Fuel from a sunken vessel in the Haines Small Boat Harbor has been contained, although it could still be several days until clean-up is complete and the boat is salvaged.
The 76-foot fishing tender Neptune sank while moored at the harbor about 1 a.m. Saturday. No one was onboard, but someone in the harbor called 911 and Harbormaster Phil Benner was notified. Benner said he and his staff responded and found the engine room flooded and the back deck already underwater.
“We did try to get some gas pumps started on the boat but it did not, it wasn’t successful,” Benner said. “The boat started tilting off the dock, and we evacuated everyone off the boat and cut the lines.”
Benner said the harbor staff deployed containment booms at the harbor’s entrance within 45 minutes. He contacted the boat’s owner who said there is about 1,600 gallons of fuel on board. Early Saturday morning Benner shut the harbor to boat traffic to keep leaking fuel from spreading into Port Chilkoot.
“Everybody’s moving as fast as we can but we want to make sure we aren’t contaminating Lynn Canal by opening up the harbor,” he said.
A sheen was visible in harbor early Saturday. The smell of diesel permeated the area, which is only a few blocks from downtown Haines. As the tide receded, a black line of diesel was left on the rock break wall and along grassy areas of the beach.
Local diver Norm Hughes went to the harbor early Saturday to see the sunken tender. Then the boat’s owner, Don Axelrod, called Hughes to see if he would dive on the boat. As a commercial fisherman, Hughes was especially interested in helping out.
“Don called me a little while later and asked if I’d go down and see if I could get the fuel vents closed off so we can keep the oil from coming out and maybe they’ll open the harbor back up then,” Hughes said. “If we can stop the environmental leaking of the oil then maybe the fleet can go fishing.”
Officials with the Coast Guard and field responder Bob Mattson with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conversation arrived by mid-day Saturday. As soon as the Coast Guard approved an operating agreement, local responders from the Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization, or SEAPRO mobilized.
SEAPRO is the area’s oil spill removal organization. It has response teams in seven zones of Southeast, including one with equipment based in the Haines Harbor, which, Mattson says, helped with quick response time.
Mattson said officials decided to allow fishing boats to leave the harbor, but a decontamination site was set up at the harbor’s entrance. Beginning Sunday morning, fishing boats were stopped at the entrance and sprayed down.
“We have them come over here to our decontamination station and we’re using pressure washers to try to get as much of the film or sheen off the vessels prior to letting them leave the harbor,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Joshua Thorne said.
After the fleet left, the cleanup effort began in earnest. At least 15 responders were walking the docks in the harbor and using small skiffs to lay out absorbent oil pads. Mattson said because of the size of the harbor, and difficulty maneuvering around the sunken vessel, the skimming skiffs were not being used.
The Neptune is a privately owned tender contracted by Ocean Beauty Seafood during the commercial fishing season. Axelrod, the owner, and his insurance company are working on a plan to raise the Neptune. Axelrod was on the docks Sunday and talking with a salvage company, but didn’t want to comment.
Coast Guard petty officer Jeff Cruz said Sunday the salvage operation is going to be difficult. The Neptune is a wooden hull boat, built in 1937. Cruz said wood hull boats are difficult to raise.
“If you raise it the wrong way, it could break up, it could do all sorts of other stuff,” Cruz said, “And we don’t really want to mess with it underwater we could but you also run risks of contaminating the wood and getting contamination all throughout the boat and making it harder to dispose of.”
Mattson and the Coast Guard says they have not discovered any wildlife affected by the fuel spill at this time. The Coast Guard will investigate the cause of the sinking.
Fairbanks Police are expected to play a support role in the review of new data raised in the Fairbanks 4 case. The new information filed in court last month points to other suspects than the 4 local men convicted of the 1997 murder of John Hartman. Last week the state announced that it would conduct a review of the information raised by the Alaska Innocence Project, including a confession by a former Fairbanks resident imprisoned for other murders.
A dispute between the Municipality of Anchorage and Eklutna, Inc. is headed to court. Eklutna, Inc., an Alaska Native Corporation, claims it is due about half the revenue generated from the methane gas produced at the Anchorage Landfill, but Muni attorneys say the land didn’t generate the gas, city garbage did.
The Yukon Kuskokwim region is gaining national attention through the business savvy of the local Sparck sisters who happen to be triplets. Since 2006 the entrepreneurs have run a cosmetic company, ArXotica, using ingredients from the tundra. Now, they have a chance to win a free commercial for their company, which will be aired during the Super Bowl and are asking for your help.
A Sitka seafood processor has recalled two-year’s worth of product, after a state inspection revealed that monitoring equipment had failed.
The US Food and Drug Administration announced the recall by Big Blue Fisheries on September 30. It covers all vacuum-packed smoked fish produced by Big Blue — for the last two years.
Greg Johnstone, the Environmental Health Officer with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, inspected Big Blue on September 20 and discovered that a recording graph on Big Blue’s smoker was not working.
“On a commercial smoker there needs to be a chart recorder that records the internal temperature of the fish in the smoker on a continuous recording graph. And for smoked fish in Alaska — anywhere throughout the US — it needs to reach an internal temperature of 145-degrees for at least 30-minutes. And there has to be a continuous record of that. Big Blue’s recorder was broken, and they hadn’t been keeping records as required.”
Mike Keating, with Big Blue, says his company cooperated with the DEC and the FDA, which distributed the recall notice nationwide. Keating says he destroyed about $20,000-worth of product with the DEC standing by. He’s used his invoicing records to notify customers of the recall directly.
Keating stresses that no dangerous bacteria was discovered in any of his company’s product. And, given the two-year extent of the recall, it’s likely that much of the product is not around anyway.
Greg Johnstone, with the DEC says this is probably the case.
“The likelihood that they’ll recover much of the smoked product is pretty slight, because it probably will have been eaten.”
Mike Keating says he’ll replace or refund any product returned to him in Sitka. He says he’s already spoken with some customers who prefer to keep their fish, despite the recall. He thinks the DEC and the FDA have blown the issue out of proportion.
Sunday, the Pentagon made a surprise announcement that most civilian employees are being called back to the nation’s military bases, despite the federal government shutdown.
That state and Coast Guard are responding to a sunken vessel in the Haines Harbor and fuel leaking from the boat is hampering the commercial gillnet fleet that homeports in the harbor.
The 76-foot Neptune sank while moored at the harbor about 1 a.m. Saturday. No one was aboard.
The boat can hold about 2,000 gallons of fuel.
Local harbor staff responded when notified shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday. Harbormaster Phil Benner said he and his staff had to use axes to cut the lines so the dock didn’t sink with the boat. They placed oil containment booms at the harbor’s entrance and shut the harbor to boat traffic.
“Everybody’s moving as fast as we can but we want to make sure we aren’t contaminating Lynn Canal by opening up the harbor,” Benner said.
By mid-morning, diesel could be smelled throughout the harbor and was wafting toward downtown Haines. As the tide receded in the afternoon, the diesel in the water caused a dark line on the rock breakwater around the harbor and along the grassy beach. Ice totes and items from the boat that floated to the surface washed up on nearby beaches.
Local responders from the Southeast Alaska Petroleum Resource Organization mobilized and assisted with adjusting containment booms. A local diver was called in to dive on the boat and try to plug leaking fuel vents and lines.
Officials with the Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conversation arrived by mid-day. Lt. Ryan Erikson with the Juneau Sector Coast Guard said spill response is one of the missions of the Coast Guard not affected by the federal government shutdown.
“We were asked to curtail a lot of missions, but marine response and search and rescue have not been curtailed at all,” he said.
Erickson said the Coast Guard will also investigate the cause of the sinking.
The Neptune is a privately owned tender contracted by Ocean Beauty Seafood during the commercial fishing season. No fish were on board at the time it sank, but it was planning on leaving for the fishing grounds in the Lynn Canal on Sunday along with the fishing fleet.
Haines fishermen were notified that another Ocean Beauty tender, which was en route to Washington, was turned around at Petersburg to come to the Lynn Canal.
The Coast Guard and DEC officials met with local ADF&G commercial fisheries biologist, Randy Bachman, and decided the salmon opener could continue on Sunday. However, each boat will have to go through a washing and decontamination station before it leaves the harbor. Fish and Game also adjusted the district open to fishing and shifted a boundary line further south from the harbor.
When the Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas last met, the theme was overreach from Washington. But this go-round, it seems the group is unexpectedly dealing with federal underreach.
Because of the government shutdown, none of the federal employees scheduled to address the commission this week have been able to appear. The irony hasn’t been lost on the group. When Craig Fleener, a deputy commissioner with the Department of Fish and Game, let the commission know that hunts could still take place at parks but that any activity needing paperwork couldn’t be done, the reaction was almost gleeful.
REP. WES KELLER (R-WASILLA): Another way to say that is maybe our parks are more open to us Alaskans than they ever have been.
FLEENER: Wide Open. As long as you don’t need a permit.
Hunting on refuges might be a different story. Gov. Sean Parnell has called for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lift closures on those lands.
While nobody who works for the federal government has been able to speak before the commission, they did hear from a person who is aspiring to a job in Washington. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who is one of the Republican candidates for Senate, laid out his goals for federal land management Friday morning.
Speaking in his capacity as lieutenant governor, Treadwell said the federal government was guilty of “seriously ridiculous overreach.” He reiterated his support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and his opposition to a national oceans policy. He said would like to see a transfer of more federal land to the state, and progress on federal revenue sharing. Treadwell also said that when dealing with the federal government, Alaska should not be afraid to invoke the Tenth Amendment, which has been used in legal challenges over state sovereignty.
“The 10th amendment says ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ Long live the 10th amendment. And long live courts that are beginning to give it justice and attention.”
The Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas will continue to meet through Saturday. While the group does not have any regulatory authority, it will be presenting recommendations to the legislature on how the state should manage its relationship with the federal government when it comes to land use issues.
Fishermen are gearing up for the start of the Bering Sea’s lucrative crab season. But they may be off to a late start this year, because of the federal government shutdown.
State managers set catch limits. But the National Marine Fisheries Service is supposed to divide up the crab and assign individual fishing quotas, or IFQs, to boats.
“There’s nobody on staff with National Marine Fisheries Service [who is] available to issue IFQs as they are furloughed,” says Heather Fitch.
Fitch is a biologist with Fish and Game. She says it’s illegal for boats to harvest crab without these permits. But there’s no way of knowing how long it will be before the government gets around to issuing them.
“Either someone would have to be authorized to come back to work in order to do so, or it will wait until the federal government is up and running again,” Fitch says.
NMFS’ law enforcement division is one of the few departments that’s still open.
A NMFS enforcement officer says they’re trying to figure out a solution. As a compromise, they may let crab boats put their pots in the water before they get their permits — as long as they don’t pull up any crab.
Jake Jacobsen is the executive director for the Inter-cooperative Exchange, a coop of 80 crab boats. He says it’s never a good idea to leave crab pots unattended. But on the other hand, fishermen can’t afford to start late.
“If there is a delay, we’re at risk of not being able to land our crab in time to reach the all-important Asian New Year’s market,” Jacobsen says.
Last year, the coop tried to get most of its fishing done in the first three weeks of the season, so they could send their crab overseas to the Japanese market. Jacobsen says they wanted to do that again this year.
“We miss the market — we may be looking at $5 million less,” Jacobsen says.
The Bering Sea crab fisheries are supposed to open on October 15.
Alaska’s high court became the first state supreme court in the country yesterday to hear an appeal in one of more than a dozen climate change lawsuits.
The lawsuits pit young people against their states. The plaintiffs claim the state has an obligation to protect the atmosphere from excessive carbon emissions.
Nelson Kanuk is a freshman at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the main plaintiff inAlaska’s case.
His family’s home in the 600-person village of Kipnuk became uninhabitable because of spring floods, melting permafrost and erosion. This summer, his parents, two brothers and three sisters moved to Bethel, about 100 miles away.
“So we’re thinking of hopefully rebuilding our home in Kipnuk, or we might move out of town to possibly Kenai,” Kanuk said. “Somewhere we can start over.”
The state has three main arguments for why the court should dismiss his case:
- Climate change is a political question that only lawmakers and the governor can address. Not the courts.
- The injury to these youths from climate change is so ubiquitous that they don’t have legal standing.
- And finally, the atmosphere, unlike, say, clean water, isn’t a public trust resource that the state has a legal obligation to protect.
The science of climate change was not disputed.
Assistant Attorney General Seth Beausang argued the case for the state.
“My argument is not that that nothing can be done to stop global warming,” Beausang said. “It’s just that it shouldn’t happen in the context of a lawsuit. Where I think it should happen is at the political level, so if people are concerned about climate change, you know, they should get involved. And, you know, we live in a democracy and you should get as involved as you possibly can.”
While it’s not up to the court to write policy, attorney for the plaintiffs Brad DeNoble argued it is the court’s role to compel the state to come up with policy.
“You can declare the constitutional rights. You can declare that the atmosphere is a public trust resource. You can order the state to develop an accounting,” DeNoble said.
Similar lawsuits are pending in 12 other states, federal court — even Ukraine and Uganda. That’s according to Julia Olson, director of Our Children’s Trust. Her Oregon-based nonprofit helped Kanuk and other young people file these suits.
So far, Olson says only a trial court in Texas has backed the plaintiffs. Texas filed an appeal.
Alaska Chief Justice Dana Fabe didn’t give a timetable for when to expect a decision. Opinions typically come months after arguments are heard.
You can watch Gavel Alaska’s webcast of the Supreme Court proceedings and read tweets from the event here.
The State of Alaska has ordered a review of the Fairbanks Four case. The Department of Law announced the move on Thursday, saying new information in the 1997 murder of John Hartman led to the decision.
Last week the Alaska Innocence Project filed requests for post conviction relief for Kevin Pease, Marvin Roberts, Eugene Vent and George Frese, the Fairbanks men convicted of, and now serving long prison terms for the attack on Hartman.
The applications include a letter from a former Fairbanks resident serving life in prison for other murders, who claims a different group of men carried out the attack.
The State announcement says there has been no credible allegation about the integrity of the original investigation. It says the Alaska law enforcement agencies, including State Troopers and Fairbanks Police are in support of the review.
The state is requesting additional time beyond the 45 days it has under law, to conduct the review and respond to the requests for post conviction relief.
A piece of equipment installed a few years ago near Dillingham has helped detect a small explosive event at the far away Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutian Islands.
The list of Alaskans with notable adventures is long, but Lowell Thomas Junior’s accomplishments are impressive by any standard. A former 12-year State Senator and Lieutenant Governor, an author, filmmaker and world traveler who visited the Dalai Lama and desert nomads, Thomas has logged more than 10,000 hours flying, much of it in a single-engine airplane with his wife. Tay. as his navigator. A new book co-authored with Lew Freedman chronicles Lowell Thomas Junior’s amazing life and is out now, just a few days before his 90th birthday. Lowell and Tay tell us with so many adventures, it’s tough to pick a highlight.
Chugiak’s Loretta French Park is a gem. It covers 130 acres of rolling green grass set beneath peaks dusted with the first flakes of winter. With fall’s russet and gold leaves just beginning to show, the quiet park appears to be a haven for bird watchers, joggers, dog walkers, even horseback riders. Maria Rentz lives nearby, on a mountain road winding up from the park
“That park is beautiful, and highly used and highly valued. So I think putting a landfill in next to the park is, just in concept right there, taking away from the asset that we just spent millions of dollars on.”
Rentz is on Chugiak’s Community Council, and heads Stop the Dump, a group of Chugiak folks who are fighting a plan that would allow Eklutna, Inc, to fill a gully on land the Alaska Native Corporation owns adjacent to the park with concrete, plastic, foam or other non-recyclables from demolition projects. That’s something Rentz and the Chugiak Community Council vehemently oppose.
”It’s of no benefit at all. I don’t think it will bring in any local jobs in here. It’s not scheduled to be a manned facility. You know, they’re idea of monitoring is cameras.”
And the noise. Even though a sign posted at the entrance says “No Dumping of Any Kind”, belly dump trucks rumble through the park entrance before they veer off onto private land.
We are in the park, looking out over a steep slope that declines onto forested land Eklutna owns on one side of the parks entrance road. The land at the foot of the slope is uneven and thinly wooded, then flattens out some distance away. Rentz says this is where the monofil will be situated, close to homes, a pre- school and a church community center. Then there are environmental concerns.
”It’s not going to be lined. And if you actually walk in there, you see streams perking up out of the ground. There’s groundwater, you know, at the surface. I don’t know how far we are above the aquifer. It fluctuates here a lot. I don’t think it is safe, and that is one of the concerns. “
Eklutna has partnered with an Anchorage company, Central Recycling, to fill in 17 acres of its land next to the park with demolition debris. Under a master plan filed with the Anchorage planning and zoning department, Eklutna could be allowed to haul in debris to the monofil for the next 30 years.
Eklutna CEO Curtis McQueen says the Dena ‘ina people value water, and that Eklutna has instructed its engineers, Dowl HKM, to collect more data on impacts to the water table. McQueen will not say more until after the public hearing. Dowl planner Michelle Ritter also declined further comment.
The city planning department’s Erica McConnell says Eklutna’s master plan covers 68 acres of land that the corporation wants to develop. The monofil itself requires a conditional use permit. She says the October 7 public hearing is a continuation of an earlier public hearing on the matter.
“The planning and zoning commission will finish the public hearing on the conditional use for the monofil, and then deliberate on both the master plan and the conditional use. If they do approve the conditional use it would be contingent on the Assembly approving the master plan.”
There has been no determination on the master plan yet. If the commission gives the plan the go-ahead, Eklutna still needs approval from the Anchorage Assembly before any dumping can begin, because the Native land is within Municipality of Anchorage city limits.
Central Recycling owner Shane Durand did not return calls for comment on this story. Durand has another business, Central Monofil, which has applied for, but not received, Matanuska Susitna Borough permission for a similar monofil project hear Palnmer. The Borough planning commission has denied the request based on three dozen concerns, ranging from inability to contain shredded material to the unsightliness of the fill area. Central Monofil was also fined for dumping without a permit near Palmer.
Rentz says that Title 21, Anchorage’s go-to for zoning issues, does not guide the planning commission on the monofil issue. And she points to the city’s centralized waste stream management program which began in the 1980s
”And now to again start allowing for these little monofils here and there, is de-centralizing it, and it is not in the best interest of the greater good of the municipality to do that. “
The city’s Hiland Road landfill already has an area dedicated to inert demolition materials. The dump fee is $58 a ton. Rentz says a compromise on fees could help bring the opposing parties together. The public hearing on the monofil issue is scheduled for Monday, October 7 at 6:30 pm at the city assembly chambers.
The proposed 2014 budget for the Municipality of Anchorage is out and it’s $4.5 million less than last year’s.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan summarizes his proposed 2014 budget this way.
“The proposed budget that we’re putting forth is less than the previous year which doesn’t happen in government very often,” he said. “It’s about $4.6 million less than the 2013 budget.”
The proposed 2014 budget is $470,799,885 – which is $4,550,402 lower than the 2013 budget.
Sullivan says this will mean a drop in property taxes. He says there are several reasons the administration can make these reductions.
“Some of the efficiency measures that we’ve put into place are yielding results, we’ve got some areas where revenues are up a little bit,” he said. “And last year we also had some one-time expenditures which we won’t be incurring in 2013.”
Sullivan asked departments to identify savings and efficiencies of about 1 percent of their budget as way to cut costs. Ongoing union negotiations could also help reduce spending, he says, referring to the controversial labor law, also known as AO37.
“I mean we’re negotiating as if AO37 was in place,” Sullivan said. “We’re anticipating in 2014, the contract that we do sign will be at a reduced level of increase.”
Whether repealing the labor law appears on the ballot awaits a court decision. Sullivan says the city also plans to reduce pension contributions this year as a way to cut costs. Funds for city workers are performing better than expected, he says, so the budget proposes reducing the city’s contribution from $10 million last year to $8.8 million in 2014.
Chief Financial Officer Lucinda Mahoney says the administration plans to save money by passing the cost of programs that they’ve been subsidizing on to the public. Ambulance rides would increase by about $300 under the proposed budget.
“The goal of the Municipality is to align the cost of programs with the users,” Mahoney said. “And so for example, not everybody uses an ambulance, but for those that do use the ambulance we’re just seeking to have them pay a larger share of the overall cost.”
Bus fares would also go up under the proposed budget. Adult fares would go from $1.75 to $2.00. Seniors fares would double from 50 cents to $1.00. Anchor Rides, a ride service for people with seniors and others with disabilities who can’t take regular public buses would see a fee increase of 50 cents too, from $3.00 to 3.50. And all passes would also go up.
Mahoney explains that it’s not just revenue increases and cost reductions that would drive property taxes down
“The reason why and individual home owner would experience a property tax reduction is because the base of property tax payers is expected to go up,” she said. “And this is due to the new construction that we are seeing here in the city of Anchorage in 2013.”
“We expect new construction of about $200 million – commercial construction mostly.”
The owner of a $300,000 home would see a reduction of around $9.
Mayor Sullivan says he expects the budget to pass with a few revisions.“There’s always folks that would like to add spending for their special projects, there’s always folks that say you’re spending too much,” Sullivan said. “It’s the Assembly who sets the budget. The ball kind of goes into their court here.” Budget work sessions are scheduled for the next two Fridays, Oct. 11 and 18 at City Hall. The Assembly is required to pass a final budget by the new year.
Biologist Gordon Haber may have spent more hours observing Alaska’s wolves than anyone else. He died in a 2009 plane crash tracking wolves in Denali National Park. His work will be the subject of a book coming out later this month.
HOST: Steve Heimel, APRN
- Marybeth Holleman, co-author, “Among Wolves: Gordon Haber’s Insights into Alaska’s Most Misunderstood Animal”
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
This week on AK, we’re heading to the small community of Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast. Carolyn Duncan is the mayor of Coffman Cove.
My name is Carolyn Duncan and I’m mayor here in Coffman Cove, Alaska down in Southeast on Prince of Wales Island.
It did start as a logging camp, but the people who lived here became such neighbors and friends and family to each other over the years, it was a very happy camp and a very stable one. People’s families started to grow up here instead of moving here and there to work. And it was a big, what we call homegrown, group here who just simply wanted to stay, so they started petitioning for land and that’s what they did.
The heart of our community always has been the school. And I’m sitting right here as I speak with you in the very first school house in Coffman Cove. It’s now serving as our city hall. But the school, by which we mean the students and the teachers and the atmosphere a whole thing.
[The] biggest day of our year is graduation, because we’re saying goodbye to children we’ve raised here in many cases.
Toward the end of the 90s there, the logging shut down completely. You know, between beginning to go in about the mid-90s and by 2000 it was gone. And people who were then making, you know, $42,000 a year, today make $22,000 a year, so it really had a huge economic impact. We went from 60 kids in the school when the logging camp was active down to around 10 a couple of years ago.
And we’ve worked very hard to boost morale around here and make little jobs available to people. So, today I’m proud to say we have 28 students in our school. We have a beautiful view out over Clarence Strait, so about 7 miles of water. It gets to be pretty big water there. And that’s what we view. We’re on the east side of Prince of Wales looking toward Edelin Island there, so it’s quite a beautiful view.
Our big event of the year is in August; it’s our arts and seafood festival and we’re very, very proud of it. We’ve worked hard to bring that on and make that a wonderful, welcoming event for people from all over, and we certainly would love to see other people from Alaska come to that.
I think anyone who comes any time of the year will be struck by how friendly the people are and how much we value you coming to us.
A home burned to the ground in the Old Believer community of Nikolaevsk and the remains of one person was found inside.
The fire happened early Thursday morning, and Troopers say while next of kin have been notified, no identification will be released until the medical examiner confirms it.
A Parnell administration official says a decision will be forthcoming by mid-December on allowing an expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Alaska.
The cost of the expansion would be funded by the federal government, but a number of governors have been balking anyway, saying they are concerned about future years.
Parnell asked for an analysis that was supposed to be done some time ago. Now Parnell aide Josh Applebee says his decision will come out before he sends his budget to the Legislature.
Construction workers in Juneau are making progress on the State Library Archives Museum building – otherwise known as SLAM. What most people don’t see is all the work behind the scenes.
A small team of museum staff members, volunteers and museum professionals from around the state are packing up the Alaska State Museum’s entire collection – ranging from a 45-foot umiak to half-inch-tall ivory pieces.
Only 5 percent of the museum’s collection is displayed at any given time. The rest is stored in the basement.
Lisa Phu took a tour of the museum basement to find out what it takes to move a museum.
As conservator for the Alaska State Museum, Ellen Carrlee is responsible for figuring out how to pack up more than 32,000 objects. This involves opening every drawer in every storage unit and coming up with a plan for each item.
“Like this drawer for example has several boxes in it already which are really easy to travel, but this drum which is from the Arctic Winter Games; it’s a walrus stomach drum from 1974 and it has signatures of people all over,” Carrlee said. “It’s very delicate.”
Carrlee says she and other museum staff members pack and move objects all the time – for exhibits or to go on loan – that’s part of their job description. But moving an entire collection usually happens only once in someone’s career.
There’s no manual on how to pack up a museum collection, so Carrlee resorted to more pedestrian means – she Googled it.
“If you look on the internet for good methods for packing museum artifacts, and you try to search Google images or whatever, you’d think there’d be a lot of images but there’s not nearly as many as we’d like to see,” Carrlee said.
So they’ve had to improvise. Carrlee has come up with about a dozen different techniques for packing various artifacts, including dance fans with feather appendages, ivory cribbage boards, spruce root baskets, a three-foot high piece of red tree coral.
She walks around with a yellow legal pad, scrutinizes each artifact and writes down a plan to stabilize it. After she’s gone through all the objects, she tapes her handwritten notes and diagrams to the outside of the cabinet.
“Every cabinet, every drawer, every item has to have a plan,” she said.
Carrlee heads up a team of staff and volunteers who are tackling different aspects of the packing.
On this day, museum professional Jon Loring is focused on ivory. He wears cotton gloves and is in the process of making custom storage mounts for carved ivory pipes.
“Ivory is one of the most fragile objects in the collection,” he said.
Loring sits by a table filled with cutting materials, measuring devices, a glue gun, a spool of cotton ribbon, and different size scraps of foam and cardboard.
“Some of these are really complicated and you have to cut exactly the right angle to support the object and it’s not so easy,” Loring said. “I can probably do about 12-15 of these a day.”
The museum has 70 ivory pipes in its collection. Loring is also making custom mounts for masks. There are 600 of those.
Volunteer Fran Dameron has been helping out at the museum for 14 years. At the moment she’s putting numbers on mining artifacts.
“Did you see these enormous wrenches down here?” she asked. “I wouldn’t try to lift it; that’s why I was working on the floor.”
The numbers are linked to the museum’s database which keeps track of all the collection items.
Carrlee says the process of having to look through every storage unit has helped the team locate what are called “registration problems” – items without a number.
“This museum goes back to 1900 so we’ve got 113 years of potential clerical errors,” she said.
But there’s also the chance of finding something that was missing, or two pieces that were separated.
“Right now I’ve got a bag that has a wing in it from a taxidermied bird and I know that through this process, I’m eventually going to find a bird with one wing and we’re going to reunite the bird with its wing,” Carrlee said.
The team has until the end of February to pack up the museum’s collection. Once that’s all done safely and securely, Addison Field is in charge of moving the collection.
The majority of it will travel in carts through a tunnel to be built between the current building and the new one.
Field says other items, like paintings, may be hand carried.
“One object and one person and that’s not the most efficient way to do things, but when you’re dealing with things that are really truly treasures and need to be safeguarded, that’s the safest way to do it,” she said.
Certain items won’t fit through the tunnel, like the 8-foot wide, 45-foot long walrus hide umiak, which was originally assembled inside the building. Field doesn’t know how that will be moved, but he does know is when the doors of the new State Library Archives Museum opens in the spring of 2016, the umiak will be there unscathed.