Overfishing charges against former State Senator Albert Kookesh and two other men have been reinstated by the Alaska Court of Appeals.
In 2009, Kookesh and three others – Rocky Estrada, Sr., Stanley Johnson, and Scott Hunter – were fishing for sockeye salmon at Kanalku Bay near his hometown of Angoon. A state wildlife trooper observed them catching more salmon than allowed under their subsistence permits, and issued citations.
Kookesh, Estrada, and Johnson challenged, saying the Alaska Department of Fish and Game cannot establish catch limits. They argued the only way to enact limits is through the Alaska Board of Fisheries.
A District Court judge agreed, and dismissed the charges against the men.
The Court of Appeals in ruling today (Friday) said the board of fish can delegate authority to the department. The case was returned to the District Court.
Kookesh says he and the other defendants would like to continue fighting, but their attorney – Tony Strong of Juneau – has been disbarred for an unrelated matter.
“We have to find another one. We have to find people like AFN or Tlingit and Haida or somebody else to step up with us,” Kookesh said. “To me it’s an important question, to other people it may not be. But I think the Native community sees this as a question that we have to take to courts to have the State of Alaska recognize that we have a concern here.”
While the case hinged on the narrow issue of who can set catch limits, Kookesh says the men are really challenging the state’s overall subsistence policy.
“We appealed the bag limit of 15 fish per family per year in Angoon,” Kookesh said. “Fifteen fish per family per year, and that’s what we appealed on, because less than two or three miles away we had seine boats getting thousands and thousands of fish intended for that area, sockeye bycatch there. Nobody cited them. But when you’re a commercial boat in Alaska, you can get all you want.”
Kookesh also says fish and game did not get input from Angoon residents before enacting the catch limit.
Mike Mitchell, an attorney with the Alaska Department of Law, says the state is pleased with the Appeals Court’s decision. He says it affirms a longstanding form of fishery regulation, and bolsters the ability of fish and game and the board of fisheries to manage and conserve salmon for all user groups.
Kookesh, a Democrat, served eight years in the Alaska House of Representatives followed by eight years in the state Senate, representing a largely rural district. He lost his seat in 2012 after the state Redistricting Board put him in the same district as Sitka Republican Bert Stedman.
(Note: This story has been updated with reaction from Albert Kookesh and the Alaska Department of Law)
Human skeletal remains discovered in KCAW’s basement in 2011 were removed from the Cable House on Friday.
The bones were identified as Alaskan Native and are now in the custody of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
The human remains were initially found by construction workers, in the midst of structural improvements to the historic Cable House, home of Raven Radio, in October of 2011. New information revealed that the bones are Native Alaskan, likely Southeast in origin. The bones remained in the basement undisturbed until Friday (12-20-13). That was when they were exhumed from the Cable House basement, and turned over to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.
Brian Kemp an Assistant Professor at Washington State University, tested mitochondrial DNA in a tooth, and identified the remains as Native American. He also screened DNA on sex chromosomes, and found that the tooth had belonged to a female. Kemp said that given the data available it is not possible to trace the bones to a specific population because the DNA sequence is widely common in Native American lineage.
While the remains are believed to be old, and likely predate the 103-year-old building that houses Raven Radio, Kemp does not know how old. He says radiocarbon dating is required to determine the age of these remains.
Joan Dale, an archaeologist with the Alaska Heritage Resources Survey inspected photographs of the remains. After considering the shape of a skull, Dale said they are most likely Southeast Alaska Native.
Sitka Tribe of Alaska staff with the assistance of Forest Service Archaeologist Jay Kinsman exhumed the bones.
KCAW General Manager Ken Fate said the removal process went well, under the guidance of Jay Kinsman. Overall, it was a well-coordinated effort between KCAW, STA, and the Forest Service.
The Sitka Tribe of Alaska will determine a suitable location for interment of the remains.
The Chena River is getting cleaner. The waterway that winds through the heart of Fairbanks had been plagued by oil and sedimentation from runoff, but local efforts have turned things around.
Hair is important, especially in high school, but that didn’t stop a few dozen students at Bethel’s Kuskokwim Learning Academy boarding school from shaving off their hair in support of a teacher undergoing chemotherapy. It was also a chance for some students to remember family who died from the disease.
In a corner room at the school, two classroom chairs are doubling as make shift barber chairs. More than a dozen students stand in line waiting for their turn in the seat.
“I think you could just shave it off,” Brenda Woods says.
At 16, she has a pretty round face and a full head of thick dark hair. She says it’s all coming off in support of Connie Sankwich, a teacher who has stage two ovarian cancer.
“I was thinking about it for a couple of days but I thought that I’d just cut it short but after I watched those other guys hair get their hair shaved I thought that I should do the same because short hair doesn’t look like it’s supportive to the people of cancer in my opinion,” Woods says.
Stan Corp dutifully buzzes away. He’s run a barber shop in Bethel for over 20 years and is volunteering his services at the school.
Doug Boyer, Principal at Kuskokwim Learning Academy stands nearby. He’s tall, towering over his students as he also waits for his turn in the chair. He says Sankwich is a beloved teacher who taught a character building class.
“The main concept of the program is that a small act of kindness will start a chain reaction of kindness,” Boyer says. “The students now wanted to come back and the chain reaction has started to blossom and now they wanted to show their respect to her.”
Most of the students are Yup’ik Eskimo, some are from Bethel, others from nearby villages. Venessa Egoak is a 19-year-old from Bethel. She plans to shave her hair, going from about two feet in length to a quarter of an inch.
“I’d probably be supporting my two uncles who had cancer,” she says, choking up. “I do miss my uncles. I just wish cancer didn’t get them.”
After a long process of clipping, buzzing, and more buzzing, Egoak heads to the nearest mirror to check out her new look. She smiles at her reflection.
“Gonna get cold a lot,” she says laughing. “And I’m glad I did cut my hair.”
Victoria Passauer watches as a classmate gets her haircut and unconsciously runs her fingers through her long wavy auburn hair. She’s planning on donating about a foot of it for Locks of Love, which makes wigs for children. She’s supporting Sankwich and her mother who died from cancer about five years ago. She says she died in just a few months and was never able to go through treatment.
“So I never got to really, like, do that for her,” Passauer says, with tears in her eyes. “So…..I’m kind of doing it for her too.”
The ponytails are piling up on the table. Corp will mail them to a Locks of Love organization in Florida.
KLA student David Evon announces that he’s going to shave all his hair off. His black hair isn’t short for a guy. He hasn’t cut it in 11 months and it hangs down to his eyes.
“She was one of my favorite teachers here in KLA,” Evon says. “She was very helpful and kind and generous and I hope she gets better soon.”
A few hours later, Connie Sankwich sits on her couch under a blanket, looking at pictures of the school event. At 49, she’s lived a healthy lifestyle and never dreamed she’d get cancer.
“I cried like a baby when I had to cut my hair,” Sankwich says, laughing at the memory. “People would say things like ‘it’s just hair, hair’s over rated, it’ll grow back, you know. Of course, trying to make me feel better . . .it didn’t make me feel better. So. . . .to see the kids do this and to see all the staff and kids at KLA doing this. . .cutting their hair for me when they don’t have to. . .I just can’t believe the support that they’re giving.”
In the end, 25 students and staff cut their hair for Sankwich. She’ll carry their support with her in the coming months as she travels to Anchorage for chemotherapy.
This week, we’re heading to Port Heiden, a community of about 100 people on the Alaska Peninsula. Scott Anderson is mayor of Port Heiden.
Anchorage’s venerable Mulcahy Stadium, which turns fifty years old next year, may be torn down to make way for parking lot expansion at the Chester Creek Sports Complex. That’s the plan proposed by the muni’s Parks and Recreation department, according to John Rodda, department director.
Rodda says, originally, new parking lots were planned at the site of the two grass ballfields West of Mulcahy, but that plan posed traffic problems. He said, within the past year, another idea hatched
“And then a new group of us got together and came up with the idea, that , you know ‘why should we have disjointed parking- that just complicates things even further – puts people further away from the venues. Why don’t we do this in a holistic sense, with all of the parking being centralized, so you’ve got access to Sullivan, Ben Boeke, the Anchorage football park and Mulcahyy all in one general area. “
The new plan moves Mulcahy to the site of the two ballfields, and uses the old stadium site for a new parking lot. Rodda says the move will open up about 400 new parking spaces. But Rodda says, the new stadium will have many advantages
“We tried to incorporate and include elements that were beyond, I would say, the traditional ball park, because this new facility should enhance and should invite other public uses. We could use it for a farmers’ market, or a car show, or other event stageing. Special events, corporate picnics. There’s all kinds of elements that we are trying to make this park freindly for, and yet take care of the parking problem. “
Parks and Rec approved the plan in November, and a design by the architectural firm USKH is nearing completion. Rodda says stakeholders in the plan have been notified, although the project has not been widely publicized.
Under the proposal, the current Mulcahy will be torn down and a new stadium built about one block away. The new stadium will be a bit smaller than the current 3500 seat stadium. The new one will have one thousand grandstand seats and fifteen hundred “informal” seats.
“I’ll call it more casual seating, because we’re using artificial turf. We’re actually sloping it, and almost to give it a feel of sitting out on a grassed area, and actually watching the game, I’ll call it, from the cheap seats. And people will actually be able to expand along both lines [of the baseball field] and actually have additional seating down there.”
Rodda says the plan has the backing of the city administration.
Rodda says the city has close to four million dollars in legislative grants earmarked for parking expansion at the Chester Creek Complex, and will request more than twelve million dollars from the legislature for the stadium rebuild. He says the balance is expected to come from sponsorships.
Mulcahy is used by the Anchorage Bucs and the Glacier Pilots summer college baseball teams.
If the plan is approved by city planners and gets the green light from the Anchorage Municipal Assembly, construction could begin in 2015.
One year ago Shell Oil’s drilling rig had not gone aground and changing the state’s oil tax regime was just the Governor’s dream. Nobody expected Congress to be so gridlocked that budget sequestration would kick in, and the prospects for the Affordable Care act were not good. A lot has changed.
HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Tony Hopfinger, editor, Alaska Dispatch
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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
The volume of sea ice in the Arctic is 50 percent higher than it was last fall, satellite measurements show.
In October 2013, the European Space Agency satellite CryoSat measured 9,000 cubic kilometres of sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, said an ESA news release Monday. At the same time of year in 2012, it measured just 6,000 cubic kilometres — a record low.
The satellite, launched in 2010, is designed to measure sea ice thickness across the Arctic Ocean, allowing scientists to monitor changes in volume and not just surface coverage.
Despite the short-term rebound, sea ice volumes remain low compared to historical averages, scientists say.
“It’s estimated that there was around 20,000 cubic kilometres of Arctic sea ice each October in the early 1980s, and so today’s minimum still ranks among the lowest of the past 30 years,” said Andrew Shepherd, a co-author of the study, in a statement. Shepherd, who is a researcher at University College London, was part of a team that presented the study last week at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
Both the surface coverage and volume of Arctic sea ice are monitored by scientists as climate indicators.
In September, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre reported that Arctic ice cover at its summer minimum this year was 5.1 million square kilometres. That was also up 50 per cent from last year’s record low, but the sixth lowest on record. The seven lowest levels have all been recorded in the last seven years.
Coverage vs. Volume
Scientists had noticed that generally, since CryoSat was launched in 2010, Arctic sea ice volumes haven’t varied as much from year-to-year as sea ice coverage.
Because of that, they hadn’t expected an increase in volume comparable to the increase in surface coverage, said Rachel Tilling, lead author of the new study, in a statement.
“But it has been, and the reason is related to the amount of multi-year ice in the Arctic,” added Tilling, a researcher at the U.K.’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.
Multi-year ice survives more than one summer without melting and is considered an indicator of “healthy” Arctic sea ice cover, the ESA reported.
About 90 per cent of the increase in sea ice volume this year is from the growth of multi-year ice, which now averages about 20 per cent or 30 centimetres thicker than last year, the release said.
Last week, the NOAA issued its annual Arctic report card, which found that Arctic temperatures in 2013 were cooler compared to the past six years, although they remained warm compared to the 20th century.
“The Arctic caught a break, if you will, in 2013,” said Martin Jefferies, the University of Alaska geophysicist who edited the report card, at the AGU conference. “But one year doesn’t change the long-term trend toward a warmer Arctic.”
With a file from The Associated Press
The state appeals court on Friday reinstated charges of excessive fishing against a former state senator and two others.
A wildlife officer in August 2009 cited former lawmaker Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and others for catching more sockeye salmon than allowed under a subsistence fishing permit.
The men challenged the citations, and a district court sided with the men. The court said the Board of Fisheries should have set limits and not delegated that authority to the Department of Fish and Game.
The appeals court disagreed, saying the Board of Fisheries has the authority to enact regulations and delegate that authority.
The cases against the fishermen will return to district court.
A woman is suing the Municipality of Anchorage, claiming she was falsely arrested for drunken driving after she refused to give her phone number to a police officer.
The Anchorage Daily News reports Nancy Means is seeking to have the municipality scrub any evidence of her arrest.
Officer David Burns saw a minivan with hazard lights flashing Nov. 25, 2011. He found Means and three passengers in the disabled minivan.
Burns said he smelled a slight odor of alcohol. He sought and received her license and insurance information, but she refused when he asked for her phone number.
Burns then arrested her for operating a vehicle under the influence. A later breath test listed her blood-alcohol level at .000.
City attorney Dennis Wheeler says the arrest was proper.
The state has issued an air quality advisory for the Fairbanks area through Saturday.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports cold air and temperature inversions are behind the poor air quality.
The advisory from the state Department of Environmental Conservation covers Fairbanks, North Pole and surrounding areas.
It also deems the air quality in Fairbanks as “unhealthy,” the third-worst category behind “very unhealthy” and “hazardous.”
People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged exertion. Others should limit any prolonged exertion.
Alaska State Troopers say a privately-owned ATM was stolen from a Palmer restaurant.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the machine was taken from RW’s Hamburger House Saturday morning. It weighs about 200 pounds, and troopers suspect it would require more than one person to take it.
Restaurant employee James Tickney says burglars forced their way into the building’s back door and dragged the ATM about 25 feet outside.
He says there was about $4,700 in the ATM when taken.
Troopers ask anyone with information to call 907-745-2131 or Mat-Su Crime Stoppers at 907-745-3333.
Sitka Community Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, Hugh Hallgren, will retire in June after more than four years of service in Sitka. The hospital’s Board of Directors announced Hallgren’s retirement on Monday.
In a news release, Board Chair Celeste Tydingco said, “Hugh’s leadership and vision for our hospital have been critical to the success we have enjoyed during his tenure.”
Hallgren can trace his healthcare career all the way back to 1973, when he decided against, what he says was the popular option at the time, selling soap for Proctor and Gamble.
“Well I started off getting a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago,” said Hallgren. “And I felt at the time, being of that age group – the hippy age group, that my duty was to try to improve other people’s lives.”
Over four years ago, when Sitka needed a hospital CEO, Hallgren was looking for a new job. Hallgren says that the hard working, cooperative staff shared his values – namely, the patient should always come first. So, accepting the CEO position at SCH was a no-brainer.
Once Hallgren arrived, and got the chance to look under the hood, reality set in. He says, at the time, the hospital was in trouble. It was losing almost two million dollars a year. Hallgren says there was insufficient medical staff to efficiently address Sitkans’ needs. He set to work expanding the surgical service, reopening OB services, and recruiting physicians.
“We got general surgery back with Doctor Wein, thank goodness. We restarted obstetrics. You lose your surgeon it’s hard to do OB because you may need to do a cesarean section here and there,” said Hallgren.
Over the course of his tenure Hallgren recruited 14 physicians. About half are on the island full time and work at the Mountainside Family Healthcare clinic. The rest provide specialty care as needed – services like reconstructive plastic surgery, cardiology, and dermatology.
Hallgren says that the strategy has always been to find out what Sitkans need, and try to provide it on the island. He reports a 118% growth in patient visits since 2010.
Hallgren said, “what we see is the community responding to our ability to meet their health needs. So now, if you want to go to Seattle or anchorage to go shopping you can just go shopping you don’t need to add a physician’s visit to it.”
Rapid growth is the reason why SCH is working on building a second primary care clinic on the first floor of the hospital. The Board will continue efforts to raise the remaining funds required to open the new clinic.
Hallgren’s next destination is Yuma, Arizona, where his wife, Tanya, has taken a job treating US Marines with stress related mental health issues. Hallgren says that he is ready to pass off the baton: “It’s always good to leave before you’re asked to go. The best time to leave a party is when it’s going full blast.”
The SCH board will work with a hospital management advisory firm, Quorum Health Resources, to conduct a national search for a new CEO.
The state announced the 2014 guideline harvest levels for Pacific cod in the state-waters fisheries this week.
In the Aleutians district, that’s about 12 percent less than last year’s harvest level.
The Aleutian district is divided into A and B season. A season will run Jan. 1 through June 9. Seventy percent of the harvest is reserved for A season — about 12.5 million pounds. The remaining 30 percent is for B season. That’s about 5.3 million pounds.
Fish not caught in A season will also roll over to B season — up to 70 percent of the total harvest level.
It’ll be the first year for the Dutch Harbor subdistrict, in waters a little less than 100 miles north of Unalaska. State groundfish management biologist Chuck Trebesch says the new subdistrict is an exclusive fishery for boats under 60 feet that are fishing with pot gear.
Vessels can only fish in one exclusive state-waters fishery at a time. The other exclusive fisheries near the Dutch Harbor subdistrict are Kodiak and the South Alaska Peninsula. Fishing in the new subdistrict wouldn’t shut a vessel out of the Aleutians fishery, or any other non-exlusive or federal fishery.
Trebesch says the Dutch Harbor fishery will open a week after the parallel federal fishing season ends. That’s the federal hook-and-line season for vessels under 60 feet. Trebesch estimates it’ll hit its quota in February or March. Then the Dutch Harbor subdistrict can open, with all of its harvest available immediately.
Trebesch says he has “high hopes” for the new fishery. He says he expects five to 15 boats to participate.
An $18 million project is on the drawing board for a midtown Anchorage ball field. The city’s Mulcahy Stadium, long the home field for the city’s college baseball teams, could be moved to make way for a parking lot, if a city Parks and Recreation plan gets approval.
There’s been a sharp increase in the number of flu cases reported to the state.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports there were 177 influenza infections in Alaska between Dec. 1-21.
Before that, only 65 cases had been reported in the first months of the flu season.
There are still flu vaccines available at public health centers in Alaska. Shelly Point-Anderson, who is with the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center, says anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to get a flu shot.
The Alaska Army Corp of Engineers met with Army corp leaders in Washington D.C. on Monday, to discuss where the Corp will construct a deep draft port in Western Alaska. Three sites on the Seward Peninsula are potential locations for a new deep water port.
A new study from the state shows how dependent Alaska is on the military.
The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports that 60 percent of all federal dollars spent in Alaska are devoted to defense spending. The state estimates the military will spend $486 million next year on Alaska projects.
The study is from the state Department of Labor and published in this month’s Alaska Economic Trends magazine.
It also shows the Fairbanks North Star Borough has the largest percentage of residents with ties to the military. Just under 23 percent of residents there are employed by the military or a military dependent. Coming in second with nearly 22 percent was the Denali Borough, home to Clear Air Force Station.
Kodiak came in third with 18 percent, mostly Coast Guard members.
If you think minus 38 is cold, just stick around a day.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the low temperature Thursday morning at the airport was minus 41 degrees, three degrees colder than Christmas morning.
The cold Thursday produced the season’s first ice fog, reducing visibility to less than a mile in some places and making the Thursday morning commute a challenge.
And that wasn’t even the coldest temperatures recorded in Alaska. Weather officials say it was minus 58 in Chicken, 52 below in Tok and minus 50 in Eagle.
The National Weather Service says there should be some good news this weekend as warmer air is pushing into the region.
On St Lawrence Island, the tribal government of Gambell gave one walrus tusk to each household in the community of just under 800. The distribution is meant to provide ivory carvers with a bit of raw material to work with, in order to bring in a little extra cash amid the ongoing economic disaster from last spring’s poor walrus harvest on St. Lawrence Island.