Alaska News

Begich Campaigns Removes Controversial ‘Crime Scene’ Ad

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:54

The campaign of Sen. Mark Begich has taken down a controversial TV ad entitled “crime scene” that began airing Friday. The ad featured a retired Anchorage police officer who says Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan let sex offenders off with light sentences.

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“One of them got out of prison, and is now charged with breaking into that apartment, murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter.”

It essentially blames Sullivan for the 2013 crime, because he was attorney general when the suspect cut a plea deal for a prior crime that resulted in a short sentence. Sullivan immediately responded with a rebuttal ad, calling the Begich ad shameful and unfounded.

“The failure that led to Active’s release occurred before I even became Attorney General,” Sullivan said.

The double murder case hasn’t yet gone to trial, but the Department of Law previously acknowledged the suspect would probably still be in prison if it were not for a mistake when he was sentenced for a prior crime. The department found a state prosecutor in 2010 relied on an inaccurate report of the suspect’s criminal history, resulting in a deal and a four-year sentence. Because the suspect had a prior felony, the sentence, by state law, should have been at least double that.

Sullivan’s campaign says he bears no responsibility for the erroneous report.

The Begich campaign counters by circulating an image of the 2010 plea deal that resulted in the short sentence. Sullivan was AG then, and his name is on the bottom of the document.

Both campaigns took down their ads after a request by the victims’ family.

Categories: Alaska News

UA President Pat Gamble Asks Regents To Review Retention Incentive

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:53

Pat Gamble.

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has requested the Board of Regents review a $320,000 retention incentive the board approved for him in June.

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The request comes amid a surge of public criticism as the university works to address budgetary issues as state funding decreases.

Kate Ripley is the public affairs director for the University of Alaska.

“I think it just felt like the 800-pound gorilla in the room. He just thought that he needed to talk about it,” she said. “And he has told the board, ‘I would like you guys to consider this, because I think that there’s a lot of negativity going on right now, right at a time when we really need everybody to pull together.’”

The retention incentive would be awarded at the end of Gamble’s three-year contract in May of 2016.

The Board of Regents is expected to address the request at a Sept. 8 meeting in Anchorage.

Categories: Alaska News

Southeast ‘Trashwood’ Finds New Markets

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:52

Southeast residents will be able to buy locally milled lumber in the future—as small scale timber sales begin on Mitkof Island. The trees are mostly from young growth stands, comprised of what some would call “trashwood.”

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Categories: Alaska News

Brown Bear Hunting Suspended In Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:51

Last month, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it was thinking about temporarily suspending brown bear sport hunting on the Refuge until late next spring. This week, they held two public meetings to see how people felt about the proposal and on Friday, they made their decision.

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Categories: Alaska News

Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb Passes Away

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:50

Former University of Alaska Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb, age 55, passed away Monday night in Florida.

The cause of death is currently unavailable.

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Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb. (Photo courtesy UAA Athletics)

UAA Sports Information Director Nate Sagan worked with Cobb during his entire 13-year tenure. He says Cobb constantly worked to improve the lives of student-athletes by striving for excellence both in athletics and in classroom.

“The goal was always to get the student-athletes to a 3.2 combined GPA, and towards the end of his tenure, I think we actually, we finally did reach that goal,” Sagan said. “And I know that was one of his proudest days as a Seawolf, seeing that 3.2 on the final printout.”

Cobb made several changes around the department, including moving the gymnastics program to the Division 1 level, and pushing for the creation of the Seawolf Hall of Fame.

Sagan says Cobb was instrumental in the creation of the Alaska Airlines Center.

“It is ironic that this week, when we’re opening this brand new, beautiful building which he has so much influence in having built,” Sagan said. “You know, it’s kind of sad that he’s not around to witness it, even from a distance.”

Cobb was the athletic director at UAA from 2000 to 2013.

He was fired during a tumultuous off-season when questions arose over his handling of an incident where former hockey coach Dave Shyiak was accused of hitting a player with his stick.

Categories: Alaska News

British Adventurer Begins 6,000 Mile Bike Ride Across North America

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:49

A British adventurer is making her way around the world in human-powered craft. She’s rowing, kayaking, and biking from London to London. She arrived in Homer two weeks ago after kayaking up the Aleutian Chain. Over the weekend, she started the next phase of her journey – a 6,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to the East Coast.

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Categories: Alaska News

Upper Valley Agriculture: Bare Hands Farm

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:47

The average farmer in the U.S. is nearly 60-years-old. Three young and idealistic Alaskans are defying that trend with a new farm near Talkeetna. Bare Hands organic Farm is only one acre, but its owners have big plans.

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Bare Hands farm, like much of the Upper Valley’s farm land, is a little out of the way.  After leaving the Talkeetna Spur Road and driving a few miles over gravel, then through a series of private driveways, I made it there while only getting lost once.  I was met by two of the three people who operate the farm.

KNAPP: “I’m Graham Knapp.”
SYKES: “I’m Mindy Sykes.”

The third partner in Bare Hands Farm is John Sargent, who works in Bethel, but is planning on spending more time on the farm in future seasons.  In a time when the federal government says the average age of a farmer is fifty-seven, the trio represent an infusion of youth to the agriculture industry.

Graham Knapp says that he sees what Bare Hands Farm is doing as part of a larger trend within his generation.

“I think there is a movement out there with young people who want to diversify a little bit and create farms that are more community oriented, and where you typically wouldn’t find other small farms.  They just want to infuse the community with fresh, local food.”

Mindy Sykes’ reasons for getting involved in small-scale farming are rather similar to what Graham describes.

“For me, it’s probably just my love for food, and good food, and becoming more aware of how my food was grown and not wanting to partake of that, and choosing to take part in how food, in my opinion, can be and should be grown.”

While Bare Hands Farm does produce a variety of vegetables, including zucchini, turnips, and leafy greens, one of the ways that the owners have found to break into the market is by thinking small, as I discover when we walk into the greenhouse.

“Primarily, we’ve been using this for our micro-greens operation.”

Micro-greens are basically exactly what they sound like, as Graham Knapp explains.

“When a plant first comes up, it’s got it first two leaves, called the cotyledons, and when the first true leaves come in you can harvest them, and that’s considered micro-greens.”

The micro-greens are grown from a number of edible plants, and it’s possible to substitute them as ingredients in a salad, but that takes a lot of them, so Graham says that restaurants like to use them as a garnish or to add an edible visual element to a meal.

“We like to add color and find the ones that have some color to it, and we find the restaurants like that as an aesthetic quality to their plates.”

Bare Hands Farm currently sells to two local restaurants, Twister Creek and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.   Mindy Sykes says that there has been interest from other businesses, but the growing capacity will have to expand in order to take on additional customers.

“Other restaurants are interested in buying our micro-greens and using them as well, but the brewery and the lodge, with our little greenhouse, was enough for us.  In the future, with our larger greenhouse and dialing it in a little more, we’d love to be able to provide that to more people.”

After looking at the greenhouse, Graham and Mindy took me to the vegetable rows, where they have a mix of leafy greens, root vegetables, and even one pumpkin that  produced fruit.  Graham Knapp says that selling the vegetables to restaurants is something that might happen in the future, but it’s not the primary goal right now.

“Our main goal is to feed the residents of Talkeetna, and anything on top of that is good too.”

For now, feeding Talkeetnans largely means selling at a local farmers market during the summer.  While expansion is definitely being considered, Graham Knapp says that

it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of land to get a large yield.

“It’s amazing how much food you can grow in a small area.  We’re putting out a lot of food on under an acre.  We tossed around some numbers.  How big to we want to get?  Two, or three, or five acres?  But that is so much food when you’re growing right.”

One of the biggest challenges that faces Alaskan farmers is the short growing season. Graham Knapp says he wants to try different methods for extending that season to provide vegetables later in the year.

“I really want to experiment with growing into the fall a little more with the high tunnels we have coming in, and starting things really early, and really extending the seasons a lot more.”

My tour of Bare Hands Farm ended at the chicken enclosure, where more than two dozen birds were hiding from the drizzle that had begun.  Some of the birds have recently begun laying eggs, and many more will start soon.  Graham and Mindy are also raising chickens for meat, both for nutritional and ethical reasons.

KNAPP:  “Mindy and I have kind of sworn off industrial meat, because we know it’s not treated very well…”

SYKES: “And it’s not good for you.  The omega-three to sixes are off, because they’re eating food they’re not supposed to be eating, so it’s really not the best.”

KNAPP: “Yep.  We like to know that any meat that’s going to be consumed by us had a good life, ate well, lived well, and was well taken care of.”

As I got into my truck and drove away, Graham Knapp and Mindy Sykes went immediately back to work, making the most of what’s left of the Alaskan summer at Bare Hands Farm.

- See more at: http://ktna.org/2014/08/26/upper-valley-agriculture-bare-hands-farm/#sthash.IhfYLiy3.dpuf

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 2, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Tue, 2014-09-02 17:17

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Walker, Mallott Form Unity Ticket To Oppose Parnell

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Bill Walker and Byron Mallott campaigns have joined forces to try to defeat Governor Sean Parnell in November. They’re calling their combined campaign the Alaska First Unity ticket. The pair announced their decision at a packed press conference today in Anchorage.

Begich Campaigns Removes Controversial ‘Crime Scene’ Ad

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The campaign of Sen. Mark Begich has taken down a controversial TV ad entitled “crime scene” that began airing Friday. The ad featured a retired Anchorage police officer who says Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan let sex offenders off with light sentences.

UA President Pat Gamble Asks Regents To Review Retention Incentive

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

University of Alaska President Pat Gamble has requested the Board of Regents review a $320,000 dollar retention incentive the board approved for him in June.

Southeast ‘Trashwood’ Finds New Markets

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

Southeast residents will be able to buy locally milled lumber in the future—as small scale timber sales begin on Mitkof Island. The trees are mostly from young growth stands, comprised of what some would call “trash wood.”

Brown Bear Hunting Suspended In Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Last month, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it was thinking about temporarily suspending brown bear sport hunting on the Refuge until late next spring. This week, they held two public meetings to see how people felt about the proposal and on Friday, they made their decision.

Former UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb Passes Away

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Former University of Alaska Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb, age 55, passed away Monday night in Florida. The cause of death is unknown.

British Adventurer Begins 6,000 Mile Bike Ride Across North America

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

A British adventurer is making her way around the world in human-powered craft. She’s rowing, kayaking, and biking from London to London. She arrived in Homer two weeks ago after kayaking up the Aleutian Chain. Over the weekend, she started the next phase of her journey – a 6,000-mile bike ride from Alaska to the East Coast.

Upper Valley Agriculture: Bare Hands Farm

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The average farmer in the U.S. is nearly 60-years-old. Three young and idealistic Alaskans are defying that trend with a new farm near Talkeetna. Bare Hands organic Farm is only one acre, but its owners have big plans.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Democrats Vote To Support Independent Candidate for Governor

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 22:42

The Central Committee of the Alaska Democratic Party voted Monday evening to support an Independent party ticket for Governor and Lieutenant Governor comprised of Bill Walker and Byron Mallott. Mallot has been the Democratic nominee for Governor but would run as Lieutenant Governor with Walker on the Independent ticket. The vote was 89 to 2.

Democratic Party spokesman Zack Fields says Democrats believe the state is in trouble under Sean Parnell’s leadership and Walker and Mallott share similar beliefs about how to address the state’s problems.

“Byron Mallott and Bill Walker were both talking about the need to balance budgets, fix the school cuts that Sean Parnell has promoted and stand up for Alaska fisheries, so it made sense for them to team up.”

Fields says Democrats are pragmatic and if a strong Independent ticket will serve the needs of Alaskans, the party will support it.

“A lot of Alaskans, Republicans and Democrats recognize we all need to work together as a team to beat Sean Parnell and elect a Governor and Lt. Governor who finally will put Alaskans first.”

Fields says it is unprecedented for the Alaska Democratic Party to not have a candidate on the ballot for Governor.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: September 1, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:25

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn

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Mallott, Walker Talk of Joining Forces

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

The deadline for making candidacy changes for the November general election ballot is tomorrow and talks have reportedly been going between Democrat Gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott and independent candidate Bill Walker about a possible unity ticket. Just how that would be done and what would become of running mates Craig Fleener and Hollis French remains to be seen. The Mallott campaign said the media can expect some sort of availability Tuesday.

Change Coming to Lower Kuskokwim School District

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Students returned to classes recently across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Jacob Jensen says change is on the horizon for the district with the largest number of rural students in the state.

Freedom Summer Marks 50th Anniversary

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, when civil rights activists from across the United States joined together to register black voters in the Deep South. It was a summer marred by violence and filled with hope for much of the country. But in Alaska,things were different.

Forecasters Keeping Eye Out for an El Nino

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Weather forecasters have their eye out for an El Nino this fall and winter. The equatorial Pacific Ocean warming has been observed in its early stages this summer.  National Weather Service Alaska region climate science and services manager Rick Thoman is tracking conditions that signal El Nino.

Complaints Filed Against Statewide Public Officials

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

Three Kenai Peninsula residents have filed complaints with the Alaska Public Offices Commission against statewide public officials for failure to disclose gifts.

Heat Pumps Tap Ocean’s Thermal Energy

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Using seawater to heat large buildings in Alaska is no longer a pipe dream.

Andy Baker, an engineer with YourCleanEnergy LLC, helped design an ocean-sourced heat pump system for the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward which will pay back the community’s investment in less than nine years — just in fuel savings. Baker spoke to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week about practical applications for a technology that has quickly moved from theory into reality.

Ketchikan Welcomes New US Citizens

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

Eighteen Ketchikan residents became U.S. citizens a few days ago. The ceremony took place in the courtroom of Ketchikan’s historic downtown federal building.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott, Walker Talk of Joining Forces

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:10

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The deadline for making candidacy changes for the November general election ballot is tomorrow and talks have reportedly been going between Democrat Gubernatorial nominee Byron Mallott and independent candidate Bill Walker about a possible unity ticket. Just how that would be done and what would become of running mates Craig Fleener and Hollis French remains to be seen. The Mallott campaign said the media can expect some sort of availability Tuesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Change Coming to Lower Kuskokwim School District

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:08

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Students returned to classes recently across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Jacob Jensen says change is on the horizon for the district with the largest number of rural students in the state.

This year, the Lower Kuskokwim School District has new leadership at several schools. Superintendent, Jacob Jensen, says of the five schools in Bethel, three have had principal turnovers. Jensen.

“So we have three new principals. So the principal at Gladys Jung is the principal that’s been with LKSD for quite a long time at LKSD, I believe he’s on year 12, Chris Carmichael. The principal over at Immersion is a longtime LKSD employee, Mike Smith, who had retired and decided it did not suit him and came back. And then the new principal at BRHS has been a principal in Alaska for, I think nine years, her name is Elizabeth Balcerek,” Jensen said.

The district is looking to reorganize behind the scenes. Right now, the district does a lot of what’s called site-based management, which means schools and principals have a lot of autonomy to do things like, set their own calendar, run their own lunch programs and hire their own staff. But Jenson said LKSD, for a number of reasons, is looking at more centralization.

“Possibly looking at things like having a centralized food service, as opposed to having each individual site kind of run their own, centralizing a lot of our technology has already happened,” Jensen said.

“We’re looking at possibly maintenance, you know centralizing that. You know purchasing. We try to order the same types of vehicles and snow machines and four wheelers but we don’t really have any policies about that. So kinda looking at all those type of things.”

Jensen said LKSD is one of a handful of school districts in rural Alaska that still allows schools such autonomy. He says while local input and control are important for the district, officials may have to make serious budget changes in response to pressure from limited state and federal funds. He says the district can be more efficient with some centralized services.

Besides consolidating management of LKSD, Jensen says, district-wide accreditation is another major goal he hopes to accomplish this year.  Jensen says, also new this year, students will take fewer tests. That’s a result of the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind.

“As far as the waiver, it doesn’t do a whole lot different other than listeners should know that it was by this year all of our students had to be 100 percent proficient, which was an unrealistic goal,” he said. “So the state got a waiver and now we’re working on what is called a growth model so we’re making sure that kids are growing each and every year.”

In addition, the state high school graduation exam is no longer being given due to a proposal by Governor Sean Parnell that was approved by the state legislature this past year.

“It made it difficult for some students that could not pass that high school graduation exam,” Jensen said.

“It caused some difficulties for some students who wanted to get into the military and go on to post-secondary options. I thinking it was a good idea when they put it in place. It was a little bit difficult in implementation. So, what’s happening now is that kids just have to meet the qualifying criteria of the school district.”

Jensen says two other state tests have also been eliminated, the ‘Terra-Nova’ and the State of Alaska Standards Based Assessment test also known as the SBA, which is being replaced with the Alaska Measures of Progress Test, or AMP. Students will take the AMP online. Jensen also notes that all children in the district can now eat breakfast and lunch for free. Studies show that kids who eat breakfast do better in school, and Jensen says he’s hopes the meals will help students excel.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District stretches about 100-thousand square miles and is about the same size as the state of Ohio. The district, made up by 28 schools with more than 4,000 students, has an operating budget of about $80 million.

Categories: Alaska News

Freedom Summer Marks 50th Anniversary

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:06

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, when civil rights activists from across the United States joined together to register black voters in the Deep South. It was a summer marred by violence and filled with hope for much of the country. But in Alaska,things were different.

Rosa Foster darts around her small kitchen making oatmeal. Formal china is on the table, family photos line the walls and shelves. The hyperactive 81 year old jumps –from story to story as she puts away the tub of margarine and box of sugar.

We settle onto the couch in her crowded den, the TV constantly on in the background. She alternates between telling more stories and answering her phone as her oatmeal grows cold.

Foster moved to Anchorage from Virginia in 1961 with her husband, who was in the military, and their two young children. She says she met her neighbors, who were all welcoming.

Foster recalls the intricate details of getting her first job as a third grade teacher at Fairview Elementary. The way she tells it, she went to the school district administration and demanded exactly where she would teach and what level.

She was one of the first black teachers in the city but she says she didn’t feel like any of the other teachers or the students treated her any differently, not like in Virginia.

Foster says when they bought a house in Airport Heights in 1963, some of her friends were a bit concerned.

But her friend thought the Fosters might be okay since they both had white-collar jobs. Foster says she became fast friends with her neighbors and taught them about her family’s way of doing things.

Williams says he decided to join them and he did find a place where people of different colors were friends.

He says there were black-owned construction companies building for the government and black-owned clubs serving the community. But not everyone agrees that Anchorage was a relative utopia in terms of race relations. Richard Watts Jr. moved to Anchorage as a small boy in 1949.

In 1951, the home of a black family in Rogers Park was torched. After that, Watts’ parents helped start the Anchorage NAACP. Watts says the black community was only allowed to live in certain parts of town.

No one would sell them a house in west Anchorage, so his family bought a home in the eastern part of Nunaka Valley. To shop, they drove to the Carrs Brothers on Gambell in Fairview because the store sold things like pigs feet and chitlins for cooking southern soul food.

So in 1963, when Watts was 16, the NAACP started a boycott. For three weeks Watts joined others picketing in front of the store. And when the boycott ended, he was hired as a bagger.

Watts says it was a comfortable place to work, and he was quickly promoted. Within a few years he was a store manager, then a director of groceries. Now he’s in charge of the beverage and tobacco divisions.

But Rosa Foster says not all of the stores were as progressive as Carrs. She recalls trying to buy shoes at JC Penny’s for her children and being ignored by the sales clerk.

She hurries off to answer another call, her cold breakfast long forgotten.

Categories: Alaska News

Forecasters Keeping Eye Out for an El Nino

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:05



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Weather forecasters have their eye out for an El Nino this fall and winter. The equatorial Pacific Ocean warming has been observed in its early stages this summer.  National Weather Service Alaska region climate science and services manager Rick Thoman is tracking conditions that signal El Nino.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Complaints Filed Against Statewide Public Officials

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:03



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Three Kenai Peninsula residents have filed complaints with the Alaska Public Offices Commission against statewide public officials for failure to disclose gifts.

Categories: Alaska News

Heat Pumps Tap Ocean’s Thermal Energy

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:02

Engineering consultant Andy Baker says the thermal energy in the ocean is clean, efficient, unlimited. (Photo by Robert Woolsey. KCAW-Sitka)

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Using seawater to heat large buildings in Alaska is no longer a pipe dream.

Andy Baker, an engineer with YourCleanEnergy LLC, helped design an ocean-sourced heat pump system for the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward which will pay back the community’s investment in less than nine years — just in fuel savings.

Baker spoke to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce about practical applications for a technology that has quickly moved from theory into reality.

There’s a big difference between talking about an innovative heating system that’s on the drawing board, and talking about one that’s now used in places like Seward, NOAA’s research lab in Auke Bay, and the Whistler Village and Convention Center in Vancouver.

Baker described how the thermal energy carried in the current along Alaska’s coastline originated on the equator. Resurrection Bay, which supplies the Seward SeaLife Center, has a staggering amount of energy available.

Baker tried to describe it in terms Alaskans might understand:

“Here’s the real ah-ha picture. This was taken by the CEO of the SeaLife Center in 2009. In November, the seawater temperature is 50 degrees, the outdoor air temperature is 22. You see the latent heat of that body of water. It’s just a big hot tub steaming off. This bay is two miles wide and 11 miles long. So we’ve calculated the volume of the bay, and we know it raises 15 degrees in temperature over each summer season. We calculated how much heat that was, and if you tried to heat that bay using the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, you would have to burn it for 50 days, 600,000 barrels a day, at 85-percent efficiency. So it’s 20 percent of TAPS, in just one bay.”

The disparity between ocean and air temperatures in the fall in Seward is because of the warm current. The difference isn’t quite as extreme in Sitka, but the result is the same: A basically limitless supply of seawater at a stable temperature that never freezes.

Baker says the taxpayer-owned SeaLife Center turned off its two oil-fired boilers in 2012 and began to realize savings of $10,000 a month in fuel, or $120,000 a year. This will pay back the original investment in a little under nine years.

Air-source heat pumps have been gaining ground in Sitka. Blatchley Middle School has heat pumps, the remodeled Harrigan Centennial Hall is slated to get them, and dozens of homeowners have installed residential versions.

Only the Sitka Sound Science Center has been actively pursuing seawater heat pumps, and has installed an upgraded seawater intake for its aquarium that can be adapted to heat pumps.

Baker says there’s a common misconception that heat pumps circulate corrosive seawater. Not true. The seawater raises the temperature of a coolant loop through a heat exchanger, and then is returned to the ocean.

And for corrosion-resistance, the heat exchanger — like the one in Seward — is made from titanium.

“And so this is really the star of the system,” Baker said “There’s no moving parts. That’s a $28,000 unit. It’s about 7-feet tall. There are 126 plates in it. In advance of it is an in-line filter that traps particles, so we don’t have clogging in the plate exchanger. And the Science Center here is looking at having a similar system — similar hardware, but on a smaller scale. And this is one of the most important investments. If you do this right and size it right, you’ll have plenty of heat coming into your system.”

Baker also discussed expanding a seawater system beyond a single building — into a neighborhood district. The concept is already in use in Scandanavia. It functions like any utility, electricity or drinking water, but it this case it would be a coolant loop. Residents could connect heat pumps to it, or not. And cities understand pipes.

“For the city it just means that they’re not in the heat business, they’re just pumping a loop of cold water around. That’s something you already do with your water system.”

Baker touched on some other advantages of seawater-sourced heat pumps: Unlike air-source, they don’t become inefficient as the air cools down. Just the opposite. The greater the difference between the air temperature and the water source, the better they perform. There’s also no pollution — especially when the electricity is coming from hydropower.

Baker said that liability — which can be mitigated in other forms of alternative energy like biomass — is off the table for seawater heat pumps. He cited other tangible benefits like more jobs for people to run and maintain neighborhood districts, and lower costs for residents and businesses in the winter. But he said not all benefits would be tangible.

“If you do a project like this, people will start to identify your town with that innovation. People respect that. They look for that leadership.”

Baker says that the Seward project benefited from two grants from the Alaska Energy Authority’s emerging technology fund. He described the Alaska Renewable Energy grant fund as “more problematic,” since it assigns communities like Sitka and Juneau lower fuel costs than elsewhere. Baker felt that if the AEA accurately reflected the cost of oil in its grant formula, Sitka would have had seawater heat pumps last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Ketchikan Welcomes New US Citizens

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2014-09-01 16:01



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Eighteen Ketchikan residents became U.S. citizens a few days ago. The ceremony took place in the courtroom of Ketchikan’s historic downtown federal building.

Categories: Alaska News

State Ferry Union Averts Strike

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:43

Alaska Marine Highway System captains and deck officers have avoided a strike that could have shut down ferry service across the state this weekend.

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The ferry LeConte docks in Skagway in 2009. (J Webber/Creative Commons)

Instead, the International Organization of Master, Mates and Pilots will return to the bargaining table with state officials. Earlier this month, the union rejected a tentative contract agreement that included no pay increase this year, a 1 percent raise next year and a 2 percent increase in 2016. MMP asked the state to reopen negotiations, or members would go on strike this Saturday.

Union representative Ron Bressette (briss-ette) says the proposed wage increase does not go far enough, and will force members to continue working overtime.

“They have to man the ships and they just don’t have adequate personnel to do that anymore. So one of the concerns is that they have to look at paying the deck officers enough and paying them an industry standard wage in order to recruit and retain new deck officers as well as keep the deck officers that they currently have.”

Administration Commissioner Curtis Thayer says Alaska Marine Highway workers are already well compensated, and the state needs to shrink the agency’s growing budget.

“They’re in line with what has been accepted with the other bargaining units across the state. The wages are the same. The state is in a fiscal situation where we don’t have a lot of money to give.”

Both sides have signed an agreement to reopen negotiations as soon as possible with a federal mediator. If mediation fails, language in the agreement says either party could declare an impasse, setting up binding arbitration.

Masters, Mates and Pilots represents about 100 licensed captains and deck officers.

The largest union for state ferry workers agreed this week to a contract similar to the one rejected by MMP. The Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific represents about 650 Alaska Marine Highway employees. A third ferry workers’ union – the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association – has yet to vote on its tentative contract agreement.

Categories: Alaska News

Appeals Court To Rehear Tongass Exemption Case

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:41

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit released an announcement today (Friday) that it would rehear the Tongass Roadless Rule exemption case.

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The Roadless Rule was established more than a decade ago, but the Tongass was granted an exemption. A lawsuit challenging that exemption was filed in 2009 by a coalition of conservation groups and the Organized Village of Kake. A U.S. District Court judge agreed with the petitioners, but the State of Alaska appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit.

In March, a three-judge panel of the appeals court issued an opinion that the Roadless Rule should not apply to Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. But, Friday’s announcement states that the full 11-judge panel will review the case.

Categories: Alaska News

Comment Period on FEMA Disaster Declaration To Close

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-08-29 16:41

Sunday, Aug. 31, is the deadline for comments to FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, on a policy carrying out a law that would allow tribes to request emergency and major disaster declarations.

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As it is now, only state governors can request a federal disaster declaration. Tribes had requested the change saying it would save time if they didn’t have to wait for state action when they’re often the only governmental entity in the area.

Ken Murphy, director of FEMA region ten, which includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, says requests for disaster declarations do have strings attached:

“hazard mitigation plan.”

FEMA in most cases only pays for 75 percent of the disaster and the government, in this case the tribal government, would be responsible for 25% of the cost. And then, some of the paperwork that’s required, such as having an emergency operations plan, or a hazard mitigation plan, are a part of the disaster declaration process.

Some tribes have already suggested that the criteria be changed to accommodate smaller tribes.

A summary of comments received as of August 8th is available at the FEMA website. The agency is accepting comments electronically at its website through Sunday.

Categories: Alaska News
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