Alaska's King

This site is for the exploration and discussion of a Constitutional Monarchy, as well as important Alaska news and information. Feel free to post your comments.

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Arctic Lakes Are Disappearing



Global warming (or maybe Extraterrestrials) appears to be causing lakes to drain and disappear in Arctic regions, a UCLA-headed team of researchers report in the latest issue of Science.

If the pattern persists, it may imperil migratory birds and wreak further havoc on the region's weather, warns Laurence Smith, the article's lead author and an associate professor of geography at UCLA.

"In the Arctic these lakes are the dominant feature on the landscape," he said. "The plant and animal life depend on them as do native fisherman. The loss of these lakes would be an ecological disaster."

Along with researchers from UCLA, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Smith tracked changes in more than 10,000 large lakes by comparing early satellite imagery taken across approximately 200,000 square miles of Siberian wilderness with recent satellite data.

Between 1973 and 1997–98, the total number of lakes larger than 100 acres decreased from 10,882 to 9,712, a decline of 11 percent, the team found. Most lakes did not disappear altogether, but instead shrank to sizes less than 100 acres. The total surface area in the region occupied by lakes shrank by 359 square miles, a decline of 6 percent.

In all, 125 lakes vanished completely and became covered with vegetation, the researchers found in the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Subsequent monitoring has found that none of the lakes refilled, the researchers report in "Disappearing Arctic Lakes" in the scholarly journal's June 3 issue. The researchers, therefore, consider the lakes to be permanently drained.

"What's interesting isn't that we're seeing individual lakes disappear," Smith said. "The process appears to be abrupt and irregular. From what we can tell from space, a lake is either just fine or it's gone."

State backs Adak in study of an Arctic route to Iceland

The Northwest Passage, at last: "Marine transportation in the Arctic Ocean could become a reality in the next few decades as climate change thins Arctic sea ice, allowing icebreaker ships to plow through, scientists say.

Now Adak, a fishing town of about 120 on the far eastern tip of the Aleutian Islands, is set to begin plowing through the political and logistical waters of establishing the route.

This year's state capital budget, which awaits the governor's signature, sends $50,000 to Adak to study the social and economic returns of an Arctic Ocean cargo shuttle to Iceland. The route would compete with the Panama Canal.

"The question that needs to be addressed is what are the economics that would drive an arctic shuttle concept," said Ben Ellis of the Anchorage-based research group Institute of the North.

The group has worked closely with Adak officials to study the shuttle concept. Ellis said it likely would be at least a couple of decades before the ice melts enough to open the Arctic passages, but other countries such as Russia, Canada, Iceland and Greenland already are working toward using the routes once available.

"Experts from Alaska and Iceland will work with Finnish icebreaker technologists, Russian administrators of the Northern Sea Route and other appropriate sources of information in completing the study," the budget proposal states. "The study will determine what further public and private investment might initiate service this decade."

Duh: "Oil companies make money in Alaska"

An Alaskan watchdog group says energy company profits from North Slope crude oil production hit $5.5 billion last year, and there's more where that came from.

The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council said total industry profit was just slightly less than $5.5 billion in 2004, the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News reported Friday.

The council also found Alaska made $2.8 billion and the federal government about $1.9 billion from crude oil production. Prices for North Slope oil delivered to West Coast refineries averaged $38.84 per barrel, it said.

Rural Alaska nuclear power gets legislative backing

Galena, Alaska officials' idea to bring nuclear power to the residents of their isolated Yukon River community took a step forward when the state Legislature approved $500,000 as part of the capital budget to study the plan.

City manager Marvin Yoder, in San Diego on Friday for the American Nuclear Society's annual meeting, said the state money will be used to conduct a series of 90-day studies to see if it could work.

"We think there are some real general questions to be answered before this can be considered for Alaska," Yoder said. "We are going to hire the right scientific people to answer these questions."

Among the questions Galena and Toshiba Corp., the corporate backer developing the 10-megawatt plant, will attempt to answer are what would happen to the reactor core after its 30-year life, what the safety issues would be and what would be necessary to guard it, Yoder said.

Critics previously have said they were not sure how nuclear reactors would be affected by the extreme climate of Alaska.

Because of Galena's inaccessibility and the necessity to ship diesel fuel by barge, residents pay from 20 cents to $1 per kilowatt hour, while the national average is less than 9 cents. With nuclear power, residents could pay a third of what they now pay to power their homes, Yoder said.

If it's feasible in Galena, nuclear power could be used to lower energy costs throughout rural Alaska, state lawmakers said.

"Nuclear power is something folks might frown on, but it's self- contained," said House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. "It has a lot of potential for areas" that have high fuel costs.

Harris and Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, both supported the studies and pushed to include the $500,000 appropriation in next year's capital budget.

"The amount of money we spend on fuel in rural Alaska is staggering and it gets more and more expensive every year," Stevens said.

Many questions will have to be answered, Stevens said, such as how the plant would be regulated and what its security requirements would be.

Several Democratic lawmakers, when contacted Friday, said they were unfamiliar with the proposal and declined to comment. Galena's representatives, Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and Rep. Woodie Salmon, D-Beaver, could not be reached Friday.

The capital budget has yet to be transmitted to Gov. Frank Murkowski, but his staff already is reviewing the appropriations in it, said spokeswoman Becky Hultberg. She indicated Murkowski would not be inclined to veto the Galena study.

"Gov. Murkowski believes that affordable energy is critical to ensuring economic development in rural Alaska," she said. "He will be evaluating the Galena appropriation with that in mind."

Yoder and Toshiba representatives are scheduled to hold a panel discussion on the proposal Monday at the American Nuclear Society meeting. He said all the key players will be at the meeting.

By Tuesday, he said, "we'll have a real plan of attack on this."


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Friday, June 03, 2005

King Island village deemed endangered

"Careful with that first step, it's a doozy!" A village clinging to the side of King Island in the Bering Sea and certain federal lands in Alaska were named among America's 11 most endangered historic places Thursday.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation included the King Island village of Ukivok in its annual list because the tiny old homes there are deteriorating and the former residents of the island and their descendants need help maintaining their connections to the place.

King Island is about two miles across and three miles long [Image]. It lies 40 miles west of Cape Douglas on the Seward Peninsula. The island was named in 1778 by Capt. James Cook for a lieutenant, James King.

The village Ukivok is perched on cliffs on the southern coast. The downhill sides of the homes are propped up with long support poles.

Koezuna-Irelan said most people reach the island using open skiffs with two outboards launched from Nome or a fish camp at Cape Woolley, about 40 miles west of Nome. The ride takes about 2 1/2 hours on a calm day. No one has stayed year-round on the island since 1954.

Moe said transportation is a major challenge. The island has no runway.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Greedy Dentists want to Screw Alaskans Mouths

A group of greedy dentists, more concerned about paying for their lavish lifestyles than about the health of Alaskans, want the State to sue the Federal Government on their behalf. They don't even want to spend the money to screw Alaskans out of decent care, and instead expect Alaskans to pay for it. And they can't even be bothered to updte their website in the last 7 years!

This appeared in the Anchorage Daily News on 2 June 2005:

"State and national dental groups have taken a new tack in fighting the use of dental health therapists in rural Alaska. Now they want the state to sue to stop the federal-private program on the basis of state sovereignty.

And most people who've watched this issue thought the issue was healthy teeth. The state should decline to sue.

The logic in the dentists' call derives from the fact that the therapists are certified under federal rules because they're in a federal program. The dentists -- not all dentists, but the dental establishment -- argue the state has a right to police health professionals and need not defer to federal officials.

Their real goal is to stop the program. They say that allowing dental health aide therapists to perform some dental work like drilling, filling and extractions is dangerous and should be reserved to dentists.

But the need for better, closer dental care in Alaska's Bush villages is urgent. And there just aren't enough dentists in the rural hubs to do all the work there is.

That's why federal and private money -- including money from the Rasmuson Foundation -- has bankrolled two years of training in New Zealand for Alaskans to become dental health aide therapists.

The New Zealand program is a long-established one, not some fly-by-night operation. After two years of training, the therapists must do 400 hours of work with a fully qualified dentist before they can begin a limited practice on their own -- and that practice begins only with the dentist's approval.

The dental establishment, including the Alaska Dental Society, [who last updated their website in 1998], argues that this work should be done by dentists, not therapists. They say that using therapists subjects Alaska Natives to second-class dental care.

What matters to Natives and all Alaskans is decent dental care and good teeth. If the therapists can help where dentists don't ordinarily practice, let them.

If any of us go to a doctor's office or medical clinic, and a physician's aide or a nurse can do a competent job of taking care of our needs, we're glad for the help. We don't necessarily need a doctor, but we do need a trained and certified professional who knows what he or she is doing.

If a therapist can do it right -- after intensive training and rigorous work under the supervision of a dentist -- then rural Alaskans will be better off. The dental society argues they can better serve the Bush by recruiting volunteers for temporary work and bringing dentists north on longer, paid contracts. Good. State, federal and Native health officials should cooperate with dental groups to get that done.

But such a program needn't compete with what the therapists are doing. And calling for a suit over state sovereignty is a ploy to kill a program that hasn't had a real test here yet.

The dental society should lend its skills, care and energy to help the therapist program work.

BOTTOM LINE: State should say no to dentists' call to sue. No teeth will be fixed in court."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

President Bush to Liberate Alaska

Shamelessly taken from at least two other sites, but posted here for its satire and humor value: "US president George W. Bush, in a speech to Congress today said, “Now that the situation in Iraq is under control, and after we’ve overthrown the governments of North Korea, Cuba, New Zealand, Iran and Madagascar, I’ll be asking you for a further $50 billion toward my administration’s efforts to help liberate Alaska, and give freedom to the Alaski people."

The Alaskan governor, Frank H. Murkowski has long been a thorn in the side of the federal government by frustrating their plans to grab control of the entire world’s oil reserves by the year 2010 to present to Dick Cheney as a birthday gift."

"George W. Bush said in his address and amid titters from the democratic benches, “Alaska has enough oil to last for another 50 years and I don’t see why such a small population of drunken snow mobile drivers and skiers should grow rich at the expense of the other 250 million Americans here on the mainland”.

“Furthermore”, he said “There are more big cars in California alone than in the entire country of Alaska and we need the oil more than them”. He added, “They’ve got more in the ground than they need and even if they didn’t have any, they could get enough from all the fish they catch down there”.

George W. Bush added in his address, “We believe that there is a conspiracy to play us off against the Russians and who could blame me for reaching that conclusion when Alaska’s prime minister has a name like Murkowski?”

On a more serious note, it would appear that the first steps in this 'liberation' are the closures of bases in Alaska. Maybe it's not so much satire after all. "The recommendation to include Eielson on the BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure Commission] list came from the Air Force as part of an effort to consolidate its A-10 and F-16 aircraft at bases in the Lower 48. Under the plan, Eielson's 18 A-10s would be reassigned to bases in Louisiana and Georgia and 18 F-16s would be transferred to Nevada. The Air National Guard's air tanker and rescue crew would remain at Eielson, which would be partially maintained for future training exercises"

Anchorage company seeks permits to harvest blueberries

I was just hiking through the bogs on my lands, and noticed that it is shaping up to be an excellent berry harvest, not only blueberries but also cloudberries, Rose Hips, and many others, thanks to the wetter spring than in previous years. This could provide additional income to people interested in harvesting blueberries on their property as well as on public lands. I'll post some photos of the heavily-laden wild bog blueberries flowering. Here's a picture of a nice Alaska spring sunset

"An Anchorage company has applied for land use permits on large swaths of state land to commercially harvest wild Alaska blueberries.

Denali Biotechnologies produces a health supplement called AuroraBlue. The product hit markets in December. Maureen McKenzie, chief executive officer and founder of the company, said the product is being marketed as an antidote to a variety of ailments, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

McKenzie said she did not know how many acres of land they applied for to berry pick except that it was "thousands and thousands and thousands of acres."

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources also did not immediately know the number of acres applied for. Kathy Johnson, natural resources specialist for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources public information center, said land use permits do not give the permit holder exclusive rights to pick berries on state land.

McKenzie said the company also has been working on contracts with private, Native and borough land owners around the state to gain permission to harvest berries on their land. She said hundreds of people may be working for the company this summer to gather berries.

McKenzie recently said the company hopes to harvest 150,000 pounds of blueberries this summer. By 2007, they hope to harvest more than a million pounds of berries to meet their customers' demands, she said.

"We don't want to run anybody over. We're just trying to figure out where to get those supplies," she said. "It shouldn't be a problem; it's just a matter of finding them."

She said the company would hire their own crews who would gather on permitted land.

Denali Biotechnologies is recruiting people who are willing to gather for them on other allowable land, such as private and Native land.

The company also will buy berries from people who gathered for their own personal use and want to sell some, she said.

Denali Biotechnologies plans to have buying stations set up around the state to purchase berries, she said.

This year, McKenzie said the company hopes to see ranching cooperatives started around the state, including the Kenai Peninsula, where landowners will transplant wild blueberry bushes to commercially grow the product. The company has had small test plots where they have tested ranching capabilities, she said.

In the future, through the help of a $1.65 million federal grant, they hope to have a facility to dry the berries somewhere in the state so they do not have to ship them Outside for drying.

"If we could get everything in Alaska and have the Made in Alaska symbol on it that would be truly wonderful," McKenzie said."

Alaska editorial: A key to customers asking for wild fish

This editorial appeared in Friday's Anchorage Daily News:

Alaska's Copper River salmon are making their usual spring splash in places where fine fish are sold. It's the most famous example, but not the only one, of how Alaska fishermen can compete against the cheaper, lower-quality farmed fish that has flooded world markets.

Yukon River king salmon have long been prized in Japan for their high fat content. This year, a big chunk of the Yukon River catch will find its way into gourmet markets in the United States.

In Southeast Alaska, fishermen are promoting their products as "Southeast Alaska Rainforest Wild." Salmon carrying that brand will have electronic tracking devices that monitor temperature during shipping to ensure high quality.

Paying attention to quality is definitely a key to success for Alaska salmon fishermen. Gone are the days when fishermen could just toss their catch into an unrefrigerated hold and still expect a big payday for warm, bruised fish. Fresh and fresh-frozen fish, especially fillets, command higher prices. Last year, quality control work and niche marketing efforts clearly paid off. The dockside value of Alaska's salmon catch rose 15 percent.



Selling straight to customers also helps Alaska fishermen boost their income. The number of "catcher-sellers" in Alaska grew 27 percent last year.

A key part of this all-important marketing effort is making sure customers ask for, and get, wild Alaska salmon. That job is a lot easier now. Federal rules that just went into effect last month require retailers to label salmon as farmed or wild and to show the country of origin.

Customers have good reason to ask for Alaska wild. Farmed salmon carry the burden of their industrial, factory-style upbringing. Besides having markedly higher levels of PCBs, farmed fish have to be fed food coloring and antibiotics. By contrast, Alaska salmon fisheries are certified as environmentally sustainable by an internationally recognized oversight agency.

For better or worse, Alaska decided not to jump into the farmed salmon business. Alaska's "ocean ranching" salmon fishermen are fighting a strong tide in the marketplace. The mystique of Alaska is a valuable business asset that offers their best hope of success.

Yukon River King Salmon Run on Its Way

Last year it was considered the new fish on the block; this year Yukon River king salmon is the one of the most commercially prized wild salmon catches of the year. Yukon River king salmon harvesting is expected to commence the second to third week of June, putting the tasty, rich salmon in restaurants and grocers around the middle of June.

Early, unofficial estimates indicate the commercial catch quota could be similar or even exceed last year demonstrating a healthy and sustainable fishery resource is in place. This fresh harvest of wild Yukon River king salmon is only available for about two weeks in June, sold nationwide to restaurants and retailers. The kings arrive from the Bering Sea with a very high oil content of up to 34 percent, rich in heart-healthy Omega3 fatty acids. Conversely, the majority of other Alaskan kings have less than 14 percent oil content.

Tax Cap Petition Signatures Certified

Please be advised that the Canvass Board finished their task of canvassing
the signatures on the proposed tax cap initiative petition.

The report of the Canvass Board is as follows:

Total number of signatures of persons signing petition: 4404

Total number of signatures required to approve petition: 1788

Number of signatures counted: 1797

Number of signatures not counted: 172

Number of signatures questioned: 95

The members of the Canvass Board participating were: Chair, Geraldine
Keeling, Marva Denblecker, and Vivian Smith (with staff assistance from the
Clerk's Office). The Board members began their task on Friday, May 20 and
concluded on Wednesday, May 25. The Board members choose to count nine
registered voters' signatures, in addition to the 1788 registered voters'
signatures required, in order to finish the page of the petition they were
canvassing at the time of concluding the count. I have officially accepted
the initiative petition based upon the findings and report of the Board.
Please note that the question of initiative will be drafted and will go
forward to the voters of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough during the October 4,
2005, regular Borough Election.

If you have any questions related to this process, please feel free to call
my office at 745-9683.

Michelle



If you have any questions related to the canvassing process

Michelle M. McGehee, CMC
Borough Clerk
Matanuska-Susitna Borough

KNIK ARM BRIDGE AND TOLL AUTHORITY (KABATA)

(NOTE: For those just joining in, there is as yet no bridge across Knik Arm). Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) Board Meeting will be held on June 8, 2005, at 1:00pm at the Multi-Use Sports Complex (Meeting Room 1) in Wasilla, AK. This is an open meeting and the public is invited to attend. For additional information about the project, please visit www.knikarmbridge.com.

KNIK ARM BRIDGE AND TOLL AUTHORITY (KABATA)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING #2-05

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

1:00 p.m.

Multi-Use Sports Complex, Meeting Room 1

Wasilla, Alaska

Monday, May 30, 2005

THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST COMMUNITY

THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST COMMUNITY


Here are some thoughts, ideas, and other materials for your consideration, but first some more background.


I have some experience in Remote Settlements. In addition to the various jobs I have had in villages in Arctic Alaska, I have been contracted to jobs in several other countries and have been far off the tourist track, if there was one. Also, in 1998, I contracted a job to design and implement a self-sufficient community here in Alaska, and act as 'front man', for a group who were worried that their lifestyles would be dramatically affected by Y2K or some other disaster. Don't ask for details, as I signed a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement. I have designed remote exploration and mining camps, and built one medium-sized self-sufficient mining camp. I have worked at many others.


I'm not going to give away every detail on this Blog, so that any hack can claim the work as his own. The problem is between telling enough to get you, the reader, interested, and keeping enough saved for those who are serious.


And if you are thinking that this is some sort of radical survivalist militia retreat, then you need to rethink. This is many things to many people: A place to take your family in a crises, certainly; A place to spend summers, or winters, or to get in some World-Class Fishing and Hunting, definitely; A place to move to after casting off the yoke of your oppressive and stressful work-to-pay-your-credit-cards-and-margins and live free, undoubtedly. A place of your own, where your voice will be heard. A true community, with fresh air, clean food and water, and the freedom to be yourself, to make your own way, and to be a success or failure based on your own actions.


I envision a community that diversifies at it grows. There will be those who will have much to learn, and those who have talents and experience. All will bring something to contribute and trade. Some will be artists; some will be farmers, growing fruits, vegetables, and livestock. Some will be builders, constructing stone and wood structures. Some will operate equipment: clearing land, building roads, keeping the airport and dock in good working order, mining natural resources; some will be supplying fish, game, and other wild foods or timber; others flying airplanes or driving boats that bring in supplies and carry out salable products. Some will be doing the job that they had before, such as management, technical trades, and other skills, only from a remote location, if they desire. The degree of change is up to the individual, and all will see how each is relative to the other.


This proposal is not for a primitive colony. We will have electricity, clean running water, rules and roads, medical and library facilities, a school, a community center, and communication both within and outside the community. Because we are starting with a clean slate, we can design the community as we see fit, and guide it as it grows. Thus, this is not a proposal for a 'commune', but instead something between and an amalgamation. We can expect hard work and growing pains, but we will draw upon the success and failures of those who came before us, and together, build something we can be proud of, profit from (either through personal growth, fulfillment, or progress), and be comfortable with.


If you are happy with the status quo, the way your life is, then this is not for you. If, however, you seek to challenge yourself, to grow, to live your dream, then I urge you to sign on.