Alaska News

Haines Assembly to University: timber sale would go against local code

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-11-21 15:26
The Chilkat Peninsula is home to many residential properties. Right now, residents walk or boat across the bay to access the properties. (Abbey Collins)

The Haines Assembly is pushing back on a proposed timber sale on the Chilkat Peninsula. The University of Alaska is offering up 400 acres of land for harvest. But at a meeting Monday, the local government said it will explore its legal options if a contract is awarded.

The proposed sale is located in Haines’ Mud Bay zoning district. It’s a rural residential zone. The assembly argues borough code for that area does not allow for the sale the university is proposing.

Assembly member Stephanie Scott made a motion that says: if UA awards a timber contract in the Mud Bay Rural Residential Zone, the borough will evaluate its legal options. Scott said the sale violates existing provisions for commercial use there. She said the offering goes against the purpose and intent of the code.

Brenda Josephson was the only assembly member to vote against the motion.

“I don’t believe that the law supports. I think we need to do what’s in the best interest of the public in a whole,” Josephson said. “I’m hearing unison of voices from the people that they want this. They don’t want the university to be stopped with borough funds. They don’t want their tax dollars to be spent this way.”

Josephson cited parts of code and the borough’s comprehensive plan that she believes allow for and support this type of sale.

“The University actively manages its land for revenue generation. We acknowledge their active management of their land for revenue generation in our comprehensive plan,” Josephson said. “Our code states any development which existed prior to the implementation of the land use ordinance is a use-by-right.”

Assembly members disagreed on the interpretation of that part of code.

Tresham Gregg asked the University to halt the sale.

“We simply ask that the University withdraw its timber sale and behave as an institution of higher learning, practicing what it preaches by working with our community to develop a beneficial approach to all concerned,” Gregg said. “But especially to those who live here.”

Heather Lende said while the proposed deal shouldn’t be permitted, she does want to work with the university to develop its land in other ways – like a residential subdivision.

“I think it’s best for our citizens that they know that we uphold our oath. And that we will honor the code,” Lende said. “That land owners and property owners know what they can do with their property. I think it would be no more correct to allow lobbying in a rural residential neighborhood then it would be to allow a bed and breakfast in a heavy industrial zone.”

Tom Morphet also spoke out against the UA proposal.

“Large scale commercial logging is not the highest and best use of logging on the peninsula, where there are adjoining homes and development in excess of several millions of dollars,” Morphet said. “My concern is that millions of dollars have been spent building the homes in this zone on the understanding – right or wrong, correct or incorrect, that commercial logging would not be allowed in those areas.”

Morphet argued that the sale as offered would have a one-time value for the university. He said it would take away long-term worth from property owners in the area.

UA Regional Resource Manager Patrick Kelly declined to comment on the assembly’s action.

David Griffin, with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office, voiced that department’s support for the timber sale. The Mental Health Trust also owns land in the area.

The timing of the University’s offering was motivated by a conversation at the Haines Planning Commission about, as it turns out, borough code. That group has been discussing whether to limit resource extraction in Mud Bay, but no action has been taken. Right now, the activity isn’t outwardly addressed in that zone.

At a meeting in Haines earlier this month, UA’s Kelly said the sale probably wouldn’t have been brought forward right now, had it not been for this discussion.

The deadline for bids and comments on the sale is November 22 at 5 p.m.

The University of Alaska’s timber sale area on the Chilkat Peninsula. (University of Alaska)
Categories: Alaska News

Talking Trash: In Ketchikan, you can salvage stuff from the landfill

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-11-21 14:52
Artist Halli Kenoyer, left, uses recycled trash to build a set piece for a community theater production. Ketchikan issues permits for locals who want to salvage metal, bowling balls and whatever else they find at the landfill. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

Southeast communities are always looking at ways to reduce the amount of trash that ends up in their landfills or that they have to ship south. In Ketchikan, people can come up to the landfill and take what they want. In this report, part of CoastAlaska’s series, Talking Trash, we learn how that program saves the city time, space and money.

“I love the dump! I go to the dump for all of my wearable art needs. That’s where I go first,” Ketchikan artist Halli Kenoyer said.

Kenoyer said the local landfill is a great place to gather material for the large, complicated pieces she makes for Ketchikan’s popular Wearable Art Show.

Kenoyer also goes there when helping to build sets for First City Players, the city’s community theater.

“We’re making trees right now for “Shrek Jr.,” the children’s musical and we need tall things that will not break. The dump is a great place to go find things for free,” Kenoyer said in an interview this summer.

Nissa Dash is another Ketchikan artist who loves the landfill. She’s helping Kenoyer with sets for “Shrek Jr.,” but she also gathers material for her own art. Dash has a penchant for the patina of rusty metal.

“I have to be careful, because I will go to the dump and — I have to sneak it,” Dash said, laughing. “I have stuff in the garage and in little places tucked away. And God forbid we have to move.”

“‘Honey, I need to bring my rust collection!’” Kenoyer joked.

“Exactly!” Dash said.

Those two aren’t alone in their scavenging.

Ketchikan’s landfill offers a permit program that allows people to come up to the fill and take anything that strikes their fancy. It saves the City of Ketchikan money, and recycles items that otherwise would take up space in the fill. (Photo by Leila Kheiry, KRBD)

Up at the landfill, surrounded by opportunistic ravens, Solid Waste Supervisor Lenny Neely said about 40 people are signed up for the city’s salvage permit program. He said they take more than 100 tons of stuff out of the landfill every year.

That’s 200,000 pounds.

“And in some way, shape or form, all that material is getting reused,” Neely said. “That’s the nice part.”

That saves the city money in a variety of ways. It reduces the work load, cuts back on space taken up by trash, and reduces the volume of items the city has to barge south.

Neely said it’s tough to know exactly how much money the city saves a year. For some context, the city pays almost $60 per ton to ship household garbage south.

Beyond art material, Neely said salvagers collect for commercial use. Popular material includes metal pipes and wooden boards, often discarded after a home remodel project.

Neely points to a tangle of copper pipe sitting on the ground next to the fill.

“This piece laying here. Whoever came up and dumped laid that there because they know a salvager will grab that,” Neely said.

And the person who picks it up likely is after metal they can sell for scrap. But, there’s other salvageable stuff in the fill.

“The possibility, I guess, is the foosball table,” Neely said, pointing. “I see some metal over there that somebody will grab. Bicycles are a big item. We get a lot of bicycles for whatever reason. A little bit of everything.”

Some people come for spare parts, others for specific collectable items. Landfill employee Tim Morgan said bowling balls are one example.

“There’s two bowling ball ladies,” Morgan said. “They just collect them for decoration in their gardens and yards.”

City of Ketchikan Solid Waste Superintendent Lenny Neely said discarded metal, construction material, bicycles and more are salvaged from the landfill. (Photo by Leila Kheiry, KRBD)

Staffers don’t see as many bowling balls now as they did back when Ketchikan had a bowling alley.

Neely said he was surprised by Ketchikan’s salvage permit program when he first came to work at the landfill years ago, mostly because of the liability.

“But, the reality is here, it’s worked really well,” Neely said. “That’s recycling at its finest. When I first got here, I couldn’t believe. I was like, ‘We do what?’ We may be one of the very few places in the state that does that.”

Liability is one concern cited by other regional facilities, although Wrangell used to have a salvage program before it capped its landfill years ago.

Petersburg has something similar to Ketchikan’s salvage program. The fill there is open for salvagers just twice a week, though, and the permit fee is quite a bit higher: $10 per day versus $5 a month in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan’s landfill requires permit holders to sign a waiver, wear a safety vest and stay out of the fill when equipment is running.

Back at the First City Players building, Kenoyer leads a set-building workshop for kids participating in the “Shrek Jr.” production. She said when she’s on the hunt for supplies, she goes to the landfill daily.

Kenoyer showed off some of her recently salvaged items: discarded Christmas decorations, metal tomato-plant cages and a big bag of fabric leaves.

“We have two long bamboo sticks that are 12-footers from the dump,” Kenoyer said. “You don’t find that very often anymore, so it’s a real treasure to find that. Tied that sucker on top of my truck and I hit the road.”

That’s salvage success.

Categories: Alaska News

New developments in the works for Juneau’s downtown waterfront

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-11-21 12:36
NorthWind Architects and Corvus Design created this concept art illustrating what part of Juneau’s downtown waterfront could look like in 2019. The concept is part of a Juneau Docks and Harbors master plan process underway.

More food trucks, retail, parking and an expanded USS Juneau Memorial are in the works for Juneau’s downtown waterfront.

Listen now

Last week, the city released a design plan to develop the area from Marine Park to Taku Smokeries.

Gary Gillette, port engineer for Juneau Docks and Harbors, said the aim is to create a space both for visitors and locals.

“Our waterfront that we’ve been building up with the new cruise berths and stuff has been primarily focused towards serving the cruise industry,” Gillette said. “But we really hope that something will spark locals to get encouraged to come to the area in the off season, which in turn would spark some of those business owners to stay open in the winter.”

A large portion of the area for development is the Archipelago Lot, directly next to the public library. Docks and Harbors owns a portion of the land. But most of the lot is owned by Morris Communications, a Georgia based media company. They previously owned the Juneau Empire.

Gillette said they plan to work with the company to develop the area.

“We’ve been working with the private owner to make sure they get what they need and we get what we need and it all works together, so when it’s done it’ll all be one logical, cohesive plan, and cohesive area,” Gillette said.

Docks and Harbors is looking for community feedback on the design plan. You can see the plan on the Docks and Harbors website, and send feedback to Gary Gillette at

The Docks and Harbors board is scheduled to vote on the design plan at 5 p.m. Nov. 30 in Assembly Chambers at City Hall.

Gillette said they hope to have the Archipelago Lot portion developed in 2019. Other portions will be developed as funds allow.

Categories: Alaska News

Legislative Council to consider sexual harassment working group

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2017-11-21 09:55
Alaska State Capitol in February. The Legislative Council is scheduled to discuss forming a sexual harassment policy working group on Tuesday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska Legislative Council is scheduled to discuss forming a sexual harassment policy working group Tuesday.

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Lawmakers are considering how to revise the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy to ensure that harassment reports are handled appropriately.

Juneau Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III, the council’s chairman, said lawmakers need to make sure they’re protecting victims of harassment.

“There are some questions about how and when to report and also questions about what kinds of training might need to occur with legislators and staff in order to make sure everybody’s aware of the policy that exists,” Kito said.

Recent concerns about sexual harassment both outside Alaska and in Juneau have led lawmakers to consider making changes to the policy.

The Legislature’s sexual harassment policy was last updated in January 2000. It spells out what harassment is and how people should report it. The policy also said all reports will be investigated and employees who violate the policy will be subject to disciplinary action.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Charisse Millett, a member of the council, said a sexual harassment policy working group could become a permanent subcommittee that would review the policy every year.

“Is there under-reporting, is there over-reporting, is there any reporting?” Millett said of the kind of questions a working group could ask. “And how does that work, and how do we make sure that employees and, you know, folks in this building – whether it’s a constituent, whether it’s a staffer, whether it’s the media, we just need to make sure that we have the best policies in place to protect our employees.”

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harriet Drummond is an alternate council member who is scheduled to fill in on Tuesday. She said one challenge for reporting on lawmakers is the limited means of reprimanding them. Each chamber can censure or expel its members. Otherwise, it’s up to voters to weigh allegations. But Drummond said the working group could benefit the Legislature.

“We have to provide a lot more clarity throughout this policy,” Drummond said. “And also, …  just in looking at all of these personnel policies in general, it needs some good, close scrutiny.”

Before the policy was added to the council agenda, some lawmakers said they wanted policy changes to be in place by early next legislative session in January.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska game board votes touch a menagerie of management issues

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 16:58

The Alaska Board of Game wrapped up its recent meeting in Anchorage on Friday after voting on some changes to statewide hunting regulations.

The board heard roughly 70 proposals and only a little over a dozen passed.

Here are just a few:

Among the changes was a clarification on definitions related to moose antlers and their points, brow tines and forks, which can determine whether a moose is legal to hunt.

The board also voted to ban the use of “air bows” for hunting big game in Alaska. Using compressed gas, air bows fire an arrow with enough power to take down game as large as a bison.

In another example of keeping up with advances in hunting technology, the board decided to update rules around the use of electronic devices in hunting, things like game cameras that can now transmit real-time images to cell phones. The board voted to prohibit the use of wireless communication in the taking of a specific animal until after 3 a.m. the day after the use of the device, in most cases.

The board removed a restriction it put into place in 2012 that limited applications for bull moose permit hunts to three, agreeing with the Department of Fish and Game that the restriction had come with the unintended consequence of voiding some applications.

The board did not pass proposed changes to the point system for Tier II subsistence hunts, or a proposal to combine regulations on allowing the take of big game for religious ceremonies and ceremony potlatches, among many other proposals.

And, a follow up to a story on a proposal to allow Alaskans to own small, hedgehog-like creatures call tenrecs: The board did not approve tenrecs as pets. They will remain prohibited in Alaska.

A complete list of the game board’s decisions, including more details on the preliminary regulation changes, can be found here.

Categories: Alaska News

Where the Road Ends: A motorcycle expedition from Alaska to Argentina

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 16:55
“Where the Road Ends” expedition members Simon Edwards (front) and Mike Eastham (back) work on motorcycles in Fairbanks Tuesday. (Photo by Dan Bross / KUAC)

A group of four military veterans are riding motorcycles from Alaska to Argentina. Riding the Pan-America route is not unusual, but the Army vets are attempting an unprecedented continuous journey that includes going through the road less Darien Gap.

The “Where the Road Ends” expedition started in Deadhorse on Veterans Day. Expedition leader Wayne Mitchell, who grew up in Alaska, said the idea for the 19,000-mile Pan-America journey began with a conversation with fellow rider and Alaskan Mike Eastham when they were deployed overseas.

”In 2004, Mike and I were in Iraq together, and we were talking about how they still hadn’t built a road from Panama to Columbia,” Eastham recalled.

Mitchell said the hundred-mile stretch of swampy jungle, known as the Darien Gap, has been traversed a couple times by motorcyclists making the trip from Alaska to Argentina, but not as part of one continuous ride.

”The reason why nobody’s really done it in a continuous trip is because, to travel by land through the Darien Jungle, you have to shoot for January, February when it’s the dry season,” Mitchell said. “So, in order to do that, when you backward plan from there, you’re left with going through Alaska in November.”

Expedition member Simon Edwards recounts the trip south from Prudhoe Bay as fairly smooth.

“It was a good shakedown cruise for sure,” Edwards said.

Edwards said except for sliding off the road a couple times, the riders and their side car equipped motorcycles held up well. Whether it’s the cold and darkness of Alaska or the heat and snakes of Central America, Edwards said army training has prepared the team.

”In the military, you get real comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Edwards said.

“We’re used to frustration, and we’re also used to improvising and depending upon ourselves to get through a challenge.” Team-member Rich Doering of Fairbanks said.

Doering hosted the expedition at his home, characteristic of Alaskan hospitality rider and mechanic Mike Eastham expects won’t be matched as they head south.

”The Alaska portion has been gravy because of the support quite honestly. Place to stay and meals… that will be the easiest part of this trip. I’m not joking,” Eastham laughed. “When we hit Canada… tent camping and hotdogs and oatmeal, ya know?”

The team cited numerous people and businesses that are backing the trip, which is being filmed for a documentary. Expedition leader Wayne Mitchell said it’s about shining positive light on military veterans post combat lives.

”As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued on, a lot of veterans are getting out of the service and doing a lot of really cool things,” Mitchell said. “And I don’t think they really get advertised as much and talked about as much in the media, so that’s certainly one of the goals of the documentary side of it.”

The “Where the Road Ends” expedition is scheduled to reach the southern tip of South American this coming March.

Categories: Alaska News

With both cheers and tears, Alaskans react to big energy policy changes under Trump

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 16:18
Clint Winzenburg was at this year’s Resource Development Council conference, and he thinks the Trump administration can help take Alaska’s economy a positive direction. (Photo by Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk.)

When Donald Trump was elected president, Alaskans immediately started wondering what changes were in store — especially when it came to oil and mining.

One year later, we have a better idea. The Trump administration is moving to get rid of many Obama-era policies, affecting everything from the Pebble Mine, to offshore oil drilling, to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Last week, at two different gatherings in Anchorage, Alaskans expressed very different feelings about the big shift in Washington.

The first event was the Resource Development Council’s annual conference. As Governor Bill Walker took the stage to speak, he was practically walking on air.

“What a great day this is — it started off wonderfully in Washington, D.C.,” Walker said.

Walker was feeling celebratory because, that morning, Congress took another step towards allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — just one of many pro-oil developments happening under the Trump administration. And, Walker said, the push is coming from the very top.

“We have an administration that wants energy dominance,” Walker said. “And I love it when President Trump has said a number of times to me, ‘America cannot have energy dominance without Alaska at full potential.’”

At this year’s conference, the optimism was in the hallways, too, where there was a general feeling that a door that was once closed has opened up again.

Clint Winzenburg was working a booth for Alaska Industrial Hardware. He thinks Alaska’s future is looking up under the Trump administration.

“I think mining’s going to take off, I think there’s going to be new exploration up on the [North] Slope,” Winzenburg said. “I see good things, positive things.”

Kate Blair thinks the Trump administration is opening up opportunities, but worries things might be happening too quickly. (Photo by Elizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk.)

“There’s more potential and more opportunity than there ever has been,” Kate Blair, who works for the oil refining company Andeavor, said.

But Blair does see one reason to be concerned about all the actions Trump is taking. She thinks if this administration moves too aggressively in the industry’s favor, it could backfire at the ballot box.

“What’s scary is how many restrictions are being rolled back that… the pendulum could swing the other way,” Blair said. “At the next election, people could think he’s gone too far.”

Blair summed up her feelings about what the Trump administration means for her industry in two words: cautious optimism.

The conference ended with a focus on the optimism part as participants cheered and clinked champagne glasses.

But the mood couldn’t have been more different at a gathering organized by a local left-leaning group, 49 Moons. It was held at the Williwaw restaurant, less than a block away from the industry conference.

“The dread and fear that we all felt last November, for me, has really found a place to roost,” Valerie Brown of Trustees for Alaska, one of the speakers, told the audience. Trustees for Alaska is a law firm that represents environmental groups.

Joan Galt (left) and Dana Durham at the Williwaw event (photo by Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

“I know some of us here were thinking maybe, maybe, maybe he would not act as badly as his campaign rhetoric promised,” Brown continued. “And those of us who dared to hope for the best, now, I think, have all the information we need to join the ranks of those who feared for the worst.”

The Pebble Mine, the potential for drilling in the Arctic Refuge, the rollback of environmental regulations — everything people were feeling exited about at the Resources Development Council conference, here it was cause for sadness and alarm.

“I’m not hopeful at all,” Dana Durham of Girdwood, who was at the event, said.

Durham said she’s worried that if the oil industry starts drilling in the Arctic Refuge, that land will be shut off to people who want to enjoy the wilderness. She’s been there four times.

“Everything in that area there is going to be tied up, it’s going to be like private land. Nobody will be able to go there,” Durham said. “I hate to see that place change.”

Durham came to the event with her longtime friend, Joan Galt. They met on a flight from Anchorage to Washington, D.C. more than a decade ago; they were going there to lobby against drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Galt is also deeply unhappy with the way things are going under Trump.

“I feel depressed and anxious about how hard I’m going to fight over the next few years,” Galt said.

But unlike her friend, Galt does find one reason to be optimistic.

“I do hope that we don’t open the Arctic Refuge to drilling,” Galt said. “But I kind of feel like maybe the oil companies aren’t going to be that interested.”

Galt believes there’s no guarantee it will be economic for oil companies to drill in the Refuge. And she said that is a reason for her to stay hopeful.

Categories: Alaska News

Tribal Governance Symposium kicks off this week at UAF

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 15:57

Organizers anticipate some 200 participants will gather at University of Alaska Fairbanks this week for a three-day symposium on tribal governance. The event comes on the heels of a decision by Alaska’s Attorney General in October recognizing tribal sovereignty.

Carrie Stevens is University of Alaska Fairbanks Assistant Professor of Tribal Management and one of the organizers of this week’s Tribal Government Symposium. She said recent events will undoubtedly occupy much of the discussion. In October during the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth issued a ruling that recognized the sovereignty of Alaska’s 229 tribes. Stevens says sovereignty includes greater self-determination as well as forging enduring relations.

“Building stronger, better partnerships between tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations will be a big part of the dialogue,” Stevens said. “And we see a huge momentum in that work of building those bridges for the future.”

Stevens also praises the First Alaskans Institute which is co-sponsoring the symposium, saying the organization is doing ground-breaking work in racial equity. She said the symposium blends Native cultural values with the more academic structure. For example, Stevens says each panel discussion will include an elder.

“And as elders share their stories, it puts all of the learning into a context that Alaska Natives from all over the state can then equate their daily lives and put into practice,” Stevens said.

Stevens says the symposium’s title, “Land, Water, Life,” underscores the holistic approach towards management Native culture exhibits.

For Brooke Wright that is almost literally the case. The young mother of five grew up in Rampart. She says her family depended on subsistence and she entered the Tribal Management Program to learn advocacy skills to ensure that continues. She now serves on the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

“I started out as a commissioner and at the last meeting, I was actually selected to be the chair,” Wright said. “And I don’t think I would’ve taken those positions had I not attended tribal management.”

Wright says the program also spurred her to continue her education. She’s now enrolled in UAF’s undergraduate program in fisheries. The Symposium on Tribal Governance continues through Wednesday at noon at UAF.

Categories: Alaska News

2018 World Ice Art Championships canceled

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 14:38

The World Ice Art Championships will not happen in 2018. Ice Alaska, the Fairbanks non-profit which has organized the annual March event since 1989, released a statement over the weekend, saying the 2018 championships have been canceled.

Ice Alaska’s main building burned last December, and the 2017 event was held using alternate buildings and tents. The release says the 2017 championships were not up to the standard of artists and volunteers.

It says reorganizing and rebuilding occurred over this summer, but the recent loss of two major donors and diminished support from its title sponsor, resulted in the board’s decision to cancel for 2018. The releases does not mention BP, but the oil company has long been the World Ice Art Championships title sponsor.

Ice Alaska Organizers say they’ll work toward the 2019 championships by seeking new sponsors and investigating alternate venues. 2018 event supporters are being offered return of their contributions

Categories: Alaska News

State art collection acquires spirit mask from emerging Yup’ik carver

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 14:20
Ben Charles’ spirit mask is one of 18 art pieces acquired by the Alaska Art Bank in 2017. (Photo by Ben Charles)

Walk into a courtroom, a legislative office, the Governor’s Manson, or any public space in Alaska and you’ll find art: masks, paintings, textiles, sculptures. Each piece was created by Alaska artists, curated by the state, and is held in the Alaska Art Bank. The collection recently acquired a Yup’ik mask from Bethel artist Ben Charles. Charles is 34 years old and only began carving in February. KYUK visited Charles at his home studio in Bethel.


CHARLES: The piece is representative of the cloudy sky spirit. It represents the spirit that takes a person’s spirit away and brings it to the next universe or plane. My uncle passed away from cancer, and I was thinking of him when I made it. And when I was carving it, I was thinking he made it to the next life.

It’s made of spruce root. I found it when I was our getting firewood this past winter. As I was driving back, there was a big piece of spruce root on the side of the river; I just chopped it up and brought it home.

So the piece is cut in half, and the opposite sides of the face are on either side, and it’s carved in a curve, and it’s blue and white. One side is white and one side is blue with the circles of the universe, and the earth, and the solar system, and the four dots for the four winds above the eye. And also dots and circles along the face where the cut was.

No one taught me. I studied my grandpa and my dad’s pieces; kinda looked at how they might have carved it in reverse.

I started my online art business for Alaska Native Arts Online over a year ago, and I needed more inventory, and my wife got me this book about my grandpa: Nick, or Nicholas, Charles. His Yup’ik name was Ayaginar. He was a pretty famous carver back in the early to mid 1990s.

The arctic entry in Ben Charles’ home serves as his carving studio. Here, he’s holding the beginning of a wolf mask. (Photo by Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK)

One of the quotes in there is,”You wake up every day, and it’s a new day. And with a new day comes new opportunity.” I believe is the rough quote. And just from reading his background, it made me want to carry on the tradition and the family name, because there’s not many carvers left in the Charles family.

I think he passed away when I was six or seven, but I used to watch him carve when I was a kid. He had this little room, and he’d be hunched over with an old desk lap with his old, traditional carving tools and his cotton button sweater and plaid shirt and his dress-up pants, and he’d be sitting there carving, quietly. A lot of masks. I think I remember him making a bent wood bowl and some dance fans.

I didn’t really start paying attention to the Yup’ik culture until several years ago. I listened, but I didn’t listen well enough until just recently. And with the Yup’ik culture, it’s passing knowledge verbally from generation to generation. And for carving, I feel that my dad and my grandpa are there, helping me carve.

Categories: Alaska News

Talking Trash: Follow the garbage Southeast ships south

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2017-11-20 12:28
Household garbage from Sitka, Ketchikan and three other Southeast Alaska cities ends up in the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County, Washington. (Photo by Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)

When you toss a candy wrapper in the trash, you’re sending it on a thousand-mile journey to a Lower 48 landfill. That’s the case if you live in one of five Southeast Alaska communities that send their garbage south via barge, truck and train.

We’ll take you on that trip, beginning in Sitka, as part of the CoastAlaska News series, Talking Trash.

Sitkan Megan Pasternak stands in her kitchen, holding a bag of garbage. So, what’s inside?

“Not much. There’s a couple used paper towels, I hate to admit,” Pasternak said. “And some stuff that could be composted because it’s vegetable stuff, but we don’t do that anymore because of the bears around here. And some plastics that I couldn’t recycle and a few odds and ends.”

And does Pasternak ever wonder what happens to it after it gets picked up by the trash truck?

“Not really, but I always like garbage day because it goes away from my house and just disappears,” Pasternak said, laughing.

Of course, it doesn’t. A garbage truck picks up her trash can, dumps the contents inside and hauls it to a solid-waste transfer station across town.

There, it and most other Sitka trash is unloaded, shoved into shipping containers and trucked back across town to a barge dock. There, it joins more containers from Sitka and other Southeast towns.

Jim Walters with Waste Connections operates a front-end loader to push trash aboard a container van, staged on the lower level of the Sitka Waste Transfer Station. The containers are barged to Seattle. (Photo by Robert Woolsey/KCAW)

Sitka’s trash has taken that trip since the year 2000, when officials realized they were running out of space.

“The landfill was reaching a level to where it needed a new location. It was becoming a mountain,” former Sitka City Administrator Hugh Bevan said.

Bevan said officials considered building a new dump. But more stringent environmental regulations would have made it extremely expensive.

New landfills have to virtually eliminate polluted runoff. And that’s hard to do in Southeast, where it rains up to 12 feet a year.

“And the idea of shipping waste to an off-island landfill rose to the top as being the most cost-effective over the long term,” Bevan said.

Sitka now barges approximately 8,000 tons of garbage a year south. When added to trash from four other Southeast cities, it totals about 22,000 tons. Another 1,300 tons of regional recycling is shipped the same way.

The approximately 800-mile Alaska Marine Lines barge trip covers long stretches of open water and sometimes rough seas. It takes about 10 days.

After arriving at the barge dock, the containers are loaded onto trucks for a short ride to the Republic Services rail yard, just south of downtown Seattle. Once loaded onto rail cars, they head about 300 miles east to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in southcentral Washington.

The final destination

That’s where the long journey of southeast Alaska’s trash comes to an end.

The landfill is in a wide bowl a few miles above the Columbia River. It’s bone dry and there’s not a neighbor in sight, which are two key reasons why it’s been so successful in getting contracts with cities near and far.

“It’s under the radar and that’s really the way we like it,” Don Tibbetts said.

Republic Services’ Don Tibbets looks over piles of garbage at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill, where he served as general manager. The landfill takes in about 22,000 tons of Southeast Alaska garbage each year. (Photo by Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)

Tibbetts is a Washington state-based manager for Republic Services, which owns the landfill.

“People like the garbage ferries to just take care of the garbage,” Tibetts said. “They don’t want to know where it goes. They just want to make sure it is being handled responsibly.”

Tibbets said the regional landfill business took off when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cracked down on polluted runoff from garbage dumps. He said this landfill is “highly engineered” with liners and collection systems to capture and treat whatever harmful liquid does percolate through.

Southeast Alaska’s garbage is not alone. Much of Western Washington’s trash also heads here on trains often stretching more than a mile long.

“More than likely, about 10 percent of the containers you see on the train in front of you has Alaska waste on it,” Tibbets said.

One last truck ride shuttles the garbage containers a short distance uphill to the landfill, where the trash is finally tipped out, compacted and buried.

The decomposing garbage generates landfill gas, or methane. A network of pipes and wells collects that gas and sends it next door to a small power plant to be burned to make electricity. So in a small way, the banana peels and hamburger wrappers Alaskans throw away indirectly light homes in the small towns of southcentral Washington state.

Three other regional landfills are also located along the Columbia River.

Other options

Before Southeast communities started shipping garbage to the Lower 48, they considered a similar option — not so far away.

A group of cities called the Southeast Alaska Solid Waste Authority looked at a chunk of land in Thorne Bay, a former logging camp on Prince of Wales Island’s eastern shore.

City Administrator Wayne Benner heads up the authority’s board.

Trash from Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest travel by train from Seattle to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill near the Columbia River. (Photo by Tom Banse/Northwest News Network)

“That actually was a serious prospect,” Benner said. “When they first started out they were looking at a regional landfill facility. But when the study was done to look at it, it did not pencil out.”

So Petersburg, Wrangell and Klawock joined Sitka and Ketchikan by hiring Republic Services to haul its garbage south. Benner said Thorne Bay will be next.

It’s always possible that new technology and attitudes will change how the region’s garbage is handled. But ‘til then, Sitka’s Hugh Bevan thinks barging it south is the best solution.

“The thing to keep in mind with solid waste is that you’re responsible for it forever,” Bevan said. “So if you build a landfill in your town, the responsibility for it flows to the next generation, along with all the capital costs associated with it.”

Not every Southeast community ships out its trash. Juneau, with about half of the region’s population, still uses a local landfill. So does Haines.

In both cases, garbage collection and disposal is done by a private company.

Categories: Alaska News

ADN will once again mean Anchorage Daily News

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 17:47

Alaska’s largest newspaper is about to have a name-change. Or, more accurately, a name restoration.

Listen now

Starting with its Sunday print edition, ADN will once again stand for Anchorage Daily News.

The company announced the switch through its Facebook page on Wednesday, writing “It’s a big change and a somewhat complicated process.” Comments from Facebook users following the company’s page were overwhelmingly enthused about the switch back.

The newspaper became the Alaska Dispatch News in 2014 after Alice Rogoff bought the company and merged it with the online site she owned, Alaska Dispatch. As the paper’s dismal fiscal condition emerged through lawsuits and the start of bankruptcy proceedings this fall, the new owners announced a tighter focus on Anchorage and southcentral Alaska.

Since ADN no longer has a Saturday print edition, Friday’s is the last paper that will bear the Alaska Dispatch News name.

Categories: Alaska News

New pipeline partnership with China still a mystery

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 17:36
Prudhoe Bay at night. Gov. Bill Walker’s team hopes state leadership will mean North Slope gas can someday make it to market. (Photo by J Weston/Flickr Creative Commons)

Last week, during a press conference on a new gas pipeline partnership signed in Beijing, Alaska Gasline Development Corporation President Keith Meyer said he expected to release the agreement documents in a week.

Listen now

But, Corporation spokesperson Jesse Carlstrom turned down a request for the agreement and emailed that he doesn’t know when it will be made public.

Walker’s administration also signed a memorandum of understanding with PetroVietnam that has not yet been released.

That leaves lawmakers and analysts to speculate on what exactly the mystery-deal could mean for the state.

Scott Shields is an oil and gas consultant from Houston-based Morgan Shields. He’s been in the oil and gas industry for decades, and has worked for Exxon and Enron. And he’s consulted for at least a dozen LNG companies. He said he’s pretty familiar with Alaska’s gasline corporation head Keith Meyer and the mega-project itself.

Shields argued that projects like Alaska’s are all about probability.

“All development projects start low probability,” Shields said.

And for Alaska’s mega project, there are big hurdles that will lower that probability — make it less likely it will be built. A big one is cost. It’s going to be hugely expensive to build.

Right now, estimates are that it’ll cost about $43 billion.

But, Shields said there are other things that raise the odds.

For one, the state is on board. A state-led project can chase down some creative, possibly tax-exempt financing options.

Shields said because the deal is with China, and includes a potential investor, a customer and a business partner, that also increases the project’s chances.

If China-owned corporations are going to invest in the project and buy gas, they mightaccept a higher price for the gas. The money could come out of one pocket, and go right back into the other.

“It might be a little bit high but i’m also the investor and the investor also gets the uptick from the price, if it is too high,” Shields said.

After the state signed the agreement, Gov. Bill Walker said this is different from past gasline deals– because it’s high level engagement with the global gas market.

But, this isn’t the state’s first brush with a gasline. There have been projects in the works for decades.

Former Republican lawmaker Mike Hawker left the legislature in 2016. Before that, he’d been in the thick of oil and gas legislation for 14 years. He’s watched a lot of gasline proposals come alive, and fizzle out. He helped create the state’s gasline corporation.

The first thing he said? Stop calling this a deal.

“A deal is a deal when there is the funding in place to move forward to the next stage of the project development … Really getting into the nitty gritty of laying out the plans for the project,” Hawker said.

Hawker’s not convinced that the new agreement is anything to get excited about.

“We don’t have any facts,” Hawker said. “All we have is an allegation made by members of the executive branch members of AGDC that they have some kind of agreement to agree upon something in the future…. I would suggest that that’s pretty indicative that there is no serious progress on this project.”

Hawker said when there is serious progress, Alaskans will know because the international business and finance communities will be all over it — fighting to be part of a massive economic venture.

There is another potential snag that could lower the probability of the project moving forward- the Alaska legislature. Alaska’s has a multi-billion-dollar hole in its budget and lawmakers are looking for places to cut. Last year, the Senate voted unanimously to strip $50 million from the corporation’s budget. Members of the state House tried to cut its budget too.

They have continued to grill the gasline corporation about how and where and why it’s spending millions of dollars to get the gasline built.

During a recent corporation update to the legislature, Senator Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, said she was frustrated by how difficult it is to get basic information on the structure of the project from corporation employees. She said she finally settled on pulling numbers from publicly available documents and crunching them herself to figure out how much money the corporation has left to spend.

But, after the announcement in China, von Imhof said she applauds Walker and corporation president Keith Meyer for the agreement. She said the international attention is great.

“And so now we’ve just upped the probability a little bit, because we have interest,” von Imhof said. “But we’re still pretty low. It just takes time to continue marching forward.”

But even with the better odds, it still might not be enough to convince lawmakers to funnel more money into the gasline project. Von Imhof said it was still to early in the process to allocate more money to the gasline corporation.

It may be early, but Meyer said there are some deadlines for the new pipeline partnership. The state wants a final investment decision by early 2019, so it can get shovels in the ground and bring the pipeline online by 2025.

Categories: Alaska News

Elephant trophies? Young says yes

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 17:29
By Trevor Ohlssen, via Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration decided this week to allow big-game hunters to bring back tusks and other trophies from elephants killed in two African countries. And then, late Friday, President Trump tweeted that he’s putting that decision on hold to review it, leaving the trophy ban in place for an indefinite period. It seems to be a nod to popular demand. Word that Trump was ending the ban sparked outrage from some quarters. But Alaska Congressman Don Young wants that ban over turned. Young says the only way to save the elephant is to hunt it.

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Young says he’s all for saving elephants, but he’s been to Africa seven times and says every country he’s been to has a surplus.

“So if we don’t hunt them, they will hunt them and kill them for food, and sell the ivory,” Young said in an interview Thursday.

The African elephant is still listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Young says American hunters pay big bucks to take an elephant, and their fees are often the only money an African country has to pay game wardens and improve conservation. Young spoke from his Washington, D.C. office, where the walls are covered with hunting trophies.

Rep. Don Young is in Washington, D.C. office. Photo: Liz Ruskin

“As a hunter we pay the concessionaire, the government, $55,000 to shoot an elephant, we take the tusk and they get the $55,000,” Young said.

Masha Kalinina of the Humane Society International says in Zimbabwe, the going rate to shoot an elephant varies from $30,000 to $50,000.

“You hear that sum and it seems like it’s so much money, but then there’s no record of how that money is actually spent,” Kalnina said.

Kalnina says there isn’t enough transparency to ensure the money actually goes to conservation. She agrees Zimbabwean wildlife managers are dependent on trophy hunting fees for their budgets. She thinks the arrangement could pressure them to put money ahead of saving elephants. Kalinina says the country was already unstable, and just this week there were reports of a military coup.

“It’s constantly ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world. There is poor rule of law and enforcement,” Kalinina said. “And all of this contributes to the fact that we cannot expect there to be sound wildlife management at this time.”

The U.S. said Zimbabwe is better at transparency now. The government had planned to issue trophy import permits for elephants taken in Zimbabwe between 2016 through 2018.

Don’t expect Don Young to apply.

“I have no desire to shoot an elephant,” Young said. “Although they say it’s the most exciting hunt of all.”

Young take trophies seriously. He’s been trying for years to allow some 41 polar bear hunters, including two Alaskans, to import trophies from legal hunts in Canada before 2008, the year the bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2017

Categories: Alaska News

First in decades, Anchorage mumps outbreak triples in size

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 17:27

The number of cases reported in Alaska’s first mumps outbreak in decades has tripled.

From May to September, state epidemiologists counted 13 cases of mumps, an extremely contagious viral illness. As of Tuesday, that count had jumped to 44 cases, all of which were contained to Anchorage.

Mumps patients have high fevers, swollen salivary glands and other symptoms, though the illness is typically not life-threatening.

Alaska has not had this many mumps cases since the 1970s, when the country was still seeing the benefits of the first mumps vaccine.

“Based on what we’re seeing nationally, in other states where outbreaks are occurring, it is not a big surprise,” Dr. Joe McLaughlin, head of the state’s Section of Epidemiology, said. “But we are concerned that we are starting to see an uptick.”

Those states include Hawaii, which has reported hundreds of cases this year. According to an epidemiology bulletin this week, several Alaska patients said they had either been to Hawaii recently or been in contact with someone who had visited the islands.

Nearly half of the recent mumps patients in Alaska had already received the recommended two doses of the vaccine, so state health officials are advising anyone who knows someone who’s had the illness to get a third dose.

McLaughlin said mumps is particularly virulent due to its transfer by close proximity to others, as they sneeze or even speak near someone.

Anyone with plans to see a doctor for mumps-like symptoms should not go to a waiting room where they might expose others and instead talk to clinic staff about how to be seen without coming into contact with other patients, McLaughlin said.

The best way to fight the mumps outbreak is for people to stay home for at least five days if symptoms like swollen cheeks or jaw pain occur, or to get vaccinated if others in their social groups come down with the illness, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said state health officials are unsure if the Anchorage outbreak has peaked yet.

“At this point, there’s no indication that it’ll be going away anytime soon,” McLaughlin said.

Categories: Alaska News

What’s it like to be bullied – and how do we stop it

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 17:00
(Photo: Flickr, Working Word)

Bullying is prevalent in Alaska — about a quarter of teens say they’ve experienced it at school. Others have been bullied online. But why should we be concerned? How does bullying affect young people?

This program is part of Alaska Public Media’s Solutions Desk. This month were talking about youth supporting youth.

HOST: Anne Hillman



  • Call 550-8422 (Anchorage) or 1-800-478-8255 (statewide) during the live broadcast
  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send email to (comments may be read on air)

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by emailRSS or podcast.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor signs Petersburg land bill

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 16:19
Governor Bill Walker signs senate bill 28 Thursday, November 16, 2017 at Petersburg’s Sons of Norway Hall. Behind him are legislative staffer Melissa Kookesh, Petersburg community and economic development director Liz Cabrera, mayor Mark Jensen, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Petersburg harbormaster Glo Wollen and daughter Sigrid, legislative aide David Scott and lobbyist Ray Matiashowski. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

A major increase to the land granted to the new Petersburg borough is now official. Governor Bill Walker Thursday signed legislation granting over 14-thousand acres of state land to the local government.

Governor Bill Walker signed the bill at Petersburg’s Sons of Norway Hall and spoke about putting lands under local control.

“Im not a big fan of someone in another state saying what we can do in our state,” Walker said. “And nor do I think we oughta be saying here what they can do in their state. They oughta do their thing, we do our thing. So this is sort of a version of that, is that you didn’t get all the land you were entitled to, I’m only too happy to put my name on the signature and again all the credit goes to those that have spoken before me because they did all the heavy lifting. I get to hold and kiss babies and sign documents…”

Under state law cities and boroughs are entitled to select 10 percent of available state land within their boundaries. When voters approved the formation of the Petersburg borough in 2013, it meant expanded boundaries for the municipal government and an additional land selection beyond what had already been chosen by the city of Petersburg. Borough officials went to the legislature this year to increase that amount and scored big. Senate bill 28 is nearly a tenfold increase in the land grant and allows the borough to take 14,666 acres.

The bill’s sponsor Sitka Senator Republican Bert Stedman was out of state but his staffer Melissa Kookesh said the legislation will give the borough opportunity for future economic growth.

“That’s vitally important in this climate that we have and I know Senator Stedman was very happy about that but again sends his regrets for not being here for this historic event,” Kookesh said. Kookesh helped shepherd Stedman’s bill through the legislature and noted it was her first. Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins introduced a companion bill in the House.

The bill saw no votes of opposition in the legislature and was one of only a couple dozen passed by both the House and Senate this year. It’s almost all of the remaining state land in the borough that hasn’t already been designated for another use. Parcels are spread throughout the borough and could be sold off to generate revenue from the sale and property tax from future owners. Some parcels could also be developed for rock and gravel pits or other uses.

Mayor Mark Jensen thought the borough would have many ways to use the land.

“Some of it’s going to hopefully be used for mitigation for projects and maybe on the island for some rock sources, so there’s many, many uses and I think now it’s up to our land selection committee to pinpoint down what we want,” Jensen said. “And then of course before you can do anything I understand it all has to be surveyed. So I don’t know the specifics but there’s a ways to go before we could actually probably put it up for sale or develop or whatever we’re going to do.”

A committee of local residents met into last year to determine top priorities for a smaller land selection. With the increase, they’ll have to restart meetings to lengthen that priority list. The state Department of Natural Resources values the total land grant at more than 78 million dollars.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: John Active of Bethel

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 15:18
John Active of Bethel (Photo courtesy of KYUK – Bethel)

This week we’re hearing from John Active in Bethel. Active translates world news for Yup’ik listeners at KYUK, and loves telling stories he learned from his grandmother.

Listen now

ACTIVE: One day there was a fox and he was walking on the tundra in the fall, looking for something to eat. He came upon a goose. He couldn’t fly because he was growing new feathers. And the old fox, he was so happy that he was gonna have a good meal. He started singing. Well that old fox, he was so sure that the goose wouldn’t fly away, or go get away, the next verse he sang, he closed his eyes.

Sings in Yup’ik. 

He [the fox] sang out a little longer. And he opened his eyes, he looked and the goose was gone.

He looked in the middle of the lake. There was the goose. He had gone down to the lake and he was swimming in the middle of the lake.

He looked in the water. He was all red with embarrassment. He said, “Oh no. I can’t look like this. If the other animals, they’ll say I made a mistake and turned red with embarrassment.

He kinda got an idea. So, he took black charcoal in his paws (rubs hands together) and he rubbed both of his paws and both of his feet. And then he took his tail and colored that tip of his tail black too. Then he took some white ash, it was just white, and he colored from underneath his neck all the way down to his chest.

Then he looked in the water again, “Ooh. I look really good now. Nobody will make fun of me, or know that I made a mistake.” And from that day on. that fox became those colors.

This interviewed was gathered by the interns at KYUK in Bethel. 

Categories: Alaska News

AK: “Kicking the sky with your feet,” four teams compete in Bethel’s NYO Invitational

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 15:07
Goodnews Bay eighth grader Tucker Evans leaps in the air during the One-Foot High Kick. He says that his cast throws off his balance but increases his momentum.
(Greg Lincoln / Delta Discovery)

Only three of the six teams were able to make the trip due to poor weather, but Bethel’s Native Youth Olympic Invitational went on as scheduled. Teams arrived by boat and small planes through thick fog to compete in the traditional games of strength and endurance at Bethel’s Gladys Jung Elementary School.

Listen now

A ball hangs in midair: an orb of turquoise blue and spotted seal fur, suspended on a string and connected to a tall, wooden tripod.

Bethel Gladys Jung sixth-grader Jordan Klejka approaches. She runs her fingers down the twine, steadying the ball. It hangs just below her bright blue eyes, 49 inches from the ground.

Klejka steps back. Pauses. Then, in a sudden motion, she jackknifes her body, lifting both feet and kicking the ball. The ball soars in a wide arc and Klejka lands on her red sneakers, winning the Junior High School Girls’ Two-Foot High Kick.

“It feels really fun and amazing when you’re about to kick it,” Klejka said. “It feels like you can kick the sky with your feet.”

Oscarville takes second place. NYO is the small school’s only sport. With about a dozen students, Oscarville doesn’t have a gym. Instead, chaperone Eliza Joekay said that the students practice in classrooms. That can be challenging.

“One time they did seal hop, and they went inside the school, but they had to make sure the doors were open wide so they could turn,” Joekay said.

During the seal hop this weekend, eleventh grader Brenda Mark from Goodnews Bay takes the lead. She bounces her body in a push-up position across the floor. Arms straight, hands flat, toes pointed; her chipped purple nail polish sparkles against the blond wood floor. Three-quarters of the way across, she collapses and holds her position. Another athlete runs the tape measure from the starting line to Mark’s fingertips.

“72 feet, 5 inches, for Brenda Mark,” the judge announced.

After others fail to match or exceed her, Mark receives a blue ribbon for first place. She says that taking up yoga helped her increase her distance.

“It’s from practicing breathing, and there’s lot of different types of breathing,” Mark said. “It depends on how you’re moving. You have to try to control it.”

Fletcher Hughes, Mark’s coach at Goodnews Bay, moved from Pennsylvania last year and began learning how to coach a sport unique to Alaska.

“The One-Foot and Two-Foot were the biggest learning curve,” Hughes said, “because I’d never taught anything remotely close to that.”

Hughes had coached baseball, basketball and soccer in the past. To learn these new sports, he began watching NYO videos online.

“Had a couple of young men from last year increase their kick by 12 and 14 inches, so I felt like I was doing alright with it,” Hughes said, smiling.

NYO events prepare athletes for subsistence activities. High kicks were used to signal a successful hunt. The seal hop builds stamina and trains hunters to sneak up on seals. The wrist carry, where athletes hang from a wooden pole by one wrist, tests strength and endurance while respectfully emulating an animal giving itself.

Oscarville eleventh grader Trevor Mesak said that the training also works in reverse. Subsistence prepares athletes for sports.

“Especially the seal, and carrying the moose always helps because it gets you stronger and more stamina,”  Mesak said.

As the coaches calculate the scores, the students go for the hoops. This basketball
game is more than just a friendly match. For the teams traveling to Bethel, it’s one of
the rare times they get to run the length of a full court. Then Bethel’s Gladys Jung coach Tommy Bayayok wheels out a cart piled with brightly colored ribbons. One by one, he calls out the top scores and the athletes’ names.

And one by one, students walk up and collect their awards, leaving the tournament with fistfuls of silky ribbons.

Categories: Alaska News

State, delegation push feds on transboundary mining

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2017-11-17 14:46


Eight transboundary watersheds feed into Southeast Alaska rivers. Alaska officials are pushing for stronger protections. (Map courtesy Alaska Department of Natural Resources)

Alaska leaders want Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to push Canadian officials to better protect Southeast fisheries from British Columbia mine projects.

The governor, lieutenant governor and Congressional delegation made the ask in a joint letter sent Nov. 13 to the U.S. State Department.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said officials want environmental protections discussed at an upcoming meeting of the department and its Canadian counterpart.

“We focused on asking them to have the B.C. mining projects, the transboundary treaty and the implementation of it as it relates to transboundary rivers in Alaska be included on their agenda,” Mallott said.

State officials made similar requests to John Kerry, the previous secretary of state. But his department sent the issue back to Alaska, since it already was consulting with British Columbia.

Since then, tribal, environmental and fisheries groups have demanded stronger action to protect watersheds where Alaska salmon spawn and grow.

Chris Zimmer works for Rivers Without Borders, an environmental group that has warned of the dangers of transboundary mining for more than a decade.

“This is what’s been needed all along, is this concerted approach from our members of Congress and the state to the U.S. federal government,” Zimmer said. “And then hopefully what that will result in is a concerted approach to B.C. and Canada both, to deal with some current issues we have with transboundary mining.”

Two mines and more than a half-dozen exploration projects are active not far from the Alaska border.

Another long-closed mine is leaking acidic water.

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs said the agency is aware of the concerns expressed in the letter.

“This is an issue we have raised with our Canadian counterparts at a number of levels with both provincial and federal governments, and we will continue to engage with them on it,” a spokesperson wrote in an email.

British Columbia officials said they’ve improved permitting and regulation of mines and mining projects with Alaska and other downstream interests in mind.

Mine owners and developers have said their projects don’t pose serious threats to Alaska.

The letter asks for specific steps beyond what’s already been done to be taken to protect Alaska waters.

Mallott said one important effort would standardize monitoring downstream from the mines and projects.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott signs a statement of cooperation with British Columbia in 2016. The Walker-Mallott administration is asking for further action to protect transboundary rivers. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

“Right now, water quality and other environmental data is gathered as the result of specific permits for specific projects,” Mallott said. “And we believe that that kind of monitoring should be undertaken on a consistent, over-time basis by our governments.”

The state signed a memorandum of understanding with British Columbia about a year ago.

But the provincial government has changed leadership, as have both federal governments.

Mallott said his administration continues working with provincial officials. He and other officials met with their British Columbia counterparts this month.

But Mallott said the State Department needs to become a strong partner in those efforts.

The group Salmon Beyond Borders has recently criticized the state for acting too slowly. But spokeswoman Heather Hardcastle said the letter is a step in the right direction.

“They need to know that they’re not stepping on the toes of the state or the delegation, but instead (are) carrying out, really, united asks,” Hardcastle said.

The letter to Tillerson was signed by Mallott, Gov. Bill Walker, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young.

It said the state department should:

  • Encourage B.C. officials to develop public outreach tools to better explain their processes for considering the cumulative impacts of proposed mining projects on transboundary waters during the environmental assessment process.
  • Determine whether an International Joint Commission reference is a suitable venue to evaluate whether mines operating in the transboundary region between B.C. and Alaska are implementing best management practices in the treatment of wastewaters and management of potential-acid-generating mine tailings and waste rock.
  • Establish a formal consultation process with U.S. state agencies, other federal agencies, tribes and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporations during the environmental assessment process, similar to the consultation process afforded to a cooperating agency under the National Environmental Policy Act in the U.S.
  • Support and work toward robust funding and other needed resources for developing a reliable database of water quality and related data for transboundary waters that can be used to track cumulative impacts, trends and significant episodic changes associated with operating and historic mines in the  transboundary region.
  • Establish an interagency task force led by the Department of State and including the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies as necessary, to work in collaboration with the State of Alaska, and develop recommendations and direct funding to ensure protection of transboundary rivers.
Categories: Alaska News