Oil sheen spreads from sunken vessels

Two fishing vessels sank in Jakolof Bay on Christmas day, and by Friday an oily sheen spreading in sensitive oyster farming waters had the attention of federal and state agencies.
The F/V Leading Lady and the F/V Kupreanof sank sometime during the night of Christmas Eve or the following day, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said in a release. The sunken vessels were discovered at 2:47 p.m. on Dec. 25 and were immediately reported to the Coast Guard. The ADEC was notified as well.
The cause of the sinking is believed to be from the 48 inches of snow falling that day, another causality of the immense storm that swept through the region. The vessels were apparently pushed down and on top of one another when crews inspected the situation on Thursday. The Leading Lady is a 53-foot commercial fishing vessel.

Homer makes progress on gasline

Planning for the Homer area gasline distribution system to be built in the new year has moved through many stages, now toward a decision to be made by the Homer City Council and a Jan. 25 deadline for public comments.
City Manager Walt Wrede and community and economic development Coordinator Katie Koester have kept a busy schedule making presentations to the public. Last week they spoke at the Rotary Club and made a presentation to a real estate association, and recently addressed questions from Homer seniors. The idea is to get the information to the public on how the distribution system is to be phased in and the scope of planning steps ahead.
“We have made quite a few presentations to help people see what is ahead,” Wrede said. If property owners object to being part of the HSAD, as the district composed of 3,850 properties is called, they need to do it before closing hours on Jan. 25 at the clerk’s office.

Archer files lawsuit against Buccaneer

Buccaneer Alaska announced it had terminated its contractor, Archer Drilling, for alleged nonperformance of work, but Archer officials on Wednesday said the situation was actually the other way around.
David Walker, the manager for international platform drilling and engineering at Archer, said a lawsuit is now filed claiming more than $6 million in unpaid invoices are owed by Buccaneer. All local subcontractors hired by Archer have been paid by Archer, Walker said.
“We announced we were terminating the contract on Thursday (Dec. 13) and Buccaneer/KOV came out with their statement on Friday,” Walker said. “They responded by claiming they fired us. We feel that statement was done in retaliation and to save public embarrassment.”
The lawsuit, filed in Texas state court, states:

Police arrest two suspects in Grog Shop robbery

Homer Police on Tuesday night arrested two suspects in the robbery of the Grog Shop Liquor Store on Pioneer Avenue.
John Allen Mumey, 49, and Terry Jean Lashley Elliot, 32, were each charged with first-degree robbery. Mumey was additionally charged with fourth-degree assault.
The Homer Police Department received a call at 11:34 p.m. Monday from a Grog Shop clerk stating he had been robbed. He reported that an adult male entered the store, picked up some merchandise, approached the clerk and brandished a semi-automatic handgun. The man demanded money and carried away the store’s cash drawer.
“HPD patrol personnel arrived, interviewed the store employee and initiated an immediate search of the area,” Sgt. Lary Kuhns wrote in the police affidavit. “Near an area to the southeast of the Grog Shop, the terrain slopes to the south at an abrupt grade and the area is very icy and slick. HPD officers… found several items related to the robbery that were apparently lost by the suspect when he possibly slipped and fell. The cash drawer from the Grog Shop containing cash, coins and receipts was found, as well as a blue bag, a leather belt, a bottle of Alaskan Wheat Beer and an item that appeared to be an improvised explosive device. The IED was constructed of a clear plastic bottle that contained screws, shotgun pellets and was constructed with a green fuse protruding from the top, wrapped in blue painter’s-type tape.”

State school board wants teacher evals based on student performance

A controversial move by the Alaska State Board of Education last week to incorporate student performance into teachers’ job evaluations has educators bristling at what feels to them to be an attempt to fit unstandardizable qualities into a standardized system of evaluation.
There are many influences on how a student performs that are out of a teacher’s control, including home life, health, whether they got a good night’s sleep, whether they ate breakfast, etc.
Evaluating a teacher’s performance in part based on how students perform on standardized testing is unfair, said Wayne Floyd, a 30-plus-year teacher at Nikiski North Star Elementary, and one of more than 900 people who submitted comments on the state board proposal.

Christmas bird count: Who stole the mallards?

Kachemak Bay Birders counted 57 species of birds seen and recorded by the evening of Dec. 15, with 4,027 individual birds.
But no mallards.
“Everyone has noticed that there haven’t been many (mallards) around lately and this count reflects the truth in that,” said birder Lani Raymond.
Normally, the mallards winter in Kachemak Bay, but when it’s cold they’ll stay on the south side of the bay at China Poot, birder Dave Erikson added. Even though there was little ice in Mud Bay by mid December, the mallards hadn’t returned. At times, the Christmas count finds over 3,000 mallards in Mud Bay.
“It was just the weather. They must have thought that ice was still there, though a storm last week broke it up and took out the ice from Mud Bay,” Erikson said.

FYI News briefs & announcements – Dec. 26

Governor’s budget adds Homer projects In Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget proposal for 2014, the Homer Harbor is funded for $4,206,000 in improvements. The governor also included funding for the Beluga Lake Float Plane Base Planning Study, at $250,000, East End Road Rehabilitation – Milepost 3.7 to 12.2 $850,000 and Lake Street Rehabilitation $5,000,000. The Sterling […]

Letters – Dec. 26

Property rights sacrificed for ‘public good?’ In 1996, the Kenai Peninsula Borough began to take control of private land from property owners, with no compensation to the owner. Then in 2008, and again in 2011, the borough took more land from private property owners. Since 1996, the borough has created local ordinances to legitimize their […]

Palin as ‘Unlikely Liberal’ offers good guide to Alaska politics

Former Anchorage Daily News opinion editor Matthew Zencey has written a definitive book on the Gov. Sarah Palin years titled, “Unlikely Liberal: Sarah Palin’s Curious Record as Alaska’s Governor,” now out from Potomac Books.
Palin lovers won’t like it. There is no image adoration that obscures critical thinking. Palin haters won’t like it either. Make no mistake, Zencey is professionally frank, but there are no mean comments about her family, intelligence, looks or other irrelevant spite.
“Unlikely Liberal” is an unexpected title for a book about Sarah Palin, who has rebranded herself as an anti-big government, anti-public spending, pro-oil development commentator appealing to Tea Party conservatives. Writing in clear, concise prose honed from more than 20 years of ADN editorial writing, Zencey captures the enigma that is Sarah Palin and the astonishing fact that Tea Party conservatives could overlook the old Sarah in their embrace of the new Sarah.

It’s time to stand up for responsible development

The debate over Buccaneer Energy’s jack-up drill rig and related drilling plans has fallen along predictable lines. Some see Buccaneer as a hopeful sign of good jobs and increased oil and natural gas supplies. Others see Buccaneer as a shadowy, profit-driven Australian corporation lured to Cook Inlet by massive state subsidies, with little regard for local people or our fisheries.
Of course, the truth falls somewhere in between. But a recent lawsuit filed by Buccaneer’s contractor – Archer Drilling reveals a driving need to put the brakes on Buccaneer’s rush to drill, and to ask some pointed questions about its ability to drill safely in Cook Inlet’s prized fisheries.

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