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Letter: Return to civil discussions

Mon, 2021-10-18 11:43

Is there an official published list of rules and regulations guiding attending or testifying at Assembly meetings? If there is, I can’t find one. If there isn’t, we certainly need one. It certainly should cover acceptable behavior by attendees. Rules regarding how to get approved to testify, length of testimony and acceptable language.

In order to allow testimony for all, we need police presence to insure rules are followed and if not they are removed and/or fined. Many citizens are passionate about their causes. That, however, does not allow folks to be disrespectful, rude and insensitive.

Let’s return to civil, factual discussions.

— Steven B. Tucker, MD, FACP

Anchorage

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Letter: Commonsense health measures

Mon, 2021-10-18 11:41

I applaud the Anchorage Assembly for their efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic with the 60-day mask mandate. This subject has become politicized and is no longer about what is the best for the people of the municipality. Since Mayor Dave Bronson has taken office, the COVID numbers have increased, and he has done nothing to alleviate the situation. The Assembly members, by acting, are helping to get things under control.

I recently returned from a month in Palm Springs. There is a mask mandate in California, and I had to show proof of vaccination to eat indoors at restaurants. Neither of these policies affected me. I felt safer in public knowing that controls were in place. The COVID rates in California are dropping and businesses are operating without other restrictions.

It’s time for everyone to realize that this disease is not going away. Our businesses will recover faster without worry of closure due to COVID outbreaks. We can control the disease with vaccines and using common sense. I look forward to the day I can be comfortable in public without a mask. Everyone cooperating and following health guidance can make this happen.

— Anne Habza

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Lead by example

Mon, 2021-10-18 11:39

I read Mayor Bronson’s statement from Oct. 12 calling for “calm and compassion in our city,” and suggested the health care providers “treat every patient with dignity, compassion and kindness regardless of creed or personal beliefs.” This is the same mayor who stated he felt the hospitals were overstating their burden in dealing with the pandemic, referred to the Assembly during his campaign as a “bunch of idiots,” defended people wearing the Star of David in protest at contentious Assembly meetings, and sat idly by when one of his supporters made derogatory comments to my Assembly member Christopher Constant followed by a round of applause and said nothing.

Our city, our health care workers and our Assembly deserve better — might I suggest leading by example?

— Doug Lyon

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Insurance expenses drive up costs of docking Alaska state ferry in need of overhaul

Mon, 2021-10-18 10:57

The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina and Amak Towing tugboat Jennie B. share a mooring in Ketchikan on Friday, May 21, 2021. The state of Alaska is trying to dispose of the 58-year-old ferry, and even has offered to give it free to the government of the Philippines. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP) (Dustin Safranek/)

JUNEAU - The cost to the state for docking an Alaska ferry that has been idled for nearly two years is close to $900,000 a year, with much of that representing insurance costs that were not previously publicly disclosed, CoastAlaska reported on Monday.

The Malaspina is one of the original ferries in the state fleet, dating back to the early 1960s, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has balked at investing in the overhaul of one of the ship’s original engines.

Estimates for getting new engines, steel work and restoring a certificate from the U.S. Coast Guard that lapsed while the ship has been laid up are in the range of $70 million.

The state has been contracting with a company for just over $400,000 a year to store the vessel at a private dock near Ketchikan. CoastAlaska earlier this year reported that monthly power costs to heat the vessel boost the cost to about $447,000.

But that doesn’t include insurance costs. The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities told CoastAlaska that insurance costs were about $420,000 during the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, and that the figure would go up “slightly” during the current fiscal year that ends in June 2022.

[Alaska considers sinking laid-up ferry to save money for ailing Marine Highway]

Emails obtained by CoastAlaska through a records request showed officials were surprised and frustrated with the costs of maintaining the Malaspina.

It was revealed in an email from Mary Siroky, a recently retired deputy commissioner, that the monthly cost of keeping the Malaspina was close to $75,000.

It “seems clear to me, even if we give the Mal away, we’re coming out ahead very quickly,” Rob Carpenter, a deputy commissioner, wrote in an August 2020 email.

The Dunleavy administration tried to give the ship to the Philippines. But Randy Ruaro, Dunleavy’s acting chief of staff, said that fell through when the Philippine government learned it would cost more than $50 million to rehabilitate the ferry to serve as a passenger ship.

The emails also showed commercial interest in the ferry, with one company saying it wanted the Malaspina for anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.

“We would be using it as a platform for housing personnel over in the Middle East,” wrote Jonathan McConnell, president of Meridian Global Consulting, a security firm based in Mobile, Alabama.

He provided recent email chains between the company and state officials showing that more than a year had passed since he first expressed interest. He last reached out in late July.

“We felt largely stonewalled by them,” McConnell said, noting the company was willing to pay fair market value of close to $1 million for the ferry.

Another prospective buyer in the United Arab Emirates made a cash offer via email for $625,000 for the ferry as-is, emails showed.

Selling surplus ships was a key recommendation of a task force providing advice on the future of the state ferry fleet.

“Sell it or scrap it,” said Tom Barrett, a retired Coast Guard admiral tasked with chairing the group. “But you just don’t want to keep holding it there indefinitely. Also you’ve got insurance, but it’s a risk factor, it’s an old ship and it’s tied up at a dock.”

Ruaro said he will visit Ketchikan to inspect the ship’s condition at Ward Cove. He said he couldn’t immediately explain why there had been no answer to prospective buyers.

He said he would talk to the Transportation Department, “and we’ll make sure that any offers or expressions of interest are all reviewed and vetted for options.”

FAA suggests steps to improve aviation safety in Alaska. Some experts say they’re not enough.

Mon, 2021-10-18 10:38

A small plane flies over Anchorage’s Hillside on Oct. 16, 2021. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with KUCB Unalaska.

Recommendations released last week by the Federal Aviation Administration to improve aviation safety in Alaska represent a significant step forward but fall short of what’s needed to reduce the state’s fatal crash rate, aviation experts say.

The FAA Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative, or FAASI, released its final report Thursday, encouraging the agency to focus its efforts on bolstering the availability of weather information for pilots flying in the state, increasing use of safety technology and improving FAA policies for flying with cockpit instruments.

Those involved in Alaska’s aviation industry say the report is a positive step, but some, including the National Transportation Safety Board, say it isn’t enough on its own.

“There’s lots more that needs to be done, but it’s a big start,” said Lee Ryan, president of Ryan Air, a commercial operator that serves 72 communities across Western Alaska and also provides charter flights within the state and elsewhere. “It’s leaps and bounds beyond where we were two years ago.”

The Alaska Aviation Safety Initiative was launched in October 2020 following a recommendation from the NTSB, the federal agency that investigates transportation accidents, to review and prioritize Alaska’s aviation safety needs and ensure the FAA was making progress on implementing safety enhancements.

The report contains few new initiatives or specific calls for additional funding. FAA officials said the main contribution provided by the group was helping the agency prioritize some of its existing efforts to improve safety in the state and promote collaboration between its various departments. Outside observers have said FAA units often fail to work together as effectively as they could.

“I am hopeful that this effort will give the FAA Regional Administrator’s office an increased ability to steer current and future Alaska specific programs,” Tom George, the Alaska regional manager for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a national nonprofit aviation group, said in an email. George and Ryan participated in a call last week unveiling the report.

The report mirrors some of the solutions suggested in an investigation by KUCB and ProPublica. In June, the news organizations found that Alaska is the site of a growing share of the country’s crashes involving small commercial aircraft. Over the past two decades, the number of deaths in crashes involving these operators has plummeted nationwide, while in Alaska deaths have held relatively steady.

The FAASI report comes two years after a roundtable meeting held by the NTSB to address Alaska’s high number of small commercial plane accidents and fatalities. The group released an interim report in April that listed many of the current FAA efforts to improve aviation safety. Since then, the FAA has held a dozen meetings for pilots, operators, industry members, government officials and academic experts to offer feedback.

The recommendations

Alaska, where 80% of communities are not on the road system, is dependent on aviation. But the state has unique challenges. It’s large and sparsely populated. There is remote, mountainous terrain to navigate. The weather can change quickly.

The FAASI report notes that one of the primary challenges for pilots in the state is the lack of areas where they can fly without relying on their line of sight. Pilots generally can fly in one of two ways. When the weather is clear, they can use their eyes to spot other airplanes and terrain they want to avoid. But when flying in poor weather or at higher elevations, pilots need to use electronic instruments and controls in the cockpit to fly safely.

In much of Alaska, however, pilots don’t have access to weather information that would allow them to use instruments. The report recommends that the agency continue its efforts to install systems that transmit automated weather broadcasts to pilots and to proceed with testing a new technology to provide weather bulletins plus video of the current weather directly to pilots’ mobile devices or through flight service stations.

The FAA is also seeking to expand the use of a collision avoidance technology called Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast systems. Currently, less than half the state’s territory that is 3,000 feet or more above ground level is covered by ADS-B ground stations. Ground stations provide weather and traffic information to planes, and the report calls for the FAA to install more of them throughout the state.

However, the news organizations previously found that many planes in Alaska are not equipped with an ADS-B device, in part because one is only required at very high altitudes and around Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Despite NTSB recommendations to mandate its use in other high-traffic areas, the report directs the FAA to rely on a voluntary approach. The FAA says it prefers encouragement over regulations in this case because the agency believes this will increase ADS-B usage faster than starting a new rulemaking process.


An Alaska plane equipped with the ADS-B system, at right (Zoë Sobel/KUCB)

While most of the report’s recommendations focus on existing FAA efforts, it does call for the agency to begin adjusting its policies to allow for flying with instruments in more places throughout the state, especially at low altitudes. Industry members and experts had previously told the news organizations that the lack of FAA-approved approaches that pilots could use to fly in and out of many of the state’s airports was one of the key obstacles to broader use of instrument flight. The report notes that this recommendation came as a direct result of conversations with pilots.

Is it enough?

Two members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, are calling on the FAA to ask for funding through President Joe Biden’s budget request to implement the report’s recommendations.

Recently retired NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt says the recommendations should improve aviation safety in Alaska if they are implemented.

“Until then, we’re still at status quo,” he said via email.

Current NTSB Chair Jennifer L. Homendy applauded the FAA report in a statement but said “more needs to be done to ensure air transportation is as safe in Alaska as in the rest of the nation.”

FAA officials said they will focus first on the initiatives that could have the most impact; more funding will be needed to install new automated weather systems and ADS-B ground stations.

Ryan, the Ryan Air president, said he was cautiously optimistic that the FAASI effort, which identified on paper the state’s most pressing aviation issues, will be successful. But he left the call unveiling the report a bit confused about who is responsible for seeking additional funding.

“How do you get somebody to put this into a budget?” he said after the call. “Does it come down to Joe Biden making sure this goes through? Or does it come down to Don Young making sure this goes through? Let’s get a definitive answer, so it’s written down and funded.”

Letter: An auditory assault

Mon, 2021-10-18 10:29

In the recent past, fall brought people out to their yards with rakes and other non-motorized yard tools. Raking leaves provided an opportunity to observe fall colors, spend time outdoors, talk to neighbors, enjoy a crisp fall day and get some arm exercise.

It pains my ears and my heart to see this tradition replaced with the high-decibel onslaught of the leaf blower supplanting the rake. I stay indoors when neighbors are assaulting the innocent ears of those living nearby. Even my cats choose to stay indoors when the roar of the leaf blower overwhelms the pleasure of being outdoors.

Lay down your leaf blower, and once again take up the rake. It will benefit your health, provide peace and calm to the neighborhood, and assist the environment by removing a gas-guzzling machine from spewing its climate warming exhaust into the atmosphere. Let us all return from the mechanized roar of the leaf blower back to the quiet simplicity of a rake. We will be better for it.

— Sarah Robicheaux

Anchorage

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Letter: Remembering Clem Tillion

Mon, 2021-10-18 10:26

Former state Sen. Clem Tillion, who passed this week at age 96, was among the first legislators I met when I became the Associated Press capital correspondent in Juneau in 1976. He soon became my go-to politician for a good quote when I was desperate for one. He had all the attributes a reporter wants. He was knowledgeable, approachable, articulate, funny and irascible. And he never dodged a question.

He was a Republican, but not a partisan. He joined with Gov. Jay Hammond, a close friend, and liberal Democrats like House Speaker Hugh Malone to craft and then win passage of the Alaska Permanent Fund. He was an ardent conservationist. He was an honest man.

But above all, I’ll remember Clem as one of the last living World War II veterans who came into the country after the war to become visionary public servants whose imprimateur on Alaska will remain forever. And remember, Vic Fischer survives.

— Mike Harmon

Pensacola, Florida

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Ahmaud Arbery’s killing changed his Georgia town. Starting this week, three men will stand trial for murder.

Mon, 2021-10-18 08:56

A mural dedicated to, from left, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery behind the Power Circle Barbershop in Tampa. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Octavio Jones for The Washington Post

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - The weekend before the trial of three White men accused of killing a Black man in what some have called a modern-day lynching, civil rights lawyer Gerald A. Griggs stood outside the county courthouse here and reminded the mostly Black crowd of what they have already accomplished.

“We no longer intend to beg for justice. We demand it. We expect it,” he said Saturday, more than a year and a half after Ahmaud Arbery was chased and shot on a residential street in nearby Satilla Shores. Around him were Arbery’s former classmates and church friends of his family. Many brought their children.

“There is a new hate crimes law in Georgia because of an unarmed jogger,” Griggs told them. “There is new leadership in this county because of an unarmed jogger.”

Activism has flourished in this small coastal city where residents once fought for the slightest shreds of accountability in Arbery’s killing. For more than two months after the 25-year-old’s death in February 2020, there were no arrests in the case. But then a graphic video leaked and shocked the country: the first images of Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan confronting Arbery in their trucks before the younger McMichael tussles with Arbery while holding a shotgun.

The local prosecutor who once coasted to reelection here was voted out and indicted on allegations that she helped shield the suspects. The troubled county police department got its first Black police chief. The case united Democrats and Republicans in condemnation, paving the way for not only a hate crimes law in Georgia but also an overhaul of the citizen’s arrest law, which dated back to the Civil War era.

Now those who pushed for justice wonder if the murder trial starting Monday will be the culmination of their efforts or another setback.

“What’s on trial is the importance of African American life in this country,” said Darren West, a Black pastor in Brunswick. He believes that more people are listening now to concerns about racial disparities in one of Georgia’s poorest cities and surrounding Glynn County.

“If people are not held accountable for the death of a young man in the middle of broad daylight in the streets of our community . . . then those in the establishment may not feel the need to change anything,” West said.

The defendants have said they never meant to kill Arbery and followed him on the belief that he was behind neighborhood break-ins, then fired in self-defense. Security camera footage showed Arbery entering a house that was under construction shortly before the McMichaels confronted him, but police found no stolen items on his body. Video from Bryan’s cellphone captured Arbery running around the McMichaels’ truck and then toward Travis McMichael, who struggles with Arbery before shots ring out.


This combination of booking photos provided by the Glynn County, Ga., Detention Center, shows, from left, Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., all charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. (Glynn County Detention Center via AP, File)

Jury selection could take weeks, as lawyers and officials seek impartial arbiters for a nationally known tragedy that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, R, called “horrific.” President Joe Biden compared it to a lynching.

The local court has summoned 1,000 people for duty - roughly one in every 85 people living in Glynn County. Frank Hogue, a lawyer for one of the defendants, said he “won’t be shocked” if authorities are unable to form a jury and have to move the whole proceeding elsewhere in Georgia. Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s family, said fears of a justice system tainted by racial bias linger.

“A lot of the things that we want to see change have already begun to change,” Merritt said. “However, this is going to be a litmus test about Glynn County itself, because the jury pool, the finder of fact, is going to be from that community where this incident happened.”

Arbery’s case is one of many killings of Black Americans last year that sparked protests, part of a massive racial justice movement ignited by the murder of George Floyd. The trial comes six months after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in Floyd’s death, a moment watched around the world. But Merritt said the trial in Arbery’s killing stands out for the way he expects it to explicitly tackle race in Georgia.

“We’re going to be confronting racism in the South head-on,” he said.

Prosecutors have portrayed the defendants as vigilantes who racially profiled a jogger and cornered him in their trucks. The three men face separate federal hate-crime charges, and Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael used the n-word after shooting Arbery - something McMichael’s lawyers deny.

Defense attorneys, on the other hand, say their clients have been unfairly villainized and that race had nothing to do with their actions. Recently they’ve been fighting to keep jurors from seeing a photo of Travis McMichael’s license plate, which features an old Georgia flag with the Confederate battle emblem. The judge has yet to rule on that issue but has already rejected defense requests to introduce evidence on Arbery’s mental health and criminal history.

It is not clear if any of the defendants will testify in the trial, which lawyers say could stretch well over a month. Robert Rubin, a lawyer for Travis McMichael, said their plans depend on the prosecution’s and he is not sure whom the other side will call. The district attorney’s office in Cobb County, now prosecuting the case, did not respond to an inquiry about its plans for witnesses.


FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2021, file photo, Ahmaud Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, bottom center, listens to Jason Vaughn speak during a memorial walk and candlelight vigil for Ahmaud at the Satilla Shores development in Brunswick, Ga. Arbery's son was shot and killed while running in a neighborhood outside the port city. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin Monday, Oct. 18. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File) (Stephen B. Morton/)

Whatever the verdict in court, activists say outcry over the case has forced changes from local authorities who faced public mistrust and allegations of uneven justice long before Arbery’s death.

The first prosecutor to touch Arbery’s case, Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, R, had faced no serious challenges for 10 years until her case record drew scrutiny after Arbery’s killing. Johnson recused herself from the McMichaels’ case early on, but a grand jury has indicted her on allegations that she showed “favor and affection” to Greg McMichael - a former Glynn County police officer who had just retired from her office - and improperly directed that Travis McMichael should not be taken into custody.

Mark Spaulding, Johnson’s former office manager in Glynn County, told The Washington Post last year that staff never told police what to do. Johnson, whom The Post could not reach, has defended her actions and last fall blamed “people with an agenda who have exploited this case and divided our community for their own purposes.”

Many also hope an indictment is coming for Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, whom Johnson’s office brought in to advise police. He eventually recused himself after Arbery’s family said he had a conflict of interest, but in a letter to police, he argued the accused made a lawful “citizen’s arrest” and used justified force when Arbery “initiated the fight.” Barnhill did not respond to a request for comment.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said in a recent interview that she had “a happy moment for once” when Johnson was charged.

“I do think that we will get justice,” said Cooper-Jones, who plans to attend the trial every day.

Another focus of surging activism in Brunswick has been the Glynn County Police Department, which is mired in scandals and lost its state accreditation several years ago. West, part of the Community First Planning Commission, a network of pastors and other leaders, said the outcry over Arbery’s death gave them new “leverage” for long-standing calls to hire more minority officers.

The group successfully pushed to participate in the police department’s search for a new chief, enlisting the help of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. Jacques Battiste, the final pick, vowed a “complete review” of the agency’s procedures, praised the idea of a citizens review board and called delays in Arbery’s case “unacceptable.”

Glynn County police arrived as Arbery was still gasping for air out on the street on Feb. 23, 2020, according to body-camera footage obtained by media outlets late last year. But police officers did not immediately move to help him - or arrest the men standing by.

“Why would he be in cuffs?” one officer said of Travis McMichael. Defendants detailed their pursuit, and some officers appeared to recognize the McMichaels.

Vincent Williams, a Brunswick commissioner running for mayor, said he is waiting to see whether Battiste’s appointment translates into deeper change. He still hears complaints about Black residents’ interactions with police in Glynn County.

The department has mostly declined to address Arbery’s case publicly, citing a desire not to interfere, and declined to answer questions about any internal review of officers’ actions. Department spokesman Earl Wilson said in an email that the agency recently appointed new command staff who are reviewing the agency.

“I can put a Band-Aid on - ‘Okay, well, we got a Black police chief,’” said Williams, who knows Arbery’s father and whose daughter is a police officer with Brunswick schools. “But does that change the culture of the way policing is done?”

As the trial looms, both Black and White residents are anxious about how their town will handle the influx of crowds, how local law enforcement will treat protesters and whether violence could erupt. Police have planned for months in anticipation of large demonstrations and busloads of out-of-towners who consider the trial a meaningful platform to denounce racism.

One D.C.-based group, the Transformative Justice Coalition, is funding transportation and lodging for about 100 people from around the country, said founder Barbara Arnwine, who has gone to previous court hearings in support Arbery’s family. Her colleague Daryl Jones, also in Brunswick for the trial, spoke of an “Emmett Till moment” - a visceral turning point in the national consciousness like White vigilantes’ torture and murder of a Black teenager in 1955.

Speaking to residents Thursday at a town-hall-style meeting at the library, county police Capt. Jeremiah Bergquist tried to quell concerns. Officers would have a small footprint throughout the trial, he said, and wanted to help people gather peacefully.

But Sandra Jackson, who is Black, said she is not sure she will join the planned justice marches. “I don’t know if I trust how the police is going to deal with us,” she said. Toni Bennett, a White mother of two teenagers, also said she walked away from the briefing feeling on edge.

“This is something that is completely different for our small community, and it really has rocked us to the core,” Bennett said.

During Saturday’s courthouse rally, volunteers handed out water on a sunny day amid lawn chairs. Brunswick resident Annisa Pettibone - a dialysis nurse who came with her 8-year-old nephew and 13-year-old niece - said that “it’s not 1820, but sometimes it feels like that in Brunswick.”

The Black mother of two hadn’t heard about the Arbery killing until video of his death went viral more than two months later. She was at work at the hospital, she said, when a White colleague asked her if she had seen it. They cried together as they watched.

“I have been demonstrating for justice ever since,” she said.

When the three-hour rally wrapped up, the county sheriff - whose office handled security - led a 35-vehicle convoy of demonstrators from downtown to the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Arbery was killed. The group went down the highway where Arbery ran on his last day, past the tidal marsh grass and sparkling coastal riverways into the suburban subdivision where the McMichaels lived.

Gospel music streamed from Harley-Davidson motorcycles. A driver further down the convoy chose another theme song: N.W.A.’s “F--- tha Police.”

Turning the corner at the 200 block of Satilla Drive, where Arbery was shot, convoy participants shouted out his name. “No justice, no peace!” they shouted. Away from their route, a single house had a homemade lawn sign reading, “We Run With ‘Maud” - the slogan activists have taken up for a monthly vigil in which they re-create Arbery’s running path.

The secluded, mostly White neighborhood itself was quiet. But five residents came out with a labradoodle on a leather leash and paid a silent tribute to the demonstrators.

“We are all hoping for the right outcome” when the trial starts, said one homeowner, who did not want to give her name. “An innocent person was killed here.”

Miami school says vaccinated students must stay home for 30 days in case they’re ‘shedding,’ citing discredited conspiracy theory

Mon, 2021-10-18 08:49

Centner Academy in Miami. (Google Maps)

In April, a Miami private school made national headlines for barring teachers who got a coronavirus vaccine from interacting with students. Last week, the school made another startling declaration, but this time to the parents: If you vaccinate your child, they’ll have to stay home for 30 days after each shot.

The email from Centner Academy leadership, first reported by WSVN, repeated misleading and false claims that vaccinated people could pass on so-called harmful effects of the shot and have a “potential impact” on unvaccinated students and staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked claims that the coronavirus vaccine can “shed or release any of their components” through the air or skin contact. The coronavirus vaccines do not contain a live virus, so their components can’t be transmitted to others.

David Centner, one of the school’s co-founders, repeated the debunked claims in a statement to The Washington Post, saying the policy is a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” Centner said.

Despite the Food and Drug Administration’s evidence that the coronavirus vaccines are safe and highly effective, vaccine misinformation online has been a top hurdle for the White House and public health experts when persuading people to get the shots. Almost 219 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, which is about 66 percent of the eligible population, according to The Post’s vaccination tracker.

In July, President Joe Biden excoriated social media companies, accusing them of “killing people” by failing to regulate misinformation about the vaccines on their platforms. In August, Facebook released data that showed the most popular piece of content from January through March was a link to an article that cast doubt on the vaccine. Last Wednesday, attorneys generals from 14 states sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, inquiring if the company provided special treatment to those disseminating vaccine falsehoods on the platform.

Unfounded claims about masks and vaccines have trickled down to schools, where students under 12 years old remain at a higher risk of contracting the virus since they are ineligible for the vaccines.

Tensions between parents and school districts have also grown violent at times. In August, a parent at an Austin school ripped a mask off a teacher’s face. A week later, police said the father of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., high-schooler assaulted another student after she confronted him about trying to bring his daughter onto campus without a mask. He was arrested and charged with child abuse without great bodily harm.

Centner Academy is in Miami’s ritzy Design District, and tuition ranges from about $15,000 to nearly $30,000 per year. The school has become a haven for anti-vaccine parents because it does not require any immunizations for enrollment, citing a parent’s “freedom of choice” and falsely claiming there are “unknown risks associated with vaccinations” that could harm children.

A similar sentiment was shared in an email to parents last week regarding the coronavirus vaccine. School leadership referred to the shots as “experimental,” WSVN reported, and encouraged parents considering getting their child vaccinated to wait several more months until the school year ends.

“We ask that you hold off until the summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” Centner Academy leaders wrote.

The school has a history of spreading inaccurate information about the vaccine and penalizing those who choose to get the shots. In April, Centner Academy employees were told they had to notify Leila and David Centner, the married co-founders of the school, if they received a vaccine. Vaccinated school employees were told they would not be allowed any contact with students “until more information is known” about the vaccines. School leaders also told those wanting the vaccine to wait until the summer to get the shots.

About a week later, a math and science teacher told students they should not hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds, the New York Times reported, referencing the same falsehoods the school communicated in its email about vaccine components “shedding” onto others. Some parents threatened to pull their children out of the school over the comments.

Leila Centner has also spread anti-vaccine information during a meeting with parents and staff and in a WhatsApp group with community members, according to the Times. In late January, Leila and David Centner invited outspoken anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak at the school.

The co-founders also discouraged teachers from wearing masks, the Times reported. When state health department officials visited for routine dining inspections, teachers were allegedly told in a WhatsApp group to put on masks. The school also allegedly provided parents with mask exemption forms for their children.

In his statement to The Post, David Centner said the school’s policies are made as a “prudent precautionary measure.”

“Our top priorities have always been our students’ well-being and their sense of safety within our educational environment,” he said.

Letter: Assembly confusion

Mon, 2021-10-18 08:38

In high school, I’d announce “Assembly” and my English class would erupt in cheers. Cheering was expected. Games were clear-cut battles: someone wins, someone loses. Effigies were permitted and approved. OK to name-call. We learned to hate our enemy.  

I should have talked about the boring business of running a school district or city. The goal is deciding on the common good. People we elect to represent and lead us are not meant to be cheered. Their job is to collect information and ideas in order to decide what is best for the city’s safety, health and education goals.

Municipal assemblies are not opportunities for rallies, name-calling and making sport of our representatives. If the representative is doing a legitimate job of deliberation, don’t recall her. Contribute your ideas and your community values you want to see included.

— Jim Hanlon

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Pull together on masks

Mon, 2021-10-18 08:29

Wearing a mask in public while the delta variant rages in our community is an obligation we all share. Even the vaccinated are contracting this delta variant. I personally know of five cases locally.

To say that requiring me to wear a mask in public during this time of uncertainty violates my rights actually is itself a violation of my right to live in a community that values the safety of its members. I support a temporary mask mandate. I would trust Dr. Anne Zink to determine the appropriate duration.

In addition, I would urge the mayor and his office staff to lead by example. Wear a mask in public. Urge everyone to be vaccinated and to wear a mask in public. The mayor’s support in this effort is desperately needed. I urge him to be a visible example.

Let’s get this behind us. Normal is possible if we all pull together.

— David Donaldson

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Researchers say they’ve found evidence that salmon scarcity isn’t the cause of orca decline in Pacific Northwest

Mon, 2021-10-18 07:27

An orca breaches in view of Mount Baker in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) (AP/)

SEATTLE — Researchers made a surprising discovery while tracking chinook salmon in both the foraging areas of endangered southern resident orcas and the growing, healthy population of the northern resident orcas in B.C.

In a study published last week in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, the researchers stated they expected to find the robust population of northern residents fat with fish, and the southern residents stuck with lean pickings.

Instead, the team found four to six times the density of big chinook in the area they tested in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, part of the southern residents’ core foraging area, compared with the area they sampled in the northern residents’ territory, in the Johnstone Strait.

“It was the opposite of what we expected,” said Andrew Trites, an author on the paper and director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia.

The team used acoustic detectors and dropped fishing nets and lines in the water to assess chinook density in the select areas during the summers of 2018 and 2019.

Trites said the study findings challenge the hypothesis that southern resident orcas can’t get enough chinook to eat in the Salish Sea during the summer, and mean that researchers need to investigate whether a combination of other factors is affecting foraging success.

The new findings have drawn criticism among other scientists in the field and sparked a critique Thursday from a dozen orca researchers and nonprofits.

[Beluga whale startles Puget Sound boaters in first Seattle-area sightings since 1940]

Those researchers and others uninvolved in the study say the data is far too thin and the sampling area too small — and not even correct — to support such a sweeping conclusion.

“They are making a lot of assumptions and my concern is that once you stitch all those assumptions together, you can end up with an answer that is incorrect,” said Brad Hanson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

One such assumption is concluding that just because fish are seen in one place, the whales can or do eat them in that area at that time.

He also cautioned the findings could be “weaponized” to say more than the researchers did. “It will be used by those who want to say, ‘See, we told you fish aren’t a problem,’” he said.

Trites stressed the findings do not mean the orcas are not nutritionally stressed: “We are not saying they are not food-limited because by body condition they are malnourished compared with the northern residents.”

Nor do the findings show chinook are not in decline — most populations are, throughout the southern residents’ foraging range.

But the findings do show, Trites said, that the whales are not food-limited in the area and during the season in which they tested.

“Imagine the first scientist who said the earth wasn’t flat,” said Trites, summing up how surprising and counter to expectation the findings are.

Study’s support, critiques

The orcas were listed as endangered in 2005 and are not recovering; there are only 73 left. In addition to lack of adequate prey, particularly chinook, noise and disturbance by vessels and boats that limits the orcas’ ability to hunt, as well as pollution, have been identified by scientists as three main threats to the survival of the J, K and L pods of orcas that frequent Puget Sound.

Eric Ward, a statistician at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center whose work is used to model salmon populations, said the paper sheds new light on inconsistencies with the orcas-are-hungry hypothesis.

“This seems to be an important paper that may help reduce our uncertainties in factors limiting killer whale recovery,” Ward said in an email. “I think this is consistent with views that prey limitation is probably not the most important factor preventing SRKW recovery. There’s a number of other data points that point in the same direction.”

For one, Ward said, a large cohort of K-pod females went through their reproductive prime years during a time when chinook abundance was better in the Columbia River, but they still mostly did not produce any offspring.

But others said the paper is just a start and allows only limited conclusions in part because the researchers didn’t look where most orcas are feeding.

[How a generation of killer whales was taken from Puget Sound]

Research published in June by Fisheries and Oceans Canada based on southern resident sightings, and other sources from 2009 to 2020, shows the southern residents forage in areas other than where the research team tested. Most notably missed was Swiftsure Bank, west of the study area.

The area of Johnstone Strait sampled also has dropped off as a core foraging area by most northern residents in recent years, said John Durban of Southall Environmental Associates. “It doesn’t seem there are enough food there in recent years to support the majority northern resident killer whale population, and it is a shame the prey surveys didn’t cover the full population’s range where most of the whales feed.”own research has documented both an improvement lately in southern residents, especially J pod, that which correlates with better fish populations in parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as well as decline in body condition of northern residents that use the area that the team sampled in Johnstone Strait, said Fearnbach of SR3.

To Durban and Holly Fearnbach of SR3, who survey the orcas’ body condition using drone photography, the paper does not debunk the link between body condition and prey, but actually confirmed what is far from new.

“Our colleague John Ford more than a decade ago found that both populations experienced simultaneous periods of high mortality when chinook salmon returns were relatively low, particularly in the 1990s,” Durban said.

Hanson, of NOAA, praised the researchers for taking on a tough problem in ways no one had tried before — but said the findings need to be replicated before they could inform any new direction for understanding what is limiting orca recovery.

The paper is “just one more idea” that needs to be tested in an attempt to replicate the results before they can be relied on, Hanson said. “The point is you can have all sorts of fish in an area but if the whales aren’t using it, what they are experiencing might be quite different from the area you are surveying.”

He was a reviewer on the paper and called out his concerns with the sampling design.

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research, dismissed the paper as “as nice little fish thing” that proved nothing as to the amount of fish available for the southern residents throughout their range and year.

Deborah Giles, research director for the nonprofit Wild Orca and biologist for the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology, said the findings go against 40 years of data on the southern residents and their prey.

“To say the southern residents are getting four to six times as much salmon as the northern residents is just silly,” Giles said. “And here we are, trying to find a nice way to say that.”

Efforts to boost salmon

Orcas are not adapted to fasting and must eat every day to be in top condition and nurture their families.

Scientists have for years raised the problem that an abundance of fish in one area does not a well-fed southern resident orca make. Rather, the southern residents face the problem of serial failures, in which in one river after another throughout their seasonal foraging round, they can’t regularly get enough to eat.

In response, NOAA and other agencies have invested heavily in boosting prey to rebuild the southern resident population.

NOAA also has just approved ocean fishing cutbacks to leave more food for orcas when chinook levels fall below trigger points.

Uncounted millions of dollars also are being spent on salmon habitat restoration in Puget Sound and beyond in part to provide more prey to help orcas recover. Canada also has implemented fishing cutbacks on chinook to leave more fish for the southern residents, and so has the state of Washington.

Hatcheries, too, are pumping out more salmon to feed orcas in what amounts to what may be the world’s largest-ever wild animal feeding effort.

Federal, state and tribal salmon hatcheries in Washington and Oregon produced more than 11.6 million additional juvenile hatchery chinook salmon in 2020 compared to previous years. And they released more than 18.3 million additional chinook salmon in 2021. All of it is intended to be orca chow.

Mostly good Alaska commercial salmon season pushes up prices for fishing permits, but buyers have been scarce

Mon, 2021-10-18 07:11

Optimism is the word that best sums up the attitude among most Alaska salmon fishermen after a good season, according to people in the business of buying and selling permits and boats.

Most fishermen in major regions ended up with good catches, and dock prices were up from recent years. That’s pushed up permit prices, notably at the bellwether fishery at Bristol Bay, where driftnet permits have topped $200,000.

“The highest has been $210,000, but it’s a pretty tight market,” said Maddie Lightsey, a broker at Alaska Boats and Permits in Homer. “A lot of fishermen had a great year out there and made a lot of money. But buyers are hesitant to pay these really high prices. Many are hoping it’s a pretty short spike.

“Meanwhile, sellers are holding out for high prices while at the same time expressing concerns over increased tax burdens if they sell this year following such a good season. Those two things combined have really restricted the market and there haven’t been that many sales,” she added.

“There is plenty of interest in Bristol Bay permits and boats, but the permit price is really high so right now there is a lot of talk,” echoed Lisa Gulliford at Permit Master in Tacoma, Washington.

Permit values are published monthly by the state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) and reflect the average of sale prices over the last three months. They need at least four transactions to calculate an average and some permits don’t sell frequently enough to do that, so they have to incorporate sales from prior to three months ago, explained Lightsey.

“But the market changes so quickly that CFEC’s permit prices are typically off, either on the high or low side. The value of salmon permits is quite literally whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it,” she added.

Other salmon fisheries also are attracting interest, “which is good news and means that optimism is spreading throughout the fisheries. Permits that have been relatively quiet for a few years are now getting inquiries,” Gulliford said, adding that “troll permits in Southeast are making a comeback.”

Before the summer season, power troll permits were selling in the low $20,000s and are now in the $28,000-$30,000 range. Movement in other Southeast salmon permits, however, is lackluster, added Lightsey.

“Before, the season drift permits were selling for around $55,000, and our lowest asking price now is $65,000 but we’ve had no offers,” she said. “On the seine front, we sold a permit for $140,000 after the season ended, which was the first I believe since 2019. It’s a really slow market down there.”

Likewise, permits at Prince William Sound have yet to gain much traction despite a great year for pink salmon.

“A few drift permits have sold in the $110,000 range. No seine permits have sold yet that I’m aware of. And quite a few folks are moving from Prince William Sound seine to Bristol Bay,” Lightsey added.

Conversely, drift permits at Cook Inlet ticked upward from lows of $16,000-$17,000 to $30,000.

“A lot of folks had the best season they’ve had in years. Not everyone, of course, but many broke six figures,” she said.

Likewise, seine permits at Kodiak have been on a steady rise from the mid-$30,000 range up to $40,000 since the season ended.

At Area M on the Alaska Peninsula, drift permits are rebounding in the high $150,000 to mid-$160,000 range after topping $200,000 in 2019 and then dropping to no sales in 2020.

Lightsey said she hears a lot of concern from fishermen over climate change and salmon bycatch in trawl fisheries, but it’s not enough to deter them from buying permits.

“It’s kicking them into gear to take action, which I think is great,” she said. “I think a lot of this new guard of fishermen are young and energetic and incredibly driven and dedicated to sustainability and preserving the future of their industry. Together with the old guard, they’re really making a difference. They’re writing letters and networking and forming advocacy groups and all those things are coming together and instilling a sense of pride and ownership in their fishery and making them more inclined to invest in it.”

Another indicator of confidence: Both brokers said boat sales are brisk.

“I think good things are happening!” said Gulliford.

Alaska’s statewide salmon catch this year topped 222 million, 32 million more fish than projected.

[Trident Seafoods’ Chuck Bundrant, a pioneer of U.S. fisheries off Alaska, dies at age 79]

Harbor surveys - Are your local harbor waters clean? Are there sewage pump outs, rest rooms and adequate disposal stations for trash and debris? Do Alaskans even notice or care?

Two quick surveys for boaters and communities aim to find out.

“We want to hear from boat users in the harbors as well as community members. And we’ll be doing a survey for harbor masters and harbor staff as well,” said Tav Ammu, a Bristol Bay fisherman and Alaska Sea Grant fellow who is leading the project.

Disposal of sewage, called blackwater, is a top concern, he said. There’s a scarcity or or no pump out stations in most Alaska harbors, and Ammu said many boaters don’t use good disposal practices.

“Probably half of the people I’ve talked to have Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) on board, but they just weren’t being utilized. That was kind of an aha moment for me,” he said. “It’s not that people aren’t interested or unaware, it’s just that they don’t have options or they have the capability but they don’t use them.”

In the words of one fisherman: “I can tell you that it is obvious that all we are doing is paying lip service to ‘no poo in the blue’ as there is not a single pump station in Bristol Bay, and we pretty much know what 5,500 fishermen are doing every day.”

“At Bristol Bay at the end of the season there’s plastic debris floating all over the place,” Ammu added. “I know a couple of fishermen who go around at the end of the season and fill up garbage bags of floating trash that people tossed overboard or it fell overboard or whatever. And if it wasn’t for those individual fishermen, there’d be plastics just floating and dissolving into microplastics.”

The harbor surveys will let Alaskans pinpoint problems and offer solutions, which Ammu will discuss at the harbor masters’ conference this month in Anchorage.

Find the surveys at www.surveymonkey.com/r/BoatUsers and www.surveymonkey.com/r/CommunMembers/

Help with halibut - Halibut stakeholders are being asked to weigh in on two important issues: bycatch in the Bering Sea and halibut fishery management.

On bycatch: after six years of discussion, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is poised to require Bering Sea bottom trawlers targeting flatfish abide by the same rules as all other halibut users.

Nineteen Seattle-based bottom trawlers targeting flatfish, called the Amendment 80 fleet and including boats owned by Alaska Native groups, has a fixed cap on halibut bycatch whereas yearly catches for commercial, sport, charter and subsistence fishermen fluctuate according to the health of the stock.

The bottom trawl bycatch take of over 4 million pounds comes off the top of all other users. Halibut fishermen from Bering Sea communities, for example, were allowed less than 1.7 million pounds this year, with under 3 million pounds in the Western Gulf.

The public is asked to send written comments on the NPFMC plan to rein in the A80 halibut bycatch through October 25.

Submit comments at https://www.regulations.gov -- enter [NOAA-NMFS-2021-0074] in the Search box and click on the Comment icon. Submit written comments to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional Administrator, NMFS/Alaska Region, P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.

On halibut management: Ideas for new or amended proposals are invited by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

The IPHC oversees the biology of the stock for the West Coast, British Columbia and Alaska, and sets annual halibut catch limits. An example of a new regulation saw this year’s halibut fishery extended by one month to December 7.

The IPHC will give a first glimpse of possible catches for 2022 at its interim meeting, held electronically November 30-December 1. The annual meeting is set for January 24-28 in Seattle.

Send proposals 30 days in advance of both meetings to www.iphc.int/form/regulatory-proposal.

Colin Powell, former secretary of state and chairman of Joint Chiefs, dies of COVID at age 84

Mon, 2021-10-18 05:11

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2001 file photo, Secretary of State Colin Powell looks on as President Bush addresses State Department employees at the State Department in Washington. Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and secretary of state, has died from COVID-19 complications, his family said Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Kenneth Lambert) (KENNETH LAMBERT/)

WASHIINGTON — Colin Powell, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace but whose sterling reputation was forever stained when he went before the U.N. and made faulty claims to justify the U.S. war in Iraq, has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84.

In 1989 Powell became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.

But his legacy was scarred when, in 2003, Powell went before the U.N. Security Council and made the case for U.S. war against Iraq. He cited faulty information claiming Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s claims that it had not represented “a web of lies,” he told the world body.

In an announcement on social media, Powell’s family said he had been fully vaccinated.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father and grandfather and a great American,” the family said.

Former President George W. Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Check back for updates.

Trident Seafoods’ Chuck Bundrant, a pioneer of U.S. fisheries off Alaska, dies at age 79

Mon, 2021-10-18 02:41

Trident Seafoods founder Chuck Bundrant passed away on October 17, 2021. (Trident Seafoods via Twitter)

SEATTLE — Chuck Bundrant, an epic figure in North Pacific fisheries who started his career as a deckhand on a crabber and went on to cofound Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, died Sunday at his Edmonds home. He was 79.

Bundrant was a fierce competitor who played a pivotal role in ushering in a new era in harvests off Alaska as foreign fleets were pushed out of the 200-mile zone and Americans rushed in to catch pollock, crab, black cod and other seafood. And as U.S. fleets gained control, he fought to ensure that Trident’s network of shoreside processing plants and seagoing vessels would prosper.

“Friends and people mattered, and his word and his honor,” said Brent Paine, executive director of the United Catcher Boats, a group of trawl vessels whose owners do business with Trident. “He would do million-dollar handshake deals, and he would stick to it.”

Bundrant arrived in Seattle in the winter of 1961, a skinny 19-year-old who had driven a 1952 Ford station wagon from Evansville, Indiana, where he had graduated from high school. He wanted to earn money in the fisheries to pay his way through college in Tennessee. But after talking his way onto a crab boat, he launched into a lifelong career in the Alaska fisheries.

In 1972, he co-founded Trident, a privately held company.

Today, Trident’s website describes the company as North America’s largest vertically integrated seafood company, though it does not publicly report revenues. Trident has a fleet of more than 40 company-owned vessels, including catcher processors, trawlers, crab boats, tenders and freighters. The company also has 11 Alaska seafood processing plants, three in Washington, one in Minnesota and one in Georgia. Trident employs about 9,000 people at the peak of summer harvests.

Trident is led by Bundrant’s son, Joe Bundrant, who became chief executive officer in 2013, when Chuck Bundrant became board chair.

“I loved my dad so much. This company is alive and well because of the values he instilled in us,” Joe Bundrant said Sunday. Those values he defined as serving the stakeholders, which includes customers, seafood communities, fishermen and employees.

From early on, Chuck Bundrant was an innovator. His boat, the 135-foot Billikin, in 1973, was the first Alaska vessel to catch, cook and freeze crab.

He also was a risk taker.

In 1981, Bundrant made one of his biggest and boldest bets. He built a fish-processing plant on Akutan, in Alaska’s Aleutian chain that could be slammed by storms packing 100-mph winds. Back then, fishing fleets from Japan, Russia and Korea dominated the Bering Sea trawl harvests. But 1976 legislation had given U.S. processors and U.S. fishermen first claim to the harvests within the 200-mile zone, and Bundrant saw opportunity on the remote volcanic island.

History proved him right. Akutan is now a centerpiece of Trident’s Alaska operation with a huge capacity to process pollock — a staple of McDonald’s fish sandwiches — as well as other seafood.


The Trident Seafoods plant (foreground) in Akutan. (Helena Buurman, Alaska Volcano Observatory / University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute)

Bundrant played a role in industry lobbying to shape 1988 congressional legislation to resolve disputes about allocations of pollock, the biggest volume harvest in the waters off Alaska.

And, Bundrant was a key player when the North Pacific Fishery Management Council made a major overhaul of Alaska crab harvest rules that vested catch shares with boat owners and purchase rights to processors.

“Bundrant was very intensely involved,” said Dave Fluharty, a University of Washington professor who served on the council during a crucial 2002 meeting in Dutch Harbor. Alaska, as the plan was developed.

“He did most of his work before the meeting and was there to talk to people and to remind people of what he wanted. He was focused on the long-term relations that he had with people — and kind of acted as the grand old man of the North Pacific fisheries,” Fluharty said in an earlier interview.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, called Bundrant a dreamer, and a man of few words, but when he spoke, that “gravelly voice was listened to from Cordova ( Alaska) to Capitol Hill.”

Connelly said Bundrant was a formidable competitor. But he also would send a helicopter to rescue another company’s stranded boat.

In a Seattle increasingly dominated by tech companies, Bundrant kept a low profile.

Bundrant spurned suits unless the occasion demanded it, and in a 2002 interview with The Seattle Times dismissed golf greens — the classic business-meeting ground — as a “waste of good cow pasture.”

He led the company from a modest office near the docks in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood even as his wealth grew. In 2017, A Bloomberg estimate put Trident’s annual sales at $2.4 billion and calculated the value of the company at $2.1 billion.

In a 2017 interview with The Seattle Times, Joe Bundrant scoffed at the estimates but did not offer one of his own.

Through the years, Chuck Bundrant had a passion for sport fishing. And during his later years, Bundrant continued to fish in Hawaii, where he had a home, and in Alaska. He also would visit Trident operations in the summer to thank employees for their contributions, according to a statement from Joe Bundrant.

Bundrant was a devout Christian, and at Akutan, with his partner Kaare Ness, built the Safe Harbor Church between the Trident fish processing plant and the island’s village

In 2006 Bundrant was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But “thanks to Chuck’s strength and stubbornness, as well as unending support from those close to him, he kept doing what he loved the most” according to the statement from Joe Bundrant.

He died from natural causes with his family by his side, Joe Bundrant said.

Bundrant is survived by his wife, Diane Bundrant; his son Joe Bundrant and daughter-in-law Mary Bundrant; daughter Jill Dulcich and son-in-law Frank Dulcich; daughter Julie Bundrant Rhodes and son-in-law Randy Rhodes; 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Bundrant also is survived by his sister Linda Nelson and brother-in-law Doug Nelson.

Plans for a memorial were pending Sunday.

Wolverines belt the Blues 4-1 to cap weekend series

Sun, 2021-10-17 22:07

Time will be the ultimate arbiter in determining where exactly the Anchorage Wolverines fit into the community’s long-term sports landscape.

Fans bought fewer tickets when the paid professionals lost more hockey games than they won, which only helped hasten the end of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. A morbid winning percentage plus the state’s fiscal health pushed the NCAA Division I program at the University of Alaska Anchorage to the brink of extinction until a miraculous fundraising effort afforded the program a chance to reimagine itself about a year from now.

After only their 12th game overall and third on home ice Sunday, the Wolverines showed promise in their 4-1 North American Hockey League win over the visiting Springfield (Ill.) Junior Blues. The Tier II junior squad of players under 21 entertained the packed Ben Boeke Arena announced crowd of 966, where the goaltenders were among the small percentage of people adhering to the city’s new mask mandate.

“Obviously, there is some pressure to build this into something,” said Raythan Robbins, the evening’s winning goalie and a local 19-year old Dimond grad playing in Anchorage for the first time four years. “But at the end of the day, we’re just all good hockey players playing hockey.

“We’re enjoying ourselves, doing in front of these people. They’ve given us energy when it’s needed.”

The NAHL features more than two dozen teams in 17 states and it sanctioned by USA Hockey. Players do not receive a salary, and players from out of town live with host families. The objective for most is to earn a scholarship with a Division I college team.

“We’re all working towards that same goal,” said Robbins, who made 24 saves and moved to 5-0-1 in six starts. “But the more team success we have, the more individual success.”

The Wolverines improved to 7-4-1 and won the three-game weekend series. They opened with a 6-2 win Friday before Springfield took Saturday’s tilt, 5-2. Anchorage’s own Andy Ramsey, Cameron Morris, Colin Hedland, Skylar Gutierrez and Aiden Westin accounted for a goal and five assists in the series finale.

Sunday’s game experience offered a mix of new and old.

Anchorage’s color scheme and uniforms gave off a definite mid-90s New York Islanders’ fisherman logo vibe, a mixture of teal, white, blue and orange. It’s a fresh look. Boeke also features a new scoreboard and sound system. The infamous Snickers and Blockbuster Video billboards above the benches have been replaced with new sponsors.

Meanwhile, the cowbells were back. Calls to “make some noise” or “wait for a stoppage in play to move from your seat” brought back memories of the Aces’ glory days of yesteryear.

Talon Sigurdson soaked it all in during the weekend slate. The 19-year old from Sartell, Minnesota, spent last season bouncing between lower junior-league teams in Texas and Maine. He scored his NAHL-leading 13th goal to open the scoring at 3 minutes, 33 seconds of the opening period.

“Coming up here to a first-year team, no one expects anything from us,” Sigurdson said. “They expect us to be a bad team, but the show we’ve been putting on has been unbelievable.”

Sigurdson said the young makeup of the team has helped build enthusiasm on the ice and in the dressing room. It’s a small sample of home games, but the players, many for the first time, have taken a responsibility in entertaining those in attendance.

“Last year in Maine, no one came to watch games, it was all parents,” Sigurdson said. “Now we’re here and it’s loud. These have been the loudest games I’ve played in.”

Anchorage is off until it welcomes Janesville (Wisc.) to town for a pair of games Oct. 29-30.

Robbins remains eager to see what’s next. He’s elated to play in front of family, friends and new fans all while sleeping in his childhood bedroom. Prior to graduating in 2020, he spent a few seasons in Michigan playing for some renowned AAA youth teams where he’d attend high schools in the area.

He said none those kids knew who he was, or much cared. Sunday, he was in his hometown and named the game’s first star.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “I love it.”

Veteran journalist Matt Nevala can be found on social media at @MNevala9.

Coast Guard: 1,200-foot ship dragged California oil pipeline

Sun, 2021-10-17 21:39

FILE - In this Thursday, Oct 7, 2021 file photo, Workers in protective suits clean the contaminated beach in Corona Del Mar after an oil spill in Newport Beach, Calif. California's uneasy relationship with the oil industry is being tested again by the latest spill to foul beaches and kill birds and fish off Orange County. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File) (Ringo H.W. Chiu/)

Investigators believe a 1,200-foot (366-meter) cargo ship dragging anchor in rough seas caught an underwater oil pipeline and pulled it across the seafloor, months before a leak from the line fouled the Southern California coastline with crude.

A team of federal investigators trying to chase down the cause of the spill boarded the Panama-registered MSC DANIT just hours after the massive ship arrived this weekend off the Port of Long Beach, the same area where the leak was discovered in early October.

During a prior visit by the ship during a heavy storm in January, investigators believe its anchor dragged for an unknown distance before striking the 16-inch (40-centimeter) steel pipe, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. SondraKay Kneen said Sunday.

The impact would have knocked an inch-thick concrete casing off the pipe and pulled it more than 100 feet (30 meters), bending but not breaking the line, Kneen said.

Still undetermined is whether the impact caused the October leak, or if the line was hit by something else at a later date or failed due to a preexisting problem, Kneen said.

“We’re still looking at multiple vessels and scenarios,” she said.

The Coast Guard on Saturday designated the owner and operator as parties of interest in its investigation into the spill, estimated to have released about 25,000 gallons (94,635 liters) of crude into the water, killing birds, fish and mammals.

The accident just a few miles off Huntington Beach in Orange County fouled beaches and wetlands and led to temporary closures for cleanup work . While not as bad as initially feared, it has reignited the debate over offshore drilling in federal waters in the Pacific, where hundreds of miles of pipelines were installed decades ago.

The DANIT’s operator, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, is headquartered in Switzerland and has a fleet of 600 vessels and more than 100,000 workers, according to the company.

MSC representatives did not immediately respond to email messages seeking comment. A security guard reached by telephone at the company’s headquarters in Geneva said it was closed until Monday.

The vessel’s owner, identified by the Coast Guard as Dordellas Finance Corporation, could not be reached for comment.

The DANIT arrived in Long Beach this weekend after voyaging from China, according to marine traffic monitoring websites.

The investigation into what caused the spill could lead to criminal charges or civil penalties, but none have been announced yet, and Kneen said the probe could continue for months.

Attorneys for MSC and Dordellas will have the chance to examine and cross-examine the government’s witnesses in the case and also to call their own witnesses, according to the Coast Guard. The investigation also includes the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies.

Kneen declined to say if any damage was found to an anchor on the DANIT after a team of at least five investigators spent much of Saturday aboard the ship.

At least two other vessels were previously boarded by investigators, who are examining logs kept by the ships’ captains, officers and engineers and voyage data recorders — equivalent to the so-called black box on airplanes.

In response to the new focus on the DANIT, the Houston-based owner of the damaged pipeline, Amplify Energy, thanked the Coast Guard for its continued work on the case.

Amplify representatives have not directly responded to questions about an hourslong delay between an alarm indicating a potential problem with the pipeline and the company reporting the leak to federal authorities.

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This story has been corrected to show that Huntington Beach is in Orange County, not Los Angeles.


Coast Guard, search teams look for man missing in Southeast Alaska

Sun, 2021-10-17 17:32

A search was ongoing Sunday after a man was reported missing Saturday in Southeast Alaska town of Kake, Alaska State Troopers said.

David Dalton, 55, was last seen Friday around 12:30 p.m. and reported missing late Saturday, troopers wrote in an online statement. His pickup was located near Sitkum Creek in Kake and local search groups found some of Dalton’s belongings about 50 yards from the truck, troopers said.

The U.S. Coast Guard searched about a 2-mile area by helicopter using a thermal-imaging device, troopers said. A possible flare was reported in a separate part of town, but neither the Coast Guard or a local search and rescue group found signs that there were people in the area, troopers wrote.

Two K-9 teams were flying to Kake on Sunday and troopers said members of the Sitka Mountain Rescue were also searching the area.

Dalton was last seen wearing all black clothing and had a backpack, troopers said.

Matanuska Glacier is public, but most visitors can reach it only via private land

Sun, 2021-10-17 15:55

The Matanuska, pictured in June, is widely considered Alaska's most visitor-friendly glacier because of its proximity to the highway and the walkable approach off a parking lot at the end of the private dirt road. Photo for The Washington Post by Amy Bushatz. (Amy Bushatz/)

PALMER — About 100 miles northeast of Anchorage, off a two-lane highway and nestled between two mountain ranges, the Matanuska Glacier, a 27-mile-long expanse of white and blue ice, offers a jaw-dropping view. The ice rises low against the landscape, a winding blanket of curves and edges.

A large brown sign directs those seeking glacier access down a steep and potholed dirt road. But instead of driving into a state or federal park, visitors encounter a private company that charges an access fee as high as $100 per person and requires a glacier tour guide.

In a region that an estimated 400,000 tourists visited annually before the coronavirus pandemic, that private control can be a surprise and a source of controversy.

“It is something that comes up on every tour, and if it doesn’t come up on its own . . . I don’t mind bringing it up,” said Nick Jenkins, who has guided thousands of visitors on the Matanuska Glacier since 2011 for Nova, a tour company based a few miles west of the access road. “Some people assume it’s a public access point. And so they ask, ‘Is this state park access?’ Or they ask, ‘What kind of a park is this?’ And the answer typically surprises them that it’s a private park.”

The Matanuska is widely considered the state’s most visitor-friendly glacier because of its proximity to the highway and the walkable approach off a parking lot at the end of the private dirt road. It stretches down from Chugach State Park and into a narrow river valley between the Chugach and Talkeetna mountain ranges. Although it is one of about 25,000 glaciers in Alaska, only a small number of those are visible from a road.

Like most Alaska glaciers, the Matanuska is melting faster than new ice forms. It is thinning an estimated 12 inches per year and retreating about 665 feet. Geologists generally agree that climate change has increased the rate at which glaciers such as the Matanuska are disappearing.

Tourists and Alaskans alike are eager to explore the Matanuska, but while most of it sits on state-owned land, the state controls no ready road entrances or usable public-access easements. Although the glacier can be accessed via boat, plane, helicopter, snow machine or a variety of challenging, days-long hikes, most visitors use the private road, then pass through the fee station and go to a parking area managed by longtime resident Bill Stevenson.

To create that access, Stevenson’s Matanuska Glacier Park leverages a patchwork of private land. That includes property originally settled through homesteading; a road easement that is the subject of a lawsuit neighbor Mark Wayson filed against Stevenson that contends, in part, that the entrance road is unsafe for the thousands of visitors who use it every year; and land leased from the Anchorage-based Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI), established through the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, a federal law that returned land to Alaska Natives via business entities known as native corporations.

Stevenson said that the simplest way to get to the glacier is via private property.

“Not everybody has the ability to pioneer their own route in the wilderness,” he said. “The takeaway is that the glaciers are wild and free. This is one you can go to easily. You don’t have to spend a lifetime figuring out how to get around it. You hire somebody that does.”

Glaciers are fraught with hazards that range from slips on ice to falls down sinkholes called a moulins. Stevenson requires all but the most experienced glacier trekkers to be accompanied by tour guides, a rule he put in place early this year to help ensure safety.

Each Glacier Park client is issued a bright orange helmet and a pair of microspikes, a set of metal teeth that slip over the bottom of shoes for stability on the ice. Guides from the park lead groups of as many as 25 people through the glacial silt and mud at the glacier’s toe, over the rocky moraine and onto the white ice.

Glacier Park charges most local users $35 per person and non-Alaskans $100 per person, and guide tips are expected. Other companies offer a variety of smaller and longer tours and ice climbing or glacier camping adventures. Users who visit by road through one of those pay tour prices set by those businesses, plus an access fee to Stevenson. The park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on the season and holidays.

The tours are a steady business, and despite coronavirus concerns and restrictions, more visitors flocked to the glacier in 2020 and 2021 than ever before. Stevenson said he has had about 40,000 visits this year, with about 30,000 of those Alaska residents and the rest out-of-state tourists. Several other nearby glacier tour companies, including Nova, also reported their busiest years ever but did not provide specific numbers.

Stevenson leases a portion of the parking lot and the glacier land for his tours from CIRI for about $55,000 a year, according to court documents filed as part of the road lawsuit and provided by Wayson, the neighbor. CIRI officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Lease information for the other land used by the park was not available.

It is Stevenson’s control of and rules for access that create the ongoing conundrum, said Mark Fleenor, who owns the nearby Sheep Mountain Lodge. Most guests who stay in his 13 cabins or eat at his restaurant come to the area to see the glacier. Fleenor, a longtime pilot, bought a helicopter in early 2020 and sells flight-seeing tours with glacier landings.

But not all visitors can afford to or want to fly onto the glacier. And that means that if Stevenson decides to cut off access for any reason or close the park without warning even for a day, Fleenor’s business could quickly be in trouble.

“I am completely reliant on the glacier for people to recreate here,” he said. “And I mean, yes, I’ve got a helicopter, and I can do what I want. But my guests far extend beyond that. . . . If glacier access was managed in a consistent and reasonable manner, it would be a huge benefit to the community.”

The state does have a glacier viewing area several miles from Stevenson’s fee station, but it does not provide access. Although Fleenor hopes the state will leverage an existing public easement and create its own access, it is unlikely to do so because of the cost, said Stuart Leidner, the state park superintendent for the area that includes the Matanuska Glacier.

“To be honest, do I need to acquire any more lands by any stretch of the imagination? We do not need to be managing any more - we can’t manage what we have,” he said. “That’s a budget issue.”

The state parks budget has taken a major hit during the ongoing state budget crisis, which started in 2016 and was caused, in part, by plummeting oil revenue. For example, in 2012, unrestricted general funding for park operations -- money not designated to be reinvested in specific services -- was about $3.5 million. That funding hit a low of $53,000 in 2020 and is now $447,000 for fiscal 2022.

Instead of viewing easy glacier access as a public right, Nova’s Jenkins, who also owns land and a small cabin nearby off the Matanuska River, said he is grateful for the service that Stevenson’s business allows. Without it, he said, that private property would simply remain private and the glacier would be inaccessible to all but the most adventurous or well-funded visitors.

“I really appreciate the service of access that he brings,” he said. “And I really appreciate the fact that I’m able to walk on that glacier and bring people from around the world onto that glacier. And the accessibility on that glacier means that I can show people from all around the world of all different abilities this absolutely incredible depleting resource. And they don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for a helicopter. We can drive right up to it and walk right onto it. And that access is second to none.”

National shortage of a chemo drug is affecting some Alaska clinics, providers say

Sun, 2021-10-17 15:31

Over the last few weeks, a manufacturer’s shortage of one medication means some Alaska chemotherapy patients have had to postpone the lifesaving treatment.

Abraxane is a prescription drug that is used to treat certain advanced pancreatic, breast and lung cancers. A note on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ website explains that the shortage is due to manufacturing delays, and that there is currently insufficient supply for usual ordering.

“We’ve exhausted our resources, and it’s a well-known national shortage,” said Hertha Monroe, clinical nurse manager with the Katmai Oncology Group, a cancer clinic in Anchorage.

For some patients, there are alternative medications that can be used in place of abraxane, Monroe said. Others can’t. “It’s very individualized,” she said.

Monroe called the supply shortage “pretty unusual,” explaining that disruptions like this happen “very infrequently.” She said the clinic is continuing to work with the manufacturer, Bristol Myers-Squibb, to find solutions.

Not all facilities that use the drug appear to be affected. Shirley Young, a spokesperson with the Alaska Native Medical Center, said this week that the hospital does not appear to be experiencing any sort of shortage or challenge in acquiring this medication.

“The local warehouse appears to have an adequate supply,” she said.

Coleman Cutchins, state pharmacist, said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of any other chemo drug shortages besides abraxane.

“We hope this resolves quickly,” Monroe said. “It’s so distressing for our patients, and for the providers that care for them.”

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