Archive for September, 2009

What is a 40 Day Feast?

September 25, 2009

Sep 25, 2009

Ann asked elder Nicholas Tucker to explain the Yup’ik custom to honor and remember a recently lost loved one.

*  *  *

The 40 day feast is fairly new and isn’t our Yup’ik traditional feast. It is a Russian Orthodox Catholic tradition that the villages picked up. It is based on our Lord’s Ascension into heaven, forty days after Easter. It is a wonderful tradition that has been incorporated into our tradition. After all, Yup’iks have always believed in life after death, and even before Christianity, we believed in a place where there was no longer suffering, thirst and hunger; the other place was where you were forever hunger and thirsty. So, it made sense to incorporate this Christian truth into our tradition.

Nick

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Alaskan Natives favor subsistence lifestyle; just 8 percent support Pebble Mine, new poll finds

September 22, 2009

Sep 22, 2009

* * *

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Contacts: Bobby Andrew, Nunamta Aulukestai, (907) 842-5983
Lydia Olympic, member of local Alaska Delegation to the U.K., (907) 301-1873
Jean Craciun, president and CEO, Craciun Research, (907) 279-3982

Poll Finds Bristol Bay Residents Favor Subsistence Over Pebble Mine
Groundbreaking research finds 79 percent believe mine would damage salmon fishery; Native leaders and fishermen ask Anglo American CEO to honor promise.


Anchorage, Alaska – A new poll released today finds an overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents strongly prefer their subsistence lifestyle to the promise of jobs at the pr oposed Pebble Mine.

The poll, which is the most in-depth survey of local Alaska Natives’ opinion on the Pebble Mine, found that 79 percent of respondents believe the mine, located in the headwaters of two of the region’s largest salmon-spawning rivers, would damage Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery – a key resource that many residents depend on for income and food.

“What Anglo American’s CEO told us when we met in London earlier this year was that if local communities did not want Pebble mine, then Anglo American would not build it,” said Bobby Andrew, spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of eight village corporations that commissioned the survey. “A majority of local people know the mine will pollute and destroy subsistence, commercial and sport fishing and adamantly oppose it.

“We are asking Anglo American to honor its promise and withdraw from the Pebble project,” Andrew said.

Andrew and the three other local Alaskans who met with Anglo American executives and shareholders earlier this year in London sent a letter today to the company’s CEO, Cynthia Carroll, along with the survey results. They asked her to adhere to promises she made in a private meeting that the company would abandon the Pebble project if local communities rejected it.

The letter dated September 22, 2009, stated:  “Opposition to the mine is overwhelming and unwavering despite significant outreach efforts by Anglo American and Northern Dynasty over the years…. With that in mind, we ask you to keep your stated commitment to forego development of the Pebble mine given the ongoing community opposition.”

“We are not going to risk our subsistence way of life, which has sustained our families for generations, on the Pebble Mine,” said Lydia Olympic, an Igiugig native who joined the group that met with top company officials in London in April. “Mining is not the answer.

“Sustainable development can only be based on our wild salmon, clean water, and renewable energy – not on a mine that will pollute our land and water with toxic waste,” Olympic said.

The poll released today was conducted by Anchorage-based Craciun Research, which sampled 411 Bristol Bay residents from six parts of the Bristol Bay region between May 18, 2009 and June 2, 2009. It was statistically drawn to get an accurate assessment of opinion in each of those areas: Alaska Peninsula, Lake Iliamna/Lake Clark, Nushagak Bay, Nushagak River, Togiak, and Kwichak Bay. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percent.

Among the survey’s main findings:

· The vast majority of residents favored renewable energy development (94 percent), value-added fish packing (89 percent), and tourism that Alaska Native communities could be involved (82 percent) in over mining.

· Survey respondents agreed almost unanimously (97 percent) that maintaining subsistence-lifestyle resources and their subsistence lifestyle is important.

· Seventy-two percent of those surveyed reported that a significant part of their diet came from fish, game, berries and other subsistence sources.

· Only 8 percent of survey respondents supported the Pebble mine project, less than the one-third the number that support oil and gas drilling.

· The strongest opposition to the mine was in the Nushagak Bay area, but even in Iliamna-Lake Clark area, where local businesses benefit more from current exploration activities, 73 percent of survey respondents oppose the mine.

· A majority (78 percent) thought Pebble mine would damage commercial, guided or subsistence fishing.

· A majority of respondents agreed that most jobs created by the mine would go to outsiders, not locals.

· Few respondents thought that mining could be done without harming the environment.

To download a copy of the survey report and the letter to Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll, go to: http://nunamtasurvey.info

Clean hot and cold running water, flush toilets, hot showers? It’s “a lock” for some Alaskan citizens

September 21, 2009

Sep 21, 2009

Like other states, many of Alaska’s citizens live in modern cities with all the conveniences thereof.  However, hundreds of other families live a subsistence existence, unable to even get fresh water piped directly into their homes.  They also do not enjoy a waste water sewage system that carries human waste away from their homes.

In too many villages, the rural people use buckets to haul fresh water back to their homes from a single community spigot of treated water.  These same villagers will usually have some kind of community “sewage lagoon” or bunkers to which they haul from their homes their 5-gallon buckets of human waste and into which they dump the smelly, unhealthy contents.

Pediatric illness is higher among these residents who lack fresh, treated water piped into their homes and who lack the ordinary waste water and sewer services of much of the rest of Alaska.  In other words, living like that is bad for babies and other children and the rest of the families, as well.

However, in Alaska, one group of people is guaranteed certain basic, human, civil rights.  In their “quarters”, so to speak, lighting, ventilation and temperatures must be carefully maintained.  The law mandates, in each living space, they must be provided one sink with hot and cold running water and an adequate working toilet. Showers must be located nearby with water temperatures maintained at 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Under certain conditions, these people have access to free cable t.v. service, with one t.v. allowed in their “quarters”.  The law also guarantees them free computer usage under certain conditions as part of their education, employment or vocational training.

I’m sure you have figured this out:

According to state law, the Alaska Department of Corrections must meet certain levels of care for its incarcerated population.   http://tinyurl.com/mrvu89

Law-abiding rural Alaskans are not guaranteed these same rights.  The citizens of many Alaskan communities continue to use honey buckets in their homes, in lieu of waste water systems, and the contents must be laboriously hauled away to be dumped in “sewage lagoons”, etc.

Can you visualize the prison population being forced to do this?  Well, maybe not, because those primitive living conditions for state prisoners are AGAINST state law.

And, if a prisoner had to tote his own water from one spigot in the prison yard somewhere, back to his own cell, for his personal drinking and bathing, it would constitute cruel and unusual treatment. That, too, is against state law.

And, piped-in hot showers?  Well, of course, prisoners are guaranteed hot showers.  Absolutely.

How many Alaska prisons have leaky ceilings where rainwater drips down inside the cells? And how many of those residents suffer asthma and other breathing problems from mold due to bad ventilation and chronically wet interior conditions?  That, too, would never be tolerated with all the legal rights afforded the incarcerated in Alaska, but it’s happening today in who-knows-how-many rural homes.

If you are INCARCERATED in Alaska, substandard housing, honey buckets, hauling potable water home in buckets, and cold, damp, moldy living conditions are AGAINST THE LAW.

Something to think about…

What is a “Remote Wall”, and why do we care?

September 21, 2009

Sep 21, 2009

Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) is aligned with Alaska home builders in conjunction with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.   Their mission is to promote and advance “the development of healthy, durable and sustainable shelter for Alaskans and other circumpolar people through applied research”.  Much of their research is being tested today in a new Research and Testing Facility (RTF) built on the university’s campus in Fairbanks.  Improved building standards and techniques will lead to better quality, cold climate, energy-efficient homes.

The RTF in Fairbanks “is a living laboratory with nearly 1,000 sensors incorporated into the building” that addresses “real-world building problems by testing built-in components under real environmental conditions as well as in controlled laboratory situations.”

The cold climate housing researchers have a great video about the RTF, their research, and their findings.  If you are interested in learning more about cold climate housing construction techniques, just click on the video link at www.cchrc.org.  Various building aspects of cold climate foundations, roofs, and much more are discussed, as well as a mention of Alaska’s five different climate zones, with their individual construction issues.  Here are just a few bits of info gleaned from their video:

Unlike ordinary house construction that has insulation and a vapor barrier on the INSIDE of the framed wall, the cold climate house has a “remote wall” with rigid insulation board and a vapor barrier located OUTSIDE the ordinary framework of the house.  This remote wall protects the house from cold and moisture which, otherwise, leads to condensation and mold.  The remote wall construction also increases the structure’s ability to retain warmth. It’s a much better design for the Alaska winters.

Potable water is used for drinking and washing in the RTF, then reused as “gray water” for flushing toilets, which yields “black water”.  The black water is then treated in a sewage treatment plant on-site, which brings the black water back to a gray water standard again, whereby it is reused.

They have taken 1,000-year old technology and are using it to heat their modern RTF building: a high-efficiency masonry stove burns hot, then radiates the heat efficiently by using old technology that works well today.

The researchers have come up with new formulas for concrete.  They know how to maximize the use of local concrete-making material used in construction so that it sets faster and cures better in colder temperatures.  This extends the building season, saving money, while it also reduces the need to heat the area around the newly poured concrete, thus saving MORE money.

Shoot, just go check out the video.  It’s encouraging to know that Alaskan researchers are implementing their findings not only in the new Sustainable Northern Shelter home completed in Anaktuvuk Pass, but are also starting to work in conjunction with some other rural Alaskan communities to build more new homes that combine the best of a community’s old ways with new technology.  It’s a step in the right direction for our rural friends!

What if someone could build an energy-efficient home in the far north for $150,000?

September 20, 2009

Sep 20, 2009

They did. It’s called the “Sustainable Northern Shelter”.

Jim Crawford referenced the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation in his commentary, “Creating a new vision for housing in Alaska” (Sept. 16). Apparently, the AHFC works with the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) based in Fairbanks.

This summer, CCHRC’s new “Sustainable Northern Shelter”(SNS), a 1,000 square foot house, was built on-site in Anaktuvuk Pass in far northern Alaska for less than $150,000 in about four weeks.  That total cost included shipping all the materials to the community on one DC-6 airplane.  Click  HERE!

The home, an “energy-efficient, culturally-based, and environmentally-appropriate building”, is expected to require only 110 gallons of fuel a year, instead of the customary 1,400 gallons or more. The self-contained sewage treatment plant buried behind the home uses exhausted air from the bathroom to treat waste, which is then leeched into the ground.

For an interesting slide show about this house, click HERE!

“The basic construction method…involves a light steel frame structure with an interior plywood skin. A soy-based, polyurethane insulation with an r-60 is applied to this framework. This insulated layer is covered by a spray-applied coating, which is durable, waterproof, and resilient. Earth-banking and a sod roof are used to buffer the structure from strong winds and drifting snow. The home makes use of natural lighting, water conservation, and other energy-saving techniques. To further reduce the home’s need for costly energy, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council installed solar panels and will be adding a wind power system to produce renewable energy.”

Other articles on the same house can be found in two parts with photos at PART ONE and PART TWO

More excerpts from the links:

“Like traditional sod homes, the prototype house is bermed into the soil for insulation and a wind buffer. The foundation is 2 feet of gravel fill topped with a synthetic waterproof membrane that supports the home’s light frame.”

“The walls are technically inside-out. The frame is made of metal studs sandwiched between half-inch sheets of plywood. Soy-foam insulation, which would go inside the frame of a Lower 48 house, encases the frame here in Anaktuvuk Pass. As a final layer, a 1-inch coating of elastomeric liner, the same material used in truck bedliners, forms a tough waterproof shell.”

“In this climate, the insulation should go on the outside not the inside because of the condensation point,” says Judith Grunau, designer of the project. “You get moisture problems when the cold meets the warm. The insulation has so much R-value (thermal resistance) that the cold doesn’t ever meet the warm.”

“Forgotten America: Rural Alaska Problems and Solutions”

September 19, 2009

Sep 19, 2009

Mr. Crawford, thank you for your thoughtful commentary Creating a new vision for housing in Alaska in the “My Turn” opinion  section of the Juneau Empire.   I’ve tried to correlate your work to an article I read recently titled  “Forgotten America, Rural Alaska Problems and Solutions”.

Like much of rural Alaska, the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of Western Alaska have great needs.  In anticipation of the arrival last month of the secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Interior, and Agriculture on their “Rural Tour”, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, Calista Corporation, and the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) prepared a comprehensive study, “Forgotten America: Rural Alaska Problems and Solutions”.

“Forgotten America” presents some of the long-standing social and economic challenges in rural Alaska related to critical needs in housing, health, infrastructure, energy, green jobs, climate change and the subsistence economy.  The publication addresses, individually, the various Departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and the Interior.  Each area of concern is presented not only as a statement of critical issues in this region, but is followed with specific recommendations requesting help.  The citizens of this region respectfully urge the cabinet members to hear their comments, understand their difficulties, and effect needed changes in Washington to improve the lives of the Alaskan people.

While similar points are brought up from one section to another, and discussion often overlaps among the various departments, one of the more comprehensive areas might be focused in Housing and Urban Development, pages 12-15.

A couple of things stand out here.  AVCP Housing Authority is a nonprofit organization that serves the AVCP region in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  It builds between 25-50 homes annually and modernizes/repairs about 250 more annually.  The authority spends about $8.7 million in new housing construction per summer, plus another $3.75 million for modernization projects, thus a total of about $12.45 million goes to summer work projects in its villages.

Today, according to the AVCP, about 3,500 new, safe homes are needed in the Y-K Delta region alone.  At a cost of about $250,000-300,000 per 3-bedroom house, the estimated funding needed to resolve this housing crisis in the Y-K Delta ranges from about $800 million to about $1 billion.  At the current rate of funding each year, around $10 million, “…it will take 105 years to build these 3,500 homes.  AVCP Housing, and other housing authorities in rural Alaska, need larger amounts of annual funding to meet the housing needs of rural Alaska in a more timely fashion.  The health and well-being of Native Alaskans living in villages continues to be in jeopardy because of substandard housing and overcrowded conditions.”

Further attention addresses what few numbers of rural Y-K Delta villages have water and sewer services in the form of piped water, even though Alaska receives an unspecified amount of funding from the federal government for these improvements.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of rural people use 5-gallon paint buckets as toilets, then laboriously haul the contents out near the village to be dumped into an open “sewage lagoon” or “bunker”, which, of course, does not meet even minimum standards for health and safety.  The villages need “adequate funding to develop and implement Solid Waste Management Plans that will plan for the closure and rehabilitation of existing dump sites, develop hazardous waste programs, eliminate honey buckets, and construct new, safe landfills.”

More discussion continues about the region’s homes and buildings being poorly insulated, the delivery each summer of expensive diesel fuel barged upriver to the remote villages to provide winter heat and year-round electricity, and often inefficient and outdated appliances used to heat substandard houses.  Also addressed is the extremely long wait-list for an energy audit by one of only 2 Energy Raters for all homes in the far-reaching expanses of the region in order to get some critically needed help weatherizing the great numbers of substandard housing.

The regional residents clearly know what their housing needs are, and their recommendations to the cabinet members are:  “Create jobs in villages by providing funding to train village staff to be Energy Raters as well as Weatherization/Energy Conservation Technicians that specialize in building construction and energy savings technologies.  Additionally provide funds that can be used to develop a revolving loan program to make home improvements since many families are unable to purchase energy efficiencies without assistance…”

Further discussion addresses the melting of the permafrost in the global warming of the region, thereby damaging building infrastructures.  Due to widespread poverty of the region, untreated lumber lies at the foundation of much of the substandard housing and now rots faster than in the past due to rising global temperatures.  Beetles and carpenter ants further damage the untreated lumber and make the houses less stable.  Problems with mold erupt as home integrity fails. The Y-K Delta groups request that AVCP receive “sufficient funds to level 1,743 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program homes over a 3 year period at a cost of $6,000 per home.  Five hundred eighty-one homes per year will be leveled which will create numerous regional job opportunities.”

I encourage all AB readers to take a few minutes to look at this document.  The regional residents clearly explain their issues of concern, know what they need, and urgently request help from our federal leaders.  You might even ponder, as I do, for what period of time, for how many years, have these same requests been made by the people, then ignored by all levels of governments–local, state and federal?

“Every year, an assessment of the sanitation needs of Native Americans across the country is completed for the Indian Health Service…the estimated 2009 total sanitation needs of Alaska’s Native Villages is 429 projects with a cost of $736 million for their completion. It does appear that development of water and sewer services in the Y-K Delta is deliberately delayed, while the rest of Alaska communities have been enjoying water and sewer services for decades.” (page 13)

“IT DOES APPEAR THAT DEVELOPMENT OF WATER AND SEWER SERVICES IN THE Y-K DELTA IS DELIBERATELY DELAYED, WHILE THE REST OF ALASKA COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN ENJOYING WATER AND SEWER SERVICES FOR DECADES.”

I’d love to see a correlation of how many Alaskan prisoners are housed in facilities with hot and cold running water, with access to hot showers, three meals a day, and flush toilets, and compare their numbers to the thousands of peaceful, law-abiding Alaskans toting nasty honey buckets to open sewage lagoons year-round, often in zero temperatures.   Does that strike you, like it does me, as JUST PLAIN WRONG?

If you are interested, photos of the Rural Tour’s day’s trip to Bethel, AK, in August can be found at http://www.adn.com/2009/08/12/896115/rural-tour.html.

If you’d like to read the USDA press secretary’s follow-up, written after the cabinet members’ Alaska rural tour, see Rural Tour visits Alaska.

Creating a new vision for housing in Alaska

September 16, 2009

Sep 16, 2009

By Jim Crawford | My Turn,  Juneau Empire

Nearly 4,000 homes in Alaska are “falling apart,” according to Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s 2008 Housing Assessment. The report says 12,980 homes are needed to replace the overcrowded and substandard houses; 3,972 homes are unsafe, unsanitary and unrepairable.

In 2005, 4,500 homes were labeled as unrepairable. The difference, sadly, is the result of a change in sampling and refocus of the report from units to residents. No progress was noted for thousands of Alaskans who live in unsafe, unsanitary and substandard housing.

I hoped HUD’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program funding would start replacing unlivable housing. However, aside from the continuing focus in Mountain View, nothing much happened with the $19.6 million. Neighborhood Revitalization could purchase only vacant foreclosed homes. All those homes that are occupied but unsafe continue to decay, except for those mobile homes and cabins that burn and kill people. AHFC blames HUD. HUD blames Congress. Alaskans die.

Neither HUD nor AHFC have an effective program to acquire, relocate, remove, renovate or replace dilapidated housing. They just report on it.

Alaska also has twelve regional housing authorities that use BIA NAHASDA funds, (Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act). These can be used to acquire, remove or renovate all dilapidated housing. The Denali Commission also helps in rural areas. Urban, non-Native housing operators need not apply.

In the 1950s, HUD had an urban renewal program. HUD tore down shanties and rebuilt housing; selling to families with FHA financing and improving the private stock. Urban renewal fostered commercial buildings as well. Crime-infested bars on lower Fourth Avenue in Anchorage were bulldozed under urban renewal.

Today, AHFC proudly proclaims its dividends to Alaska. About $1.5 billion in profits have been diverted from housing to state overhead since 1986. While thousands of Alaskans, urban and rural, live in squalor, AHFC’s mission goes unmet. AHFC celebrated $35 million in profits last year.

AHFC’s mission is “To provide Alaskans access to safe, quality, affordable housing.” Not another dime should be diverted to government overhead until the death traps and fire hazards are gone from Alaska’s housing. About 4,000 homes, all tinderboxes, are just waiting for a match. Bad housing kills people every year.

Governments get into a habit of reporting problems instead of solving them. Last year’s Housing Assessment indicates 63 percent of the state’s unrepairable housing is located in rural Alaska. The Legislature should task the 12 regional housing authorities with the correction and fund it from 63 percent of the housing profits of Alaska Housing. Working with urban non-profits, the Legislature should require AHFC to implement an urban acquisition, rehabilitation and/or replacement program that knocks down unsafe, unsanitary housing and replaces it with new housing units for sale or rent. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity should be encouraged to apply. 37 percent of the AHFC profits from housing should be plowed back into fixing urban housing.

In comparing 2008 housing through 1991’s and 2005’s Housing Assessments, the report states “The total number of housing units estimated to be overcrowded has hovered around 20,000 units. If we apply this same methodology to the 2008 housing assessment we will arrive at a number that is just under 20,000 (18,428 to be exact.)”

For 27 years, since 1991, Alaska’s overcrowded and unsafe housing has not changed. That defines mission failure.

Incredibly, the assessment concludes: “It is not possible that all of the housing needed to alleviate overcrowding and substandard housing will occur in one building season or even in ten. Even if the funding were available to build all of the needed units, it would take considerable time to get the job done. For this reason an estimate of gross cost is not terribly meaningful.”

After studying this problem since 1991, AHFC has yet to define a solution or a cost to correct unsafe housing in Alaska.

The Legislature should examine AHFC’s mission. It may be time for a new mission for AHFC. A mission that includes housing solutions defined in dollars, days and contracts to completion: a mission with a strategic plan that eradicates unsafe housing statewide. That might be a mission worthy of our $1.7 billion capital investment in AHFC.

•  Jim Crawford is a third generation Alaskan and the former deputy executive director of Alaska State Housing Authority, the predecessor to AHFC. He is a Southcentral real estate broker and developer who welcomes feedback. He can be reached at C21jcrawford@aol.com.

Reprinted with permission from the author

Crowley VP: “I hate to say it won’t happen, but it doesn’t look good at the moment for getting our last (fuel) deliveries up to our terminal in McGrath”

September 13, 2009

Sep 13, 2009

Since 1896 Crowley Maritime Corp., then known as Black Navigation, has been moving fuel and freight in Arctic Alaska during the short window between break-up and freeze-up. Each year they race against the clock to deliver millions of gallons of fuel across Bush Alaska.

This year there was a delay in re-opening Tesoro’s Black Nikiski refinery on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula after an annual maintenance break so Crowley contracted to import a third of its fuel supply, 24 million gallons, from a South Korean refinery. Chartered tankers hauled 570,000 barrels, roughly equal to three quarters of the daily throughput of the trans Alaska pipline, to the “Drill, Baby, Drill” state.

And if anyone wonders why fuel prices are higher in the Bush, Crowley VP Craig Tonga explains why in today’s Alaska Dispatch:

The tankers held steady in the deep waters off the Seward Peninsula as Crowley barges lightered cargo for transport into the shallow ports along the Alaska coastline. As many as three barges are needed to offload the fuel under optimum conditions – but as Crowley is well aware, that’s not a scenario to be counted on offshore Alaska. A storm could hit and pound the waters for seven days straight, trapping the fuel ship at a cost of $50,000 or more a day while barges linger at port. And such costs weigh into the final prices rural Alaskans pay for their fuel, Tornga says.

Crowley also buys fuel from Flint Hills Resources’ North Pole refinery but getting Alaskan fuel to Alaskans is also challenging.

Fuel from Flint Hills’ refinery in North Pole begins its journey to the Bush on rail tankers, ending up at the shores of Cook Inlet, where it’s loaded on barges. From barges the fuel is transferred to offshore vessels, and then to terminals. In Kotzebue, for example, fuel may be shifted to a river barge destined for communities up the Koyuk River, and then possibly trucked before it ends up in village fuel tanks.

Western and northern Alaska beyond Dutch Harbor lack ports deep enough to accommodate the draw of a loaded oil vessel. So the tankers sit well back from the shores and a fleet of smaller vessels lighters fuel off the tankers, shooting out to communities with deliveries. In some places, beaches have no docks. Barges are stuck waiting for the tide to change. In others, docks lack headers for offloading fuel, and crews have to reel out up to 1,000 feet of 4-inch hose to move the product to storage tanks. To serve a few communities, Crowley’s ships carry ramps, a crane and a truck; the truck is offloaded to the beach, where it’s filled to 5,000 gallons before making a drop down the road.

Stricter EPA regulations will drive the price up further in coming years but for now the focus is on getting the fuel to the villages in time this year.

In the Interior, nights are already dropping below freezing, and the Kuskokwim River at McGrath — about five feet shallower than normal at this time of year — has started to freeze.

“I hate to say it won’t happen, but it doesn’t look good at the moment for getting our last deliveries up to our terminal in McGrath,” Tornga said. “Finishing the season is very contingent on how soon it’s going to freeze up, and (if we are) going to have enough water in those rivers to make the deliveries.”

Is anyone else wondering why Alaska is so eager to pump its natural gas to us down here in the lower forty-eight when it could be put to much better use in its own backyard?

Governor Parnell Asks for Status Reports on Fuel Supplies in Rural Areas

September 6, 2009

From the Alaska Dispatch, September 6, 2009:

Parnell tracks fuel supplies in rural Alaska

Rena Delbridge

Sep 5, 2009

In the wake of last winter’s fuel crisis in parts of the Bush, Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration is asking more than 400 fuel distributors, local governments and regional nonprofits for status reports on fuel supplies in rural areas as winter nears.

(Snip)

Parnell press secretary Sharon Leighow said the Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff is making 400 calls over the next two weeks to gather updates on where fuel shipments stand. The division has also set up a toll-free number — (877) 769-4614 — for people with concerns about adequate winter fuel supplies in their communities.

***

Since June we’ve asked if there will be affordable fuel in place in rural villages this fall, before the rivers freeze and barge deliveries become impossible. We waited for moths for answers. This led to further questions about the new Rural Sub-Cabinet and its Advisory Panel.

On June 29, faithful contributer Jim Behlke contacted Tara Jollie, the Director of the State’s Division of Community and Regional Affairs, and asked if villages had obtained adequate fuel supplies for the upcoming winter, or if she knew of any villages that may not be able to afford fuel for delivery before freeze up.

On July 10 Behlke also contacted the rural subcabinet’s chair, the Attorney General, and encouraged the subcabinet to convene and determine if any state assistance may be available to rural residents who couldn’t afford to purchase fuel for subsistence fishing and hunting

After weeks of deafening silence he publicly asked for a little more information about what the Rural Sub-Cabinet was doing to prevent a repeat of last year’s crisis. This article was published a month ago today in the Alaska Dispatch:

How’s that subcabinet doing?

Jim Behlke

Aug 7, 2009

I’ve been especially concerned about the health of rural Alaska after last winter’s fuel crisis. Then came flooding, and now parts of rural Alaska have had another disastrous fishing season that will probably lead to significant economic hardships next winter. So, I’ve been wondering about the Alaska Rural Action Subcabinet (ARAS).

He goes on to ask a number of questions about the Sub-Cabinet’s Advisory Panel including if and when they meet, are meetings open to the public and are minutes recorded.

We received some answers on August 13 from Sub-Cabinet Advisory Panel Chair Michael Black. The Panel meets quarterly, there are no minutes but notes are taken and a notice is posted the morning of their meetings in the Atwood Building in Anchorage.

You can read more in Ann’s August 31 post in which she points out how hard it would be for rural dwellers to participate.

We could go on and on about why the administration should have take action months ago to make sure fuel is in place now in the Bush and how the Advisory Panel to the Rural-Sub-Cabinet should have made this a priority since no one else was paying attention but we won’t. At least something’s being done now.

Rena Delbridge sums up the importance of acting quickly nowl in her Dispatch article .

Alaska’s harsh winter weather and ice prevent shipments on waterways from reaching rural areas in all but a few summer months. Most of the fuel must be delivered by early October, Tornga said. But already waters on the Kuskokwim are well below normal stages for barge transport, and temperatures in McGrath, a village several days upriver from Bethel, have dropped below freezing on a number of nights. If waters freeze before levels rise, a few communities could face the added expense of flying in fuel to replenish their tanks.

Nicholas Tucker: We Need to Prepare for Winter Now! *UPDATED*

September 4, 2009

Sep 4, 2009

Dear Governor Parnell, Mr. Moller, Ms. Jollie, Mr. Black,

After reading this  article in the Dispatch I am gravely concerned and worried even more so than before about what this winter will bring to rural Alaska.

“We have people desperate to go out moose hunting, whale and seal hunting, geese and other species of fish,” he said. “You could let them go out and get these by giving them the opportunity to get gas, motor oil, ammunition, repair parts and every single thing that is necessary to prepare much better for this winter.”

~ Nicholas Tucker

Not only is the lack of both subsistence and commercial fishing, greatly diminishing our ability to put away fish for the winter but also the lack of funds brought in from commercial fishing is now making it hard, if not impossible, for rural Alaskans to put away other subsistence game.

Moose season is now.  The birds are flying now.  Now is the time to be out hunting for seals and whales.  All of these types of game are critical for us to survive this winter.  If we cannot purchase gas to go out and hunt then I fear this winter we will have a crisis of much greater proportions than last winter.  Last winter we were able to depend a little bit on other game that we had put up for the winter since we were lacking fish.

It looks like this winter that option will not be available to many rural Alaskans because they simply cannot afford the gas and other necessities required to go out hunting.

I am quite confident in saying that none of us want to again have to rely on food and fuel drives to keep rural Alaska from having to make the choice between feeding their families or heating their homes this winter.  Additionally, I am certain that ADF&G will NOT open up commercial fishing of Coho Salmon to try to help rural Alaskans earn some money for fuel.  Even if they do, there might not be a market for them and the money that might be made probably won’t do much to avert another crisis this winter.

So, what can we do???  I know that a fisheries disaster declaration went to Washington DC.  But let’s be realistic, even if a disaster is declared the help and funds will be slow to come.  Although these monies and aid will help, they will not bring back the birds, the seals, the whales and other game we need to put away for winter.

There has to be something we can do NOW.  Fuel vouchers for gas so we can hunt now before the game heads south?  There has to be some type of emergency funding available to help rural Alaskans now, so we can try to put away enough game to make it through the winter.

Last winter the BIA stepped in and helped.  Who can help NOW?  I refuse to think that there isn’t something that can be done now.  We have been seeing the warning signs for months.  Winter is fast approaching.  Help and solutions need to happen NOW before people have to make the same life threatening decisions they had to make last winter.

Step up NOW, help NOW!  Come up with solutions NOW before we have a much bigger crisis than last winter.

Rural Alaskans will tell you NOW is the time we need help, NOW is the time to help prevent another crisis this winter.  NOW before winter sets in is the time to do something, not later when we start getting reports of families going without food or going cold this winter.

Please do your jobs, help your people!  We are telling you NOW that there is a high risk for a repeat of last year’s crisis only this year it looks to be much worse than last years.  Don’t ignore us, don’t wait until we are freezing and going without food to hear us.  Help EMPOWER us NOW, to keep us from having another crisis this winter.  Last winter was hard; this winter looks like it’s going to be worse.  We need to start coming up with solutions for not only this winter but also what about next year and after that?  Plan ahead, come up with solutions now, let’s not keep going through the same thing year after year.  Don’t ignore us and placate us until we are in a full emergency crisis winter after winter.

Coming up with solutions and preventative measures now will not only empower us but also will save hard earned taxpayers money now and in the future I am sure.

UPDATE!

Way to go Nick Tucker!

“Four days after he pitched a “crazy” idea to the state, Emmonak fisherman Nick Tucker Sr. is getting his wish: one last chance to earn money catching salmon before winter hits.”    Read the full article here.