A major improvement project at Homer’s Deepwater Dock is forcing Buccaneer Energy to move its jack-up rig Endeavor out of the harbor. But the company will now have a little extra time to move the rig.
The original deadline to move the Endeavor rig was March 20th but Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins says that deadline has now been moved back by a week.
“We did agree to allow them to stay there until (March) 26th and that was based on our construction project and the arrival of our materials,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins says the crew that is working on the Endeavor is still waiting for some equipment to arrive, including a large boom for one of the rig’s cranes.
The city, too, is waiting on equipment before it can begin a major fender replacement project at the Deepwater Dock.
Hawkins said the pilings for the project have been installed but the city is still waiting on shipment of the new dock fenders. The fenders are quite enormous, at 45-feet long by 22-feet wide. They are being shipped to Seward from China, says Hawkins, and will then be barged to Homer from there. Jay Brandt Construction of Homer won the contract to do the work, which Hawkins says should take about a month.
Hawkins says before the job can be completed, the Endeavor must be moved away from the dock.
“The crews can do quite a bit of the work while the rig is there but there’s some work that is going to (force) it to pull away,” he said.
Hawkins says the repair shouldn’t disrupt the normal schedule of the Deepwater Dock, which gets pretty busy once the summer fishing season gets into full swing.
He says the Endeavor rig will need at least two tugs to move it away from the Deepwater Dock. As of Friday, no tugs were available at the harbor.
Buccaneer spokesperson Jay Morakis said in an email message that the company had received a necessary certification from the American Bureau of Shipping and is expecting to receive a Coast Guard inspection of the Endeavour sometime later this week. If that happens on schedule, he expects the Endeavor jack-up rig to move to the Cosmopolitan Unit near Anchor Point, where it expects to drill later this year.
Federal spending cuts known as sequestration will have less of an impact on the Coast Guard in Alaska than elsewhere in the country. That’s the word from Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, who is in charge of the Coast Guard’s District 17, which encompasses the entire state.
Ostebo says the Coast Guard is in high demand as activity picks up in Alaska, especially with offshore oil development.
“It’s going to require the Coast Guard and Coast Guard aviation assets to have a presence up on the North Slope, and Kodiak is making preparations to be up there, in less capacity than we were last year, but more than we have been traditionally,” Ostebo said at an awards ceremony Friday at Air Station Sitka.
Ostebo says that’s the good news. The bad news is that sequestration has created “uncertainty” in the budget. Tuition assistance for Coast Guard personnel is gone. Improvements for Coast Guard housing in Sitka are on hold. A request to add a fourth helicopter in Sitka will have to wait, too. And, Ostebo says, there are other uncertainties.
“We’ve got some icebreaker issues. We’re supposed to have two ice breakers up here. Both the Polar Star and the Healy were going to come up. Whether they show up or not is now of great debate,” Ostebo said. “Just fueling those ships is millions of dollars. You’ve got 1.5 million gallons capable on the Polar Star. At $4 a gallon, it’s pretty expensive to fill it up. So we’re trying to figure out how best to use that, or whether we will use it at all in the Arctic.”
Ostebo says District 17 paid some bills early and put itself in a pretty good place to whether budget cuts. He says the core missions of the Coast Guard, from rescues to navigational aid maintenance to vessel safety, will not change.
At a first felony appearance before the magistrate at the Dillingham courthouse Wednesday morning, Leroy B. Dick, Jr, 42, of Manokotak, initially refused legal counsel, telling the judge: “To be honest, I could say I’m guilty of the crime.”
Dick is accused of killing VPSO Thomas Madole, 54, Tuesday afternoon in Manokotak. The State of Alaska is charging Dick with murder in the first degree, which carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison.
Mr. Chris Lesh of the Public Defender’s Agency in Dillingham was appointed to represent Dick. Dick is in custody and will be held on $1,000,000 bail.
Governor Sean Parnell released a statement today, expressing his sadness over the tragic death of Officer Madole. Parnell has ordered all state flags to be lowered tomorrow in honor and memory of Madole. Heis the first VPSO to be killed in the line of duty since Ronald Zimmin was shot and killed in the Bristol Bay borough in 1986.
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The Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a “Stand Your Ground” bill on a 33-5 vote.
House Bill 24 expands what’s known as the “castle doctrine,” which allows people to use deadly force to protect their homes and businesses from intruders. The controversial legislation extends that protection to anyplace a person lawfully has a right to be.
Bill sponsor, Big Lake Republican Representative Mark Neuman, says it simply clarifies that self-defense is not a crime.
“If you’re in your home, and an invader comes into your home, are you supposed to if we had a duty to retreat maybe go hide in your bedroom? That’s not what it says,” said Neuman during debate on the House floor. “It says you have the right to defend yourself in your home. Why shouldn’t you carry those rights anywhere you have a right to be? And make that clear.”
Neuman has introduced versions of the bill in previous legislatures, but they died in the Senate after passing the House.
Similar laws are already on the books in about two dozen states nationwide. They came under scrutiny last year after unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a suburban Florida community. Initially Zimmerman was not charged for the shooting, because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Opponents of House Bill 24 cited concerns over whether it would limit the ability of prosecutors to try gang shootings, particularly in Anchorage. Andy Josephson, a Democrat who represents the Anchorage University District, also brought up potential public safety concerns.
“I’m worried about more bullets being shot, and the innocent people in the background of the shooting scene – in a mall for example on a Christmas Eve day, who are just shopping,” Josephson said. “And I don’t think we’ve covered thoroughly enough what the liability might be to them.”
Josephson was one of four Democrats who voted against the bill. The only Republican to oppose it was Lindsey Holmes, a former Democrat who represents West Anchorage and switched parties just before the start of this year’s session.
The Alaska Department of Law had concerns over the 2010 “Stand Your Ground” bill, with then-Attorney General Dan Sullivan writing that it would “encourage the needless taking of human life.”
Current Attorney General Michael Geraghty reversed course last year, and has said he supports the current version of the bill.
Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett served notice of reconsideration on HB 24 after today’s vote. That means it will be back for another vote, likely later this week.
If it still passes the House as expected, HB 24 would need to pass the Alaska Senate before it can go to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature.
Debate on whether the state’s oil tax system should be overhauled continued in fits and spurts on Wednesday. By early evening, the Senate had considered seven amendments to a bill flattening the tax rate on oil companies and shifting incentives for credits.
So far, only one has passed. An amendment supported by 11 members of the majority would set the base tax rate on oil at 35 percent. An earlier version of the bill would have included an automatic 2 percent reduction to that amount three years from now. According to state estimates, that would have cost the state an extra $300 million in lost revenue at forecasted levels of oil production.
The Democratic minority offered most of the other amendments, with some aimed at bringing back progressivity and others narrowing the application of certain tax credits.
But one of the more popular of the failed amendments actually came from Republican Gary Stevens. The Kodiak senator introduced a measure that would cause the tax changes to sunset after three years if the legislature determined they weren’t working. He said that, as written, the bill risks giving industry too much of a tax break without a guarantee of increased production.
“It is tying us into something that is enormously expensive for a very long time unless we have an escape clause,” Stevens said.
Those carrying the bill argued that a sunset on the bill would create uncertainty for oil companies. The measure ultimately failed 11-9, but earned the support of the Senate Democrats and Sitka Republican Bert Stedman.
The oil tax bill is one of Gov. Sean Parnell’s major priorities. Supporters say it’s necessary to put more oil in the pipeline, while critics are concerned that it would bring down state revenue by roughly a billion dollars each year without any commitments from oil companies to ramp up production.
As of press time, debate on the bill was ongoing, with more amendments expected.
After years of problems, which halted the Port of Anchorage project, the Municipality of Anchorage is suing the designers.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration filed the lawsuits in response to recent studies released by the engineering firm CH2M Hill. That company faulted the port’s design. Robert Owens is an Assistant Municipal Attorney with the city. He says the municipality has been investigating problems with the port project since they arose 2009.
“When the suitability study was completed we found out the full extent of the problems,” Owens said.
There were multiple problems with the project, which used a patented “open cell sheet pile” design. These sheets of metal, driven into the ground, shored up by metal supports, with earth filled in behind, were supposed to create a base for the port, but some crumpled or separated during construction. Owens says besides the problems that came up during construction, the CH2M Hill report indicates the port structure might not hold up during an earthquake.
“It was unstable. It could fall or tip or collapse in some fashion, because part of it, the native soils that it’s sitting on, Bootlegger Cove Clay, is unstable or could liquefy. It wasn’t just the way it was built, but really more that it won’t stand the test of time. There’s real concern that it won’t be stable over time,” Owens said.
The now defunct VECO Corporation produced a stability study on the port and VECO was then purchased by CH2M Hill. Now that company says its predecessor’s study was bad. The municipality is suing three parties: Integrated Concepts and Research Corporation, or ICRC; CH2M Hill Alaska, and PND Engineers. Kenton Braun is the Vice President of PND Engineers. He defends his company’s design and says the problems arose because of incorrect installation.
“The reason that we’re all talking is because the construction went bad out there and it was the methodology that led to the problems,” Braun said.
Braun says contractors to ICRC, the general contractor working for the Maritime administration, which was managing the project for the city, are responsible.
“We were tasked to design the facility. What happened was it went wrong when it went to construction – it was an inexperienced contractor that got involved and failed to construct it properly,” Braun said.
Braun says contractors tried to drive the metal sheets into the earth by pounding them in at close-range from the shore with a pile-driving hammer. He says the slope began to erode into the partially constructed wall increasing pressure, making it difficult to drive the sheets in. He says they could have used a barge from the water side, which is a method that had been proven successful.
The port project was started back in 2003 under Mayor George Wuerch and Port Director Bill Sheffield. The Design was approved in 2006 Under Mayor Mark Begich. Sheffield was still the Port Director. The Sullivan administration has led the push to get the Municipality reimbursed for its losses.
The Municipality has an ongoing relationship with the U.S. Maritime administration to complete the project and is not suing them. Earlier this month, CH2M Hill released a second study and presented three new designs for the administration to consider. Attorneys say they will likely decide on a new design in the coming months.
Under Senator Murkowski’s plan, coastal states would receive 27.5 percent of revenue generated from offshore energy.
In Alaska, a quarter of that sum would go to coastal boroughs with the rest going into state coffers.
Senator Murkowski said coastal states deserve money brought in from federal waters.
“We willingly want to access these resources; they provide good jobs and benefits most certainly,” she said at Wednesday morning press conference. “But there is impact. There is undeniably impact.”
“Impacts” like new infrastructure and traffic to oil spills, something neither she nor Senator Mary Landrieu mentioned when they unveiled their bill. Landrieu, a Democrat, represents oil-rich Louisiana.
The plan creates revenue sharing of 50 percent for onshore renewable energy projects. Senator Murkowski said that puts renewables and fossil fuels on the same plane, because states now take home half of federal revenues for onshore oil, gas and coal development.
And the new bill would also allow states to pocket an extra 10% of the federal offshore revenue, if they opt to use it to create conservation funds, or invest in renewable energy.
Senator Murkowski said that could raise a state’s total stake to 37.5%.
“We want to do more to encourage the development, the research and development, the build out of our clean energy sources,” she said. “What better way to do that, to help pay for that, than from some of our offshore energy opportunities?”
Just last week President Barack Obama proposed his plan to use money from offshore lease sales to encourage investment in alternative fuel cars and trucks.
Including the money for conservation and renewable energy may win over some skeptical Democrats, but not all.
Eight Democratic senators are circulating a letter opposing revenue sharing; saying any money generated from lease sales should go to paying down the debt, and oil spilled off the coast of one state could harm neighboring ones.
Senator Landrieu said Gulf Coast States have contributed $211 billion to the treasury in oil and gas revenues, and that helps the entire country.
“There are only four states producing that money. It’s not Illinois. It’s not New Jersey. It’s Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama,” she said at the same press conference.
That’s a dig at Senators Dick Durbin, Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg. They represent Illinois and New Jersey and signed the letter of opposition.
Durbin is the number two Democrat in the Senate.
The bill does not call for any increased production, so overall, the federal government would earn less money if the bill became law. Congress will need to find cuts elsewhere to offset the loss of federal revenue.
Both Senators Murkowski and Landrieu deferred any talk of cost to the Finance Committee, a committee neither serves on.
Senator Mark Begich introduced his own revenue sharing bill earlier this year, one that looks quite different from Senator Murkowski’s.
He said his plan would put more money into the local economies and Native Corporations but less into the state.
“The key for me is making sure the local communities, including the tribes are part of the equation,” he said before a Senate vote.
He said the two plans can be reconciled.
Either would have to pass the Senate Energy Committee before it can be considered by the whole Senate.
There’s no planned committee action yet.
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On March 15, volunteers with the Iditarod Trail Committee discovered a five-year-old husky had been buried and asphyxiated by drifting snow in Unalakleet. Wednesday, ITC released the results of an investigation into the death.
The dog, named Dorado, had been dropped at the Unalakleet checkpoint on March 11 by rookie musher Paige Drobny of Fairbanks. But high winds and poor weather on March 14 grounded commercial airplanes and race personnel were unable to fly dropped dogs back to Anchorage. More than 130 Iditarod race dogs were being cared for in Unalakleet, a regional hub along the Iditarod trail.
As the storm became more severe, volunteers moved just over 100 dogs inside. Due to lack of space, they relocated roughly 30 to what they call “a more protected outdoor area.” According to a press release, an Iditarod Trail Committee Volunteer Veterinarian checked on the dogs around 3:00 a.m. At 8:30 a.m. another round of checks took place. Eight dogs were found buried by drifted snow, including Drobny’s dog Dorado, who was found deceased.
Preliminary necropsy results indicate the dog died of asphyxiation. Further results will be available within the next 30 days.
Mushers often drop dogs during the race to prevent injury, illness and sometimes even as part of their race strategy. Dropped dogs are left in the care of volunteer race veterinarians at checkpoints.
Over the last week, Race Marshall Mark Nordman, head Veterinarian Stewart Nelson, as well as Paige Drobny and husband and fellow musher Cody Strathe and other Iditarod personnel have met for a series of discussions on how to improve care of and handling of dropped dogs.
In its press release, the ITC lists a number of mitigation measures to ensure better dog care in the future. The race will build dog boxes to house dogs in both the McGrath and Unalakleet checkpoints. The organization will also arrange for more frequent flights out of checkpoints. Veterinarians will also patrol dog lots where dropped dogs are staying more frequently in the future.
Race officials will continue to work with mushers and volunteers involved on dog care issues. In a post on her kennel’s website, musher Paige Drobny called the ITC’s announcement “positive change.”
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A Bethel man has pleaded guilty to fraudulently using the official letterhead for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The forgery was used in letters he mailed out to several local villages last spring.
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The Matanuska-Susitna Borough’ s unique economy is affecting many other areas of the state. That’s the word from a noted economist, who outlined his findings before the Borough Assembly on Tuesday.
Economist Neal Fried is calling it a “boom”. Fried says the Borough’s growth is reflected in housing, schools — almost every area — except, paradoxically, in employment.
But Fried says local job growth is actually not a good indicator of the Mat Su area’s economy. Although about one thousand retail, health care and hospitality jobs were added over the past decade, the Borough’s jobs growth has been tied firmly to Anchorage. Fried says over 40 percent of workers living in Mat Su earn their paychecks elsewhere.
“Anchorage obviously is the biggest place that those earnings come from, but a big chunk comes from the North Slope Borough,” Fried said.
He says the Mat Su provides the second largest supply of labor to the North Slope after Anchorage. What does this mean to the state? Fried is not sure. He says the Valley contributes to the state’s broader growth, but one of the areas that Mat Su differs from the rest of the state is in the jump in Valley school enrollment:
“It’s been very rapid here, very different story from what’s happening to elsewhere in the state. Same with population growth, you know, population’s been growing much faster. So, you know, if you need more infrastructure, whether it’s new roads, more schools, there’s probably more demand for that in a place that’s growing fast,” Fried said.
While school enrollment in other areas of the state peaked in 1999, and has since declined, Mat-Su schools grew 9 percent during the last five years. So building more schools and creating more infrastructure will cost the state but, Fried notes, Mat Su’s affordable housing benefits the state on the whole
“In some way, the Mat-Su Valley kind of exports housing. I know that sounds strange, but exports housing to the rest of the state, because a lot of the people who live here don’t work here. They work all over. They can live somewhere else. They don’t necessarily have to live here, but they choose to live here. So, in a sense, the Mat Su Valley is providing housing services to a significant slice of Alaska’s population, whether they work on the Slope, Anchorage, Red Dog, Bristol Bay or somewhere else,” Fried said.
The pattern of labor and housing “exports ” from the Mat-Su has benefited Mat Su’s economy. Fried’s research shows that more earnings flow into the Mat Su than flow out, making it unlike any other part of the state.
“It’s very significant. You know, the last year I looked, 8 percent of the Valley residents work on the Slope, but almost $220 million flow in from payroll from the Slope. And almost as much earnings come from Anchorage to Valley residents than earnings from Valley residents earning their wages right here in the Valley,” Fried said.
Fried says these trends have been not changed for quite a while and are expected to continue. He says population growth is the most important indicator of the areas’s economy. Between 2000 and 2012, Mat Su population grew some 58 percent, compared with Anchorage growth of 15 percent and the state’s 17 percent. For more information on Mat Su’s economy, see Alaska Economic Trends for February.
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A Village Public Safety Officer has been shot and killed in the community of Manokotak, about 25 miles southwest of Dillingham.
VPSO Thomas O. Madole, 54, is dead of an apparent gunshot wound. The Alaska State Troopers arrested Leroy B. Dick, Jr., 42, of Manokotak. Dick is being held at the Dillingham jail, facing charges of murder in the first degree.
The State Troopers in Dillingham took a report of shootings in Manokotak at about 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. Unable to get hold of VPSO Madole, the Troopers flew to the village an hour later. Madole was found dead outside a residence.
Few other details have been released. The State Troopers, along with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, are continuing to investigate the scene.
“This is tremendously tragic,” said Colonel Keith Mallard, the Director of the Alaska State Troopers. “The relationship that we have with VPSO’s, we rely heavily on each other. What the VPSO brings to a community is continuity in the public safety. They are someone the community is able to build a relationship with and come to trust. Likewise, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do if we didn’t have the support of fine professionals like VPSO Madole.”
Village Public Safety Officers serve as first responders in communities typically without police or State Trooper detachments, and carry out their duties unarmed. Madole, one of two VPSO’s in the village, had been assigned to Manokotak since 2011.
“Tom was well respected within our community,” says Gayle Bartman, 24, who works at Manokotak Gas & Oil. “He was a very kind person, and would make twice-a-week visits at work just to talk, tell stories, and joke with us.”
Col. Mallard said the last time a VPSO was killed in the line of duty was in 1986. Ronald Zimin, 36, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence situation in the Bristol Bay borough.
“As soon as VPSO Madole’s body is removed from the scene, he will have a State Trooper or a VPSO with him up until the time of his burial,” said Col. Mallard. “Whether that’s in-state or out-of-state, we intend to stay with Tom until he’s put to rest.”
Madole is survived by a wife in Missouri, and a son in Bethel, Alaska.
The U.S. House Committee on Ethics is creating a subcommittee to investigate whether Congressman Don Young violated code of conduct. The subcommittee will probe Young’s expenses and travel costs.
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Legislation that would overhaul the state’s oil tax system has been moving its way through the Senate. Tuesday, the bill made it to the floor. While there wasn’t a formal debate on the bill, Democrats in the minority took advantage of the procedural motions to raise questions about how the changes would affect the state treasury.
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A healthcare organization with thousands of patients in Southeast Alaska expects a massive hit to its budget.
The head of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, or SEARHC, says it’s the result of federal spending cuts known as sequestration.
CEO Charles Clement says his organization is bracing for a $3.5 million budget cut over the next six months.
“There is no possible way for SEARHC to absorb this amount of reduction,” he said.
Clement says the reduced funding is because of sequestration, which went into effect on March 1 when Congress could not reach an agreement on the nation’s budget. SEARHC receives a large percentage of its funding from the federal government.
Clement writes that he’s traveling this week to meet with the Indian Health Service and other tribal health organizations about sequestration. And he says SEARHC executives are working with the board of directors to figure out what to do.
“What I can tell you,” Clement writes in an email, “is that budget changes of this magnitude are beyond my authority to decide.”
He says nothing has been decided so far, but that difficult decisions are on the way.
SEARHC is Southeast Alaska’s largest private employer. It provides health services to Alaska Natives and other beneficiaries at its hospital campus in Sitka and through providers in Juneau. It also works in smaller communities throughout the panhandle.
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The state Board of Fisheries started its meeting in Anchorage Tuesday. Board members heard Alaska Fish and Game staff reports, as well as one from the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force. The task force was formed last year to consider options in making changes to how late run Kenai River king salmon are managed. Changes in those rules would influence Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishing regulations. Fish Board members Tom Klubertson and Vince Webster co- chaired the task force. Klubertson told the Board poor Chinook runs last year forced fisheries managers to severely curtail all types of fisheries to try to make Chinook escapement goals.
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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has a new proposal for defining handicrafts made out of sea otter pelts. The agency sets rules for hunting of sea otters and other protected marine mammals.
Its rules allow coastal Natives to hunt otters for traditional and subsistence use. And it permits pelts to be sold to non-Natives after they’re significantly altered.
But part of the rules are hard to decipher. And different interpretations have led to citations, fines and other legal action.
Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl is part of a region-wide effort to expand the otter business.
“Our desire is to move away from the vague language that we’ve had that has resulted in some consternation with the hunters and with the craftspeople in not knowing what’s legally acceptable,” she says.
The Fish & Wildlife Service has released new wording and is taking comments through May 17th.
It defines “substantially altered” as weaving, carving, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, painting and some other methods.
Fish and Wildlife’s Bruce Woods says artisans can make mittens, hats, gloves, purses and scarves. But it prohibits some larger items.
“If someone simply drew a picture on the back of a tanned sea otter hide and attempted to sell that as significantly altered, someone who was running a souvenir factory conceivably could buy those hides and turn them into a whole series of little otter dolls and sell them in competition (with) people who are doing the work as a handicraft,” Woods says.
Woods says Native craftspeople could work in cooperatives or other groups. But they could not use extensive mechanization or divide tasks in anything like an assembly line.
He says the new rules include input from hunters and other groups.
“So the service has been meeting with some handicrafter groups and other interested parties in an attempt to refine that definition and sort of take some of the angst out of the community of crafters who may not be certain that what they’re manufacturing is legal,” he says.
Some craftspeople are not happy with the proposed rules.
Worl says crafters worked with the Indigenous People’s Council for Marine Mammals and other organizations to come up with their own, more flexible proposal. But that’s not the Fish and Wildlife Service draft.
“All of us are busy studying it right now, but there’s a lot of unhappiness that it came out of the blue. So it’s like we’re back to the drawing board,” Worl says. (Hear a report from the last round of otter handicraft proposals.)
The heritage institute is training tribal members to sew otter pelts to help build a cottage industry, especially in economically depressed villages.
Worl says the workshops have waiting lists and more are planned.
The effort comes as hunters, lawmakers and scientists debate the impacts of rapid otter population growth in Southeast and some other parts of the state. Bills in the House and Senatewould subsidize hunting with a $100-per-pelt bounty.
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A fish processing vessel went aground near the Ouzinkie on Friday. The 169-foot “Pacific Producer,” out of Seattle, hit bottom between Kodiak and Spruce Island with sixteen aboard. Ten were rescued and taken to Kodiak, while the rest hope to re-float the vessel at high tide.
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Preparations are officially underway for the Kulluk drill rig’s trip to Asia.
Early Tuesday morning, three tugboats maneuvered the Shell rig out of its berth in Unalaska and onto the deck of the Xiang Rui Kou heavy lift vessel. More than a dozen residents headed down to the beach along Captains Bay Road to watch the operation.Before crews got started, marine pilot Carter Whalen said they would have a hard time moving the Kulluk because of its domed shape.
“With three different tugs pulling on it with lines, it has a tendency to spin one way or the other. And once it starts spinning, it’s hard to stop it from spinning,” Whalen says. “It slides transversely through the water. It’s kind of a balancing act, rather than having to use a lot of power. It’s kind of a finesse.”
When reached this afternoon aboard the Kulluk, Whalen said the tow was going smoothly. Engineers fit the Kulluk into place on the deck of the Xiang Rui Kou, without the help of divers or remotely operated underwater vehicles. Once the Kulluk was properly positioned, the lift vessel emptied its ballast tanks and rose up from the water, taking the oil rig with it.
“Then there will be a four or five day process, once she’s floated, where they will secure and weld and reinforce the Kulluk into position before they cross the Pacific,” Whalen says.
The vessels are expected to leave Unalaska toward the end of the week. They’re bound for Asia, where the Kulluk will undergo repairs on damage sustained when the rig ran aground near Kodiak in January.
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An orphaned three-month old polar bear cub found near Point Lay is getting a temporary home at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage.
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Northern Dynasty Minerals has responded to the allegations made earlier this week by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell that the company was misleading federal officials. In a written statement issued Tuesday Northern Dynasty Minerals President and CEO claimed that Senator Cantwell’s concerns have no basis in fact.
Cantwell claims that Northern Dynasty Minerals has made contradictory statements to the EPA, the Securities and Exchange Commission and investors about the EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and a potential mine plan. Ron Thiessen admits that the EPA may have used some of the information presented in the companies “Preliminary Economic Assessment” to create their mining scenario. But he says it’s the EPA alone that is responsible for designing and then assessing the effects of the hypothetical mine in the draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment”. Thiessen goes onto says that to suggest that Northern Dynasty is responsible for the EPA’s hypothetical project, which was evaluated in the draft watershed document, when the company had not involvement with the report is wrong.
In the news release Northern Dynasty Minerals noted that the companies Preliminary Economic Assessment presented a potential mine development scenario at Pebble but it did not include all the mine design information and mitigating measures that Northern Dynasty claims would have allowed the EPA to do a detailed assessment. The company claims the Preliminary Economic Assessment was intended to broadly evaluate the economics of a Pebble Mine project but did not included detailed engineering and other data. Thiessen asserts that Northern Dynasty’s filings with the SEC are legal and meet all of the required standards for those filing.
In the hours after the Cantwell letter to the SEC chairman was released several organizations involved with the Pebble Mine issued released statements. The Bristol Bay Native Corporation issued a statement expressing appreciation for Senator Cantwell’s attention to the proposed Pebble Mine. BBNC has take a position in opposition to the Pebble Mine and is calling for the EPA to step in and prevent the mine from moving forward to development. Northern Dynasty Minerals is based in Vancouver and its principal asset is the 50-percent stake in the Pebble Limited Partnership. That partnership is looking at developing a large gold and copper mine just north of Iliamna Lake.
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