COMMENTARY: Alaskans need a champion of women on the court

Should Brett Kavanaugh be nominated to take a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court? The national debate on Roe vs. Wade presents an opportunity to step back and take stock: what is the status of women’s rights in America? Will this nominee strengthen democracy, improve equality and justice for all? As a strong Alaskan and female leader, we count on Sen. Lisa Murkowski to ask these questions as she weighs her decision. Consider two things you need to control your life: 1) financial independence, and 2) freedom to control your own body. Kavanaugh poses a threat to these critical rights. His non-committal stance on Roe alarms those concerned with the freedom to choose to bear children. This question is critical to a woman’s capacity to support herself and her children, a challenge that still places women at a disadvantage. To those who assert, “women control over half the nation’s wealth,” and are therefore financially secure, I ask, what does “control” mean? And which women? Sweeping language about women unilaterally having economic power equal to men distorts truth: women still face hurdles to equality. The median pay for women on the list of the highest-paid U.S. chief executives was  $15.7 million in 2014, $1.6 million less than for men. Have we broken through the glass ceiling? Only 11 of those 200 CEOs were women. Census data confirms that women earn $.80 cents on average for each $1 dollar that men do. Progress has been hard fought and slow paced, and remains predominantly enjoyed by white women. Across all major racial and ethnic groups, women earn less than men of the same group. Female leaders in corporate America earn compensation packages that rival their male peers. But how many women make it to the top? Women of color made up only 5% of executive or senior-level managers in 2015. In 2017, Hispanic women earned 62.1% what White men earned, and Black women earned 67.7% of White men. Given the Supreme Court’s role, Kavanaugh’s nomination has tremendous impact on the future of women. Let us thank the powers that be for ‘elastic’ Constitutional interpretations - for if it were not the job of the Court to interpret, rather than simply impose, women would lack legal access to any kind of equality today. Does it not say that, “all men are created equal”?  That’s not us, ladies. To many of us, the bottom line is this: if a woman cannot 1) earn enough to support herself and 2) control her reproductive rights, then she cannot be a full participant in democracy. Voting is powerful, but only one tool. The right to decide when and if to start a family represents a significant determinant in both financial and personal freedoms. Women with children often leave the workforce to do most of the unpaid labor of raising the next generation of citizens, a well-documented setback to lifelong earning trajectories. These women are raising the our future scientists, Supreme Court nominees, social workers and manual laborers. In other words, all of us. As a single woman under 30, I want what many “up and coming” women do; home ownership, a corner desk, and financial security for the family I will start someday. I’ll need the law’s support to do that. Sen. Murkowski holds a seat in the United States Congress, whose membership is only 20% female. She knows there are inequities; she has championed women before. Now we’re counting on her to do it again. Claire Pywell resides in Anchorage with her partner, Dave. She is a volunteer with several community organizations and an avid outdoors person.  

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 threatens TAPS operations and the environment

The Stand for Salmon movement promises “vital infrastructure will still move forward” in the event of its passage. In reality, the initiative becoming law would bring a standstill to actions that protect the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System today, while putting fish habitat around it in more jeopardy. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company operates TAPS, a vital piece of Alaska’s economic engine, and maintains its 800-mile route across more than 700 fish streams from the North Slope to Valdez. We are committed to operational excellence, long-term TAPS reliability, and the health of its surrounding environment. I know our personnel, almost all Alaskans, along with our Alaska-based industry partners, Tribal organizations, and state and federal agencies that regulate our work, share Ballot Measure 1’s supporters’ appreciation for Alaska’s special waterways and vibrant marine life. But that’s where common ground ends. Many states have lost salmon species or declared them endangered due to overfishing and blocked migration routes. Not so in Alaska, and certainly not along TAPS. We regularly clear, repair, and modify streams to maintain fish passage and prevent erosion. TAPS workers act to deliver system and environmental sustainability, not simply suppress infrastructure threats. After over 40 years of TAPS operations, our Environment, Right of Way and Baseline teams are experts in monitoring and inspecting hundreds of waterways and dozens more that connect to them along TAPS. Many hold master’s degrees in fisheries, marine biology, wildlife biology, environmental science and engineering. All take great pride in their role protecting the environment; if they don’t, they don’t work here. They know these waters, and the more than 30 fish species inhabiting them, from daily and annual surveillance and from constantly anticipating and responding to the forces of nature and Alaska’s often harsh and unpredictable weather. TAPS is already heavily regulated; we comply with requirements of more than 20 state and federal agencies. Since 2000, Alyeska has received more than 700 individual permits for routine maintenance activities, new installations, and projects along waterways to safeguard pipeline integrity and protect the environment. We hold 80 to 90 active annual permits for work in fish habitat areas. The fish habitat initiative puts at risk timely permitting and conduct of our actions. With rigid new agency review requirements and permitting criteria, and a wide-open appeals process, the initiative would complicate and delay inspection and certain maintenance activities, and create uncertainty about what is considered minor routine maintenance and grandfathered projects. Simple but important projects would face convoluted if not unpassable hurdles. And when we confront natural disasters, such as floods, fires and earthquakes, there’s no time to waste. Every spring, the Sagavanirktok River — better known as the Sag River — floods along the Dalton Highway and TAPS right of way for long stretches. Sometimes the flooding is annoying. Sometimes it’s troublesome. In spring 2015, it was disastrous. By spring’s arrival, ice buildup was 12 feet high in some places. Record-high temperatures led to swift snow melt and record river flow. Suddenly, the Sag flooded miles of the North Slope and endangered two of Alaska’s critical economic lifelines: TAPS and the Dalton Highway. TAPS personnel saw it coming. The Dalton was eventually closed, but because of very rapid preventative actions along waterways near TAPS, the pipeline and the fragile environment around it was spared catastrophic damage, and the pipeline stayed in operation. Over the weeks and months that followed, we conducted a massive cleanup, dozens of inspections, many repairs, and wide-ranging restoration of waterways and fish passages impacted by the flooding. Under this initiative even as amended, permits necessary to rapidly accomplish such critical work to protect TAPS would be more difficult to obtain, as would permits for spur dikes that redirected the Sag River’s main channel away from the Dalton Highway and the oil pipeline. TAPS, the Dalton Highway, fish streams and waterways could suffer devastating consequences. Many individuals, organizations, and local and state agencies representing diverse interests from all corners of Alaska have stepped forward to object to the risks surrounding the initiative. TAPS personnel have embodied Alaska true grit, pride and environmental stewardship from construction to today’s vision for the next 40 years of TAPS operations and the innovation it will take to achieve it. We plan to keep Alaska’s pipeline operating safely, while protecting Alaska’s environment, fish and wildlife. The initiative makes achieving that goal more difficult. If the fish habitat initiative becomes law, it will hinder and prevent Alyeska from obtaining permits needed to perform work crucial to TAPS’ safe and reliable operations in a timely way. We care deeply about Alaska’s salmon and environment; we are passionate about sustaining safe, reliable TAPS operations, and its daily contribution to the Alaska economy, long into the future. I ask you to vote No on Ballot Measure 1. Tom Barrett, a retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, is president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

CP: Efficiencies, discoveries leading ‘renaissance’ on North Slope

ConocoPhillips Alaska employees have a big round target to hit that company leaders believe is the key to staying competitive. And it’s not a buried treasure map that points right to where the next exploration well should be drilled — although with the company’s recent success indicates they might have one of those, too. “It’s just math,” ConocoPhillips Alaska President Joe Marushack said during an Aug. 9 meeting with Journal and Anchorage Daily News staff. The target is $40 per barrel, and making the math work so all of the company’s operations in the state are profitable at or below that key price point. Particularly on the North Slope, where costs are unavoidably higher than in most other oil basins worldwide, the company has focused on making sure it can withstand the inevitable ups and downs of oil markets, Marushack emphasized. That $40 breakeven has been hit at ConocoPhillips’ large existing Alpine and Kuparuk River oil fields, but also applies to all of the greenfield projects it’s working on as well. Alaska Vice President Scott Jepsen said the $40 focus revolves around remaining competitive with Lower 48 unconventional oil plays for investment dollars within the company. Jepsen described the massive and ever-growing shale oil basins in Texas and North Dakota as “the center of gravity” for the oil business, noting those plays are “attracting tens of billions of dollars of investment this year.” Making $40 oil profitable keeps Alaska operations competitive, but he added that some of the oil being pulled from Texas is now done so for less than $30 per barrel. The continued emphasis on cost is also a way to prepare the company for what its leaders believe will be ever more wild market swings. While oil has momentarily steadied in the $70 per barrel range, few seem to believe it will stay there for long. “Our chairman (Ryan Lance) said the higher the price of oil the greater the crash is going to be so we’ve got to be able to survive that volatility,” Jepsen said. The new mindset is also a far cry from just a few years ago, when companies Slope-wide were discussing the need for $70 oil just to break even on new discoveries. “2015 was a very, very scary time for us so we did an awful lot to reduce our cost — as did everyplace else we that we produce — and we were very successful at reducing our costs and we’ve got to be able to maintain that,” Marushack said. Part of those savings are coming from doing more tests on pipelines and equipment that previously would have been routinely replaced regardless of its condition. Jepsen said the company is also able to recoat the inside of existing oil lines to extend their working life without wholesale replacement, a technological improvement that has been adopted on a large scale in the last five years. Further advancements in compressed seismic exploration allow the company to gather far more, and better, data than ever before for the same cost to inform geologists on where to drill. Marushack added that some equipment redundancies have been engineered out of the company’s equipment as well without sacrificing reliability. However, getting to $40 still meant cutting its Alaska workforce from about 1,200 employees in 2015 down to 970 today. Its contracted labor force has also shrunk by about 35 percent over that time, he said. “At $110 oil you’re focused on getting every barrel you possibly can,” Marushack observed about the lack of cost emphasis when prices were high. The refocus on efficiency, combined with the emergence of Nanushuk formation plays on the western Slope, leads ConocoPhillips Alaska leaders to believe up to 400,000 barrels per day of new oil could be produced from the Slope by 2025. Much of that would come from their fields, particularly the Willow prospect with potential for up to 100,000 barrels per day with a $4 billion to $6 billion development cost. The Bureau of Land Management announced the start of a scoping period Aug. 7 as the first step toward developing an environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the Willow development. Two projects now in permitting — Hilcorp’s offshore Liberty and Oil Search’s Pikka — should be big drivers, too, along with other, smaller projects. They see it as a “renaissance” on the North Slope, Marushack said. “We think it’s really incredible what’s happening,” Jepsen added. “It’s not just us. If you look at what’s happening, there’s a lot of stuff that — it’s not just a concept or it’s not just an exploration prospect — people are actually doing stuff; they’re in the permitting stages and this stuff is going to happen.” For ConocoPhillips, bringing much of that newly-found oil online will mean developing projects near the Native Village of Nuiqsut, which is located just east of the company’s work in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and very close to its Putu and Stony Hill Nanushuk discoveries made this past winter. Early estimates on each of those have been pegged at about 20,000 barrels per day. The company employed a series of significant steps to mitigate the impacts of drilling its Putu exploration well, just about three miles from the village last winter. The biggest measures were centered on eliminating diesel exhaust from the drilling rig and pad operations, which was upwind from the village of about 400 residents. ConocoPhillips powered the rig and pad with low-emission generators placed farther from Nuiqsut and monitored air and water quality near the village before, during and after the work was done. By all accounts the work went well, and such mitigation is also likely to be needed as the prospects are developed. Marushack said the company listened to the concerns of Nuiqsut residents and did its best to address them. Residents’ concerns led ConocoPhillips to postpone exploration drilling the previous winter. “We believe we’re going to have to continue to engage with the village, not only with Kuukpik, but with the village and listen to what they say and then try to figure out where there’s some things that they could participate in,” he said. Kuukpik Corp. is the village corporation for Nuiqsut. The Putu well was drilled with one of its rigs. Marushack noted that a portion of the royalties from oil produced in the NPR-A by law must go to mitigating the impacts of development in area communities. ConocoPhillips is also one of the largest donors to Stand for Alaska, the campaign organized to oppose Ballot Measure 1, which aims to strengthen requirements for development projects in salmon habitat. Jepsen said the company isn’t exactly sure what direct impacts the proposed fish habitat permitting law changes would have on its operations, but the primary concern is with a new, public permitting process that could open avenues for lawsuits that don’t exist now. “If the initiative goes forward I could see a very lucrative path for those organizations that are opposed to oil and gas exploration on the North Slope to pursue something that can slow us down,” Jepsen said. The initiative’s advocates, led by the nonprofit Stand for Salmon, stress that their primary goal is not to stop projects, but rather to codify in law best practices — and prevent them from being eroded by political forces — that are employed by Fish and Game in its habitat permit adjudications today. The ballot initiative would also add public notices and comment periods to one of the few state public resource-use permits that currently does not have such requirements. Jepsen added that while much of the company’s work has little if any impact on anadromous fish habitat, its most common work that could be slowed is the annual building of ice roads that use water from area lakes. Jepsen emphasized that those water draws are done in close concert with the Department of Fish and Game and are based on decades worth of data. ^ Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Aug. 19

BDO USA LLP announced that Bikky Shrestha has been admitted to the firm’s partnership responsible for leading audits. Previously, Shrestha was an assurance director in the firm’s Anchorage office. Shrestha has more than 13 years of experience in public accounting. He manages audits of Alaska Native corporations, Alaska Native Tribal organizations, school districts, governmental organizations and closely held corporations. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Alaska Society of Certified Public Accountants. He is also the board secretary of the Asian Alaskan Cultural Center. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with emphasis in accounting from Western Oregon University. Wells Fargo has named Becky More as Alaska community relations consultant. She will oversee the company’s Alaska charitable contributions program, employee giving campaign, and volunteer engagement efforts. More re-joins Wells Fargo with seven years of experience in the nonprofit sector, leading fundraising and donor development programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska, Alaska Pacific University, and AWAIC (Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis). Previously, she served Wells Fargo customers and team members in Alaska as a personal banker, service manager, and learning and development specialist. More holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Alaska Pacific University and Certified Fundraising Executive professional designation. Mary Michaelsen has been named Wells Fargo At Work program manager for Alaska. The Wells Fargo At Work program supports the financial health of customers and communities in Alaska through the delivery of free money management tools and education offered as an employee benefit for companies. Michaelsen has more than 10 years of financial services experience in Alaska, Iowa, and Louisiana. Most recently, she worked at Denali Federal Credit Union as its member call center manager. She served as a Wells Fargo personal banker while attending college at Iowa State University, and she was a Navy Federal Credit Union branch manager in Louisiana. Michaelsen earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Iowa State University, and she is pursuing a master’s degree in strategic leadership from Alaska Pacific University. Credit Union 1 promoted Faye Lindsay to branch manager of its Downtown Branch in Anchorage. Lindsay was initially hired in 2011 as a teller, and she has also held the positions of member service officer, member service supervisor and assistant branch manager at the credit union prior to this promotion. Central Council of Tlingit &Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska hired Jesse Parr as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families manager. Parr will oversee the daily management of the TANF department, which provides financial assistance to families while emphasizing work participation, education, family stability and responsibility to increase self-sufficiency and gainful employment for Alaska Natives and American Indians in Southeast Alaska. He will also be responsible for the budget development and monitoring processes, preparation of required financial and narrative reports, implementation of policies and procedures, and the successful use of the Tribal DTM client data management system. Parr has a bachelor’s degree in tourism and commercial recreation from Georgia Southern University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Alaska Southeast. The Alaska Superintendents Association named Fairbanks North Star School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Gaborik as Alaska’s 2019 Superintendent of the Year. The Superintendent of the Year program, now in its 32nd year, pays tribute to a school system’s top leader who exemplifies effectiveness, knowledge, leadership, ethics, and commitment. Gaborik is starting her fifth year as superintendent of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. She has been a teacher, administrative intern, principal and an assistant superintendent. She is also the current President of the Alaska Superintendents Association. ASA will advance Gaborik’s candidacy to the 2019 National Superintendent of the Year program. All state Superintendents of the Year will be honored in February at the 2019 AASA National Conference on Education in Los Angeles.

INSIDE REAL ESTATE: Report shows $40M drop in permits

The Municipality of Anchorage’s six-month building activity report was published last week and it’s not good news for the construction industry. Overall permits are down by $40 million. This year’s total to date is $241 million compared to $282 million in 2017. That number is inclusive of residential, multi-family, commercial and alterations. It includes both government and private party permit valuations. Despite all the talk about Anchorage’s need for more housing, the number of new dwelling units continues to decline. Ninety-three single family units were started compared to 95 in 2017. Duplexes units took almost a 50 percent decline. Only 26 units have been permitted thru June compared to 52 in 2017. The sharpest decline came in multi-family where no new units were permitted compared to 153 last year. That’s a telling number as the city continues to face a shortage of affordable homes. For purposes of permits, multi-family is classified as any building with three or more units. The MOA does not differentiate between for sale or for rent units for either duplexes or multi family. But from a market perspective, duplex and multi-family units are where most first time home buyers frequently begin their search. At this rate, it is doubtful that the MOA is even replacing units lost to fire, demolition or condemnation. The average permit value for a single family home is now $407,371. That number does not include any land cost. Add another $140,000 for a lot and buyers in today’s market will be lucky to find a brand new home for less than $540,000 in 2018. Anchorage’s most popular subdivision, Resolution Pointe subdivision, has had nine new single family starts this year and its lot inventory is now sold out. Resolution Bluffs, which opened this summer with luxury homesites bordering both Cook Inlet and Campbell Creek Estuary, has a dozen home sites from $239,000. WestGate, a popular duplex condo community, bordering the proposed Lucy Park, had the most duplex starts with eight units. In east Anchorage, Checkpoint had four starts and Eagle Crossing had two. (Disclosure: Dwell Realty has listings in Resolution Bluffs and WestGate) Anchorage’s most prolific builders continue to be Spinell Homes and Hultquist Homes, along with Troy Davis, a popular builder in Eagle River and who also builds in the Valley. Lack of buildable land continues to plague homebuilders. In Anchorage, the only new subdivision with public, water and sewer coming online this year is Heather Wood, at the corner of Dimond Boulevard and West Park Drive. Its first phase will be 23 lots with lot widths varying from 70 to 80 feet. In southeast Anchorage, the last phase of the Terraces is rumored to be developed but no announcement has been made. Some new lots with public services are being developed in Eagle River near the north Eagle River exchange and a small six lot community with well and septic at the North Birchwood Loop turnoff is now available. Various vacant parcels on the hillside are being offered for sale by private parties and the MOA but none are expected to be developed this year. Lack of land and new homes has kept the Anchorage housing market stable, despite Alaska’s three-year recession. The average sales price, according to Multiple Listing Service, has varied only by a couple thousand dollars over the past three years, hovering around $366,000. That’s a far cry from a projected $540,000 for a new single family home. And with no hope of closing that gap. Connie Yoshimura is the Broker/Owner of Dwell Realty. Read more columns by Connie at Contact her at 907-229-2703 or [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Researchers seek signs of recovery for Pacific cod

Tiny cod fish are reappearing around Kodiak. Researchers aim to find out if it is a blip, or a sign that the stock is recovering after warming waters caused the stocks to crash. Alaska’s seafood industry was shocked last fall when the annual surveys showed cod stocks in the Gulf of Alaska had plummeted by 80 percent to the lowest levels ever seen. Prior surveys indicated large year classes of cod starting in 2012 were expected to produce good fishing for six or more years. But a so-called “blob” of warm water depleted food supplies and wiped out that recruitment. “That warm water was sitting in the Gulf for three years starting in 2014 and it was different than other years in that it went really deep and it also lasted throughout the winter. You can deplete the food source pretty rapidly when the entire ecosystem is ramped up in those warm temperatures,” explained Steven Barbeaux with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, or AFSC, in Seattle. This summer, researchers at Kodiak saw the first signs of potential recovery with beach seine catches of tiny first year cod that are born offshore and drift as larvae into coastal grassy areas in July and August. “A lot can happen in that first year of life that we would like to learn more about to predict whether or not these year classes are actually going to survive,” said Ben Laurel, a fisheries research biologist with the AFSC based in Newport, Ore., whose specialty is early survival of cold water commercial fish species. Laurel’s team, which includes scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been studying the early life history of Pacific cod in waters around Kodiak every year since 2005. They documented changes in what he calls “young of the year” fish throughout the warm water event through 2016. Right afterwards, they saw no first-year cod but Laurel said things might be taking a turn for the better. “In 2017 the ocean temperatures started to get back to normal and we did see signs of some fish, which is good because we hadn’t seen fish earlier,” he said. “In 2018 we also are seeing some young fish. But again, we’re just looking at one year in one area and it might not be reflective throughout the Gulf, so we are not sure what it means.” Laurel is taking the tiny cod back to the Oregon wet lab where they will run tests on survival conditions. “Do they have the likelihood of making it to adulthood just like those fish before the warm water blob? We just don’t know,” he explained. “We don’t have much data on cod during the winter and we can fill that gap in the lab. We can run them through a simulated over winter experience at different temperatures and see what the consequences are of them being a certain size or having certain food available, or what sort of conditions do they need to survive a whole overwintering experience.” The cod study this summer also is expanding to more nearshore areas of Kodiak, along the Alaska Peninsula and the eastern Gulf. Laurel credited the AFSC with “really responsive reactions to this drastic reduction in the population,” and adding “more eyes and effort” to understand what happened to the cod stocks. The research, he said, will provide a window into what might be expected with a changing climate. “It is kind of a dress rehearsal for what is to come,” he said. “We can’t expect things to stay as they are, and we need to understand these processes and be proactive. I’m encouraged but also nervous about what’s in line for the future. Everybody should be braced for uncertainty.” Net hack challenge An Alaska Net Hack Challenge is being planned for Sept. 8 and 9 in Kodiak and Anchorage. The goal is to identify potential opportunities for using the tons of old plastic fishing nets piled up in landfills and storage lots across the state, and develop new items from the materials. The nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each. The challenge is based on the Circular Ocean program in the U.K. and Iceland that “aims to inspire enterprises and entrepreneurs to realize the hidden opportunities in discarded fishing nets.” The Alaska hack is sponsored by Grundens, Alpar and Saltwater Inc. “The goal is to change how people look at nets and ropes, not as a waste material but as a raw material that can be used in many ways,” said Nicole Baker, founder of and organizer of the event along with the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative. “Socks, water bottles, cell phone cases, carpets, bathing suits, sneakers, sunglasses, skateboards, rugs, bowls, frisbees, even 3-D printing and injection molds. People are becoming so creative about finding ways to reuse these plastic products,” Baker said. The Alaska challenge is aimed at artists, students, designers, business owners, engineers, recyclers and anyone interested in designing new products out of the materials. “On the first day of the challenge we will show presentations about the context and scale of the issue, the type of materials available, and some businesses that have been implemented already,” she explained. “On the second day, teams will get together and use the material and design a prototype, either physically or on a computer, that will be presented to judges to get their feedback.” A video link will connect the two locations and judges will score the projects on creativity, usefulness and scalability and follow the development over six months. “That will be supported by the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative which has several programs to assist with making small businesses and startups commercially viable,” Baker said. “If Alaska gets on board, it could be another revenue stream,” added Brian Himelbloom, a retired University of Alaska seafood specialist who is organizing the Kodiak net hack challenge with an assist by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “There are a lot of creative people in Kodiak,” he added, pointing to the Alaska Rug Company that uses fishing nets and ropes to make handwoven doormats, pot holders, baskets, bowls, signs, and more at their remote home at the decommissioned Port Bailey Cannery. The company was recently featured in HGTV magazine. Himelbloom said the groups also will reach out to local schools to attract “youngsters who are thinking about going into business.” They also are creating a net hack tool kit for remote communities interested in having their own challenges. The events will take place at the Makerspace Building in Anchorage and at the Kodiak Marine Science Center. Visit to register to attend. Meanwhile, Nicole Baker also will be in Kodiak in late August to coordinate a fishing net recycling program. It will mirror a first effort last year in Dutch Harbor that sent 40 nets weighing 240,000 pounds to a company called Plastix in Denmark where they were melted down, pelletized and resold to manufacturers of plastic products. A second shipment also is being planned at Dutch Harbor and Baker said she also has been contacted by people in Juneau, Homer, Seward and other Alaska communities who want to develop net recycling programs. The Alaska Net Hack Challenge and the recycling program have attracted the attention of Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “It was my first letter from a senator’s office,” Baker said. “I was very excited.” Fish watch Alaska’s total salmon catch has topped 88 million fish: more than 48 million are sockeyes and nearly 42 million of the reds are from Bristol Bay. Fishing is winding down there but lots of salmon is still being hauled in elsewhere, albeit slowly in most regions. The Dungeness fishery in Southeast is ongoing with a summer harvest pegged at 2.25 million pounds. Golden king crab opened along the Aleutians on Aug. 1 with a 6.3 million-pound harvest, an increase of nearly 1 million pounds for the first time in 20 years. Halibut fishermen have taken 56 percent of their nearly 20 million-pound catch limit. For sablefish, 47 percent of the nearly 26 million-pound quota has been taken. Both fisheries close Nov. 7. Fishing for cod, rockfish, flounders, pollock and other whitefish continues in the Bering Sea; likewise, in the Gulf where pollock fishing will reopen on Aug. 25. The Alaska Board of Fisheries has set an Aug. 15 deadline to receive agenda change requests for its upcoming meeting cycle. The board will take up fisheries at Bristol Bay, the Alaska Peninsula, the Arctic Yukon Kuskokwim, Aleutian Islands and Chignik from November through March. A special two-day meeting on Pacific cod takes place in early October. Finally, more genetically modified Atlantic salmon grown in Panama has made its way to undisclosed markets. Last summer, Massachusetts-based biotech firm AquaBounty sold its first five tons of “Frankenfish” to undisclosed Canadian customers. The manmade fish grows three times faster than normal salmon. AquaBounty received FDA approval this year to raise its AquAdvantage salmon at its new land-based Indiana facility, but is currently prevented from importing its genetically tweaked salmon eggs from Canada due to an “Import Alert” pending the issuance of final labeling guidelines. “We anticipate the import alert to be lifted in the second half of this year,” CEO Ronald Stotish said in a press release. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit or contact [email protected] for information.

COMMENTARY: Clarifying Endangered Species Act for modern conservation

A modern vision of conservation is one that uses federalism, public-private partnerships and market-based solutions to achieve sound stewardship. These approaches, combined with sensible regulations and the best available science, will achieve the greatest good in the longest term. Last month, the Trump administration took this approach to bringing our government’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act into the 21st century. We asked ourselves how we can enhance conservation of our most imperiled wildlife while delivering good government for our citizens. We found room for improvement in the administration of the act. When Congress created the Endangered Species Act, it built a tiered classification for our most at-risk wildlife, designing different protections for “endangered” and “threatened” species. The act was designed to give endangered species the most stringent protections while affording federal agencies the authority to tailor special rules for lower-risk, threatened species on a case-by-case basis. It may surprise most Americans, however, that the highest level of protection is often applied, regardless of the classification, through application of a “blanket rule.” The use of this rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service automatically elevates protections for threatened species to the same level as those given to endangered species. But automatically treating the threatened species as endangered places unnecessary regulatory burden on our citizens without additional benefit to the species. The blanket rule reflexively prohibits known habitat management practices, such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species. We need creative, incentive-based conservation, but that becomes impossible with the current blurring of the lines between the two distinctions. This muddle discourages collaborative conservation from the parties we most need to partner with us — states, Tribes and private landowners — ultimately harming species that can thrive with a more tailored approach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that also administers the act, understands this. NOAA has never employed a “blanket rule,” and we propose to follow this approach. The Endangered Species Act provides intensive care for the species with the greatest need in order to ensure they survive for future generations. Like with a hospital’s intensive care unit, the goal is not to keep patients there forever. The goal is recovery — to send the healthier patients home where they can continue to receive the lower level of care they still need. The criterion for admission to a hospital’s ICU is the same as it is for discharge: critical need. The same principle applies to the act, but over the years, the standards for down-listing (from endangered to threatened) and altogether delisting a species have been pushed higher than the standards for initially granting protection under the act. We are proposing to clarify that the standards for listing and delisting are identical. With limited resources, we cannot and should not keep recovered species on the list forever. We must return conservation management back to the capable hands of the states and focus our federal protections and resources on those species that need them most. These changes are just some in a series of proposals that will improve the administration of the Endangered Species Act, encouraging collaborative conservation and leveraging flexibility to incorporate innovation. We are also clarifying the meaning of certain terms that are in the act itself but not defined. For example, the law allows us to list species as threatened when they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, but it does not explain what “foreseeable future” means. We aim to provide the public and our federal agencies with a universal language that will increase regulatory certainty. In addition, we want to keep everyday Americans apprised of the impact the government’s work will have on them. We will continue to consider only the best scientific and commercial data in our listing determinations, as required by the act. But collecting data about the economic impacts of a species listing and presenting it to the public increase transparency — a hallmark of good government. This is the first step in a deliberative process. Rather than allowing special-interest groups to start and end the debate, we will give everyone — including the local voice and the rural voice — an opportunity to have their say. We have kicked off a 60-day public-comment period, after which we will evaluate the feedback and move forward, making adjustments where appropriate. Familiar faces have come out in opposition to the proposal, which is no surprise, though sadly, much of their response has been hyperbolic and unhelpful in promoting constructive discussion. But they, too, should submit their ideas, because the status quo is unacceptable for everyone — including the various species of flora and fauna that merit the act’s protection.


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