Gas pipeline opponents finding success halting projects

Though oil pipelines have attracted bigger protests — Keystone XL from Canada’s oil sands into the United States and Dakota Access to move Bakken crude to the Midwest — opposition to natural gas pipelines is growing. While many of the challenges are focused against hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and in support of renewable energy, others are specific to local land and water issues, Much of the opposition is in the mid-Atlantic states, where the boom in shale gas drilling in Appalachia’s Marcellus Basin has elevated the visibility — and controversy — of pipelines in an area generally unaccustomed to the oil and gas industry. Opponents have held rallies, pushed local politicians for support, gone to court — even illegally camped out in trees to block pipeline construction. “It’s definitely not getting easier to build a new pipeline,” Stan Chapman, TransCanada’s president of U.S. gas pipelines, told Reuters during June’s World Gas Conference in Washington, D.C. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast gas pipeline — from West Virginia through Virginia and into North Carolina — has drawn significant community opposition, including its plan to tunnel under the James River in Virginia. Construction is underway even as opponents continue to challenge regulatory approvals for the $6.5 billion project. A federal appeals court on Aug. 6 vacated permits issued by two federal agencies for the pipeline. The court told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to impose more protections for threatened or endangered species, including mussels, bumble bees, crustaceans and bats. The court also told the National Park Service to better explain why a pipeline crossing under the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is consistent with the conservation and preservation purpose of a national highway. The project developer said it expects the agencies to quickly address the court’s concerns. Meanwhile, construction will continue in areas unaffected by the court action. Completion is planned for late 2019. The $3.7 billion Mountain Valley gas line could be delayed past its scheduled 2019 completion after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — prompted by a court ruling against the project — on Aug. 3 ordered all work to stop on the 303-mile West Virginia-to-Virginia pipeline. The court ordered the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to take a closer look at the line’s environmental impact. Changes in the pipeline route could require “further authorizations and environmental review,” FERC said. Pipeline opponents were successful with their legal strategy in stopping the proposed $1 billion Constitution Pipeline to transport Pennsylvania shale gas into New York. Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act gives states the right to review projects to ensure they don’t harm local waters. “It essentially gives states veto power over federal decisions,” said Daniel Estrin, advocacy director for the Waterkeeper Alliance. The U.S. Supreme Court on April 30 denied a request from the pipeline developer to review the New York state decision that denied a permit under the Clean Water Act, emboldening other pipeline opponents to go after the same tactic in their states. Also in New York, the New York City Comptroller this month came out against the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, a $1 billion gas pipeline that would cut across 23 miles of lower New York Bay to meet demand growth in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens — especially as consumers switch from fuel oil to gas for heat. “Allowing the construction of the pipeline risks damage to many of New York’s most precious habitats and natural assets,” the city official said. Though FERC’s draft EIS said environmental impacts during construction would be temporary, the comptroller said the EIS did not sufficiently account for climate change and rising sea levels. He wants a re-do. Also on the Atlantic Seaboard, the Alamance County Board of Commissioners in North Carolina on Sept. 4 unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a 72-mile connecting line to bring Marcellus gas into the distribution system. The board’s opposition focused mostly on water quality issues. The commissioners, who have no authority to stop the pipeline, sent their resolution to FERC. Even Texas is not immune to gas controversies. Two groups in the Rio Grande Valley — the Save RGV from LNG and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club — oppose three LNG terminals proposed for the Port of Brownsville. FERC is scheduled to release draft environmental impact statements for the projects late this year. Several communities in the area have adopted resolutions against the LNG facilities. In Colorado, voters will decide in November whether to ban oil and gas drilling and flowlines within 2,500 feet of homes, businesses, playgrounds, waterbodies and drinking water sources. The state estimates that 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado would be off-limits to new drilling. The current limit is 500 feet from buildings. Fracking opponents collected signatures to put the issue on the ballot, citing the increase in drilling amid the growing suburban communities north of Denver. The initiative is widely expected to face legal challenges if it passes. In the Pacific Northwest, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has asked the city of Tacoma to re-examine whether a $310 million liquefied natural gas plant and storage facility — now under construction — is safe. The plant would liquefy gas and store the LNG in an 8-million-gallon tank to meet peak demand from utilities and serve as a marine fueling depot. The Tribe wants a supplemental analysis of the plant’s impact. The facility is scheduled to start service in 2020. Opponents to the proposed $10 billion Jordan Cove LNG project in Coos Bay, Ore., have long challenged land clearing for a pipeline, the risk to waterways and safety of the LNG plant. Now the developer is having trouble with the state Department of Energy, which last month recommended denial of the developer’s request for a waiver from a full review of the project’s power-generation plant. Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline is behind the Jordan Cove LNG terminal, which would provide an export outlet for gas from the Western U.S. and Canada. FERC is reviewing the project, including a 229-mile pipeline to link the LNG plant with the North American gas supply. The final environmental impact statement is scheduled for November 2019. ^ Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Time is now to build a rental portfolio

Lack of new housing starts, particularly in duplex and multi-family, make it a good time for the small investor to enter the market. Multi-family permits are down 50 percent from last year with only 72 units permitted compared to 153 last year at this same time. Duplex permits are also down with over 42 units permitted compared to 64 in 2017. Small investors shouldn’t be concerned about a reported 5 percent Multiple Listing Service vacancy factor if they take precautions when making a purchase. Condos are always a good investment because they require little management for a first time investor. Let the home owners’ association do most of your work. Your job is to simply find a well-qualified tenant by having them complete an application that requires a Social Security number for a credit check and current employment. One other piece of advise for a new investor is to make sure you have the right for a periodic inspection of the property. Because the majority of Anchorage’s aging rental properties are two-bedrooms with one bath and no covered car storage, consider purchasing a three-bedroom condo with at least a single-car garage. Newer is better than old. Even a condo built in the 1990s is now 28 years old so look for units built since 2000. Single-family homes are always a good investment and rent quickly due to lack of inventory. Since many older single-family homes are only three bedrooms, look for a four-bedroom home with a double-car garage. Some smart first time homebuyers make their first purchase a duplex. They live in one side and rent out the other. Then, after a couple of years, they move up to a single family home and rent out both sides. Both purchases can be used with low down, owner-occupied financing whereas nonowner-occupied financing usually requires a down payment of 20 percent to 25 percent. That’s an excellent way to begin a real estate portfolio. Alaska has surprisingly high mortgage limits for duplex, triplex and fourplex financing. Duplex financing amounts vary from Federal Housing Administration limits of $507,900 to $870,225 for Veterans Affairs, Fannie Mae and Alaska Housing Finance Corp. owner-occupied loans. Fourplex mortgages can go as high as $1.3 million for VA, FNMA and AHFC. FHA limits are $763,000. Nonowner-occupied loans can require reserves of up to six months of principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Some mortgage investors also require professional property management if the purchaser does not have prior management experience. Up to 75 percent of rents from the purchased property can be used to qualify for the mortgage. You never know when the bottom of the market is until it has passed. My bet is the bottom is happening now so now is a good time for the small investor to make a move. Connie Yoshimura is the Broker/Owner of Dwell Realty. Read more columns by Connie at www.cyalaska.com. Contact her at 907-229-2703 or [email protected]

Kelp-based beer latest entry to Alaska’s ‘Blue Economy’

Gov. Bill Walker christened Alaska’s first kelp-based beer during a recent swing through Kodiak. The beer was created at the Kodiak Island Brewery using local kelp from Kodiak Island Sustainable Seaweed grown by Stephanie and Nick Mangini. “Steph mentioned seeing a kelp craft beer on the internet and I told her to bring me 100 pounds,” said brewery “flow master” Chrissy Johnsrud, who created the new blend. The beer, called Kelp Sea Level Gosé, is a sour, German wheat beer made with coriander and salt. Brewery owner Ben Millstein said the seaweed was an easy fit. “We used the amount of kelp that we thought would replace the amount of salt. It’s working really good,” he said. The new beer was nearing its final stage as Millstein filled glasses with a small amount for tasting. He explained that there are over 150 different styles of beer and it is important to “calibrate one’s palate” before forming an opinion. “Shift your mind into neutral and take a couple sips,” he instructed. “Then sit with it for 30 seconds or a minute and try not to judge. Let it in and let it go. Try to disengage and give it a calibration rest and then see what you think after that.” The kelp beer had a pleasing briny taste and it won the governor’s approval. “I like it. It’s very good,” Walker said, adding that he plans to add it to his kelp repertoire. “I’ve got a kelp salsa story about how I helped get that Juneau product into Safeway, and now we have kelp beer to go with the salsa,” Walker said. “We are making it happen in Alaska as far as the blue economy. It’s right here in front of us.” The Kelp Sea Level beer was set to be added to Kodiak Island Brewery’s 13-tap lineup any day. “I think it’s going to be a huge hit,” said Johnsrud. “You can just smell the salt air and the seagulls. It’s similar to holding your ear up to a shell.” More gov goings-on While he was in Kodiak, Walker also signed House Bill 56 sponsored by Ketchikan Rep. Dan Ortiz that expands the state Revolving Loan Fund to create new financing options for fishing and mariculture businesses. He also re-established the Alaska Mariculture Task Force as an advisory body with a goal of growing a $100-million mariculture industry in 20 years. “The fiscal crisis is on the wane. It should never have happened in the first place and we should never be in that position again. Now we can get back to building Alaska,” Walker said in an interview. In terms of Alaska’s seafood industry, he said the biggest challenges stem from “unpredictability.” “We have seasonal highs and lows, problems with returns. It is very difficult for businesses to plan. One of our jobs is to make sure we provide the best data going forward as quickly as possible, so people and communities whose livelihoods depend on fishing have the assurance of a more stable future,” Walker said. The governor said our seas are “under assault” from a warming climate and off kilter ocean chemistry. That was the impetus, he said, for forming a climate change action committee that is scheduled to introduce recommendations next month that will build upon past policy initiatives and encourage new ideas. During a town meeting, several Kodiakans commented that Alaska lawmakers by and large “skim over” the economic, social and cultural importance of the seafood industry. “It’s all about attitude,” Walker said. “Commercial fishing was Alaska’s first industry and it drove the push to statehood. We will make sure our fish benefit Alaska and coastal communities. We will show up and be engaged.” Halibut shifts Some big shifts were quietly made last week to the panel that oversees the Pacific halibut stocks, including the addition of a first-ever sportfish seat. Both the U.S. and Canada named “relative newcomers” as commissioners to seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission “during extremely sensitive negotiations on policy issues,” said Peggy Parker, director of the Halibut Association of North America and editor at Seafoodnews.com. The changes to the panel of three Canadian and three U.S. seats came after a rare impasse in determining halibut catch limits for the 2018 season. In the end, all six agreed to lower limits for both countries, but not as a commission. It was the second time in the IPHC’s 94-year history that an impasse could not be overcome, Parker said. The commissioners also agreed to negotiate a resolution to their disagreements, which center on halibut distribution and bycatch accountability, before the annual meeting in January. For the U.S. seats, NOAA Fisheries announced the reappointment of Bob Alverson, director of the Fishing Vessel Owners Association. Also, sport charter operator Richard Yamada, president of the Alaska Charter Association, replaced Linda Behnken, director of Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association and a halibut commissioner for two years. Yamada is owner of Shelter Lodge near Juneau and has been involved in the charter fishing industry for nearly 40 years. He currently serves on state and federal fisheries advisory committees. Both men were appointed for five months, from Sept. 1 to Jan. 31, 2019. Jim Balsiger, NOAA Fisheries Alaska manager who has represented the U.S. for nearly two decades, was reappointed through September, “but may be replaced after that, according to several people familiar with the process,” Parker said. Both Chris Oliver, current head of NOAA Fisheries, and Doug Mecum, deputy regional manager at the fisheries service Juneau office, have been mentioned as possible replacements. Eat more fish leaves babies behind Seafood nutrition experts are gathering in the nation’s capital next week for a State of the Science Symposium. The non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership hosts the annual event as part of a public health campaign begun in 2015 aimed at getting Americans to eat more seafood. The connection of omega rich seafood to brain health is a trending topic, according to the agenda . “The brain and the retina in the eye are omega-3 organs. As calcium is to the bones, omega 3 is to the brain,” said Dr. Tom Brenna, professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas/Austin and chair of the SNP advisory council. Added to the symposium mix this year, Brenna said, are fisheries managers, aquaculture experts and environmental groups. “And we guys on the medical nutrition side are thrilled,” Brenna said in a phone interview. “There is so much misinformation out there about the state of fisheries and management. Having folks who can speak authoritatively about what folks are doing in U.S. fisheries and around the world is extraordinarily valuable and something we don’t get in any other forums.” The partnership works with local dieticians and uses educational programs and social media to get its health messages across. Brenna said it has yet to come up with a catchy national brand. “We don’t have a good a way of getting across the notion that seafood is such a delicious part of meals. Maybe we should have a contest to find a nice tag line that would identify seafood in the same way as ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Beef, it’s what’s for dinner,’” he said. A focus of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership is moms, but Brenna admitted that fish is missing from America’s baby food offerings. “To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what the problem is,” he said. “It seems like it’s a consumer demand question; companies sell what the consumers demand and apparently, we have not done a good job in educating consumers about what they ought to be demanding for their kids. “In nutrition circles, for 30 years we have been discussing that when we transition a baby or toddler from breast milk or formula that contains omega-3s, they are transitioning to foods that have hardly any omega-3s at all. And no fish,” Brenna added. “We should be weaning kids to the foods that are going to be important throughout their lives. And this may be a reason why they are not consuming seafood when they get older. Maybe this is something that we can work on with baby food manufacturers.” The seafood nutrition science symposium is set for Sept. 14 in Washington, DC. Audio and video will be available after the event. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

COMMENTARY: Restore the dividends, end the recession

The people we elect will either manage the state’s assets wisely or continue profligate spending, wasting our resources. Alaskans bear the highest unemployment rate, 7.3 percent, in the United States. We are in the third year of a self-inflicted recession. We’re missing the national Trump recovery because we have a governor and Legislature without a plan for a successful economy. They don’t know how to get us out of this recession. I do. As a banker and student of economics for decades, I understand consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of a state’s economy. The governor and Legislature cut dividends in half for the last three years. We had the money. The funds didn’t go to government services. They should have gone to the private sector, creating jobs throughout Alaska. The Permanent Fund Dividend program is a conservative, return on investment enterprise, uniquely Alaskan. We thought we protected the Fund and the dividends in the Constitution by passage of the amendment setting aside 25 percent of royalty income plus the earnings of the Fund. But, the Legislature arbitrarily overrode the statutory dividend and cut another $1,050 per Alaskan, for the third year. That cost our economy another 2,000 jobs. Dividends are only paid on collected earnings held in the Earnings Reserve. We have nearly $19 billion in the Reserve including $2.7 billion set aside to pay lowered dividends and general fund expenses for this year. The Constitutional Budget Reserve has another $2.3 billion in spare change. Cuts to the dividends weren’t used for operating expenses of government. They cut the heart out of small business. Alaskans’ personal economies suffered. I read financial statements and I’m horrified by what I read. In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, the Legislature gave $376 million to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp., an unbuildable pipedream. What a waste. Consolidating agencies should be a key part of Alaska’s money saving strategy. Alaska Housing Finance Corp. and the Alaska Industrial Development Corporation, could free their combined net worth (not used for mission), of $2.8 billion dollars. Gov. Bill Walker awarded a study to Boston Consulting Group for over $800,000 to study consolidation. Then buried it. That further demonstrates that costs are out of control, even under two different governors and many different legislators. The duplicity of most legislators and the governor is astounding. They tell you that Alaska had a 2017 budget deficit of $2.4 billion dollars. If you read the fiscal year 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, you will find that Alaska had a $3.9 billion surplus. That’s like having a million in your savings account earning $100,000 while your checking account is overdrawn. Count only checking, you have a deficit. Count all the money, you have a surplus. Our Fund grew by $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 and by about $5 billion in the fiscal year 2018 just ended. Our surplus will be even greater. Our oil income will be up almost $1 billion in fiscal year 2019 due to the rise in price and 30,000 barrels per day in new production through ConocoPhillips at Greater Mooses Tooth-1 and 12,000 barrels per day from Hilcorp at Moose Pad in the Milne Point unit. Earnings of the Permanent Fund and our recovering economy can and should fund both full dividends and protect education and public safety. Dividends are the private sector way to capitalize hundreds of small businesses. We need to implement a vision that grows the Alaskan economy. It was my honor to chair the statewide campaigns that elected or reelected Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Donald Trump. I also ran the campaign in 1999, Alaskans Just Say No, which stopped the last raid of the Alaska Permanent Fund. We won that campaign 83 percent to 17 percent. The public understood the raid and said no. If your legislator told you we had a $2.4 billion deficit, ask about the $6.55 billion in earnings of the Permanent Fund in 2017 that they were not counting in order to concoct the deficit. That’s how they’re cooking the books. Some Legislators just want more money. They want to increase oil and mining taxes. And they want a personal income tax. We have the earnings to manage our resources wisely, within a spending cap. Dividend cuts cost our economy consumer spending of $4,300 per person in the last three years, devastating our private economy. We can end Alaska’s recession with restitution of the 2016 and 2017 cuts and full payment of the 2018 amount statutorily required. Economists agree. Legislative inaction just cost us another 2,000 jobs. Join me in demanding a special session, called by the Legislature prior to the General Election, to correct their unjustified and injurious cuts to our dividends. The money is in the bank today. The public has a right to know which candidate is your Permanent Fund Defender or Permanent Fund Spender. Find out and vote accordingly. ^ Jim Crawford is the former president of the nonprofit Permanent Fund Defenders. He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. in 1975. He is a candidate for Senate District I (Spenard and Midtown, U-Med District in Anchorage)

Candidates talk ballot measure, funding capital projects at forum

With everyone in Alaska’s crowded gubernatorial race for more oil and less crime, the candidates are trying to highlight what separates them in the final two months before the Nov. 6 election. The candidates took the stage together during a lunch forum held by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Sept. 10. Democrat candidate and former U.S. Sen. and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich set himself apart from independent Gov. Bill Walker, former Republican state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and Libertarian candidate Billy Toien by noting he is the only one in the crowded field supporting Ballot Measure 1, which would overhaul the state’s permitting requirements for development projects in salmon habitat. Resource industry and development groups oppose the measure, contending it would add unnecessary time and cost burdens — if not outright stop some projects, particularly large mines — to a regulatory process that has worked well for decades. Ballot Measure 1 sponsors, led by the nonprofit Stand for Salmon, insist the voter initiative would largely codify in law best practices already used by the Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division and insulate science-based permit evaluations from political influences. They also note the initiative would add public notice and comment period requirements to what currently is one of the only public resource-use permits the state issues without such input. Begich said the Alaska Supreme Court stripped the proposed law change of its most prescriptive language Aug. 8, when the court removed an outright prohibition on permitting substantial damage to salmon habitat, calling it mostly a “right to know” measure after the ruling. “If there’s going to be a megaproject the public gets to be involved from a state perspective; they get to have comments,” Begich said. Dunleavy said he “doesn’t know what’s going to become of Alaska” if policies such as Ballot Measure 1 are enacted because it will hamper the state’s ability to approve projects and create jobs. Toien’s message was similar. Walker noted that he is still opposed to the measure even after the Supreme Court removed the provision it deemed unconstitutional for usurping the Legislature’s authority to appropriate state resources.. He more generally characterized the voter initiative process as a “blunt instrument,” and said that the new requirements would add a new layer of unwanted permitting uncertainty. “If there’s improvements that need to be made, let’s have that discussion in the proper forum and that forum is in the committee rooms in Juneau so everybody has an opportunity to weigh in and participate,” Walker said. Begich responded to that by drawing attention to the fact that legislators did not act on House Bill 199 — very similar to the ballot measure — last session, but did pass House Bill 44 when it became clear another voter initiative aimed at tightening legislative pay and per diem allowances was gaining steam. The Alaska Constitution allows a legislative action to nullify an initiative if the intent of the change is substantially similar to that of the voter proposal. “The back-and-forth the governor talks about is a great idea, but where were these guys when the debate was supposed to be happening?” Begich questioned. “Why weren’t they talking about this? Instead, 45,000 people (who signed the Ballot Measure 1 petition) got a little upset about it. That’s how the initiative process works.” A question as to how the candidates feel the state should deal with the aging Anchorage port — which despite decaying dock infrastructure is still the entry point for the vast majority of goods entering the state — also illuminated how they plan to tackle the state’s broader capital project and deferred maintenance issues. It’s generally accepted among state politicians that the $100 million to $150 million the state has spent from the general fund on capital budgets in recent years is unsustainably low, particularly as the state’s deferred maintenance bill approaches $2 billion. In this case, it was Dunleavy who departed the most from his main competitors, though they all stressed the obvious need for rebuilding the docks. Port officials have said the reconstruction project will likely require more than $500 million in new money to complete. The Municipality of Anchorage is currently attempting to recoup some of the more than $300 million in federal and state funds used on the failed expansion project in a lawsuit against the U.S. Maritime Administration that was tasked with supervising the effort that was halted in 2010. The former Wasilla legislator said the main question is whether the money should come directly out of the state’s General Fund for the city-owned port. He wants to see if private investors would be interested in putting money into the port. “I believe that there are equity funds and there are pension funds that would like to invest in the Port of Anchorage,” he said, using the former name for the facility. The Anchorage Assembly renamed it the Port of Alaska in 2017 to emphasize its importance to the state overall. Port Director Steve Ribuffo said in a 2017 interview that municipal officials have discussed the prospect of attracting private capital to fund the work, but noted that option would likely raise usage fees to cover investment returns — fee hikes that would invariably be passed on to Alaska consumers. On broader capital projects, Dunleavy said he would push for more thorough vetting of state-funded projects and wants to see municipalities share capital costs with the state, ideally on a 50-50 split whenever possible. Walker and Begich said they prefer voter-approved general obligation, or GO, bond packages as a means of growing the capital budget with low-interest debt, a way to fund construction that is common for local and state governments nationwide. Begich is floating a one-time, $2 billion-plus GO bond package that would be dispersed over six years. He said up to about $100 million in General Fund money the state already spends on direct capital appropriations could be used for annual debt service, meaning the plan would not require any new state money, stressing accountability in project success and a need to prevent legislators from slipping pet projects into the capital budget. “Deferred maintenance just alone for the State of Alaska is enormous and we just continue to close our eyes and hope it will magically disappear; that’s not how you do it,” Begich said. Walker noted the latest capital budget included $20 million for the Port of Alaska on the expectation the municipality, which settled several lawsuits against contractors who worked on the project for just less than $20 million in January 2017, would provide matching funds. He also said now that the state is using Permanent Fund earnings to greatly reduce annual deficits, which has also stabilized the state’s credit rating, it is time to revisit the $500 million biannual GO bond plan he submitted early in his tenure as governor but did was mostly ignored by the Legislature. The governor called the port the “tip of the iceberg” of capital needs across the state. “We have $1.8 billion of deferred maintenance that needs to be done across the state. It’s disappointing to me that the Legislature went through $14 billion of savings before we got to the SB 26 (Permanent Fund earnings) vote, which is unfortunate because that would’ve fixed literally every capital project across the state three times over,” Walker said. Toien, the Libertarian, stressed that all state departments and quasi-government agencies and funds need to be put through a “comprehensive financial audit” and all revenue streams need to flow into the General Fund to get the best, true assessment of the state’s fiscal situation before any money goes to the port or any other major project. Toien said he believes bringing “off-budget” revenues into the General Fund would also close the remaining roughly $700 million budget deficit that has been projected for the current fiscal year. “I’m the only one addressing the comprehensive finances of the state, not just the corner called the budget or the (Constitutional Budget Reserve) and it’s because it’s necessary,” he said of his plan for balancing the budget. Toien, in the unusual position of being the alternative fourth candidate in a race with an independent incumbent, closed his remarks with a pragmatic assessment of his situation. “If everyone threw their vote away and voted for me I would win,” he said to a collective chuckle from the crowd. ^ Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

As costs rise, Walker signs bill to increase fishing loan limits

Alaska fishermen now have a little more leeway to borrow money from the state to pay for new permits, boats, licenses and other equipment. House Bill 56, primarily sponsored by Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, rewrites sections of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Program to change the cap on allowable amounts of certain types of loans. Fishermen who want to buy individual fishing quotas, or IFQ, limited entry permits or gear can now borrow up to $400,000, an increase from $300,000. Gov. Bill Walker signed the bill into law Aug. 31. Ortiz — who represents a district with a high proportion of commercial fishing and seafood processing jobs — said in a release from the Alaska House Majority Coalition that the bill helps resident fishermen get over the cost hurdle to enter commercial fisheries. “By clearing away bureaucratic and economic hurdles, this bill moves us one step closer towards the goal of helping Alaskans reap the benefits of our sustainable commercial fisheries,” Ortiz said. The House passed the bill in 2017, but it sat in the Senate Finance Committee for the remainder of the contentious and lengthy session before the Senate passed it in May 2018. Ortiz credited Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, with pushing the bill through the Senate this year, despite most of the Legislature’s attention being focused on fiscal issues. The Commercial Fisheries Revolving Loan Fund is coordinated through the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and is only available to people who have lived in Alaska for at least two years. Fishermen can take out low-interest loans for up to 15-year terms to finance fishing-related expenses like vessel upgrades, gear purchases or permit purchases. The $300,000 amount was set in 1982, Ortiz wrote in a sponsor’s statement to the Legislature. Adjusting for inflation in the 36 years since, that would be about $746,000 today. Alaska fishermen have been facing steeper and steeper thresholds to entry in commercial fisheries over the years. Because of concerns about stock sustainability and overharvesting, Alaska established the limited entry system in 1972 for state-regulated fisheries. The value of permits goes up and down depending on the value of the fishery, but can cost as much as $190,800 for a set gillnet permit in Prince William Sound or as little as $3,300 for a set gillnet permit for salmon in the Upper Yukon River, according to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. That’s not counting boats, gear and fuel. In 1992, federal regulators implemented a quota system for halibut that created IFQ for a similar reason — to preserve the stocks and slow down the fishery while still allowing harvest opportunity. The season now lasts from March until November compared to the “race for fish” in the past when the total harvest could be taken in just days. However, the market-based value of those quota shares has increased so much that small, rural Alaskan fishermen have been pushed out by the cost of purchasing quota, causing significant disruption in those rural fishing communities even two decades later. IFQs have been implemented in a variety of fisheries in Alaska including Bering Sea crab and pollock to achieve the goal of sustainability through limited entry. While that may work for some fisheries, it has shown negative consequences for smaller ones, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August. Courtney Carothers, a University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences professor who co-authored the study, said in a news release from the university that the study was meant to question whether a broadly applied fishery management tool like the IFQ system, also known as ITQ (individual transferable quotas) works for all fisheries. “Social scientists have been frustrated by the assumption that ITQs are a simple solution for fisheries management across the world,” Carothers said. “We were excited to come together and evaluate some examples of where ITQs work, why sometimes they don’t work, and who is being impacted when an ITQ isn’t the right option for a fishery.” She cited the halibut fishery in Alaska as an example, where some quota shares can cost up to $70 per pound. The paper suggests developing an “institutional diagnostics toolkit” to help fisheries regulators and officials gauge the impact of a measure before implementing it, based on the context of the fishery. “Toolkits like this could be used in many governance settings to challenge users’ understandings of a policy’s impacts and help them develop solutions better tailored to their particular context. They would not replace the more comprehensive approaches found in the literature but would rather be an intermediate step away from the problem of panaceas,” the paper states. The Legislature was considering another bill, HB 188, to address the same entry-cost problem. HB 188, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, D-Sitka, would allow up to three regions in Alaska to establish commercial fisheries trusts which would hold permits and temporarily transfer those permits to fishermen, essentially providing a middle step between being a deckhand and laying out a small fortune to buy an entry permit. Introduced in 2017, the bill was last heard in February 2018 and referred to the House Labor and Commerce Committee. Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Biologists, fishermen puzzle over late Kenai sockeye run

First they were underweight, with underwhelming numbers. Then they weren’t there at all. Then they were coming in late, showing up as Upper Cook Inlet fishermen were packing up their gear for the season. The unpredictable and significantly smaller Kenai River sockeye run frustrated a lot of fishermen this year. As of the last day of sonar counts on Aug. 28, about 1.03 million sockeye had entered the river. More than half of them arrived after Aug. 1, leading to a stop-and-start fishery that included significant time and area cuts for commercial fishermen in Cook Inlet and a complete sockeye salmon sport angling closure on the Kenai River from Aug. 4–23. That resulted in a total catch of 813,932 sockeye, less than half of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preseason forecast commercial harvest of 1.9 million sockeye. Even the late fish arrival wasn’t much of a boon to the area’s commercial fishermen. Per the management plans, the East Side setnet fishermen are largely out of the water by Aug. 15, and the drift gillnet fleet is moved mostly to the west side of Cook Inlet to focus on silver salmon. On Aug. 23, in response to late incoming fish passing the Kenai River sonar, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game opened Drift Area 1 — a broad fishing area between the Anchor Point Light and Kalgin Island in the middle of the inlet — to drifting. Despite the opening and the numbers of sockeye passing the sonar in the river, fishermen only picked up 209 sockeye in that opening. By comparison, they picked up 1,105 silvers, which have reportedly been running well in Cook Inlet this year, despite the poor numbers of sockeye, king and pink salmon. The managers were expecting the sockeye catch to be better, said Brian Marston, the area management biologist for the Division of Commercial Fisheries in Soldotna. “We were hoping to get at some of those late fish,” he said. “We couldn’t open it up in Area 2 (closer to the mouth of the Kenai) … we just missed them.” The silver run has been a little better than usual this year, providing a small extra buffer for fishermen. Most Kenai River sportfishermen have been switching from sockeye to silvers as well, with guides grateful that the silver run has been strong enough to support angler effort with a weak or closed sockeye fishery. Biologists have been puzzling over what happened with the Gulf of Alaska sockeye this year. Weak king salmon runs weren’t uniform across the gulf, and since 2008, Alaskans have been adjusting to a reality with fewer king salmon in it. But sockeye are normally plentiful, and this year presented some firsts. Chignik’s commercial fishermen, for example, never opened, earning a disaster declaration from Gov. Bill Walker before the summer was even over. The poor runs of sockeye have happened in some rivers before, but the complete closure is a first for Chignik, said Bill Templin, the chief fisheries scientist for Fish and Game’s division of commercial fisheries. Other fisheries have been seeing a late burst, like the Kenai, and the commercial fishermen have been able to take some advantage, such as the Copper River and in Kodiak. Those fisheries have been seeing a sharp underperformance in pink salmon fisheries, too, though, as they did in 2016 when a federal disaster was declared and for which $56 million was appropriated by Congress for impacted stakeholders. So far, indications seem to point to ocean conditions unfavorable for survival. Research through the Chinook Salmon Research Initiative for the last five years has provided good tracking and life history data on ocean survival for king salmon, but the department hasn’t been doing the same kind of research for sockeye salmon, Templin said. But even then, there are some mysterious snags — while one sockeye stock may have come back poorly this year, a neighboring stream would do just fine. Next door to the Kenai River, the Kasilof River’s sockeye run handily made its escapement goal this year with harvest and increased bag limits. “Generally the freshwater conditions are pretty good, pretty consistent,” he said. “Ocean conditions seem to be driving a lot of it.” In the case of the Kasilof, that may be because the main cohort for that river is largely four-year-old fish as opposed to five-year-old fish being the norm on the Kenai, Marston said. The department staff will do more analysis after the season about the run, but so far it looks like the fish caught were for the most part smaller than usual. The Kasilof River escapement goal for sockeye was exceeded in part because of concerns for the Kenai run that restricted the commercial fleet. More fish escaped into the Kasilof, so even though the run itself wasn’t that large, more fish made it into the river, Marston said. Some fishermen have still been out harvesting silvers, but in a fishery that depends almost entirely on sockeye for the majority of its value, this season was a hard one for Upper Cook Inlet fishermen. “It’s hard to make (that sockeye catch) up,” Marston said.

OPINION: Following the 'Outside' money backing Stand for Salmon

The backers of the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative well understand the power of pitting Alaskans against quote-unquote Outsiders. The phrase “foreign mining corporations” is used no fewer than six times on the “Get the Facts” page on their website. One particularly strident sentence reads: “In order to protect our Alaskan way of life, we need to support this initiative and not buy what the dishonest foreign mining corporations have to sell.” Stand for Salmon Campaign Director Ryan Schryver used the occasion of a minor fine against the measure’s opponents to accuse them of trying to fool voters by not adding the words “Vote No on One” to their organization’s Stand for Alaska name promptly enough after the initiative was certified in March. “They have to create distrust and confusion to be successful,” he told the Anchorage Daily News. That is a particularly rich charge for an organization that created the ultimate bumper sticker slogan to promote its ballot measure. While the Stand for Salmon proponents attempt to paint the opposition as foreign interlopers into Alaska’s affairs, they are hardly being transparent when it comes to the source of their funding. The top contributors include the Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Alaska Center, Cook Inletkeeper, the Wild Salmon Center and Salmon State. The initiative itself was crafted by environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, which is well known for its legal activism against resource development in the state. According to campaign disclosures, about $730,000 of the $1.1 million in reported contributions to the effort are classified as non-monetary, with the Alaska Center topping the list at $357,000 followed by the Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund that employs Schryver at $227,000. Cook Inletkeeper is next at about $83,000 in non-monetary contributions to the effort. If money from outside the state is dirty, then all these groups with “Alaska” in their names hardly have clean hands. Trustees for Alaska lists 14 foundations as its top donors in its 2017 annual report, with only one having any staff based here and that one, the Leighty Foundation, was founded by a family from Waterloo, Iowa, but reported a Juneau address in its most recent IRS Form 990. The 14 most recent 990s for those groups show about $339,000 in donations to Trustees for Alaska. The Venn diagram of Trustees for Alaska foundation donors overlaps nearly perfectly with those to the groups backing the Stand for Salmon initiative. The Alaska Center received $255,000 in donations from the same foundations that back Trustees for Alaska in the most recent year according to the Form 990s. It has also received another $245,000 from the New Venture Fund for a total of a half-million dollars in “Outside” money in the most recent year forms are available. Cook Inletkeeper received about $260,000 in donations from the New Venture Fund and the Trustees for Alaska foundation donors. These 14 foundations collectively hold about $463 million in assets according to their most recent 990s, with the New Venture Fund adding another $230 million for nearly $700 million total. What these groups have in common is their fight against resource development of all kinds in addition to the money that insulates them from the consequences of the policies they are trying to implement around the country. All the groups with Alaskan addresses are a handy vehicle to carry through money in order to advance the goals of these non-Alaska foundations, with the added benefit of those organizations not having to disclose how they are contributing nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in “non-monetary” resources to an effort that will undoubtedly cost the state jobs if it passes. As just one example, the 444 S Foundation based in Bellevue, Wash., donated $115,000 to the Alaska Center and $60,000 to Trustees for Alaska in 2016, with another $100,000 to the New Venture Fund. What is the 444 S Foundation? Besides being endorsed by the Sierra Club, Code Pink and the socialist Working Families Organization, its executive director is Fred Munson, who is also a member of the Arctic Defense Fund advisory council, which dispersed funds to support the “kayaktivists” who blockaded Shell in Seattle in 2015 and later hung from bridges in Portland trying to prevent its outer continental shelf drilling. Arctic Defense Fund was created by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Market Solutions, whose principal officer is Jay Halfon, a professional litigator for Earthworks and well known “frackivist” leading the fights against the U.S. energy boom in natural gas. The point is not that there is anything wrong with these foundations contributing their money to the causes they support. And to be clear, their opponents have vastly outraised Stand for Salmon by a 9-1 margin so far. Rather, it is disingenuous to the nth degree for the supporters of Stand for Salmon to attack the companies that are being completely open about their donations while theirs come from groups in Boston, New York, DC and San Francisco who belong to the “keep it in the ground” movement that are rightly distrusted by those who live and work here. Admitting they take money from outside foundations as a means to even up the odds, even slightly, would at least be an honest argument. But that’s probably too much to expect when it comes to politics. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Sept. 16

Alex Slivka was appointed as the chief fiscal officer for the Municipality of Anchorage, effective Oct. 15. Slivka comes to the municipality from McKinley Capital Management LLC, where he served in various leadership capacities. Slivka has more than 35 years of experience in the financial industry and is an active member of a number of community organizations. The Mat-Su Health Foundation has hired Colleen Andrews and Bailey Larousse to support the work of its R.O.C.K. Mat-Su (Raising Our Children with Kindness) collaborative project. Andrews is the organization’s social connections coordinator, and Larousse serves as youth leadership coordinator. Andrews is responsible for identifying, inventorying and promoting a robust and updated database of local social and recreational activities. The database is housed within Connect Mat-Su, a new community resource center network recently established by the Mat-Su Health Foundation. Andrews has previously held positions in corporate compliance, human resources and administration. She earned an associate’s degree in business management from Everest University. Larousse is an AmeriCorps member assigned to and funded by the Mat-Su Health Foundation and serves as youth leadership council coordinator for R.O.C.K. Mat-Su. She is responsible for creating a youth leadership council and managing training, enrichment, and outreach for council members. She also works to enhance collaborations with other non-profits and coalitions surrounding youth voice and issues. Larousse graduated from Mat-Su Central School in 2018 and is attending University of Alaska Anchorage. The Alaska Public Interest Research Group hired Veri di Suvero as executive director. di Suvero will focus on engaging citizens across Alaska on public interest and consumer protection issues, including net neutrality, Census 2020 and redistricting, and utility efficiency. di Suvero has worked with various community and governmental stakeholders on Alaska Native language revitalization as well as language access policy with the Welcoming Anchorage initiative. AKPIRG was founded in 1974 as a non-profit, non-partisan, citizen-oriented statewide organization focused on researching, educating, and advocating on behalf of the public interest. John Hall’s Alaska was named “Most Outstanding Small Group Tour Provider 2018” by Corporate Vision Magazine. For more than 35 years, family-owned, family-operated John Hall’s Alaska has provided an authentic Alaska experience by land, air and sea. By limiting all tours to 28 to 42 passengers, John Hall’s Alaska gains access to remote parts of the state and allow John Hall’s Alaska to cater to the individual traveler’s needs and desires. Although John Hall’s Alaska is best known for its Signature Series “Untamed Alaska,” Denali Explorer” and “Grand Slam Alaska,” tours, the company also offers group tours as part of its Alaska Highway Experience, Adventure Series and Winter Series. In response to client feedback and the growing popularity of winter travel, John Hall’s Alaska now offers two 2019 winter itineraries that include winter adventure days and up to seven nights of northern lights viewing. Alaska USA Federal Credit Union has selected Sharlyn Ruyan for the position of vice president, Member Service Center. Ruyan has worked at Alaska USA for more than nine years, most recently as manager, Member Service Center. She is a graduate of the 2017 Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce Leadership program. Alaska USA Financial Planning and Investment Services’ Michael Klopfer, who has more than 15 years of experience, has earned his Certified Financial Planner designation. The CFP mark is recognized as the highest standard in personal financial planning. Investment advisors who earn the CFP have met the rigorous requirements of the CFP Board and set the standard for responsible and ethical financial planning.

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