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Dec 30 2014
Supreme Court to ADF&G: Stray Livestock Not Feral
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
1.81 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Friday the Alaska Supreme Court overturned an Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulation from 2007 declaring domesticated livestock, specifically Kodiak's bison herds, were feral if they stayed outside of their designated state grazing leases for too long. As feral animals, they would be fair game, and could be hunted like any other wild animal, subject to Fish and Game regulations.
    Kodiak rancher Charles Dorman appealed the Board of Game's 2007 regulation to state superior court in 2010, after a two-plus grace period to round up all his bison and getting a notice that a winter hunt was being planned on his wayward animals.
    Dorman maintained that domestic livestock can not be considered feral if its owner was known. With only two herds separated by miles of mountains on the island, Dorman argued everyone knew whose bison were whose.
    But Superior Court Judge Sen K. Tan ruled against Dorman and awarded the state over $8,700 in legal fees. 
    On Friday the Supreme Court overturned Judge Tan's decision and Fish and Game's rule, saying the state's regulatory definition of “feral” was arbitrary and conflicted with its use elsewhere in the state hunting regulations. 
    “It's good that the Supreme court did confirm that they are open grazing leases.”
    Frank Bishop is bison rancher in Kodiak whose herd also grazes on state land, not far from where the Dorman lease is.
    “The fact that the buffalo do walk on and off the leases doesn't make them feral whatsoever. They're still privately owned livestock," Bishop said. "And the people of Kodiak should know that. But no matter where the buffalo are, they're either owned by the Burtons, myself or the Dorman family.”
    Larry Van Daele is the Southcentral Region Supervisor for Fish and Game. He was quick to point out that the Supreme Court ruling does not releive lease-holders from respecting the boundaries of the state land their livestock grazes on.
    “It does not mean that anybody can run their domestic livestock anywhere they want in the state. I mean there's still state grazing leases, and the Department of Natural Resources still has jurisdiction on where those lease's boundaries are," Van Daele said. "And I can't speak for them, but I believe they have fines for people who go off lease and resources that they're not responsible for. It's not like where the buffalo roam and they can go anywhere in Alaska, it just means this one piece of the Department's responsibility is no longer valid.”
    Bishop said bison are well-known for their wandering ways, and he tries hard to be a good neighbor, and thinks other ranchers do too.
    “I don't want to destroy some body's property, private property or anything else," he said. "That's why I make a concentrated effort to go get them and put them back on the lease if they wander off.”
    Though larger Wood Bison are native to Alaska, and were recently re-introduced to the Interior, Kodiak Island's Plains Bison were brought here 50 or so years ago as a hardier alternative to cattle, which ranchers were losing in large number to bears. Because they are bigger, smarter and tend to herd up closer together, Van Daele said bison were better able to fend off the always opportunistic bruins. But their size and strength also allowed them to break through barbed wire fences much easier than cattle. Which was the genesis of the wandering bison issue. 
    Bison owner Charles Dorman did not live to see his victory in the Alaska Supreme Court. He died five months ago at the age of 78. 
Dec 30 2014
Record Rain Closes Chiniak Highway
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Two days of record rain was just too much for the roadway near the Roslyn River Bridge on the Chiniak Highway. 
    Yesterday afternoon the road washed out as the river flooded after three inches of rain Sunday and over two and a half Monday.
    By 4 p.m. the Chiniak Highway was closed and the Alaska Department of Transportation responded to the washout to begin repairs. By 12:30 this (Tuesday) morning, one lane of the road was rebuilt and opened to traffic.
    The Kodiak Police Department reports no mudslides overnight in town, but some yards on Selief were flooding Monday.
    Steady rain remains in the forecast for today, with some relief coming tonight. Clear skies are expected on the last day of the year.
Dec 29 2014
Gov. Walker Orders Spending on KLC Halted
Monday, 29 December 2014
1.42 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Governor Bill Walker has ordered the stop of any new spending by the Alaska Aerospace Corporation on the state-owned Kodiak Launch Complex. Its part of an executive order issued Friday that calls for a time-out on six large projects around the state that includes the roads to Ambler and Juneau, the Susitna Damn, the Knik Arm Bridge and the Alaska Stand Alone gas Pipeline Project.
    Walker is also requiring the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, along with the agencies responsible for the other projects, the Department of Transportation, Gasline Development Corporation, Energy Authority and Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority to submit a report to the director of the Office of Management and Budget detailing all discretionary funding obligations, a spreadsheet of non-discretionary funding obligations, including contracts, and the potential costs to delay, suspend or terminate them. Operating costs to date and budgeted personnel costs for the rest of the fiscal year are also required.
    In the order, Walker said the severe drop in oil prices, contributing to a growing budget deficit, is forcing him to call a time out on the six projects. It's a step Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens said Saturday he agrees with:
    “You know I think the governor is doing exactly what I think he should be doing in saying let's take a look at every major expenditure and make sure it's what we should be doing. And in the end it'll be beneficial to the state of Alaska. I think what he's done, and specifically in terms of the rocket launch – and realize wasn't looked any different than anything else, the railroad, the university, whatever – but it's good to stop and have a serious look at it.”
    Stevens said the Kodiak Launch Complex and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation have seen lean times in the past, and doesn't think this move by Governor Walker is necessarily the beginning of the end for the operation.
    “As you may recall, we were in this same position a few years ago. And the rocket launch folks, the president, met with Governor Parnell at the time at the time, and Parnell came away quite convinced the future could be quite good. And I think we'll see what happens. Walker is doing the right thing here, but unless there's something serious on the horizon, maybe it is time to begin closing the thing up. But if there is an opportunity, then we'd just be foolish not to take advantage of it.”
    Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell could not be reached Saturday for comment. His office, and that of the other agencies affected, have until January 5th to submit the financial data requested by Walker. In the meantime, funds, whether state or federal, may only be spent on expenses they are currently committed to. Walker gave no indication of a timeline for when the projects would be reviewed and discretionary spending could begin again. 
Dec 29 2014
Ferry Rates Going Up, But Not Most Out of ADQ
Monday, 29 December 2014
Margaret Friedenauer/KHNS
    It will cost passengers more to ride the state ferry starting in the summer. That’s when fares for most Alaska Marine Highway will increase by four-and-a-half percent.
    According to the Department of Transportation, tickets booked after the first of the year for travel after May first will reflect the new rates. Tickets booked before the New Year will fall under the current rates.
    The new fare structure is spurred by the recommendations of a recent rate analysis. The Marine Transportation Advisory Board saw the preliminary recommendations of that report during a recent meeting in Ketchikan. DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the department was planning to raise fares even before the recommendation.
    “The department knew its rates were out of balance and by increasing most fares by four-and-a-half percent that was consistent with a lot of other recommendations that were coming through the department as a way to help increase revenues to offset operating costs. So the department would likely move ahead with this rate increase regardless. So by announcing it now, we’re giving the general public the most amount of time possible to prepare for that increase.”
    The analysis was conducted by Northern Economics. It recommends the Marine Highway System set rates so that they to cover between 39 to 65 percent of operating expenses. Revenues currently cover less than one-third of the operating budget, according to the department.
    Woodrow says the complete rate study will be released to the legislature in February. More changes in operating costs may come after that.
    “The rate increase that was just announced was one of the first preliminary recommendations from that report. The study is not complete yet so we’ve not released the first report. We’ll do that when we release the full report to the legislature this upcoming session.
    The analysis suggests that rates more than 25 percent above average not change. Woodrow says that means about 30 fares within the system will remain unchanged, including most routes out of Kodiak, except to Homer. 
Dec 29 2014
Western Sale Price $37-Million
Monday, 29 December 2014
Jay Barrett/KMXT
    A few weeks ago when KMXT first told you of Trident Seafood's purchase of the Western Alaska Fisheries cannery in Kodiak, CEO Joe Bundrant declined to reveal the sale price, saying as a privately-owned company, they preferred to keep such information private. 
    However, the company Trident purchased Western from, Japan-based Maruha Nichiro, is a publicly-traded company, and as such must report its financial dealings. 
    On Monday, the company released its 2014 net profit estimates and reports the sale price for the Western Alaska plant in Kodiak was $37-million. Maruha Nichiro also placed the value of the Western plant at $11-million.
    The sale just about doubled the company's net profit for the year from 5-billion Yen to 10-billion Yen. Last fiscal year, their net profit was 3.2-billion Yen.
    Trident and Maruha Nichiro are expected to finalize the sale agreement today (Dec. 29).
    These figures were first reported in the Japanese seafood trade website Minato-Tsukiji.com. 
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