Business

Gov. Walker's budget proposal would reduce funding for Alaska Construction Academies

The Alaska Construction Academies might see a steep decline in funding next year if the Legislature accepts Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget cuts.

The governor’s fiscal year 2018 budget, released Dec. 15, proposes a $600,000 reduction in general fund dollars for the Alaska Construction Academies, an Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development program that offers free basic construction training to high school students and adults in Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula.

Study: Replacing aging North Pacific fishing fleet would cost $11.3 billion

Rejuvenating Alaska’s large vessel fishing fleet could be nearly an $11 billion boon for Outside shipyards, according to a new McDowell Group report.

Iin a study commissioned by the Port of Seattle and the Washington Maritime Federation, the Alaska-based research firm pegged $11.3 billion as the cost to completely replace the 414 fishing and processing vessels longer than 58 feet that participate in North Pacific fisheries off the coast of Alaska.

Downey appointed new chief of staff at SPH

Dr. Rob Downey, M.D., is the newly elected 2017 Chief of Staff for the South Peninsula Hospital Medical Staff.

Dr. Downey offers an outpatient functional medicine practice, and is the Infection Prevention/Employee Health Physician and Long Term Care Assistant Medical Director for South Peninsula Hospital. He is board certified in Family Medicine and is a certified practitioner by the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Downey replaces outgoing chief of staff Dr. Sarah Spencer.

NOAA planwould set aside more salmon to help beluga population

Cook Inlet could have a new group of salmon users joining recreational, commercial, subsistence and personal use fishermen: endangered beluga whales.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, or NMFS, wants the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to start considering the dietary needs of Cook Inlet beluga in management plans, part of a nationwide Species in the Spotlight project aimed to boost eight different species to the point of delisting them from the status as a threatened species.

Kodiak fishermen intercepting UCI salmon, say studies

Two studies commissioned by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that were released last month examine the genetic makeup of salmon harvested in the Kodiak Management Area from 2014-2016 and show that a substantial number of sockeye and chinook salmon bound for Upper Cook Inlet are being intercepted by Kodiak fishermen.

The studies show that over the course of those three years well in excess of 1 million sockeye and chinook salmon were harvested in KMA that were bound for UCI, with 626,473 sockeye in 2015 alone.

Owners of empty LIO building take $37 million claim to court

Owners of empty LIO building take $37 million claim to court

By Elwood Brehmer

Morris News service - Alaska

The owners of the former Anchorage Legislative Information Office building took their $37 million contract claim against the state Legislative Council to court Dec. 20 after more than a year of wrangling over the Downtown office space.

716 West Fourth Avenue LLC filed the appeal to a Nov. 21 Legislative Council decision to deny the group’s claim in state Superior Court.

New method leads to lower oil production predictions

By ELWOOD BREHMER

Morris News Service - Alaska

There is good news and bad news when it comes to the State of Alaska’s closely monitored oil production forecasts.

A new method should mean more accurate forecasts; but future production estimates will likely be lower as a result, according to the state officials compiling the data.

The Department of Revenue used to farm out the semi-annual oil production forecasts published early each spring and late each fall to an outside consultant.

SPH offers telemedicine to help stroke victims

South Peninsula Hospital now offers telemedicine that saves time and lives.

Every minute counts when someone is experiencing stroke symptoms. And now, South Peninsula Hospital offers web-based telemedicine to allow a consulting neurologist to get their eyes on a patient within minutes of their arrival to SPH’s Emergency Room.

Offered through the telehealth program at Providence Alaska Medical Center, tele-stroke uses an electronic Internet platform and portable equipment to connect stroke patients and the hospital’s ER doctors with a neurologist in Anchorage or Seattle.

Cleanup now under way at Tesoro spill in Nikiski

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the cause of a recent oil spill near the Tesoro Refinery in Nikiski.

On Dec. 18, the facility operator noticed blackened snow near the wastewater tank at the Tesoro facility during a nightly inspection, according to a Dec. 27 situation report from the Department of Environmental Conservation. The company estimated that approximately 165 gallons of a crude oil and water mixture had spilled, according to the report.

Serenity House applies for detox center grant

Plans for the central Kenai Peninsula’s first medical detox facility are underway.

Over the last several years, opioid addiction on the Kenai Peninsula and in Alaska in general has become a significant public health issue. Last May, the community coalition Change 4 the Kenai brought it to broader public attention with a series of highly attended town halls on the issue.

Council allows sport guides to buy halibut quota

Culture shifts, as does policy.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council, master of the nation’s most valuable fishing region, decided on Dec. 10 to implement a new plan that in some ways reflects changing attitudes and economies in the North Pacific and in Alaska.

The plan involves allowing guided recreational halibut fishermen to buy up commercial quota through a system called an RQE — a recreational quota entity. This differs from an existing program that allows sport guides to lease, but not buy, commercial quota.

Murkowski: House chose party over energy policy

Sen. Lisa Murkowski accused House leaders of forgoing negotiations on her overarching energy policy bill to begin holiday celebrations early.

Still steaming more than a week after it became clear her signature piece of legislation would die in the lame duck session of Congress, Murkowski said in a Dec. 16 interview that House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, chose to adjourn the House Dec. 8 to attend a holiday party in New York rather than round up votes for final passage of the final House-Senate conference committee version of her Energy Policy Modernization Act.

Walker renews push to use Fund earnings to fill deficit

Gov. Bill Walker called for continued budget cuts, more state wage freezes, fuel tax increases and again proposed using Permanent Fund income to shrink Alaska’s $3 billion-plus annual deficit in his 2018 fiscal year budget package released Dec. 15.

The administration’s $4.21 billion fiscal 2018 operating budget plan would modestly cut unrestricted General Fund, or UGF, spending by $47 million over the current, 2017 fiscal year budget.

RCA still counting deregulation votes

Ballot counting for an election to deregulate Homer Electric Association Inc. started Dec. 8 and is continuing. An independent accounting firm is counting the ballots, said Ann Wilde, a section manager with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

The RCA will certify the election no later than Dec. 27 and announcement of the results will be made in an order certifying the election.

Oxygen therapy being used to treat a variety of medical issues

Dr. Patrick Huffman and his staff joke that they may nickname the latest tool in their disease-fighting arsenal R2-O2.

The resemblance of the low-pressure hyperbaric oxygen chamber in Huffman’s Frontier Natural Health office in Homer to the beloved Star Wars’ robot character R2-D2 is hard to miss. The hyperbaric chamber is white and cylindrical and looks almost to have a face like R2-D2. Both have dials and gauges. Both are resourceful in the way they work — and, yes, both are a little tech-y.

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