Work on the Susitna-Watana dam will go forward this summer, according to a spokesperson for the state agency tasked with the project.
The Anchorage School District has opted to dissolve its girls hockey program after 10 years, citing low participation numbers as the primary reason.
ASD’s supervisor of high school education, Derek Hagler, says even though there is certainly interest in girls hockey in Anchorage, the school program just wasn’t sustainable.
“The hope, and certainly the goal, was to grow that program so each high school could field a competitive team,” Hagler said. “As the numbers have not increased and as the interest has not grown, as shown by the activities and athletics survey ASD administers each year, it became necessary to look at discontinuing this program.”
Hagler says 83 girls participate in high school hockey. He says even without the program the district will still be in compliance with Title IX – which grants equal athletic opportunities to men and women.
This year, there are 16 girls’ sports and 15 boys’ sports in Anchorage high schools, and last year over half of the athletes competing in high school sports were female.
Brent Vandenbos has been the head coach of the Dimond-West girls’ hockey team for the past two seasons. He says he has a number of upset players who he has talked to over the last couple days – including his daughter.
“My daughter will be a senior next year, and this will be her last year, and she was really looking forward to playing it again one more year,” Vandenbos said. “She played the last couple years and really improved and enjoyed it.”
Vandenbos has talked with parents as well, some of whom won’t have a daughter in high school for the next year or two, but are still upset by the cancellation of the program.
“That’s what they were looking forward to was to go to a girls high school hockey game, and their team being on there,” Vandenbos said. “You know, high school is a pretty big thing up here.”
Derek Hagler says even though the program is gone for now, the district will continue to reevaluate the situation, and if the interest level in girls hockey rises in the future, the program could be reinstated.
Greenpeace is trying to coax would-be whistleblowers to come out against the Arctic oil companies they work for. The environmental group launches a website today called Arctic Truth.
Women make up half the U.S. population but just 20% of the Senate. So the relationships among female senators tend to be close, regardless of party.
In fact, the women of the Senate gather regularly at one another’s houses for dinner. Senator Murkowski told a gaggle of energy reporters she was slated to play host this week.
“We were planning on serving halibut. Then on Monday we got the call saying the president wanted to invite the women over to his house” she said.
And that house is the White House.
“‘I said wait a minute ‘we’ve got halibut thawing for 16 people. What are we going to do?’” she recounted to the crowd.
She offered to take the fish to the White House.
Murkowski noted it was wild caught in Alaskan waters, though it’s unclear whether she or her husband caught the fish.
It turns out, you can’t just bring fish into the White House, even if you’re a United States senator. Beyond normal protocol, security is especially tight these days, with a ricin-laced letter addressed to the president intercepted last week.
“My husband then gets the call from the Secret Service saying we need to come over and inspect your halibut,” she went on.
That proved too much of a hassle, so the White House bought its own Alaskan halibut. Murkowski said it turned out well.
Sure there were substantive things discussed at dinner – ice breakers, Arctic diplomacy and energy to name a few – but Murkowski clearly preferred explaining Alaskan fish – and freezing to Lower 48 reporters.
“We start September off with a lot of fish. This is the time of year you’re looking to move that halibut.”
As for those 16 fillets: It’s been confirmed they never completely thawed, and are back in the freezer safe for consumption.
An autopsy report confirms a Fairbanks man found on fire in a downtown Post Office died of burn injuries, but does not explain the origin of the flames that killed Johnny Wallis.
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Students at Sitka’s alternative high school have decided to confront the methamphetamine problem head on, and they’re encouraging the rest of the community to join them at an event in early May.
Paulette James is a junior at Pacific High School. She’s been working since the beginning of the school year to understand meth, and the particular risks of this addiction.
“When you go in to look at the stories of meth and everything, they didn’t know that their life would completely turn over, that they’d lose their job, lose their family, and everything that they had or cared about — within months, or a year.”
Pacific High is tackling the meth problem by throwing light on it — first in a science class taught by Eric Matthes, and then in a community engagement class taught by Mandy Summer.
James and another student became interested in exploring the upside of meth recovery early in the school year with an event of some kind. That student left Pacific High, and James has decided to continue her effort solo. She says talking about meth can be difficult , but the stakes are high.
“This whole class has actually been a Debbie Downer, but when it comes to the positive side, it becomes a passion for the teachers and myself because there are people that we care about who are affected directly by meth. And we want to get that message out before it affects all the people we care about, and the community.”
James and the other students in Pacific High’s Community Engagement class have organized an event in early May at Sitka’s Crescent Harbor. It’s called “Got Resiliency?” They’re planning a performance by the Gaja Heen Dancers, a film screening, and a concert by local musicians, including Silver Jackson.
Resiliency means that there is a way to resist meth, and support to find your way back.
“The biggest message that we want to get out there is that, We care, and that you have value. That things may be rough, but you can always bounce back. There’s always something you can do better for yourself and you don’t need to turn to drugs or alcohol because we have resources, and if you need them, we can help you find them.”
This entire Pacific High program — the science class, the community engagement class, and the “Got Resiliency?” event — are not a project of any government agency, nor are they the result of any grant funding. The initiative for the project came from within — from Pacific High’s students and faculty.
Hillary Seeland, another teacher at the school, says, “We’d identified that meth was becoming an issue, and decided to face it head on.”
Cruise ship season has officially kicked off in Kodiak. The Crystal Symphony called on Alaska’s emerald isle early yesterday morning, and brought with it 480 passengers and 550 crew members. Despite the rain, hundreds of tourists were able to explore the downtown area. KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs caught up with some of them and filed this report.
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Alexis Will, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, calls herself a “Ninja of the Night,” but it has nothing to do with martial arts.
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The Spanish oil company, Repsol is reporting it has found oil on state leases in the Colville Delta at three of its wells on the North Slope. In a short press release the company calls the prospects “promising” and says changes in the state’s oil tax will improve development prospects. The wells are near the existing Kuparuk field. Repsol has leases both onshore and offshore in the area. It had two spills during its exploratory drilling, which is restricted to the winter season.
The city of Hoonah has responded to a lawsuit by the widow of one of the two police officers slain by John Marvin by saying Marvin was the responsible party and the other officer’s conduct was not negligent. Haley Tokuoka, widow of Officer Matthew Tokuoka, is contending that the city should have trained Sergeant Anthony Wallace better on how to handle Marvin. Wallace was also slain. Marvin was sentenced to two consecutive 99-year prison terms for the 2010 killings, which seemed to be related to a grudge he had.
Shell Oil had to postpone its Arctic drilling for a full year after one of its oil rigs ran aground off the Alaska coast this winter. But Shell’s efforts to open a new frontier of oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean continues with work conducted in Puget Sound.
The oil giant passed a key test with federal regulators last month in the waters off Anacortes, Washington.
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While things like oil taxes and education funding may get the most news coverage, every year the legislature passes plenty of bills that amount to housekeeping. Mostly, they do unexciting things, like cleaning up administrative code. And then sometimes, they lead to parking ticket holidays in cities across the state. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
This is a story of unintended consequences.
When the legislature took up a bill standardizing police-officer paperwork three years back, there wasn’t really talk of language requiring law enforcement to personally serve citations. Less explicit versions of that provision had been on the books since the 1980s, and the idea behind it is you want officers to get the right guys when they issue tickets for things like speeding or underage drinking.
“The Department of Law, the Department of Public Safety, the legislature were thinking about rules that apply across the state for when a police officer wrote you a citation face to face, and making sure that everybody got treated equally and fairly,” says Jesse Kiehl, a member of the Juneau Assembly. “They were not thinking about parking tickets.”
Juneau is just one of many cities across the state that lets the courts handle parking ticket appeals. But as of this month, the court system won’t bother with any case where an officer stuck a ticket under someone’s windshield wiper. They offered their interpretation of the statute in a rules order that went into effect April 15.
Kiehl says that a number of cities have been caught by surprise. That list includes Kenai, Sitka, Seward, and Valdez, to name a few.
“The concern that a whole lot of communities are going to have is that if a police officer or a parking officer — a meter reader — has to write a parking ticket, either they need to wait around for the vehicle owner to come back, or cities are going to have to scramble pretty fast here to change their laws and the way parking violations are treated.”
For a city to keep leaving parking tickets on cars, they’re going to have to work out appeals through a municipal parking authority or city administrator instead of directing any contested ticket to the court. Anchorage and Ketchikan already have systems like that in place, and Fairbanks issues civil fines instead of citations in most — but not all — cases.
To complicate matters, there isn’t any way to get an emergency exception to the personal service statute. The court order clarifying the matter went into effect just a day after the legislature gaveled out; lawmakers aren’t scheduled to come back until next January.
“It’s of those bureaucratic nightmare sort of things,” says Robin Koutchak, the city attorney for Sitka.
So if this bill passed three years ago, how did this issue fall through the cracks?
Rep. Mike Hawker carried the measure on behalf of the Department of Public Safety. He says his office wasn’t that involved in the drafting of the legislation, and that it didn’t spark any controversy when it went through committee. Nobody suggested it would require cities to rewrite their parking ordinances.
“Yeah, I don’t recall any anticipated problem there,” says Hawker. “You know, bills like that get heard. We’ve got a lot of good people in the legislature that look at them. But it appears that there was an unintended consequence of the language that was inside that bill.”
Hawker wonders why cities didn’t registered their concern over the law earlier. The court system had a long review period before making their rules official. Nancy Meade, who serves as their general counsel, says that notice of the rules change was sent on three separate occasions to police chiefs and city officials, along with every attorney in the state.
“It depends on how closely they read the e-mails, and I just don’t know, but apparently some missed it,” says Meade.
The Alaska Municipal League, which lobbies on behalf of the state’s cities, was also notified of how the rule would specifically affect parking tickets a month before the legislative session wrapped up.
With no easy fixes, many communities are in limbo until they change their laws to treat parking tickets as a civil fine, if they even want to do that. Kenai, for one, is worried that they’re going to have to dedicate more staff time to handling appeals.
“We’re in a spot where we may have to raise parking ticket fees to deal with that,” says Scott Bloom, Kenai’s city attorney. He adds that the city will probably have to start towing and booting more cars if there isn’t a fix before the summer season.
As far as Juneau goes, the city’s already drafting an ordinance that would make parking tickets a civil fine, but they’re limited in the ways they can enforce parking rules until that passes.
Kiehl says that’s not ideal, but he’s not expecting mass chaos.
“The republic will not fall,” Kiehl laughs. “People by and large will park and play nice and watch their two hours or whatever the rules are. Might some scofflaw take advantage? The possibility is always there, but I think we’ll deal with this as fast as we can, and I’m sure other cities will, too.”
The state reported the first case of rabies in Alaska’s interior today. A trapper killed a wolf in the Chandalar Lakes area south of the Brooks Range in late March.
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The state of Alaska officially calls the continent’s highest peak by the native name Denali. Mount McKinley – which is what the federal government calls the mountain – sits inside Denali National Park.
So you can be forgiven if you mix up the names.
Peggy O’Dell, deputy director for operations at the National Park Service, said if Congress wants to rename the mountain, it can go right ahead.
“We don’t object. We’re happy to institute whatever decision they choose to make,” she said after the meeting.
Passing through Congress won’t be easy. This very exercise happened last year, as it has for decades, unsuccessfully.
The business meeting of the National Parks subcommittee passed with few sparks.
Colorado Democrat Mark Udall chairs the subcommittee. As he was concluding the meeting, he recounted his climb of Denali; and he’s okay with officially recognizing it as just that.
“Senator Portman hails from Ohio. I think President McKinley was Ohioan. I think we’ll have to work with Senator Portman to assure President McKinley gets the respect and attention he deserves. But I think this is a suitable step to take,” he said with the gavel in his hand.
As Udall said that, the lone Ohioan on the subcommittee entered the room. Senator Rob Portman hadn’t been seen yet, and he almost missed his chance to speak.
So the ever courteous Portman took the microphone and said he wanted to talk about just two of the 14 bills before the committee.
“A memorial to commemorate the mission of the Peace Corps, here in Washington, D.C. on federal land,” he began.
Many assumed he’d continue with the bill renaming McKinley, native son of Ohio, 25th president of the United States.
“We’re also reintroducing a bill to allow a plaque on the World War II memorial inscribed with the words of that President Roosevelt he prayed with the nation on D-Day,” he concluded.
And that was it. No mention of Denali.
For years, the Ohio delegation has successfully defended the Mount McKinley name. And the Alaska delegation has routinely failed in swaying them to give up that fight.
This first step might look like a step in the Denali direction, but because of the numerous fails in the past, it’s no sign things will be different this Congress.
If the bill manages to pass the subcommittee, whole committee and full Senate – it goes to the House, which is lead by Speaker John Boehner, who hails from the Great State of Ohio.
Frank Matumeak was born in Barrow in 1948. His mother was required to move there to attend the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Though his family had to conform somewhat to the American education system, he said his childhood was still ruled by the seasons. As part of our series looking at culture in Alaska, APRN’s Anne Hillman spoke with Matumeak about what life was like when he was growing up.
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As the Alaska Marine Highway System approaches its 50th anniversary, the ferry is struggling with its identity. Under intense pressure to cut costs, the ferry’s managers are trying to get back to basics — transporting Alaskans and their freight.
That’s why the state is trying to phase out wildlife naturalists, on all ferry routes. It’s not clear what that means for riders.
It takes the Tustumena three and a half days to sail from Homer to Unalaska. Along the way, passengers will see kittiwakes and puffins, orcas and foxes.
The route has been named a national scenic byway, but the volcanic terrain can be foreign to both for lifelong Alaskans, and visitors passing through from the Lower 48.
That’s why naturalists, like Doug Stuart, travel on the ferry. Stuart says he’s there to provide context for the scenery.
Stuart: “Of course, we give a lot of informational programs, and cover everything that goes on in the Aleutians — from World War II to the seabirds and marine mammals, and cultural issues with the Native Unangan people that have populated the Aleutians for 9,000 years.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has employed Stuart as the Tustumena’s naturalist for more than a decade. But he won’t be on the ferry this summer.
The ferry system has given a lot of different reasons for wanting to eliminate the program. One is federal budget cuts.
Federal money covers the naturalists’ salaries. Poppy Benson, who administers the program for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Homer, says money was tight for the program this year, but she managed to scrape it together by asking other refuges to chip in.
Benson: “So between Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Cold Bay and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, and Alaska Maritime, I came up with enough money to fund a season.”
Woodrow: “We were surprised to even see that they had the funding for an interpreter.”
That’s Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation. According to Woodrow, the state wasn’t expecting the refuges to come up with the money with the federal sequester in place.
Benson says the wildlife refuges thought it was just a misunderstanding — but it isn’t. As Woodrow puts it, the State of Alaska has decided that the space the naturalists take up should be sold to residents instead.
Woodrow: “It all comes down to cost. And does it help meet our core mission, which is to help move people between points A and B.”
On the Tustumena, naturalists get free room and board from the ferry system. For an entire summer, that’s about $5,000 worth of support.
But Woodrow says it’s not just about the price tag. The state isn’t convinced that the naturalists bring any business to the ferry system.
Woodrow: “From a marketing standpoint, the Marine Highway System doesn’t see an actual –- I don’t want to say a benefit, but doesn’t see that having an interpreter on board will help fill seats more, especially with the Tustumena where it’s sold out anyways.”
<p:=>Staterooms on the Tustumena are already selling out for the summer run. But according to Stuart, the Tustumena naturalist, it’s not just residents buying those rooms.
Stuart: “Quite a few people ride that ship as tourists! I would say by the time we’re out of Kodiak, we’re probably roughly 50/50 tourists and then the other 50% a mix of commercial fishermen and residents. So it’s a pretty big ridership.”
It’s gotten bigger, in recent years. Frommer’s, the famed guidebook, listed the state ferry as one of the top 100 attractions in America for families with kids. One of the big draws? The naturalists.
Stuart says he was always a big hit with tourists. But the naturalists weren’t all about serving visitors. As the ferry progressed on its trip, Stuart says naturalists made an effort to keep all of the passengers in the loop — even if they were locals.
Stuart: “It’s a very interesting area, but without having anybody explaining it to the people on board, frankly, they don’t have a clue what’s going on out there — particularly if the weather gets bad. Onboard programming, and having that information flow from me to the passengers, is important.”
To replace that, the Department of Transportation is considering adding interpretive displays, or interactive exhibits. They aren’t sure exactly what it will look like, and it likely won’t be in place in time for the ferry’s 50th anniversary this summer.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is planning a celebration, with community festivals throughout southeast and southcentral Alaska.
Stuart was planning events for southwest Alaska on the Tustumena, before he found out the naturalist program was canceled. With no one on board to help the Tustumena celebrate, the anniversary sailings in through southwest Alaska might look a lot like the ferry’s future, in all state waters.
Building a computer is child’s play, or at least it ought to be. That’s the premise behind an innovative concept in science and engineering education. As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, the Matanuska Susitna Borough School District has partnered with UAA’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, or ANSEP, to help middle schoolers achieve future university success.
“You should not need a screwdriver “…
An instructor calls out directions to a room full of kids who are working to fit tiny components together inside an otherwise empty computer case. Jackson Peters is a Wasilla sixth grader. He seems undaunted by the task at hand. I ask him to describe what he’s looking at.
“..so the bottom blue is the mother board, and then we have the RAMS, and then we have the heater like thing that cools it down, ” Yeah, the fan. ” yeah we have the fan and then we have the fan wires….”
Jackson is one of 54 sixth and seventh graders gathered in the ANSEP common room at UAA. He is reading instructions printed on a glossy sheet of paper, while ANSEP instructor calls out encouragement over the room’s scratchy wireless sound system.
The Mat Su School District middle schoolers are here to take part in the science and engineering camp ANSEP hosts every year. Dr. HerbSchroeder founded ANSEP about a dozen years ago
”It’s all about raising the bar and showing kids that they can do things that they might not necessarily consider, “ he says.
The camp is actually a 12 day activity — computer building is only part of it. The students will do some hands on engineering projects, and some hydrology work with the Forest Service to get a broad feeling for what it is like to be a scientist and engineer. The students will even dissect squid.
The program is an attempt to boost the flagging numbers of Alaska Native students who are ready for college level studies. Schroeder is outspoken about how the established education system is letting Alaska Native students down.
”Forty percent of our Alaska Native kids never graduate from high school on time. We’re spending money in ways that are not changing that number. We need to stop this. I call it paying for failure, “ he says.
The students have have taken a short break for snacks and a bit of horsing around, but now it’s time to get back to work. Two girls bend their heads over their projects.
Erin Sherman and Alissa MacLaine are sixth graders. They say after the computers are done, they will be able to use them. “Hopefully, ” Erin says, or “my ego will be damaged forever” They both laugh. Asked if the project is difficult, Alissa says that it’s not too difficult. “For you” the girls say in unison, and laugh some more. Alissa says she just looks at the pictures on the instructions mostly.
This is the first time the ANSEP Middle School academy is happening before summer vacation and it’s important, because it is also the first time that an entire school district is taking part. Schroeder says in the past, students were selected one or two at a time from a number of rural school districts.Mat Su School District superintendent Dr. Deena Paramo says two hundred students applied for the program from her district this year.
”And our goal really is to open up doors for these kids and have them challenge us. They are building a computer and they get to keep that computer. Their skin in the game is that these kids are to take algebra by eighth grade, and just challenging themselves academically to move forward in high school as well as be ready for college, “ she says.
Schroeder says ANSEP wants to extend its model of introducing math and science challenges to elementary and middle school students to twelve school districts around the state by 2018.
”And the most significant thing about the middle school academy is that, in the nation, 26 percent of eighth graders graduate with algebra one sucessfully completed. ANSEP students graduate eighth grade with algebra one completed at a rate of 83 percent, so we are more than three times better than the national average, “ he says.
Paramo says the school district’s part in the program was helped along by state STEM and Knik Tribe funds.
“It’s just an opportunity that we wanted to offer our kids and being innovative in new programs, and hopefully creating a pipeline for these kids to be engineers if they’d like, and opening those doors.” she adds.
Schroeder says he wants 3000 Alaska Native students in that pipeline by 2020 .. students from sixth grade to PhD candidates.
A Sitka woman is feeling lucky today, after escaping a fire at her apartment over the weekend. No one was injured in the blaze, which happened around 10 a.m. Saturday in the 400 block of Hemlock Street.
Elena Gustafson had been housesitting on Friday night, at a home with two small dogs.
“They didn’t like letting me sleep in late, which is fine, they’re great dogs. But I came back to my place to take a nap,” she said. “I was woken up by a pounding on my door, and my neighbors shouting ‘Wake up, your house is on fire!’”
One of the neighbors was returning home and noticed crackling sounds. The other was walking to the mailbox and happened to smell smoke.
“It’s pretty surreal to wake up to the actual sentence, ‘Wake up, your house is on fire,” she said.
Gustafson grabbed a jacket, some shoes, her wallet, and her computer, which happened to be nearby, left the house, and waited for the fire department to show up.
Eighteen firefighters responded and took two-and-a-half hours to put out the flames. Gustafson knew most of them — she’s a volunteer EMT for the fire department.
“I know I might be a little biased because I volunteer for them, but watching them respond to a fire was pretty amazing,” she said. “Terrifying at the same time, because it was my house. I kept bouncing between being completely freaked out and crying hysterically to watching this response in awe, kind of.”
Gustafson joined the fire department in 2012. As an EMT, she’s taken plenty of calls, but never to the scene of a major fire.
“They haven’t had a big one recently,” she said. “At least I gave them some practice, or the house gave them some practice.”
The fire at 410 Hemlock Street was the first time the city’s new ladder truck was used to put out a blaze. Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens called the fire “stubborn,” and says the cause was “the careless extinguishment of a cigarette” on the back deck of the apartment below Gustafson’s.
After the fire department responded to the actual fire, they turned their attention to Gustafson — one of their own. Firefighters solicited donations and help for her. So did the neighbors.
“I don’t have family here — direct relatives — but this experience has made me realize just what a family-like community Sitka is,” Gustafson said. “I feel so taken care of by so many people. It’s been overwhelming in a lot of ways, just how much support I’ve gotten. It’s been amazing.”
Gustafson lost a lot of her stuff in the fire, and had more damaged. Her passport, for example, has curly pages from hose water, and still reeks of smoke. But she says there’s a silver lining, too: At the time of the fire she’d just signed a lease for a new apartment. She’s scheduled to move in by the end of the month.
The house itself is owned by Bonnie Harris, who is reportedly traveling back to Sitka.
Just two years after reopening, the seafood processing plant in Adak is shutting down. Icicle Seafoods didn’t return calls for comment, but in a press release, CEO Amy Humphreys cites regulatory uncertainty as the deciding factor.
Fishing in the western Aleutians has been restricted in recent years to protect an endangered stock of Steller sea lions, and an anticipated division of the Pacific cod harvest between the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands could also impact shore-based processors.
The news is a blow to the City of Adak, which relies on the processing plant for 30-40 percent of its tax revenues. City manager Layton Lockett was already bracing for a difficult year after Icicle announced in February that it would be shutting down for the summer, but the total closure came as a surprise.
“Just more shocked than anything that the plug was being pulled really quickly,” Lockett says.
Icicle purchased the plant in 2011, and it had its first full year of operations last year. Lockett says it’s disappointing that Icicle gave up so quickly, but he says the situation isn’t as dire as it might appear.
“We think there’s enough potential to still do major processing out here, and unlike the last time the fish plant closed, everybody’s paid, and we’re not looking at [a two year closure]. So, we think we’re very much ahead of the game this go-around.”
In 2009, the company that previously owned the plant went belly-up, leaving the community scrambling for revenues. Lockett says the city learned from that experience.
“We’ve been saving and putting a reserve together so that if something like this were to happen again, we would have some time. And we’re very confident that we have time.”
It’s not clear exactly what is going to happen with the plant, which is owned by the Aleut Corporation and was being leased by Icicle. Lockett says the city will work hard to attract a new processor, but until then, it’s welcoming independent fisheries ventures.
Last month, a Seattle-based company sent a shipment of live crab from Adak to Dubai, and there are plans to fly halibut off the island this summer. But the only seafood processor in the Western Aleutians is now Atka Pride Seafoods, 90 miles to the east.
Alaska travelers haven’t experienced delays Lower 48 travelers are enduring because of air traffic controller furloughs. Sunday marked the first day of the furloughs which are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to cut 5 percent from their budget as a result of sequestration.
The air traffic controller furloughs are arriving at a relatively fortunate time for Alaska.
“All the tourists aren’t here yet, the float planes aren’t flying, there’s not a lot going on out in the bush that’s related to summertime activities,” Steve Munroe, the regional vice president for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said. “So I think we’ve got a couple of weeks before it really starts to impact us quite a bit.”
When the number of flights begins to increase as summer draws closer, Munroe anticipates staffing numbers to remain roughly the same as they are for the winter flight schedules – and that could create problems.
Pilots in rural areas may experience occasional delays due to some staffing cuts at flight service stations – which work provide information on weather advisories, equipment and whatever else the pilots need – but Monroe expects the majority of the issues to pertain to flights in and around Anchorage.
“I don’t think you’ll see delays once you’re outside the Bowl area,” Munroe said. “Most of the delays are gonna come in the controlled air space where the Anchorage Tower has to talk to you.”
Until sequestration ends, air traffic controllers will have to take one furlough day every two weeks. Munroe says they are trying to spread those days out as much as possible to minimize impacts on air travel.