The melting Arctic is already messing with a crucial part of the ocean’s circulation, scientists say
Scientists studying a remote and icy stretch of the North Atlantic have found new evidence that fresh water, likely melted from Greenland or Arctic sea ice, may already be altering a key process that helps drives the global circulation of the oceans.
In chilly waters on either side of Greenland, the ocean circulation "overturns," as surface waters traveling northward become colder and more dense and eventually sink, traveling back southward toward Antarctica at extreme depths. This key sinking process is called convection. But too much fresh water at the surface could interfere with it because with less salt, the water loses density and does not sink as easily.
In the new research, Marilena Oltmanns and two colleagues at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, found that following particularly warm summers in the remote Irminger Sea, convection tended to be more impaired in winter. In some cases, a layer of meltwater stayed atop the ocean into the next year, rather than vanishing into its depths as part of the overturning circulation, which has sometimes been likened to an ocean "conveyor belt."
"Until now, models have predicted something for the future . . . but it was something that seemed very distant," said Oltmanns, the lead scientist behind the research, which was published this week in Nature Climate Change.
"But now we saw with these observations that there is actually freshwater and that it is already affecting convection, and it delays convection quite a lot in some years," she continued.
One caution is that this is an observational study, not a prediction for the future – and Oltmanns said "nobody really knows" how much freshwater is enough to significantly slow or shut down the circulation, which is technically called the "Atlantic meridional overturning circulation," or AMOC. Still, it suggests that key processes that have raised long-standing concern are already happening.
To collect the data, Oltmanns and her team ventured by ship out into the Irminger Sea to the southeast of Greenland. There, they read data from ocean moorings that take measurements of the character of the waters in key regions of ocean convection. The researchers now have a 13-year record to draw upon from this area.
In winter, cold air chills the northward-flowing surface water in this region enough to cause it to become denser and sink. But meltwater interferes with and delays this process because, lacking salinity, it is less dense and so less prone to sink.
In the high meltwater years, the ocean is also just warmer overall, the study found. That also delays the onset of convection because it is harder for the ocean surface layer to lose enough heat to sink, Oltmanns said.
Either way, these processes create a situation in which meltwater may not sink entirely below the surface – instead, it can linger. This then creates the possibility that, lasting through the winter, it could join up with even more meltwater the following summer.
The study found that in one year, 2010, 40 percent of fresh meltwater managed to linger in the Irminger Sea over winter and into the next year.
"It means that if there is less time for convection, there is less time to remove the freshwater from the upper layer," Oltmanns said. "And in spring, the new freshwater comes. And it is possible that there is a threshold, that if there is a lot of freshwater that stays at the surface, and mixes with the new freshwater from the new summer, it suddenly doubles, or increases a lot, and the next winter, it's a lot more difficult to break through."
Again, it's important to underscore that there are no predictions in this study about when these processes would actually reach such a threshold or cause a major switch to a new regime. Climate change simulations have generally found that while global warming should indeed weaken the Atlantic overturning circulation, that should play out gradually – but scientists acknowledge that these simulations are not necessarily complete.
That's why data gathering, as in the current study, also matters a great deal.
"As we explore the crucial impact of freshwater discharge from Greenland and other venues on the ocean circulation, this paper represents an important piece in the puzzle," said Marco Tedesco, a Greenland expert at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study.
The research highlights the growing attention being paid to the crucial ocean circulation in question, which is responsible for bringing warm ocean water northward and therefore warming higher latitudes and Europe in particular. It has long been considered a potential weak spot in the climate system because of the possibility that a change here could trigger dramatic changes in a short time.
Scientists have reported the circulation is in a weakened state, and has been since 2008. The reduction in strength has been by about 15 percent, David Smeed, a scientist who studies the strength of the circulation at the U.K.'s National Oceanography Center in Southampton, told The Washington Post this year.
But what's behind changes this region is less clear, with some scientists saying that we're already seeing the role of climate change, others saying that what's going on in the North Atlantic is mainly the reflection of a cyclical phenomenon affecting the oceans and atmosphere – and many suggesting it's a combination.
"These decadal variations are likely superimposed on a longer declining trend related to increasing greenhouse gases," said Tom Delworth, an expert on the North Atlantic with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in an email to The Post this year. "However, in terms of explaining AMOC behavior over the coming decades, the relative role of increasing greenhouse gases may well increase relative to natural variability."
That sounds pretty gradual – but the new study is saying the change doesn't necessarily have to be.
"There might be a threshold that is crossed and it's harder to get back to where we were before," said Oltmanns. "It's possible."
House passes supplemental budget to cover some of Medicaid shortfall
The Alaska Legislature was caught off-guard in December when Gov. Bill Walker's supplemental budget request for the rest of fiscal year 2018 came in for an extra $100 million to make Medicaid's ends meet. A big part of the reason the state's budget for ...
Hundreds of <b>Juneau</b> high schoolers join nationwide protest on Florida shooting's anniversary
MINNEAPOLIS -- A Bloomington, Minn., mosque was bombed last August by three Illinois men who traveled eight hours from their small hometown to terrorize Muslims in hopes of making them flee the country, according to the FBI.
The trio was arrested Tuesday in Illinois after one of them admitted to aiding the plot and also described his role in a failed effort to bomb an Illinois women's health clinic months later.
The break in what the FBI described as its top investigative priority in Minneapolis lent long-sought answers to the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center's congregation even as it introduced a new set of questions.
"We are happy that the people are caught," said Abdulahi Farah, a member and volunteer. "At the same time we're a little bit shocked that they came all the way from Illinois just to cause hate on the community."
The bombing rocked Minnesota's interfaith community and prompted the governor to declare it an act of terror.
Michael McWhorter, 29; Joe Morris, 22 and Michael Hari, 47, are charged with "using an explosive device to maliciously damage and destroy" the center in the predawn hours of Aug. 5, using a PVC pipe bomb allegedly fashioned by Hari.
According to charges, each man had a role in the attack: Hari, the alleged bomb-maker, drove the three to Minnesota and acted as a getaway driver; Morris allegedly smashed in the office window with a sledgehammer and McWhorter told agents he tossed the pipe bomb inside, in what turned out to be the imam's office. McWhorter allegedly admitted to his role in the plot in a pair of FBI interviews Saturday and Tuesday before the men were charged.
He claimed it was Hari's idea to target the mosque and that the men didn't intend to kill, according to an FBI terrorism task force officer's affidavit, "but they wanted to 'scare (Muslims) out of the country' ... because they push their beliefs on everyone else."
"McWhorter also said they committed the bombing mainly to 'show them hey, you're not welcome here, get the (expletive) out,' " the affidavit continued.
The three were charged Tuesday after a confidential source alerted investigators that they were responsible for the mosque blast and the failed clinic bombing and McWhorter admitted his involvement in the plot, according to authorities. Charging documents described the informant as someone Hari recruited into an "organization" that he led.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday that authorities are still working to determine the nature of the group and its associations. Investigators also don't yet know why the men selected Dar Al-Farooq last summer.
Morris and Hari made their initial appearance Tuesday on federal charges related to the attempted bombing of the women's health clinic in Champaign, Ill.
The Chicago Tribune reported last year that Hari, who had launched his own global security firm, wanted to build President Donald Trump's wall on the Mexican border and believed he could do it better, and for billions of dollars less, than more established contractors.
With the men in custody, additional charges could be forthcoming as the FBI ramps up its probe of the group.
"Although the investigation is ongoing, it is important that the public be made aware that these individuals have been apprehended and are charged federally with the bombing in Bloomington," Greg Brooker, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, said at a news conference. "That bombing that took place last summer was a tragedy for all Minnesotans, and from the beginning, it has become a top priority for federal and local law enforcement and remains so today."
No one was hurt in the explosion, which heavily damaged the imam's office, but about a dozen people were gathered in a room nearby for morning prayers.
The bomb exploded a short distance inside the office, starting a fire that was quickly put out by the building's fire suppression system. A witness who was outside the mosque reported hearing the sound of broken glass before seeing a man get into a pickup truck that sped out of the Islamic center's parking lot and turned north on Park Avenue.
In the hours after the blast, the case quickly became the biggest unsolved investigation for the FBI in Minneapolis, and the bureau announced a $30,000 reward for more information in the weeks after the bombing as leads began to prove elusive.
But the men allegedly continued to discuss the mosque blast, including while out drinking one night with an eventual informant in the case. The informant also described a meeting of the group at Hari's office in Clarence, Ill., a tiny community 120 miles south of Chicago, at which a cache of weapons was reportedly seen stored inside a safe. The arsenal included automatic firearms, M4s and an explosive known as Tannerite, the charges said.
According to the charges filed in Illinois, another informant shared photos late last year of firearms and bomb-making materials that Hari allegedly stored at his parents' home, where he often stayed because his own house had no running water or electricity. Hari also allegedly stored a copy of the Anarchist's Handbook, which includes instructions for creating the thermite used in the pipe bombs.
Robert Bone, acting special agent in charge of the FBI's Minneapolis division, said that in light of pending federal charges, his office cannot discuss additional details of the case or investigation.
"That said, we continue to investigate the motivations behind this attack," Bone said, adding that his office believes there is no further threat to the community related to the bombing. Bone thanked community members for providing valuable information to investigators.
Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts echoed Bone, saying the department received "outstanding" support from the mosque and Bloomington's Muslim community.
"We hope this is a significant portion of the healing process for Dar Al-Farooq," Potts said. "Thank you to our community."
At a news conference at the mosque Tuesday night, Jaylani Hussein, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations-MN, said he's extremely concerned about what he called a well-funded, organized attack. He added that he believed someone who lives near the mosque may have "put a target" on it.
According to charges, an FBI informant told agents that one of the co-conspirators said Hari promised the two other men $18,000 for their help with the attack.
Mohamed Omar, executive director of the mosque, said his community is resilient. "Why did they target us? That's the question we are still waiting" to get answered, he said.
After the bombing, Gov. Mark Dayton quickly labeled the blast an act of terrorism and elected officials and other community leaders gathered to show support.
Imam Waleed Meneese's office took a direct hit from the bomb. Its windows were smashed and its floor, ceiling and walls destroyed. Shrapnel also ripped through the furniture.
In January, more than 100 people visited the center for an open house celebration of renovation work done for free by the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. The carpenters' union repaired the office using floor panels and electrical work donated by different companies.
The repairs inside and outside the office cost "thousands of dollars," according to Omar. The center had raised more than $98,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, with part of the funds going toward reconstruction.
(Staff writers Miguel Otarola and Karen Zamora contributed to this report.)
WASHINGTON - Larry Kudlow on Wednesday accepted an offer from President Donald Trump to head the White House's National Economic Council, according to three people familiar with the decision.
Kudlow had been seen as the front-runner, but Trump formally offered Kudlow the job Wednesday to replace former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, who resigned last week, largely over a fight over imposing tariffs that he lost.
Kudlow, 70, is described by White House officials as someone who connects with the president personally and politically. Kudlow, born and raised in New Jersey, shares with Trump a hard-charging personality and a fondness for being a media figure and both have hosted television programs. Kudlow has also been an informal Trump adviser over the past year.
He was also an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign and worked closely with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the design of an initial tax plan. But in media appearances in the past month, Kudlow has been critical of Trump's proclamations imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports - opposition that for other candidates might have been disqualifying.
On March 3, Kudlow joined Steve Moore and Arthur Laffer in a column for CNBC.com that was sharply critical of Trump's proposal to impose the tariffs. Trump has said he understands Kudlow disagrees.
Kudlow worked in the Reagan White House but has spent much of his time in recent years working for CNBC and other media outlets.
Alaska Public Radio Network
Proposed constitutional amendment would protect dividends, sort of
Alaska Public Radio Network
For the part of the state budget the Legislature directly controls, Alaska's government currently spends more than twice as much as it receives in revenue. To cover the remaining $2.5 billion gap, the Legislature is preparing to draw money from Alaska ...
Two world-class alpinists who apparently pioneered a challenging new route up the Mendenhall Towers near Juneau are presumed dead, Alaska State Troopers said.
George "Ryan" Johnson, a 34-year-old Juneau resident, and 24-year-old Marc-Andre Leclerc of Squamish, British Columbia, got to the top of their climb Monday. The route they chose up the 6,910-foot main tower via the north face appears to have never before been climbed, according to a story in Outside Magazine online.
The pair never returned to the pile of gear they cached for the ski out across Mendenhall Ice Field and trip down the West Mendenhall Glacier Trail back to Juneau, troopers said.
Bad weather complicated search efforts for days, but members of Juneau Mountain Rescue on Tuesday were finally able to get a good look at the north face of the Towers from a chartered Coastal helicopter.
They glimpsed an anchor rope at the top of an ice chute on the fourth tower and two climbing ropes in a crevasse midway down the tower, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. The ropes match the description of Johnson and Leclerc's gear.
"Everything tells us they are down in that crevasse and they are presumed deceased," Peters said.
It's not clear whether Johnson and Leclerc fell into the crevasse or an avalanche carried them into it, she said. "We do know they ascended, took pictures at the top. … We know they hiked a ridge over to the ice chute near the fourth tower."
It will likely be summer before a team can recover their bodies given the avalanche danger in the area, she said.
Leclerc had posted what he called a "rare live update'' at the top of the tower — a stunning photo of snowy peaks all the way to Mount Fairweather under bright blue skies.
A post shared by Marc-Andre Leclerc (@mdre92) on Mar 5, 2018 at 11:33am PST
At the top, Leclerc called the team manager for his main sponsor, Arc'teryx. The manager, Justin Sweeny, told Outside Magazine the men were celebrating their climb. They talked about descending by either the north or south face.
Leclerc also texted his father, a relative told The Canadian Press.
The men weren't heard from again.
Their friends and families notified authorities March 7 after they failed to return from the climb. But bad weather grounded the search for days, with scant windows providing only brief opportunities to look for the duo as their families and the international climbing community waited for word.
Neither of the men carried a satellite phone or emergency beacon, troopers said, though climbers in Juneau have said that's not unusual given poor reception on the icefield.
Leclerc's father, Serge Leclerc, posted an update on his public Facebook page Tuesday evening: "Sadly we have lost 2 really great climber(s) and I lost a son I am very proud of."
Johnson's relatives set up a gofundme page originally intended to pay for search efforts that's become an account to help his family and friends "with closure and costs" related to his death. The fund is also intended to help Johnson's 2-1/2-year-old son, Milo, "who will be missing his father and father's support intensely."
By Wednesday morning, the site had raised nearly $35,000 from almost 450 people in one day.
The men's names will remain listed on a missing persons clearinghouse until their bodies are found.
Leclerc was a rising star in the alpine climbing community and already considered one of the top alpinists of his generation. His solo climbing — done without the support of a second person — included spectacular feats among the jagged peaks of South America's Patagonia.
A report by Rock and Ice called Leclerc's 2015 solo climb of a route on 10,200-foot Cerro Torre "by far the hardest route" ever solo-climbed there.
The same Rock and Ice article said Johnson "made waves" in the Mendenhall Towers in 2011 when he free-climbed without ropes a line on the South Buttress of the main tower. He also established a demanding line on the west tower in 2008.
An Alaska panel on judicial conduct determined Tuesday there is "probable cause" that the first woman to serve as a Superior Court judge in Utqiagvik suffers from a disability that prevents her from doing her job.
Angela Greene, the only Superior Court judge for the North Slope region, was "relieved of her duties" on Jan. 19 by Chief Justice Craig Stowers, the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct said in an order Tuesday.
Stowers in May requested that the commission launch proceedings that would lead to a medical retirement for Greene. The commission must still make a final recommendation to the Alaska Supreme Court about that medical retirement.
Greene, appointed by former Gov. Sean Parnell in 2014, retains her seat for now.
Judges from other regions have been filling in for trials and complex cases, said Brodie Kimmel, area court administrator for the Second Judicial District, in Nome.
Daily court matters are being handled by Greene's predecessor, Michael Jeffery, an Utqiagvik resident who retired in 2014 and was sometimes called "minimum Mike" by critics for emphasizing probation over jail time.
"We are fortunate Jeffery is willing to come out of his retirement," said Kimmel. "Everything is operating smoothly from our perspective."
In its three-page order Tuesday, the commission said "medical ailments" forced Greene to take medical administrative leave in October 2016.
Greene returned to judicial service in July but was struck by a vehicle in December as a pedestrian, according to the commission's order.
"In early January 2018, it became apparent that Judge Greene was continuing to suffer from a disability that seriously interferes with the performance of her judicial duties," the commission said in its decision.
The decision did not name Greene's medical illness or provide more detail about the car accident.
Her attorney, Bill Satterberg, would not comment. Greene could not be reached Tuesday.
Justice is being adequately served in the region, said Greg Olson, the Fairbanks district attorney serving most of the North Slope.
Some cases have been reassigned to courts in Nome and Kotzebue, he said.
"By and large, there has not been a major impact to the process up there," Olson said.
Robert Curran, assistant public defender in Utqiagvik, would not comment.
Greene was up for retention election this year, according to the Alaska Judicial Council web site.
While the commission has determined "probable cause" exists, it must still prove Greene has a disability that seriously interferes with the performance of her job, said Marla Greenstein, the commission's executive director.
It must then make a recommendation to the state's highest court, which will make the final decision, she said.
Before that recommendation is made, the commission will hold a public hearing on April 27 on the topic, Greenstein said.
Greenstein said the commission has weighed such a decision only once before. In October 2016, it recommended that Nome Superior Court Judge Tim Dooley receive disability retirement, several months after he was flown to Anchorage from Nome with a "serious illness." The state Supreme Court approved the disability retirement.
In a separate matter, Dooley had been publicly reprimanded by the state's highest court in August 2016 after acknowledging he made inappropriate comments on the job. In one instance, he told a jury off-record, referring to a witness who spoke quietly during a domestic violence felony assault trial, "I'm sorry, folks, but I can't slap her around to make her talk louder."
Dooley retired for medical reasons in February 2017. He died in December at age 65.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviewing a recommendation to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, just days before he is scheduled to retire Sunday, people briefed on the matter said. McCabe was a frequent target of attack from President Donald Trump, who taunted him both publicly and privately.
McCabe is ensnared in an internal review that includes an examination of his decision in 2016 to allow FBI officials to speak with reporters about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The Justice Department's inspector general concluded that McCabe was not forthcoming during the review, according to the people briefed on the matter. That yet-to-be-released report triggered an FBI disciplinary process that recommended his termination — leaving Sessions to either accept or reverse that decision.
Lack of candor is a fireable offense, but like so much at the FBI, McCabe's fate is also entangled in presidential politics and the special counsel investigation. He was involved from the beginning in the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. He is also a potential witness in the inquiry into whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.
Trump's supporters have tried to cast McCabe as part of a "deep state" that operates in secret to undermine the administration. Trump has goaded Sessions into taking action against him.
Now, Sessions is the final arbiter of McCabe's dismissal, shortly before his retirement takes effect Sunday. Though no decision has been made, people inside the Justice Department expect him to be fired before Friday, a decision that would jeopardize his pension as a 21-year FBI veteran.
Under FBI rules, internal reports are referred to the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility, which makes disciplinary recommendations. McCabe can appeal that recommendation to the attorney general. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say whether McCabe would be fired.
"The department follows a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated," said the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores. "That process includes recommendations from career employees, and no termination decision is final until the conclusion of that process. We have no personnel announcements at this time."
McCabe declined to comment. His friends and allies have said that he denies any wrongdoing in his dealings with journalists or the inspector general. He stepped down in January and took a leave of absence under pressure over the looming inspector general's report.
McCabe is a career agent, not a political appointee, so Trump has no direct say in his fate. The decision nonetheless comes at a moment of turnover in Trump's national security team. On Tuesday, the president fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and named CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him. He tapped a veteran clandestine officer, Gina Haspel, to lead the CIA.
Firing McCabe, even on the recommendation of the disciplinary office, would be controversial. Among McCabe's allies, the decision would raise the specter that Sessions was influenced by Trump's frequent derisive comments. No deputy director in the history of the FBI has been fired.
But Sessions would be able to point to a critical inspector general's report and say he followed Justice Department protocol. The details of why the inspector general viewed McCabe as not forthcoming are not clear. Though FBI disciplinary records show that drunken driving, domestic violence and assaults have been punished by suspension, when agents are found to have shown a lack of candor under oath, they are commonly fired.
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, announced last year that he would investigate several contentious decisions made at the FBI and Justice Department during the 2016 presidential campaign. In November, Horowitz indicated that he planned to issue a single report this spring encompassing his entire review, on matters including the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server.
There are no indications that Horowitz is prepared to release a broad report this week. It is not clear why he opted to handle McCabe separately and refer him for discipline before the release of the full report. A spokesman for Horowitz has declined to comment.
Trump has attacked members of the FBI and the Justice Department for much of his first year in office. But few have been the target of presidential ire like McCabe. Trump has repeatedly remarked on the fact that McCabe's wife, Jill, ran as a Democrat for a state Senate seat in Virginia. Her campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from a political committee run by Terry McAuliffe, the Virginia governor at the time and a longtime ally of the Clintons.
Jill McCabe lost the race and Andrew McCabe was later promoted to deputy director, where he oversaw the investigation into Clinton. No charges were filed in that case, and Trump has pointed to the donations to McCabe's wife's campaign as evidence of FBI bias.
In meetings with McCabe, the president questioned how he had voted and needled him about his wife, calling her a "loser," according to people familiar with the conversations.
The precise allegations against McCabe will not be clear until the full report is released. But what is publicly known does not fit neatly into Trump's theory of McCabe as a Democratic operator. McCabe has described himself to friends as a lifelong Republican voter.
The allegations revolve around disclosures to The Wall Street Journal, which revealed in October 2016 a dispute between the FBI and Justice Department over how to proceed in an investigation into the Clinton family's foundation. The article said that the Justice Department would not authorize subpoenas in the case. Some FBI agents, the article said, believed that McCabe had put the brakes on the investigation. Others rejected that notion.
The inspector general has concluded that McCabe authorized FBI officials to provide information for that article. The public affairs office arranged a phone call to discuss the case, a common practice in the federal government when officials believe that a journalist has only part of the story.
In the Journal story, a person described as close to McCabe pushed back on the notion that he had tried to shut down the Clinton Foundation investigation. To the contrary, the person described a tense conversation with the Justice Department in which McCabe insisted his agents had the authority to keep investigating.
The article was a negative one for the Clinton campaign — not Trump. It was published just days before the election, after the FBI reopened its investigation into Clinton's email practices. The article, including the FBI disclosures, made it clear that some agents saw evidence of wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation that was worth investigating.
McCabe joined the FBI after law school and rose quickly through the ranks. Under former FBI director James Comey, he ascended through several senior leadership jobs, and it was clear that he was being groomed for the bureau's No. 2 position. His rise angered some rank-and-file agents. But supporters viewed him as a sophisticated, intellectual choice for a job that has become an integral part of the nation's intelligence community.
The deputy director is the chief operations officer at the FBI, a job that requires managing relationships with the White House and Congress. That task became unusually difficult as agents investigated the Trump campaign, straining relationships with Trump. Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, criticized the FBI for failing to do enough in that inquiry, while Republicans accused agents of drumming up an investigation based on shoddy evidence.
Over the last several years, all Alaskans have witnessed our chinook, or king, salmon runs continue their downward trend of productivity. This trend ultimately results in fewer spawning adults returning to their natal streams, causing escapement goals to be missed, and potentially fewer young fish to continue their anadromous lifecycle.
Low productivity can also mean fewer opportunities for subsistence, sport and commercial fishers to sustainably harvest king salmon. Every year, Alaska Department of Fish and Game fishery managers balance their preseason management decisions based on the best available science, while striving to provide opportunity to harvest these magnificent fish. During periods of low productivity, our managers are forced to make tough decisions that might restrict or in some cases close specific rivers or areas to harvest. The department is keenly aware how these management decisions can have dramatic impact on local economies, families and individuals.
These management decisions are not taken lightly.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is mandated by the state constitution to manage our fish and wildlife resources under the sustained-yield principle. Managing for sustainable salmon runs during periods of low productivity can mean we may have to place severe restrictions today on fishing to ensure we have fish for tomorrow and future generations.
About five years ago, a significant research effort was undertaken to specifically study king salmon populations to better understand the statewide downturn in king salmon productivity. Many of these studies showed our out-migrating smolt were not surviving within months of entering the marine environment. While specific causes have not been identified, the department is confident that our statewide downturn in productivity can point directly back at smolt survival after entering the ocean.
Since 2007 our northern Cook Inlet river systems have mimicked other Alaska king salmon populations by trending down. To respond to this trend locally, our fishery managers placed significant fishing restrictions on sport anglers and commercial fishers that severely reduced their opportunity to harvest king salmon, with a goal to increase escapement. Even with these restrictions, those streams draining from the Talkeetna Mountains into the Susitna River (east-side Susitna tributaries) continued to miss the established escapement goals most years. West-side Susitna tributaries draining from the Alaska Range, that include the Yentna drainage and Deshka River, fared better under restrictive regulations, achieving established escapement goals through 2016, but missed all goals in 2017.
Looking ahead to this summer, our preseason forecast for the Deshka River predicts a run of 12,800 king salmon. The escapement goal range for the Deshka River is 13,000 to 28,000 returning adults. The forecast suggests we'll see a weak return of 5-year-old fish, which is typically the largest portion of the run. And we face similar uncertainty with predicting the return of our 4-year-old fish. In 2017, even with sport and commercial restrictions in place, the Deshka River did not achieve its king salmon escapement goal. The 2018 preseason forecast calls for an even smaller number of returning adults then returned in 2017, and we anticipate these low numbers are likely to be experienced throughout the Susitna drainage.
This leaves the department no choice but to close the entire Susitna River drainage to the sport harvest of king salmon. Catch-and-release fishing for king salmon will be allowed in the Deshka and Yentna systems, but the rest of the drainage will be closed to fishing for king salmon altogether. Additionally, all commercial king salmon fishing in the Northern District will be closed in 2018 due to the projected low numbers of returning adult king salmon. The closure of the commercial fishery is tied to the poor preseason outlook as well as the northern Cook Inlet king salmon management plan that requires paired actions when the Deshka River is closed.
While the Susitna River drainage may be closed to king salmon retention, there are other nearby opportunities to fish for king salmon this summer. The terminal fisheries at the Eklutna Tailrace and Ship Creek provide opportunities to pursue king salmon under general regulations during the early summer. Fishing for king salmon on the Little Su will be open under restrictive regulations that will be defined by emergency order. In the waters of the Susitna River, upstream of the Deshka River (Unit 2), fishing for trout and other species will continue to be allowed seven days per week.
The department recognizes the tremendous impact these closures will bring to our commercial and sport fishers. To ensure sustainable fisheries, our professional fisheries managers will look for these closures to give us the greatest potential for achieving our king salmon escapement goals in 2018 in the Susitna River drainage. Throughout the summer of 2018, our staff will use weirs and aerial surveys to gauge run strength to assess if the closure might be modified inseason.
Closures of fisheries are never easy decisions to make. They will cause pain and hardship to many Alaskans, and to many visitors who were looking for that fishing trip of a lifetime. Our hope is that short-term pain will result in long-term gain for our iconic king salmon populations across the state. I'm confident that we can collectively work toward ensuring our king salmon continue to be sustainably managed for generations to come.
Sam Cotten is Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and grew up fishing in Mat-Su.
The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.
The discussion about consolidating Chugach and Municipal Light & Power began over 30 years ago as a way to be more efficient and save ratepayers money. Currently we have three utilities serving residents of the Municipality of Anchorage. Matanuska Electric Association serves the Chugiak/Peters Creek/Eagle River area, while Chugach and ML&P; cover the rest of Anchorage. We have long-known we don't need two utilities serving the Anchorage Bowl, and we finally have the chance to do something about it. The system would be much more efficient and cost-effective by combining Chugach and ML&P;.
As a member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative, Chugach Electric is focused on serving our more than 68,000 members with reliable, safe, affordable electricity. Headquartered in Anchorage, we have been providing electric service to Alaskans for 70 years. Our territory extends from Anchorage (excluding downtown and Midtown areas) to the northern Kenai Peninsula, and from Whittier on Prince William Sound to Tyonek on the west side of Cook Inlet. We are guided by the seven cooperative principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members' economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for the community.
Whether you run a business or manage the family checkbook, you know duplication costs money. Chugach and ML&P; both provide the same type of service to Anchorage residents: generation, transmission and distribution of electric power. Consolidation and elimination of duplication, while taking advantage of economies of scale, means potential savings of hundreds of millions of dollars can be realized over several decades. As a member-owned cooperative, Chugach gives savings back to ratepayers in the form of lower, long-term electric rates. Additionally, Chugach doesn't keep its margins—or profits—as an investor-owned utility would; we give them back to our members in the form of capital credits. If the acquisition is approved, ML&P; customers will become Chugach members who will receive these benefits.
The latest round of consolidation discussion started in April 2017 when business owners in ML&P; service territory saw large rate increases due to the building of Plant 2A. Several business leaders got together as a working group with the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. to discuss ways to save money on electric rates. In a letter to the MOA, Chugach and ML&P;, the business leaders encouraged Chugach and ML&P; to do everything possible to complete and improve upon the work the two utilities are already engaged in—partners in the Beluga River gas field, co-owners of the Southcentral Power Project, power pooling—and take substantive steps to explore merger opportunities.
Following that effort, the Anchorage Assembly in June 2017 unanimously passed a resolution asking the two utilities to move forward on discussions similar to what the AEDC requested. Chugach then began putting together an offer to purchase ML&P.; Around the same time, the MOA had an independent valuation of ML&P; done by Goldman Sachs, which valued the utility at between $700 million and $1 billion. Additionally, five other companies submitted offers or letters of interest to the MOA and, after an analysis of all offers, Chugach's proposal was chosen as the best deal for Anchorage because of the price, the commitment to not lay off employees at either utility, and because Chugach is the only buyer that solves the costly duplication problem. With any other buyer the Anchorage Bowl would still have two utilities, and you wouldn't realize the savings that comes from eliminating duplication.
The Chugach Board of Directors supports moving forward on the consolidation, recognizing the opportunity to save upward of hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term electric rates for current and future members, along with the realization that new business opportunities should not result in the layoff of employees. Employees of both utilities are protected in the consolidation with right-sizing of the consolidated Chugach occurring through attrition. If voters say yes to Proposition 10, there will be more public process as the definitive sales agreement goes before the Chugach Board of Directors, the Anchorage Assembly, and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. We look forward to that continued public engagement.
We don't often get the opportunity to make decisions that will benefit generations of Alaskans. Thirty years is a long time to debate and discuss an idea. Interest rates are low, the state's fiscal situation remains a question, and it's time to take this step to stabilize the future of electric rates for all of Anchorage. Let's strengthen Anchorage's economy, from Girdwood to Eklutna, by voting yes on Proposition 10.
Lee Thibert is Chugach Electric CEO and Bettina Chastain is chair of the Chugach Electric Board of Directors.
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PARKLAND, Fla. – U.S. students spilled out of classrooms by the thousands on Wednesday morning, waving signs and chanting slogans like "We want change," in a coast-to-coast protest against gun violence prompted by a deadly rampage at a Florida high school last month.
The #ENOUGH National School Walkout began in the Eastern time zone at 10 a.m. and was scheduled to last 17 minutes but many protests went longer. Students in other time zones planned to walk out at 10 a.m. local time.
The protests commemorated the 17 students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. The massacre was the latest in a series of shootings that have plagued U.S. schools for nearly two decades.
While many school districts gave their blessings for the protests, students in some areas defied warnings of discipline to join the walkout.
Some students made an early start. At Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City, crowds of students poured into the streets of Manhattan, many dressed in orange, the color of the gun-control movement.
"Thoughts and prayers are not enough," read one sign, needling the rote response many lawmakers make after mass shootings. At 10 a.m., the hundreds of students sat down on the sidewalk, filling half a city block, and fell silent.
In Parkland, thousands of students slowly filed onto the Stoneman Douglas school football field to the applause of families and supporters beyond the fences as law enforcement officers looked on. News helicopters thrummed overhead.
Ty Thompson, the school's principal, called for the "biggest group hug," and the students obliged around the 50-yard line.
"We want change!" students chanted on the sidewalks outside the school. "Can you hear the children screaming?" read one of the signs.
The walkouts were part of a burgeoning, grassroots movement that grew out of the Parkland attack. Some of the survivors have lobbied state and federal lawmakers, and even met with President Donald Trump, to call for new restrictions on gun ownership, a right protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"We don't feel safe in schools anymore," Sarah Chatfield said. A 15-year-old high school student from Maryland, Chatfield had joined a crowd of hundreds protesting outside the White House, with some sitting silent with their backs turned.
"Trump is talking about arming teachers with guns," she said. "That is not a step in the right direction."
Soon after, some of the students began marching toward Capitol Hill. "Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go!" they chanted, referring to the powerful gun-rights interest group, the National Rifle Association.
Some students crammed into a packed hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about gun laws and school safety, which was to include testimony from federal law enforcement officials and the father of one of the Parkland victims.
The Parkland survivors' efforts helped bring about a tightening of Florida's gun laws last week, when the minimum age for buying any kind of gun was raised to 21 years from 18, although lawmakers rejected a ban on the sort of semiautomatic rifle used in the Parkland attack.
In Washington, however, plans to strengthen the background-check system for gun sales, among other measures, appear to be languishing.
Students from more than 2,800 schools and groups are joining the walkouts, many with the backing of their school districts, according to the event's organizers, who also coordinated the Women's March protests staged nationwide over the past two years.
The protests took place a day after Florida prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty for Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the Parkland attack.
The New York City Department of Education allowed students to participate if they submitted a signed permission slip from their parents.
But a few school districts around the country had warned against protests during school hours, though some students were undeterred.
Some 200 students walked out of the Council Rock High School North building in Newtown, Pennsylvania, despite warnings from school administration that doing so would bring discipline. The district, citing safety concerns, had organized an alternative event, allowing students to walk out of their classrooms but remain in the building.
"Students deserve the right to go to school feeling safe and comfortable, not feeling scared that their school will be the next target," a student said into a megaphone to the group outside.
In Bentonville, Arkansas, a high school student was suspended on Tuesday after handing out unauthorized flyers promoting the walkout, local news media reported.
Leslee Wright, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville schools, declined to comment on the report, citing laws regarding student confidentiality. But she confirmed that the district board voted 4-3 to enforce its student handbook on Wednesday, which requires detention for students who are absent from school without a doctor's note.
(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Jonathan Allen and Alice Popovici in New York; Suzanne Barlyn in Newtown, Pennsylvania; Joe Skipper in Parkland, Florida; Scott Malone in Boston; and Susan Heavey, Sarah N. Lynch and Ian Simpson in Washington)
Proponents of Proposition 1, an Anchorage initiative to regulate restrooms, locker rooms and other "intimate facilities" by sex at birth, say a recent discrimination complaint against a downtown shelter for homeless women shows why the measure is necessary.
It's the latest in an ongoing campaign to persuade voters that legal protections for transgender residents in Anchorage's non-discrimination law create safety problems. In this case, questions about what happened at the shelter and how the law applies remain to be answered.
Last week, a conservative blog and emails to supporters from the "Yes on 1" campaign's organizers spotlighted a situation in which a person filed a discrimination complaint against the Downtown Hope Center. The complaint, filed Feb. 1 by a person named Samantha Coyle with the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, said the shelter refused her services because she is transgender.
If shown to be valid, the complaint could lead to fines, policy changes, non-discrimination training and other damages for the shelter under the city's two-year-old law that bars discrimination over sexual orientation and gender identity.
"This is exactly what we've been concerned about and why Prop. 1 must pass," Jim Minnery of Alaska Family Action wrote in one of the emails to supporters. "Should a faith-based shelter for biological women who have been abused be forced by the government into opening their doors to a biological man?"
Kati Ward, the manager of Fair Anchorage, the campaign opposing Prop. 1, said last week the campaign didn't have specifics on the incident or the person involved, but she said Anchorage's existing non-discrimination law doesn't allow give people a way to break the law or act inappropriately.
There were unresolved questions surrounding the Hope Center complaint. Kevin Clarkson, an attorney for the Hope Center, said the person who filed the complaint, was not kept out of the shelter because they were transgender. He said it was because the person was intoxicated and came to the shelter while it was closed.
Even so, Clarkson said the Hope Center is a religious organization that would not allow a "biological man" to be sheltered there. The city's other two emergency women's shelters, one of which is run by Catholic Social Services, do take in transgender women.
Whether Prop. 1 — or the city's current, broader nondiscrimination laws that Prop. 1 seeks to amend — would apply to the Hope Center is open to debate. City law bars discrimination over sex and gender identity in public accommodations, but the Hope Center says it does not serve the general public. Prop. 1, meanwhile, would change the law to say employers and public accommodations could legally enforce sex-segregated standards for " 'intimate facilities' such as locker rooms, showers, changing rooms and restrooms."
The initiative doesn't mention homeless shelters, but Clarkson, the attorney for the Hope Center, argued the shelter would qualify as an "intimate facility."
Formerly known as the Downtown Soup Kitchen, the Hope Center is a faith-based nonprofit that offers showers and meals to the homeless, as well as an overnight shelter for homeless women. In 2015, with the Brother Francis Shelter at capacity, the agency opened an overflow night shelter for homeless women. There's a big room with mats where up to 50 homeless women sleep every night. The shelter also serves the women dinner and breakfast.
Clarkson said Coyle, the person who filed the discrimination complaint, was turned away twice. First, Coyle tried to enter the shelter while intoxicated, which violated shelter policies, Clarkson said. The following afternoon, Coyle came back to the Hope Center and was turned away because the shelter wasn't open, Clarkson said.
Coyle, who listed the Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) domestic violence shelter as a mailing address, could not be reached by phone or immediately located for an interview.
"Respondent refused me access to the shelter because of my sex and gender identity," Coyle wrote. "I am female and transgender thus I belong to a protected class."
There were no other details in the complaint about what happened from Coyle's point of view.
Whether Coyle would meet the city's legal definition for transgender protections was not immediately clear. The law requires the person to prove, through medical history and evidence of care or treatment of their gender identity, that their gender identity is "sincerely held, core to a person's gender-related self identity, and not being asserted for an improper purpose." The Equal Rights Commission typically takes months to investigate complaints.
The Hope Center also disputes that it is subject to the city's nondiscrimination laws. Clarkson said the shelter is not a "public accommodation," and because of that, the law does not apply.
In a written response to the Equal Rights Commission, Clarkson quoted city law and said a public accommodation is a "business or professional activity" that provides goods or services to the general public. He said the Hope Center, by contrast, is a religious charity that offers its services for free to a specific group of people.
Clarkson said allowing a "biological man" into the shelter would traumatize and create safety risks for the women who stay there.
Leaders of Anchorage's other two emergency women's shelters say transgender people have used the facilities for years without problems.
AWAIC, a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, has served transgender women for at least 15 years, said executive director Suzi Pearson.
Catholic Social Services runs the Brother Francis Shelter as well as the Clare House, a shelter for women and children. Lisa Aquino, the executive director of Catholic Social Services, said the shelters don't ask people for gender identities.
"There's so much trauma for everyone who comes in that is experiencing homelessness," Aquino said. "The fact that someone is transgender is pretty far down on the list."
In a phone interview, Clarkson said the Hope Center had known Coyle in the past as a man named Timothy.
Clarkson said Coyle had regularly used showers and meal services during the daytime hours without incident. But he said the shelter saw Coyle as "obviously" a man, and pointed to a criminal record that included a 2008 robbery conviction to back up concerns about letting Coyle inside.
Voter registration records indicate a person named Timothy Coyle registered as a Republican in April 2016 and listed their sex as "female." There were no voter or Alaska court records for a Samantha Coyle.
Coyle came to the Hope Center one evening in late January after being ejected from the nearby Brother Francis Shelter for fighting, according to Clarkson. Clarkson said Coyle was clearly intoxicated and was barred from entering the shelter, which is a sober facility. The shelter gave Coyle money for a cab ride to the emergency room for treatment of injuries from a fight, Clarkson said.
The next day, a Saturday, Coyle returned at 2 p.m. seeking shelter services, but the shelter was not open and Coyle was turned away, Clarkson said. He said Coyle did not return after that.
Since the Anchorage nondiscrimination law took effect, the Equal Rights Commission has received 10 complaints of sexual orientation discrimination and two complaints of gender identity discrimination, according to the commission's annual reports. The commission does not make the cases public or comment on whether complaints have been filed, citing confidentiality.
Clarkson said Hope Center officials would not attend a Wednesday fact-finding conference in the case.
He said that if the commission decides to proceed, he would file a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Hope Center is not a public accommodation.
Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats in nerve agent case and will block all high-level contacts with Moscow
LONDON - Britain ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats believed involved in espionage-related activities, British Prime Minister announced Wednesday, in the first wave of measures against Moscow for a nerve-gas attack against a former double agent.
May, speaking to Parliament, also outlined a range of other steps, including a halt to high-level meetings with Russian officials and calling off a planned visit to Britain by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
May repeated the conclusion of British investigators that Russia had either deployed or lost control of dangerous nerve agents used in the attack - targeting the former spy and his daughter - and called Russia's defiant response has "demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events."
"Instead they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance," she told lawmakers while announcing the reprisal measures.
She gave no further details on the Russian diplomats ordered expelled, but said they were deemed "undeclared intelligence officers." She called it the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain since Cold War-era retribution in the 1970s.
May said more countermeasures were being considered. She said Britain sought support from the United States, European Union and NATO, but did not outline any requests she made from allies to join in the reprisals.
Lawmakers in Parliament asked May pointedly what Britain's allies were willing to do - and she mostly evaded the question, except to say that they had offered Britain support.
Earlier, Britain's Foreign Ministry also called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to update members on the investigation into the nerve agent attack. Russia, as part of the permanent five nations on the council, holds veto power over any possible U.N. moves to come.
"It is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Russian federation. But in the aftermath of this appalling act against our country this relationship cannot be the same," May said in Parliament.
On Monday, May asserted that it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind a poison attack and gave the Russian government a deadline to explain itself and where the rare and powerful "weapons-grade" nerve agent came from.
As expected, May's deadline passed on Wednesday and Russia did not respond - or did not respond with the details or explanations that Britain sought.
Instead, Russian officials and state media assailed the British for whipping up "anti-Russia hysteria." The Kremlin rejected the "unfounded accusations" and shrugged off British demands.
British politicians and commentators said May could employ a range of diplomatic and financial sanctions - from clamping down on Russian oligarchs' property-buying binge in London to tossing out embassy staff.
May could also ask the European Union, or even NATO, to join in a response to what she described as a "reckless" and "indiscriminate" attack, which not only endangered the lives of its two principal victims, the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, but also potentially exposed scores of others to the nerve agent, including a police officer who remains hospitalized.
Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for selling state secrets to British intelligence for 10 years, but he was released in 2010 as part of a high-profile spy swap. He and his daughter remain in critical condition at a Salisbury hospital.
A spokesperson for 10 Downing Street said the British leader discussed the attack with President Donald Trump, who said Washington was "with the U.K. all the way" that Russia "must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used."
In his last remarks, just hours after being fired by Trump via Twitter, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned, "much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian government."
Tillerson warned, "Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and of the world more broadly. Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone's interest."
May also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "They agreed that the international community should coordinate closely as the investigation developed and in the wake of Russia's response," said her spokesman.
Russia essentially blew off May's midnight deadline for an explanation of how deadly Novichok nerve gas appeared on the streets of the quiet medieval town of Salisbury, famous for its nearby ruins of Stonehenge.
Various officials and commentators made it clear that Moscow would call her bluff.
After Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov told Britain on Tuesday that Moscow had no intention of responding to May's ultimatum, the ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, dialed up the heat on an evening talk show on one of the leading state-run channels.
"No one can come before their national parliament and say: I give Russia 24 hours," said Zakharova, "What kind of conversation is that in principle?" She then appeared to chastise London for not behaving like a nuclear power, and took a shot at Boris Johnson.
"When a country's Foreign Ministry is led by people who have absolutely nothing to do with foreign policy, who have built their career around populism, they have no idea either about the organization for the prohibition of nuclear weapons or the relevant [chemical weapons convention]."
"To them, it is normal to go out and start intimidating," Zakharova said. "Don't. There is no need."
In a conference call with journalists in Moscow Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that theories surrounding Skripal's poisoning are not the Kremlin's problem. He reiterated that Moscow's official position, that it was not involved and demands proof, has been delivered through diplomatic channels.
Peskov said that Moscow does not accept London's accusations and hopes the West will come to their senses and engage Russia in a joint investigation into the poisoning of Skripal.
Regarding possible British actions against Russia today, Peskov said that "any unlawful actions against any Russian media outlets in the UK will, of course, lead to reciprocal measures backed the principle of reciprocity." So far, no one in Russia has specified which outlets a response would apply to, thought they have suggested that every British outlet could be targeted.
So far, Foreign Minister Lavrov is the most senior Russian official to comment on May's ultimatum. President Vladimir Putin, according to his press service, was traveling to Russia's southern Dagestan Republic.
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Bodner reported from Moscow. Karla Adam in London contributed to this report.