Month: August 2021

Haines’ tap water safe, E. coli detected may have been false positive

first_imgHealth | Local Government | Southeast | SyndicatedHaines’ tap water safe, E. coli detected may have been false positiveJune 26, 2015 by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News Share:Haines, Alaska. (Creative Commons photo by Alan Vernon)Haines‬ has safe tap water again, and E. coli previously detected in it may have been a false positive.The state Department of Environmental Conservation on Friday rescinded a boil-water notice issued Wednesday because new tests showed no E. coli bacteria in the water system.The bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting and more serious symptoms.Haines Borough Manager David Sosa got the good news Friday afternoon.“The test results on all the samples came back negative. And as a result, we received a lifting of the boil-water notice that was posted by DEC on the 25th,” he says.The notice affected homes, offices, restaurants and bars. Some residents turned to bottled water or springs around town.Officials said more positive test results would require flushing all or part of the municipal water system. That could have taken several days.“We know that they’ll be some additional testing for us but as far as the residents of Haines are concerned, they can drink their water. And we’ll just continue to work with DEC to make sure we’re taking all the steps necessary to provide for public health,” he says.Haines residents were told to boil their water for two minutes, which kills the bacteria. Notices were handed out door-to-door.Sosa says he wasn’t told why the earlier sample tested positive for E. coli. It could have been a false positive.Haines is a borough of about 2,400 people in northern Lynn Canal.Share this story:last_img read more

Over 1 million face loss of food aid over work requirements

first_imgEconomy | Family | Federal Government | Food | HealthOver 1 million face loss of food aid over work requirementsFebruary 17, 2016 by David A. Lieb, Associated Press Share:A volunteer unloads donated baked goods at a food bank in Des Moines, Iowa. Food banks could become strained, as more than 500,000 people could lose food stamps in 22 states reinstating work requirements this winter. APMore than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could soon lose their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements that began kicking in this month.The rule change in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was triggered by the improving economy — specifically, falling unemployment. But it is raising concerns among the poor, social service providers and food pantry workers, who fear an influx of hungry people.Recent experience in other states indicates that most of those affected will probably not meet the work requirements and will be cut off from food stamps.For many people, “it means less food, less adequate nutrition. And over the span of time, that can certainly have an impact on health — and the health care system,” said Dave Krepcho, president and chief executive of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.Advocates say some adults trying to find work face a host of obstacles, including criminal records, disabilities or lack of a driver’s license.The work-for-food requirements were first enacted under the 1996 welfare reform law signed by President Bill Clinton and sponsored by then-Rep. John Kasich, who is now Ohio’s governor and a Republican candidate for president.The provision applies to able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents in their home. It requires them to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training courses at least 80 hours a month to receive food aid. If they don’t, their benefits are cut off after three months.The U.S. Department of Agriculture can waive those work rules, either for entire states or certain counties and communities, when unemployment is high and jobs are scarce. Nearly every state was granted a waiver during the recession that began in 2008. But statewide waivers ended this month in at least 21 states, the largest group since the recession.An Associated Press analysis of food aid figures shows that nearly 1.1 million adults stand to lose their benefits in those 21 states if they do not get a job or an exemption. That includes about 300,000 in Florida, 150,000 in Tennessee and 110,000 in North Carolina. The three states account for such a big share because they did not seek any further waivers for local communities.In Tennessee, Terry Work said her 27-year-old deaf son recently was denied disability payments, meaning he is considered able-bodied. And that means he stands to lose his food stamps, even though she said her son has trouble keeping a job because of his deafness.“I know there’s going to be a lot of people in the county hurt by this,” said Work, founder of Helping Hands of Hickman County, a social service agency in a community about an hour west of Nashville.Nationwide, some 4.7 million food stamp recipients are deemed able-bodied adults without dependents, according to USDA. Only 1 in 4 has any income from a job. They receive an average of $164 a month from the program.In states that already have implemented the work requirements, many recipients have ended up losing their benefits.Wisconsin began phasing in work requirements last spring. Of the 22,500 able-bodied adults who became subject to the change between April and June, two-thirds were dropped from the rolls three months later for failing to meet the requirements.Some states could have applied for partial waivers but chose not to do so.North Carolina’s Republican-led government enacted a law last fall accelerating implementation of the work requirements and barring the state from seeking waivers unless there is a natural disaster. State Sen. Ralph Hise said the state was doing a disservice to the unemployed by providing them long-term food aid.“People are developing gaps on their resumes, and it’s actually making it harder for individuals to ultimately find employment,” said Hise, a Republican who represents a rural part of western North Carolina.In Missouri, the GOP-led Legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to enact a law barring the state from waiving work requirements until at least 2019. The three-month clock started ticking Jan. 1 for 60,000 people in Missouri, where unemployment is down to just 4.4 percent.“We were seeing a lot of people who were receiving food stamps who weren’t even trying to get a job,” said the law’s sponsor, Sen. David Sater, a Republican whose Missouri district includes the tourist destination of Branson. “I know in my area you can find a temporary job for 20 hours (a week) fairly easily. It just didn’t seem right to me to have somebody doing nothing and receiving food stamps.”Others say it’s not that simple to find work, even with an improving economy.Joe Heflin, 33, of Jefferson City, said he has been receiving food stamps for more than five years, since an injury ended his steady job as an iron worker and led to mental illness during his recovery. He said he gets nearly $200 a month in food stamps and has no other income. Heflin was recently notified that his food stamps could end if he doesn’t get a job or a disability exemption.“I think it’s a crummy deal,” Heflin said while waiting in line at a food pantry. “I think they ought to look into individuals more, or at least hear them out. … I depend on it, you know, to eat.”Policymakers often “don’t realize a lot of the struggles those individuals are dealing with,” said Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University in Philadelphia.Some are dealing with trauma from military service or exposure to violence and abuse, Chilton said. Others have recently gotten out of prison, making employers hesitant to hire them. Some adults who are considered able-bodied nonetheless have physical or mental problems.A study of 4,145 food stamp recipients in Franklin County, Ohio, who became subject to work requirements between December 2013 and February 2015 found that more than 30 percent said they had physical or mental limitations that affected their ability to work. A similar percentage had no high school diploma or equivalency degree. And 61 percent lacked a driver’s license.“There should have been more thought on how we look at employment and not thinking that people are sitting there, getting food stamps because they are lazy and don’t want to work,” said Octavia Rainey, a community activist in Raleigh, North Carolina.Some states have programs to help food stamp recipients improve their job skills. Elsewhere, it’s up to individuals to find programs run by nonprofit groups or by other state agencies. Sometimes, that can be daunting.Rainey said people who received letters informing them they could lose their food stamps sometimes were placed on hold when they called for more information — a problem for those using prepaid calling cards. And in Florida, food aid recipients received letters directing them to a state website for information.“A lot of these folks, they don’t have computers, they don’t have broadband access,” said Krepcho, the Central Florida food bank executive. “That’s ripe for people falling off the rolls.”Associated Press reporters Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee, and Greg Moore in Milwaukee contributed to this report.Share this story:last_img read more

Ketchikan assembly postpones vote on retail marijuana tax, sales tax cap measures

first_imgMarijuana | SoutheastKetchikan assembly postpones vote on retail marijuana tax, sales tax cap measuresAugust 2, 2016 by Leila Kheiry, KRBD-Ketchikan Share:A view of Ketchikan from the top of the Edmonds Street stairs. Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted to postpone measures on a retail marijuana tax and a sales-tax cap increase during session Monday.After lengthy discussion Monday, two tax items on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agenda each were postponed: an increase to the sales tax cap and a tax on retail marijuana.The retail pot tax discussion is an item that carried over from the second meeting in July.During that meeting, an ordinance that called for a marijuana sales tax of up to 10 percent was sent back to borough management with direction to link the additional tax to the potency of marijuana products, such as concentrates and edibles.When it returned to the Assembly, though, there was lengthy discussion about how complicated the borough’s excise tax should be.Assembly Member John Harrington suggested indefinitely postponing the measure and asking borough management to come back with another, simpler ordinance calling for a 5 percent excise tax on retail marijuana.That motion passed 4-3, with Mike Painter, Alan Bailey and Stephen Bradford voting no.Glen Thompson, though, added that he’d like some options with the new ordinance, including an additional excise tax related to potency.“I think there’s some validity to an additional excise tax on potent products that can be a danger to children, and we’ve seen this in places in Colorado where toddlers pick up something they think is a candy bar and wound up in the hospital,” Thompson said. “An additional excise tax on those types of products to dissuade their use is probably warranted.”The assembly also discussed and ultimately postponed a proposed increase to the sales-tax cap on single-item purchases, which has remained at $1,000 for about three decades.The original proposal tripled the tax cap, but during the second meeting in July, the motion’s co-sponsor Bill Rotecki asked that it be lowered to $1,500, and adjusted to inflation every five years.The tax increase still wasn’t a popular proposal. Local business representatives spoke during public comment against raising the tax cap, stating that they compete against big-box online stores that offer free shipping, so taking away this small advantage could affect their sales.Hannah Ramiskey of Schmlock Mechanical said it’s in the community’s interest to help local businesses, and not provide more incentive to shop online.“They don’t provide any services here. They don’t give money to your children,” Ramiskey said. “They don’t provide employment for your workers here. As retail gets smaller and smaller and smaller in Ketchikan, those are jobs that are gone. That is money donated through all of those stores – to donations to this community — and it’s harder and harder.”Rotecki questioned whether someone would choose to buy online rather than locally over about $30 – which is the extra sales tax they would pay if the tax cap jumped to $1,500.Rotecki’s argument in favor of raising the tax cap is that leaving it as is means a greater percentage of taxes comes from smaller-item sales, putting more of a burden on lower-income residents.But, with an apparent majority on the Assembly opposed to raising the sales-tax cap, he suggested not raising it, but still adjusting it to inflation every five years.“The inflation thing is a very minimal increase,” Rotecki said. “I don’t know that this (assembly) body would have the nerve to do anything and I think that doing nothing is really wrong, so I propose that we do something, which is inflation-proofing.”That amendment passed, with Painter, Thompson and Bailey voting no.But then, Thompson proposed postponing the whole thing indefinitely. He argued that the conversation was premature, and the Assembly needs to have a wider discussion about taxes in general.That motion to postpone passed 6-1 with only Rotecki voting no. Share this story:last_img read more

Licensed child care availability up 21% in Juneau

first_imgCommunity | Education | Family | Juneau | Local GovernmentLicensed child care availability up 21% in JuneauSeptember 5, 2016 by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO Share:Issy Kako-Gehring holds her two-year-old daughter, Ally. Kako-Gehring runs the Gehring Nursery School in Juneau. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/ KTOO)Licensed child care availability is up 21 percent in Juneau compared with last year, according to a local organization.Child care providers and its supporters say that’s good news for a market that historically has struggled to meet demand.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2016/09/05CHILDCARE.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Joy Lyon is the executive director the Association for the Education of Young Children, a Juneau-based organization that researches and provides services for child care in Southeast Alaska.“We’re really excited that now we 21 percent more child care spaces than we did last year, at this time, so there’s an increase of 80-some spaces that is  the result of three different initiatives.”One of the big initiatives relaxed city zoning rules that apply to child care centers, which the Juneau Assembly passed late last year.One change let at-home child and day care providers have up to 12 children, instead of eight, without needing a permit from the city.“The zoning laws have led to four new group homes, so they’re able to provide support for more children,” Lyon said. “That’s the model we hope to encourage for the other 30 family child care providers, and then two new centers have started since last year, which has led to the increase. One of the centers would not have been able to start without that change to the zoning laws.”That center is the Gehring Nursey School.Gehring Nursery School worker Allison Cadiente-Laiti-Blattner reads to a group of children. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/ KTOO)On a recent morning there, about a dozen babies and children are running around, eating snacks and preparing to paint. Some are crowding in a circle to listen for an impromptu story time.The five women that work at the day care also have their own children here. One teacher says watching her children grow up while working is a bonus.Amy Myers is an administrator at the daycare. After getting pregnant two years, she says one of her first thoughts was: What about child care?“I heard that there were waitlists for pretty much every day care,” she said, “and then not only were there waitlists for child care, there were no infant spots.”She says if you’re lucky, the search starts early.“So really it’s that moment you find out you’re pregnant, you have to get on a waitlist for somewhere,” Myers said.Myers decided to be a stay-at-home mom, and eventually started working at the day care center.Issy Kako-Gehring runs the center and says just two years ago, it couldn’t have existed under the city’s zoning rules for child care providers.In 2014, she says she began meeting with Juneau Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz and Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl to address the issue. Those meetings eventually led to the zoning changes.Two other initiatives have also contributed to additional childcare availability, Lyon said.The first is the Hiring, Educating and Retaining Teaching Staff, or HEARTS initiative, which the city sponsors. The program’s goal is to the provide educational resources and help retain child care teachers.The second initiative is a $1,000 grant that Lyon’s organization offers to new child care startups.Kako-Gehring said families turning over is another factor.“Part of that reason, I think, is that a lot of families are moving,” she said. “We’ve had at least 10 families in the last year, to move out of state, young families.”Juneau has an aging community and the cost of child care here forces families to make important decisions, she said.For mothers, she said, do you work and pay a thousand dollars a month for your child to be in day care, or do you stay home and watch them grow up?“There’s a lot that’s involved in this 21 percent and it has to be looked at from every angle,” she said. “The 21 percent increase could also mean that less women are in the workforce.”Kako-Gehring said her day care isn’t at capacity. That’s a good thing, she said; her workers aren’t overwhelmed. But when they do open a spot — it’s filled almost immediately.A few other child care centers I called in Juneau had long waiting lists, too, especially for infants. But for the first time in five years, child care capacity in Juneau is rising.Share this story:last_img read more

Obama brought attention to threatened Alaska villages, but little funding so far

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Arctic | Climate Change | Federal GovernmentObama brought attention to threatened Alaska villages, but little funding so farDecember 19, 2016 by Rachel Waldholz, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:Waving goodbye to Kotzebue from the doorway of Air Force One. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)It’s been more than a year since President Barack Obama visited Alaska, and became the first sitting president to travel above the Arctic Circle.The trip was designed to draw attention to climate change in the lead up to last year’s international conference in Paris, and the president went out of his way to highlight Alaska villages threatened by rapid erosion.But as Obama prepares to leave office, most of those villages find themselves no closer to a solution.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2016/12/OBAMA-RELOCATION.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.On September 2, 2015, Obama stepped up to the microphone in the Kotzebue school gym and greeted the loudly cheering crowd.Obama said he had come north for one big reason: to raise the alarm about the dangers of climate change in one of the places where it’s most obvious.  Places like the eroding village of Kivalina, which he flew over on his way to Kotzebue.For many Alaskans, he said, it’s no longer a question of if they will have to relocate, but when.“Think about it,” Obama said. “If another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we’d do everything in our power to protect it.”Climate change, he said, should be no different.“What’s happening here is America’s wake-up call,” he said. “It should be the world’s wake-up call.”Taking in the sights from Air Force One, Sept. 2, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Maija Lukin was mayor of Kotzebue during the president’s visit. She also worked on climate change issues for the Maniilaq Association, the regional nonprofit.Lukin said personally, she was pretty excited about Obama’s visit. And professionally, she hoped it would draw attention to the issues facing rural Alaska. Which it did, she said. And she appreciates that.But, she said, attention isn’t enough.“When the president says something like ‘the United States would do anything in its power to make sure that these places aren’t wiped off the face of the Earth,’” she said, “you gotta put your money where your mouth is.”On that front, the response hasn’t matched the rhetoric.Five months after the president’s visit, the Obama administration released its major funding proposal, as part of its final budget request to Congress: $400 million over 10 years for issues including village relocation in rural Alaska.The money would have been part of a proposed $2 billion “Coastal Climate Resilience program” overseen by the Interior Department. But U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called that essentially a bait and switch. The program would have been paid for by taking revenue away from other oil-producing states, and had little chance of passing Congress. Murkowski accused the Obama administration of using Alaska as simply a “backdrop” for his climate change agenda.During his visit to Kotzebue, Obama also announced that the Denali Commission, which has historically built infrastructure in rural Alaska, would be the lead federal agency coordinating relocation efforts.Joel Neimeyer, co-chair of the Denali Commission, says that’s a pretty big deal.The view from Air Force One of Kivalina, as President Barack Obama flew to Kotzebue, Sept. 2, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)“There would be one federal agency that could marshal all the federal agencies together and then be responsive to the state and the individual communities,” he said.But the new assignment came with no new funding.The Obama administration requested an additional $4 million a year for the commission. But Congress has yet to appropriate it.Neimeyer says the Denali Commission is doing what it can within its small existing budget. But it’s frustrating.“All of Alaska now knows the Commission has this assignment,” he said. “My concern is, if in future appropriations there are no funds for this effort, that’s immaterial to rural Alaska. They’re still going to come to us and say, this is your assignment. See it through.”For awhile this year, Neimeyer says, he even had trouble getting a call back from the White House to clarify his agency’s new assignment.Obama, of course, has many fans in rural Alaska. They point out there’s only so much the president can do. It’s Congress that controls the federal purse strings.And Sally Russell Cox, a planner with the state who’s worked on relocation for about a decade, says the issues are clearly getting more attention.“The federal agencies are now engaged at a very high level,” she said. “So there’s a lot of high-level attention to how funding and other resources can be pooled to help these communities.”Agencies including the departments of Agriculture, Energy and Interior have made money available for things like water infrastructure, energy efficiency and planning. But nothing close to the amounts needed to move a whole village.The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated it will cost $80 million to $130 million just to move the 350 or so people in Newtok, one of the most threatened villages.Cox says the state will continue to do what it can. But, she says, the federal government has a special responsibility, because in many cases, villages are where they are because the federal government put them there — often by choosing the location for a school.With Obama on his way out the door, that federal responsibility now falls to Congress and the incoming Trump administration.Maija Lukin, in Kotzebue, says she hopes the next president will pay attention, because rural Alaska is running out of time.“We don’t call them climate change adaptation plans, we call them a survival plan,” she said. “So how are we going to survive, how are we going to ensure that our culture stays alive in our changing weather?”Share this story:last_img read more

Ask a Climatologist: Tallying daylight on the darkest day of the year

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | WeatherAsk a Climatologist: Tallying daylight on the darkest day of the yearDecember 21, 2016 by Annie Feidt, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:Above the Arctic circle, there’s no daylight on the solstice. Fairbanks has about 3.5 hours. Anchorage, 5.5 hours and Juneau a bit more than six hours. (Graphic courtesy of Brian Brettschneider)Alaska marked the solstice early Wednesday morning at 1:44. So what does that mean for the amount of daylight across the state?To answer that question, we checked in with Brian Brettschneider , a climatologist in Anchorage who closely tracks Alaska climate data and trends.He regularly talks with editor Annie Feidt, from Alaska’s Energy Desk as part of the segment, Ask a Climatologist.Interview transcript:Brian: If you’re north of the Arctic Circle, north of Kotzebue, there’s no daylight, so no sunrise and sunset. And then once you get south of there, in Fairbanks, you’re at about 3.5 hours. When you get to Anchorage it’s somewhere in the 5.5 hour range and then in Juneau, it’s about six hours, 20 minutes.Annie: Compare that to a few major cities in the lower 48.Brian: Places in the northern part of the lower 48, like Seattle or Chicago, you’re looking at 8.5 to 9 hours of daylight. As you get farther south, like say Los Angeles- ten hours; in Miami- 10.5 hours.Annie: How does the amount of daylight, especially in a place like Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), affect the climate.Brian: When the sun is about five degrees above the horizon, it provides essentially no solar energy. And so even though the sun is out and on your skin, you may feel a little warmth, but it provides almost no atmospheric heating. It’s just as likely in Fairbanks, for example, that the high temperature of the day would occur at 2:00 a.m., and the low at 2:00 p.m. There’s really no correlation like you would find in the summer when the sun is high in the sky and the afternoon high temperature is going to be just after that peak solar angle. It could be any time of the day or night once you get a little bit north of Anchorage.Annie: Does the amount of daylight balance out around the globe over the course of a year?Brian: That’s a really interesting question because we assume that long days in the summer, short days in the winter and they all average out. It’s actually not entirely true because of the elliptical nature of our orbit and the tilt of our axis, we actually get more daylight in the summer here in Alaska than we have darkness in the winter. So for example in Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, in the summer they have 82 days where there is no sunset, so 24 hours of daylight, but in the winter they have 64 days with no sunrise, so that’s an 18 day difference. So it’s not fully in balance and that solar equation is actually more heavily weighted toward light than dark here in Alaska.Share this story:last_img read more

For Homer resident, Bogoslof eruptions mean more habitat for wildlife

first_imgAleutians | Environment | Southcentral | Weather | WildlifeFor Homer resident, Bogoslof eruptions mean more habitat for wildlifeDecember 27, 2016 by Zoë Sobel, KUCB-Unalaska Share:Recent eruptions have changed Bogoslof Island. (Photo by Bill Burton and Dave Schneider/Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey)A volcano in the eastern Aleutians has been erupting for the past week.Bogoslof volcano is an uninhabited island 60 miles northwest of Unalaska.It’s part of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge, which is based hundreds of miles away in Homer.Steve Delehanty, the refuge’s manager, also lives in Homer. His reaction to hearing about the eruption was pure excitement.“On Bogoslof, changes have occurred within human lifetimes of people who are alive today,” Delehanty said. “And even within the career of people who have worked on the refuge.”You can see change on a human timetable.“Those of us who have been out there in the last 10 years got used to thinking of the new normal,” Delehanty said. “Well, it’s going to look different again next year.”The Alaska Volcano Observatory said an fourth eruption Dec. 26 threw ash 30,000 feet above the uninhabited island.The observatory said recent eruptions have also produced new land, meaning Bogoslof is changing shape.What does that mean for the seabirds and marine mammals that call Bogoslof home?“They need these forces to occur for them to live, but at the same time those very forces can change their home,” Delehanty said. “It creates habitat and it takes habitat away.Being more than 700 miles away from Bogoslof means Delehanty has to be patient.“One of the odd things about being a refuge manager for a national wildlife refuge that is so remote and hard to get to, is you can’t just go out there this afternoon and see what’s going on,” Delehanty said.Delehanty said the soonest he’ll see Bogoslof in person is this summer when the research vessel Tiglax is back in the Aleutians.Until then, Delehanty will have to satisfy his curiosity with satellite imagery of the island.Share this story:last_img read more

Fukushima radiation yet, and unlikely, to affect Alaska seafood

first_imgEnvironment | Federal Government | Fisheries | Nation & World | Oceans | Public Safety | Southwest | State GovernmentFukushima radiation yet, and unlikely, to affect Alaska seafoodJanuary 11, 2017 by Avery Lill, KDLG-Dillingham Share:Sockeye salmon delivered in Bristol Bay. (File photo by KDLG)Alaskan seafood remains free of detectable Fukushima-related radiation, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.The department along with other state, federal and international agencies has been testing Alaskan seafood since 2013.After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, food safety authorities, including the FDA, reported it would be highly unlikely that radiation would affect Pacific seafood in the U.S.Marlena Brewer, the spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Conservation, said there was still significant public concern in Alaska.“Fishing is such a huge part of our lives here, so I think that there was this overwhelming concern,” Brewer said. “They wanted to see Alaska specific data.”Food safety inspectors were already collecting samples around Alaska as a part of normal food safety operations.In 2013, they began collecting additional samples to send to the FDA lab in Massachusetts to test for Fukushima-related radiation. Species tested include king, chum, sockeye and pink salmon; halibut; pollock; sable fish; herring; and Pacific cod.In 2016, Alaska was selected as the first state test site for implementation of a field deployable gamma-ray analysis system to analyze fish for radionuclides. The system is housed in Anchorage.The FDA continues to analyze the results, but now the samples are tested in-state.“The idea is that, in the unfortunate event that there’s another incident like Fukushima, the FDA would be able to deploy these instruments to other states so that they could get the real-time monitoring data instead of kind of scrambling after the fact and trying to coordinate these sampling efforts like we have,” Brewer said.Brewer said that they will continue to test Alaska seafood specifically for Fukushima-related radiation for at least one more year. None has been detected since testing began.Share this story:last_img read more

Trump signs 3 executive orders, including withdrawal from Pacific trade deal

first_imgFederal Government | Nation & World | NPR News | PoliticsTrump signs 3 executive orders, including withdrawal from Pacific trade dealJanuary 23, 2017 by Brian Naylor, NPR Share:President Trump acted on Monday to keep a signature campaign promise: withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.Trump’s action, an executive order, is mostly symbolic.As he signed the order in the Oval Office, Trump said, “We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” adding it’s “a great thing for the American worker.”Trump also signed two other executive orders, though NPR has not seen the official language on the orders yet. One is expected to impose a hiring freeze on federal workers, except for defense-related positions; the other may be a reinstatement of the so-called Mexico City policy, a rule that began in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was president. As NPR has reported, the policy “blocked federal funding for international family planning charities unless they agreed not to ‘promote’ abortion by, among other actions, providing patients with information about the procedure or referrals to providers who perform it.”The TPP, as it’s known, is a trade agreement with 12 Pacific Rim nations. It was never ratified by the U.S. because of congressional opposition, but was strongly backed by the Obama administration. It would create a free trade area stretching from Japan to Chile, and it was seen as an effort to create a counterweight to China, which is not a party to the agreement.During the campaign, Trump called the TPP “a horrible deal” and a “potential disaster” that would hurt U.S. workers and companies.His action on TPP is Trump’s first effort to address the concerns over trade that helped propel him to the Oval Office, and there are many more expected. He is expected to begin talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.In a meeting with business leaders Monday morning, Trump said, “We want to make our products here.”He also vowed to retaliate against businesses that close U.S. factories in favor of foreign plants. “If you go to another country,” Trump said, “we are going to be imposing a very major border tax.”Trump said that right now, “we don’t have free trade because we’re the only one that makes it easy to come into the country.”Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.Share this story:last_img read more

Diving for answers: Will blue king crab come back in the Pribilofs?

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Fisheries | Western | WildlifeDiving for answers: Will blue king crab come back in the Pribilofs?August 16, 2017 by Laura Kraegel, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:Jared Weems’ team dives near St. Paul Island. His two-year research project is focused on the overfished blue king crab population around the Pribilof Islands. (Photo courtesy Jared Weems).In the Pribilof Islands, no one’s gotten an accurate count of blue king crab since the population crashed hard in the 1980s. This summer, a marine biologist is trying to change that, with the species’ first in-depth study in more than 30 years. His ultimate goal: Determine if blue crab can make a comeback — or if it’s gone for good.Audio Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2017/08/17-CRAB.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.It’s a foggy day on St. Paul Island and Jared Weems is itching for the weather to clear up. He wants to get out on the water and back to work.“There’s so much life up here in the North Pacific,” he says, “Just amazing, spectacular diving.”A juvenile blue king crab in Weems’ lab in Juneau. This summer, he’s tracking them in the wild by diving in St. Paul’s nearshore waters. (Photo courtesy Jared Weems).Weems is a scientific diver and fisheries Ph.D. student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. But this summer, whenever the weather’s good, he’s something like a diving detective.His research has him combing the sea floor around St. Paul, searching for the elusive blue king crab. By diving in nearshore waters, deploying drop cameras and setting collector traps, he’s hoping to find the crab that sweeping trawl surveys tend to miss.At this point Weems says it’s important to count as many as possible, because the species’ outlook seems pretty bleak.“Blue crab has pretty much flat-lined right now in the Pribilof region,” he says.But the population around St. Matthew Island, a few hundred miles north, had a similar collapse before rebounding enough to support a handful of commercial openings in recent years.Is that a sign the Pribilof stock could also recover? Weems isn’t sure yet. He’ll have a better idea after he completes his population estimate — when he knows how many crab are in the water, how many are surviving to adulthood, and how much habitat they have to work with.With that data, he says he’ll gauge if the blue crab population can rebuild naturally, if it needs some help from scientists or if there’s just not enough stock to rebuild.Whatever the final answer may be, Weems says now is the time to take advantage of each clear day.“This might be one of the last opportunities to really understand this stock before we have to move on or before it’s gone completely,” he says. “This should serve as a foundational study as to where blue king crab goes in the future.”The preliminary results will be out in January with final data released in 2019.Weems’ project is supported by The North Pacific Research Board, the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island, the Central Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association, the Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation, and Biology Program.Share this story:last_img read more