Growing pains: License delays, enforcement issues irritating marijuana businesses

KENAI — Two years after the state’s first cannabis entrepreneurs received their licenses, business owners are still wrestling with hangups in the regulatory system. Long waits for licenses, complex enforcement questions and expensive requirements are common in Alaska’s cannabis business, frustrating some entrepreneurs. For some, it boils down to what they consider unreasonable obstacles to commerce, and wasn’t what they pictured when Proposition 2 passed in 2014 to legalize recreational cannabis. As of Aug. 15, about 80 would-be licensees were waiting on review through the state Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office. Though state statutes says they should be granted in about 90 days, most of them will likely be waiting for three to five months to even be reviewed, according to a director’s report from AMCO Director Erika McConnell to the Marijuana Control Board for its upcoming Oct. 16 meeting. For Dollynda Phelps of Nikiski, who co-owns limited cultivation business Peace Frog Botanicals, that time is money. She’s been waiting on a standard cultivation license for six months now, and every one of those months, she has been paying rent on a facility for the standard cultivation business, which she’s required to prove she has as part of a complete application. “I put in my application in March and I’m still waiting, and the whole time I’m paying rent and insurance on a building I’m not using,” she said. “There are hundreds of us now, waiting.” The license wait is unacceptable, she said. After the first round of licenses were approved in June 2016, the wait time has steadily increased, occasionally topping a year. Some of that comes down to manpower. Both McConnell and her predecessor, former AMCO director Cynthia Franklin, have cited heavy workloads on a limited staff contributing to wait times. AMCO agrees that the wait is too long. In her director’s report, McConnell wrote that license examiners are spending “an inordinate amount of time” going back and forth with licensees to hammer out pieces of applications that are missing or incomplete. “This can mean that an examiner and an applicant go back and forth on their application documents multiple times,” she wrote. “Sometimes an applicant is resistant to the advice from the examiner, although the examiner is only trying to help the applicant be successful, as the examiners pay attention to what the board comments on in applications.” Staffing has been an issue since the very beginning for the marijuana licensing office, which was born out of the office and staff that previously only managed alcohol licenses and enforcement. A separate board was created, but the director and the staff remained the same with promises of future staff additions. Those staff members haven’t yet materialized, leaving the existing staff with double the work they had before, said Cary Carrigan, the executive director of the industry group the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association. Securing more staff for the office has been one of the association’s goals for a while, he said. Though the industry is raking in money and the program is supposed to cover the office and board’s expenses, the approximately $12.8 million in tax revenue collected from cultivators by the state goes to the general fund and has to be appropriated by the Legislature to the individual departments, so it doesn’t go specifically to AMCO for administering the marijuana program. So frustration mounts on both sides, with unreasonable workloads for the staff and compounding expenses for businesses still waiting on licenses, he said. “It’s my opinion and the opinion of the AMIA board that the (licensing wait time) is an undue burden,” he said. “But what’s the fix?” Licensing isn’t the only thing keeping AMCO busy, though. With the proliferation of businesses and activity, the enforcement side — which covers both alcohol and marijuana licensees — has been busy, too. At an industry meeting among Kenai Peninsula cannabis business owners and employees, many commented that current regulations are unclear, and enforcement agents award notices of violation for items the owners or employees may not have known were against the rules. Obtaining too many violations can result in penalty actions from the board or issues with renewing licenses in the future. The majority of inspections don’t result in a notice of violation, according to a report from AMCO Enforcement Supervisor James Hoelscher to the Marijuana Control Board for the Oct. 16 meeting. The number of them is declining as more business owners learn the rules and the board process, but the amount is still concerning, Carrigan said — if the federal government looks at those numbers and considers them a sign of an unruly cannabis industry, it could jeopardize the state’s control, he said. Cannabis has only been legal for recreational use in the state for a little less than four years, so public opinions are still changing, industry participants are still learning to trust regulators and enforcement officers after being illegal operators for decades, and regulators are still feeling out the best practices for monitoring the industry, Carrigan said. “(The industry members) just need to be sure we’re being heard with one voice,” he said. “A dozen people yelling form the rafters is just a cacophony … We’re trying to move incrementally forward.” The Kenai Peninsula operators have a small laundry list of other issues as well, including increased retention time for security footage, enforcement opposing the exchange of seeds — which cultivators want to use to expand their grow operations and diversify their strains — and plan to request a review of the board’s recently passed requirement for testing on all cannabis trim. The change increases costs for operators by requiring an additional testing fee. Most trim is reprocessed into another product that will also be tested for quality and safety, so the operators feel it’s unnecessary. Phelps said the burden will affect limited cultivation operations significantly, as they don’t have the economy of scale to absorb the cost. And when they can’t swallow the cost, they go under or pass the cost to consumers, which pushes prices up and may encourage them to go back toward the black market for cannabis, where it is not tested or tracked. The Marijuana Control Board will meet Oct. 16-17 in Kenai at 145 Main Street Loop. ^ Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Sept. 23

Bobbie Sue Wolk, MS, PCC, BCC, owner of Rosewood Coaching, and the first International Coaching Federation executive coach in the state of Alaska, recently passed the Health and Wellness Coach Certifying Examination to become National Board Certified for Health and Wellness Coaches. The exam is provided by the Int’l Consortium of Health &Wellness Coaching in partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners, the same board that certifies physicians. Wolk is able to establish health and wellness corporate programs, and increase participation for those companies with already established programs. Donald “Ralph” Gibbs was appointed as the new director of the Municipality of Anchorage’s Merrill Field, effective Sept. 24. Gibbs comes to the MOA from the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he’s served as the director of Aviation since 2016. He has more than 30 years of experience in the field — both civilian and military — and holds an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Central Council of Tlingit &Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska announced that Executive Council 5th Vice President Ralph Wolfe and Cultural Heritage and Education Manager Sarah Dybdahl have been selected by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development to receive the prestigious “Native American 40 Under 40” award. Wolfe was born and raised in Craig on Prince of Wales Island. He is both Tlingit and Haida and his Tlingit name is Góos’k’ and he is Eagle Frog of the Kooskadee clan. Prior to being elected to the Executive Council in 2016, Wolfe served as Tlingit &Haida’s youth representative and Sealaska’s youth advisor. Wolfe has been a Tlingit &Haida Delegate since 2014 and represents the Tribe on the United States Forest Service Sea Otter Steering Committee, Indigenous People’s Council for Marine Mammals and Rural Alaska Community Action Program Inc. Dybdahl grew up in Klawock and holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Southern Oregon University. Her Tlingit name is Aanshawatk’i and she is from the Taakw.aaneidi clan. Dybdahl formerly served as the executive director of Huna Heritage Foundation as well as on the Alaska Federation of Natives board of directors as the Southeast Village Representative and Native Americans in Philanthropy Board. She worked more than 15 years in various capacities for Sealaska and Sealaska Heritage Institute and currently serves on the Klawock Heenya Corporation board of directors. Alaska Executive Search announced two new hires for staffing professionals. Drew Sharp arrived in Alaska from Washington State, where he worked as a case manager and a healthcare recruiter. He earned his degree in psychology from the University of California Santa Cruz. A fourth-generation Alaskan, Stevie Collins was hired for the Mat-Su Valley. She has more than 10 years of medical experience working in multiple specialties. Tiffany Tutiakoff, president and CEO of Anchorage-based communications firm Northwest Strategies, has been named as a 2018 winner of the Native American 40 Under 40 award. Award winners will be honored at the River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa, Okla. on Oct. 29-30 at the event, “Impacting Generations: Honoring a Decade of Exceptional Service and Leadership.” Tutiakoff was named to the Alaska Journal of Commerce Top Forty Under 40 in 2013.

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.

ExxonMobil signs gasline agreements with state

Two out of three ain’t bad, but there is still a lot of work ahead for the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. The state agency in charge of putting together the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project signed a gas sales precedent agreement with ExxonMobil on Sept. 10, meaning two of the three major North Slope natural gas holders have now agreed to key gas pricing and volume terms with AGDC. Those exact terms are confidential, but Gov. Bill Walker said in a formal statement the agreement “means Alaska is one step closer to monetizing the North Slope’s vast and proven natural gas resources.” ExxonMobil operates the Point Thomson gas field and holds a 62 percent stake in the unit (with BP owning nearly all of the remaining share), which sits east of Prudhoe Bay on state land near the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The company also holds a 36 percent interest in the Prudhoe Bay field. With roughly 28 trillion cubic feet of gas available from Prudhoe and another 8 tcf in Point Thomson, ExxonMobil has rights to nearly 15 tcf of North Slope gas. “This precedent agreement is good for Alaska and ExxonMobil and represents a significant milestone to help advance the state-led gasline project,” ExxonMobil Alaska President Darlene Gates said in an AGDC release. “As the largest holder of discovered gas resources on the North Slope, ExxonMobil has been working for decades to tackle the challenges of bringing Alaska’s gas to market.” The announcement with ExxonMobil means ConocoPhillips is the only major North Slope producer to not yet sign a preliminary gas deal with AGDC. BP and AGDC reached a similar agreement in early May on binding price and volume terms; however, there are numerous finer financial and technical points to be addressed before final gas sales agreements are signed. ExxonMobil’s gas sales precedent agreement — like BP’s — calls for gas to be sold into to the large North Slope gas treatment plant that would be the start of the 807-mile gas pipeline and LNG export project. AGDC spokesman Jesse Carlstrom said the state-owned corporation is actively engaged in similar discussions with ConocoPhillips. Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack said in an interview that final gas sales agreements would likely be signed nearly in concurrence with a final investment decision on the overall Alaska LNG Project. “It brings the firepower and brand name of ExxonMobil to the project,” Mack said as AGDC officials begin their major push to attract third-party investors to the project. In a separate but related development, Mack and Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth also signed what is being called a “letter of understanding” with ExxonMobil and BP Alaska leaders on Sept. 10 to suspend key provisions of the 2012 Point Thomson Settlement Agreement as they work on Alaska LNG. The letter removes the requirement for ExxonMobil, as the Point Thomson operator, to move forward with a plan to expand production at the field in a way that doesn’t jive with feeding the LNG project. Before ExxonMobil signed the letter with the state, the 2012 Settlement Agreement signed by then-DNR Commissioner and current Sen. Dan Sullivan required the company to make a final decision on how to increase production at Point Thomson by Dec. 31, 2019. Specifically, it prescribes that the company choose to either increase production at Point Thomson to more than 50,000 barrels per day of natural gas liquids, or condensates, and pipe up to 920 million cubic feet of natural gas per day into Prudhoe Bay, or simply grow condensate production to 20,000 barrels per day and reinject the gas into the Point Thomson reservoir. The current Point Thomson facilities have a production capacity of about 10,000 barrels of condensates and 200 million cubic feet of gas per day. However, the technical challenges of producing gas from and reinjecting into the ultra-high pressure field have hampered ExxonMobil’s production ability. A third, untenable option would be for ExxonMobil and BP to relinquish the leases back to the state, but that would seem unlikely given they spent upwards of $4 billion between 2012 and 2016 to develop the gas field in accordance with the settlement. In July 2017, ExxonMobil submitted a long-range development plan to the Division of Oil and Gas outlining plans to pipe gas more than 60 miles to Prudhoe for injection into the oil field to aide in oil recovery. That plan was initially rejected, but eventually approved by state regulators. Despite that, the Point Thomson development was always meant to feed a large gas project. Some former state officials and Alaska LNG experts have questioned the economics of piping Point Thomson gas to Prudhoe. Mack characterized all the settlement alternatives other than a major gas project as “suboptimal” for the state and the companies, noting the prospect of moving and injecting gas into Prudhoe is not as attractive as it seemed in 2012. With the Sept. 10 letter, the state retains the ability to reinstate the 2012 Settlement provisions at any time, Mack said, stressing that the preferred option is for the companies to help the state be successful with the Alaska LNG Project. “The whole idea is to redirect the (Point Thomson) project back to major gas sales,” he said. If at some point state officials decide Alaska LNG is not going to be successful or ExxonMobil backs away from it, the settlement provisions can be brought back with a 30-month window for the company to comply. Mack said the extra time — versus the 16 months between now and the end of December 2019 — is to allow ExxonMobil to restart its Point Thomson expansion engineering team and work out other related issues with the state. The engineers that have been working on that project will hopefully be put towards advancing the Alaska LNG Project, he said. Mack added that the gas sales precedent agreement and the letter “are definitely related,” noting the signing of the former is a significant show of commitment by ExxonMobil to the state-led LNG project. “This is another critically important step, but there’s many more steps in this process,” Mack said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Sept. 9

Veteran athletics administrator Sterling Steward has been chosen as the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ new director of intercollegiate athletics, effective Oct. 8. Steward replaces Gary Gray, who resigned as head of the Alaska Nanooks in December. Steward comes to the Nanooks after serving the past seven years as the director of athletics at Savannah State University, an NCAA Division I program in Georgia. Steward was chosen from a nationwide pool of applicants and was among four finalists who visited the UAF campus this summer. Steward earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human performance and recreation at the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to working at SSU, Steward worked in the athletics departments at Mississippi Valley State University, Alabama State University, Kentucky State University, Eastern Oregon University and Xavier University. Corey E. Cooke was appointed as the regional administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration Northwest/Arctic Region. Cooke has been serving as acting regional administrator for the Northwest/Arctic Region since April 2018. As regional administrator, Cooke will continue to oversee all of GSA’s operations in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, including the management of federal real estate and information technology. Cooke will also be responsible for an inventory of more than 500 government-owned or leased buildings, and overseeing more than 400 employees. Cooke served in GSA’s central office as senior advisor for cyber and technology before being named acting regional administrator. Prior to joining GSA, Cooke served in several positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, including as counsel and deputy parliamentarian for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and counsel on the Committee on Small Business. Cooke earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a juris doctor from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Longtime Fairbanks resident Theresa Bakker has been named the new University of Alaska Fairbanks alumni relations director, effective Sept. 10. She will also serve as the executive director of the UAF Alumni Association. Before accepting her new position at UAF, Bakker served as the marketing and communications manager at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. She has also worked as a producer for KUAC, the public broadcasting station owned and operated by UAF, and as a journalist for a variety of print and broadcast media. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Pennsylvania and a master of fine arts degree in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University. Bakker takes over for former alumni relations director Kate Ripley, who resigned in May.

Candidate swap launches Republican write-in campaign against LeDoux

A planned write-in campaign by the Alaska Republican Party against incumbent Republican state Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux began Tuesday with a candidate swap. Jake Sloan, a general contractor who lives in Muldoon, said Sept. 4 he plans to run against LeDoux as a write-in candidate in the November election for her East Anchorage state house seat. Sloan is replacing Aaron Weaver, the first-time political candidate who did little campaigning but nearly beat LeDoux in a primary election shrouded in questions of voting irregularities, particularly with absentee ballots. Weaver said he’d been overwhelmed by media attention the past two weeks, ever since the state Division of Elections confirmed it was investigating the irregularities. Questions have surrounded the efforts of the LeDoux campaign to reach out to minority voters in the district. LeDoux is at odds with the state Republican Party, and party officials pledged a write-in campaign. Weaver said he had expected his first campaign would be far more straightforward, and he hasn’t expected a chance at winning. “To have this experience right out of the gate was quite shocking for me,” Weaver said. Weaver said he was happy to “pass the baton” to Sloan. Both men filed earlier this year to run against LeDoux. They said they both believed LeDoux should have a Republican challenger, and generally shared ideas about supporting repeal of the criminal justice reform law, Senate Bill 91, and restoring the Permanent Fund to its original calculation. Since his contracting job took him out of town much of the summer, Sloan said they agreed Weaver should run. After the primary election, with Weaver deciding he would prefer to drop out, state GOP chair Tuckerman Babcock contacted Sloan and asked if he would run, according to Weaver and Sloan. Sloan has lived in East Anchorage with his wife and three children for five years. He said he planned to immediately start knocking on doors and introducing himself to voters. Weaver said he wouldn’t rule out running again in 2020, but that it was too early to say.

BULLETIN: Pogo mine sells; initiative hearings set; concerns over Donlin, Navy exercises

Australia-based company buys Pogo mine from Sumitomo FAIRBANKS (AP) — Ownership of a large gold mine southeast of Fairbanks is being transferred to an Australia-based gold mining company. Japan-based Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. and Sumitomo Corp. are transferring full ownership of the underground mine in Delta Junction to Northern Star Resources Ltd., receiving $260 million in compensation for the transfer, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported last week. The companies have agreed to the deal that’s expected to go through in October, the companies said in a joint statement. “By investing in exploration and development, we are confident we can grow the inventory, production and mine life for the benefit of the mine’s employees, contractors, the local community and our shareholders,” said Bill Beament, the executive chairman of Northern Star. The mine produces about 300,000 ounces of gold each year, resulting in more than 3.8 million ounces mined since opening in 2006. It employs 320 direct workers and about 150 contractors. The mine’s current life expectancy runs through 2020. Northern Star is planning to invest in a “targeted intensive drilling program” to extend the mine’s life, according to company documents. Pogo Mine spokeswoman Wendie MacNaughton declined to say why Sumitomo decided to divest its interest in the mine, but noted it had put Pogo up for sale. “They (Northern Star) are going to maintain continuity of operations and employees exactly as it is now,” MacNaughton said. State sets public hearing schedule for Alaska ballot measure JUNEAU (AP) — Public hearings have been scheduled on a ballot initiative that supporters say would protect Alaska salmon. Opponents of the measure, however, say it could hinder resource development. According to a notice issued by the state, the first hearing will be Sept. 7 in Juneau. Additional hearings will be held in Kotzebue, Nome, Anchorage, Sitka, Fairbanks, Bethel and Dillingham. A statewide, teleconference-only session also is planned. The notice states that public testimony will be taken. People also can submit written comments. State law calls for at least two public hearings in each Alaska judicial district on a scheduled ballot initiative. Each hearing is to include written or oral testimony of one supporter of the initiative and one opponent. The so-called Stand for Salmon initiative will appear on November’s general election ballot. Bethel-area residents question aftermath of gold mine BETHEL (AP) — How a massive gold mine proposed in western Alaska will clean up after itself and pay for it were the topics of a public meeting in Bethel. More than two dozen people expressed their views Aug. 28 about the proposed Donlin Gold mine at the meeting requested by the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Alliance, KYUK-AM reported. The Bethel-based organization opposes the open-pit mining project, which is planned for a site 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the village of Crooked Creek in the Upper Kuskokwim River drainage. The project is proposed for lands owned by The Kuskokwim Corp. and Calista Corp. The meeting was to focus on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft approval of the plans for reclaiming the mine site and its financial assurances. The mine will be required by state law to pay $317 million for the cleanup and land restoration efforts. The mine expects to operate for at least 27 years. Area residents voiced skepticism about the amount, questioning who would pay for the cleanup if the mine goes bankrupt and the state can’t cover the cost. “This is a subsistence economy,” said Alyssa Rogers, a co-founder of the river alliance. “It always will be and it always has been.” Voicing opposition to the mine, William Charlie Brown, an Elder from Eek, said that if a mining accident were to occur, it could contaminate the Kuskokwim River — a vital food source for the region. The Kuskokwim Corp. consulted with independent experts and worked with the mine, the state and Calista Corp. to form the current reclamation plans, said Maver Carey, CEO of The Kuskokwim Corporation. “Responsible economic development is a critical factor for our corporation,” Carey said. “Responsibly developing our land and natural resources was what our forefathers and founders identified when selecting lands, including mineral rich lands, for the betterment of all TKC shareholders.” Northern Edge military exercises in Alaska planned for May KODIAK (AP) — The U.S. military has scheduled its exercises in the Gulf of Alaska for the spring, despite calls for the trainings to be moved to the fall. The U.S. Pacific Command’s 2019 Northern Edge exercises, which involve participation from all military services and other agency partners, are planned for May 13-24, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported. The exercises that are held every other year are expected to involve more than 6,000 service members, 200 aircraft, and multiple Navy destroyers and Coast Guard cutters. The exercises allow the military to hone its current abilities and “test future applications of combat operations and weapons capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Sgt. George Maddon said. Some of the exercises involve live munitions. Alaska municipalities and preservation groups have opposed the exercises in recent years, citing concerns the event could harm aquatic wildlife and the environment. The Kodiak Island Borough passed a resolution last year, calling for the training to be moved to after September “when overall marine mammal, fish and migratory bird abundances are lower.” The Eyak Preservation Council based in Cordova has also opposed the event. “The issues are that explosive munitions and high-powered sonar can impact fish, sea mammals and seabirds, especially at times of the year when migratory species are present,” said Carol Hoover, the organization’s executive director. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski requested in 2017 for the military to consider moving the 2019 event to the fall. The Navy’s environmental assessment in 2016 determined the impact on fish and marine mammals would be minimal, Maddon said. “The survey determined most species do not have the capacity to hear sonar,” Maddon said, adding that those species that can hear sonar “would need to be very close to the sonar source for a duration of time that is highly unlikely.” Most of the exercises involve flying over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Maddon said. The effects from explosives would be contained to where the detonation occurs, he said. “The impact of explosives within any of these exercises is pretty limited,” Maddon said.

FERC shaves a month off timeline for Alaska LNG decision

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Aug. 31 moved up by one month its schedule for the Alaska LNG project’s environmental impact statement and commission decision. FERC now expects to issue the project’s draft impact statement in February 2019, instead of March, assuming the state-led project team provides “complete and timely responses to any future data requests” and cooperating regulatory agencies “provide input on their areas of responsibility on a timely basis.” The commission’s Aug. 31 notice set Nov. 8, 2019, for issuance of the project’s final EIS, a month earlier than the Dec. 9, 2019, schedule issued in March of this year. Under the revised timeline, FERC’s deadline to decide on the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. application would be no later than Feb. 6, 2020, instead of the original timeline of March 8, 2020. AGDC filed its application with FERC in April 2017. Commission authorization is required to build and operate an onshore natural gas liquefaction plant and export terminal in the United States. The state corporation took over the project almost two years ago after North Slope oil and gas producers ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips declined to proceed with spending the hundreds of millions of dollars required over the next couple of years on permitting and further engineering for the project. As proposed by the state, the $43 billion venture would pipe North Slope gas 807 miles to a liquefaction plant and marine terminal at Nikiski, on the Kenai Peninsula. The location of the LNG plant, however, is contentious, and will be considered in the federal EIS. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has intervened in the FERC proceeding to promote its Port MacKenzie as a better site than Nikiski, and the city of Valdez also has filed as an intervenor in support of its community as a better option. The Kenai Peninsula Borough earlier this month told FERC that it, too, wants intervenor status to protect its interests. • The state-led project team is nearing the end of its work assignments from FERC, submitting more details Aug. 15 of project design and operations. The filing provided more information on:The project’s preferred three-mile route to relocate the Kenai Spur Highway around the LNG plant site for safety and security reasons. • A noise analysis of the new Kenai Spur Highway route. • Alternatives for routing several miles of the 42-inch-diameter gas pipeline just inside the eastern edge of Denali National Park and Preserve rather than running the pipe through a steep hillside outside the park boundary. • Sediment transport modeling to help predict how open-cut installation of the gas pipeline across waterways could affect fish habitat in 11 anadromous streams selected by federal regulators for further review. • Visual impacts at five selected sites along the pipeline route near Denali National Park and Preserve. • Turbidity in Cook Inlet that would be stirred up by dredging — and disposal of dredged material — required for construction and operation of a barge landing and ship dock that would be used for offloading equipment at Nikiski. In addition to fulfilling FERC’s data requests, the state corporation continues working toward possible gas supply agreements with North Slope producers, long-term sales contracts for the project’s output, financing and lining up investors for the venture, which would produce 20 million tonnes of LNG at full capacity. AGDC expects to spend about $4 million per month of state funds during the fiscal year that started July 1. The corporation is planning what it calls its “equity road show” for later this year and early 2019 to introduce and promote the project with potential investors. Goldman Sachs and the Bank of China are assisting AGDC in that effort. ^ Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.

Kavanaugh stresses independence amid Democrat-led disruptions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly stressed the importance of judicial independence on the second day of his confirmation hearing Sept. 5 as he faced questioning from senators, including Democrats who fear he would be President Donald Trump’s man on the high court. But he declined to address whether Trump could be subpoenaed or could pardon himself. Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, on whether he would be independent from the president who nominated him, Kavanaugh responded, “No one is above the law.” But asked later by the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, whether a president can be required to respond to a subpoena, Kavanaugh said, “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.” The Supreme Court has never answered that question, and it is among the most important at Kavanaugh’s hearing since Trump could face a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Kavanaugh also refused to say whether he thinks a president can pardon himself — or provide a pardon in exchange for a bribe or pardon someone on the understanding that the person wouldn’t testify against the president. “I’m not going to answer hypothetical questions of that sort,” Kavanaugh said, responding to questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Day two of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began much as the first with protesters often interrupting proceedings. More than a dozen protesters hauled out of the hearing room shouting objections to Kavanaugh’s nomination. Despite interruptions, senators plunged into their initial opportunity to publicly question Kavanaugh in what was expected to be a marathon day of examination. The hearing has strong political overtones ahead of the November election, but Democrats lack the votes to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. They fear Kavanaugh will push the court to the right on abortion, guns and other issues, and that he will side with Trump in cases stemming from Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign. Addressing some of those concerns, Kavanaugh said that “the first thing that makes a good judge is independence, not being swayed by political or public pressure.” He cited historic court cases including Brown v. Board of Education that desegregated schools and U.S. v. Nixon that compelled the president to turn over the Watergate tapes — a ruling that Kavanaugh had previously questioned. “That takes some backbone,” he said of the justices who decided those cases. Asked about court precedents, the importance of previously settled cases including the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that ensures access to abortion, Kavanaugh said, “Respect for precedent is important. … Precedent is rooted right in the Constitution itself.” Kavanaugh noted that Roe was reaffirmed in a 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He likened it to another controversial, landmark Supreme Court decision, the Miranda ruling about the rights of criminal suspects. Kavanaugh said the court specifically reaffirmed both decisions in later cases that made them “precedent on precedent.” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Kavanaugh for hiring female lawyers as his clerks as a judge on the District of Columbia court of appeals, and then posed questions about whether Kavanaugh was aware of sexual harassment allegations against retired circuit court Judge Alex Kozinski in California. Kavanaugh had clerked for Kozinski in the early 1990s and considered the judge a friend and mentor. Kavanaugh said he had known nothing about the allegations until they were disclosed last year. “It was a gut punch for me,” he said, and he was “shocked, disappointed, angry.” Asked about an email list Kozinski allegedly used to send offensive material, Kavanaugh said: “I don’t remember anything like that.” Trump nominated Kavanaugh, 53, to fill the seat of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. The change could make the court more conservative on a range of issues. Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh in time for the first day of the new Supreme Court term, Oct. 1. In stressing his independence, Kavanaugh pushed back against suggestions that after his time on independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s team investigating Bill Clinton in the 1990s, he no longer believes a sitting president should be investigated. He said his views did shift after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but his ideas about revisiting the special counsel law were merely suggestions. “They were some ideas for Congress to consider. They were not my constitutional views,” he told the panel. Pressed by Feinstein on his comment several years ago that U.S. v. Nixon might have been wrongly decided, he said his quote — shown on a poster above the senator — was “not in context” and “I have repeatedly called U.S. v. Nixon one of the four greatest moments in court history.” The judge’s work in the George W. Bush White House also has figured in the hearing, particularly as Democratic senators have fought for greater access to his emails and other documents during his three years as staff secretary. Republicans have declined to seek those papers, and instead have gathered documents from his work as White House counsel to Bush. Democrats, including several senators poised for 2020 presidential bids, tried to block the proceedings on Sept. 4 in a dispute over the records. Republicans in turn accused the Democrats of turning the hearing into a circus. Trump jumped into the fray, saying on Twitter that Democrats were “looking to inflict pain and embarrassment” on Kavanaugh. The president’s comment followed the statements of Democratic senators who warned that Trump was, in the words of Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, “selecting a justice on the Supreme Court who potentially will cast a decisive vote in his own case.” The most likely outcome of this week’s hearings is a vote along party lines to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Majority Republicans can confirm Kavanaugh without any Democratic votes, though they’ll have little margin for error. One of several red-state Democrats watched as potentially voting for Kavanaugh, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined the hearing in the audience for a while. He is up for re-election this fall. Republicans will hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate once Jon Kyl, the former Arizona senator, is sworn in to fill the seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two Republicans even remotely open to voting against Kavanaugh, though neither has said she would do so. Abortion rights supporters are trying to appeal to those senators, who both favor abortion access. Democrats lead disruption of hearing “There are battles worth fighting, regardless of the outcome,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in an unsparing opening statement that criticized Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions and the Senate process that Democrats said had deprived them of access to records of important chunks of Kavanaugh’s time as an aide to President George W. Bush. Democrats raised objections from the moment Grassley gaveled the committee to order. One by one, Democrats, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, all potential presidential contenders, demanded that Republicans delay the hearing. They railed against the unusual vetting process by Republicans that failed to include documents from three years Kavanaugh worked in the Bush administration, and 100,000 more pages withheld by the Trump White House. Some 42,000 pages were released on the evening before of the hearing. “We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman, with this hearing,” said Harris at the top of proceedings. Grassley disagreed. As protesters repeatedly interrupted the session, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is fighting for his own re-election in Texas, apologized to Kavanaugh for the spectacle he said had less to do about the judge’s legal record than Trump in the White House. “It is about politics,” said Cruz. “It is about Democratic senators re-litigating the 2016 election.” The Republicans’ slim majority in the Senate was bolstered during the hearing by the announcement from Arizona that Gov. Doug Ducey was appointing Jon Kyl, the former senator, to fill the seat held by the late Sen. John McCain. When Kyl is sworn in, Republicans will hold 51 of the 100 seats. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two Republicans even remotely open to voting against Kavanaugh, though neither has said she would do so. Abortion rights supporters are trying to appeal to those senators, who both favor abortion access. Kavanaugh sat silently and impassively for most of the day, occasionally sipping water and taking notes on senators’ points. Besides his family, he was accompanied by outgoing White House Counsel Don McGahn and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Several dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points and were removed by police. “This is a mockery and a travesty of justice,” shouted one woman. “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!” Others shouted against the president or to protect abortion access. “Senators, we need to stop this,” called out one. As patience thinned and tempers flared, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, denounced what he called the “mob rule.” Struggling to speak over protesters, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, “These people are so out of line they shouldn’t be in the doggone room.” U.S. Capitol Police reported that 61 people were removed from the committee room and charged with disorderly conduct. Nine more demonstrators were removed from another Senate office building and charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Kavanaugh the opposition being shown at the hearing reflected the concern many Americans have over Trump’s “contempt of the rule of law” and the judge’s own expansive views on executive power. “It’s that president who’s decided you are his man,” Durbin said. “Are people nervous about this concerned about this? Of course they are.” Feinstein described the hearing’s “very unique circumstances.” “Not only is the country deeply divided politically, we also find ourselves with a president who faces his own serious problems,” she said referring to investigations surrounding Trump. “So it’s this backdrop that this nominee comes into.” Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko and Ken Thomas contributed.

Trade talks with Canada proceed after Trump comments leak

WASHINGTON (AP) — Talks to keep Canada in a North American trade bloc broke up Aug. 31 and will resume next week with the two longtime allies divided over such issues as Canada’s dairy market and U.S. efforts to shield drug companies from generic competition. President Donald Trump notified Congress on Aug. 31 that he plans to sign an agreement in 90 days with Mexico to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement — and hopes Canada can brought on board, too. Congress eventually would have to approve any agreement. The U.S. and Mexico reached a deal on Aug. 27 that excluded Canada. The top Canadian trade envoy, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, then hurried to Washington for talks aimed at preserving Canada’s membership in the regional trade agreement. But Freeland couldn’t break an impasse in four days of negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The U.S.-Canada talks will resume Wednesday. The negotiations had taken an odd turn for the worse Friday over news that President Donald Trump had told Bloomberg News that he wasn’t willing to make any concessions to Canada. Trump said he wanted the remarks to remain off-the-record; otherwise, the president said, “it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal.” The comments were leaked to the Toronto Star, and on Friday afternoon, Trump took to Twitter to angrily confirm the Star’s report: “Wow, I made OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS to Bloomberg concerning Canada, and this powerful understanding was BLATANTLY VIOLATED. Oh well, just more dishonest reporting. I am used to it. At least Canada knows where I stand!” Freeland tried to brush off the controversy in a news conference. “My negotiating counterparty is Ambassador Lighthizer,” she said. “He has brought good faith and good will to the table.” “It is Trump’s bluster at best, but obviously he is not going to force anyone into a bad deal,” said Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian private-sector union Unifor. “It is clear the U.S. economy is much bigger than ours, but trying to embarrass the Canadian team, trying to insult Canadians, is not going to get him anywhere.” Still, Freeland expressed confidence that Canada could reach a deal with the United States on a revamped trade accord that could please all sides. “We know a win-win-win agreement is within reach,” she said. Some questioned the Trump administration’s hardball approach — cutting a deal with Mexico and pressing Canada to comply or risk being left out. “The approach the Trump administration has taken — ‘my way or the highway’ — doesn’t seem designed to get to yes,” said Michael Camunez, CEO of Monarch Global Strategies who served in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department. Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a White House economist under President George W. Bush, added, “The president’s approach of brinksmanship is so far not very successful in international agreements.” The 24-year-old NAFTA tore down most trade barriers dividing the United States, Mexico and Canada. Trade between the three countries surged. But many manufacturers responded to the agreement by moving factories south of the border to take advantage of low Mexican wages, then shipping goods north to the United States and Canada. Trump has charged that the deal wiped out American factory jobs. He has vowed to negotiate a better deal — or withdraw from NAFTA altogether. Talks on a new trade deal started a year ago but bogged down over U.S. demands, including some meant to return manufacturing to the United States. A few weeks ago, the United States began negotiating with Mexico, leaving Canada on the sidelines. Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto wanted to sign a deal before he left office Dec. 1. The deal announced Aug. 27 would, among many other things, require that 40 percent to 45 percent of a car be made in a North American country where auto workers made at least $16 an hour — that is, not in Mexico — before qualifying for duty-free status. Canada doesn’t have much of an objection to the auto provisions of the U.S.-Mexican deal, which would benefit Canadian workers, too. Ottawa does have other complaints. Neither U.S. nor Canadian negotiators are talking publicly about the issues that divide them. But Daniel Ujczo, a trade attorney of the law firm Dickinson Wright in Columbus, Ohio, and others say the flashpoints include trade barriers that protect Canadian dairy farmers and Ottawa’s insistence on keeping NAFTA provisions for resolving disputes. Also nettlesome is a provision in the U.S.-Mexico deal that shields U.S. makers of biologics — ultra-expensive drugs produced in living cells — from generic competition for 10 years instead of the eight Canada is willing to live with: The Canadians fear the protection will drive up drug prices and make their government health care system more costly. The Trump administration had insisted that it wanted a deal by Aug. 31, beginning a 90-day countdown that would let Mexico’s Nieto sign the pact before leaving office. But under U.S. trade rules, the U.S. team doesn’t have to make public the text of the revamped agreement for 30 additional days, buying more time to reach a deal with the Canadians. Denise Bode, a partner at the Michael Best Strategies consulting firm, downplayed the importance of deadlines. “If they’re making progress, they’ll continue to work until they get a resolution or realize they can’t reach a resolution,” she said. Freeland likewise shrugged off the time constraints. “For Canada, the focus is on getting a good deal,” she said, “and once we get a good deal for Canada, we will be done.” Lighthizer’s statement Aug. 31 said Trump intends to sign a new trade deal with Mexico, whether or not Canada is part of it. But it might not be that easy. When the Trump administration notified Congress last year that it intended to renegotiate NAFTA, critics note that it said it would enter talks with both Canada and Mexico. It’s unclear whether the Trump team even has authority to reach a pact with just one of those countries. And Congress, which has to approve any NAFTA rewrite, might refuse to endorse a deal that excludes Canada. “There is no NAFTA without Canada,” said John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, a trade group. “Auto rules included in the understanding reached between the United States and Mexico are predicated on Canada’s participation.” Even while gripped in negotiations with Mexico and now Canada over a new North American trade pact, the administration has been fighting major trading partners on other fronts. The president has imposed wide-ranging tariffs that, he argues, will help protect American workers and force U.S. trading partners to stop exploiting trade deals that are unfair to the United States. Since March, for example, Trump’s team has applied new tariffs of up to 25 percent on nearly $85 billion worth of steel and aluminum on the grounds that these imports pose a threat to America’s national security. The administration has also applied taxes to $50 billion in Chinese products, mostly goods used in manufacturing. And it’s considering slapping tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports after a public comment period ends Sept. 6. Unlike the previous Chinese imports subject to U.S. tariffs, this larger group of goods includes parts and materials that U.S. companies depend on, along with consumer goods. These tariffs are the administration’s response to its charges that Beijing uses predatory tactics to try to supplant U.S. technological supremacy. Beijing’s tactics include cyber-theft and a requirement that American companies hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to China’s market. ^ Gillies reported from Toronto. AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber contributed to this story.

US-Mexico trade deal a Trump win to pressure Canada

President Donald Trump on Aug. 27 announced an agreement that he said would replace NAFTA, an almost 25-year-old deal that allows most goods produced in North America to move duty-free across the continent. Pointedly, the deal excludes Canada, one of the three original North American Free Trade Agreement signatories. All three had been working on a new deal since last August, but recently Mexico and the U.S. began negotiating on their own. Although Trump said he hoped Canada would join the new U.S.-Mexico agreement, he threatened Canada with new auto tariffs if it didn’t “negotiate fairly.” As an expert on international economic law, I believe there are two key takeaways from this deal. A tentative deal designed to pressure Canada First of all, it does not appear that the U.S. and Mexico have actually concluded negotiations. The United States Trade Representative said only that they’ve reached a “preliminary agreement in principle, subject to finalization and implementation.” Therefore, details and legal language remain subject to further negotiation — which means the final agreement could change significantly. Moreover, a new trade agreement with Mexico would require Congress to pass implementing legislation by a majority of both houses before it could come into force. Absent a signed agreement, the Trump administration cannot ask Congress for that legislation. In addition, Trump threatened to terminate NAFTA to clear the way for the new agreement. But it is unclear whether the president has the legal authority to do so without congressional approval, and his lead trade negotiator later said the United States would not withdraw. Even if Trump were to withdraw from the accord, the legislation implementing NAFTA would remain in effect until Congress repeals it. It’s more likely that the new deal and Trump’s threat to terminate NAFTA are designed to increase pressure on Canada to reach an agreement on his terms. Trump’s triumph? The agreement does appear to resolve — at least between Mexico and the U.S. — two contentious issues that would represent big wins for the Trump administration. For instance, under NAFTA, cars exported from one signatory to the next are free of tariffs as long as 62.5 percent of their content comes from a country in the agreement. The new deal would increase that to 75 percent. It would also require that 40 percent to 45 percent be made by workers earning at least US$16. Officials have said that the agreement would remain in force for 16 years, with a review every six. NAFTA, in contrast, doesn’t have an expiry date. Mexico and Canada both initially opposed including a sunset provision. Although much could change in negotiating the final language and Canada’s participation, these compromises would represent significant victories for Trump. The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts provided through the Associated Press.

Now with power to long rule China, Xi beset by challenges

BEIJING (AP) — As China’s leaders gather for their annual Yellow Sea retreat, the country’s political waters are looking choppy. Chinese President and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping is beset by economic, foreign policy and domestic political challenges just months after clearing his way to rule for as long as he wants as China’s most dominant leader since Mao Zedong. Mounting criticism of the Xi administration’s policies has exposed the risks he faces from amassing so much power: He’s made himself a natural target for blame. “Having concentrated power, Xi is responsible for all policy setbacks and policy failures,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired City University of Hong Kong professor and long-time observer of Chinese politics. Notably, Xi used to dominate state-run newspapers’ front pages and the state broadcaster CCTV’s news bulletins on a daily basis but has in recent weeks made fewer public appearances. “He can’t shift the blame, so he’s responding by taking a lower profile,” Cheng said. The challenges so far aren’t seen as a threat to Xi’s grip on power, but for many Chinese, the government’s credibility is on the line. Of greatest concern to many is the trade war with the U.S. that threatens higher tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese exports. Critics say they’ve yet to see a coherent strategy from Beijing that could guide negotiations with Washington and avoid a major blow to the economy. Beijing instead seems to be opting for defiance and retaliatory measures of its own. Both the stock market and the currency have weakened in response and the Communist Party itself conceded at a meeting last month that external factors were weighing heavily on economic growth. At the same time, a scandal over vaccines has reignited long-held fears over the integrity of the health care industry and the government’s ability to police the sprawling firms that dominate the economy. “Trust is the most important thing and a loss of public confidence in the government could be devastating,” said Zhang Ming, a retired professor of political science in Beijing. And last week, the authorities mobilized a massive security effort to squelch a planned protest in Beijing over the sudden collapse of hundreds of peer-to-peer borrowing schemes that underscore the government’s inability to reform the finance system to cater to small investors. Meanwhile, Xi’s signature project, the trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative to build investment and infrastructure links with 65 nations, is running into headwinds over sticker shock among the countries involved. Some Chinese have also questioned the wisdom of sending vast sums abroad at a time when millions of Chinese remain mired in poverty. That in part plays into concerns over Xi’s abandonment of the highly pragmatic, low-key cautious approach to foreign relations advocated by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic reforms that laid the groundwork for today’s relative prosperity. Leaders are likely to discuss at least some of these challenges during informal discussions at the Beidaihe resort in Hebei province as part of a tradition begun under Mao. Xi and others generally drop out of sight for two weeks or more during the summer session. Xi’s mildly bombastic brand of Chinese triumphalism “has not been popular with many in the party,” leading critics to speak out, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Some have even called for the sacking of one prominent proponent of the rising China theme, Tsinghua University economist Hu Angang, with 27 graduates of the elite institution signing a letter to that effect. Resentment lingers also over Xi’s moves to consolidate power, including pushing through the removal of presidential term limits in March and establishing a burgeoning cult of personality. That resentment was given voice in a lengthy jeremiad titled “Imminent Fears, Imminent Hopes” penned by Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun, who warned that, “Yet again people throughout China … are feeling a sense of uncertainty, a mounting anxiety in relation both to the direction the country is taking as well as in regard to their personal security.” “These anxieties have generated something of a nationwide panic,” Xu continued before listing eight areas of concern including stricter controls over ideology, repression of the intelligentsia, excessive foreign aid and “The End of Reform and the Return of Totalitarianism.” Even more boldly, Xu called for a restoration of presidential term limits and a re-evaluation of the 1989 pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The peaceful protests were crushed by the military and remain a taboo topic to this day. Although Xu is reportedly out of the country and has not been officially sanctioned, another longtime critic, retired professor Sun Wenguang, found himself carted off by police in the middle of a radio interview with the Voice of America in which he railed against China’s lavish spending abroad. A sign of the Xi administration’s anxieties is a new campaign to promote patriotism among intellectuals — a recurring tactic when public debate is seen as needing a course correction. The notice of the new campaign, issued July 31, cites “the broad masses of intellectuals” and the “patriotic spirit of struggle,” while giving little in the way of specifics. Much of the discontent with Xi can be traced to his administration’s perceived ineffectiveness, said Zhang, the retired academic. “If you want to be emperor, you must have great achievements,” Zhang said. “He hasn’t had any, so it’s hard to convince the people.”

Movers and Shakers for Sept. 2

Melinda Freemon was appointed executive director of Anchorage Project Access, a non-profit dedicated to increasing access to health care for low income uninsured members of our community by working with a network of over 600 medical and dental providers to serve those in need. Freemon brings more than 30 years of experience in Alaska in organizational management with an emphasis on systems integration and improvement. She has worked in rural and urban Alaska and led a variety of health care, behavioral health, housing and other programs for vulnerable populations. Before becoming the executive director, Freemon served as the director of the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services, the director of Supportive Housing for the Rural Alaska Community Action Program and the executive director of the Salvation Army Clitheroe Center. Freemon holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Alaska Pacific University. She is a licensed professional counselor and a certified clinical supervisor. The Alaska Department of Law announced the appointment of Tim McGillicuddy as the Ketchikan District Attorney, effective Aug. 6, after Ben Hofmeister accepted a position with the Department of Law, Civil Division in Juneau. McGillicuddy graduated from the University of Illinois School of Law in 2007 and served as a prosecutor around the country for nine out of the following 11 years. He has practiced in diverse areas of the country from Chicago to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. He came to the Ketchikan District Attorney’s office in 2016 and since then has worked a varied caseload including complex homicides, assaults, burglaries, and drug trafficking cases. MSI Communications, one of Alaska’s largest advertising and public-relations agencies, has promoted Director of Client Services Kris Miller to vice president. Miller oversees the agency’s two largest accounts, Alaska Airlines and BP Alaska. As director of client services, she is responsible for training and developing the account managers and account executives who, as a group, oversee the agency’s entire roster of clients. Originally from Minnesota, Miller has been with MSI for five years. She joins Creative Director Jim Coe; Vice President, Director of Digital Strategies Steve Howell; Vice President, Campaign Strategist Lana Johnson; and Senior Vice President and Director of Finance Amy Clifford on MSI’s senior advisory and agency operations-management team. Alaska Aerospace Corp. announced the hiring of Mark D. Lester to serve as the company’s new president. Lester will report directly to Craig Campbell, who continues as CEO. Prior to joining Alaska Aerospace, Lester was the founder and CEO of Pantigo Lester LLC in Colorado Springs where he provided management consulting services to mid-market aerospace and defense businesses. His background includes previously serving as the CEO with Doss Aviation, as well as providing business development, marketing, program management, and engineering expertise for a number of aerospace companies. Lester also served in the United States Air Force as a space systems engineer, satellite operator, and intelligence analyst. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Norwich University and a master’s degree in space operations from the University of Colorado. Credit Union 1 promoted Mish Mafnas to branch manager of its First Avenue Branch in Fairbanks. Mafnas, who has 13 years of financial institution experience, was initially hired by Credit Union 1 in 2009 and has served as member service representative, senior teller and assistant branch manager. In 2017, Mafnas briefly left the credit union before returning in 2018 to her branch manager promotion. Luke Hasenbank, who most recently served as vice president, has been promoted to president of Alaska Maritime Agencies, where he will continue to oversee all Alaska operations that include offices in Anchorage, Dutch Harbor, Kenai, Seward, Whittier and the Lynnwood, Wash., accounting department in addition to all the outlying Alaskan ports. He has been with the company since 2003. Andrew Mew, who previously served as operations manager, has been promoted to vice president. He has been with the company since 2013.

MARAD ordered to hand over port study

Federal Claims Court Judge Edward Damich didn’t take long to rule that the U.S. Maritime Administration must produce a previously proprietary report on the failings of the former Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion Project. Damich ruled Aug. 23, just two days after arguments on the matter, that a root cause analysis engineering report done in 2012 by the international consulting and management firm AECOM will become part of the court record in the Municipality of Anchorage’s lawsuit against the federal agency commonly known as MARAD. Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Regner argued on behalf of MARAD in an Aug. 21 telephonic hearing that the report was commissioned by MARAD’s legal office in September 2011 to, as its name implies, uncover the underlying issues as to why the construction project went awry. The facility is the entry point for the vast majority of goods that are dispersed throughout Alaska. It was renamed the Port of Alaska after an October 2017 vote by the Anchorage Assembly and is owned by the municipality. Anchorage officials in 2003 signed an agreement for MARAD to oversee the project as a way to direct federal funding to the project; the port is also designated as a national strategic defense facility. MARAD, in turn, hired Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. to manage the project. ICRC settled a separate lawsuit with the municipality in January 2017 for $3.75 million, one of seven settlements totaling $19 million with design and construction contractors in the project. MARAD paid ICRC $11.3 million in project funds as part of a September 2012 settlement to a Civilian Board of Contract Appeals complaint the company filed against the federal agency. Anchorage attorneys claim MARAD purposefully settled the dispute with ICRC secretly and without the municipality’s knowledge, while federal attorneys say city officials were made aware of the deal within days after it was reached. Judge Damich agreed with municipal attorneys who argued that the AECOM report is likely the only place to find specific information on the project’s problems. Damich said during arguments that there is no indication in the court record that MARAD told the municipality it was preparing to settle the contract case. “(T)hat the case was settled without the knowledge of Anchorage leads the Court to conclude that Anchorage’s argument regarding ‘evasion’ are compelling enough to hold that Anchorage has a substantial need to review AECOM’s work-product to understand what prompted MARAD to settle ‘surreptitiously’ with ICRC without first consulting Anchorage as Anchorage asserts MARAD was required to do pursuant to the 2011 Agreement (between Anchorage and MARAD),” he wrote in the eight-page order. “Furthermore, Anchorage has a substantial need to obtain testimony and documents from AECOM because of AECOM’s unique position in the project.” Damich continued to state that MARAD and AECOM are the “gatekeepers” of information that could help the city understand what motivated the agency to settle with ICRC. Damich additionally granted the municipality’s motion to subpoena AECOM principal Brad Erickson, noting in his order that MARAD “has not provided any argument regarding its opposition to the deposition, only that it titles its motion ‘Motion to Quash the Subpoena of Brad Erickson,’ without more, the Court permits the deposition.” MARAD has 14 days from the issuance of the order to produce the report. Work stopped on the port reconstruction in 2010 after extensive damage to the sheet pile dock structure that was being installed was discovered. Roughly $300 million in public money was spent on the project that yielded little; most of the sheet pile has been removed. A construction worker was killed at the port in 2011 when the ground beneath the bulldozer he was operating collapsed, causing the bulldozer to fall into the water and trap him as he tried to escape, according to news reports of the accident. The worker was employed by a subcontractor hired to stabilize the damaged sheet pile dock structure while project officials determined a path forward. Port leaders are now moving forward with a scaled-back modernization of the corroding dock infrastructure, some of which is approaching 60 years old. The municipality sued MARAD in February 2014 in federal contract court, a lawsuit with four years of discovery that has progressed slowly as the private-party suit was ongoing. It is seeking up to $370 million from the federal government in the suit, according court documents. MARAD was also blasted for its alleged inattention to managing the Anchorage project as well as other Pacific port projects in an August 2014 Inspector General report. Regner contended the root cause analysis was done strictly for MARAD’s internal legal use, was left in draft form and was paid for with agency funds and not port project funds, making it a privileged document. He said further that it was compiled at the same time and largely with the same information that can be found in a public CH2M (formerly CH2M Hill) suitability study to determine whether or not the patented Open Cell Sheet Pile dock design was appropriate for the unique seismic conditions at the Anchorage port. CH2M’s study concluded that the design and construction in the project were both problematic and led in large part to the municipality suing the contractors in 2013. During the roughly four years of discovery in the case MARAD has produced approximately 360,000 documents consisting of over 2.3 million pages, according to Damich. The sides have also taken 28 depositions, with another 30 expected in addition to an unknown tally of expert depositions. Discovery is set to conclude in March 2019, although a trial schedule has not been set. ^ Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Aug. 26

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has chosen Heather Brandon of Juneau as Alaska Sea Grant’s new director. Brandon is an environmental policy leader with experience in fisheries issues on a broad geographic scale, ranging from Alaska to the Arctic and Russian Far East. Before joining Alaska Sea Grant, Brandon was a foreign affairs specialist for NOAA’s Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection. Brandon has also worked for World Wildlife Fund, Juneau Economic Development Council, Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and served on the U.S. Department of Commerce Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. She has a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Oregon. Alaska Sea Grant, one of 33 such programs around the country, is a partnership between NOAA and UAF. Through research, outreach and education, Alaska Sea Grant works to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of Alaska’s marine and freshwater ecosystems and coastal economies. Credit Union 1 promoted Melissa Aningayou to branch manager of its Midtown Branch in Anchorage. Aningayou was initially hired in 2007 as a teller at the credit union’s Nome Branch before transferring to Anchorage in 2010. She has since held the positions of senior teller, member service officer, member service supervisor, assistant branch manager and branch manager of Credit Union 1’s Abbott Branch prior to this promotion. Dr. Gabriel Wolken of the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys has been awarded an international research fellowship to study and map Alaska’s snow avalanche hazards. The six-month fellowship beginning Sept. 1 in Davos, Switzerland, promotes collaboration between visiting senior-level scientists and the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research. Wolken manages the Climate &Cryosphere Hazards Program at DGGS and is affiliated with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He investigates the impacts of changes in snow, ice, and permafrost on Alaska’s landscape, natural resources, and the built environment. Alyssa Norris recently joined the LONG Building Technologies team as an account executive in the Fairbanks office in July. Norris grew up in interior Alaska and completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Washington State University. While earning her degree she interned at the U.S. Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C, served on the university Board of Regents, started her own small business, and was actively involved in mentorship programs to help support and retain women in engineering through the Society of Women Engineers. LONG provides HVAC mechanical solutions, building automation systems, security solutions, and equipment for commercial properties. Norris will also be specializing in the C-PACE program as it gets kicked-off in Alaska. LONG Building Technologies has offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Col. Phillip Borders became the 28th commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District during a change of command ceremony today Aug. 14. Borders, a native of Lawrence, Kan., replaces Col. Michael Brooks, who served as the district commander since July 2015 and retired after 25 years of service. He will also be responsible for the district’s support to the U.S. Pacific Command designing and constructing humanitarian assistance projects throughout Southeast Asia. Under the Defense Department Foreign Military Sales Program, the district also oversees master planning, requirements validation, design and construction of infrastructure for the Government of India’s C-17 aircraft at Hindon Air Force Station. Before assuming command in Alaska, Borders attended both the National Security and School of Other Nations programs under a U.S.-bilateral arrangement at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario. Previously, he served as chief of the Engineer Plans Branch for U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Borders has deployed for 42 months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Desert Storm. He has earned the Airborne Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab and Combat Action Badge. As a decorated Army officer, some of Borders’ awards include the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with six oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars. Borders graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Kansas in 1996. He also earned a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Missouri-Rolla and is credentialed as a project management professional. Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, Jr. assumed responsibility of the senior enlisted leader position of the Alaska National Guard through the passing of the Non-Commissioned Officer’s Saber to Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel, the adjutant general of Alaska, during a change-of-responsibility ceremony Aug. 13. For the past two and half years, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Nelson, the outgoing SEL, led the AKNG enlisted force by advancing priorities of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs with legal, moral and ethical focus. Nelson helped establish the Ethical Fitness Program, expand the Senior Enlisted Development Program, and exposed NCOs to experiences outside of their core competencies. As the third AKNG senior enlisted leader, Hinkley comes to the organization from being commandant of the Chief Master Sergeant Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Tennessee. Hinkley also has roots in the AKNG with prior service as a comptroller flight superintendent for the Alaska Air National Guard’s 176th Wing. Sitnasuak Native Corp. added Norm Resnick to its management team as general counsel effective July 24. His credentials and experience have involved important work with Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act issues, commercial and real estate transactions, business acquisitions, corporate law, land and resource management, and government contracting. He also has experience in litigation, alternative dispute resolution, human resources and employment law, probate, and shareholder support. Resnick has previously represented private individuals, business enterprises, and local, state and federal agencies. Most recently he was general counsel for Calista Corp. Northrim Bank hired Sarah Maycock as Electronic Banking support manager and Kristin Oberman as associate vice president, branch manager. Susan Stenstrom was promoted to associate vice president, assistant corporate secretary. Maycock joined Northrim Bank with 10 years of banking experience. She recently moved to Anchorage from Wisconsin where she worked at a community bank in Milwaukee. Maycock holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Oberman joined Northrim Bank with seven years of experience in the financial industry. She has worked with Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and First National Bank Alaska. Oberman holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in human resources management from the University of Maryland. Stenstrom has been with Northrim Bank for 10 years and has 43 years of experience in the financial industry. Stenstrom was the 2013 recipient of the Northrim Bank President’s Award.

Millett, Micciche, LeDoux face upset losses in primary

Incumbent and House Minority Leader Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, was upset by a first-time political candidate in preliminary returns in the state’s primary election, while two other incumbents, Sen. Peter Micciche and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, were fighting to keep their seats. In contested state House races, Rep. Lora Reinbold had a big lead over fellow state Rep. Dan Saddler in a heated Alaska Senate race in Chugiak-Eagle River. In the Mat-Su, incumbent Rep. George Rauscher was on track to score the Republican nomination over former state Rep. Jim Colver and another candidate, Pamela Goode, in a contentious primary for state House. With all precincts reporting late Aug. 21, Josh Revak, a military veteran and political newcomer, was beating Millett by more than a 10-point margin. Revak had 57 percent of the vote to Millett’s 43 percent. Millett has represented the district since 2008. Speaking in downtown Anchorage on election night, Revak, who had critiqued Millett’s record on the criminal justice reform law Senate Bill 91 and other issues, called his lead “surreal.” “I just hope I can live up to the standards my neighbors in Abbott Loop have set out for me as voters,” Revak said. Millett could not immediately be reached for comment. In a Republican primary for state Senate on the Kenai Peninsula, Micciche, who was elected to the Senate in 2013, was in a very tight race with Ron Gillham of Soldotna. The winner of that race will also win the seat, with no challengers in the general election. With all of the district’s precincts reporting, Gillham was leading Micciche by just 12 votes — meaning the outcome will come down to absentee ballots in the coming days. An even tighter margin was at play for LeDoux in her East Anchorage House race. With all precincts reporting, LeDoux was neck-and-neck with challenger Aaron Weaver. Weaver had 50.3 percent of the vote to LeDoux’s 49.7 percent — a difference of three votes. LeDoux has represented East Anchorage since 2015. The winner of LeDoux’s race will most likely face Democrat Lyn Franks, who had a comfortable lead in a three-way Democratic primary in the district late Tuesday night. Other incumbents scored dominant victories. In the closely watched Republican primary for House District 9, Rauscher, who was first elected in 2016, had 50 percent of the vote. Goode had about 22 percent of the vote and Colver had 28 percent. Rauscher will now face Democrat Bill Johnson in November. In what had been an acrimonious Senate race in Chugiak-Eagle River, Reinbold jumped to a huge lead over Saddler. With all precincts reporting, Reinbold had 58 percent of the vote to Saddler’s 42 percent. At a Republican election night event in downtown Anchorage, Reinbold told supporters that her stance as an early voice against Senate Bill 91 helped sway voters. “Public safety is government’s No. 1 mandate,” she said. Reinbold will face Democrat Oliver Schiess of Eagle River in the November election. Apart from the Reinbold-Saddler race, it was a busy night in Chugiak-Eagle River, with two contested races for the state House seats vacated by Reinbold and Saddler. In Saddler’s district, Kelly Merrick secured the Republican nomination. With all precincts reporting, Merrick had 43 percent of the vote, Jamie Allard had 36 percent of the vote and Eugene Harnett had 21 percent of the vote. Merrick will face nonpartisan Joe Hackenmueller in November. In the race for Reinbold’s seat, Nancy Dahlstrom had a commanding lead over opponents Craig Christenson and Bill Cook. With all precincts reporting, Dahlstrom had 41.4 percent of the vote; Christenson had 29.4 percent; and Cook had 29.2 percent. The winner will go against Democrat Danyelle Kimp in the general election. Two other three-way Anchorage primaries had lopsided margins in early returns. In downtown Anchorage, Zack Fields handily won a three-way Democratic race against Cliff Groh and Elias Rojas. With all precincts reporting, Fields had nearly 50 percent of the vote, Groh had 32 percent and Rojas had 17 percent. Fields will face Republican Ceezar Martinson in the general election. In a contested Republican primary for House District 26 in South Anchorage, Laddie Shaw also had a big edge over his two challengers. With all precincts reporting, Shaw had 45 percent of the vote, compared to Joe Riggs with 29 percent and Albert Fogle with 26 percent. Shaw will next face Democrat Hunter Dunn in the general election. Also in South Anchorage, Rep. Chris Birch, who currently has the seat sought by Riggs, Shaw and Fogle and decided to run for Senate, had a crushing lead Tuesday night over challenger Bekah Halat, a newcomer who was recently charged with felony welfare fraud. Birch had 78 percent of the vote to Halat’s 22 percent with all precincts reporting. Birch goes on to compete against Democrat Janice Park in the November election. In West Anchorage’s District 22, a political newcomer, Sara Rasmussen, soundly beat former state Rep. Liz Vazquez in the Republican primary. With all precincts reporting, Rasmussen had 54 percent of the vote and Vazquez had 46 percent of the vote. Vazquez was hoping for a rematch against incumbent state Rep. Jason Grenn, an independent who ousted her in 2016 after her first term. Instead, it will be Rasmussen facing Green in November, along with Democrat Dustin Darden. Chugiak-Eagle River Star Editor Matt Tunseth contributed reporting.

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.

Movers and Shakers for Aug. 12

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association hired Andy Wink as executive director. As an economist specializing in the Alaska seafood industry, Wink brings nearly a decade of expertise in analyzing seafood market trends and the effects of development efforts to the RSDA. His past work with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and many other industry groups will lend a broad perspective to the mission of the BBRSDA. Wink has been a valued partner to the BBRSDA for years as the lead author of the sockeye market report series. RE/MAX Dynamic Properties added Gary Kutil, an award-winning realtor with more than 25 years of experience in real estate sales. He began his career at Jack White Real Estate where he received awards and recognitions including Associate of the Year, President’s Circle, Leading Edge Society, Hall of Fame and Top Producer. The company also added Cheryl Myers, who has a background in sport and orthopedic physical therapy. She is expanding her career path to include real estate sales. Myers is an active member and past president of the Downtown Rotary Club and a member of the ATHENA Society. University of Alaska Fairbanks Vice Chancellor for Research Larry Hinzman has been elected president of the International Arctic Science Committee. IASC is an international scientific organization that was formed in 1990 to encourage and facilitate cooperation throughout the Arctic research community. The nongovernmental institution, which includes representatives from 23 countries, promotes scientific cooperation and gives advice to the Arctic Council and other organizations on Arctic science issues. IASC champions critically important research programs that are either too big for any single nation to undertake or that require international collaboration to be successful. Hinzman has a long history as an Arctic researcher. A professor of civil and environmental engineering, he previously served as the director of UAF’s International Arctic Research Center and has conducted long-term hydrological and meteorological studies in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada and Russia. Hinzman was elected IASC president last month during the IASC Council meeting in Davos, Switzerland, succeeding Susan Barr of Norway. His four-year term as president runs through 2022. Taylored Restoration has hired Bob Manwaring as business development director. Manwaring was most recently CEO of the Alaska Association of Realtors. Previous positions include four years as business development officer for Stewart Title of Alaska and 14 years as customer relations liaison with Alaska Multiple Listing Service Inc. Taylored Restoration has branches in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks and provides their services statewide. Thompson &Co. Public Relations has expanded its offices in Anchorage and Houston. Sami Jo Bailey joined the Anchorage office as an account coordinator in June and Stephanie Giacometti joined the team as a digital marketing specialist based in the Houston office in early July. Bailey grew up in Palmer and graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications and a double minor in journalism and criminal justice. While earning her degree, she worked as a media assistant and also as an intern at GCI. She is an account coordinator at Thompson &Co. PR’s Anchorage office, where she assists on multiple accounts including the Alaska Tourism Industry Association. Giacometti was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and later moved to Boston to attend Northeastern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in business. She interned in digital marketing while earning her degree and gained experience after college in product development and marketing. Based in Houston, Giacometti is currently working on the digital account team leading client brand and digital marketing strategies. Ephraim Froehlich joined Gov. Bill Walker’s administration as senior advisor on fish and game and as the deputy director for state and federal relations. Froehlich will be based in Juneau, where he was born and raised and graduated from Juneau Douglas High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in government at Dartmouth College. Froehlich worked for Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Washington, D.C., before getting his juris doctor at the University of Maryland School of Law with a concentration in environmental law. He returned to Murkowski’s D.C. office as lead policy advisor on fisheries, wildlife, maritime transportation, ports and harbors, environmental change, and the Arctic. Barbara Blake, also known by her Haida name of Wáahlaal Gidáak, has worked on fish and game issues for the administration since 2014, and is moving up to become Walker’s director of Native and rural affairs. Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced that Kellie Donnelly, who currently serves as the deputy chief counsel for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will succeed chief counsel Patrick McCormick, who has left the for an opportunity in the private sector. Lucy Murfitt will be promoted to deputy chief counsel and Isaac Edwards will be promoted to special counsel. Donnelly came to Capitol Hill in 1994 and shortly thereafter joined the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as majority counsel. She left to serve as counsel at the Department of the Interior and then spent several years in the private sector before joining the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2003. She has since served the committee in a number of roles, most recently as deputy chief counsel since 2009. Murfitt is currently senior counsel and public lands and natural resources policy director for the committee. She previously spent eight years as senior counsel to former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and the Republican Whip, handling the energy, environment, and natural resources portfolio. She has also worked at the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University as its director of policy and partnerships. A veteran, Murfitt served as an environmental attorney during her time in the U.S. Army. Edwards, who was born and raised in Homer, began his career on Capitol Hill working for former Sen. Frank Murkowski in 1997. He became Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s legislative director in 2003, and moved to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to serve as counsel in 2009. Prior to today’s promotion, he held the title of senior counsel, focusing primarily on Arctic, territorial, and international energy issues. Matt Woods, EIT, has joined the environmental group at Shannon &Wilson’s Anchorage office as an environmental engineering staff IV. Woods has five years of previous experience preparing spill prevention and countermeasure plans, storm water pollution prevention plans, and SARA Title 3; and conducting site investigation and remediation projects. Current Shannon &Wilson projects include site characterization and cleanup activities, and providing regulatory compliance support. Woods has a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Michigan Technological University. Schylar Healy has joined Shannon &Wilson’s Anchorage office technical staff as an environmental scientist. Previous professional experience includes serving as a wetlands mapping specialist and wetlands ecology technician in Fairbanks, and GIS field technician in California. Healy is a 2015 graduate of James Madison University in Harrisburg, Va., with a bachelor’s degree in geographic science, and is a member of the Alaska Native Plant Society.

COMMENTARY: Political shifts underscore need for habitat initiative

I have been thinking long and hard about the salmon habitat ballot initiative that will be on Alaska’s November ballot. I served as director of the Habitat Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for seven years under Govs. Steve Cowper and Wally Hickel, and as commissioner of the department for eight years under Gov. Tony Knowles. I, and the professional biologists who work at Fish and Game, implemented the current anadromous fish habitat statutes. All three administrations I worked for had strong advocates for salmon and anadromous fish habitat. I am confident that we did a good job of protecting anadromous fish habitat. So, what has changed to make me want to see the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative pass? The initiative puts clear, science-based salmon habitat standards in statute and provides for a robust public process when resource development decisions that could have significant negative impacts on salmon habitat are made. These standards are the principles we used when we made decisions, but they had no assured standing beyond our tenure. Without clear science-based standards, each person’s judgment as to what constitutes “proper protection” can be different. Some administrations have shown strong support for salmon habitat protection. Others have emphasized competing uses over salmon. For example, Gov. Frank Murkowski’s administration went so far as to move the habitat division from the Department of Fish and to the Department of Natural Resources so the commissioner of DNR, not the Fish and Game commissioner, would be the ultimate judge of what constitutes “proper protection” of anadromous fish habitat. The Department of Fish and Game had help protecting fish habitat when I was there. We had the Coastal Management Program. There is no longer a Coastal Management Program in Alaska. The Legislature allowed it to expire. The Coastal Management Program provided habitat standards, local government participation, public involvement and an interagency process for resolving differences and finding ways for development projects to move ahead (or not) while protecting fish and other important resources. That is gone, and Fish and Game anadromous fish permits don’t require public notice. Many of Alaska’s salmon stocks are now stressed by changing ocean conditions. As global warming continues to affect ocean and freshwater salmon habitat, it is particularly important that Alaska protect freshwater anadromous fish habitat so we maintain salmon productivity and genetic diversity. Protecting freshwater habitat is something Alaska can do without help from anyone else. Managing ocean conditions will require federal policy initiatives. But, if Alaska takes care of our freshwater habitat, salmon will have a better chance to adapt to the long-term changes they face. The users of Alaska salmon and the developers of Alaska’s other natural resources, should not have to depend on me — or any individual — to use their judgment on a case-by-case basis to interpret the vague “proper protection” standard of the current anadromous fish habitat statute. They deserve science-based statutory standards, like those in the initiative, to clearly define what constitutes “proper protection” of anadromous fish habitat. I had hoped that during the last legislative session the fish habitat protection bill (House Bill 199) introduced by Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak would be the vehicle for Alaskans to develop science-based standards for anadromous fish habitat protection. In my opinion, the give-and-take of the legislative process is a better way to develop policy than the initiative process. But there was no serious consideration of HB 199 by the Legislature. The state Constitution gives the people of Alaska the initiative process to use the ballot box to address important issues when the Legislature fails to act. If this initiative passes, the Legislature has the ability to immediately clarify language in the initiative if necessary, and in two years, the Legislature can amend, or even go so far as to repeal, the initiative. Despite what I view as drawbacks in the initiative process, it is my hope that this initiative passes. The Department of Fish and Game can then work with the public and all affected interests to implement regulations. If during that process there are significant issues raised, or problems found, the department and the governor can work with the public and the legislature to amend the statute to address those issues. Without the stimulus of this ballot initiative, I do not think the Legislature will give the Department of Fish and Game strong, clear, science-based anadromous fish habitat standards and a robust public process that I think are needed to keep Alaska’s wild salmon healthy and sustainable in the face of climate change and ongoing development pressure. For these reasons, I will be voting “yes” on the salmon habitat initiative in November. ^ Frank Rue lives in Juneau. He was Habitat Director of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from 1988-1994. He served as the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game from 1995-2002.

State, feds agree to revise roadless in Tongass

State and federal officials inked an agreement Aug. 2 that could lead to scaling back the U.S. Forest Service’s long-debated Roadless Rule in Alaska. The memorandum of understanding signed by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack and Interim Forest Service Chief Victoria Christensen lays the foundation for the agencies to reopen the Roadless Rule on the prospect of working towards an Alaska-specific rule that could allow for more access to large swaths of federal lands that have ostensibly been off-limits to logging or other developments and activities since the early 2000s. Approved in early 2001 by former President Bill Clinton, the Roadless Rule prohibited new road construction on roughly 58 million acres of undisturbed national forest lands across the country. The “no new roads” edict has since been continuously challenged in court, particularly by western states that contend it has arbitrarily curbed logging and other activities on Forest Service territory and conflicts with the agency’s multiple-use land planning mission. In 2015, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an Alaska U.S. District Court decision to overturn a 2003 exemption to the Roadless Rule for the Tongass National Forest put in place by George W. Bush’s administration. Alaska Division of Forestry Director Chris Maisch said the MOU to examine revising the rule was borne out of Gov. Bill Walker’s petition to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue for a full, statewide exemption to the Roadless Rule. The MOU is focused in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Dru Fenster, which encompasses the vast majority of Southeast Alaska and is by far the largest national forest in the country. At 5.4 million acres, the Chugach National Forest in Southcentral is the second-largest national forest, but its timber is much less suitable for large-scale commercial logging. The members of Alaska’s congressional delegation lauded the MOU in formal statements, insisting it is a big step towards getting “forest management and the economy of Southeast Alaska back on track,” as Sen. Dan Sullivan put it. “As I have said many times before, the Roadless Rule has never made sense in Alaska,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Aug 2. “I welcome today’s announcement, which will help put us on a path to ensure the Tongass is once again a working forest and a multiple-use forest for all who live in Southeast. “I thank Secretary Purdue for recognizing the need for economic relief in these communities and look forward to continuing to work with the administration, state officials, Sen. Sullivan and Congressman Young to see this process through to the finish line.” Murkowski chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that covers the Forest Service budget and has inserted language to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule into recent budget bills for the agency. Those provisions have ultimately been stripped from the spending bills the president has signed. Specifically, the MOU directs DNR and the Forest Service to establish a State-Forest Service Executive Steering Committee to carry out the agreement. The Forest Service will lead development of an environmental impact statement to analyze the effects of prospective management changes to the Tongass, while the state will form a public advisory group of representatives from Southeast tribes and Alaska Native corporations as well as conservation groups and the timber, mining, tourism and commercial fishing industries. Colorado and Idaho are the only other states to have their own Roadless rules, but those came only after years of study and court challenges. Forest Service officials said they plan to have the Alaska EIS complete within 18 months, in part to keep stakeholders engaged in the process. Forest and fishing advocates criticized the agreement, claiming it will put some of Southeast’s largest industries at risk. Trout Unlimited, which has pushed for permanent protections for dozens of critical salmon-bearing watersheds in the Tongass — its Tongass 77 campaign — contends the fishing and tourism industries rely on unspoiled wilderness in the region provided by the Roadless Rule and currently support 26 percent of all the jobs in Southeast Alaska in addition to contributing about $2 billion per year to the region’s economy. TU Alaska Policy Director Austin Williams stressed in a formal statement that revising the Roadless Rule in the state would mean throwing out the 2016 Tongass Management Plan, which took more than four years to finalize. The Tongass Plan calls for a transition to strictly young-growth timber harvest in the forest over 16 years, a period Murkowski and timber industry leaders argue is much too short to provide an adequate timber supply for Southeast’s few remaining sawmills. “The current Tongass Forest Plan, which includes protections for roadless areas, was monumental and was perhaps the first time a diverse set of stakeholders successfully came together around a common vision for how to move forward on the Tongass and leave the timber wars behind,” TU Alaska’s Williams said. “The overwhelming majority of Alaskans that participated in that process voiced a desire for increased protections for important fish and wildlife habitat. Rather than flushing that hard work down the drain, we should look for lasting solutions that protect the remaining roadless areas.” Forest Service Associate Deputy Chief of Forest Systems Chris French acknowledged in an interview that any substantive changes in how the Roadless Rule is applied to the Tongass at the end of the EIS process will likely require another EIS to at least amend the Tongass Management Plan accordingly. French said the MOU provides “a wide open space” for forest managers to consider changes in how the rule is used. “It basically allows us a lot more flexibility in how we approach apply the protections of roadless that you see in the 2001 Roadless Rule,” he said. Any rule changes could apply to the 57 percent of the Tongass that was designated as roadless in 2001. About 35 percent of the Tongass has been granted “wilderness” protection by Congress and as such will not be impacted by any changes to the rule. The remaining roughly eight percent is set aside for other opportunities, according to Forest Service officials. “We don’t know what we’re going to propose yet. We don’t know what we’re going to hear at this point. We really want to start from the space of allowing folks to speak their mind; allowing folds to contribute their ideas — come to maybe some solutions — give us some proposals and all that will be considered as we go forward,” French said. Alaska Forest Association Executive Director Owen Graham said in an interview that the organization had been pleading with the Forest Service to revise the rule, but also lamented the fact that easing the land-use restrictions likely won’t change on-the-ground work for several years. “Just removing the Roadless Rule won’t let us cut one more tree because the Roadless Rule is in the forest plan,” Graham said. He has been critical of the 16-year transition to young-growth-only harvests in the current Tongass Management Plan, insisting most young-growth areas in the forest are at least 30 years from maturity. Graham said prematurely harvesting young-growth stands can necessitate cutting over twice the acreage to achieve similar harvest volumes, as stands of smaller trees simply do not offer the same amount of usable timber as mature or old-growth stands. “You have to have this economy of scale,” he said. Graham also noted that old-growth trees provide opportunities for Alaska mills to produce specialty and value-added products while lower-grade, young-growth logs from the Tongass are almost always exported to Asian markets for processing. State Forester Maisch said he doesn’t foresee old-growth harvests from the Tongass going away anytime soon, but also noted new technologies such as cross-laminated timber could open up new value-added opportunities around young-growth for Southeast mills. Maisch also stressed flexibility in management as a driving interest for the state to revise the Roadless Rule, saying the rule’s impacts go beyond traditional forest uses. “It’s about community access; it’s about energy; it’s about have the ability to be adaptable and flexible so we can make changes as technology changes,” Maisch said. “For example, cell towers and the need for cell towers in locations that are not so easy to do that in around communities right now. Hydro (power) is another good example. It’s difficult to build some of those types of utility infrastructures without having roads to support it for both construction and maintenance.” Additionally, French said Purdue’s vision of the Tongass as “a working forest” — as the USDA secretary said during a July trip to Prince of Wales Island with Murkowski — is not strictly limited to logging. “We also understand that industry is changing and the values that Alaskans hold for these lands is something that is changing as well and we recognize the importance that folks see with roadless. We also recognize the needs that other user groups and industry have for these lands. We want to be able to consider all of that,” French said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]
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