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News
Feb 08 2016
Ferry System Benefits Reach Far Inland PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 February 2016
Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska
You wouldn't think the Alaska Marine Highway System's economic impact would go very far beyond the south coastal port communities the ferries call upon, but a new report shows significant economic impacts for Railbelt communities as well. The McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research business, was hired by the ferry system to produce the report.

It lists Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough among the top areas for residents booking ferry travel. And Anchorage is tied for first as the prime destination for ferrying summer tourists.

“The Marine Highway System has this invisible role in the rest of the state that’s not as apparent,” said Heather Haugland, who wrote the McDowell Group report, which was commissioned by the state. 

It shows the ferry system to be an essential part of Alaska’s economic landscape. The marine highway employs about 1,000 people directly, which leads to almost 700 other jobs in retail, tourism and other industries.

The report, released Feb. 4, said the system led to about $270 million a year of economic activity statewide. That’s more than double what the government spends on operations and maintenance. Direct revenues from ticket sales, freight and related activity remain far below the state’s costs.

The economic benefits begin with about $65 million in ferry workers’ pay.

“Those wages, in turn, get spent elsewhere in the state. And that creates indirect impacts,” she said. “And then businesses, as well, that the marine highway system works with and makes purchases from, they in turn make additional purchases.”

Of course, the marine highway’s biggest impacts are on small communities. Twenty-eight of its 33 port cities are off the road system. Those residents depend on the ferry for medical care, shopping and school trips. Haugland says most have few other options.

“You can’t just replace the ferry system with air. Air travel [has] a lot of canceled flights. There is not as much capacity on air,” she said. “It just plays such an essential role in many facets of life in these really small communities.”

The report is based on data from the 2014 fiscal year. The schedule has been cut since then, and more reductions are planned, due to the state’s budget crisis. Haugland says economic and other impacts will drop proportionately as sailings and ships are cut. 
 
Feb 08 2016
Air Station Kodiak Helicopter Pilot Earns Distinguished Flying Cross PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 February 2016
hess_by_lauren.jpgHess (left) with Capt. Mark Morin, commanding officer of Air Station Kodiak. Lauren Steenson/U.S. Coast Guard

Kayla Desroches/KMXT
        
The Distinguished Flying Cross is America’s oldest military aviation award and none too easy to earn – it’s only awarded for remarkable acts of heroism.

Like what happened south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts one February morning in 2015. A little after 8:30am, the same time many of us are getting to work, a helicopter team from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod hovered above a fishing vessel stranded in nine-foot seas and 40 mph winds with conditions worsening.

One of the pilots – now based in Kodiak - won a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts that day.

5.39 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup



Lieutenant John Hess receives his medal before members of Air Station Kodiak and his family in the coast guard base movie theater.

Hess steps onto the stage and describes his experience that day, when the Coast Guard command center in Boston received a distress call from a man and his father caught in a winter storm. The two requested rescue after the ship had lost power and the storm had ripped away at their sails.

Hess names a number of challenges that arose during the mission, including the failure of the primary hoist control unit. The team used a backup hoist instead, the basket of which swung towards the second survivor’s head as the rescue swimmer strove to help him.

“The swimmer was guarding the basket – it was swinging at him and the flight mechanic just couldn’t get it in the water quick enough, so he put his hand up to deflect the basket away from hitting the survivor and he got shocked and feels he was knocked out for a period of about five seconds, and then he came to, he still had a survivor laying across his chest holding onto him, which is pretty cool. We didn’t realize that in the aircraft until he got into the aircraft and was pretty much worthless from that point forward.”

Hess describes the obstacles that piled up against him and his team.

“First it was lightening, second it was the hoist failure and then it was the swimmer getting electrocuted, and then it was anti-ice failing and then we went home. It’s just like what’s next? It’s like I keep saying, the laws of threes. Things come in threes, but it came in fours of fives for us that day. You know, they all felt like challenges that we had to overcome. We got out there, so we’re at a high. As soon as we felt like we were unstoppable, something knocked us back down.”

He says he felt nervous. There were a lot of unknowns.

“Are we gonna make it back? Are we gonna have the weather to land back at home plate? Are we gonna be able to complete the rescue? Just a lot of questions. Honestly, you don’t know the answers until you’re in it. We didn’t know if we were gonna be able to land back home until we were back home. But also a lot of confidence. We had a pretty rock solid crew. If I had to pick, I think I’d pick the same guys to come back out with me.”

Hess calls the flight mechanic, who operated the hoist, their keystone.

“Without him, we could not have done this mission. There, everything was a third. He had third his vision. I’m not kidding. He opened the cabin door, his visor froze, his glasses froze, so now he’s down to uncorrected vision looking into the freezing spray. I mean, flight mechanics now… that can’t be easy.”

He says one of the more strenuous moments came after the rescue on the way home.

“We’re pretty happy, everybody’s chatting,and I had basically to say, hey, we’re not done yet, we’re not on deck yet, we still gotta make it back. We’re only gonna have two chances to land, meaning like doing an approach to an airport. We don’t have a whole lot of opportunity, so we still need to stay focused. We can’t lose our bearing, if you will.”

He says the conditions that day made that last stretch difficult.

“With the icing above us, our limited fuel, the inability to break out on an approach, just like Alaska jets coming in here when they have to go around because they can’t see, the ceilings were 100 feet above the runway with less than a quarter mile visibility – so that’s not very far. And all the blowing snow - it would be really hard to see anything. And then everything in the whole entire Cape Code area is covered in three or four feet of snow at this point. Just not a whole lot of landing options at that point. If you can’t land, you run out of gas.”

Hess says, had they failed to land, the backup plan would have meant flying to an island and landing on a beach. The situation never reached that point, and the two fishermen and the team all survived.

Hess says the rescue swimmer also received a Distinguished Flying Cross, and both Hess’s co-pilot and the flight mechanic received air medals.
 
Feb 08 2016
One Dead, Another in Custody After Dog Bay Shooting PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 08 February 2016
Jay Barrett/KMXT
One 28-year-old fisherman is dead and another is in custody after an early Sunday shooting in Kodiak’s Saint Herman Harbor. 

According to the Kodiak Police Department, at approximately 12:40 a.m., officers responded to reports that an individual who had been shot in Saint Herman Harbor on Near Island. Officers contacted several witnesses and found an unresponsive male aboard the FV Katherine who was bleeding from several gunshot wounds.

The 28 year-old victim, whose identity is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, was transported to the Providence Kodiak Island Medical where he was pronounced dead.

Matt Bowe, a fisherman from Washington State, was arrested and charged with first degree murder. 
 
Feb 05 2016
DOWL Solicits Public Feedback on Near Island Development Plan PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 February 2016
public.jpgMembers of the community at the DOWL presentation. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The City of Kodiak together with its facilitator, DOWL engineering, solicited public comment on its Near Island Development Plan last night at a public presentation. DOWL senior planner Michelle Ritter said the kickoff event will be the first opportunity for DOWL to hear and incorporate public input.

A number of community members stepped up to the podium to share their thoughts and ideas for Near Island’s future. Here are some excerpts.

5.3 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

 
Feb 04 2016
Alaska Fisheries Report - Feb. 4, 2016 PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 February 2016

6.41 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

 

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Coming up this week, the IPHC boosts coast-wide halibut catch limits, trawlers agree to a Gulf-wide stand down to address the North Pacific Council, and there'll be no enrichment for Karluk Lake. And is the second time the charm for a Board of Fish candidate from the Kenai? All that and we say goodbye to one of the founders of Trident Seafoods, coming up on the Alaska Fisheries Report. We had help from KFSK's Joe Viechnicki in Petersburg and KDLG's Molly Dischner in Dillingham. 

 
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