KNBA News - Murkowski on Nome port; Igiugig recieves funding to improve Hyrdopower Project

Mar 4, 2016

KNBA News for March 4, 2016

Nome Port

By the Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is again asking the Army Corps of Engineers to advance a northern deep-water Alaska port to serve vessels in Arctic waters.

Murkowski has questioned the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, on why the corps is not seeking funding a proposed port expansion in Nome.

The corps in October suspended a study of a deep-water port for large oil and gas support ships in the Arctic Ocean after Royal Dutch Shell ended exploratory drilling off Alaska's northwest coast.   Darcy says the agency is looking at expanding the scope of the study.


By Hannah Colton, KDLG

The village of Igiugig has been awarded $392,500 dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy to make improvements on a hydropower system that could replace the use of diesel fuel for the town of 70 on Lake Iliamna.

The RivGen Power System, developed by the Ocean Renewable Power Company, has been successfully tested in Kvichak River outside of Igiugig for the past two summers.

But there are still logistical challenges, and the village plans to use this new grant to continue tweaking the system to make it easier and cheaper to operate.

"The first season we deployed it, it required two fishing vessels and a Flexifloat and two excavators, and it was just a massive operation. And then efficiencies were made, and the next deployment season it just took pretty much a 32-foot fishing boat to deploy," said Alex Anna Salmon, the President of Igiugig Village Council. "So we’re looking at making that even easier so community can handle floating the device and sinking it easier."

One major logistical challenge is that the RivGen must be removed from the river each spring while the ice flows out. Salmon says that used to be a predictable two-week window, but now the warmer winters are disrupting that schedule.

“Like right now, we’re at 40 degrees in the beginning of March. And this is often our coldest month, and right now there's no ice in the lake," said Salmon. "Last winter, we had two ice break-ups. So we wanted to study more on ice to see how it interacts with the device, if it’s possible to keep the device in if minimal ice is flowing down the river.”

Another environmental factor that concerns the village is how the turbines could affect the young salmon going out. 

“The device was installed at the peak of the sockeye salmon return last summer, and over a million swam by it, and there was no harm to fish," explained Salmon. "So we know that the adult salmon are in the clear, so this would be focusing on out-migrating salmon smolts.”

The third round of testing, along with the new smolt research, will begin this summer.

The Department of Energy has approved $392,000 for the first phase of the project, and the village could be selected to receive the rest up to $1.1 million dollars more in funding.

Eventually, the village aims to supply 100% of its energy needs using two of the RivGen units.

Traditional canoe in progress at Sitka park

By Brielle Schaeffer, KCAW

Carving a canoe takes lots of trial and error. It’s kind of like a metaphor for life.

Just ask master carver Steve Brown. He says he learned how to do it through lots of mistakes.

“A person could think up other ways to do it but we found over the years generally speaking the old timers had it figured out and they did it their way for a number of reasons and you don’t necessarily know what all those reasons are until you do it that way,” he said. “We can think up other techniques to make that work but they won’t be as efficient in the big picture as in the old, traditional way.”

He’s teaching his apprentices Tommy Joseph, Jerrod and Nick Galanin, all of Sitka, and T.J. Young of Hydaburg, how to add by taking away. This some 5,000 pound, 28-foot red-cedar log is being transformed into a boat, one wood chip at a time.

But there’s more to it than carving. The artists also use a technique called steaming, once the bottom of the boat is carved and the inside is hollowed out.

“We’re going to fill the boat up with water and we’re going to have a huge fire and we’re going to put in rocks and get them red hot,” Jerrod Galanin said. “Once they’re red hot you put them in the water inside the boat and we’ll keep it covered. It’s basically steaming. It allows the wood to bend. We’re going to widen up the sides of the boat.”

That method will be able to stretch the wood more than a foot. Galanin says he wanted to learn how to make this type of canoe because it is so special to the region.

“Tlingit people, Haida people are tied to the land and this is our technique, our methods,” he said. “We utilize what’s around us and this is our style of boat, you can’t go anywhere else in Alaska and build this kind of boat.”

Apprentice Young says he wants to learn the craft because it’s so important to his culture.

“Sometimes you have to stop and look back in order to move forward,” he said.

Brown has been carving canoes for decades, something he started learning on the Makah Indian Reservation in Washington state. He says he often gets asked how a non-Native learned the art of canoe carving. To answer that question, he likes to tell a story about working with his Makah teacher.

“He said some of the people in his community had asked him how come he decided to work with a white man. He said, ‘It’s true historically white people were largely responsible for the unraveling of our culture. And therefor it’s right for some of them to put it back together.’ I’m attempting to help put it back together,” Brown said.

He’s learning from the process, too.

Sealaska Heritage Institute donated the red-cedar log from Prince of Wales Island. It was the best tree for the job, Brown says, but it got a big crack when it fell to the ground. The carvers have to cut out the split part in the center and add new wood.

“A person can get spoiled working on really nice trees so it’s good to know how to deal with one that isn’t so perfect,” he said.

The crack will add time to the process but the carvers hope to be done in May.