Bycatch helping to feed Alaskans

Bycatch in Alaska’s commercial fisheries is a touchy subject.

Discussions at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council about capping bycatch for salmon and halibut in various federal fisheries over the past few years have been contentious.

Declining returns of king salmon in rivers throughout the state and subsistence-dependent residents having trouble catching enough fish for the winter, have added urgency to the issue.

Strong economy impacts ‘Alaska-hire’ zones of underemployment

While much of the Lower 48 is still recovering from a devastating recession, Alaska’s economy remains stable, and our employment numbers are strong. Alaska’s unemployment rate for 2012 was 1.1 percent below the national average. 

In fact, Alaska’s unemployment rate has been below the national rate for more than four years. This has never before happened in Alaska’s history. 

Cruise company drops Fairbanks rail in new schedule

Cruise tour passengers going to Fairbanks will not be riding a Holland America Princess train to the city next summer.

The parent company of Holland America Line and Princess cruises, known as HAP, recently confirmed it is terminating its rail service from Denali National Park to Fairbanks at the start of the 2014 summer travel season.

Alaska hosts railway convention

FAIRBANKS (AP)  — People from across the country are expected in Fairbanks next month for the opportunity to ride rare rails as part of the 2013 National Railway Historical Society Convention, which Alaska is hosting in September.

The convention runs Sept. 14–22.

Farmers’ Market

People are starting to get antsy.  The hours of daylight are getting noticeably shorter. The fireweed has gone to seed. I can hear the nervousness in people’s voices when they ask, “How much longer is the Homer Farmers’ Market going to be open?”

Locals pay attention to these things. Six weeks after the last fireweed blossom it will snow, they say. When the Farmers’ Market closes, summer is really over.

I have good news. You can relax. There is still a whole month left of Market Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Work approved in Kenai refuge

Apache Corp. and Alaska-based independent NordAq Energy have been given federal approvals for exploration and development work in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, according to Cook Inlet Region, Inc., the owner of mineral leases in the refuge.

Parnell OKs regulatory efficiency guidelines

Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday signed Administrative Order (AO) 266 establishing Regulatory Efficiency Guidelines for state agencies. The order is an effort to lower costs, increase efficiency and minimize the burden on Alaskans complying with state regulations. 

The guidelines will be used by state agencies when they review, repeal, amend or adopt state regulations to carry out state law.

Nonprofits receive grants to navigate insurance exchanges

Federal grants of $599,918 have been awarded to two Alaska nonprofits to provide assistance and counseling to Alaskans attempting to navigate a new federally operated health insurance exchange scheduled to become active Oct. 1.

Grants were made to the United Way of Anchorage and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Susan Johnson, Region 10 director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement at a press conference Aug 15.

AVTEC plans nation’s first ice navigation program

The White House is setting arctic policy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating locations for an arctic port. Hundreds of ships per year are passing through the Northern Sea Route over the Russian Arctic. And, until the Kulluk grounding, oil exploration in Arctic waters was ramping up. The arctic is becoming a busy place.

Officials at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center, or AVTEC, in Seward hope to do their part in helping the state of Alaska lead arctic activity by starting the nation’s first ice navigation program for marine pilots and captains.

Hospital creates Reflection Room

South Peninsula Hospital might have modern patient rooms, a birthing center, a Long Term Care home, state-of-the art radiology and imaging equipment, and a medevac helicopter pad, but until now it lacked a facility that might seem essential for healing — a quiet place to sit, meditate or pray.

That changed last month when the hospital dedicated the Reflection Room, a small room across the hall from the cafeteria on the lower level. 

Farmers’ Market



Have you got your zucchini picked out for this weekend? It’s the Homer Farmers’ Market’s big Zucchini Festival this Saturday so you will need a nice big zuke to enter into the Zucchini Races at 1:30 p.m. Or just bring your garden veggie before 2 p.m. to contend for the Largest Veggie Contest prize.  

Kenai kings barely meet goal; record set for salmon catch

The Kenai River kings seem to have met their escapement goal after all, but it was still the lowest return on record.

Through Aug. 15, 17,028 kings were enumerated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s DIDSON (duel identification sonar), slightly more than the bottom of the sustainable escapement goal range for Kenai River kings.

That’s still far fewer fish than in recent years, which have seen runs of 24,000 and 27,000 fish. The Kenai king escapement goal is 15,000 to 30,000 fish.

Coast Guard recertifies Cook Inlet RCAC

The U.S. Coast Guard has approved Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council’s annual recertification, allowing the organization to continue its mission of representing the citizens of Cook Inlet in promoting safe marine transportation and oil facility operations in the inlet.

The council learned of the recertification by letter dated Aug. 12, from Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, Commander, Seventeenth Coast Guard District. The recertification is effective through Aug. 31, 2014.

Anchorage considers another run at Olympics

Winter sports have an undeniable tourism draw for Alaska, but a recent effort in Anchorage could increase that economic impact several times over.

In June, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announced that he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

The 26-member committee includes Alaska Olympians Kikkan Randall, James Southam and Holly Brooks, as well as others involved in winter sports and several members of the business community.

Twin ribbon cuttings mark KPC expansion

SOLDOTNA — As several hundred people crowded around, waiting to get into the glass, steel and aluminum space housing the Kenai Peninsula College — Kenai River Campus’ new Career and Technical Education Center, Spencer Litzenberger had a different idea.

The Blazy Construction Inc. worker knows the new building intimately as he’s been with the $15.25 million project since the company broke ground on the building in summer of 2013.

“I’m very proud of it; I just don’t ever want to see it again,” he said, with a laugh.

Mechanical issue cancels Alaska cruises

JUNEAU — Celebrity Cruises announced Tuesday it was canceling the remainder of a seven-night cruise to Alaska, plus four additional cruises, after mechanical issues forced a ship carrying more than 3,100 passengers and crew members to return to port in Ketchikan.

The cruise line said in a statement that passengers on the current cruise on its Millennium ship would receive refunds of their cruise fares and chartered air travel home. It also said it was offering future cruise certificates for 100 percent of the fare paid for this cruise.


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