Death of HB 77 is silver lining in legislative session

Due to overwhelming public opposition HB 77, which would have eliminated the rights of Alaska Native tribes and citizens to protect instream flows and subsistence uses failed to gather the votes needed to pass before the end of this year’s legislative session. With the majority of the public opposed to the bill and it’s potential to dramatically role back constitutional rights, many have been scratching their heads as to how such a measure found it’s way into the legislature to begin with.
Ironically, the same prevailing attitude among Alaskans that resulted in the death of HB 77 was likely how the bill got its start. When it comes to decision-making that affects natural resources, we don’t like to be told to “butt out.”

A lonely profession made social

Each year with spring comes the annual Alaska Press Club Conference, a three-day affair for attending workshops and meeting with other news people from around the state. Along with refresher courses on enterprising journalism, there’s new material to absorb. It brings a chance to make new friends and share talks with older editions of reporters who once worked with me on other newspapers around Alaska.

Political shenanigans shut down Kenai Economic Development District funding

Thanks to convoluted political maneuvering, an economic engine used to support small businesses on the Kenai Peninsula is due to expire at the end of June.
The Senate Finance Committee in the closing days of the legislative session could have extended the authorization for the ARDOR, short for Alaska Regional Development Organizations. Instead, its sunset was approved. ARDOR serves as the umbrella over 13 regional districts.

Rep. Seaton’s bill breaks up scallop monopoly

New opportunities should open for commercial fishermen interested in expanding to the scallop industry since the passage of a bill that eliminates a monopoly currently held by a single Washington state operator.
Rep. Paul Seaton has long been an opponent of the vessel limited entry program for Weathervane Scallops and Korean Haircrab, two fisheries lumped together, though very little haircrab exists in state waters. Mostly his objection centered on scallops, a $4.5 million industry in the hands of just two operators. He says it’s inconsistent with the approach taken in the rest of the state water fisheries where the limited entry permit is allocated to a person.
In 2002 the Legislature adopted the temporary permit vessel limited entry program.
“That policy led to a rapid and extreme consolidation,” Seaton said, “leaving 90 percent of the scallop fishery in the hands of a Washington-based corporation.”

Sen. Micciche spends post-session week in Houston

Sen. Peter Micciche spent his post-legislative session week in Houston talking with industry leaders and policy makers about liquified natural gas, a commodity he believes should take a greater role in supplying state revenue.
The legislative session ended on Sunday April 15. On Monday, April 16, Micciche traveled to Houston to take part in the LNG 17 Forum that featured him as a presenter, wearing his hat as the supervisor of the ConocoPhillips LNG plant in Kenai. At the same time, executives of ConocoPhillips met in Houston to discuss the new tax regime of Senate
Bill 21 and announced a renewed commitment for drilling at Kaparak on the North Slope based on the incentives of SB 21. Micciche said he didn’t participate in those talks, but did at LNG 17 that included other legislators and members of the Gov. Sean Parnell administration. The LNG 17 Forum featured an international panel representing the Middle East, Australia, Japan, South America and Africa.

Hig and Erin take another trek into Alaska’s wilderness

Brentwood Higman and Erin McKittrick made a stop in Homer after walking the beach from Dog Bay to Kachemak Bay and around the rim to the Fox River flats. The couple from Seldovia is making progress on their 800-mile journey around Cook Inlet. After a visit with friends, including a dinner in their honor, the couple and their two children resumed their long walk. They expect to take several months to complete the journey around Cook Inlet to Cape Douglas. Homer people met them at Bishop’s Beach to walk and talk a bit as they went.

BBQ: secret’s in the sauce, wood smoking chips

A new kind of barbecue made its debut this spring in Homer, one where even the wood chips used to smoke racks of ribs and whole chickens are chopped and mixed by hand.
But don’t try to get Tim Whitehead to reveal the secret mix in his wood chips.
“That’s top secret. I’m never going to let it go,” Whitehead said. “I chop my own wood and the mixture changes according to the meat.”
It changes for the baked beans, too, a side dish close to Whitehead’s heart. “I take a lot of pride in my beans. I’m known for my beans.”

FYI News briefs & announcements – April 17

Bears waking from hibernation April is “Bear Awareness Month” in Alaska. Though only a few reports of bears awake and roaming around have so far been received, Department of Fish and Game biologists say that’s likely to change any day. In preparation, the department is asking people to take down bird feeders and place garbage, […]

Ghost boat bill targets environmental hazards

The ghost boat bill addressing derelict vessels sailed on home in the closing hours of the Alaska Legislature, allowing local governments more control over cleaning up or clearing out the vessels.
HB 131 is a first step toward fixing a boatload of problems faced by harbors around the state. It updates long-outdated statutes that placed the delegation for authority to take control of the vessels with the state,which operated harbors. The statute was written in the late 1970s but harbor ownership was transferred to municipalities in 1980.
Rachel Lord, the outreach and monitoring coordinator at Cook Inletkeeper, helped educate legislators and others about the bill. Lord works with coastal communities to clean up harbors.
Homer spent a lot of legal money developing strong ordinances and processes to deal with these vessels, Lord said. But other harbors around the state may not have measures in place. Now statewide legislation helps give all communities more power.

Investors can learn from Earth Day’s lessons

Next week, we observe Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day has grown into an international movement whose goal is to raise awareness of the need to take action to sustain a healthy, sustainable environment. You can do your part through recycling and other measures, but you can also apply some of the lessons of Earth Day to your financial situation — and, in particular, to your approach to investing.
Give these ideas some thought:

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