Molly Dischner

BOEM updates Chukchi lease sale

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has tentatively increased its estimate of recoverable oil from certain Chukchi Sea leases, but regulatory hurdles remain before offshore oil development could occur. The BOEM, part of the Interior Department, released a draft revised supplemental environmental impact statement Oct. 31 for Sale 193. That sale was conducted in 2008, but development on the leases has not yet occurred, in part because of ongoing litigation. Several environmental groups and representatives of some North Slope communities sued the federal government over the environmental impact statement, or EIS, that formed part of the basis for the lease sale. Originally, the agency used an estimate for an economically recoverable discovery of 1 billion barrels in the area; the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the estimate was “arbitrary and capricious” and remanded the issue to Alaska U.S. District Court. A key claim of the plaintiffs challenging the EIS was that the estimate was too low and therefore underestimated the risks of an oil spill. The agency is now producing a revised SEIS for the sale under the remand order. The new draft SEIS uses an estimate of 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil in from a large prospect and smaller satellite developed with Chukchi Sea leases, over a 74-year time frame. The draft SEIS looks at exploration and development of that larger quantity of oil, and updates the anticipated impacts to area resources accordingly. The document is a draft, however, and that could still change in the final version. The draft SEIS was published in the Federal Register Nov. 7, according to BOEM’s John Callahan, which triggers a 45-day comment period, including public meetings in seven communities in late November and early December. The comment period for the draft SEIS ends Dec. 22. At the end of the comment period, BOEM analysts will take all the comments received into consideration and produce a final SEIS. After that, and a mandatory 30-day waiting period, it will be up to the Secretary of the Interior to produce a record of decision — either confirming the 2008 sale, confirming the sale with modifications, or vacating the sale. That’s likely to occur in March, under the timeline provided by BOEM to the court. “We expect this process to conclude in March,” Callahan said. Shell, ConocoPhillips and Statoil and Repsol bid more than $2 billion in the original sale. Whether or not they can proceed with development will depend, in part, on the record of decision. Only Shell has attempted to develop its leases, spending more than $6 billion to date; the company drilled two partial exploration wells in 2012 in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The company was not allowed to drill to oil-bearing depths because its spill response barge was never cleared for operation in the Arctic. Further complicating its plan was the grounding of the Kulluk drill rig off Kodiak in a storm following the 2012 drill season and required improvements to its other drill rig, the Noble Discoverer. The Kulluk was deemed a loss and Shell has arrangements with another rig to work alongside the Discoverer in 2015 in the Chukchi should it be allowed to explore again. The company’s plan for 2015 does not include any wells in the Beaufort Sea. Shell spokeswoman Meg Baldino wrote in an email that the company appreciates the release of the draft and is reviewing it. Whether work could begin in summer 2015 will depend on Shell, but Callahan said the agency likely can’t move forward with permissions to operate until March. Before any development could begin, Shell is required to submit an operator plan, which BOEM must review within 15 days, and either deem it submitted or ask for more information. Once BOEM deems it submitted, a more formal review process can begin. None of that work can occur until the SEIS process is completed, under the terms of the court order. Until then, the agency can only informally go back and forth on the plan with Shell. “We cannot deem it submitted or approve it until the Secretary issues her record of decision,” Callahan said. Shell has said previously that for it to resume work in summer 2015, preparations would need to begin in the spring. Alaska’s congressional delegation praised the October release of the draft SEIS. In a formal statement, Sen. Lisa Murkowski emphasized the need for quick federal work so that drilling can begin next summer. “Today’s updated environmental impact statement for the Chukchi Sea is good news. Hopefully this will satisfy the court and allow responsible drilling to resume next summer,” Murkowski said in formal statement. “There’s already been some slippage in the timeline for releasing the revised review. We’re now getting down to the wire and it’s vital that there be no further delay. The leaseholders are under a very tight schedule and have to receive final approval for their drilling plans by early spring in order for there to be drilling next summer.” Sen. Mark Begich also highlighted the safety of development in Alaska. “I’ve developed legislation for OCS revenue sharing to give state, local, and tribal governments a share of the revenues.  I also introduced a bill to require the oil to come ashore via pipeline — by far the safest way to move oil — that will help prevent the decline in volume through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS),” Begich said in a formal statement. “However, we must always remember the subsistence users who rely on the bounty of this region to feed their families and to maintain their cultural traditions like whaling. I have confidence in Alaskans’ experience and know-how to develop our resources responsibly and safely and I have advocated for more funding to ensure that we invest in the most cutting-edge spill prevention and recovery technology available.” Environmental groups, however, have asserted that the new document raises additional concerns over Arctic drilling. Earthjustice Attorney Eric Grafe said the new document shows a greater risk — 75 percent, compared to 40 percent in the prior document— of a spill, which is particularly problematic in the Arctic. His organization is also concerned that the agency is rushing through the process to help meet Shell’s timeline and desire to drill. “What the agency ought to be doing is reconsidering the leases on kind of a blank slate after they’ve done an environmental analysis, not sort of taking into account the leaseholders desire to explore on the leases,” he said.

Anchorage entrepreneurs share advice for new businesses

On the surface, snow removal and sprouts don’t have a lot in common. But two Anchorage business owners in those fields shared similar advice for would-be entrepreneurs at an Oct. 7 event organized by Wells Fargo and the Alaska Small Business Development Center. Their keys? Provide excellent customer service, be purposeful in growth, and have good employees and advisors on your team. Nick Hale, who owns Hale Snow Removal and Gravel Trucking, said customer service is a key to running a successful business. “We do a lot of homeowner deliveries and we actually train our drivers to deal with customers,” Hale said. Alaska Sprouts owner SJ Klein said the same holds true in the sprout business. His drivers have to provide customer service when they make deliveries to local restaurants and stores. That customer service experience has helped drive much of their business. Neither advertises extensively. Klein said he visited restaurants personally to try and get his sprouts on plates in Anchorage. “My marketing was very hands on, face to face,” he said. Hale said he has his drivers leave extra cards when they make a delivery, so that it’s easier for satisfied customers to share the company’s information with friends. The business owners also share certain personality traits, Klein said. “I don’t think anyone who starts their own business isn’t comfortable with risk,” he said. Klein’s hydroponic business is his second go-around as a small business owner. He once owned Borealis Brewery, which eventually shut down. Then he bought the sprout equipment from another local businessman. Hale started the snow removal business as an offshoot of his dad’s trucking business. He’s since purchased the gravel trucking business and combined them. Both said when they made the decision to launch their businesses, they were working good jobs, but realized they’d rather make the decisions — and take the business risks — for themselves, rather than work for someone else. Before the started, both spent a lot of time on the details of how the businesses would work. Klein said he had to make sure Anchorage had enough demand for sprouts, and that he could produce the right amount. “I spent a lot of time talking to potential customers, especially distributors,” he said. His brewery failed, in part, because his cash flow didn’t match his expenses; when he shut it down, he had accumulated a significant amount of debt, he said. Hale said he has maintained that approach as he’s grown his business, buying about one large piece of equipment per year. “We take it one step at a time,” Hale said. “A big thing for us is sustainable growth.” They also cautioned would-be business owners to be cautious financially, and have a cushion of available cash (or a credit line) available to pay the bills when waiting to get paid on a project or contract. Klein said he learned that from his experience at the brewery; when one local buyer went from paying in 14 days to paying in 90 days, he had to adjust accordingly. Hale said that sort of delay in payment occurs in the trucking business, and there’s an added need for caution in the winter, because snow removal is hard to guess. To help with those issues, both emphasized the value of a bookkeeper. Hale’s wife is the bookkeeper for his business. Klein has a hired CPA that he found after talking to other business owners. “Whether it’s family or not, need constant contact, etc, with bookkeeper,” Hale said. Klein and Hale also talked about some of the resources available to new businesses. They both have used Small Business Administration loans, they said. And they both have trusted advisors and employees who they sit down with regularly to talk about where their businesses are going. Although neither has used the Small Business Development Center extensively, they both said it’s a good resource for others. The center released its 2013 report at the event; that year, it helped 83 small businesses create 256 jobs in Alaska. SBDC clients were awarded $64.9 million in government contracts, and accessed $12.43 million in capital. Klein also said that America’s economic system itself is incredible. “The beauty of the American economic system is it encourages people taking a shot,” he said.

Invasive elodea at Alexander Lake threatens salmon

Researchers working on a pike eradication project in Alexander Lake this summer encountered an unexpected species. Elodea, an invasive aquatic plant, was spotted at the lake when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game team went to check minnow traps there, said Heather Stewart, a natural resource specialist for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture. Stewart and her colleagues surveyed the lake in early September after ADFG notified them of the invader. For now, the plant’s presence is “pretty sporadic,” she said, estimating that it covers about 10 acres in the 650- to 700-acre lake. The weedy species makes prime pike habitat, Stewart said, and outcompetes the plants that are ideal for salmon, making it especially problematic for a lake where the ADFG is trying to mitigate pike and ensure salmon survival. Elodea is found in 18 waterbodies in Alaska, but Alexander Lake is the first place it’s turned up in the Mat-Su, Stewart said. “This is the first infestation we’ve found in the Mat-Su, and we speculate it came from Anchorage and one of the infested lakes in Anchorage,” Stewart said. Stewart said she’s working on a grant for a project to eradicate it, and also talking to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly about the possibility of funding it. Economist Toby Schwoerer said aquatic invasives are typically more expensive to eradicate than their terrestrial counterparts because more equipment is required, and because the herbicides required have a higher cost. But a small infestation caught early, like the elodea at Alexander Lake, is much cheaper to address than a larger infestation. Not taking care of it also has a cost, Schwoerer said. Schwoerer works at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Social and Economic Research, and does research on the economic impact of invasives. According to a 2012 paper he authored, an average of $5.8 million was spent on invasive species in Alaska from 2007 to 2011. Salmon concerns are a primary focus, but there are other associated costs as well. Schwoerer said the impacts on salmon habitat are complex, and no there’s no paper that serves as a definitive source on exactly what happens when the species invades, or the precise salmon impacts. But there’s a general understanding of the basic impacts, including predation and habitat impacts. Elodea is good habitat for pike, a predator. It can also affect the substrate quality and change dissolved oxygen levels, so that the lake is less ideal for salmon. Salmon concerns are typically a priority because so many industries and individuals in the state depend on salmon, Schwoerer said. But there are also other costs if elodea spreads — including to the ecosystem, recreation and even property values. In the Lower 48, home values have diminished by as much as 10 percent to 15 percent once lakefront property is tainted by invasives, he said. “If I buy a home before an infestation and then I have to sell it, I’m taking a hit,” he said. Recreation also suffers. Swimming in a weedy lake just isn’t as desirable, Schwoerer said. Fairbanks’ Chena slough was once a prime spot for canoeing, he said. Now, it is totally impassable, due to the growth of elodea. “You can stand a paddle upright in it,” he said. Although an eradication plan for Alexander Lake is still being developed, Stewart said that individuals can help in the meantime by taking precautions not to spread invasives, and also by reporting any sightings to the state. “Make sure they clean, drain and dry all of their equipment,” she said, from boats to float plane rudders — anything plants could hang off of. Other regions identify, eradicate elodea Elodea is a newcomer in the valley, but resource managers in other parts of the state have already faced the challenge. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge biologist John Morton said the story was similar on the Kenai Peninsula. The weed was found while ADFG was treating Stormy Lake, in Nikiski, for pike. Eventually managers realized it was present at two other area lakes — Daniels and Beck. “We decided right from the get go that we were going to try and eradicate it on the Kenai Peninsula,” he said. Delaying the project would likely have increased the cost, and decreased the chance of successfully eradicating elodea, Morton said. Morton said the project is about more than removing the elodea at the three contaminated lakes. “If you let that go, it was going to affect 4,000 lakes on the western Kenai Peninsula,” he said. Managers decided on a plan of four treatments of the herbicide fluridone per lake, spread over three years. The first two treatments, applied this year, were largely successful. No elodea was seen at Daniels Lake this fall, and the abundance decreased at Beck. The Stormy treatment occurred later, so the results aren’t yet available, he said. The second treatment was applied just before ice-in. Elodea can photosynthesize under the ice, and the chemical is meant to stop that process from occurring this winter. The project cost about $600,000, or $1,000 per acre. A large chunk of the funding came from the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The work is a joint effort between the refuge, ADFG and others. Elodea has also been spotted in the Copper River valley — another region where salmon habitat is a major concern. According to information from the Copper River Watershed Project, the focus there is on preventing it from spreading from Eyak Lake to other parts of the region; eradication there is unlikely to be successful.

Crab quotas up; illegal fishing still an issue

Crab quotas are up this year, but the fleet remains concerned about the fishery outlook as they wait for action from the U.S. government on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Quota for Bering Sea snow crab, Bristol Bay red king crab and Bering Sea tanner crab all increased for the 2014-15 fisheries compared to the prior year, and the St. Matthew Island section blue king crab fishery will open this year, unlike last. The Bristol Bay red king crab total allowable catch, or TAC, is 9.98 million pounds. That’s up from the 2013 limit of 8.6 million pounds. The Bristol Bay red king crab fishery opens Oct. 15 and closes Jan. 15, but is typically completed well before Thanksgiving to supply overseas holiday markets. At the October North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting, scientists said that mature male biomass has increased for Bristol Bay red king crab, as has the number of juveniles seen in surveys conducted during the summer. Scientists have been waiting to see juveniles recruit into the fishery since the survey indicated strong juvenile numbers at one area in 2011, and the overall numbers could be a positive sign for that. The Bering Sea snow crab TAC was set at 67.9 million pounds this year, up from 53.9 million pounds last year, and up from 66.35 million pounds the year before. The uptick is the result of an increased biomass estimate from state and federal scientists. The snow crab fishery opens Oct. 15, but fishing typically doesn’t begin until January. The Bering Sea tanner crab TAC is split into eastern and western portions. The limit for the eastern Bering Sea is 8.48 million pounds; in the western Bering Sea, fishermen will be limited to 6.625 million pounds, according to an Oct. 7 announcement from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That’s a significant increase from the 2013-14 fishery, when the TAC was 1.46 million pounds in the eastern area and 1.64 million pounds for the western area. That fishery also opens Oct. 15, but typically isn’t prosecuted until January. ADFG also announced Oct. 6 that the St. Matthew Island section blue king crab fishery will open Oct. 15 with a total allowable catch of about 655,000 pounds, and close by Feb. 15. That fishery did not open last year due to concerns about the stock. Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers Executive Director Mark Gleason said the strong quotas this year are a sign that management efforts are working. “This year’s quotas are a testament to that,” he said. Gleason noted that both the snow crab, or opilio, and tanner crab, or bairdi stocks have had issues in the past, including overfished status for opilios and a closed tanner fishery. Now there are large harvests for both. Not every crab fishery is set to open, however. Pribilof District red and blue king crab seasons will again be closed this year. The blue king crab stock did not meet the minimum threshold of 13.2 million pounds of total mature biomass in either 2013 of 2014. The red king crab fishery is closed due to uncertainty regarding the precision of the biomass estimate, and concern about blue king crab bycatch mortality if the fishery were to open. Uncertain prices, market Despite the strong quotas, Gleason said illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, fishing could affect prices this year. Gleason said a quick calculation showed that illegal Russian crab could have about a 25 percent impact on the crab market. That country also increased its quota this year, meaning that there will be more of the Russian product on the market overall. “If you look across at what the Russians anticipate harvesting this year, they’re going to have a lot of product on the market, both legal and illegal,” Gleason said. That will likely affect the market for Alaskan crab, he said. Some relief could be on the way, however. Earlier this year, the Senate ratified a Port State Measures Agreement that could help address the IUU issue, with both of Alaska’s senators supporting it, and other bipartisan support throughout the body. Now it’s waiting to pass congress. Congressman Don Young has supported it, but Gleason said he’s waiting for the rest of the House to get onboard. Gleason said he hopes that will occur before the new year, regardless of who is elected in November. “I don’t care what your party affiliation is,” he said. “At the end of the day, who supports Russian pirates? That’s not a partisan issue.” The treaty would help eliminate and deter the illegal activity, by imposing the same restrictions in foreign ports that are already in place in the United States, Gleason said. Russian crab isn’t the only thing that will affect crab prices. Much of Alaska’s crab is sold in Japan, and the exchange rate between the yen and the dollar will affect the price and sales. The weaker the dollar, and stronger the yen, the better for crab prices. Community protections The North Pacific council also took final action to change certain community protections in the rationalized Bering Sea fisheries at its October meeting. In those fisheries, eligible community entities have the right of first refusal, or ROFR, when processor quota share, or PQS, is being sold in certain situations. Under the council’s action, the community entities can work with the seller on a ROFR purchase that allows them to either make the complete transaction as the seller had discussed with another buyer, or to buy a subset of the assets up for sale. That means that a community entity could be allowed to just purchase the PQS, rather than having to buy equipment and other components of the sale, if agreed to by the seller.

Feds weigh in on state's Susitna hydro studies

A proposed hydroproject on the Susitna River is the impetus for substantial fisheries research, but state and federal interests have disagreed on components of the first year of work. The Alaska Energy Authority held a meeting on the fisheries studies Oct. 15, and provided an opportunity for federal scientists and members of the public to comment on the work that has been done so far, and what is planned for the second year of studies. Federal energy regulators will be tasked with sorting out the disagreements regarding the work that has been done, and must approve of the second-year plan before it can begin. The proposed Susitna-Watana project would be a 735-foot dam, with a 600-megawatt capacity, expected to supply about half of the Railbelt energy demand, according to AEA. As part of the licensing process for the proposed dam, the energy authority has had to study the various resources that could be impacted by such a project, including fish. The first year of studies was conducted in 2013, and AEA filed its initial study report regarding that work in June 2014. Under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s timeline, the second year of studies will be conducted in 2015, although research was conducted this past summer. AEA said at the October meeting that it would provide more information on some studies by the end of November. During winter and spring of 2014, AEA and the licensing partners, including federal scientists, will have the opportunity for additional back and forth on the 2013 work and year two plans. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to then make its final recommendation on the year two studies by late April. At the request of the federal scientists, much of the discussion so far has focused on the 2013 work; 2014 results were not presented at the initial study report meeting. Earlier this fall, the National Marine Fisheries Service and AEA exchanged heated letters regarding the 2013 studies, with the federal scientists questioning the validity of some studies, and AEA defending the work done on its behalf, primarily by contractors. The October meeting provided an opportunity for discussion about the differences, with fish identification one of the major sticking points. The contracted scientists hired by AEA were tasked with identifying juvenile salmon to gather information on where fish live in the river, but had difficulty telling juvenile king and silver salmon apart. That was partially because there are a large number of fish to identify quickly, and the scientists want to minimize the time any fish is out of the water or being handled. Fish distribution and abundance has been a major focus of the work so far, and one that has led to many of the questions raised by federal scientists. For the Upper River project, data so far has largely been provided with minimal analysis, as a snapshot of what was seen in the river. At the meeting, scientists questioned whether different sampling methods had been correlated and how error was accounted for. AEA’s representatives also explained some of the changes from the initial plan, and other changes they think will be necessary for the next year of work. For a habitat study, the scientists hired by AEA were unable to complete the full sampling plan in the allotted time, and instead opted to subsample the areas to try and get an accurate, but less comprehensive, look at habitat in various tributaries. During the meeting, Sue Walker, from the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Betsy McCracken from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said the federal agencies would like to see additional fish sampling for the upper river distribution and abundance study. McCracken noted that the preliminary results show more fish in the upper river than originally expected, and Walker said that additional sampling could show how many fish travel upstream in the mainstem, and where they go, compared to how many enter tributaries. The federal scientists also complimented some of the work done so far to track all five salmon species as they move through the river. Walker complimented the work done to count fish with a sonar, and said that study was “really well done.” She also said, however, that gauging the number of salmon swimming upstream is important so that the federal agencies can make a recommendation of what salmon passage mechanism would be appropriate at the dam. Walker also praised the radio tagging work done as part of the escapement studies. In addition to those studies, AEA and its consultants presented work to better gauge euchalon distribution and abundance, fish passage barrier changes and more. AEA also proposed a change to the transmission line and road corridors being studied. Previously the agency was looking at a Chultina corridior, Denali West corridor and Gold Creek corridor; at the October meeting, the agency said it would add a Denali East option and eliminate the Chulitna corridor as a way to avoid several anadramous stream crossings in the other options. The Denali west corridor has 38 stream crossings, none of which are thought to be anadromous, and the Gold creek corridor has 17 crossings, including several salmon streams. The Chulitna corridor has 23 possible crossings, including salmon in three — Indian River, Portage Creek and Thoroughfare Creek. Cook Inlet Region Inc. Land Manager Dara Glass said that CIRI is concerned about the corridor selection process, and would prefer that AEA study all of the options before making a decision about which route to take. Members of the public questioned the transmission corridor studies. Becky Long, from the Susitna River Coalition, said she was concerned that AEA was trying to choose the least environmentally damaging site, but didn’t have exact locations of airports and construction camps on which to base that decision. Jeff Davis, a Talkeetna-based scientist at the Aquatic Restoration and Research Institute, also suggested that the agency look at the potential water quality impacts of the corridors.

APOC considers complaints regarding Kenai River Classic

The Alaska Public Offices Commission heard complaints on Oct. 21 against three public officials who participated in the Kenai River Classic. During its regularly scheduled meeting, APOC heard the complaints addressing the participation of Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels and the daughter of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. Staff recommended reduced fines and public official financial disclosure training for Campbell and Fogels, and dismissal of the complaint against Treadwell. Action on the complaints did not occur during the public portion of the meeting; the commission met in a closed session for deliberations after hearing the staff reports and discussing the complaints. The commission typically issues an order with its decision within 10 days of deliberating the matter, according to APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinis. The Kenai River Classic is an annual sportfishing event organized by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. The staff recommendation, presented by APOC’s July Lam, calls for a $45 fine for Fogels and a $264 fine for Campbell, in both cases a 97 percent reduction of the regular fee. Campbell’s fee was much higher because her violation occurred two years earlier, meaning that her disclosure was more delinquent. Campbell’s violation was for failing to disclose gifts received at the 2011 KRC on her public officials financial disclosure form; Fogels violation was for failing to disclose 2013 participation. Both amended their filings to reflect the gifts after the APOC complaints were filed, and said they had disclosed participation to departmental ethics supervisors and the Department of Law. The complaint against Treadwell revolved around his daughter’s alleged participation; however, she did not attend the classic, and just ate one meal — a taco — and state regulations do not require that meals intended for immediate consumption be disclosed. Lam also told the commission that she was recommending the reduced fees because the information about the officials’ participation had been publically available elsewhere, including on KRSA filings, and neither individual had appeared to be trying to conceal it. The reduction was also justified because there was no significant harm to the public from the violations, she said. Campbell told the commission that she would “enthusiastically embrace” the suggestion that she attend a financial disclosure training as she doesn’t want to inadvertently fail to report something in the future. She and Fogels both spoke during the commission meeting; Treadwell was unable to attend. According to written reports, the cost of APOC staff time to address the complaints against Fogels and Campbell was $637.50 each, with 15 hours spent on each of those complaints. Because the parties involved were cooperative, the report did not recommend passing along that cost. The complaints also asserted that each of the three public officials did not disclose a waived entrance fee to the event; the staff report, however, found that the KRSA considers the entrance fee a donation, and does not request that public officials make that donation, so that was not considered a violation for any of them. KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease told the commission that when the event is organized each year, public officials are invited with no mention of a donation or cost. He said it’s considered an educational event, and that the officials would be welcome to visit the Kenai and see KRSA’s work at any time of the year. The entry form for the classic typically lists a $4,000 cost for participation; Gease said that after the event, participants receive a letter detailing how much is considered a donation and what covers the costs of participation. The classic is a fundraiser as well as an educational event, and Gease told the commission that KRSA typically seeks sponsors in a variety of ways — both through participation, as well as some who donate money or items, or volunteer with the event, sometimes not even participating despite contributing. The three complaints discussed were the only ones accepted out of more than 250 complaints filed in August and September by Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage residents with ties to Cook Inlet commercial fisheries. All related to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s Kenai River Classic and other outreach and lobbying of public officials by carious entities regarding fisheries management, including at state Board of Fisheries meetings. Appeals on certain complaints, however, have been filed.

Gulf catch share proposals move to analysis

Catch shares in the Gulf of Alaska are one step closer after the North Pacific Fishery Management Council asked for analysis of an alternative structure to reduce bycatch and end the race to fish. After more than a day of staff reports and public testimony on a possible Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management program, the North Pacific council on Oct. 12 unanimously agreed to a motion asking for formal analysis of a program that would allocate pollock and Pacific cod harvest privileges to trawl fishermen participating in voluntary cooperatives. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, who represents the state on the council, made the motion for action; it was amended by other council members before passing unanimously. The motion does not provide a precise direction for the program, instead calling for more information on a variety of ideas that have been brought forward in stakeholder discussions over the past year. The motion identifies pollock and Pacific cod as target species, and halibut and king salmon as prohibited species catch. Under a second option, the council will also receive analysis of rockfish as a target species. Gulf rockfish is already managed under a catch share program It also asks for analysis of several other secondary species including sablefish, several species of rockfish, and skates. The program has been discussed as a way to provide tools to reduce bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska, and the analysis will look at several ways to do so, including reducing prohibited species catch limits for king salmon and halibut, shifting the annual pollock fishing season so that it occurs earlier in the year, when there is typically less king salmon bycatch, and allowing trawlers to use pot gear instead of trawl nets. Overall, Alaska Marine Conservation Council’s Becca Robbins Gisclair said she was really happy to see the bycatch reductions in the motion, although she had hoped for greater halibut reductions, and for tanner crab to be protected as part of the program. The program structure also includes an element under which trawl license holders could choose not to participate in a cooperative; however, they would then be part of a limited access fishery and still subject to reduced prohibited species catch, or PSC, limits. The analysis will also look at making catch history severable from a license in the fishery. The motion primarily looks at allocations to trawlers, but also asks for analysis of giving onshore processors a portion of the prohibited species catch limits as a way to give them bargaining power in the co-ops. According to Campbell, that analysis is meant to help the council understand how that provision could affect negotiations and leverage in high and low PSC years. As amended by Council member John Henderschedt, the analysis will look at giving processors control of 10 percent to 40 percent of the PSC in a cooperative. Council member Duncan Fields said that he was also open to processors coming back with other ideas on how to participate in the program. Pacific Seafood Processors Association Vice President Vince O’Shea said he was interested in seeing the analysis of the idea. “Maintaining the economic health and prosperity of the processing sector is an essential element of protecting community interests and therefore the addition of examining awarding PSC to the processing sector could be an important tool to advance that goal if it provides sufficient leverage to ensure a balance between the interests of harvesters as well as the interests of the processors,” he said. The motion also calls for analysis of setting some rockfish quota aside for catcher vessels in the western Gulf of Alaska if processing capacity develops there. Western Gulf of Alaska fishermen requested that set-aside in public testimony, noting that while they don’t currently have processing capacity for some groundfish, they’d like the option to participate in a fishery if processing ever developed. The original motion called for active participation in the fishery to receive quota; Fields successfully proposed an amendment so that the analysis will also look at requiring ongoing active participation to continue holding quota. The analysis will also look at consolidation limits in the fishery, including harvest use caps, vessel use caps and processor use caps, as well as port of landing requirements. Such tools were incorporated into the central Gulf rockfish catch share program when it was reauthorized in 2010 to ensure there are always at least 25 vessels and four processors participating in the fishery. Campbell also included another alternative that would set aside quota for either adaptive management or community fishing associations. In either case, the analysis will look at using 5 percent to 15 percent of the quota for such a program; many of the details for either option still must be worked out. Campbell said that the council heard support for an analysis of CFAs, although the details were undefined. She also said that the structure of the program “inherently protects communities,” particularly through the controls on consolidation. Robbins Gisclair said she was glad the CFA was included for analysis, and that she hoped it would be included as part of the overall design of the program. She said she was interested to see what came out of the adaptive management proposal, but that the focus needs to be on community protections. “The key is fixing it to a community,” she said. Despite requests during public testimony, captain and crew shares were not included in the motion explicitly, but Campbell said that she wanted the analysis to look at how a CFA or adaptive management program could protect skippers and offer opportunity for advancement in the fishery. Jody Cook, a western Gulf fisherman, testified about his concerns over a community fishing association provision. “I thought it was pretty balanced as far as considering everybody’s interests,” he said. As amended by NMFS Assistant Regional Administrator Glenn Merrill, the analysis that comes back to the council will also look at how the program interfaces with the rockfish program. The council was very clear, however, that the program was not going to take over the rockfish program in the central Gulf, and the analysis is just meant to provide information on any potential issues between the two. The initial review of the analysis is likely to occur at the council’s April meeting, in Anchorage. North Pacific council still will likely present a general work plan for the analysis at the council’s December meeting, also in Anchorage. Final action on whether or not to create a catch share program, however, is likely at least a year away — and implementation would take even longer.

Observer plan adjusted; charter halibut purchases proposed

Fishing vessels between 40 and 57.5 feet in length will carry marine observers on a trip-by-trip basis next year under a change recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council took action on the 2015 annual deployment plan, or ADP, for the marine observer program, which places someone onboard commercial fishing vessels to count and sample the catch. The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NFMS, implemented the revised observer program in 2013. Each year, the council has asked for adjustments to improve the information it collects and how it affects Alaska’s fishing fleet. In previous years, the smaller vessels carried an observer for 60 days at a time, while larger vessels, and all trawlers in the partial coverage category, carried observers for one fishing trip at a time. Smaller vessels, however, said that carrying an observer for 60 days at a time was too burdensome. During a presentation, NMFS staff also said that changing to the trip selection pool would help adjust the costs and meet target coverage rates for all vessels. The motion, which was made by council member Bill Tweit and received a unanimous yes vote, also called for a 12 percent coverage rate for the smaller vessels, and 24 percent coverage for the larger vessels, which is what the agency had included in its ADP. The council also recommended that if a small vessel is selected twice and doesn’t have life raft space or bunk space, it receive a conditional release for the third trip, and that vessels participating in the electronic monitoring pilot project not be subject to observer coverage. The council motion also called for analysis of the life raft conditional release, and possibly sunsetting that allowance. As was allowed this year, the council suggested that Pacific cod trawlers in the Bering Sea be allowed to opt-in to the full coverage program. The council also agreed to a motion proposed by council member Craig Cross that is intended to help the freezer longline fleet have a larger pool of lead observers. Observer providers and members of that fleet testified about the issue. This year, some boats were docked because there weren’t enough lead observers available. Observer providers said that while they pay well, lead observers generally leave for lifestyle change, sometimes taking a pay cut to do so, so it was a hard problem to solve. The vessels are often at sea for 30 days at a time, meaning that an observer is also on board for that duration. The council’s motion asked industry to participate in a work group to develop solution, and for the agency to look at changes to the training and deployment requirements that could help address the issue. The council also asked NMFS to figure out what changes are needed to allow lead observers for trawl vessels to work on freezer longliners. Cross — who manages two freezer longliners — said that his research confirmed what the council heard. That carried with one objection, from council member Duncan Fields, who said it didn’t go far enough, and that it might be prudent for the council to consider an emergency regulation change. “We were told this was going to be a problem,” Fields said. “We were told again it was going to be a problem. We initiated a discussion paper. And now it’s a problem.” Observer lawsuit The council also heard an update on the lawsuit regarding the observer program. NMFS is working on a court-ordered supplemental environmental assessment regarding the bycatch data that comes out of its marine observer program at reduced coverage levels, with a draft expected in May. The revised observer program was implemented by the agency in 2013. It was intended to increase the statistical reliability of data collected through the observer program, address cost inequality among fishery participants and expand observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries, such as halibut longline vessels, according to a summary from the agency. In December 2012, The Boat Company, a nonprofit that operates marine tours in Southeast, along with fishing opportunity and conservation education, sued federal fisheries managers in Alaska U.S. District Court in Anchorage, asserting that the revised program does not provide adequate information about bycatch for federal managers to properly manage the fishery. Judge Russel Holland found that NMFS did not account for whether it would lose data quality after learning that higher costs would reduce the amount of observer days at sea by more than half compared to what was originally planned, and required a supplemental environmental assessment, or EA, looking at that issue. During his report, NMFS Assistant Regional Administrator Glenn Merrill said a draft of the EA will be released May 8, 2015, with opportunity for the council’s observer advisory committee to review it at its May meeting. The public and the council will also have the opportunity to comment on the draft, and a final EA will be released in October 2015, he said. Holland did not require any immediate changes to the observer program and found in favor of NMFS on other aspects of the lawsuit. The agency is appealing the decision, however, and a timeline for that process was set Oct. 7. Under that timeline, the federal managers are expected to file an opening brief by Jan. 14, 2015, and the answering brief from The Boat Company is due Feb. 13. Council also acts on charter halibut proposal The council unanimously agreed to initiate an analysis of a program that could change how the charter halibut industry purchases quota from the commercial fleet. Currently, charter operators must lease quota individually if they wish to do so. The analysis will look at how the charter sector might buy it as a pool through a recreational quota entity, or RQE, and use the purchased quota to adjust the regulations for guided halibut anglers in an entire region. Council member Ed Dersham, the recreational fishing representative on the council, made the motion for action after the council reviewed a discussion paper on the issue. The council’s advisory panel had recommended forming a committee to discuss the issue further, but the council’s action instead directs staff to do an analysis of a recreational quota entity structure that could purchase and hold quota on behalf of the industry. That’s the first step toward possible action, although the analysis will come back for review several times before the council votes to authorize the pooled purchases — or opts not to do so. The analysis will look at one entity for both Area 2C and 3A, or Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, or separate entities for the two areas. It will also include a look at various restrictions on transfers and the types of quota that RQEs could purchase. The analysis also includes an alternative that would result in retiring latent licenses in the charter sector. Dersham’s motion came after the council heard testimony from the charter industry in favor of moving forward, and from others raising concerns about the program Charter industry representatives said that shared quota could help adjust the management measures each year, and provide more stability for the sector. Commercial representatives were hesitant about the idea, and said they’d rather see how the catch sharing and guided angler fish, or GAF, program work out first. This summer, commercial halibut quota was used in conjunction with more than 40 charter licenses. For a client to retain additional halibut beyond the limit, the operator they were fishing with had to have already leased the commercial quota through the GAF program. During staff tasking, the council agreed to form a workgroup to assist with developing ideas for analysis. Member John Henderschedt of Seattle noted that the workgroup is intended to help come up with ideas — not debate the basic idea of the proposal, as the council has agreed to move forward on that.

United Way initiative aims to develop young philanthropists

A United Way initiative is meant to foster the next generation of philanthropic giving, while also providing young professionals with the opportunity for personal growth. “It’s up to us to shape Anchorage as we want to see it,” said Jenna Hooley, a co-chair of the Emerging Leaders’ advisory council, and an account manager at Spawn Ideas. The program is intended to engage young professionals in philanthropy and their community — and help usher them into the United Way fold. The program has been around since the early 2000s, but the current leadership team is planning a relaunch next year. This month, however, they’ll host their annual event, Spark, on Oct. 17. Spark is the annual fundraising arm for Emerging Leaders, the time when the United Way hopes that young professionals will make a financial contribution to the organization, and the community. The rest of the year, the program focuses on its events and opportunities, not asking for money. Admission will be free, and include food and drinks from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hard Rock Café. United Way Senior Director of Communications Laura Brown said the program is the first of its kind in Anchorage. Other leadership programs exist, but none combine philanthropy and leadership in such a structure. Historically, most of the United Way’s income has come from its workplace giving campaign, Brown said. The program is part of an effort to reach out to millenials and those not targeted in the anchor campaign. According to a 2014 report on millenials, defined as those in the workforce born after 1979, the majority donate to nonprofits each year — 28 percent donate between $100 and $500 to one or more nonprofits. Just 15 percent of millenials aged 25 to 30 didn’t make a donation, and only 9 percent of millenials older than 30 didn’t donate. The United Way is hoping to tap into that enthusiasm. Last year, 125 young professionals contributed through Emerging Leaders, United Way Director of Grassroots Fundraising Aimee Chauvot said. The group is hoping for at least that many this year. Although the official relaunch won’t come until January, the program’s organizers have already started enhancing it. So far this year, they’ve focused on monthly lunches and monthly volunteer opportunities. Community service projects have varied from working with Thread, assisting with various Beans Café efforts, helping with Duck Tape ball preparations, helping with UAA’s Run for Habitat Humanity, Anchorage Waterways cleanup. Chauvot said the advisory council gets requests from a variety of groups, and schedules them as possible. “We do a little bit of everything,” she said. The program has also hosted a variety of speakers for monthly Lunch and Learns. Past speakers included a representative from the Rasmuson Foundation, who talked about housing concerns in Anchorage, Olympic skier Holly Brooks who talked about the Healthy Future program, and Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff, who spoke to the group a week after the Alaska Dispatch purchased the Anchorage Daily News. That program had a record number of attendees — 67, Chauvot said. Other programs have included tax panels and other business information. As part of the relaunch, Emerging Leaders will offer new events, and tiered giving levels. Under the new membership structure, participants will have access to different events depending on their level of giving. At the bronze level, participants can go to all of the current events, as well as quarterly salon events. At the silver level, a quarterly professional development workshop is added to the mix. And gold level leaders will enjoy a quarterly power café and mentoring component meant to help connect them to other leaders in the United Way community. Chauvot said the program developed from the program’s advisory council, which mentioned the need for more skill development and access to leaders. United Way staff was responsive to the council’s interest, and helped develop the new program, she said. Developing the program itself, has helped build those skills, according to some current participants. Hooley said that helping devise the new format has helped build her confidence surrounding leadership, and has also been a good lesson in balancing work, social life and other commitments. Her co-chair, Katherine Jernstrom, agreed that the leadership roles she’s held in the organization have helped her grow.

Board of Fisheries readies for annual work session

The Alaska Board of Fisheries will meet in Juneau Oct. 15 and 16 to discuss Southeast and Prince William Sound escapement goals and agenda change requests for the upcoming meeting cycle. The board is meeting for its annual work session, where it hears preliminary reports on escapement goals for each of the regions it will discuss as part of its regular meeting cycle for 2014-15. The Board of Fisheries sets the management plans for fisheries throughout the state on a three-year cycle. This year, the board will discuss Prince William Sound and Upper Copper/Upper Susitna finfish, Southeast and Yakutat crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish, Southeast and Yakutat finfish, and statewide Dungeness crab, shrimp and miscellaneous shellfish. The board will also discuss the locations of its 2016-17 meetings at the work session, including the locations for the lower and upper Cook Inlet finfish meetings. There has been a renewed push for the board to hold its Upper Cook Inlet meeting on the Kenai Peninsula rather than Anchorage as it has been for the past several cycles. Escapement goals are the number of fish needed to return to a river system and spawn to produce future runs. At the October meeting, the board will hear reports on the Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska salmon goals. The agenda also includes an update on Cook Inlet escapement goals. According to reports submitted to the board, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is not recommending any changes to the Prince William Sound goals, but is recommending seven of the 50 goals reviewed in Southeast Alaska be changed. In Southeast, ADFG is recommending changes to the Klukshu (Alsek) River king and sockeye biological escapement goals, the Speel Lake sustainable escapement goal, or SEG, the Lost River coho SEG, the Southern Southeast summer-run chum SEG, the Northern Southeast Outside summer-run chum SEG and the Chilkat River fall chum goal. According to the report from ADFG, the Klukshu/Alsek changes were already adopted by the Pacific Salmon Commission because it is a transboundary river subject to the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the U.S. and Canada. No new stock of concern designations are recommended for either of those regions. The Cook Inlet report does not list any proposed changes, but shows the escapement goals and recent escapements for king, sockeye, coho and chum stocks throughout the area. According to the report, it was requested by board chair Karl Johnstone. Fisheries stakeholders have also submitted 27 agenda change requests, or ACRs, which ask the board to take up an issue outside of the regular three-year cycle. The agenda change requests cover several regions, although the largest portion are targeted at Cook Inlet — a region that saw significant management plan changes during at the 2014 meeting. The next regular Upper Cook Inlet meeting isn’t until 2017. In addition to nine Cook Inlet requests, five address Bering Sea tanner crab and Norton Sound king crab, three ask for changes to Kuskokwim River salmon fisheries, and two address Yukon River salmon fisheries. There are also two proposals each for Bristol Bay salmon fisheries, Southeast herring and Pacific cod, as well as one relating to purse seine lengths. If the board accepts any of the ACRs, they will likely be discussed in March, which is when the board’s schedule calls for supplemental issues. The standard for accepting an ACR is if the proposal is for a fishery conservation purpose or reason, to correct an error in a regulation or to correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted. The majority of the Cook Inlet changes were proposed by setnetters, who are asking the board to change fishery regulations in part based on how major management plan changes passed at the February 2014 Upper Cook Inlet meeting played out this summer, although one would also limit participation and harvest in the personal use fishery. The other area changes include a smaller mesh for subsistence setnets in the Kuskokwim River during times of conservation, allowing driftnets to target chums on part of the Upper Yukon, and adjusting fishing boundaries in the Kuskokwim River and Bristol Bay’s Naknek-Kvichak District. For Norton Sound, ADFG has asked the board to shorten the fishing season for the red king crab and hanasaki king crab through-the-ice fishery. A local fisherman, Adem Paul Boeckmann, also asked the board to develop a guideline harvest level for the winter fishery. In the Bering Sea, crab proposals would enable the harvest of smaller male tanner crabs, extend the tanner crab season so that it can run through May 15 in a certain area, and allow more incidental harvest of tanner crabs in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery. Those were all proposed by the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers.

Planning for business transitions should start early

What happens when small business owners are ready to retire or sell their business? A panel of banking and business experts tried to help answer that question during an Oct. 2 seminar in Anchorage organized by KeyBank. According to KeyBank’s Amanda Clayton, $10 trillion worth of businesses will change hands by 2025 across the nation, and about 30 percent of family-owned businesses in the U.S. are expected to experience a leadership change in the next couple of years. The key, the panelists said, is having a business transition plan — and starting to think about that plan long before it’s time to execute it. John Letourneau, a CPA at Thomas, Head and Greisen, said he learned that lesson when he sold his baking business decades ago. In 1980, he sold his business for $3,000, and was pretty happy with the sale, which included ovens and mixers. Not long after, his friends sold a cashew cluster business that included a recipe, hot plate and cookie sheets. They got $40,000 for the business. The difference, Letourneau said, was that they had charts showing past performance and likely growth. He just sold the exact goods. Letourneau became an accountant, and eventually helped his parents sell their business and get a better deal than he himself got. Since then, he’s assisted in other business sales, and said that selling intangibles is a key advantage. According to Ed Kirk, about 50 percent to 70 percent of a business owner’s net worth is typically tied up in their business. Kirk works at ASG Partners, a Belluve, Wash.-based firm that helps businesses with mergers and acquisitions. Kirk said that a business owner who is ready to retire has several options: sell it, give it to children or others, or have other employees run it. For those who want to sell, it requires a good understanding of the business value and why it has that value. With enough planning, an owner can impact the value, and thus the sale price, in the years beforehand, he said, recommending that business owners start planning their transition five to 10 years before they think they might want to leave. KeyBank’s Frances Brown, who works out of Denver, outlined a 12-step process for selling a business: presale planning; evaluating business and personal situation; reviewing exit options; assessing valuation range; deciding to sell; identifying buyers; creating market materials; going to market; negotiating with buyers; agreeing to price and terms; buyer due diligence and draft legal documents; and finally, closing. He noted that the decision to sell doesn’t come until about halfway through. According to Kirk, a business value is typically based on its earnings before income, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA. That EBITDA is multiplied to ascertain the businesses value, although the exact multiplier depends significantly on other factors, such as whether profitability has been increasing or decreasing, if the business is scalable, what the customer base looks like, whether employees will be staying after the transition, and more. Kirk also recommended working with a financial planner to regularly, even annually, review the business value and transition plan, and working with a CPA on how the financial statements reflect the business value. “Financial statements are one of the most important aspects of the value of your business,” he said. Kirk also emphasized the importance of having a management succession plan, recommending that owners start handing off as many tasks as possible so that others will know how to tackle various aspects of the business’ operations. Brown noted that essentially, if the business owner is the most valuable asset, the business will be harder to sell. Brown said that when a business owner looks at the timing for selling, it must line up personally, for the business, and in capital markets. That means that the books should be in order and the business should be fully-functional, that the market must exist to sell it, and also that the business owner needs to be ready for the transition — perhaps with hobbies lined up for retirement. Kirk also cautioned against unsolicited offers, and for business owners to stick to the timeline that makes the most sense for themselves, rather than getting pressured into a sale. “Other than 2009, which was a horrible year for selling businesses … there’s never really been a bad year to sell your business,” he said. Generally, Kirk said that a competitive sales process, where multiple offers are entertained, results in the best price for the seller, and the largest proportion of cash for the seller. Small Business Administration another option Clayton, who is a senior Small Business Administration specialist for KeyBank in Alaska, also offered insight into selling a business using SBA loan programs. Through the SBA, the federal government provides the guarantee for certain loans for which approved lenders, including KeyBank, provide the capital. The SBA can accommodate loans of up to $5 million over a 10-year term, Clayton said, and can also participate in other arrangements if a business sale is more than $5 million. Typically, the loans require less money down, and have flexible repayment options. Clayton said that there are certain criteria for SBA loans, including that it must be used for 100 percent transaction (not a buy-in), buyers must be of good character with strong management skills, the company must have an ability to repay the loan based on historical cash flow and the sellers have to take on some of the risk. Although much of the work is done by the buyer, Clayton said a seller can also take certain steps to ensure the business is a good candidate for the loan. Those include building the EBITDA, ensuring there is a quality management team in place, maintaining associated facilities to maintain the value of assets, building strong revenue streams, identify and address risks, and positioning for industry growth.

Gulf ratz on tap for North Pacific council

Changes to the observer program and discussion of a possible Gulf of Alaska rationalization program are back on the menu at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s October meeting. The council, which will meet Oct. 8-14 in Anchorage, will also approve crab fishery catches, take final action on Pacific cod fishery for the Community Development Quota, or CDQ, fleet and take action on Bering Sea crab fishery provisions. The observer and rationalization program discussions are just the latest installations in a long saga. The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, has released its 2015 annual deployment plan for the marine observer program, which includes significant proposed changes. NMFS implemented the revised observer program in 2013. It was intended to increase the statistical reliability of data collected through the observer program, address cost inequality among fishery participants and expand observer coverage to previously unobserved fisheries, such as halibut longline vessels, according to a summary from the agency. NMFS has proposed moving all vessels into trip selection, where they are selected for observer coverage on a trip-by-trip basis. The larger vessel pool will be subject to a 24 percent coverage rate, which includes all trawlers, vessels longer than 57.5 feet and any catcher-processors not subject to 100 percent coverage. Smaller vessels 40 feet to 57.5 feet will have a 12 percent probability of receiving coverage. The agency has also suggested that vessels participating in electronic monitoring pilot projects would not be subject to observer coverage. Those changes are similar to what the council suggested at its June meeting. In addition to reviewing the annual deployment plan, the council will discuss electronic monitoring efforts. The council will also review a proposal from the charter halibut fleet on how to possibly develop a pool of quota that several operators could access to enable their clients to catch additional fish. The council will review the latest iteration of a discussion paper on a possible Gulf of Alaska rationalization effort. That came forward as a way to reduce bycatch in Gulf fisheries by slowing down the fishery through harvest allocations. The discussion paper looks at various ways of allocating harvest privileges, how to address active participation, what the role of catcher-processors would be in a new program, and other issues. The council’s preliminary preferred action on Pacific cod would enable hook-and-line catcher vessels equal or less than 46 feet long to participate in a new directed Pacific cod CDQ fishery in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Vessels would be in the partial observer coverage, and there would be a full-retention requirement. That proposal has been in the works since earlier this year, and came forward at the request of the CDQ groups. Pacific cod is also on the table for initial review of a change to the Aleutian Islands allocations and delivery requirements. The council is also expected to take action on right of first refusal contract terms for the Bering Sea crab fisheries. Those rights enable communities to have the first option to buy processor quota share; the council is looking at changing the terms of the offer. In conjunction with the council meeting, several additional public sessions are planned. On Oct. 7, the National Marine Fisheries Service will have a workshop on a national recreational fishing policy. NMFS has held hearings throughout the country, and Alaska is the final site. The agency released four draft goals for a policy, which look at fostering and enhancing recreational and non-commercial fisheries and public access, integrating saltwater recreational and non-commercial considerations throughout the federal marine fisheries management system, encouraging partnership, engagement and innovation, and enhancing transparency, follow-through and continuity. On Oct. 9, the council’s ecosystem committee will host a public hearing on the Bering Sea fishery ecosystem plan effort. The committee held hearings in Seattle and Nome previously, and will also make its recommendation to the council regarding moving forward on development of a plan. On Oct. 10, the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission will hold a listening session. Each of those sessions will be held at the downtown Anchorage Hilton, and begin at 5:30 p.m.

Tribal organizations seek greater role in land management

Tribal organizations are asking to take over some aspects of wildlife management, or at least to have a greater voice in the process. That larger role in the process — an effort the Alaska Federation of Native has supported — known as co-management could ultimately simplify things by bringing all the players together. Currently, the State of Alaska manages most land and water. The Board of Fisheries and Board of Game are responsible for most policy and allocative decisions; the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is responsible for day-to-day management. The federal government also plays a management role for lands under its jurisdiction. In Southcentral Alaska, Ahtna Inc. is trying to develop a co-management project that puts a Tribal commission at the heart of subsistence wildlife management on Tribal and Native corporation land in the Ahtna region. On the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the Association of Village Council Presidents is trying to develop a Tribal fisheries commission. But for either effort — or any other — to come to fruition, several hurdles remain, including the need for legislation to authorize the projects, funding and other issues. The state constitution — which mandates that state resources benefit all Alaskans — can also be interpreted to be at-odds with some components of the proposals. However, the state is amenable to working with landowners on land management, and open to some versions of co-management, within the bounds of current regulations, wrote Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell in an email. “We have had significant discussions with landowners, including Native corporations, about developing partnerships to enhance management of privately-owned land in a way that respects the rights and responsibilities of the landowners as well as the department’s charge to manage fish and wildlife and have made progress in that regard,” Campbell wrote. “There are co-management structures in this state that are currently functioning, such as the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council, that could be models for future efforts.” Despite the challenges, there is support beyond the Tribal level for the efforts. Rep. Don Young has backed efforts to get more representation of subsistence views inserted into wildlife management by introducing legislation to create the Ahtna project and supporting a change to the Magnuson-Stevens Act that would add a subsistence representative to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Ahtna demonstration project A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would give a new entity — the Ahtna Inter-Tribal Wildlife Commission — primacy over fish and wildlife management on Ahtna Inc. and Tribally-owned land in the region. It would also enable the commission to participate in co-management for federal land traditionally used by Ahtna shareholders. Ahtna, an Alaska Native regional corporation, has 1.55 million acres from Cantwell to Chitina, with additional acreage not yet conveyed. The State of Alaska has questioned certain components of that proposal, including federal authority to delegate wildlife management away from the state and to a private entity, but proponents of the proposal have said it would be in-line with other states, where Tribes are able to manage their own lands, and in-line with the intent of the ANCSA. Roy Ewan, an Ahtna board member, was involved in the passage of ANCSA, and said it was clear at the time that the federal government intended for Alaska Natives to manage subsistence resources. Ahtna Inc. shareholders and members of area Tribes have said the proposal developed out of a desire to simplify game regulations in the area and ensure that local, subsistence needs are met. “All we want is meat on the table, but right now you have to be a trophy hunter to get anything,” said Nick Jackson, a shareholder. Jackson and others have worked for decades to try and develop hunting regulations that support local needs, both through the state Board of Game process and in conjunction with federal managers. Ultimately, however, those needs are still not being met. Some years, families cannot hunt in their traditional spots because they are crowded out by hunters from other regions, said Eleanor Dementi, of Cantwell, who is vice chair of Ahtna’s board. The push has widespread support in the region, according to Ahtna President Michelle Anderson. “This is a need that has brought all of us together,” Anderson said. Karen Linnell, chair of the Ahtna Intertribal Resource Conservation District, said that subsistence is not just about feeding families, although that’s a big part of the push. It’s also a way of maintaining cultural values and staying connected to the land, she said. Many of the details of the Ahtna project still must be worked out, and it’s unlikely that the necessary legislation will pass before the elections. For now, various stakeholders are working on drafts of the bill. “I think eventually, it will pass, something similar to what we’re proposing,” Ewan said. If the legislation passes and the commission works, it could be a model for management in other parts of the state, Ahtna representatives have said. The Copper River Ahtna Intertribal Resource Conservation District could eventually fall under the new intertribal commission’s authority. While much of the proposed management structure has yet to be developed, the resource conservation district is already getting involved in area management. Linnell said that the conservation district is working on an inventory of lands, and eventually wants to do a moose habitat improvement project. Those efforts are helping to build area Tribes technical know-how, and build capacity for future management, she said. Yukon-Kuskokwim fisheries commission In the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, the Association of Village Council Presidents, or AVCP, is developing a steering committee for a Tribal co-management group. AVCP President Myron Naneng said that once the steering committee is established, it will help direct future work. But the end goal is to get villages directly involved in fisheries management. If such a commission had been in place this summer, Naneng said he thinks that everyone involved in the fisheries would have been more willing to work together. The desire for the commission project has developed as fishery restrictions have increased in recent years, and is also a response to the 2012 citations of Kuskokwim River fishermen for violating king salmon closures. It’s also a response to the current management structure, which Naneng said can be difficult to navigate — and a response to unpopular management decisions. Naneng said that regulations in that region are particularly confusing, because state and federal jurisdiction overlap. This year, the federal managers exercised their authority on the Kuskokwim; in the past, the state has led management efforts. There’s a wildlife refuge on the Yukon River, too, which results in a similar “hop scotch” of management, he said. For the first time this year, Tribal governments passed resolutions for self-imposed moratorium on chinooks to help restore salmon stocks. But they want to be able to affect more than just their own behavior, Naneng said. Many of the details surrounding a fisheries commission have yet to be worked out — funding, for instance, is unknown — but Naneng said that it would likely need to address all fish, not just king salmon. “We’ve got to be concerned about all of them,” he said. Naneng said that migratory bird management represents a successful use of co-management. “It was a joint effort of working together with sports hunters down in California, Oregon and Washington that increased those numbers,” Naneng said. He also pointed toward a moose hunting moratorium on the lower Kuskokwim that villages voluntarily extended, which helped improve moose populations in the region. “Based on these successes, I think that it would be imperative for the State of Alaska and the federal government to try and increase the chinook salmon population both on the Kuskokwim and the Yukon.” Campbell said that how a Tribal fisheries commission would affect management will depend on the commission’s structure. “Management in that region could benefit from enhancing the mechanisms available for lower, mid, and upriver users to come together, understand each other’s needs and perspectives, and provide the managers with consolidated feedback that represents the consensus of affected users,” she wrote. “Fisheries in that region could also benefit from a mechanism to further involves constituents in research, outreach, education, and capacity building. However, if the structure attempted to affect the ability of the State of Alaska to exercise our constitutional mandate to manage fish and wildlife resources for sustainability and common use, it could create a conflict and additional complexity.”

AFN co-chairs first of younger generation to lead organization

Leadership at the Alaska Federation of Natives took on a new look this year, with the first descendants of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act shareholders as co-chairs. Ana Hoffman and Tara Sweeney were selected as AFN co-chairs in fall 2013 as part of the organization’s restructuring of the leadership position. They are the first individuals born after 1971 to lead the organization. In 1971, Alaska Natives received the original shares in Alaska Native corporations created as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, or ANCSA. Natives born after that year have become shareholders either by inheriting them or when corporations chose to create additional shares for the younger generations. Hoffman, who is now the president and CEO of Bethel Native Corp., was born in Bethel and inherited her mother’s shares. Being one of the first born-after co-chairs is a way to honor her mother’s legacy, she said. “My mother Margaret was the first secretary of the Alaska Federation of Natives, and she was involved with the passage of ANCSA,” Hoffman said. In her actions and advocacy, Hoffman said she tries to not only honor the past, but inspire the next generation of Alaska Native leaders. “That’s a very positive thing, that younger people would view this as an avenue that they could consider, a leadership role that is open and diverse,” Hoffman said. Sweeney is originally from Barrow, but lives in Anchorage now, where she is executive vice president of external affairs for Arctic Slope Regional Corp. Despite being younger than past co-chairs, Hoffman said the transition this year was an exciting one. “I don’t think it was a difficult transition because many of the AFN board members have a lot of the history and knowledge there that we look to and rely upon,” she said. Hoffman said that AFN President Julie Kitka has a long-history with the organization, as do other board members, all of whom have helped her navigate the position. And Hoffman and Sweeney themselves have a history with the organization, including previously serving on its board. They have a personal history too — they were classmates in the fifth grade, Hoffman said. Hoffman and Sweeney are also the first co-chairs to serve under a new structure. Sweeney was elected for one year, and Hoffman for two. In the future, each co-chair will serve a two-year term. By only having one new face each year, the organization is looking to develop continuity in the leadership role. The goals Hoffman and Sweeney have worked toward are many of the same that the original founders of AFN focused on, Hoffman said. “They formed the Alaska Federation of Natives to help affirm and preserve Alaska Native rights to land and the formation of the corporations and also access to subsistence hunting and fishing rights, and today, 40 years later, through our involvement, we continue to advocate for those same values that we hold dear.” Through her service, Hoffman said she’s realized the importance of maintaining a statewide perspective, and representing all Alaska Native people, not just her own community. “While I don’t know what it’s like to live in Norvik, I do know that there are many commonalities among our experience as Alaska Native, and I look back at my own upbringing and my daily activities and living in rural Alaska, and I know that I have enough commonality with them that I can try to bring needed attention and advocacy to the table,” Hoffman said. Protecting Native rights and subsistence access, weighing in on state, federal and international processes that could impact Alaska Natives and ensuring that an Alaska Native perspective is part of policy discussions were some of the goals AFN worked toward this year. Hoffman said that it’s taken the whole organization, not just the co-chairs, to accomplish those goals. The co-chairs, board, staff and others involved in the organization have also worked to make AFN more efficient and effective in everything it tackles, Hoffman said. “We’ve worked to make the existing systems more efficient, and also helped to maintain attentiveness to items that affect the wide-range of Alaskans,” Hoffman said. The organization has accomplished that in part through its committees, which help formulate ideas and share information about things happening around the state that members might be interested, whether it’s legislation under consideration in Juneau or federal policies. Hoffman credited the work of many involved in the organization, not just the co-chairs, for its accomplishments this year. “AFN has a very lean staff,” Hoffman said. “Through the committee process, a lot of information gets disseminated throughout the state very quickly.”

Health providers make plans for IHS cost reimbursements

Alaska’s Tribal health care entities have received more than $449 million in contract support cost payments through late September, with more in the works. Contract support costs are what Tribal organizations pay to manage Tribal health programs. In 2012, the Supreme Court said that Tribes should be fully compensated for the cost of delivering federal trust responsibilities, such as health care. Now, the IHS is working to repay those groups for prior years when they were not reimbursed for their full costs. Begich has advocated for the settlements, and has held up IHS Acting Director Yvette Roubideaux’s confirmation until progress is made on the contract support claims. The largest settlements so far went to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, or ANTHC, at $153 million, Southcentral Foundation at $128 million and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, at $52.5 million. According to information provided by Begich’s office, Chugachmuit, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., Kenaitze Tribe, Knik Tribal Council, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Tanana Chiefs Conference Title I, Tanana Tribal Council and Kodiak Area Native Association are listed as still in negotiations, while the Copper River Native Association and Eastern Aleutian Tribes Inc. have offers forthcoming. Other entities are also owed money, but work on some cases has not yet started. ANTHC Chairman and President Andy Teuber said in a Sept. 29 email that its settlement came after 14 years of work on the issue. “Because the litigation and settlement process dragged on so long and involved many lawyers and accountants on both sides, what was often lost sight of was that contract support costs equal health care services,” Teuber said. “We fought so hard for so long because we were fighting for the health of our people. With the settlement I hope that we can now focus more on achieving our vision that Alaska Native people be the healthiest people in the world.” Now those organizations are determining how to use the funding. According to Director of IHS Public Affairs Staff Constance James, the money must be used consistently with the terms of individual settlement agreements and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. Teuber said ANTHC will use its funds to expand health services and improve access to care, as well as address maintenance and operation needs and begin construction projects that were delayed. Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium President and CEO Charles Clement said in an emailed statement that provider will use the settlement to rebuild its financial position: “SEARHC anticipates using a majority of the settlement funds to rebuild reserves after a rocky financial patch. Along with reserve building we anticipate making modest strategic investments in programs, personnel and infrastructure.” Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. received a $40.7 million settlement. President and CEO Dan Winkelman said the entity was using the money to pursue a hospital renovation and expansion in Bethel through a joint venture with Indian Health Services. Under that program, YKHC would build the facility, and the IHS would staff it. “We’re currently in an application period for that,” Winkelman said. YKHC should hear back about its application by Oct. 15. If YKHC isn’t chosen for a joint venture, Winkelman said the board would have to choose a new project. Other providers are still seeking reimbursement, including the Kenaitze Tribe, based in Kenai, which recently constructed a new clinic through an IHS joint venture. “Contract support costs are an ongoing topic of conversation between the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the Indian Health service,” said Jaylene Peterson-Nyren, executive director of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, last spring. “We’re waiting on Indian Health Services to decide how they’re going to proceed with the thousands of smaller claims like our own that have not been resolved.” Nyren would not disclose the tribe’s claim amount. Despite the settlements, concerns about future funding remain. Teuber wrote in an email that the settlement is not a windfall or a cure-all. “The situation is better for the immediate future, but there are no guarantees after that,” Teuber said. “The Obama administration has committed to, and Congress has supported, providing full contract support costs for both the current and upcoming year, but this is only after its (the Obama administration’s) initial proposal last year to cap contract support costs.” Clement said that issues with Medicare payments will also continue to affect Tribal healthcare providers. Under a 1975 Congressional act, authorized entities contract with IHS to operate health care programs ranging from clinics to hospitals, to fulfill the federal government’s trust responsibility to provide health care services to Alaska Natives and American Indians. In Alaska, members of 229 federally-recognized tribes receive health care services from 32 organizations, according to the IHS website. Indian Health Services contract cost settlements paid through Sept. 26 • Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium:             $153.2 million • Southcentral Foundation: $128 million • Southeast Alaska Regional Health     Consortium: $52.5 million • Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp.: $40.7 million • Bristol Bay Health Corp.: $25.5 million • Maniilaq Association: $25 million • Norton Sound Health Corp.: $8.8 million • Arctic Slope Native Association: $7.8 million • Metlakatla Indian Community: $3.3 million • Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association: $3.29     million • Ketchikan Indian Community: $482,731 • Mount Sanford Tribal Consortium: $325,000 • Village of Eklutna: $34,000 Total: $449 million

Native groups, Division of Elections add new voting sites

This fall, residents of more than 100 communities around Alaska will find it a little easier to cast their ballot. The Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Regional Association, Get out the Native Vote, and Division of Elections worked together on establishing new absentee in-person and early voting sites throughout the state. In total, there are 128 new sites this year in villages around Alaska, with many in Western and Northern Alaska, including Adak, Shishmaref, and Wainwright, as well Tyonek on the western side of Cook Inlet, Tanana in the Interior and Copper Center, north of Valdez. In previous years, residents of the 128 communities often had to travel to vote. “Many would have to travel 30, 60 miles to go vote in hub communities, or they’d have to request absentee ballots,” said Kim Reitmeier, executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association. When voting absentee in-person, the voter’s eligibility to vote is verified after the voter is issued a ballot.  Since the voter’s eligibility can not be verified at the time of voting, the voter’s voted ballot is placed inside an absentee voting envelope prior to being placed in the ballot box. When voting early, the voter’s eligibility to vote is verified at the time of voting through the Division of Elections statewide voter registration system. A voter is eligible to vote early if the voter is voting at the Regional Elections Office where the voter is registered and if the voter’s registration record is active and current. Since the voter’s eligibility to vote could be verified, the voter simply signs a certificate and the voted ballot is placed directly into the ballot box. The state also has an online voting option, but it’s not widely used. The new sites were chosen with help from representatives from each of the twelve Native regional corporations, Reitmeier said. Those representatives helped identify the locations with the largest concentrations of permanent, year-round residents, who would benefit from a voting site. “We wanted to ensure that our rural communities had equal access to voting as we did here in our hub centers,” Reitmeier said. The new sites are just one piece of a multi-faceted effort to increase Alaska Native voter turnout. “This is just one step in ensuring the Native community is able to exercise our fundamental right to vote,” said Julie Kitka, president of AFN, in a formal statement. Reitmeier and others have also worked on the Get out the Native Vote campaign, which conducted voter registration efforts and worked on voter education. “I think like any other group, it’s a push to show our younger generation the importance of voting,” Reitmeier said. Reitmeier said the campaign is also trying to counter the mindset that Alaska Native votes don’t count, or that rural votes don’t count, and instead create a cultural push to show pride and take part in civic responsibilities. “If we empower our people…. we have more say in what happens to the state.” Although the campaign has targeted voter registration with mailings and tables at various events, now the focus is on encouraging people to vote early, Reitmeier said. At the AFN convention in Anchorage, the campaign will encourage people to go to Anchorage’s City Hall and vote right away, she said. “We’ll continue with phone calls and door knocking and events, but AFN will be our big push,” she said. Reitmeier said that the efforts to get Alaska Native ballots turned in won’t end in November. They’re also trying to get the State of Alaska to develop a bipartisan committee to improve voting access in the future. It could study voting options in other states — like mail-based elections — and determine what might meet Alaska’s needs, she said. “Our rural communities should have equal access to what we have,” she said.

2Q income flat in advance of oil tax vote

Alaska’s financial institutions posted another quarter of steady performance and the largest bank in the state expects activity to increase in the wake of the Aug. 19 vote to preserve oil tax reform. Wells Fargo’s Alaska Regional Business Banking Manager Darren Franz said in late September that there was something of a slowdown in the second quarter compared to prior years as businesses paused to see how the vote on oil taxes would pan out. Net income for Alaska’s five state-based banks held steady at $28 million for the first two quarters of 2014; it was the same for the first two quarters of 2013. Wells Fargo has the largest market share of Alaska deposits, with about 52 percent of deposits as of June 2013, the most recent statewide data available from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., or FDIC. Only deposit data for Alaska is available through the FDIC for national banks Wells Fargo and KeyBank; as of June 30, 2013, Wells Fargo had $5.3 billion in deposits and KeyBank had $836 million in Alaska. The top state-based bank for deposit share is First National Bank Alaska at $1.98 billion, or about 19.5 percent of the market. Franz said Wells Fargo was down $30 million year-over-year in second quarter loan activity. Two weeks before the vote, Franz said he talked to six customers who were planning $40 million in projects they would do if the oil tax changes were not repealed. Another $60-million project would have been canceled if the vote had not gone well, he said. Since then, at least $10 million of that work has already started, he said, noting that there’s typically a latency between a vote and businesses winding up work in response to it. Franz said he expects to see work continue to increase, with even more activity in 2015. According to summaries of the five state-based banks’ second quarter 2014 performance, total assets for the first half of 2014 were $5.5 billion, up from $5.3 billion in the first half of 2013. Loan activity also increased, at $2.77 billion for the first half of 2014, compared to $2.67 billion for the first half of 2013. Total deposits for state-based banks were up just slightly, about $4.19 billion for the first half of 2014, compared to $3.99 billion for the first half of 2013. Franz said it’s hard to predict what other factors will impact the banking scene in Alaska in the future, although federal regulations remain a major issue. Northrim posted the largest increase in assets for the second quarter, at $1.3 billion for the second quarter 2014, up 13 percent from $1.18 billion in the first quarter and up 16 percent year-over-year. At FNBA and First Bank in Ketchikan, total assets were up year-over-year, but not compared to the prior quarter. FNBA had about $3 billion in total assets At Alaska USA, the state’s largest credit union, assets were also up about $18 million year-over-year, to $5.57 billion. Northrim’s increase was attributed in part to bank’s first quarter of operations after closing its deal to acquire Alaska Pacific Bank on April 1. The acquisition gave Anchorage-based Northrim more of a statewide presence by adding Southeast Alaska locations. Total second quarter revenue for Northrim was $17.5 million, up from $14 million in the first quarter and $14.6 million for the second quarter of 2013. The bank reported $4.4 million in net profits for the second quarter, up 64 percent from the first quarter of 2014 and 25 percent from the second quarter of 2013. Net interest income for the second quarter was $13.9 million, up from $11.7 million compared to the prior quarter and $10.9 million in the second quarter. Employees at the bank also increased, with 312 through June of this year, compared to 271 at the end of June 2013. Northrim officials have said that while changes were planned to streamline operations, the front-end and customer service at the old Alaska Pacific locations would not change. According to the Juneau Empire, some positions will be cut, but some leadership will remain. The main changes are increased options for online banking, and a back-end change to databases and software that Northrim Bank President and CEO Joe Beedle said was a “seamless transition,” made in one weekend. According to the Juneau Empire, the bank has made several commitments to Southeast communities, including a new facility in Ketchikan and remodels elsewhere in the region. Northrim also announced a $25,000 donation to Sealaska Heritage Institute for the Walter Soboleff Center, and $30,000 for University of Alaska Southeast campuses. Northrim typically donates five percent of its net income each year. Loan activity held relatively steady at Alaska’s banks, although performance improved. Total loans and leases for the five banks were $2.7 billion for the second quarter, up from $2.5 billion at the end of the first quarter of this year, and $2.5 billion for the second quarter of 2013. The state’s major credit unions also saw an increase in lending activity. First National Bank Alaska saw about a 4 percent increase year over year, with $1.3 billion in loans for the second quarter. Generally, loan performance improved for the second quarter, with a decrease in past-due and non-accrual loans. At FNBA, loans 30 to 89 days past due decrease by about 35 percent compared to the prior quarter and 29 percent year over year. FNBA also saw non-accrual loans drop 80 percent year-over-year and 25 percent compared to the prior quarter. Fairbanks’ Mt. McKinley Bank also saw a decrease in past due loans, with about 33 percent fewer loans in that category compared to the prior quarter, although it had an increase in nonaccrual loans. Charge-offs also decreased at all of the state banks.

Groups ask for reduced Bering Sea king salmon bycatch

The Association of Village Council Presidents and the Tanana Chiefs Conference are petitioning for emergency changes to bycatch regulations in the Bering Sea. The current Bering Sea chinook, or king, bycatch cap has two parts: a lower number that is the performance standard of 47,591 and a higher number, the hard cap of 60,000. By joining incentive plan agreements, or IPAs, pollock vessels receive a prorated share of the cap of 60,000. Any vessel that does not join an IPA receives a prorated share of the lower cap. Sectors that exceed the performance standard twice in seven years no longer have access to the higher limit, and must keep their catch under the lower number. The organizations have asked that the hard cap be reduced to 20,000 kings, and the performance standard be reduced to 15,000. The Association of Village Council Presidents, or AVCP, and Tanana Chiefs Conference, or TCC, asked for the changes in a Sept. 16 letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The North Pacific council instituted the current caps under Amendment 91 in 2009, and they took effect in 2011. According to the letter, a 20,000 cap would be less than the five-year average king take by the pollock fleet. In 2013, Bering Sea pollock fishermen caught 13,036 kings. The request for action comes as the pollock fleet finishes its season. The fleet has caught the majority of its pollock quota for the season, and National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, spokeswoman Julie Speegle said in a Sept. 17 email that the fishery was likely to finish within a week or so. In that email, Speegle wrote that the projected king bycatch for the fleet this year was just less than 15,000; as of Sept. 17, the total was about 14,375 according to Speegle . The majority of the king catch occurred in the winter “A” season, with about 2,198 kings caught in the Bering Sea since June 10 during the “B” season, including 611 in the first week of September. Last year, the king bycatch rate increased in the fall as the fleet tried to catch the remainder of its pollock quota. “Dramatically low chinook runs and harvests in recent years have caused severe impacts to the people in our villages and the chinook stocks upon which they depend. Emergency action is necessary to avoid substantial harm to the chinook salmon stocks, Western Alaska salmon fisheries and AVCP and TCC communities,” the groups wrote in their letter. According to the letter, the U.S. Department of Commerce guidelines for emergency action under the Magnuson-Stevens Act require that the action result from unforeseen events or recently discovered circumstances that present serious conservation or management problems in the fishery, and that the value of the emergency regulations outweigh the loss of the typical deliberative process. In the letter, the groups wrote that the low returns in recent years were not anticipated when the current caps were instituted, meeting the standard for an emergency regulation. Such a regulation would have to be made by the Secretary of Commerce; the council does not have an emergency process. The Secretary has used the emergency regulation process a handful of times in the past decade. According to Speegle, the emergency regulation process was used in 2011 to remove a crab delivery requirement in the Aleutians because the Adak plant closed and in 2010 to remove unenforceable regulations. The letter also requests that the Secretary of Commerce and North Pacific council engage in government-to-government consultations regarding the caps. TCC represents 37 tribes in Interior Alaska, and AVCP represents 56 Yukon-Kuskokwim region. King returns to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers have reached record lows in recent years, and fishing has been limited, including subsistence fishing closures to protect king salmon. The groups also wrote that the lower cap is necessary to prevent financial crisis in the region. “The declines of Chinook salmon stocks in Western Alaska are resulting in adverse nutritional, economic and cultural impacts to families and communities due to severely restricted subsistence and commercial fishing,” they wrote. At its June meeting in Nome, the council voted to ask for analysis of a lower performance standard, but analysis does not guarantee final action, and any action will not come for at least several months, with lower caps likely not in affect for more than a year. The options out for analysis do not call for as low of a cap as AVCP and TCC requested in their emergency petition.

APOC rejects more complaints related to Board of Fisheries

The Alaska Public Offices Commission received and rejected 14 complaints regarding lobbying at Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meetings. Alaska’s Board of Fisheries is responsible for making certain fisheries management policy decisions for the state, including setting seasons and bag limits for fisheries along with methods and means for taking fish, and making allocative decisions between user groups. The complaints, filed Sept. 10, asserted that seven individuals and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough did not follow state regulations about lobbying disclosures in 2011 and 2014. Each of the individuals attended either the 2011 or 2014 Upper Cook Inlet Board of Fisheries meeting, or both, and, according to the complaints, was reimbursed or compensated for attending and advocating for certain issues, but did not register as a lobbyist. The individuals were either members of the Matanuska-Borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission, contracted by that body, or employees advocating on behalf of other Cook Inlet sportfishing interests. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough similarly did not file the requisite disclosures after reimbursing many of the same individuals for the meeting or meetings, the complaints assert. When APOC receives a complaint, staff first looks at whether it meets several technical standards, and whether the alleged issue would constitute an actual violation of state law if the complaint were proved true. These complaints would not. Each was rejected because advocacy at state Board of Fisheries meetings is not considered lobbying, according to APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinais. That’s for two reasons. The state’s statute on lobbying exempts public sessions of the Legislature and public meetings of other state agencies. Board of Fisheries meetings are open to the public, so state regulations regarding lobbying don’t apply to activity there, according to Dauphinais. Anybody who wants to petition the Board of Fisheries, or any other state board, at a public meeting can do so without being subject to lobbying regulations, said APOC’s Joan Mize. Advocacy at Board of Fisheries meetings also is not considered lobbying because the board’s action does not fall under the state’s definition of administrative action, Mize said. For an activity to be lobbying, it must be attempting to influence legislation or administrative action. Since the board of fisheries is not doing either, activity there isn’t governed by the lobbying rules, Mize said. The definition of administrative action excludes “the issuance, amendment or revocation of a permit, license or entitlement for use under existing statutes, regulations, or policies by the agency authorized to issue, amend, or revoke the permit, license, or entitlement for use.” Mize said the changes to how the fishery is managed are often considered changes to the entitlement for use, one of the exclusions in the administrative action statute. For example, when the Board of Fisheries changed the area drift fishermen could prosecute, it was an amendment to an existing entitlement. That’s specifically excluded from the administrative action that is regulated by lobbying laws. The complaints were lodged by 12 individuals from Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula, most of whom have ties to Cook Inlet’s commercial fisheries. At the 2014 Upper Cook Inlet meeting, the board made several changes to area fisheries. The individuals named in the complaints generally argued in favor of commercial fishery restrictions, and did so successfully. The Mat-Su fish commission successfully advocated for changes to drift fishery management that the commission said would allow more silver salmon to migrate to Northern District streams. This is the second round of fisheries-related APOC complaints. In August, nearly 200 complaints were submitted to APOC regarding the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s Kenai River Classic, and other outreach and lobbying of public officials regarding fisheries management. The commission accepted three of those for hearing, which will likely occur within 90 days of Aug. 27, and rejected the remainder. APOC staff is expected to finish reports on those complaints by the end of September.

Alaska Chamber favors Export-Import Bank extension

Alaska businesses are waiting for the extension of the Export-Import Bank, which could get wrapped up in a government funding bill. The Export-Import Bank is the federal government’s export credit agency, which guarantees exports made by American businesses to certain foreign markets that are considered less secure. When the participating businesses make a shipment to certain countries and do not get paid in a certain time frame, the bank repays them instead. The bank also provides working capital guarantees and direct loans. The bank’s authority is set to expire at the end of September, but could be temporarily extended as part of a government-wide funding package. From 2007 through 2014, six Alaska businesses received support from the bank, with $15 million in backing authorized to the businesses during that time. According to the agency, that backing supported $77 million worth of shipments and a total value of $172 million in exports related to the bank’s activity. According to information provided by the bank, the top export destinations support by the bank for the Alaska businesses are Papua New Guinea, Japan and the United Kingdom. The Alaska businesses that utilized the bank between 2007 and 2014 are Adak Seafoods, Alaska Brands Group, Gunderboom Inc., Kenai River Seafoods Inc., Lynden Air Cargo LLC and the no-longer operational Salamatof Seafoods. The Alaska Chamber took a formal position supporting reauthorization of the bank earlier this year. The chamber board provided the following position statement: “The Alaska Chamber supports reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The Ex-Im Bank offers loans and guarantees to foreign purchasers of U.S. manufactured goods who meet its strict lending qualifications and are unable to secure financing elsewhere.” U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has said the House will extend it temporarily as part of a government-wide funding bill needed to prevent a shutdown, according to the Associated Press. Alaska’s delegation has supported that move, although others in Congress have questioned the bank, with some conservatives concerned that it’s a symptom of big government, with too much aid going to large corporations, such as Boeing. Sen. Lisa Murkowski supports reauthorization, according to her staff, because it helps Alaska business and contributes to the federal treasury. Rep. Don Young also supports the current proposal, which would temporarily extend the bank via the government spending bill. “While I share some my colleague’s concerns about the Ex-Im Bank, I am confident that Alaskans do not want more government-created instability caused by another government shutdown,” Young wrote in a formal statement provided by email. “Extending the bank’s authorization into next year will give a new Congress — and possibly a new Senate Majority — a chance to take a serious look at the Ex-Im Bank. At this time, it would be irresponsible of us to shut down the government or deny critical funds to contain the Ebola outbreak to simply score a political point.” The Associated Press reported that GOP aides said in early September that it appeared likely that the bank’s charter would be extended until June or so and that it would advance as part of the temporary spending bill. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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