Alaska News

Walker doubles down on opposing Pebble Mine

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 17:51
While Gov. Bill Walker expressed concerns about EPA’s earlier actions, he came out strongly against the project in an interview. (Alaska Governor’s Office photo)

Tomorrow, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier is expected to publicly outline a plan for the proposed Pebble Mine project for the first time.

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But in an interview today, Governor Bill Walker said he’s against the controversial mine.

“I am not supportive of the Pebble Mine,” Walker said.

Walker said the mine’s developers have not yet proven to him that the project can be done without harming the Bristol Bay region’s salmon fishery.

“I do not have information sufficient for me to be comfortable or supportive of the Pebble Mine. The burden is on them to prove that it can be done without a risk to the fish in that area. It’s a high burden – it’s the highest burden, and to me, they have not met that yet,” Walker said.

Walker said he will consider what Pebble’s developers have to say, but he’s also listening closely to concerns from people who could be affected by the mine.

The governor did not say he’s planning to take any specific actions to halt the project.

“I don’t know that there’s a lever for me to pull that’s going to absolutely stop it,” Walker said, adding, “I think that there are a lot of protections that are already in place.”

It’s not the first time the Governor has said he’s not in favor of the mine — he came out against the project while campaigning for office in 2014. But the state will likely take on a bigger role in the Pebble Mine controversy soon.

Under the Obama administration, U.S. EPA proposed restrictions on the mine before the standard permitting process began.

Walker said he did have concerns about EPA’s previous action.

“Alaska’s a resource state…and my concern with that is that they sort of overstepped and didn’t let a process play out. If [EPA] could do that on that issue, then there are other issues they could do that as well,” Walker said. “It’s a delicate issue, but I certainly would not want to have that happen on a development that was not anywhere near a risk to a fishing area.”

However, Scott Pruitt, the EPA Administrator under President Donald Trump, reached a settlement with Pebble this spring, opening the door for the project to begin the permitting process. If that happens, the state also will begin its review of the mine.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble Ltd. Partnership, responded to Walker’s remarks in an emailed statement.

“The governor is correct that the burden is on us to demonstrate we will not impact the fish resource in the region,” Heatwole said. “While we believe our plan meets this hurdle, the next step is to have our plan thoroughly and objectively evaluated via the permitting process to determine if we meet the high standards Alaskans expect for development.”

Categories: Alaska News

Bering sea crab fisheries face more cutbacks

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 16:37
(Photo by Berett Wilbur/KUCB)

For the second year in a row, crab fisheries in southwest Alaska are facing steep cuts. This year’s Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is 22 percent smaller than last year.

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The season opens October 15.

There will be no fishery for St. Matthew’s blue king crab because of low abundance.

The Pribilof District red and blue king crab fisheries will also remain closed due to continued low abundance and uncertainty from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the accuracy of red king crab estimates.

Categories: Alaska News

Bering sea crab fisheries face more cutbacks

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 16:37
(Photo by Berett Wilbur/KUCB)

For the second year in a row, crab fisheries in southwest Alaska are facing steep cuts. This year’s Bristol Bay red king crab fishery is 22 percent smaller than last year.

The season opens October 15.

There will be no fishery for St. Matthew’s blue king crab because of low abundance.

The Pribilof District red and blue king crab fisheries will also remain closed due to continued low abundance and uncertainty from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the accuracy of red king crab estimates.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Mental Health Trust hires new CEO

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 16:11

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority has hired a new CEO almost a year after the ousting of its long-time leader.

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Mike Abbott will take over the Trust on November 1. He currently serves as the Municipal Manager of Anchorage and previously worked as the chief operating officer for the Anchorage School District. He will oversee both the mental health programming side of the Trust as well as the Trust Land Office, which manages the organization’s properties and land.

The Trust funds programs for people with mental illnesses, substance use disorders and other cognitive disabilities. It has been roiled by major leadership changes in the past year and is currently undergoing a special legislative audit.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Mental Health Trust hires new CEO

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 16:11

The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority has hired a new CEO almost a year after the ousting of its long-time leader.

Mike Abbott will take over the Trust on November 1. He currently serves as the Municipal Manager of Anchorage and previously worked as the chief operating officer for the Anchorage School District. He will oversee both the mental health programming side of the Trust as well as the Trust Land Office, which manages the organization’s properties and land.

The Trust funds programs for people with mental illnesses, substance use disorders and other cognitive disabilities. It has been roiled by major leadership changes in the past year and is currently undergoing a special legislative audit.

Categories: Alaska News

New lava dome forms on Cleveland Volcano

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 15:21
Mount Cleveland in July of 2016 (Photo by John Lyons/AVO/USGS)

Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutians near Unalaska is restless. Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory observed that a new lava dome formed in the summit crater over the weekend, and lava is trickling out. The dome is about 4200 square meters, a little smaller than 10 NBA basketball courts.

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“This happens relatively routinely at Cleveland that we grow small little lava domes,” Dave Schneider, a geophysicist with the AVO, said. “They’re kind of shaped like a pancake in the summit crater. Those typically exist for weeks to months before they’re blown up and we start the process all over again.”

It has been about a decade by Schneider’s estimate since Cleveland has exploded with a significant amount of lava. This pattern of building pressure and spewing small amounts of lava is one it goes through frequently.

“We grow somewhere between one to two to three domes per year it seems. Sometimes there’s more, then less. In 2017, we’ve had at least three periods of dome growth, the last of which was in August. That was destroyed by an explosion,” Schneider said.

Even though Cleveland’s explosions are frequent, its pattern does not give scientists much clue as to when this new dome will explode. It could be a matter of days or months.

The AVO can detect explosions with the limited monitoring equipment they have on the island. When Cleveland does explode they work with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Weather Service to get word out about ash clouds and other potential aviation dangers.

Categories: Alaska News

New lava dome forms on Cleveland Volcano

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 15:21
Mount Cleveland in July of 2016 (Photo by John Lyons/AVO/USGS)

Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutians near Unalaska is restless. Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory observed that a new lava dome formed in the summit crater over the weekend, and lava is trickling out. The dome is about 4200 square meters, a little smaller than 10 NBA basketball courts.

Listen now

“This happens relatively routinely at Cleveland that we grow small little lava domes,” Dave Schneider, a geophysicist with the AVO, said. “They’re kind of shaped like a pancake in the summit crater. Those typically exist for weeks to months before they’re blown up and we start the process all over again.”

It has been about a decade by Schneider’s estimate since Cleveland has exploded with a significant amount of lava. This pattern of building pressure and spewing small amounts of lava is one it goes through frequently.

“We grow somewhere between one to two to three domes per year it seems. Sometimes there’s more, then less. In 2017, we’ve had at least three periods of dome growth, the last of which was in August. That was destroyed by an explosion,” Schneider said.

Even though Cleveland’s explosions are frequent, its pattern does not give scientists much clue as to when this new dome will explode. It could be a matter of days or months.

The AVO can detect explosions with the limited monitoring equipment they have on the island. When Cleveland does explode they work with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Weather Service to get word out about ash clouds and other potential aviation dangers.

Categories: Alaska News

Statewide fish donations go toward hurricane recovery

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 15:13
Box of frozen halibut from a SeaShare operation to Arctic Alaska in 2016. (Kayla Desroches/KMXT)

Fish from across Alaska and the Lower 48 is going toward recovery from hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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Washington-based nonprofit SeaShare, which works with seafood companies to donate fish to those in need, is partnering with food bank network Feeding America on the disaster relief.

That’s according to a press release, where the nonprofit writes that 2 million servings of seafood are headed to food banks in Miami, Houston and 10 other states.

SeaShare executive director Jim Harmon said the last time the organization rallied donations like this was in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Harmon said the majority of the fish still comes from Alaska, but the recent need has caught the attention of the seafood industry nationwide.

“We’ve been able to show the other seafood companies around the country how Alaska processors and the Seattle processors have stepped up, so we’ve got some great donations from New Hampshire, from Chicago, some other people who don’t normally participate in this kind of thing,” Harmon said.

Harmon said among the donations are 30,000 pounds of salmon steak that came out of the Bering Sea and two truck-loads of Alaska-fished Pollock.

According to the press release, SeaShare is also seeking shelf‐stable donations to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. Companies can reach out to info@seashare.org if they have cans or pouches of seafood to send.

Categories: Alaska News

Statewide fish donations go toward hurricane recovery

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2017-10-04 15:13
Box of frozen halibut from a SeaShare operation to Arctic Alaska in 2016. (Kayla Desroches/KMXT)

Fish from across Alaska and the Lower 48 is going toward recovery from hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Washington-based nonprofit SeaShare, which works with seafood companies to donate fish to those in need, is partnering with food bank network Feeding America on the disaster relief.

That’s according to a press release, where the nonprofit writes that 2 million servings of seafood are headed to food banks in Miami, Houston and 10 other states.

SeaShare executive director Jim Harmon said the last time the organization rallied donations like this was in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Harmon said the majority of the fish still comes from Alaska, but the recent need has caught the attention of the seafood industry nationwide.

“We’ve been able to show the other seafood companies around the country how Alaska processors and the Seattle processors have stepped up, so we’ve got some great donations from New Hampshire, from Chicago, some other people who don’t normally participate in this kind of thing,” Harmon said.

Harmon said among the donations are 30,000 pounds of salmon steak that came out of the Bering Sea and two truck-loads of Alaska-fished Pollock.

According to the press release, SeaShare is also seeking shelf‐stable donations to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. Companies can reach out to info@seashare.org if they have cans or pouches of seafood to send.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge weighs whether ballot initiative favors salmon over mining, oil

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 18:00
Salmon habitat in the Susitna River could get additional protections under a proposed ballot initiative, but the state argues the protections go too far. (Wikimedia Commons photo by olekinderhook)

Last month, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott rejected a potential ballot measure that would strengthen state law protecting salmon habitat. The state’s position is that if voters approved the measure, the legislature would be forced to protect salmon over other resource development, like mining or oil infrastructure.

Listen now

The people behind the ballot measure — the nonprofit Stand for Salmon — appealed. Now, a Superior Court judge has to decide whether Mallott was right.

At a hearing Tuesday in Anchorage, the key question was this: does the ballot initiative give the state enough wiggle room to consider projects like the proposed Pebble Mine or Susitna Dam even if they impact salmon streams?

The state argues it doesn’t. Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar said the initiative would violate the state constitution by forcing the legislature to prioritize salmon habitat over other natural resource development.

Bakalar said megaprojects like the Pebble Mine proposal could be at stake.

Asked after the hearing if the Pebble Mine or Susitna Dam could be permitted if the ballot measure was approved, Backalar replied, “No, we don’t think so. That’s basically the crux of our case.”

But the attorney for the nonprofit Stand for Salmon, the group behind the initiative, argued the opposite. Valerie Brown with Trustees for Alaska said the language in the initiative does toughen regulations, but it doesn’t force the state to shut projects down.

“This sets up a system where really big projects that will cause a lot of harm to salmon habitat get increased scrutiny,” Brown said after the hearing.

Many Alaska industry groups came out in force against the ballot initiative, including the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the Alaska Miners Association and the Resource Development Council.

Marleanna Hall, executive director of the Resource Development Council, said current law does enough to protect salmon habitat.

“We truly believe that [the ballot initiative] is a disproportionate response to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Hall said.

Hall said new language in the initiative could effectively halt a wide range of projects, from oil fields to roads.

Two of the initiative’s organizers, Gayla Hoseth and Brian Kraft, are outspoken opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine. A third, Mike Wood, has led efforts fighting the Susitna Dam.

But Wood, a commercial fisherman, said the ballot initiative is not intended to halt projects. Instead, he argued that Alaska’s laws protecting fish habitat are too weak.

“Let’s give this permit system some teeth again, so that we can be ensured that when these projects are built, that they won’t be impacting our fish resources,” Wood said.

Under current law, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is charged with approving projects unless they are deemed “insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.”

The ballot measure would add some specifics on what “proper protection” looks like. It aims to add language about water quality, temperature and flow. It would also set up a new permitting process for companies, one that’s based on the level of impact a project might have on fish habitat.

The initiative is similar to a bill that Anchorage Democrats Andy Josephson and Les Gara introduced in the House Fisheries Committee this spring. Wood said his group supports the bill, too, but is taking a “belt and suspenders” approach by also pushing for the ballot initiative.

Judge Mark Rindner is expected to make a decision this week on whether voters should decide this issue at the ballot box. But that may not be the final word. The case will likely be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Stand for Salmon aims to get the initiative on the ballot in 2018.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge weighs whether ballot initiative favors salmon over mining, oil

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 18:00
Salmon habitat in the Susitna River could get additional protections under a proposed ballot initiative, but the state argues the protections go too far. (Wikimedia Commons photo by olekinderhook)

Last month, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott rejected a potential ballot measure that would strengthen state law protecting salmon habitat. The state’s position is that if voters approved the measure, the legislature would be forced to protect salmon over other resource development, like mining or oil infrastructure.

Listen now

The people behind the ballot measure — the nonprofit Stand for Salmon — appealed. Now, a Superior Court judge has to decide whether Mallott was right.

At a hearing Tuesday in Anchorage, the key question was this: does the ballot initiative give the state enough wiggle room to consider projects like the proposed Pebble Mine or Susitna Dam even if they impact salmon streams?

The state argues it doesn’t. Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar said the initiative would violate the state constitution by forcing the legislature to prioritize salmon habitat over other natural resource development.

Bakalar said megaprojects like the Pebble Mine proposal could be at stake.

Asked after the hearing if the Pebble Mine or Susitna Dam could be permitted if the ballot measure was approved, Backalar replied, “No, we don’t think so. That’s basically the crux of our case.”

But the attorney for the nonprofit Stand for Salmon, the group behind the initiative, argued the opposite. Valerie Brown with Trustees for Alaska said the language in the initiative does toughen regulations, but it doesn’t force the state to shut projects down.

“This sets up a system where really big projects that will cause a lot of harm to salmon habitat get increased scrutiny,” Brown said after the hearing.

Many Alaska industry groups came out in force against the ballot initiative, including the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the Alaska Miners Association and the Resource Development Council.

Marleanna Hall, executive director of the Resource Development Council, said current law does enough to protect salmon habitat.

“We truly believe that [the ballot initiative] is a disproportionate response to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Hall said.

Hall said new language in the initiative could effectively halt a wide range of projects, from oil fields to roads.

Two of the initiative’s organizers, Gayla Hoseth and Brian Kraft, are outspoken opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine. A third, Mike Wood, has led efforts fighting the Susitna Dam.

But Wood, a commercial fisherman, said the ballot initiative is not intended to halt projects. Instead, he argued that Alaska’s laws protecting fish habitat are too weak.

“Let’s give this permit system some teeth again, so that we can be ensured that when these projects are built, that they won’t be impacting our fish resources,” Wood said.

Under current law, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is charged with approving projects unless they are deemed “insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.”

The ballot measure would add some specifics on what “proper protection” looks like. It aims to add language about water quality, temperature and flow. It would also set up a new permitting process for companies, one that’s based on the level of impact a project might have on fish habitat.

The initiative is similar to a bill that Anchorage Democrats Andy Josephson and Les Gara introduced in the House Fisheries Committee this spring. Wood said his group supports the bill, too, but is taking a “belt and suspenders” approach by also pushing for the ballot initiative.

Judge Mark Rindner is expected to make a decision this week on whether voters should decide this issue at the ballot box. But that may not be the final word. The case will likely be appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Stand for Salmon aims to get the initiative on the ballot in 2018.

Categories: Alaska News

Amid expansion, Anchorage Police announce new strategy to fight violent crime

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 17:24
Police Chief Justin Doll, center, speaking about the Anchorage Police Department’s new crime supression strategy at APD headquarters next to Capt. Ken McCoy, left, and Lt. Kevin Vandegriff, right (Photo: Zachariah Hughes- Alaska Public Media)

As property and violent crime continue to increase in Anchorage, the city’s police department is internally reorganizing to better respond.

Listen now

Speaking at a press conference inside Anchorage Police Department headquarters Tuesday, Police Chief Justin Doll announced that the department’s expansion in recent years is allowing it to increase its focus on property, drug, and violent crime. APD’s new initiative has three main elements, all of which, should be fully in place later this October.

“Overall, our goal here is to more effectively deal with violent offenders, and run more efficient drug investigations, and gather and utilize relevant intelligence,” Doll told a handful of reporters.

Doll said that the internal rearrangement is meant to “streamline that chain of command, make us more efficient, and make sure that we don’t have bureaucracy getting in the way of active investigations and operations.”

The changes include bringing officers and detectives focused on drug crime in the Community Action Policing Team and Vice unit under the same command, as well as expanding intelligence sharing with other law enforcement agencies, and adding one detective a piece to the homicide and robbery/assault units. Finally, the department is creating an entirely new unit designed to support larger investigations.

“That’ll be things like helping serve search warrants, run surveillance, find witnesses, assist detectives with long-term investigations,” Doll said.

“When they’re not doing those things, they’ll provide high-intensity patrol operations in parts of town as we identify hot spots and crime trends,” Doll added of the new Investigative Support Unit, set to be comprised of eight patrol officers under the supervision of a sergeant.

Across Anchorage, residents, business owners and elected officials say crime is on the rise, though the causes and degree of increase are hotly contested. Doll agrees there is more serious crime taking place compared to recent years, and sees this new strategy as aiming to make the police department less reactive and more proactive responding to the trend.

But the chief stopped short of identifying the rise in crime, either locally or nationally, as attributable to any single cause or explanation.

“I think in Anchorage we have a combination of things,” Doll said. “The department suffered from low staffing for a while, and I think whenever you don’t have law enforcement pressure on criminal activity it tends to increase. I think that we’re seeing a rise in the use of opioids, and that tends to affect property crimes because those people need to have sort of income or something they can trade for the drugs that they need to stay not sick. So I think it’s a whole host of things.”

Doll says of the 409 officers at APD today there are still dozens in training, with another academy in December expected to further grow the force.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Amid expansion, Anchorage Police announce new strategy to fight violent crime

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 17:24
Police Chief Justin Doll, center, speaking about the Anchorage Police Department’s new crime supression strategy at APD headquarters next to Capt. Ken McCoy, left, and Lt. Kevin Vandegriff, right (Photo: Zachariah Hughes- Alaska Public Media)

As property and violent crime continue to increase in Anchorage, the city’s police department is internally reorganizing to better respond.

Listen now

Speaking at a press conference inside Anchorage Police Department headquarters Tuesday, Police Chief Justin Doll announced that the department’s expansion in recent years is allowing it to increase its focus on property, drug, and violent crime. APD’s new initiative has three main elements, all of which, should be fully in place later this October.

“Overall, our goal here is to more effectively deal with violent offenders, and run more efficient drug investigations, and gather and utilize relevant intelligence,” Doll told a handful of reporters.

Doll said that the internal rearrangement is meant to “streamline that chain of command, make us more efficient, and make sure that we don’t have bureaucracy getting in the way of active investigations and operations.”

The changes include bringing officers and detectives focused on drug crime in the Community Action Policing Team and Vice unit under the same command, as well as expanding intelligence sharing with other law enforcement agencies, and adding one detective a piece to the homicide and robbery/assault units. Finally, the department is creating an entirely new unit designed to support larger investigations.

“That’ll be things like helping serve search warrants, run surveillance, find witnesses, assist detectives with long-term investigations,” Doll said.

“When they’re not doing those things, they’ll provide high-intensity patrol operations in parts of town as we identify hot spots and crime trends,” Doll added of the new Investigative Support Unit, set to be comprised of eight patrol officers under the supervision of a sergeant.

Across Anchorage, residents, business owners and elected officials say crime is on the rise, though the causes and degree of increase are hotly contested. Doll agrees there is more serious crime taking place compared to recent years, and sees this new strategy as aiming to make the police department less reactive and more proactive responding to the trend.

But the chief stopped short of identifying the rise in crime, either locally or nationally, as attributable to any single cause or explanation.

“I think in Anchorage we have a combination of things,” Doll said. “The department suffered from low staffing for a while, and I think whenever you don’t have law enforcement pressure on criminal activity it tends to increase. I think that we’re seeing a rise in the use of opioids, and that tends to affect property crimes because those people need to have sort of income or something they can trade for the drugs that they need to stay not sick. So I think it’s a whole host of things.”

Doll says of the 409 officers at APD today there are still dozens in training, with another academy in December expected to further grow the force.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Ban on hovercraft use within Alaska preserve stands, another appeal may come up

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 17:02

The man at the center of a lawsuit over National Park Service authority to regulate rivers in Alaska parks is reacting to the most recent legal decision in the case.

Listen now

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Monday in the long-running case filed by Anchorage hunter John Sturgeon. Sturgeon contested a National Park Service ban on hovercraft use within Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, in the eastern interior. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which remanded it back to the 9th Circuit in March. The appeals court again backed Park service authority. Sturgeon points to a disconnect between the two courts.

“Supreme Court said over and over again, Alaska’s different by law. That our laws are different,” Sturgeon said. “That our parks, reserves and refuges are supposed to managed differently than the Lower 48.”

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that established Yukon Charley Preserve, and many other federal parks in Alaska, allows NPS system wide regulations, like the hovercraft ban, to be applied inside Alaska parks, but Sturgeon maintains non-federal in-holdings, like state owned rivers, are not included.

“The federal government should not have control over state-owned navigable waters. That’s the bottom line,” Sturgeon said.

The environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska is sided with the park service in the Sturgeon case. Attorney Katie Strong said this week’s ruling clarifies a difference between river waters and other park in-holdings, like state and Alaska Native lands, which are immune from NPS regulations.

“Waterways flowing through the parks are public lands and they are to be regulated by the Park Service,” Strong said. “To protect the parks as Congress intended when establishing them.”

The Sturgeon case, and the broader fight over control of Alaska Rivers, may not be over. Sturgeon said he’s considering another appeal, noting that his case is backed by the state, numerous groups and many Alaskans.

Categories: Alaska News

Ban on hovercraft use within Alaska preserve stands, another appeal may come up

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 17:02

The man at the center of a lawsuit over National Park Service authority to regulate rivers in Alaska parks is reacting to the most recent legal decision in the case.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Monday in the long-running case filed by Anchorage hunter John Sturgeon. Sturgeon contested a National Park Service ban on hovercraft use within Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, in the eastern interior. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which remanded it back to the 9th Circuit in March. The appeals court again backed Park service authority. Sturgeon points to a disconnect between the two courts.

“Supreme Court said over and over again, Alaska’s different by law. That our laws are different,” Sturgeon said. “That our parks, reserves and refuges are supposed to managed differently than the Lower 48.”

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that established Yukon Charley Preserve, and many other federal parks in Alaska, allows NPS system wide regulations, like the hovercraft ban, to be applied inside Alaska parks, but Sturgeon maintains non-federal in-holdings, like state owned rivers, are not included.

“The federal government should not have control over state-owned navigable waters. That’s the bottom line,” Sturgeon said.

The environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska is sided with the park service in the Sturgeon case. Attorney Katie Strong said this week’s ruling clarifies a difference between river waters and other park in-holdings, like state and Alaska Native lands, which are immune from NPS regulations.

“Waterways flowing through the parks are public lands and they are to be regulated by the Park Service,” Strong said. “To protect the parks as Congress intended when establishing them.”

The Sturgeon case, and the broader fight over control of Alaska Rivers, may not be over. Sturgeon said he’s considering another appeal, noting that his case is backed by the state, numerous groups and many Alaskans.

Categories: Alaska News

Spring Creek staff acted illegally in 2013 incident, Ombudsman finds

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 16:01
Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. (Hillman/Alaska Public Media)

The state’s ombudsman’s office said staff at Spring Creek Correctional Center violated the law in 2013 when they stripped 12 inmates and locked them naked in cold cells without clothing, blankets or mattresses for up to 12 hours. The ombudsman made recommendations to rectify the situation in a report released last week. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections said he’s determined to prevent something like this from happening again.

Listen now

In early August of 2013, 14 inmates created a disturbance at Spring Creek by smashing toilets, windows, and sinks. They were moved to a segregation unit.

Ten days later, one of the inmates broke a shower head and tried to flood the housing unit. 12 other inmates were accused of encouraging him. They were taken from their cells and chained together, stripped in front of a female staff person, then locked naked into different cells without coverings or mattresses.

Staff was not reprimanded for their actions. An inmate filed a grievance that was dismissed by the Spring Creek administrators. Those officials no longer lead the institution.

The Ombudsman’s office found the staff’s actions to be illegal, unconstitutional and against Department of Corrections policy.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable in our prisons,” Alaska State Ombudsman Kate Burkhart said.

Burkhart acknowledged that the inmates “had previously destroyed a significant amount of property in the prison. [However,] that doesn’t justify what happened.”

Burkhart said policies and procedures to protect the safety and dignity of both inmates and staff broke down. The report recommends changing policies on strip searches and the use of restraint devices.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams said he agrees with the findings of the report. His staff are already implementing most of the recommended changes and are revising other DOC policies, some of which are more than 20 years old.

“What happened then, by every standard that I have and that I think our department leadership have, that incident was completely unacceptable,” Williams said.

Williams and his leadership team are pushing to change the culture of the department to prevent incidences like this in the future. Part of that strategy is to improve the relationship between inmates and staff by treating both with respect and humanity.

“This whole concept isn’t just for the benefit of the inmates,” Williams said of the cultural shift. “It’s really about developing another element of security around how you interact. Because when you have relationships with people, even ones in your custody, they’re more likely to have better interactions so you don’t have this developing ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic.”

Williams also created an internal investigation unit that’s independent of the institutions to look into reports like this one and to take corrective actions. The 2013 incident was originally investigated by the lieutenant who ordered the illegal actions. The new unit has also investigated the 2013 incident and concurs with the ombudsman’s findings.

The ombudsman report also suggests equipping corrections officers with body cameras. Williams said he is open to the idea and to the accountability body cams provide to both inmates and staff, but he needs to consider how the evidence would be handled and how the policy could impact other departments.

Categories: Alaska News

Spring Creek staff acted illegally in 2013 incident, Ombudsman finds

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 16:01
Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward. (Hillman/Alaska Public Media)

The state’s ombudsman’s office said staff at Spring Creek Correctional Center violated the law in 2013 when they stripped 12 inmates and locked them naked in cold cells without clothing, blankets or mattresses for up to 12 hours. The ombudsman made recommendations to rectify the situation in a report released last week. The Commissioner of the Department of Corrections said he’s determined to prevent something like this from happening again.

In early August of 2013, 14 inmates created a disturbance at Spring Creek by smashing toilets, windows, and sinks. They were moved to a segregation unit.

Ten days later, one of the inmates broke a shower head and tried to flood the housing unit. 12 other inmates were accused of encouraging him. They were taken from their cells and chained together, stripped in front of a female staff person, then locked naked into different cells without coverings or mattresses.

Staff was not reprimanded for their actions. An inmate filed a grievance that was dismissed by the Spring Creek administrators. Those officials no longer lead the institution.

The Ombudsman’s office found the staff’s actions to be illegal, unconstitutional and against Department of Corrections policy.

“This kind of behavior is not acceptable in our prisons,” Alaska State Ombudsman Kate Burkhart said.

Burkhart acknowledged that the inmates “had previously destroyed a significant amount of property in the prison. [However,] that doesn’t justify what happened.”

Burkhart said policies and procedures to protect the safety and dignity of both inmates and staff broke down. The report recommends changing policies on strip searches and the use of restraint devices.

Department of Corrections Commissioner Dean Williams said he agrees with the findings of the report. His staff are already implementing most of the recommended changes and are revising other DOC policies, some of which are more than 20 years old.

“What happened then, by every standard that I have and that I think our department leadership have, that incident was completely unacceptable,” Williams said.

Williams and his leadership team are pushing to change the culture of the department to prevent incidences like this in the future. Part of that strategy is to improve the relationship between inmates and staff by treating both with respect and humanity.

“This whole concept isn’t just for the benefit of the inmates,” Williams said of the cultural shift. “It’s really about developing another element of security around how you interact. Because when you have relationships with people, even ones in your custody, they’re more likely to have better interactions so you don’t have this developing ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic.”

Williams also created an internal investigation unit that’s independent of the institutions to look into reports like this one and to take corrective actions. The 2013 incident was investigated by the lieutenant who ordered the illegal actions. The new unit has also investigated the 2013 incident and concurs with the ombudsman’s findings.

The ombudsman report also suggests equipping corrections officers with body cameras. Williams said he is open to the idea and to the accountability body cams provide to both inmates and staff, but he needs to consider how the evidence would be handled and how the policy could impact other departments.

Categories: Alaska News

Bristol Bay braces for long awaited Pebble Mine plans

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 14:14
In May, Pebble Mine opponents held a rally and press conference in Dillingham, just ahead of EPA announcing its intention to reverse course on preemptive restrictions proposed during the Obama Administration. (KDLG photo)

This week, Pebble Limited Partnership is expected to publicly unveil the outline for a plan to mine the copper and gold deposit northwest of Iliamna. Those who have been briefed say the company’s plans call for a much smaller mine than discussed before, and appear to address many of the concerns raised by Bristol Bay residents and fishermen, environmentalists and the EPA.

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As a region, the Bristol Bay watershed has largely opposed Pebble, perhaps in increasing numbers, for the past decade. Much of the effort focused on pushing President Obama’s EPA to finalize preemptive Section 404(c) Clean Water Act restrictions that would have blocked permitting of Pebble Mine’s dredge and fill activities. Pebble filed several lawsuits, alleging in one that EPA and anti-mine activists were colluding to reach a predetermined outcome. That lawsuit found traction in the court of U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland, who agreed to an injunction against further EPA effort until the case was resolved.

President Trump’s EPA agreed to settle the lawsuit with Pebble, allowing the company to enter into a normal permitting process as defined by the National Environmental Policy Act. A caveat was added that the company must file for permits within 30 months.

Ahead of CEO Tom Collier’s presentation of Pebble’s plans to the Resource Development Council in Anchorage Thursday morning, the company has been briefing some stakeholders ahead of time.

Nathan Hill, the manager of the Lake and Peninsula Borough, has seen the 150-plus slide PowerPoint presentation with the company’s estimates about the size and scope of the project, and what it will mean for nearby communities.

The Pebble deposit sits within the Borough’s boundaries.

“The position of the Borough is neutral,” Hill said. “We are tasked with approving permits regarding any development in the Borough, so for us to have anything but a neutral stance would not make our permitting process a fair one.”

Hill is Alaska Native, a BBNC shareholder and member of his local tribe. He is a lifelong commercial and subsistence fisherman who lives in Kokhanok, along the shores of Iliamna Lake. Hill knows as well as anybody the stakes involved, and depending on the success, flop or failure of Pebble, the borough he manages stands to gain or lose more than anywhere else in Bristol Bay. The Lake and Pen Borough pulls in roughly $1.5 million in taxes from the commercial sockeye harvest each year, a revenue stream that depends on a healthy fishery. But the Borough will also have some taxing authority over the project, if it’s developed, that could reap millions annually.

A Pebble Mine might create more jobs and contracts for village corporations, but there will inevitably be disruption to today’s way of life and potential for a wide range of environmental risk to Lake and Pen communities. Amidst a tense dialogue given to backbiting and hyperbole, Hill said his assembly and mayor have tasked him to stay informed and meet with Pebble as needed.

“To ignore facts and reality doesn’t do anything to satisfy that,” Hill said. “In my opinion, if you want to have good information, you need to be open to that information. That’s what I’m trying to do, keep apprised of all arguments and all information, and make myself available to do the job of borough manager.”

In the past, the Lake and Peninsula Borough has been targeted by Pebble Mine opponents, notably Alaska’s wealthiest resident Bob Gillam, who funded ballot initiatives, lawsuits and propped up George Jacko Jr. as a candidate against incumbent Mayor Glen Alsworth, Sr. The Borough has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting what they claim are frivolous lawsuits, and Gillam’s standing with wider Pebble opponents suffered on account of his relationship with Jacko. A former state senator, Jacko’s reputation for harassing young women stretches far beyond the claims made against him during an official investigation while he was in office in the early 90s.

Downstream from Pebble’s deposit, down the Koktuli to the Mulchatna to the world-famous king salmon producing Nushagak River sits Dillingham, the largest hub in Bristol Bay and center of the region’s loudest opposition to Pebble.

“I’ll fight Pebble till my last breath,” H. Robin Samuelsen said.

Also a lifelong commercial fisherman, Samuelsen is a chief with the Curyung Tribal Council, a director with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and the chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors. Few if any have had near the influence over Bristol Bay’s past quarter century as Samuelsen, and few if any are as prepared to lead this fight from the front as he is. But he is not choosing to engage with Pebble directly, at least for now.

“Not having seen the plan, I will still oppose the Mine. It has many ramifications that could affect the commercial fishery, sport fishery, and subsistence fishery out here,” Samuelsen said.

Samuelsen said others who answer to him have seen Pebble’s plans, and he is concerned to hear that the company may focus on the Pebble West deposit which drains to the Koktuli River. He and many others opposed to Pebble have long alleged the risks from hypothetical mining scenarios that may now be less applicable, and he and others have long called for Pebble to lay its cards on the table. Thus, he is willing to take a look at what the company is proposing.

“I think there’s room for us to invite them, they don’t have to invite us, we’ll invite them, to look at what they’re planning on doing. It isn’t just a ‘hell no’, we’re monitoring the situation, and I believe that the super majority of Bristol Bay is going to continue to oppose that Mine,” Samuelsen said.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a political advocacy group representing 14 tribal councils in the region, has taken a lead position in opposing Pebble. A UTBB contingent has traveled to nearly every village in the region to shore up support ahead of Pebble’s rollout and an EPA visit, and they protested outside the Pebble advisory committee’s August meeting in Anchorage. They turned down an invite to join and even address that meeting, and Executive Director Alannah Hurley said will continue to refuse discussions that presume a mine will be built, no matter the size.

“We have known from the very beginning of this threat exactly what is up there. We know from their own presentations to their shareholders and to the investment community exactly the type, size and location of the Pebble deposit. Those are things that cannot change,” Hurley said. “The impact of that type of mining on our watershed has not changed. Nothing has changed when it comes to the Pebble Mine other than politics.”

Hurley said the residents UTBB has heard from are deeply frustrated to still be talking about a mine they have opposed for a decade.

Pebble has a few supporters in the region who have mainly voiced the importance of the jobs and income that, especially around Iliamna Lake, other organizations have failed to create. Then there are others who are more open to see Pebble vetted normally, Lisa Reimers said. As CEO of the Iliamna Development Corporation and Iliamna Natives Limited board member, Reimers has worked with Pebble in the past and earned the ire of mining opponents for doing so. She hopes for an open, robust debate about what is at stake, but not does not believe her detractors will come to the table.

“To me it was a perfect example when they were having this [Pebble advisory committee] meeting and they invited United Tribes in, or the people that were protesting, they refused to go into the meeting to have a discussion with this new advisory committee Pebble put together,” Reimers said. “To me, nothing has changed. If anything it’s gotten worse with the protesting and animosity.”

IDC and INL will take a hard look at Pebble’s plans and see if it makes sense for the area, said Reimers, adding that Iliamna leadership has not taken a firm position in support of or against the project. This past summer was a difficult one, she said, discussing how contract work with Pebble did not go smoothly, and adding that IDC shareholders and others in Iliamna were left wondering if this mining company can be trusted any more than the rest.

A Pebble office in Iliamna in April, 2016. (KDLG photo)

Reimers asked the Bristol Bay Native Corporation board to help produce non-Pebble related work and contracts, if the board is to remain insistent against the Mine. No other options were provided, she said.

The BBNC board of directors spearheaded an ugly fight against one of its own directors when she signed onto Pebble’s advisory committee this spring. Kim Williams of Dillingham was first ousted from her role as director of Nunamta Aulukestai, then BBNC’s board threatened a recall vote with the full backing of the deep-pocketed corporation to unseat her. Williams, one of the proposed mine’s loudest opponents, backed down and resigned from the Pebble advisory committee in June.

After that, her father William Johnson agreed to join, as did Alexanna Salmon from Igiugig. Neither are known to give into bullying, though Salmon said the move probably cost her a few friendships for now.

Salmon is opposed to the Mine, as she believes most of her community is too, but she wants to be informed and perhaps affect outcomes from the inside.

“This Pebble project is located on state land that has been designated for mineral development, and I have no control over that property or its status besides being a single resident voter of this state,” Salmon said. “This is a project that is in our backyard, it will be life-transforming for our community, and if there’s an opportunity to learn what they’re planning, I want to be at that table. And it’s not for me, it’s for all of the future generations.”

By late this week, stakeholders and the public should finally get a first glimpse of Pebble’s mining plans and the company’s estimated impacts on the local environment and economy. The rollout will start in Anchorage and Fairbanks, but Pebble said they will bring the conversation to the region in the months ahead.

Next week the EPA is coming back to Bristol Bay again too, to see what’s on the minds of folks who live at the crossroads of the world’s greatest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest copper and gold deposits on earth.

This article was corrected to state that Lisa Reimers is a board member of Iliamna Natives Limited, not Iliamna Village Council as originally written.

Categories: Alaska News

Bristol Bay braces for long awaited Pebble Mine plans

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 14:14
In May, Pebble Mine opponents held a rally and press conference in Dillingham, just ahead of EPA announcing its intention to reverse course on preemptive restrictions proposed during the Obama Administration. (KDLG photo)

This week, Pebble Limited Partnership is expected to publicly unveil the outline for a plan to mine the copper and gold deposit northwest of Iliamna. Those who have been briefed say the company’s plans call for a much smaller mine than discussed before, and appear to address many of the concerns raised by Bristol Bay residents and fishermen, environmentalists and the EPA.

As a region, the Bristol Bay watershed has largely opposed Pebble, perhaps in increasing numbers, for the past decade. Much of the effort focused on pushing President Obama’s EPA to finalize preemptive Section 404(c) Clean Water Act restrictions that would have blocked permitting of Pebble Mine’s dredge and fill activities. Pebble filed several lawsuits, alleging in one that EPA and anti-mine activists were colluding to reach a predetermined outcome. That lawsuit found traction in the court of U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland, who agreed to an injunction against further EPA effort until the case was resolved.

President Trump’s EPA agreed to settle the lawsuit with Pebble, allowing the company to enter into a normal permitting process as defined by the National Environmental Policy Act. A caveat was added that the company must file for permits within 30 months.

Ahead of CEO Tom Collier’s presentation of Pebble’s plans to the Resource Development Council in Anchorage Thursday morning, the company has been briefing some stakeholders ahead of time.

Nathan Hill, the manager of the Lake and Peninsula Borough, has seen the 150-plus slide PowerPoint presentation with the company’s estimates about the size and scope of the project, and what it will mean for nearby communities.

The Pebble deposit sits within the Borough’s boundaries.

“The position of the Borough is neutral,” Hill said. “We are tasked with approving permits regarding any development in the Borough, so for us to have anything but a neutral stance would not make our permitting process a fair one.”

Hill is Alaska Native, a BBNC shareholder and member of his local tribe. He is a lifelong commercial and subsistence fisherman who lives in Kokhanok, along the shores of Iliamna Lake. Hill knows as well as anybody the stakes involved, and depending on the success, flop or failure of Pebble, the borough he manages stands to gain or lose more than anywhere else in Bristol Bay. The Lake and Pen Borough pulls in roughly $1.5 million in taxes from the commercial sockeye harvest each year, a revenue stream that depends on a healthy fishery. But the Borough will also have some taxing authority over the project, if it’s developed, that could reap millions annually.

A Pebble Mine might create more jobs and contracts for village corporations, but there will inevitably be disruption to today’s way of life and potential for a wide range of environmental risk to Lake and Pen communities. Amidst a tense dialogue given to backbiting and hyperbole, Hill said his assembly and mayor have tasked him to stay informed and meet with Pebble as needed.

“To ignore facts and reality doesn’t do anything to satisfy that,” Hill said. “In my opinion, if you want to have good information, you need to be open to that information. That’s what I’m trying to do, keep apprised of all arguments and all information, and make myself available to do the job of borough manager.”

In the past, the Lake and Peninsula Borough has been targeted by Pebble Mine opponents, notably Alaska’s wealthiest resident Bob Gillam, who funded ballot initiatives, lawsuits and propped up George Jacko Jr. as a candidate against incumbent Mayor Glen Alsworth, Sr. The Borough has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting what they claim are frivolous lawsuits, and Gillam’s standing with wider Pebble opponents suffered on account of his relationship with Jacko. A former state senator, Jacko’s reputation for harassing young women stretches far beyond the claims made against him during an official investigation while he was in office in the early 90s.

Downstream from Pebble’s deposit, down the Koktuli to the Mulchatna to the world-famous king salmon producing Nushagak River sits Dillingham, the largest hub in Bristol Bay and center of the region’s loudest opposition to Pebble.

“I’ll fight Pebble till my last breath,” H. Robin Samuelsen said.

Also a lifelong commercial fisherman, Samuelsen is a chief with the Curyung Tribal Council, a director with the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and the chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors. Few if any have had near the influence over Bristol Bay’s past quarter century as Samuelsen, and few if any are as prepared to lead this fight from the front as he is. But he is not choosing to engage with Pebble directly, at least for now.

“Not having seen the plan, I will still oppose the Mine. It has many ramifications that could affect the commercial fishery, sport fishery, and subsistence fishery out here,” Samuelsen said.

Samuelsen said others who answer to him have seen Pebble’s plans, and he is concerned to hear that the company may focus on the Pebble West deposit which drains to the Koktuli River. He and many others opposed to Pebble have long alleged the risks from hypothetical mining scenarios that may now be less applicable, and he and others have long called for Pebble to lay its cards on the table. Thus, he is willing to take a look at what the company is proposing.

“I think there’s room for us to invite them, they don’t have to invite us, we’ll invite them, to look at what they’re planning on doing. It isn’t just a ‘hell no’, we’re monitoring the situation, and I believe that the super majority of Bristol Bay is going to continue to oppose that Mine,” Samuelsen said.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a political advocacy group representing 14 tribal councils in the region, has taken a lead position in opposing Pebble. A UTBB contingent has traveled to nearly every village in the region to shore up support ahead of Pebble’s rollout and an EPA visit, and they protested outside the Pebble advisory committee’s August meeting in Anchorage. They turned down an invite to join and even address that meeting, and Executive Director Alannah Hurley said will continue to refuse discussions that presume a mine will be built, no matter the size.

“We have known from the very beginning of this threat exactly what is up there. We know from their own presentations to their shareholders and to the investment community exactly the type, size and location of the Pebble deposit. Those are things that cannot change,” Hurley said. “The impact of that type of mining on our watershed has not changed. Nothing has changed when it comes to the Pebble Mine other than politics.”

Hurley said the residents UTBB has heard from are deeply frustrated to still be talking about a mine they have opposed for a decade.

Pebble has a few supporters in the region who have mainly voiced the importance of the jobs and income that, especially around Iliamna Lake, other organizations have failed to create. Then there are others who are more open to see Pebble vetted normally, Lisa Reimers said. As CEO of the Iliamna Development Corporation and Iliamna Village Council board member, Reimers has worked with Pebble in the past and earned the ire of mining opponents for doing so. She hopes for an open, robust debate about what is at stake, but not does not believe her detractors will come to the table.

“To me it was a perfect example when they were having this [Pebble advisory committee] meeting and they invited United Tribes in, or the people that were protesting, they refused to go into the meeting to have a discussion with this new advisory committee Pebble put together,” Reimers said. “To me, nothing has changed. If anything it’s gotten worse with the protesting and animosity.”

IDC and INL will take a hard look at Pebble’s plans and see if it makes sense for the area, said Reimers, adding that Iliamna leadership has not taken a firm position in support of or against the project. This past summer was a difficult one, she said, discussing how contract work with Pebble did not go smoothly, and adding that IDC shareholders and others in Iliamna were left wondering if this mining company can be trusted any more than the rest.

A Pebble office in Iliamna in April, 2016. (KDLG photo)

Reimers asked the Bristol Bay Native Corporation board to help produce non-Pebble related work and contracts, if the board is to remain insistent against the Mine. No other options were provided, she said.

The BBNC board of directors spearheaded an ugly fight against one of its own directors when she signed onto Pebble’s advisory committee this spring. Kim Williams of Dillingham was first ousted from her role as director of Nunamta Aulukestai, then BBNC’s board threatened a recall vote with the full backing of the deep-pocketed corporation to unseat her. Williams, one of the proposed mine’s loudest opponents, backed down and resigned from the Pebble advisory committee in June.

After that, her father William Johnson agreed to join, as did Alexanna Salmon from Igiugig. Neither are known to give into bullying, though Salmon said the move probably cost her a few friendships for now.

Salmon is opposed to the Mine, as she believes most of her community is too, but she wants to be informed and perhaps affect outcomes from the inside.

“This Pebble project is located on state land that has been designated for mineral development, and I have no control over that property or its status besides being a single resident voter of this state,” Salmon said. “This is a project that is in our backyard, it will be life-transforming for our community, and if there’s an opportunity to learn what they’re planning, I want to be at that table. And it’s not for me, it’s for all of the future generations.”

By late this week, stakeholders and the public should finally get a first glimpse of Pebble’s mining plans and the company’s estimated impacts on the local environment and economy. The rollout will start in Anchorage and Fairbanks, but Pebble said they will bring the conversation to the region in the months ahead.

Next week the EPA is coming back to Bristol Bay again too, to see what’s on the minds of folks who live at the crossroads of the world’s greatest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest copper and gold deposits on earth.

Categories: Alaska News

UAS, Coast Guard establish training and scholarship program for students

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-10-03 11:30
Coast Guard members recruit on the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau on Monday. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

By next fall, the first batch of University of Alaska Southeast undergraduates are expected to begin a first-of-its-kind scholarship program for Alaska.

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Students that are accepted to the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) become active-duty enlisted members of the Coast Guard, receive full salary and benefits and start a track to become fully commissioned officers upon graduation.

UAS and the Coast Guard on Monday signed an agreement, establishing the program. During the signing ceremony, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael McAllister said the partnership opens up an “exchange of knowledge” between the campus and the Coast Guard.

“It’s a great opportunity for the many, many Coast Guard men and women in Alaska, but particularly Southeast Alaska, to get engaged back in the classroom, whether they’re as students, as mentors, or even guest instructors from time to time,” McAllister said. “It’s an opportunity for students here at UAS to get out and learn about some of the things the Coast Guard does in terms of marine environmental protection, in terms of fisheries enforcement, in terms of search and rescue and give them experiential learning out in the field.”

Students must be full-time sophomores or juniors to apply. Much like ROTC, students accepted into the program are on track to become fully commissioned officers upon graduation. They also receive up to two years’ full tuition. Unlike ROTC, CSPI students are active-duty enlisted members of the Coast Guard and receive full salary and benefits.

Lt. Junior Grade Collin McClelland graduated from the CSPI program at Norfolk State University more than a year ago and is now assigned to Juneau. McClelland comes from five generations of military service, so being involved in a tight-knit community was a major factor in his decision to join.

“Being a part of the Coast Guard in an area like this is something to be proud of and something that definitely makes you go home, go to sleep at night and you feel like you did something,” McClelland said.

UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield signed the agreement with McAllister, and said the campus has plans to create a scholarship for freshmen and sophomore students who plan to enroll in CSPI.

“Juneau has a great marine industry, and the more we can educate young people about all aspects of the maritime industry here, whether it’s joining the Coast Guard or getting involved with the fishing industry or marine repair,” Caulfield said. “It gives students an idea of how they can make a living in this beautiful setting that we’re in and how important maritime industry is to our economy here in Juneau.”

Applications for the first CSPI class at UAS will be due in January.

Categories: Alaska News

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