Lisa Demer. Photo by Alaska Dispatch News.The Managing Editor of the Alaska Dispatch News says a Western Alaska Bureau should be up and running by the end of the month. The new bureau will be based in Bethel and will be staffed by veteran reporter Lisa Demer.“Lisa’s been a reporter in Alaska for 20 years and has covered a lot of different topics. And the thing about Lisa, I’d say that whatever she’s covered politics, she covered social issues, extensively, she’s covered, you know, lots of different kind of stories. And she does it with accuracy, nuance, depth – she listens. She’s very enthusiastic about doing it,” said Hulen.Editor David Hulen. Photo by Alaska Dispatch News.She worked for the Anchorage Daily News until the online news outlet, Alaska Dispatch, bought the paper from McClatchy Newspapers for 34-million dollars in April. The organizations combined and changed the name to, ‘Alaska Dispatch News’ in July. Hulen says basing a reporter in Bethel is part of an overall shift in strategy for the news organization.“You know when the two staffs combined we essentially had double the number of reporters/photographers as either operation had on their own. And so we’re really able to cover things that we could not have done before, separately. And one of the things that we’re really committed to doing is just better and deeper statewide and rural coverage,” said Hulen.The Alaska Dispatch News is considering setting up additional bureaus in remote Alaska, Hulen says. He could not confirm locations but discussed Barrow and Nome as potential locations for future bureaus.
There’s no timeline for reopening the $24 million Bethel pool, which closed right after the grand opening this past Saturday due to a sprinkler system issue.Download AudioActing City Manager Pete Williams says the city wants to have experts look at the system, in light of the recent devastating fire at the new Alcohol Treatment center.Bethel residents enjoy the new pool. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)“As we speak they are trying to determine what the problem is, until they can determine what it is and what’s needed for the fix, it’s hard to give a timeline of when it will be open again,” said Williams.Doug Cobb works for ProDev, the project management firm, and is in Bethel trying to figure out the issue.“We have pressure at the hydrant and there’s something inconsistent in the building, we have gotten the system to work successfully several times, but to pass that test that has to be done over and over, and over. That’s what we’re troubleshooting,” said Cobb.Williams says the crews thought they had found the problem Thursday morning, but another issue popped up.The state Fire Marshall granted the city an exception last Saturday to host the grand opening, even though inspectors the day before found the pressure to run the sprinkler system to be inadequate.Cobb says a fire sprinkler specialist from the Lower 48 has been consulted in the troubleshooting.
The Municipality is developing a new community plan to end homelessness in Anchorage. During a listening session held Wednesday evening, about 20 people gathered to discuss possible solutions to the decades old problem.Download AudioDarrel Hess was the former and only homeless coordinator for the Municipality of Anchorage from 2009 to 2012. He said during that time he read through 40 years of studies and plans about homelessness in the city, and end results were typically the same. They suggested that agencies try to solve it with little cost to the local government. Hess, speaking as a citizen, said that needs to change.“I’m hoping with the next plan there is a robust commitment from local government. Without that commitment, the plan will once again not be nearly as successful as it could be.”Hess suggested that the municipality could do things like speed up the permitting process or adjust some zoning rules to enable affordable housing developments.Brian Shelton-Kelley from Anchorage Neighborworks agreed with these suggestions. He said developers need incentives to build property for low income households. But Shelton-Kelley said the problem is two-fold. It costs at least $500 just to maintain, insure and keep the lights on for a rental unit — that’s too much for people on very small, fixed incomes to pay. And even if properties could be subsidized and built, community members have to be open to projects in their areas.“While there’s general overall support for affordable housing, when we go to communities or neighborhoods to suggest a project or suggest that a project will be located on a particular site, no one wants it in their backyard.”Ron Alleva owns property by the Brother Francis Shelter and Beans Cafe. He said those services and others hurt businesses, enable substance abuse, and cause more harm than good.“It’s a disaster economically. It’s a disaster health-wise. You wouldn’t know the things I put up with — unsanitary conditions.”Carmen Springer is the Executive Director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness and she chaired the listening session. She said the new 5-year community plan will incorporate the input of everyone who is impacted by homelessness. For her, that’s everyone in Anchorage.“We all interact with the homeless community everyday, whether its because we know someone who may be part of the community or whether we’re trying to decide how it fits with the larger framework of the Anchorage community.”Springer says the plan aims to solve the problem even when agencies are receiving less and less funding.“So if we can come together as a community and look at the services that are needed and how we can provide them in a more strategic way, so that it’s more economically feasible and it’s reaching all of the people with the appropriate services at the appropriate time, then it’s going to be better for everybody.”Some participants suggested consolidating services across agencies to make them more efficient.The plan committee will hold a large summit in the early spring to discuss their ideas and present the data they gathered, including results from a recently completed community-wide survey. The new plan will come into effect this summer.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnDownload AudioAnti-Begich Ad in Voter Guide Prompts Bill to Ban Parties From Booklet Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DCThe state Division of Elections took some heat this year for publishing an attack ad against Sen. Mark Begich within the pages of the official voter guide. Now, Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat, wants to ban partisan ads in the guide, a booklet that’s mailed to every voting household.Lobbyist: State budget shortfall will affect Juneau Casey Kelly, KTOO – JuneauThe City and Borough of Juneau’s lobbyist for state issues says Alaska’s budget woes may lead to conversations during the upcoming legislative session about tapping the Alaska Permanent Fund.Kevin Jardell also says it’s likely to mean fewer state-funded capital projects for communities, though he thinks Gov.-elect Bill Walker will be favorable to local governments.Ketchikan Assembly Responds to Education Lawsuit Ruling Leila Khiery, KRBD – KetchikanA Superior Court Judge has ruled in favor of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough in its lawsuit against the State of Alaska over the state’s education funding mandate. The Borough Assembly talked about Friday’s ruling during this week’s regular meeting, and Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst calls it a “big win” for Ketchikan.NMFS Expands Fishing Near Steller Sea Lion Habitat Annie Ropeik, KUCB – UnalaskaThe National Marine Fisheries Service will re-open fishing grounds in the Western Aleutian Islands that have been closed for years to protect a population of Steller sea lions.Sitka herring forecast lowest in a decade Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – SitkaSitka’s commercial herring fleet should expect to catch significantly fewer fish this spring.Calista Shareholders Reconsider Enrolling Descendants Charles Enoch, KYUK – BethelRepresentatives from Calista Corporation met at the Cultural Center in Bethel earlier this month with shareholders and descendants, to discuss the details of an upcoming vote on whether to issue shares to “afterborns,” those born after December 1971 when newly formed Alaska Native Corporations enrolled their shareholders.ANSEP tripling enrollment in middle school program Sarah Yu, KTOO – JuneauThe Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program is tripling enrollment in its Middle School Academies, after receiving a $6 million state grant.The program hopes to get middle school students—especially Alaska Natives—interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.Nome Churches, Nonprofits Keep Sales Tax Exemption Matthew Smith, KNOM – NomeNome’s nonprofits and churches will continue to be spared from paying local sales tax after last night’s City Council meeting saw proposals to strip the exemptions die without a vote.Orphaned Bear Cub Finds Temporary Home At Alaska Zoo Dan Bross, KUAC – FairbanksAn orphaned bear cub from the Eagle area is at the Alaska Zoo. The young black bear will be kept at the facility in Anchorage, while a search is conducted for a permanent home.When missing person isn’t found, Juneau SEADOGS search for happy ending Lisa Phu, KTOO – JuneauAt least once a week, 10 handlers and their dogs muck through the mountains, muskegs and forests on and off the beaten paths of Juneau in search of volunteer hiders. It’s practice for the SEADOGS, or Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search. Local authorities call on the volunteer group several times a year to help out when people go missing.
Salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska trawl fishery has been under scrutiny since 2012, when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council proposed a revision in the Gulf trawl fishery’s management structure. The Council is slowly making headway on the issue. Pacific halibut and Chinook salmon are taken as prohibited species, or bycatch, by the Gulf groundfish trawl fleet, and the Council wants to provide tools for better managing the prohibited species catch.In October of last year, the Council approved a motion proposing alternatives designed to protect fishing – dependent communities. One proposal would allocate groundfish and bycatch to voluntary fishing cooperatives; another would design a management model that would provide protections through a community association as defined by the Magnuson Stevens Act.At it’s recent meeting in Anchorage, the Council brought back those ideas, and added another one proposed by Alaska’s Council members.Darrel Brannon is a fisheries consultant who works with the Council.“What they did at this meeting is they added a fourth alternative, which would only allocate the prohibited species catches of Chinook salmon and halibut, and not allocate any of the directed fisheries. They are hoping by just doing that, it could reduce some of the negative impacts that traditional allocations have on communities and other entities.”Under the newest proposal, bycatch would be divided up rather than the target fish.In the Gulf, a certain amount of bycatch is allowed in the fisheries targeting groundfish like Pacific cod, flounder or pollock. But when the fleet reaches the bycatch cap, the fishery is shut down. The newest proposal also establishes fishing cooperatives, so each cooperative would be given an allocation of the total bycatch limit.Sam Cunningham, a Council economist, says that a cooperative contract would ensure that fishermen work together to optimize the harvest while they stay closely connected to monitor bycatch levels.“And what the Council is looking to do through this action is to set up a framework of cooperatives within the Gulf trawl fleet, and that would allow fishermen to work together to prosecute their fishery within the constraints of those limits and also seek opportunities to fish in ways that result in less bycatch when possible. ”The current Gulf trawl management scheme is often referred to as “a race for fish”, with catch limits for each species, but few other directives. Cunningham says that under the present scenario, some fishermen would stand down to stay under the bycatch cap, while others would not.“And the person who goes out to fish would benefit and potentially take some of those Chinook salmon or halibut bycatch, while the people who are standing down don’t have the benefit of fishing, but the bycatch limit is still moving towards a cap that would close the fishery.”He says fishermen in cooperatives would be more likely to collectively decide not to fish, if they see that the bycatch limit is close.The recent option does not allocate targeted species to avoid disruption of historical patterns in the Gulf fisheries. Cunningham says that changes in how the fishery is managed might prompt vessel operators to change the time they fish, or change where they deliver their catch. Changes like that could cause loss of crew or processor jobs.“It’s possible that if the fishery is managed in a way where each harvester has an allocation, they might change the way that they fish, or the timing or location of where they make their deliveries. And those sorts of changes from the way the fishery occurs right now, could have a downstream effect on the communities.”Darrel Brannon says the Council realizes that allocating targeted catches could have a negative impact on communities which depend on processor jobs.” What they are trying to do is keep the crews and the vessels in similar communities where they have historically been delivering to the similar processors so there is not a lot of disruption in the fishery.”Brannon says the Council at this point is only defining the alternatives it is considering. Those will go out for analysis, and come back for consideration for several meetings to come, before any final action is taken.Sam Cunningham says that the Gulf trawl management proposals, four in all, are so complex that the Council has ordered a work plan setting a schedule for discussion. The Council meets again in December
In Anchorage, two men are dead in what appears to be a double homicide over the weekend at a popular park.Listen nowAnchorage Police say they got a call shortly before 2 a.m. on Sunday, reporting a deceased individual on the bike path in Valley of the Moon park. While searching the area, investigators found a second person. Both victims are male, and police said both deaths appear to be homicides.No one is in custody, and police said they won’t release any additional details on the case until more facts are confirmed.This puts the number of violent deaths in the municipality at 27 — more than took place in all of 2015, but with more than four months remaining in the year.Two of this year’s deaths were from officer-involved shootings, which some said ought to be counted as separate incidents from homicides.
Roy McPherson looks at the David Rubin mural on the back wall of McPherson Music. (Photo by Leila Khiery, KRBD – Ketchikan)McPherson Music has been the cornerstone of Ketchikan’s music scene since the 1980s. The shop has been much more than just a music store. The McPhersons have offered music lessons and led jazz and concert bands to help entertain the whole community through cold, rainy winters.Now, though, McPherson Music is for sale.Listen nowMcPherson Music survived the population decline after Ketchikan’s pulp mill closed, multiple recessions and competition from direct-mail catalog companies.But the internet, with its promise of low prices and free shipping, was the final blow.Roy McPherson leads the way through the bare, echoey shop. Walls that once held hundreds of guitars on display are empty. The pianos, amps, speakers and drum sets are gone.Roy McPherson points out signatures of some of his former students on a pole at McPherson Music. (Photo by Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan)“Of course, it was all covered with photographs and things all down the hall. This room was full of pictures,” McPherson said. “But, we have to get it ready in case it goes because there’s so much to move.”The store hasn’t sold yet, but Roy and Tina McPherson are prepared to vacate. They even have a spot ready in their home for a colorful mural by Ketchikan artist and musician David Rubin. The mural on the back wall depicts longtime members of various McPherson-led bands, along with Roy himself.The bands are a huge part of McPherson Music. They started in the late 1990s, when Roy – a former high school band teacher — and Tina – who plays trombone — decided to form a youth jazz band.McPherson said forming the Windjammers was Tina’s idea, but the band members picked the name.“And we had about 32 kids sign up, something like that,” McPherson said. And more kids wanted to join so they started a second one. That became the Soundwaves. Soon, both bands were full.“And then, we decided well, let’s start a class,” McPherson said. “We’ll call it Discovering Jazz Fundamentals. We thought we’ll have a dozen kids, maybe. We’ll get them ready for the Soundwaves. 33 signed up.”The Windjammers perform at McPherson Music. (Photo by Keila Khiery, KRBD – Ketchikan)Youth band enrollment later declined as the population of school kids dropped. So McPherson scaled back to just the Windjammers. They recruited adults to fill some holes in the band, and the kids grew up.“And now the Windjammers are all adults,” McPherson said. “And it’s a red-hot band. There is not a weakness in that band. They can play anything.”A few days later, the Windjammers gather for a free concert at the store. Drummer Kim Kleinschmidt warms up before the performance, drumming out a rapid beat on a table top. He worked at McPherson Music for decades, and said the store gave him a second chance at a career in the music business,“Because I didn’t complete my college degree in performance,” Kleinschmidt began. “To come back and work with Roy – the finest educator I ever worked with, even including all the college career I had in Washington State.”Windjammers tenor sax and flute player Jamie Karlson is the music teacher at Schoenbar Middle School. She was a toddler when she first walked into McPherson Music.“I grew up in this store,” Karlson said. “I think my Mom had us coming in when I was two. And so, coming in and growing up with them has been awesome. I started playing flute in their Discovery Jazz Band, their youngest ensemble, when I was in seventh grade.”Karlson said she’s not sure she would have had the same career if McPherson Music hadn’t been there for her. And, she said it will be a sad day when the store sells. Karlson points to some of the metal support poles in the shop, covered with signatures.“You see all these names of these kids that have been here years and had these experiences. Some of them have gone on to do incredible things and some of them have passed away and we honor their memory,” Karlson said. “It’s just — this place has a lot of history.”One of the kids who passed away was Sam Pitcher, who died in 2003 at age 16. A music scholarship was founded in his name, and there’s a display of photos on the back wall showing scholarship winners.Roy McPherson leads the Windjammers during a free jazz concert at McPherson Music. (Photo by Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan)Karlson’s photo is there, along with many others. Earlier, when the store was empty, Roy McPherson gave a rundown of what instrument each of those kids played, where they ended up and what they’re doing now.“She went through school at Brigham Young University and is now a teacher,” McPherson said, pointing to one girl, then the next. “She has a degree in music. She still plays French horn. She played in community groups in Portland. She’s now an engineer. No, yeah, she’s an engineer.”Like Karlson, some of the kids pictured on the wall are in the Windjammers. There’s also a City Council member on saxophone; a boat captain on trombone; and a physician on guitar. It’s a true community band.A good crowd shows up for the concert. McPherson leans against one of those poles covered with his students’ names as he introduces the band and the Count Basie song they’re about to play.“We used to pull this piece out every once in a while, see if the band was maturing,” he told the audience. “It would beat us up and we’d put it away. Next year, we’d pull it out again and get a little closer. Now we just pull it out and play it, because this band can do it.”And they did.The store might be for sale, but the band isn’t going anywhere. McPherson plans to continue leading the Windjammers and his concert band, keeping that music magic alive.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnListen nowTrump administration proposes vast increase to offshore oil leasing in AlaskaElizabeth Harball, Alaska’s Energy Desk – AnchorageThe Trump administration rolled out a proposal today to hold the largest number of offshore oil and gas lease sales nationwide in U.S. history. It could mean more waters off Alaska’s shores are available for oil development than ever before.Uncertainty in Alaska as Trump administration upends cannabis policyZachariah Hughes and Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThe Department of Justice announced that it will rescind an Obama-era decision that helped open the door to commercial cannabis industries in states like Alaska. Now, stakeholders are trying to figure out what comes next.Alaska state regulators urge caution to investors eyeing cryptocurrenciesAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO-Alaska Public Media – JuneauCryptocurrencies like bitcoin are drawing interest as investments. State regulators issued a statement advising investors to approach them with caution.Ambulance, vehicle crash kills 1 in WasillaAssociated PressAt least one person is dead and others have been injured in a collision between an ambulance and a privately owned vehicle in Wasilla.Popular new pet trend driving antler theft in AnchorageZachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – AnchoragePieces of antlers and horns are sold as a healthy, all-natural chew snack for dogs, but some hunters in states like Alaska say the new market is having unintended consequences as antlers are stolen to meet demand.Halibut commission might tighten catch limitsAssociated PressRegulators are considering reducing the amount of halibut that fishermen are allowed to catch along the Pacific coast next year.Patterson siblings inch closer to Olympics with US National winsEmily Russell, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThe US Cross Country Nationals kicked off on Wednesday at Anchorage’s Kincaid Park. The races are the last chance for many skiers hoping to qualify for the Olympics next month in South Korea and a pair of siblings took home national titles.Ask a Climatologist: 2017 was hot around the globe, warm in AlaskaAnnie Feidt, Alaska’s Energy Desk – AnchorageAcross the globe, 2017 was the second hottest year on record- just behind 2016- according to a European Union monitoring center. Temperatures in Alaska last year were a bit more moderate. 2017 was the 13th warmest year on record.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @AKPublicNewsListen nowTwo Utqiaġvik whaling crew members die in apparent whaling accidentRavenna Koenig, Alaska’s Energy Desk – FairbanksNorth Slope Borough Mayor Harry K. Brower Jr. said that the Borough is not releasing details about the incident until all the facts are gathered and all family members have been notified.Public safety persists as top issue for Y-K Delta tribesAnna Rose MacArthur. KYUK – BethelThis time last year, there were eight Village Public Safety Officers across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Now there are nine, and one more is undergoing a background check as part of the application process. The region contains 56 tribes, and many don’t have any law enforcement at all.Poll shows challenger closing in on Rep. YoungLiz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.A new poll suggests Alaska Congressman Don Young, the most senior member of Congress, may be in a tight race.Republican Governors Association plays dominant role in Alaska campaign funding Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauThe Republican Governors Association has paid more than two and a half million to a group backing Dunleavy’s campaign for governor.ConocoPhillips heralds first oil at Alaska petroleum reserveAssociated PressConocoPhillips Alaska has reached a milestone at the first drill site on federal leases within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.Ask A Climatologist: How much would society have to adjust to curb climate change?Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report that says, among other things, “limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”How much can a city like Anchorage cut down on carbon?Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageOne place where there’s an effort to go greener is in Anchorage. The administration of mayor Ethan Berkowitz is moving forward on a new climate action plan, and simultaneously pursuing measures to reduce the city’s carbon emissions. The move comes at a time when cities and states are clashing with federal environmental policies, and developing their own climate initiatives.Kenai invocation policy ruled unconstitutionalAaron Bolton, KBBI – HomerAfter a roughly two-year court battle, a superior court judge ruled today that the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s invocation policy is unconstitutional.Anchorage School Board votes not to change school start timesWesley Early, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageOn Monday night, the Anchorage School Board voted against changing school start times for the district.NPFMC may impose regulations on Southeast and GOA rental boatsAaron Bolton, KBBI – HomerThe North Pacific Fishery Management Council, or NPFMC, took a step during its meeting Monday toward regulating unguided boats that anglers pay to use for halibut fishing.Beadnose 409 crowned as the 2018 Fat Bear Week championWesley Early, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThere is a new champion, fattest bear in Katmai.
At the Red Chris Mine, a dam contains a tailings pond. that collects mine waste. Northwest B.C., 2017. (Photo courtesy of Garth Lenz)Alaska’s elected leaders are pressing the Trump administration to take up the issue of transboundary mining. The renewed push comes ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Canada.Listen nowAlaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Bill Walker signed a joint letter urging Washington to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for any downstream impacts in Alaska.“We’re looking to find a way to have legitimate review processes for mines that may be problematic,” said Matt Schuckerow, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.This message is in hopes that Pompeo will bring up the matter at a bilateral meeting he is attending in Ottawa later this month.Alaska’s elected officials made this sort of request to the state department before. A similar letter was written to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last year.“This federal administration has been responsive and I hope they will continue to be,” said Jill Weitz, the director of Salmon Beyond Borders, an advocacy group for protecting watersheds. She applauds Alaska’s representatives for being persistent.Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Sen. Sullivan met with Canadian officials last February. They asked the Canadian government to join Alaska in water quality testing in Southeast waters. And the Alaskan officials requested the immediate reclamation of the abandoned Tulsequah Chief that’s leached waste for years into a tributary of the Taku River near Juneau.The diplomatic offensive comes as several mines – large and small – are moving through the permitting stages in B.C. prolific Golden Triangle.The rapid development has fisheries advocates worried over potential impacts downstream in Southeast Alaska.Environmentalists point to the 2014 Mt. Polley mine disaster. That’s when a tailings dam failed, spilling millions of gallons of mine waste into B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.