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Alaska

U.S. Congress 2019-2020: Bills that have passed the House & Senate and become Law

U.S. Congress 2019-2020: Bills Introduced (Over 5,000 in the House and over 3,000 in the Senate)

 

Southeast Alaska: New proposals would protect Alaska’s ferries, chart new course for AMHS; House Majority members introduce two bills addressing ferry crisis - Members of the Alaska House Majority introduced new bills Monday that would protect our ferries and chart a new course for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

House Bill 253, introduced by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) and several other lawmakers, would prevent the Alaska Department of Transportation from selling or disposing of a ferry without first obtaining the approval of lawmakers.

The proposal is important because it would help protect past investments into the AMHS by ensuring that significant public process occurs before any ferries are permanently taken out of commission.

“Many Alaskans share my concern that the Dunleavy Administration may dismantle the ferry system to the point that, like Humpty Dumpty, it cannot be put back together again,” Representative Kreiss-Tomkins said. “This legislation is co-sponsored by coastal legislators from across the state and is something of a mayday to help save our marine highway.”

Rep. Louise Stutes’  House Bill 249 would create the Alaska Marine Highway System Corporation. One of the primary reasons for the ongoing AMHS crisis is the lack of a long-term vision that incorporates the perspective of stakeholders across Coastal Alaska and maintains a high level of service at a reasonable cost.  - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

Alaska: New Report Summarizes Marijuana Use and Public Health in Alaska - From January-October 2019 more than 17 tons of taxed marijuana products were sold, generating more than $17 million in state tax revenue. And that is just one finding of a new report just released by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention.

The Office of Substance Misuse and Addiction Prevention has produced a news report to summarize information about marijuana use among youth, adults, and pregnant women; related attitudes; potential health and social consequences of use; and the marijuana-related context of the state and communities.

Findings may be useful to Alaska stakeholders who are working to prevent youth from starting to use marijuana, as well as preventing risky use by adults and vulnerable populations such as pregnant women.

The most recently available data were obtained from multiple Alaska and U.S. data systems, including public health surveys, vital statistics, and administrative data. Here some highlights from the report: 

• The number of marijuana businesses has grown steadily. In October 2019 there were 102 retail stores licensed to sell marijuana in the state. Businesses are located throughout the state. State marijuana regulators have not set limits on the number of licenses by person or entity.

• In 2017, one in five traditional high school students used marijuana in the past 30 days; one in ten high school students who drive had done so after using marijuana in the past month. 

• The number of youth who have been referred to juvenile justice systems for marijuana offenses has increased since 2016.  

• Nearly one in ten women who delivered a baby in Alaska in 2017 said they used marijuana at least once while they were pregnant. 

• About 54,000 adults are using at levels that may be considered risky. Adult heavy use increased significantly between 2015 and 2017. The prevalence of marijuana use among Alaska adults was higher than the national average. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020


 

Fish Factor: 2014 Russia Embargo Still in Place; But Still No Limits Imposed on Russian Seafood Coming in to U.S. By LAINE WELCH - Lost in the headlines about the hits to seafood sales from the Trump Administration’s trade war with China is another international barrier with Russia that’s been going on far longer. 

In August of 2014 Russia placed an embargo on all U.S. food products to retaliate for sanctions the U.S and other Western countries imposed over the invasion of Ukraine. The ban included Alaska seafood, which at the time accounted for more than $61 million in annual sales to Russia, primarily from pink salmon roe. 

But here’s the bigger hurt: For the nearly six years that the embargo has been in place, no corresponding limits have ever been imposed on Russian seafood coming into the US. 

At first, Alaska seafood companies and the Congressional delegation made some “tit for tat” noise about imposing a ban on Russian seafood. But in fact, the value of Russian imports has grown nearly 70 percent since 2014 - and it all comes into the U.S. almost entirely duty free.

A four page white paper from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute  outlines the trade imbalance further.

For example, the U.S. imported $551 million of seafood from Russia in 2018, plus $50 million of pollock from China that was caught in Russia.  U.S. crab comprised 84 percent of the value of Russian imports just in that one year. 

Through December 2019, the numbers increased again – federal trade data  show that more than 80.2 million pounds of Russian seafood entered the U.S. valued at over $698 million. That included nearly 16 million pounds of red king crab valued at $293 million and 4.6 million pounds of frozen sockeye salmon worth over $16.7 million.

Alaska and Russia harvest many of the same fish and crab species, and many Russian seafood products compete in the U.S. at much lower prices. 

The trade report reveals how ASMI worked aggressively to build markets in Russia starting in 2006, and steady growth boosted Alaska pink salmon prices from 2010 through 2013 which benefitted fishermen and coastal communities. 

The trade imbalance will only get worse, the ASMI report said, as Russia aims to nearly double the value of its global seafood exports by 2024 to over $8 billion. 

Huge investments are underway to increase and modernize capacity by building more than 20 new processing plants and 90 new fishing vessels by the year 2030. The plan also includes the launch of a new marketing and supply chain strategy called “The Russian Fish.”  

Total investments by Russia to its fishery sector between 2018 and 2025 are estimated at nearly $7 billion. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020


The salmon-eating wolves of Alaska: Tongass film shoot captures, for the first time on video, wolves catching salmon at night

The salmon-eating wolves of Alaska: Tongass film shoot captures, for the first time on video, wolves catching salmon at night
By MARY CATHARINE MARTIN
A desperate, hungry male wolf stands along a road in Gustavus, Alaska shortly after chasing a small dog into the photographer’s house and skidding to a stop outside the door.
Photo by Bjorn Dihle ©2020


 

Southeast Alaska: The salmon-eating wolves of Alaska: Tongass film shoot captures, for the first time on video, wolves catching salmon at night By MARY CATHARINE MARTIN - It was past midnight one night in August, 2018 that the film crew and their Alaskan guides, out shooting for a Netflix documentary series called “Night on Earth,” found themselves sitting in the dark, surrounded by wolves.

They were next to a salmon stream in the Tongass National Forest, wearing night vision goggles and filming with thermal imaging cameras, attempting to capture something that hadn’t yet been previously captured on film: wolves catching salmon at night.

Back in Juneau, I was waiting to hear from them, because this is a personal story, too: the lead guide, Bjorn Dihle, is my partner. He’d been excited to scout out locations for wolves, but was also measured in his optimism about their chance of success. No matter how hungry a wolf is for a salmon, they’re generally exceptionally wary of humans.

Dan Kirkwood is the manager at Pack Creek Bear Tours, where Bjorn works. When Dan first got the call inquiring about the possibility of a night shoot, he was hiking down from a Southeast Alaska mountain, checking a camera trap he’d set up for wolves. At first he thought, “This is impossible. The odds are just insanely long.”

But they agreed to try, and Bjorn headed down early to scout the area they’d chosen.

“I didn’t know where or if I would find the right spot, so I scouted the majority of the watershed as far as the salmon were spawning,” Bjorn told me. “Because it was also on a stream with brown bears, I was looking for an area that was relatively open, so that we could mitigate bear encounters by having some time to communicate with them.”

Eventually, he came across a spot that seemed pretty promising: he not only saw a wolf there, he saw wolf tracks, wolf scat, wolf beds, and 50 or 60 salmon with their heads removed. (Wolves are more sensitive than bears to parasites that can live in the rest of the salmon.)

All of that was no guarantee, however, that the wolves would emerge when the team of three was there.

When dark fell, the alpha male and the alpha female showed themselves at dusk about 100 yards away. When they saw the three men, the wolves retreated.

“And then as soon as it got dark, the wolves came out and felt comfortable coming within 10, 15 yards of us because they believed we couldn’t see them,” Bjorn said. “Without the goggles, you would have said ‘Oh, there was a bird there.’ They’re so quiet — you wouldn’t have known.”

“You can see the animals like they’re lit up with the night goggles, because they’re just glowing against nothing,” Dan said. “Without them, you can’t see anything. The trickle of the stream, the finning of the fish as they’re swimming upstream, and pretty constant wolf howling all night… it was very surreal, because I was seeing it through a screen the whole time, with the exception of the wolves that came out at dusk and in the morning.” - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020


 POW Doctor Completes 100 Mile Race

POW Doctor Completes 100 Mile Race
Justin Lange MD, the PeaceHeatlh Medical Group Prince of Wales physician, runnin in the recently completed a 100-mile race in Texas.
Photo courtesy PeaceHealth Ketchikan


 

Southeast Alaska: POW Doctor Completes 100 Mile Race - Justin Lange MD, came in fifth in the Lone Star 100 Miler - a true Texas mountain race.

For most people, running a marathon would be an achievement but for Dr. Lange, a physician at PHMG Prince of Wales, finishing a 100-mile race in Texas was a monumental achievement.

Dr. Lange ran the Lone Star 100 Miler race in El Paso that started Saturday, February 8, 2020.

The Lone Star 100 Miler is described as a rugged, unforgiving mountain race located in the Southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains in El Paso, Texas. The races started at around 5,000' altitude and climbed to 7,192'. Most of the trail was described as low desert with runnable terrain and some easy, technical segments. The climb to the North Franklin Peak is a combination of steep climbing and switchbacks.

All of the races were in the Franklin Mountains State Park. The 100 miler was 3 loops of 33.40 miles with approximately 21,000 feet of gain and descent. The loops ran the counter clockwise rotation. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

Alaska: Draft Alaska Statewide Transportation Improvement Program 
Out for Comment; Public Comments Accepted Through March 20 at 5 p.m.
- The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities is currently accepting public comments on the 2020-2023 draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The STIP is a fiscally constrained, four-year plan for the state’s surface transportation improvements receiving partial or full federal aid funding.

The draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program contains proposed road, bridge, marine highway, and transit projects open to public travel, and is required by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act sothe state can receive federal highway and transit funding.

According to a news release, the draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program is developed by DOT&PF, in cooperation with federal, state, local, and tribal transportation agencies, as well as regional metropolitan planning organizations.

Current federal funding for the State of Alaska, as laid out in the FAST Act, is close to $500 million annually for Alaska transportation priorities. Projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program are primarily federally funded, but require an approximate 9% match from the State of Alaska to leverage that federal funding.

At of February 18, 2020, these public meetings are scheduled to discuss the draft STIP and receive comments. Additional meetings may be added, these will be announced as they are finalized. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020


Historic Iwo Jima footage shows individual Marines amid the larger battle

Historic Iwo Jima footage shows individual Marines amid the larger battle
By GREG WILSBACHER
Two Marines in the Marine Corps’ 5th Division cemetery on Iwo Jima pay their respects to a fallen comrade.
 United States Marine Corps Film Repository, USMC 101863 (16mm film frame)


 

 

Historical: Historic Iwo Jima footage shows individual Marines amid the larger battle By GREG WILSBACHER - When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.

That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.

But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century.

Take for instance, just one scene: Two Marines kneel with a dog before a grave marker. It is in the final frames of a film documenting the dedication of one of the three cemeteries on the island. Those two Marines are among hundreds present to remember the more than 6,000 Americans killed on the island in over a month of fighting. The sequence is intentionally framed by the cinematographer, who was clearly looking for the right image to end the roll of film in his camera.

I came across this film clip in my work as a curator of a collection of motion picture films shot by Marine Corps photographers from World War II through the 1970s. In a partnership between the History Division of the Marine Corps and the University of South Carolina, where I work, we are digitizing these films, seeking to provide direct public access to the video and expand historical understanding of the Marine Corps’ role in society.

Over the past two years of scanning, I have come to realize that our work also enables a more powerful relationship with the past by fostering individual connections with videos, something that the digitizing of the large quantity of footage makes possible.

The campaign within the battle

Iwo Jima, an island in the western Pacific less than 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, was considered a key potential stepping stone toward an invasion of Japan itself.

During the battle to take the island from the Japanese, more than 70,000 Marines and attached Army and Navy personnel set foot on Iwo Jima. That included combat soldiers, but also medical corpsmen, chaplains, service and supply soldiers and others. More than 6,800 Americans were killed on the island and on ships and landing craft aiding in the attack; more than 19,200 were wounded.

More than 50 Marine combat cameramen operated across the eight square miles of Iwo Jima during the battle, which stretched from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945. Many shot still images, but at least 26 shot motion pictures. Three of these Marine cinematographers were killed in action.

Even before the battle began, Marine Corps leaders knew they wanted a comprehensive visual account of the battle. Beyond a historical record, combat photography from Iwo Jima would assist in planning and training for the invasion of the Japanese main islands. Some Marine cameramen were assigned to the front lines of individual units, and others to specific activities, like engineering and medical operations. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020



 
Columns

jpg CARL GOLDEN

CARL GOLDEN: TRUMP-STYLE PAYBACK FOR BERNIE - The national Democratic Party is in full panic now, its leaders in a headlong flight like something from a 1950’s sci-fi flick where terrorized townspeople flee a 10-story tall monster crushing cars and flattening buildings.

It’s not some Godzilla-like creature risen from the ocean depths. Just a cranky, white-haired 78-year-old socialist from Vermont leading a dedicated band of followers trampling on a party establishment and reducing to rubble the philosophical pillars which support it.

It’s the second coming of Sen. Bernie Sanders, delivering payback to the party hierarchy he blames for rigging the 2016 presidential primary process and cheating him of the nomination. His victory in the New Hampshire primary following a first place finish in the train wreck that was the Iowa caucuses secured his position leading the remaining viable contenders for the nomination.

Sanders – like Donald Trump four years ago – is an agent of change, not working at the margins and nibbling at the fringes change but bulldozing the political landscape flat and starting over change. Both boast dedicated, committed armies to prove their points. Both provided an outlet for the restiveness and alienation that gripped much of the country and turned it into a rebellious movement.

Four years ago, Trump’s candidacy was dismissed by the Republican Party overlords as another public relations stunt, part of The Donald’s obsession to be the center of attention but not to be taken seriously.

The Sanders candidacy was viewed more seriously – particularly since his strong showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016 – but the smart money insisted he was little more than a gadfly promoting ideas and policies that wouldn’t gain traction with voters. His showing against Clinton was fool’s gold, the argument went, the result of a wretched campaign by Clinton rather than a rush to embrace Sanders.

As Trump rolled through the primaries, blustered through debates and captured outsized media attention, the resonance of his message was ignored by those at the helm of the national party. Who in their right mind would support a thrice-married New York City real estate mogul with a history of financial chicanery, bankruptcies and a penchant for derogatory behavior toward women? - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

jpg Political Cartoon: Democrats Menu

Political Cartoon: Democrats Menu
By Rick McKee ©2020, Counterpoint
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


      

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jpg Opinion

Ketchikan's Port By Janalee Minnich Gage - So we are selling the port? News to me, and I sit on the Ketchikan City Council.

The argument you will hear lately is, why are we selling the docks, why are we giving it away, why are we going to pay someone else to run them, or why can’t we do this ourselves, and why not just keep doing what we are doing? First, let me be very clear here, we are not selling the docks, We are not paying someone else to run them, nor are we giving it away.

First off, I am not sure how to explain it any clearer, I for one ran for the city council to try and make things fair for everyone in our community, and there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding, as to how we can use CPV funds, Port Fees, and Dockage Fees. CPV Funds are the Head Tax we received for each passenger that comes into our port regardless of whether they get off the ship.

This isn’t as easy as changing an ordinance, or state law. This Law dates back 230 years in maritime law and is a clause in the U.S. Constitution. This Federal Law, has been taken up in litigation, and the courts’ interpretation of this 230-year-old law is, monies earned in CPV funds, have to be used on things that directly benefit the ships. I bet you want to ask, why can’t we just change the law? Well for one, it would take an act of congress, literally. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

jpg Opinion

House Finance Public Testimony This Week By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Each session, the Legislature’s biggest responsibility is to pass a budget for the State of Alaska. The House Budget Subcommittees - which examine the details of each department budget - have finished their budget recommendations. I serve as Chair of three budget subcommittees, and we submitted the following budget actions to the House Finance Committee for further review.

The subcommittee for the Department of Environmental Conservation restored the Ocean Ranger program and protected funding for commercial shellfish PSP testing. The subcommittee for the Department of Fish and Game held fast against cuts to the Division of Commercial Fisheries, the bulk of the Governor’s proposed decrements to this department. The subcommittee for the Department of Education and Early Development protected the Online with Libraries (OWL) video conferencing program. I also hope we can delve into the loss of Pre-K funding in the House Finance Committee.

Noteworthy actions from other subcommittees include: the Department of Administration allocated $1 million for public broadcasting grants. Last year, all funds for public broadcasting, totaling $2.7 million, were vetoed by the Governor. The University of Alaska subcommittee added $10.5 million for base operations, such as employee compensation increases. The Department of Transportation subcommittee added $18.7 million to AMHS to get our ferries up and running again. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

jpg Opinion

Alaska Permanent Fund Re-Investment Plan (APFRIP) By Robert B. Holston Jr. - Open letter to:  Dan Ortiz, Bert Steadman, Alaska State Senate President -Giessel, Majority Leader -Hoffman, Minority Leader -Begich, House Speaker -Edgmon,  House Majority -Thompson, House Minority -Pruitt and Governor Mike Dunleavy.

The concept is simple.  At the time of applying for a Permanent Fund Distribution, each person will have the alternative choice to stipulate that ALL or a PORTION of their upcoming Perm-Fund-Check will be RE-INVESTED into the Permanent Fund and earmarked as an investment fund for that person under a provision called: APFRIP.

These Reinvestment Funds would grow at the same rate as the Permanent Fund.   Reinvestment Funds could be withdrawn at any quarterly interval with a 30 days notice and a payment of a disbursement fee to cover administrative costs.

Rationale:  The Alaska Perm Fund is one of the best managed funds in the world.  It was set up to protect the citizen’s of Alaska financial futures so the idea of APFRIP is a logical extension of the Fund’s original purpose. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

jpg Opinion

Waiting for the shoe to drop By A. M. Johnson - Far be from me to believe I am some soothsayer or star reader, yet one does wonder that there has been no inkling or whisper regarding the connection between Cruise ships, tax revenue, and the coronavirus.

In my simple process of processing this equation, one has to consider all the segments in play.  In reading through the many articles related, the theme echoes on the reduction of activity being undertaken in PLEASURE TRAVEL particularly related to the Cruise ships and the current confinement of passengers on specific vessels that frequent Ketchikan. 

One can anticipate both passenger count and tax receipts will reflect reality soon enough. Surely the local "Wizards of Smart" are on the case. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 19, 2020

jpg Opinion

Stedman should follow local consensus and put ferries first By Joel Jackson and Malena Marvin - As residents of the towns near the proposed Kake Road, we firmly oppose it. The $40 million raised for this “road to nowhere” should instead support the return of the Alaska Marine Highway to our coastal Alaskan communities struggling without ferry service. - More...
Friday AM - February 14, 2020

jpg Opinion

Minimum Qualifications for Alaska Police Officers Makes Alaska Safer By Bob Griffiths - Most people are bewildered when they find out people with serious criminal convictions are serving as police officers in rural Alaska.  It truly is shocking to learn that individuals convicted of felonies, sex crimes and violent domestic violence offenses are placed in the highest positions of trust and authority.  Police officers in Alaska, from Anchorage or Alakanuk and beyond, are all given significant authority over the rest of us; including legal authority to search people, vehicles and dwellings with and without warrants; arrest and issue citations; and detain others until arraigned in court.  Those of us working to assure only trustworthy individuals are placed in these critical positions of trust have been acutely aware of this long-standing problem for years.  - More...
Friday AM - February 14, 2020  

jpg Opinion

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MINDS? QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DOCK AND WARD COVE FIASCO By David G. Hanger - It certainly does not surprise me that Dick Coose’s fingerprints are all over this looming disaster. This particular buck-ass private of industry was fundamentally culpable for the train wreck that was Gateway Forest Products, the largest (and most corrupt) bankruptcy in the state’s history, and the wooden bowl scam, etc., and now he wants to sell your future away so he can toy with and burn rapidly through another $35 million of someone else’s money. Forfeiting local control of our docks for 30 years, and who knows how much more, means nothing to Dick Coose because long before then he will be dead and gone, but for many of you both you and your children will still be around. - More...
Friday AM - February 14, 2020

jpg Opinion

AMHS Update from the Legislature By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Let’s talk about the prospects of this year’s legislative session and budget deliberations as they relate to the AMHS. Our ferry system has been at the forefront of many legislative conversations: - More...
Monday PM - February 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Museums’ Strategic Long Range Plan By Michele Zerbetz Scott - It’s time to update the Museums’ Strategic Long Range Plan and the Ketchikan Museums are requesting help from the community. Here is some history: - More...
Monday PM - February 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Book Recommended By Rob Holston - ALASKA’S INSIDE PASSAGE by Dale Pihlman is a book I purchased as a “self gift” before Christmas and finished reading it in time to recommend it to several friends for their Christmas. I’ve known Dale for years and have admiration for his insights and I expected a good product yet his book delivers far beyond any expectations. - More...
Monday PM - February 10, 2020

jpg Opinion

Standing up for Alaska’s Pioneers By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Last year, I cosponsored and voted for House Bill 96, which reverses massive rate increases at the Pioneer Homes. This bipartisan legislation passed the House 35-4 and now is being considered by the Senate. If the Senate passes HB 96, we can reverse the devastating rate increases and provide critical financial stability both for residents and our Pioneer Home system. - More...
Tuesday PM - February 04, 2020

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KRBD - Ketchikan FM Community Radio for Southern Southeast Alaska

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