APRN Alaska News
The path to unified management of Kuskokwim salmon stocks is uncharted, but along the way, the newly established Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission wants involvement at each step. That begins with tribal consultation in preparations for another summer of sacrifice. The commission’s inaugural meeting concluded Wednesday in Bethel.
Another weak run of king salmon is expected this summer after several years of decline. State and federal managers are planning a slate of restrictions on par with last years, which brought in the smallest king salmon harvest on record.
Delegate Arthur Lake of Kwigillingok wants tribes to be parts of the decisions.
“Management, not advisory. It’s our hope that state and federal managers and regulators embrace that,” said Lake.
The river will again be splintered between federal control below Aniak and state management above the community at the border of the Yukon Delta Refuge. What’s called a demonstration project for co-management is slated for next summer in the form of a federal committee with tribal and rural input on fish management, but this summer, the commission is pushing for tribal consultation on a level never seen before.
Commission Vice Chair, Nick Kameroff, of Aniak will be one of three chosen to meet at least weekly to consult with managers.
“Everybody hopes they’re received well. Of course we’re not going to have everyone happy, but I’m looking for the future of the resources, rather than my needs right now,” said Kameroff.
The needs are real for Phillip Peter of Akaichak looking at another tough year of closures.
“You mention 60 days, it’s really hard to swallow 30 days or 20 days or 10 days. It’s really hard to swallow,” said Peter.
A wide ranging discussion revealed a vast spectrum of ideas on what conservation means. Some delegates suggested using eight-inch mesh gear, which is designed to catch large king salmon or going back to the traditional wide open fishing schedule. Others pushed for a much more conservative approach.
Though not a delegate, Bethel’s Mary Sattler said the commission has a big opportunity and responsibility for the future of the at-risk king salmon.
“Our fishermen are so good at fishing, they’ll catch them all if that’s what the tribal fish commission wants them to do. The only way we can conserve this king run is if we say conservations starts with me, conservations starts with family, conservation started with my village,” said Sattler.
Jonathan Samuelson captured the commissions’ challenge in bringing together voices from the river. He represented Georgetown, but was raised downriver and upriver.
“We need to be mindful that we come from different worlds along the same river and be open minded and understand that people are going to have different options and different views. But that’s doesn’t mean we can’t come out of it with a untied voice,” said Samuelson.
The million dollar question is what federal and state managers do with a more vocal and organized tribal presence in another critical year.
Geoff Haskett is in charge of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska.
“This commission is going to have way more ability to influence decisions and discussions. We’ve been working on this for the latest month and a half, working with the state, trying to get as many comments as we possibly can. We’re not going to get everything right. But I need to let you know our intent is to utilize this commission to act upon the things we talk both and have more discussions. We’re trying,” said Haskett.
Closures on the lower Kuskokwim will go into effect beginning May 21st.
The Yup’ik fishermen who were cited for fishing during a closure on the lower Kuskokwim River will not appeal their case to the Alaska Supreme Court.
The Alaska Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision in March.
An attorney with Anchorage-based law firm, the Northern Justice Project, James Davis, who represented the fishermen, says they decided not to appeal for several reasons.
First, he said they did not think there was a very good chance of the Supreme Court acting to protect Native subsistence rights based on his interpretation of the court’s history.
Secondly, the court of appeals acknowledged that Native subsistence rights had a spiritual component, said Davis, and might be deserving of protections under the religious protections of the constitution and they did not want the Supreme Court to invalidate this idea.
Davis adds that the new governor wants to build bridges to the Native community and is interested in partnering with tribes.
In 2012, dozens of Yup’ik Alaska Native fishermen were charged with violating the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s emergency orders when they fished for king salmon on the Kuskokwim River. Thirteen defendants appealed. The defendants argued their fishing was a religious activity, and that they were entitled to a religious exemption under the free exercise clause of the Alaska Constitution.
The court of appeals said the health of the diminished king salmon run outweighed the fishermen’s individual rights.
Davis says the better forum to challenge the state’s undermining of Native subsistence is in federal court, but says they are not pursuing a federal case now.
Davis adds that even though the Yup’ik fishermen didn’t prevail in court, they accomplished what they set out to do, which is to make the state acknowledge the critical importance of Native subsistence rights and their connection to Yup’ik spirituality.
Yukon Kuskokwim Delta tribes have been working toward tribal co-management of the Kuskokwim River’s struggling salmon population in meetings in Bethel this week.
Attorneys for Greenpeace Inc. have again asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Royal Dutch Shell PLC seeking expanded, court-ordered safety zones to keep protesters away from Shell’s Arctic drill fleet.
In a motion filed Monday in Anchorage, Greenpeace attorneys say Shell has demonstrated no property damage or delay from protesters last month boarding the Blue Marlin, a heavy-lift ship crossing the Pacific.
The ship carried a drill rig leased by the oil company for use this summer in the Chukchi Sea.
Lawyers for the conservation group say Shell wants to stop peaceful, legal protests.
Shell attorneys last week said expanded safety zones are needed to protect crews and the protesters. They say Greenpeace’s boarding of the ship will cost the company time and money for inspections.
A federal judge has granted Alaska’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who died in a 2010 military plane crash.
The Alaska Dispatch News reports that U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick dismissed the civil lawsuit Monday. He says the flight was a military operation, making it immune to civil litigation.
The C-17 military cargo plane crashed during a July 2010 training flight for the Arctic Thunder air show at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The crash killed three Alaska National Guardsmen and one active duty Air Force member.
Theresa Dayton filed the suit against Alaska in December 2012. Her attorney argued that the plane’s pilot developed and used unauthorized flight maneuvers.
Her attorney did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
An argument between members of an Anchorage painting crew erupted into a shooting that left one man seriously wounded and another under arrest.
Anchorage police say 53-year-old Jeffrey Allen Skillingstad was taken into custody on suspicion of felony assault, weapons misconduct and reckless endangerment.
Police at 10:17 Wednesday took a call of a shooting on Lunar Drive west of Scenic Park Elementary School off Tudor Road.
Police say Skillingstad was part of a three-person crew painting condos.
An argument over painting equipment broke out. Police say Skillingstad shot one co-worker, striking him twice, and fled in a white van. He was arrested on Friendly Lane off Muldoon Road.
Skillingstad was jailed with bail set at $250,000.
Police say the shooting victim is expected to recover.
Rick Caulfield has been UAS’s provost, or chief academic officer, for the past five years. Prior to that, he was a professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks for about 20 years. He started out in the UA System as an instructor at UAF’s Bristol Bay campus in 1985.
As chancellor, Caulfield says his biggest challenge will be dealing with budget cuts.
“At this point, we’re still uncertain about the exact dollar amount that will impact UAS. We think it’ll be something like $2.3 million,” Caulfield says.
The school’s total budget is $59 million.
Across the three UAS campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, there are about 110 full-time faculty and 220 staff members. Caulfield says, due to the unfinished state budget, he doesn’t know how many positions the college will cut.
“But I would say, at the same time, we’re looking at ways to generate new revenue, whether it’s federal funding, grant opportunities or ways of attracting more students to our programs,” Caulfield says.
He hopes to build up UAS online degree programs. He wants to attract Alaskans who never completed college but want to. UAS has about 3,000 students, most are part-time.
Caulfield says he also hopes to expand the college’s programs in Northwest Coast art. UAS worked with Sealaska Heritage Institute to submit a federal grant proposal for $2.3 million.
Caulfield says he intends to maintain John Pugh’s legacy of focusing efforts on students who aren’t traditional students — people who work and have families while taking classes.
“He deeply cares about student success. He deeply cares about engaging with students and encouraging them in their education and my hope is to continue that practice of showing how at UAS we really care about the success of our students,” Caulfield says.
Caulfield is originally from California but just celebrated his 40th year in the state. He came to Alaska in 1975 and later married his wife Annie in Gustavus. He earned his doctorate in the United Kingdom in 1994 based on research on aboriginal subsistence whaling in Greenland and the Arctic.
With education a hot button issue in the ongoing budget debate, one school in Sitka is definitely safe this fiscal year. The state-run Mt. Edgecumbe High School will continue to receive $4.6 million from the Department of Education and Early Development (EED). That money goes directly towards boarding over 400 students from around the state.
Dionne Brady is a Mt. Edgecumbe alumna. Class of 1991. Back in February, when the House Finance Subcommittee was talking about what cuts could be made to education, she was surprised that Mt. Edgecumbe came up. The conversation, led by Representative Lynn Gattis of Wasilla, asked how much the school cost the state. But as Brady put it, the underlying question for many teachers and students was “whether or not Mt. Edgecumbe is even needed anymore, at all.”
Brady is a social studies teacher and she said her first reaction was denial. “Even as a government teacher who should have been more aware of the possibility that state revenue that’s so dependent on oil would decrease, that this school might not exist forever never occurred to me. I’ll confess that my second – because it’s like a second home to me – my second reaction was anger.
Brady took to the Friends of Mt. Edgecumbe Facebook page, which has almost 1000 followers. A network of alumni around the state began making phone calls, writing letters to legislators, and uploading photos of themselves with Braves sweatshirts and hats. Their colors are maroon and gold. Brady said it was a springboard point for lessons in her class, to “kind of show students how the government works and how the budget process works.”
“Underclassmen who definitely knew they wanted to continue their education at Mt. Edgecumbe were very worried at that time,” said Brady. “I think this just sort of validated what we’ve been telling them. That it’s not not an inalienable right for Mt. Edgecumbe to exist. In fact, we live in a fishbowl with people always trying to see whether Mt. Edgecumbe is doing the job it’s kept open in order to do.”
And according to the administration, what the school is trying to do is provide an educational alternative for students around the state, some in rural places with less opportunities. Ayla Reynolds is a new student I met at the beginning of the school year. She’s from Savoonga, an island in the Bering Sea.
“It’s a big world out there. There’s a lot of stuff to do than stay at home on an island,” said Reynolds. “It’s the same old routine every day on an island. I couldn’t envision how it was going to be [at Mt. Edgecumbe] because it’s a new adventure.”
Superintendent Bill Hutton said he’s relieved the funding will continue, but with one major hitch: it may not be enough this year to cover the rising cost of operating the boarding school. Contracts for dorms and food service, as well as personnel costs, are up.
“And with flat funding – flat sounds like it’s perfect, but really we have incremental increases in expenditures,” said Hutton. “We have to cut in order to be prepared for those.”
Also of major concern for Hutton is how much money the school receives from the legislature per student enrolled. The legislature proposed a cut of 1.1% to the foundation funding, which translates into $46,000 less for Mt. Edgecumbe. If that figure survives the special session, it will leave the school — and likely many others — with a deficit.
“As of right now, we’re about $220,000 short for next year,” said Hutton. The school’s annual budget is $10 million, with 45% coming from the legislature, 45% from the EED, and 10% from grants.
To prepare, Hutton is planning to purchases a minimum of school supplies, reduce travel for student activities, reduce dual-credit programs with the University of Alaska Southeast, and keep two and a half open teaching positions empty. But much is up in the air.
Hutton’s experience speaks to the odd situation many superintendents are finding themselves in as their await the final budget: to plan for a financial future with a foggy crystal ball.
One of Seward’s city-owned sewage lagoon is currently drained and non-functioning, according to a city schedule for maintenance. And that has caused a problem.
On Tuesday, the Seward City News reported litter being washed up on a local beach at high tide. The trash consists of small bits of cardboard packaging, some plastic individual condiment containers and cigarette butts. The debris is thought to be coming from Spring Creek prison. Sewage headed for the unused lagoon is supposed to be collected and trucked away, but some of it is escaping a primary screening process, according to Seward city executive liaison Jackie Wilde.
“We assume the debris came from Spring Creek [prison] but it’s condiment packages that haven’t been used at the facility for some time, they are not biodegradable. During the sludge removal process they got stirred up and made it through the screens that were on the pump and made it out on a fallout line.”
The city organized a cleanup plan Tuesday and is currently taking measures to mitigate the problem.
“The city public works has four people on the beach cleaning right now along with six people that are at the lagoon itself cleaning, and Spring Creek has been actually been very cooperative and has people on their site also.”
Cleaning efforts can only take place at low tide.
The trash washed up on Fourth of July beach and some is caught on a fence around the sewage lagoon. The Spring Creek Prison has a sewage outlet pipe near the beach. Sherrie Daigle, spokesperson for the state Department of Corrections, says minimum security inmates are helping with the cleanup.
Russ Maddox is a Seward resident who is active in environmental matters. Maddox says he was alerted to the mess Tuesday.
“Apparantly somehow they over flowed or some sewage or wastewater passed through without being filtered out and unfortunately it covered the beach right there. And so we went back out this morning hoping the city would be cleaning it up and sure enough they were there starting a cleanup and we checked it out. It was low tide so we could see it was all spread out through the intertidal zone, and there is a tidal pool right at the mouth of Spring Creek and the bottom of it is littered with this debris under waters. “]
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been notified and is sending a site inspection team.
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 @aprn.
Sen. Sullivan Lashes Out Against ANWR Management
Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.
The head of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service this morning appeared before a U.S. Senate committee to defend his budget. Sen. Dan Sullivan took the occasion to question him about the management of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Berkowitz Nabs Mayoral Victory After High Voter Turnout
Zach Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage voters elected Ethan Berkowitz by a wide margin yesterday to be the city’s next mayor. The runoff consisted of two candidates from opposite sides of the political spectrum.
Gov. Walker Establishes Pot Board
Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau
Gov. Bill Walker has signed a bill establishing a board to regulate the marijuana industry.
Program Provides Housing, Life Skills To Help Youth Succeed
Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage
Research shows kids who age out of foster care are less likely to finish high school, find jobs, or go to college. But one organization in Anchorage is trying to change the outcome for former foster kids and other young adults who need to learn the skills to live independently.
Education Department Funding for Mt. Edgecumbe Preserved
Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka
With education a hot button issue in the ongoing budget debate, one school in Sitka is definitely safe this fiscal year. The state-run Mt. Edgecumbe High School will continue to receive $4.6 million from the Department of Education and Early Development. That money goes directly towards boarding over 400 students from around the state.
Seward Struggles to Contain Lagoon Sewage
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
With education a hot button issue in the ongoing budget debate, one school in Sitka is definitely safe this fiscal year. The state-run Mt. Edgecumbe High School will continue to receive $4.6 million from the Department of Education and Early Development. That money goes directly towards boarding over 400 students from around the state.
Tidal Echoes: Capturing Southeast Culture in Print
Elizabeth Jenkins, KTOO – Juneau
The latest edition of the University of Alaska Southeast literary journal Tidal Echoes was recently released. It takes a year to curate all of the work that goes into the book, which showcases poets, fiction writers, and artists. There’s only one requirement for submission: you have to be a full-time resident of Southeast.
In Congress, they call it “questioning witnesses” but it can sound a lot like verbal pummeling, as it did when Sullivan had his few minutes.
“How can the president of the United States, a couple of months ago, say he’s going to submit a bill to make the 1002 area wilderness — which is fine. He has a right to do that. It’s got to be approved here (in Congress). It won’t go anywhere. – but then in the meantime say I’m going to quote ‘manage the 1002 area for wilderness anyways.’?” Sullivan asked Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “That’s what he said. On Air Force 1! To big fanfare!”
(President Obama’s video statement from Air Force 1 in January doesn’t use those words, but he talked about “designating” the coastal plain for “preservation.”)
Sullivan’s question includes an assertion has been making since January, after President Obama announced he was going to ask Congress to designate new wilderness areas in the Arctic Refuge. Sullivan alleges the Obama administration also changed how the area would be managed in the meantime. Sullivan says the coastal plain of the refuge – known as the 1002 area – is being managed as wilderness, the category of highest protection, that only Congress can grant. For Sullivan, it’s another case of the president overstepping his authority.
“How can he manage the 1002 area for wilderness, when you don’t have the authority to do that? Can you explain that to me? This is a huge issue for my state,” Sullivan said, gaining energy as he continued. “And I think you’re violating the law. I think the president is violating the law. How do you do that?”
Ashe at times attempted to answer a few times but the questions kept coming. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., interrupted Sullivan to object to the inquiry style, but Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., overruled her and gave Sullivan more time.
The Fish and Wildlife Service insists it hasn’t changed its management on the coastal plain of the Refuge, an area within the South Carolina-sized federal property, in the upper right corner of the state, that Alaskan political leaders have been trying to open to oil and gas exploration for decades.
“It’s managed in an administration zoning category that we call ‘minimal management,” says Brian Glaspell, the manager of the Arctic Refuge. He says the zoning regime has remained the same since 1988.
“The wilderness recommendations of the Arctic Refuge don’t change how we currently manage any of the recommended areas, including the coastal plain,” he said.
As for how “minimal management” differs from wilderness management, Glaspell acknowledges the disparities are administrative, with little difference on the ground. For example: imagine scientists want to put a weather monitoring station in a refuge. If it’s a designated wilderness area, Glaspell says they have to go through a specific analysis to determine if the weather station is necessary for proper management of the area.
“It’s a fairly onerous process to go through that analysis and documentation,” he said. “In minimal management, though we similarly strive to maintain the natural conditions of the area, there is no requirement to conduct that kind of analysis.”
Sullivan’s spokesman says the service speaks out of both sides of its mouth. He points out that at the hearing, the director of the agency said they manage the 1002 area “to protect wilderness value.”
Also at the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, raised an issue sure to jerk some chains in Alaska. He sponsored a bill that would ban leg-hold traps and other body-gripping traps from all National Wildlife Refuges. Booker brought big photos mounted on poster board to the hearing.
“Last month in Missouri on public land, a mountain lion .. paw was found torn in one of these traps. They found nothing but the torn paw of a mountain lion,” he said.
Booker also showed a photo of a dead beagle in a trap. He says her named was Bella.
Trapping is allowed in all 16 of Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges. Proposals to ban them surface frequently in Congress.
Four decades ago, Alaska Congressman Don Young famously stuck his hand in a leg-hold trap at a hearing, in an attempt to demonstrate that they aren’t inhumane.
Research shows that kids who age out of the foster care system are less likely to finish high school, find jobs, or go to college. But one organization in Anchorage is trying to change the outcome for former foster kids and other young adults who need to learn the skills to live independently.
Twenty-two-year-old Luke Guthrie shows off the sparsely furnished kitchen of the small two-bedroom apartment he shares with a roommate.
“This is my cabinet,” he says, pulling open the aged wooden door to reveal a stack of ramen noodles and other easy-to-prepare foods. “We both have one side, each of us. That’s my cabinet. That’s Jesse’s. This is our shared table.”
His fluffy, blazing orange ponytail flows behind him as he heads to the stove to put on a kettle for tea, eager to be polite and welcoming.
“Do you guys, like coordinate? Someone’s duty to dishes on one day…?” I ask, glancing around the tidy kitchen.
“Yeah, we have a rotation chart actually. That the program provides.” Guthrie pulls out a sheet of paper the outlines each of the duties.
Guthrie is part of the Living Independent ForEver program at Shiloh Community Housing in Anchorage. The program provides low-rent housing for young adults while also teaching them life skills, like learning to live with other people.
Guthrie says it was hard at first because he never saw his roommate.
“But one night he just came out and said ‘Hey man, wanna watch a movie?’ I was going ‘Alright.’ Apparently he had a movie I wanted to watch. I can’t remember what it was. It was about robots. Fighting or something else.” He shrugs.
Guthrie grew up in Ketchikan but moved to Anchorage to go to job training. When he finished, he didn’t want to go back to the drama of his family life. But he was young and shy and didn’t really have the skills to live on his own.
Shiloh Community Housing Executive Director Verna Gibson says many kids end up in the same situation. They come from rough homes or age out of foster care and have nowhere to go. They often don’t know what is and isn’t acceptable as responsible tenants.
“Nobody wants to rent to them. They’re not good renters. They don’t know all of the rules. They turn their music up too high; they throw trash on the ground.”
Gibson says many of her former foster kids had the same problem and they needed help transitioning into adulthood. So she worked with Shiloh Baptist Church to create the L.I.F.E. program back in 2008. They don’t provide anything for free. To live in the 8-plex apartment complex, the 14 young people have to start applying for jobs from day one.
“The Bible says if you don’t work, you don’t eat,” Gibson explains. He office is dotted with religious references though the program does not have any religious requirements. “They needed to understand that they needed to work to provide for themselves. But they needed the opportunity to be put in a position to increase their skills, get their GED or diploma, and do that in a safe, affordable environment.”
The residents also learn about financial literacy, hygiene, interviewing for jobs, and showing up to work on time.
L.I.F.E. graduate Jessica Steve says the program gave her a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them. She was fired from a job because she chose to stop showing up.
“I knew the policy. I knew what I was doing. So I took responsibility for my actions. That’s another thing that Shiloh has taught me. To take responsibility for myself.”
Now, she’s starting a new job with a decent wage and knows she needs to be responsible.
Back at Luke Guthrie’s apartment, he comfortably settles into the old used couch in his living room with his cup of tea and smiles at Steve and another resident. The young adults interview each other to make sure they’re a good fit before joining the program.
“This program is like family. You gotta live like a family. Help each other,” Guthrie says.
Each week the entire group meets together to discuss their issues and their successes. He says this new, supportive family has changed his outlook on life.
“I feel more confident. More inspired. More outgoing. Before, I’m not going to lie, before, at work, as a janitor at the 5th Avenue Mall. Before, if I saw a homeless guy, I’d try to avoid him and stuff. But now, man, I just walk up, and buy him a meal if he’s hungry. I just feel like a nicer person.”
He’ll take those strengths and the skills he learned as an electrical apprentice to his new job as well. After acing the application test and the interview, he’ll begin as lead electrician for a cruise line railroad this summer.
Gov. Bill Walker signed a bill this morning officially naming the new State Libraries, Archives and Museum Building after Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff. The signing took place in the historical library in Juneau’s State Office Building.
Of Russian and Native heritage, Father Kashevaroff was the first librarian and curator of the Alaska Historical Museum and Library when it relocated to Juneau in 1919.
Bob Banghart is deputy director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums.
“He was charged with the task of getting it on its feet and going forward with it, and if you look at the diagrams of the old facility, it would almost appear to be a cabin of curiosities. He was pulling in material from all over,” Banghart says. “But you read his writings and he was deeply engaged in social issue, the studying of cultures.”
Kashevaroff acquired thousands of objects for the museum. He held the position for 20 years until his death in 1940. Kashevaroff was also the Russian Orthodox priest of Juneau’s St. Nicholas Church.
Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan’s bill naming the SLAM building also honors former Rep. Richard Foster from Nome. A reading room upstairs in the facility will be named after him.
“Richard was in the archives all the time. If he was missing on the House floor, they’d have a page go down to archives and there would be Richard,” Egan says.
The Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives, and Museum Building is being built in downtown Juneau. It’s scheduled to open to the public next May. Kashevaroff’s portrait will be on the Founders Wall located off to the right as you enter the facility.
The Ninilchik Community Library is a small building with a single room divided into sections packed full of kids’ books, Alaskana, science and history.
“I think that every child should have the opportunity to find out what a glorious thing a book can be and what a wide world is out there,” says Victoria Steik.
She lived in Ninilchik for about 20 years and that was about 15 years ago. She wanted to move back but needed to find the perfect job. And she did as the new library director. She says it’s a wonderful feeling to help bring the rest of the world to her community through books.
“Living in a village this small and this remote – I mean it doesn’t seem remote to us, but relatively speaking we are remote – and those children may not have the opportunity to go to Boston and see where Paul Revere rode or go to California and learn about the gold rush. But all the books we have can take them there,” says Steik.
And there are a lot of books- so many, in fact, that finding the space to house them is an issue. But it’s a good problem to have says Steik. The library is always looking for new and interesting volumes to add to its collection. For that, like most things here, they rely on the generosity of community members. The library has purchased about half the books it has. The rest were donated.
“Our budget is very small, painfully small. In fact, I’m not totally sure, but I know it’s less than $25,000,” says Steik. “The difficulty that we have is our funding. We have no municipality, we don’t have a city, to help us with our expenses. So, it’s truly a community library. We are having fundraisers all the time and doing things to try to supplement the very small grant we get from the state.”
But the village have stepped up to support them, says Jeff Smith, president of the library board.
“The gas hookup that we just had last year, that was done with volunteer effort and that was very nice. We have our garbage taken out by volunteers. Most of our computer work is done by volunteers,” says Smith. “Of course, the board is all volunteer effort is volunteer effort too and several of the board members volunteer time at the library to keep it open.”
As the years pass and technology and information sharing evolves, Smith says the library has tried to stay relevant by diversifying what it offers.
“We have some GED testing, we have some meetings that go on here. We would really like to expand to have our book club coming back,” says Smith. “And of course in the summer time, when you have a lot of older tourists here, this is a place that they come to access the internet.”
Steik says for permanent residents, it’s the entertainment hub for the town. There’s no dedicated movie theater and many residents don’t have access high speed internet or television.
“And in order to get TV, you almost have to have cable,” says Steik. “And we’re kind of a low-income community so a lot of people come here for videos. As a consequence of coming into the library to get videos, they’ve discovered all the wonderful books we have. So, there’s a lot more reading going on in our town because we have a lot of people who use that as entertainment.”
She says as library director, she wants to make sure the library stays attractive for younger generations. She plans to build up the collection of teen and young adult literature as well as add graphic novels and perhaps even graphic art books that students can come in and use.
She also wants to offer more storytime and activities for young children, especially in the summer when the preschool is closed and school is out of session.
But while looking to the future, she says it also does its best to remember the past. She takes pride in its large collection of old Alaskana, calling it the jewel of the library.
“In addition to a lot of the things that have been donated to us by residents who have been here for 40 or 50 [years], and of course, our native residents have been here forever, so there are a lot of cool artifacts and photographs of our community. Our community is very old and we have a lot of that history here in the library,” says Steik.
And that’s what makes libraries like these so special, says Steik. They’re more than just buildings for books. They’re special spaces made by the community, for the community, to learn and explore the whole world.
A family of black bears that used to frequent an Anchorage neighborhood and were relocated last week have found their way back to civilization, this time in a small town on Turnagain Arm.
Alaska Dispatch News reports the sow and four cubs traveled east from the Chickaloon Flats area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge where they were released to Hope.
The bears gained attention for rummaging through Government Hill trash cans. Ken Marsh with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said they had not seen evidence that the bears had gotten into any cans in Hope. They moved out of the town within hours of the sighting.
Marsh says Fish and Game received reports Saturday that new black bears were in the Government Hill neighborhood of Anchorage.
A commercial floatplane with a pilot and four passengers capsized in Ketchikan but all escaped without harm.
The Ketchikan Daily News reports the Alaska Seaplane Tours floatplane was returning from a tour late Monday morning and struck something as it landed in Tongass Narrows.
The Coast Guard says one float was punctured and it took on water.
Ketchikan Police Department Sgt. Andy Berntson says the float was sinking as the plane tried to taxi to a dock.
A skiff helped the floatplane to reach the dock. Officials were not sure if passengers climbed into the skiff or directly onto the dock.
Berntson says the airplane started to sink from the back end and capsized.
An Anchorage teen is facing a three-year sentence instead of the decade possible in exchange for pleading guilty to driving under the influence last summer and killing popular local cyclist Jeff Dusenbury.
The Alaska Dispatch News reports the defense and prosecutors said in court that they agreed to a possible three-year sentence for 17-year-old Alexandra Ellis, with two years suspended.
The court will sentence Ellis in August for backing over Dusenbury, a husband and father of one, on July 19. Officers found Ellis at her home less than half a mile away with blood alcohol content above the legal limit.
Prosecutors dropped the charge of leaving the scene of an accident in exchange for Ellis’s plea.
Dusenbury’s family and friends were in court Monday, and are planning a memorial ride for this summer.
The fire started just before 4 p.m. Monday in the Jim Howard Road area near Nikolaevsk. Anchor Point Assistant Fire Chief Doug Loshbough says the wildfire grew to about five acres before it was contained.
“It started in high grass, it appeared, and quickly ran into the woods,” says Loshbough. “And as it was going through the woods, it burned a lot of the brush on the ground and occasionally torched a tree. It was an area where it was mixed high grass and spruce trees, so there was a lot of fire going through the grass and a little bit going through the understory of the forest and occasional trees torching.”
Crews, tankers, and support vehicles responded from nearby stations in Nikolaevsk and Anchor Point. They were aided by Kachemak Emergency Services and the Division of Forestry, which brought in an air tanker, helicopter, and spotter plane.
“And because there are houses in the area, it was a pretty significant fire,” says Loshbough. “We were worried about containing it before it was able to reach a house.”
There have been no reports of structural damage or injuries. But the fire was substantial enough to warrant support from the Mat-Su.
Division of Forestry spokesperson Tim Mowry says the Gannett Glacier Type 11 Initial Attack Crew from Palmer came to provide relief and help clear hotspots.
“They’ve gone through a thousand gallons of water I think on one pile that was specifically sort of a problem area,” says Mowry. “They’re just starting the gridding process now, which is where they’re going to walk the entire fire, feeling and checking for hotspots, with their bare hands, making sure there are no hotspots left that are going to reignite.”
Mowry says the dry, warm conditions on the Kenai this winter and spring have allowed a lot of dead brush to build up, which is easy fuel for a hot and quickly-spreading fire.
“That fire spread into some hardwood, spruce and birch that were starting to burn, and when hardwoods are burning, that’s a sign that it’s really dry,” says Mowry.
This week has seen overcast skies with light rain on the southern peninsula. Loshbough says the conditions helped keep the fire from getting too big too fast. He says this time, crews got lucky.
“People should be aware that tall grass right now, if the sun comes out for a few hours, it can dry out really quickly and it’s pretty easy to get a spark in there and set it going and fire moves pretty quickly through tall grass. Once it’s off and running, it’s hard to slow down,” says Loshbough.
The fire is currently under investigation. The Division of Forestry says an unattended burn pile was responsible. A fire prevention officer is on scene and will be contacting the residence to find out more information.
They remind all residents to practice fire safety, clear dry brush around houses and on private property, and always take precautions before burning.
Drones are flying commercially for the first time in Alaska after with the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent approval.
The Alaska Dispatch News reports Alaska Aerial Media is joining about 150 other companies to gain FAA approval in April.
Commercial drones were prohibited under federal law until reforms were passed in 2012.
Founder Ryan Marlow says drones can make an impact on education, public safety and recreation.
Former state legislator Ethan Berkowitz won the Anchorage mayoral runoff with 59 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Assembly member Amy Demboski officially conceded the race around 10 pm.
Check back soon for more updates.
With Election Central in downtown Anchorage’s Dena’ina Center beginning to fill with members of the media and local politicos, early results show a sizable lead for mayoral candidate Ethan Berkowitz over rival Amy Demboski.
With 48.4% of precinct’s reporting so far, Berkowitz has about 63% to Demboski’s 37%.
The runoff election is the result of no one candidate reaching the 45% of votes necessary to win outright in the April election.
Early voting reached record numbers ahead of polls opening today, though officials caution that is not necessarily an indicator of higher overall turnout. April’s election saw the lowest returns of any recent mayor’s race at just under 28%.
Check back for results throughout the night.