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Jun 02 2015
State Ferries Would Be Idled By Budget Impass PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 June 2015
Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska
All state ferries will stop sailing by early July if the Legislature fails to reach a budget deal. 

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s plans are among dozens of state service cuts announced Monday by the Walker administration.

Ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the 11 ships in the fleet will head to their home ports as close to July 1st as possible.

“We can’t play guessing games that there will be a fully funded budget at some point,” he said. “And so, we have to play it safe and have the ships enter layoff status in July.”

Some ferries will stop sailing in the final days of June, while others will tie up a few days later. 

Woodrow says a skeleton crew will remain with each ship to keep it ready to return to service.

Notice of the layup plans will be posted on the marine highway website Tuesday, but people scheduled to sail will not hear directly from Marine Highway staff. 

“There’s thousands of reservation holders,” Woodrow said. “If we were to start contacting each one, by the time we reached them all, there might be a budget passed and we’d have to turn around and call them all back.”

Woodrow says those changing or cancelling reservations will not face a penalty.

One ferry - the Taku – was already scheduled to be tied up for July and August as part of budget cuts. 

The ferry system serves 35 port communities. Only five are on the mainland road system.
Jun 01 2015
Kodiak Protestors Against Navy Training Take Stand On Land and Sea PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 01 June 2015
flotilla_protest_smoke_bomb.jpgA picture of a smoke bomb from the flotilla protest. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

On Saturday afternoon, fishermen and concerned Kodiak residents gathered at Pier II to protest the location and timing of the Navy Training in the Gulf of Alaska. The Sun’aq Tribe helped to organize the event with the help of skippers and crewmembers alike.

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On board the Mythos, a voice comes on over the radio telling vessels to tie together in front of pier 2.

We make our way into a line, where we face the crowd of about 33 people lined up on the dock in front of their cars. Crewmembers hurry to raft up the boats. Once they are secured and the rush to avoid collision is over, I climb down to the deck and speak to Mythos crewmember Rolf Hanning.

Hanning is a newcomer to both Alaska and fishing and came out to take a stand alongside his skipper and crew.

“I don’t think it’s a very good idea to kill all the fish that this whole economy runs on, and beyond that, we know it’s bad for the environment, we know that they could do it somewhere else, it’s the United States government, they can bomb wherever they want. Why are they doing it right here? It doesn’t make any sense,” says Hanning.

Fisherman Chuck McWethy also thinks the Navy training could take place elsewhere.

“If they want to go blow up their bombs, they can figure out where there’s less sea life, where there’s less commercial product available for harvest that has a real, real good possibility of being affected by it,” says McWethy.

I hop from boat to boat to talk to protestors. Around me, crewmembers shoot flares into the sky, release orange smoke bombs, and honk their horns. Cars on the pier respond.

I end up on a vessel captained by McWethy’s son, Quinnan.

He says he just heard about the Navy training and doesn’t know much about it, but he’s there to support the fishing community.

“The only way we can actually achieve anything is if everyone gets together,” says McWethy. Whether it’s striking for prices of salmon or standing up to this, I know that everyone’s kinda coming together for something and I stand behind the fishing fleet and what they want to do.”

Wrapped up in the interview, we hear the shout that they’re cutting the boats loose a little too late. One of the fishermen offers me a skiff ride and delivers me to a ladder at pier 2. I climb my way up to the protest on land, where things are winding down.

Vice-Chair of the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak Council, John Reft, is among the crowd and says he has a personal history fishing in Portlock Bank, one of the areas where the Navy plans to train. He says King Crab comes in through there and the Navy could disturb the crab as well as other sea life.

 “They’re gonna diminish the possible stocks when we’re trying to build this island back up for the King crab like it used to be,” says Reft. “You cannot take a chance with all those bombs and stuff that they’re going to use.”

Council Chair, Sophie Frets, is also at the protest, and says she saw a united front from the fishermen.

“They’re from totally different boat aspects, the trawlers, and the jiggers, and the salmon fishermen all together united to speak up and say this is not a game, that we need this to exist, so they got together in a way that I’m very proud that we were able to see it,” says Frets.

Frets says the Sun’aq Tribe put in a request to the United States Department of Defense for a formal consultation and hopes to get the Navy to listen to their concerns. She says the tribe is still waiting to hear back from officials.
May 29 2015
6.7 Quake Shakes Kodiak and Beyond PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 May 2015
The AP/Dave Bendinger-KDLG/ Jay Barrett-KMXT
A strong earthquake struck offshore of Kodiak Island late last night, but officials say there was no tsunami threat or immediate reports of damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude-6.7 quake struck at 11 p.m. Thursday and was centered in the ocean about 35 miles beneath the seabed and about 160 miles southwest of Kodiak City. 

Officials say the temblor was felt on the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Kenai Peninsula and even Anchorage.

The Kodiak Police dispatch office says the quake was felt at the station, but it received no reports of damage.

The National Tsunami Warning Center says there is no tsunami danger.

Alvin Peterson in Chignik Lagoon told KDLG radio in Dillingham it’s the strongest earthquake he’s felt in decades.

“Well, it was almost comparable to the '64 earthquake. The house was rocking pretty good,” Peterson said. “Understand there was some rock slides and stuff falling off the shelves and breaking. Definitely rattled everybody’s nerves.”

The quake was initially reported as a 6.8 magnitude but was later downgraded slightly. Residents all around the region took to Facebook last night to discuss the earthquake and its effects. Many of those commenting said the earthquake’s unusually long duration was a bit shocking. Peterson says the same.

“Heard a couple reports, lasted almost a minute,” he said, “but it was pretty long, and pretty violent.”

Closer to the coast, residents in Chignik Bay headed for the tsunami shelter last night to be on the safe side. Fire chief Guy Ashby, speaking this morning, says the quake got a slow rolling start:

“It started off like maybe a three. Shook a little bit, and then you could start hear it building. And it start shaking a little harder, kept building,” Ashby said. “It probably shook, rough estimate, 35-, 40-forty seconds.”

The USGS says there have been numerous aftershocks of magnitude-3.0 or greater.
May 29 2015
City Council Talks Budget, Grants, and Jackson Park Meeting PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

At its Thursday night regular meeting, the Kodiak City Council heard the ordinance to adopt the city’s fiscal year 2016 budget and move it along to the second reading.

City Manager Aimée Kniaziowski read from the budget packet memo. It says, when compared with the fiscal year 2015 budget, the coming year’s budget has the same decrease for combined revenues as it does for costs related to city funds.

“Expenses for all city funds excluding capital projects is expected to also be $38,034,750," says Kniaziowski. "Which again is an overall decrease of 8 percent from 2015. Fewer transfers in capital equipments account for the largest decrease in expenses for the combined all departments, all funds.”

The City Council announced that the second reading will take place at its next regular meeting on June 11.

The Council also passed a resolution to raise the minimum annual increase of grant awards for nonprofits, which Kniaziowski says it had discussed at a previous work session.

“They were restricted to no more than 10 percent more each year despite their needs and as the program opened up, we saw that there were inequities in it, and your decision was to go ahead and remove that requirement that only 10 percent increase would be available," says Kniaziowski.

Furthermore, Mayor Pat Branson updated those present on discussions going on behind the scenes in the borough and city governments regarding Jackson Trailer Park.

“I met with the borough manager and the community development director this week and I think we’re all pretty concerned. I know we’re all pretty concerned about the situation and I know that the manager is bringing up tonight to the Assembly about how fast they want to track this with relaxing some codes. And they’ve made some other progress as well," says Branson.

Branson says the city council hopes to discuss the issue at a joint work session with the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly. She says they can look at possible dates after the Assembly’s meeting with the P&Z Commission regarding the matter, which she says will take place on June 11.

May 28 2015
Kodiak Fishermen to Protest Navy Training PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 28 May 2015
A graphic of the protest planned for Saturday. Via Tom Lance at the Sun'aq Tribe

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

In response to the news of Navy training this summer in the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak fishermen together with the Sun'aq Tribe will hold a water-based protest Saturday afternoon.    

Tom Lance is the Natural Resources Director of the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak and the organizer behind the Kodiak Protest Flotilla. He says the activity on Portlock Bank to the east of Kodiak Island will disturb migrating salmon and other species and he hopes the protest will influence a location and schedule change.

“We want to tell the Navy that, no, they shouldn’t do it there. Take it off-shore at least a couple of hundred nautical miles and at a different time when the salmon aren’t swimming by,” says Lance.

He says a better time might be late September after the primary salmon runs are done. He says although the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process is finished as far as the Navy is concerned, protesters can still make a difference.

“If enough people protest and talk to their congressional delegation, the Navy will probably have to pay attention and make some sort of accommodations for our concerns,” says Lance. “And then the last thing is that tribes are sovereign nations and they can invoke the right for a government to government consultation and, indeed, Sun’aq tribe has already asked for a government to government consultation requesting more discussion about this.”

Dave Kubiak, a fisherman who’s been in Kodiak since the 60s, says he understands the importance of Navy training, but takes issue with its effect on commercial fishing.

“It’s just really irresponsible of the Navy to have practice during the summer during salmon migration. That’s my biggest gripe,” says Kubiak.

He says he’s concerned that not many fishermen will show up due to timing.

“Everybody’s under the gun in terms of getting ready to go salmon fishing. There’s a widespread panic throughout town because the potential opener is coming up and everybody’s scrambling to get ready, so it’s not a very convenient time, but I’m hoping everybody’ll show up, because they might have some affect,” says Kubiak.

You can join the protest at 2 p.m. Saturday. Pedestrian protestors can stand on Pier II and vessels should face it, raft-up, and tune into VHF Channel 79.
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