’s interim municipal administrator was added last night to the list of finalists to hold the job permanently.
Jay Sweeney joins the list without having gone through the same process as the other four finalists: Pam Caskie, Mark Gorman, Cynna Gubatayo and Jim Pascale.
Raven News managed to reach all seven Assembly members today. Specifically, we asked them to give their thoughts on whether they had concerns about the fairness of the process, given the late addition to the list.
Assembly member Thor Christianson said for him, the bottom line is finding the best administrator possible.
“And we’re not on a playground. It may not be fair,” he said. “But we want the best administrator. Jay has had a three-month long interview in my mind. He has been in this job, we’ve seen him, he’s a known quantity. We’ve done a lot more talking to him than we have any of the other candidates.”
Sweeney has been city finance director since 2011 and has been acting as interim administrator since Jim Dinley’s resignation in April. He did not apply to have the position full-time.
Pete Esquiro also said he didn’t have concerns about the process, and emphasized that nothing has been decided. It was good for the Assembly to expand its “resource base,” he said. Matt Hunter shared those feelings, saying the Assembly doesn’t know where the process will end up.
Mayor Mim McConnell also emphasized that the hiring process has yet to be determined, at least when it comes to Sweeney. Assembly members could not discuss him in executive session last night, apart from asking whether he was interested in the job. McConnell said determining what steps to take to vet Sweeney as a candidate will come tonight, in open session.
Phyllis Hackett, on the other hand, said she felt the late addition of another finalist was not fair to the process the Assembly adopted. She didn’t want to go on tape, but said she anticipates the hire will be done tonight.
Michelle Putz struck a balance. She said she’s unclear on how to proceed, but that it was perfectly reasonable for the Assembly to add Sweeney’s name to the list.
“Do I know what is the right way to do it past here, if we are interested in hiring him? I don’t know what the right way is,” Putz said. “I think we’ll have to discuss that tonight.”
Mike Reif said he has a lot of questions, but that it would be premature to share his thoughts on the process publicly.
Since we’ve shared background info on the other candidates, here’s what we can tell you about Sweeney: He holds a bachelor’s degree in forest products from the University of Idaho, and a master’s of business administration from Indiana University, with majors in accounting, and management and information systems. He spent about 12 years on active duty as a finance officer in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of major.
His work history includes three years as Sitka’s finance director in the 1990s, followed by the same job in Kenai. He’s also held senior financial positions at Allen Marine, Sheldon Jackson College, Samson Tug and Barge, as well as some firms in the Cincinnati area.
He told KCAW on Tuesday afternoon that he’s happy to be included, but is also uneasy with not having gone through the same process as the other four finalists.
Exactly what will come from the Assembly’s upcoming discussion is unclear, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for the job to be offered to someone tonight. That conversation will take place behind closed doors, with a vote afterward in public.
KCAW News will stay at Centennial Hall after our live coverage of the Assembly’s regular meeting concludes. We’ll have details on the outcome of tonight’s discussion during tomorrow’s newscasts, and here on KCAW.org as soon as the story is ready.
Alaska Power and Telephone, through its subsidiary, Soule Hydro, is planning a multi-million-dollar hydroelectric project on the Tongass National Forest that would pump almost 80 megawatts of power into the Canadian and Lower 48 electric grid.
The company has filed for a Presidential Permit that would allow its planned underwater transmission cable to cross international borders, but some are not on board with the proposal.
Alaska Power and Telephone has been working on the Soule River dam project for quite some time. It kicked off the federal licensing process in 2005, and has continued efforts over the last eight years to make the 77.4-megawatt project happen.
Just for perspective, the total hydroelectric capacity for all of Ketchikan, which involves multiple dams, is about 34 megawatts, so roughly half the proposed Soule output.
A NEW EXPORT INDUSTRY
Jason Custer of AP&T said that one of the region’s most abundant renewable resources has the potential to become an important industry for Southeast.
“We’re trying to create a new energy export industry for Southeast, which is similar to oil and gas in more northern parts of the state,” he said. “The key different is this is renewable energy, and while we have a finite supply of oil and gas, the rain keeps coming every year. So this is an energy export project that we could have forever.”
LAND USE DESIGNATION HURDLE
Soule River is in Portland Canal just outside of the Misty Fiords National Monument. Locally, the area is called Glacier Bay, and while it’s not technically wilderness, its LUD, or Land Use Designation, under the Tongass Land Management Plan is remote recreation.
Two years ago, the U.S. Forest Service submitted comments about the project, stating that, as proposed, the Soule River dam would have “significant irreversible and irretrievable effects to the environment.” The comments recommended a full Environmental Impact Statement.
In addition, a 2011 letter from Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole to AP&T’s Robert Grimm states that the Forest Service had no plans at that time to amend TLMP. Cole writes that AP&T shoulD “consider an alternative that is smaller in scale and effects, and that would be consistent with the remote recreation LUD direction.”
Cole’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Custer said it’s challenging to develop new hydro projects in Southeast because TLMP doesn’t include a LUD for renewable energy. AP&T and other groups have asked that the forest plan be updated to reflect that potential use.
A regional environmental group is directly opposed to the project, partly because the Soule River is a remote recreation site, and partly because the power will go Outside.
“I believe we should be focusing our energy on developing energy for our communities, and not focused on developing energy for mines being developed in (British Columbia),” said Lindsey Ketchel, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
She said SEACC supports hydroelectric projects and other renewable energy proposals in general, just not this one.
“Our preference is that you work with communities like Kake and Hoonah and others where they’re paying 63 cents per kilowatt. Those individuals, those communities desperately need a fair rate,” she said.
There is the environmental impact to consider, too. While not against the project, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game identified some potential hurdles. During that same comment period a couple years ago, Monte Miller, the state hydropower coordinator for Fish and Game, wrote that salmon and Dolly Varden, a type of trout, could be affected by the project. The comments included recommendations for mitigation if the project moves forward. Miller confirmed via recent email that there has been no change, and the comments stand.
PUBLIC’S BEST INTEREST
Custer admits there would be some impact, especially during construction. He said that through the FERC licensing project, the government will consider the pros and cons. He contends that the environmental costs of not building the dam are high, and the project is in the public’s best interest.
The calculated carbon cost of an energy project is one of the factors considered by FERC, and Custer gave some numbers for the dam’s cost versus a natural gas plant with similar power output over about 50 years.
“Soule is going to save $609 million in social costs of carbon costs compared to a natural gas plant of the same size and with the same life span,” he said. “If we were able to develop Soule as an alternative to a coal-fired plant, we’re looking at $1.3 billion of social costs of carbon savings.”
AP&T’s proposal calls for a high-voltage, alternating-current transmission line that would originate at the Soule River, and continue to a substation in Stewart, British Columbia.
The Alaska portion of the project includes eight miles of cable that would be placed on the sea floor before crossing the border near Hyder. The cable then would continue under Canadian water for about two miles before landing at Stewart’s Arrow Dock. The overhead portion would travel about 2-and-a-half miles to the substation. The project needs to clear the Canadian permit process in addition to FERC’s.
POTENTIAL REGIONAL ECONOMIC BENEFIT
Custer touts the potential economic benefits for southern Southeast Alaska. The project will cost an approximately $330 million just to build.
“Going over to the operational period, there’s also going to be significant expenditures in Alaska to operate and maintain this project,” he said. “Those expenditures are going to resonate regionally.”
And locally: “Ketchikan, being the hub community for southern Southeast, and being the closest community of significant size to Hyder and the location of this project, stands to benefit significantly in terms of expenditures during construction and maintenance and operation of the project.”
Once built, hydroelectric projects also are inexpensive to operate. They are low maintenance, and don’t rely on fluctuating costs of, for example, coal.
If the presidential permit is approved, that doesn’t mean the project is good to go. It still needs the FERC license, which will require more studies, including various environmental assessments.
Comments on the presidential permit application will be accepted through Thursday, Aug. 29. Send comments to Brian Mills, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE–20), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585. His email is Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board will hold its final session of summer break Wednesday.
The Board is inviting the public to a hearing about how gifts to the school district are reported. The issue has been a topic of debate throughout the summer – Business Manager Matt Groves initially raised the issue to clarify the policy, as it was unclear whether every donation must come before the School Board and therefor the public.
Some board members opposed the idea of reporting all gifts in public. Some, including Board Member Michelle O’Brien, have said that reporting smaller gifts may put some donors under an unfair spotlight. Increased scrutiny, those board members have said, may discourage future donations to the school district.
The board – and the public – will take a look at the clarified text of the rule. That rule says that, moving forward, cash donations of less than $10,000 do not have to be reported. Accepting other gifts such as services, items or donations related to fundraising are at the discretion of the superintendent. Only cash above the $10,000 mark must come before the School Board for approval. In keeping with the original wording of the rule, a gift may be used at a particular school at the designee or superintendent’s discretion.
The School Board will also vote on Tatsuda Supermarket’s bid to provide milk for the year to the school district. The store offered a bid of 54 cents per half-pint.
A grant from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Child Nutrition Program is also under consideration by the board. Members will decide whether to approve more than $70,000 in fresh fruits and vegetables for the district’s elementary schools.
The Board meets at 6pm in Borough Assembly Chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.
Alaska State Troopers are investigating an apparent suicide on Prince of Wales Island. Troopers discovered the body of a man outside of a truck near Hydaburg Road and One Duck Trailhead after responding to a call around 7 a.m. Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the troopers told KRBD that while next of kin has been identified, those family members have not yet been contacted.
The state medical examiner in Anchorage will conduct an autopsy of the body to determine whether the death was a suicide.
Talking Topic: Does our community drink too much? With host Debra Schnabel.
Talk Around Town July 28, 2013