By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News Seward Mariner’s Memorial organizers held the second annual Memorial Service this weekend, Harbor Opening Weekend. They recently added five or six more plaques to the dozen or so that were already up at the new light-house style structure. The plaques are in memory [...]
May 18 & 19th, 2013 8:30-10 am Sailors’ Breakfast, at Sailing Inc., open to public. 10am-2pm Sailors Swap Meet-sponsored...
By Heidi Zemach for SCN Cruise ship passengers in Alaska Railroad depot 2012l. Heidi Zemach file photo Celebrity Cruises...
Please click on flyer to enlarge.
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Monday April 22nd, Earth Day # 43, was observed in a number of ways around Seward. People got outside and walked around in the warm sunshine. TYC kids picked up trash. A new group helped create cloth bags, launching awareness of the persistent pollution of plastic, and encouraging folks to reduce their use of plastic bags and other single-use plastic items.
Meanwhile the Alaska SeaLife Center hosted an event at the Bear Mountain Conference Room to showcase three new environmental initiatives; two state-wide citizen’s science monitoring efforts, and a major marine-debris art exhibit, documentary, and coffee table book. ASLC Conservation Director Howard Ferren a Seward-based biological oceanographer, and UAA School of Engineering professor Dr. Orson P. Smith, also of Seward, are the proponents of the science monitoring program, and Ferren was the brain and the brawn behind the ambitious marine debris effort. His wife Dyan also is an avid local marine debris artist.
Alaska Coastal Observers
Smith said he’s kicked around the idea of establishing an Alaska Corps of Observers program for the past decade. Smith has seen a resurgence of citizen’s science and observations. “As an engineer, you always get residents to tell you what they’re seeing, but it’s hard to get quantitative information,” Smith said. Ferren also knows the value of involving ordinary people, such as fishermen, or native Alaskans living in remote areas, to report what they’re seeing so that scientists can track events such as species declining, species moving to other areas, areas of marine debris, climate change, ice melting, and much more. The Alaska Corps of Coastal Observers, or AkCCO, is a citizen science monitoring program that ASLC and the University of Alaska Anchorage developed, with support from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Coastal Impact Assistance Program.
A new website, www.akcoastalcorps.org, was recently established, and an AkCCO Advisory Board was selected last month to oversee the program’s direction, and figure out ways to sustain it without having to rely on grant funding. The new eight-member board will meet May 2nd in Anchorage for the first time. The board will select coastal test sites in the high priority communities, and then will help recruit and select a citizen-observer for each site.
Each observer will receive training in Seward, and will be given a kit of measurement instruments and record datasheets to take back home to their coastal communities. They will then start making beach observations on things such as wind speed, direction, wave height, direction, beach width, beach slope, beach material, air and water temperature, and anything else they observe. These observations, entered onto a website over time, will provide data about coastal processes and shoreline conditions which may subsequently be useful to local, regional and statewide managers of coastal resources. Only those selected individuals with the training will have access to put observed data onto the website, but anyone can go there and use the information being collected. Kira Hansen, an ASLC Technician, is Seward’s site observer at Lowell Point. There’s an automated observation tower there, gathering weather-related data.
On Saturday, April 27, Ferren and Smith will take advantage of low tides to bury a new cable to the tower, and to install an additional component to measure tides and waves.
Dr. Marybeth Murray, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Howard Ferren from ASLC are the principal investigators for another citizen-science website called BioMap, Alaska, which anyone can have access to if they wish to report observations. The project is sponsored by the Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperative. The observations will be vetted by Ferren and Murray, BioMap team members, or other experienced scientists however, before being posted, in order to assure accuracy. Citizen observers also contribute up to four photographs of their observations, which also may help them identify or confirm what they are seeing. Although the mapping website may expand to other coastal Alaska areas, the initial focus of the website currently is the Arctic, and 11 “species of interest” that either live there, or may be observed there.
The species selected include Ring Seal, Bearded Seal, Spotted Seal, Pacific walrus, Alaska Skate, Red King Crab, Alaska King Crab, Walleye, Pollock, Bering Wolffish, Chinook Salmon and Pacific Sleeper Shark. The Arctic, or Northwest Alaska, including the Chuckchi and Beaufort Sea, is a hotspot for observers as it is subject to the effects of Global Climate Change on marine life, and an increase in global shipping traffic, which could speed up the transport of Invasive Species, Ferren said.
“GYRE: an expedition and exhibition”
For the past four years, Ferren has worked tirelessly on a big idea to use art to draw public attention to the global issue of marine debris, mostly plastic, swirling around in our seas in massive Gyres, polluting even the most remote beaches, and getting into our food chain by being eaten by birds, fish, and other marine animals. His aim is to integrate science and art, using art to communicate the issue to the public in an attention-grabbing, meaningful way.
Ferren has gathered together a group of well-respected and gifted documentary film makers, photographers, a science writer, marine scientists, and more than 30 artists worldwide to make it happen. The Anchorage Museum has agreed to collaborate on the project, and will host a major exhibit of marine debris beginning in February of 2014 for six months. It will then be taken to other states and countries. The 7,500 square foot exhibit of ocean-debris and the GYRE expedition, and marine debris art produced by 30 international artists to represent the global perspective of the marine debris tragedy. It also will contain 15 essays by scientists and artists on the issue. Meanwhile, the GYRE will travel to Seward for a week-long trip June 7th aboard the research vessel Norseman. Together with the Museum Curator Dr. Julie Decker, Dr. Kate Schafer, educator with the Harker School in San Jose, California, the crew will explore and collect debris they find on beaches and in the ocean waters of Resurrection Bay, Gore Point, Shuyak Island and Afognak Island near Kodiak, and Hallo Bay in a joint operation with Katmai National Park staff.
The trip will be the basis of a documentary, and writings about the issues surrounding plastic debris, ocean gyres, driftnet ghost fishing, derelict traps, and the ingestion of micro-plastics by fish, birds and marine mammals. On board will be JJ Kelley, a National Geographic filmmaker, Kip Evans of the Sylvia Earle Alliance in Monterey, California and science writer Carl Safina, Nicholas Mallos, a conservation biologist and marine debris specialist with Ocean Conservancy, which coordinates global cleanups; and Dr. Odile Madden, a research scientist with the Smithsonian Conservation Institute, who specializes in plastics and its degradation process, and four very well-known artists: Pam Longobardi, a professor at Georgia State; Andy Hughes from Cornwall; Mark Dion, from Columbia University; and Alaska artist Sonya Kelliher-Combs. The expedition will be led by Howard Ferren. ASLC biologist John Maniscalco will serve as Safety Officer.
City Press Release:The City of Seward Harbor Department’s Safety Officer Mr. Flip Foldager was recognized recently in Anchorage at the Governor’s Safety and Health Conference. The other award recipients came from the private sector, especially large industries.
Under the guidance of a previous Harbormaster, Jim Beckham, Flip has developed and implemented the Harbor Safety Program. Not only is this program being used in the Harbor but it is being implemented City wide. Flip has taken full responsibility for the department’s safety program, not because it is his job but because the safety of his co-workers comes first.
In a time of economic belt-tightening, Flip goes above and beyond to find solutions that are affordable yet effective. He tests over 90 of the harbor’s fire extinguishers monthly and coordinates with local vendors to refill or replace them when out of compliance. The Harbor has portable Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) machines that have saved several lives in the harbor, thanks to Flip for his diligence in testing these machines monthly. The “Kids Don’t Float” program is very successful in Seward and Flip tracks inventory and replaces life jackets when needed.
Flip takes pride in his safety program and it shows. He is meticulous with his record keeping and can provide documentation in a moment’s notice of the training that has been provided to the entire Harbor staff. He provides weekly safety meetings, updates and educates the staff on new products being used at the harbor, provides required personal protections equipment when needed and makes sure that everyone knows when a new material safety data sheet has been obtained. Flip is a certified CPR/First Aid Instructor. Not only does he provide training to the harbor staff, he also provides training to other departments in the City at no additional cost. The goal is to one day have all City employees current in CPR/First Aid Training. Recently Flip attended the Marine Fire Fighting Symposium in Valdez which was extremely informative and he brought back a wealth of knowledge.
The safety of employees and visitors has been the driving force behind Flip’s dedication. He usually comes to work early, will stay late or work weekends to ensure that the City, its resources, visitors and institutions are operating in a safe manner. From walking the docks daily, monitoring the slips, noticing problem areas before they become a problem, Flip is a self-starter and is dedicated to providing the safest environment possible to his co-workers and to visitors of Seward.
During Flip’s 20 plus years of tenure with the City of Seward, his contribution to the City has gone beyond his work day. Flip has provided years of service with help in organizing the Mount Marathon Race and has participated in the race for a couple of decades.
(This press release from Sen. Begich’s office might be of interest locally as we are a growing Alaska port, experiencing increasing shipping activities):
Dramatically increased shipping traffic in the Arctic along with offshore oil and gas development require enhanced Coast Guard equipment, international shipping standards and new port facilities to service all that activity, seven federal and private sector experts told U.S. Senator Mark Begich yesterday during a Senate field hearing in Anchorage.
Representatives from the Coast Guard, Shell Alaska, Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) and others testified about maritime activity and development in the Arctic before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which Begich chairs.
“Those who testified today shared a common concern—the dramatic increase in shipping activity in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Strait,” said Sen. Begich. “Many people don’t realize that more than 500 ships passed through those waters last year. Many of the vessels were from countries that don’t abide by the same safety and environmental standards we do and that’s a real problem.” “It’s our duty to ensure that our Coast Guard is equipped and prepared for increased development in the Arctic”
With the additional traffic, Arctic shipping issues need to be addressed. The Coast Guard testified that many federal agencies had ‘gang-tackled’ the issue of oil and gas drilling safety paying less attention to maritime shipping, the more likely cause of a spill.
“It’s clear to me that maritime traffic and resource development are growing in the Arctic,” said Sen. Begich. “We need to get ahead of the game now so that the people of Alaska can benefit from the resource development, the jobs that will result, and the potential for revenue-sharing. With that vision in mind, it is our duty to ensure that agencies like the Coast Guard and NOAA are equipped to do the work ahead of them.”
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Soon after the Xiang Yan Kou, a 711-foot Chinese offshore heavy lift ship from Singapore appeared in Resurrection Bay February 28th to dry tow Royal Dutch Shell’s drill ship Noble Discoverer to South Korea, Catalyst Marine Engineering., a local marine welding, fabrication, and vessel support company was ready to position, fit and secure 44 sea fasteners to the deck of the XYK for the trip across the Pacific.
For five days, beginning the night of March 2nd, CME began its work. Two crews, each with eight welders and two supervisors, worked day and night in shifts to accomplish the job. “We got on board the night of the second and worked round the clock, 24 hours a day till the 7th,” said Jonah Swiderski, the shop manager. He was one of the supervisors, along with Catalyst Marine owner Joe Tougas, and Seth Price, all Seward men.
The welder’s task was to unfasten each of the tow ship’s 44 sea-fasteners, and re-weld them directly onto the hull of the drill ship and to the deck of the XYK. They would secure the drill ship and prevent it from shifting, moving or swaying, even if the vessel encountered high seas. The fasteners were spaced out along the hull’s center, its bow and stern. It took the 20-person team five days and nights to accomplish the work.
Catalyst contracted with 11 members of the Pile Drivers and Divers Local 2520. Seven of the workers were Seward locals, and nine of them had graduated from AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology welding program, also located here in Seward. None of the hired help came from out of state.
These activities were aided by the tugboat Junior, and the Chahunta, both vessels with local captains who transported the workers and equipment to and from the XYK. Their forklifts moved heavy equipment such from inside the ship vessel via mid-size water-tight hatch that opened onto the deck. The Seward welders who had trained at AVTEC included Kyle Kain, Sam Werner, Hill Novel and Scott Reierson. Others who had trained here were supervisor Seth Price, Neal Ricerson, Kele Bottineau, Morgan Provost and Justin Flowers.
Once the work was completed, each of the welds was carefully inspected and certified by Alaska Industrial X-Ray, Inc.
The XYK and ailing Noble Discoverer thus equipped, left Resurrection Bay March 9th.
Seward has seen a dramatic increase in industrial-marine activity recently, so the ability to fit right in and participate in the Shell-drill ship related port activity brought a sense of local pride, and demonstrated that even local businesses and workers already have many of the needed skills and qualifications, and also that they stand ready to play a major role in the future boom in Arctic-related shipping to come, Swiderski said.
Catalyst Marine Engineering is located inside a warehouse that includes Tougas’ Major Marine welding shop on Alameda Street, a lane that runs off of Port Avenue.
“I think that this job really showed that Seward is capable of taking on jobs of this size and of this magnitude, relying on local hires, and contracts with other statewide resources,” said Swiderski. “The whole thing is very exciting.”
Seward-based longshoremen and women also have been busy working under contract with the Noble Discoverer and other freight ships at a time of year that is generally slower for them.
Tougas and Swiderski don’t believe that all the activity is due only to Shell drilling activities, although they definitely were contributors this past summer and winter. We’re also seeing plenty more commercial industrial size barges and vessels period, they noted. The new security dock has enabled more large-size vessels to dock here, and has played host to at least five of Coastal Villages’ commercial fishing vessels. In recent weeks, the Aiviq, a 360 foot vessel docked here, along with the Sisuaq, a 300-foot offshore supply vessel, they said. The oil spill response vessel Nanuq also was here, and there was even a coal ship in.
“If you could tally up the feet of industrial vessel that was sitting here at any given time it would be off the charts for what Seward usually sees,” Swiderski said. Meanwhile, at Seward Marine Industrial Center shipyard, folks were busy working on the state marine ferries the Tustumena and Aurora, and Seward Ships has a waiting list of other boats to be worked on.
Looking at the increase in freight coming through Seward, the Alaska Railroad Corporation recently presented its board with an ambitious $80 million master plan to develop its own land near the port of Seward. Among other things, the plan calls for widening the existing ARRC freight dock, moving and fortifying its jetty, and dredging the basin adjacent to it to create an additional barge docking area. If done, there will be even more trains and barges coming and going.
The Alaska Railroad Corporation is looking to Seward, and the booming freight market it hopes to take advantage of here as a way to help overcome losses in other areas, such as losses from its formerly lucrative coal and petroleum customers. Freight revenue at the Seward railroad dock has increased 142 percent since 2008, bringing in $1.248 million last year, surpassing the $1.209 million received from cruise ships. In 2011, freight accounted for almost $940,000, while cruise ships brought in $1.3 million, and in 2010 it was only $655,000 to the cruise ship’s $1 million.
Last week ARRC announced it was eliminating 29 more positions statewide which represent an 8% reduction in the year-round and seasonal ARRC workforce, and equates to an annual estimated cost savings of $4.5 million in wage, salary and benefit costs. ARRC said it has experienced a $45 million negative swing in finances from 2011 until now. Contributing factors include a significant drop in revenue from key freight customers (coal and petroleum), millions less in federal funding, along with a jump in required matching funds, and at least $15 million per year required to implement a positive train control (PTC) system as required by federal mandate.
The same week, however, ARRC officials presented its board of directors with an ambitious $80 million expanded master plan to develop its land at, and around the port of Seward. The first two phases of the multi-step plan include widening its freight dock for $1.2 million, using 50,000 cubic yards of donated gravel; moving and fortifying the ARRC jetty, dredging the basin adjacent to it, and filling the uplands area to create an additional barge operation area. Currently, ships sometimes have to wait in line to unload or load up due to limited space, said Jim Kubitz, vice president of ARRC Real Estate and Facilities. Phase three would extend the freight dock.
There would also be about 10,000 additional feet of new (and replacement) track put in for trains to carry the goods directly to, and from the barges, and elsewhere. A set of tracks would run on the east side to access both of the waterfronts. There also would be tracks on the passenger dock, and perhaps 4,000-5,000 feet of tracks in the yard to store railcars, Kubitz said.
Customers coming from Seattle, Tacoma or Canada, using barges to ship freight would benefit from the additional dock space, he said. Seward is at least a full day closer than the Port of Anchorage, in addition to being ice-free, and trains can get it to Anchorage in four to six hours, saving fuel and a day in each direction.
Phase four would develop leasable real estate to accommodate freight customer upland operations. Phase five would be to develop an operating area to accommodate freight customer growth, and an additional operating area to accommodate barge and intermodal freight activity. ARRC would extend Port Avenue road to connect with Airport Avenue, and provide utilities along a new roadway. It would likely be a private road, perhaps with a security-gate, as those businesses would be related directly to railroad operations, Kubitz said. They also would install track through the intermodal operating area to connect to the freight dock. ARRC also would develop the filled pond north of the coal loading facility as a long-term lease parcel, as needed.
The timing of the Master Plan announcement, which came after updating ARRC’s board, was odd in light of that week’s firings and restructuring, Kubitz admits. “But it’s also a strategic move that the board and management feel we have to do to create more revenue,” he said.
After talking with railroad customers in Seward about their growing needs last summer, what was originally to have been just a dock extension has evolved to include creating another railroad barge basin for ships, and more upland long-term lease areas nearby to support them, Kubitz said.
“We want to grow the railroad, and this part of Alaska is such a good entrance into Alaska,” he said. “I started recognizing the opportunity that existed in Seward about two years ago,” he said. Also its prime location in terms of having a harbor, railroad and road system, and recognizing that industry appears to be discovering that Seward is a great place to do business. But idea was not put on paper until the last six or eight months, with financing from a U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant.
Kubitz does not see ARRC’s growth as tied in with new developments at Seward Marine Industrial Center to accommodate the Coastal Villages fleet, and to meet other shipping needs. But both efforts will help Seward grow, he said, and career-training provided at AVTEC will likely play an important role in the future.
Once again Seward celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring with the 3rd Annual Seward Spring Break Up Festival on March 15, 16,17, 2013. This festival will be a city wide 3 day fun festival with activities for all ages and will have entertainment and challenges, fat tire demonstration, gear swap meet, pub crawls, wi bowling, Karaoke contest, Steak Friday, Live Music, Pirate costume contests with cash prizes.. and more. This event was started to help the Seward Animal Shelter and a few other non profits throughout the city of Seward by bringing out our community and the surrounding area to welcome spring with a festival. The Pub Crawl will start with everyone of legal age that wishes to participate registering at the Hotel Seward starting 5pm Friday and Saturday nights before starting their journey throughout our cities drinking establishments, free van transport will be available for transports to the participants since they will sign a non driving pledge to be eligible to participate, T shirts will be given away to some of the Pirates that show up with their pirate attire….Contests with cash prizes will occur at Tony’s Bar Friday night at 9pm and on Saturday at Chinooks at 9pm. We do encourage our participants to drink responsibly and to consider the use of a designated driver. There will also be a Youth and Children Pirate Costume Contest at the Liberty Theater on Saturday……cash prizes for the best dressed pirate. The entire schedule is available at www.sewardevents.com on facebook – Seward Spring Break Up Festival For more Information : Rick Brown 907-224-2600
HB 80, a bill to remove cruise ship/large passenger vessel water quality discharge standards in Alaska, and revert them to the way it used to be before a 2006 citizen’s initiative called for stricter requirements took effect, has been fast-tracked through the state legislature. It passed the House February 4th, and is now going to the state senate for approval. In proposing the bill, Governor Parnell drew from some points made in his hand-picked science-team’s preliminary report on the issue. The bill discontinues the work of the team mid-way, however, not allowing the team to take the additional two years promised to complete studying the issue and producing a final report. To learn more about this bill, and the science team’s report, and internal dissenter, there are some very interesting articles in the Anchorage Daily News, which can be read on ADN.com
Read more here: Science panel report used to push cruise ship bill after DEC said it wouldn’t., published: February 9, 2013 (Sunday edition by Richard Mauer.)
Or this Anchorage Daily News editorial: Our View: Cruise ship bill needs a cold, hard look – not a rush job
Seward typically sees three to four cruise ships per week, sometimes more from mid- May through early September, some carrying up to 3,000 passengers and even more crew members.
Rep. Paul Seaton, of Homer, was the only republican House member to vote against the bill. He had hoped for greater protection for critical fish habitats:
“It changes the standards that were put in place by the voter initiative and
allows permanent mixing zones. I voted against passage because removal of the
target standards, rather than giving the ships longer to comply as technology
improves, will not lower pollution in confined state waters and can impact other
resources. I am disappointed that DEC was unwilling to remove the agency’s
ability to allow these discharges in the 6 statutorily designated Critical
Habitats, including Kachemak Bay. I hope in the end more consideration will be
given to reducing the impact of discharges from one million cruise ship visitors
per year and we can avoid potential conflicts with other uses of our sensitive
coastal waters.” (quoted from Seaton’s weekly newsletter to his constituents).
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Seward’s Small Boat Harbor and downtown will shrug off its Winter quiet, and fill with people in silly costumes and big hearts from across Alaska this weekend for the 28th annual Polar Bear Jumpoff Festival. It’s an event to raise money for cancer research. There are 43 teams signed up to participate in the plunge this year, meaning that the members of each team have committed to their sponsors to leaping into the Small Boat Harbor’s frigid water, and then swimming, or being pulled quickly out by a team of divers from the local fire departments and Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The plunge itself only lasts a few seconds, but the shock to the system is immense, and jumpers also have to wait in costume for their turn to jump, and also to parade to the harbor from downtown, often in skimpy costumes. The weather is for temperatures of around 20 degrees, and up to three inches of snow accumulation on Saturday. and more snow and rain on Sunday, so dress warmly if you plan to view the main event, which begins at 12:30.
The majority of teams hail from Anchorage, but there are five teams from Seward. They include a locally-based U.S. Coast Guard team promising 10-12 jumpers called “Ice Rescue Swimmers.” “Belly Flop” is a team from ACS downtown, led by Von Terry, that particularly likes to entertain the crowd with spectacular splashes; “Alaska Girls” features Karlie Ennes and Ashlee Hibbetts, who paraded last year in fishermen’s orange Grundens but jumped with their bikinis. “Just Clowning Around” is a group of friends from the Pit Bar, led by Vicki Cromer. There’s also Andrew Nelson, whose is going it alone.
The festival has many other events that contribute funding, and other forms of aid to the fight against cancer. The annual hair cut-off, on Sunday, provides locks of human hair for children who go bald from cancer treatments. There’s also an oyster slurping contest, turkey bowling, chicken wing-eating, and much more. The festival has contributed over two million dollars for the American Cancer Society and numerous other festival activities have assisted 50 Kenai Peninsula children with cancer to date. Local businesses and nonprofits also benefit during the slow winter shoulder season. Hotels and restaurants that remained open become busy. The Alaska SeaLife Center opens for the participants and their supporters, and offers a special deal for Alaska resident’s entry. There’s a poker tournament at the Pit Bar. The American Legion Post #5 building hosts lots of events including a steak dinner tonight (Friday), community pancake breakfasts Saturday and Sunday, as well as a fish fry. The Senior Center holds a garage sale, and grilled cheese café Saturday, and the Lutheran Church holds a quilt show and sale that afternoon. Liberty Theater hosts musical performances Saturday afternoon, the plunger’s awards ceremony, and invites folks to take in a movie in the evening.
This will be the swan song for longtime event director/promoter Marilyn “Polar Bear” Sutherland, who has participated, and directed since its beginning, and will who decided she deserved to take a break when she turned 70. She will remain in Seward, and will remain involved with the event, but not as its leader. Sutherland will pass the reigns of directing the event to Jonathan Gage, and a team of committed volunteers. Several have been involved for over 20 years such as Connie Kullander, Cheryl Verschueren, Sue Maygar, Steve Lemme, Don Sutherland, Celesete Dorsey, Buck Wall and Russ Burnard. Others have been involved for over 10-15 years. “It is all of the volunteers, which can number up to 100 that make the Festival such a success,” Sutherland said.
Tom Morris, who photographs and videotapes the event every year recently suffered a stroke, and will have to miss the festival. Shirts with this year’s logo—designed by Seward High art student Sarah Tolson, will be for sale at merchants across town.
The USCG is conducting a survey on Resurrection Bay to determine the effectiveness of the current aids to navigation and the potential need for change. If you transit Resurrection Bay please follow this link to participate in the survey! Any and all applicable feedback is greatly appreciated.
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
At Tuesday night’s second city council budget work session, council first turned its attention to the Harbor Enterprise Fund, before then going into the Electric Fund. First, Finance Director Kris Erchinger gave a rundown of the health of the fund overall.
The harbor fund has a cash balance of $618,000. It has $34 million in assets. There’s $797,000 in the MRRF fund, a fund set aside for maintenance and repairs of infrastructure. The harbor also has a total $654,000 (from the $3.50 per-passenger tax) and $2 million from the cruise ship passenger tax fund. It also has $71,800 for capital grants projects.
“That’s pretty good compared to where we were last year,” Erchinger said. While the moorage fees are not fully known until December, harbor financial picture overall shows a good turnaround from previous years, she said.
The current financial picture is helped by the transfer of $183,000 from the city’s General Fund back into the harbor fund for debt service payments, and $320,000 from the GF into the harbor fund from raw fish taxes. Also, the number of passengers, which had fallen off in 2007-2009, has climbed back up again since 2010.
It’s noteworthy that some $13.3 million worth of recent projects carried no debt, such as the T-dock, Z-float, and US Coast Guard relocation. To date, 51% of harbor assets have been paid for with grants.
That said, the harbor still owes $6.5 million in harbor-related debt including bonds for past float work, fish cleaning stations, and 50-ton travel lift, Erchinger said. Passenger fees received for 2012 are hoped to reach about $560,000. The harbor’s annual debt payments are currently $734,000. The difference will have to be covered by passenger fee reserves or moorage fees once those run out.
Then, it was harbormaster Mack Funk’s turn to go through his department’s budget wish-list. There are “tens of millions of dollars of desires” for the harbor, but considerably less funds, he acknowledged. (more…)
The City of Seward has a $10 million bond proposal for improvements at Seward Marine Industrial Center Proposition A on the Nov 6 General Election ballot. You might not know it’s even there, because it’s a small part of a much larger $453.5 million state-wide general obligation bond package, mostly for the construction of roads, bridges, and ports and harbor improvements. But it is vitally important to Seward’s ambitious growth plans for SMIC.
Seward officials, and representatives will be looking extremely closely at the outcome of Tuesday’s election, as the state’s voters could have a major impact on Seward’s plans.
If Prop A doesn’t pass, it could set the local project to build a new breakwater at SMIC back by at least a year or more in terms of design, engineering and even beginning construction, said Assistant Seward City Manger Ron Long. That was what the $10 million bond would help Seward do. Building a new breakwater, dredging the SMIC harbor in certain key areas, and dock extensions at SMIC are seen as vital to bringing the Coastal Villages Region Fund to Seward, in addition to the new RV Sikuliak, and/or other ships that are expected to be seeking a sheltered, deep, ice-free port in Alaska.
During Friday’s Seward Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Long said he was particularly concerned because of the news media’s focus on the negative aspects of the Anchorage Municipal project, which has some major design flaws, and is likely to cost vastly more money than earlier proposed. He’s afraid that people who oppose that project might vote against the bond package, and thereby doom all of the other important projects statewide, at a time when interest rates for government bonds are at an historic low.
The largest state grants in the bond package are $50 million for the Port of Anchorage, and $30 million for a rail extension to Port Mackenzie in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, two projects that come with major questions about their future direction and cost. They also are projects that are not necessarily appreciated by Seward residents, who may be concerned about the effects of competition by another railroad extension in Mat-Su that could put it in competition with the rail yard here.
He hopes voters won’t let those particular projects affect their vote for the bond package. The same amount of grant money requested for the Port of Anchorage is requested for necessary Anchorage road work , he noted. Newtok Traditional Council would get $4.1 million to help with its effort to move the village to higher ground, nine miles away. The Ninglick River is eating away as much as 70 feet of that western coastal village’s bank each year, threatening to take out their homes.
For the second year running, the Alaska Railroad Corporation has selected a Seward scene to be featured for its state-wide limited-edition print. The 2013 print it commissioned features a coal train arriving in Seward in the evening, under a full moon that lights up Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Mountain Range. In the distance a cruise ship prepares to leave. It was painted by painter Susan Watkins, of Eagle River.
“I wanted to show the Alaska Railroad’s role as an economic engine, supporting both resource development and tourism industries,” Watkins stated in an ARRC press release. “The Alaska Railroad is at the forefront, working as a catalyst for different industries operating side-by-side in harmony,” said Watkins. “Trains have always held such a romantic appeal to me, none more so than the picturesque Alaska Railroad against its majestic backdrop. I envisioned the coal train coming into Seward on a crisp, clear moonlit night like we have in Alaska at the end of summer. In the distance are the season’s final cruise ships with their passengers onboard already enjoying their Alaskan adventure, while a Seward family out on an evening sail goes by.”
Last year, a train arriving in Seward, with a backdrop of Mount Marathon, sea otters and a soaring eagle was painted by Wasilla artist Taffina Kakus. The name of that print was “Seward Solidarity”
The Alaska Railroad has commissioned and released a new print every year but one since 1979. Last year’s print was the first one to feature Seward, however. Next year’s print theme will be the Hurricane Turn flag stop and/or the railroad’s role in the community of Nenana. The annual Alaska Railroad artwork is a favorite among rail fans and Alaska art collectors. ARRC will release its 2013 annual poster/print at three public sale-and poster-signing events featuring artist Watkins in Anchorage, Seward and Fairbanks. She will be at the Seward Holiday Arts& Crafts Fair that Friday, at the Dale Lindsey Intermodal Terminal. from 5:00-9:00 p.m.
By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News
About 18 members of the Seward business community, and others representing city government, attended a second economic planning workshop at the Legends Tuesday, September 19th. The previous month some 40 people had attended a similar day-long gathering, according to Seward Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cindy Clock.
The workshops, and subsequent smaller, target-group meetings, are a new, but somewhat different extension of an effort a couple of years ago to bring community, private sector and business leaders together to discuss Seward’s economic direction, and what could be done to improve it.
That effort resulted in an independent survey report of what types of services we needed in Seward, and how the business community felt about the impediments to their business, such as an inconsistent, difficult city permitting system. It also resulted in the Seward Merchants Association trying to garner more winter business, and to provide better advertising in tourist markets. The city has begun to try streamlining the permitting process on a single website, and city officials made an effort to improve customer service, by requiring training of all city staff in that area.
Fast forward to today, and the idea has been revived, only this time with workshops funded by the Seward Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Aiding the effort again is Christi Bell, of University of Alaska Center for Economic Development and Laszlo Kozmon of Strategy-Nets, an independent planner and facilitator from an organization that believes that ttransforming a regional economy requires strategic collaborations between public and private enterprise, and co-investment in four areas: Building brainpower with 21st century skills; Strengthening networks to support entrepreneurs and innovative firms; Developing quality, connected places for both people and businesses; and Creating new narratives to guide people in the transformation taking place.
The idea is to bring leaders from all areas in the community together on a regular basis to strategize a joint future for their community, and to figure out how to accomplish various small and large goals that can be done within the next 90 days, a year, and over the next 10 years.
“The whole first six months is about learning to do this, learning to get on the same page together,” expained Kozmon. “It’s hard,” he added. “Expect a lot of fits and starts.”
Kozmon talked about the flow of “good money” or money that grows an economy, “bad money,” or cash that flows out of an economy and “neutral money” that circulates through an economy as fast as it can, and helps keep the economy going. “It’s all about attracting the right set of assets to the community,” he said. Good money might be local year-round businesses that serve the community. Bad might be businesses that local folks use outside of the community, because it doesn’t exist here, while neutral money might be those tourist-related businesses that create seasonal jobs, using workers from Outside.
The chamber board of directors, and other invited members of the community formed smaller groups to think about these things. They dubbed themselves the Brainpower group, the Innovation and Business group, the Quality and Connected Places group, New Narratives group, and Regional Partnerships group. (more…)
Heidi Zemach for SCN (with help from Nancy Erickson)
A large cross section of the Seward community turned out for an event at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Marine Science Center in Seward Monday afternoon to celebrate the launch in Marinette Wisconsin the previous Saturday of the R/V Sikuliak, a global class research vessel with ice-breaking capabilities that will eventually be home-ported in Seward. The event also marked the 25th anniversary of UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
People who had spent decades, or at least many years working on the project, and those who fondly remember the former Seward-based research vessel Alpha Helix, were genuinely moved to be attending the celebration, even without the new ship actually being here. Most had missed seeing the launch in person, but a video repeated the spectacular launch, and the sight never failed to fascinate, as people watched the impressive 2,757 long ton, 261-foot steel ship race sideways down its runway and into the water, tipping first far to its starboard side, then far the other way before finally righting itself like a toy boat tossed into a bathtub.
“It was spectacular,” said Jean Bardarson, Seward’s vice mayor, who attended the actual launch. “It’s huge… so much bigger than you’d have thought.” Anticipating the big initial rocking and rolling, the ship yard had to tie everything down inside the ship, she added.
“It’s going to give us a sense of pride, a boost of morale,” said Mayor David Seaward, as he welcomed the audience. He introduced Tom Smith, the longtime former marine science center director who retired in 2006, before Dan Oliver, currently the Sikuliak project manager took the helm in 2007.
Acquiring the support and funding for the project has been a long process for almost anybody associated with the marine center, Smith said. “This ship has almost been a career, and a lot of people put a lot of work into it,” he said: When I got here it was a dream for many years, then it became a hope, then it became a dream, then a hope again,” Smith said. The work will continue, and intensify in the year ahead as they outfit the ship from top to bottom, train and hire a permanent crew of 20. “I’d like to wish them luck, and wish the Sikuliak smooth sailing throughout its career.”
Jennifer Elhard, the center administrator, will continue procuring items needed for the ship—everything from its scientific equipment to toilet paper. Everything purchased is being shipped to Seward, where it is then unpacked, and repacked, and loaded into six shipping containers to be transported to Wisconsin. The Sikuliak will be outfitted next spring and summer in Wisconsin.
A third-story will be added to the ship meanwhile, and she will be tested further for about a year in Lake Michigan. The ship has a one-year warranty by its builder, so it will likely remain close to Marinette for a while in case additional work is needed, Elhard said.
UAF will take delivery of the ship next July, and will maintain and operate it on behalf of the National Science Foundation under a cooperative agreement. The Sikuliaq will head to the Bering Sea in April 2014 to see how she performs in ice, and to train the crew, according to Dan Oliver. Funded science will begin soon after.
The marine center has installed two new mooring dolphins to the Seward Marine Center’s 150-foot dock to accommodate the Sikuliaq’s length, creating a tie-up similar to that of coal ships that dock here, Oliver said. The berthing plan is to use that dock during the summer months, when the cruise ships are in, then move it over to the Alaska Railroad Dock where electricity and water are available, once the cruise ship season ends in September. The University is also funding expansion of administrative spaces in Seward, and an electronics lab for marine scientists.
The Sikuliak will remain home-ported in Seward until at least 2016, at which time there will be another bidding process. This will allow Kodiak, the major contender for the ship, to make another bid to homeport it there, Elhard said. Of course Seward can bid, too.
“This is very exciting,” said Stephanie Moreland, who worked at the UAF center for 15 years, and clearly has fond memories of the hands-on research she did on board the Alpha Helix, from 2000-2005. That research ship was home-ported in Seward. It was sold in 2007. But unlike the Sikuliak, and all but one federally-funded ship, the Coast Guard Cutter Healey, the Alpha Helix did not have ice-breaking capabilities, which was really the motivation for the new ship. “It’s just fantastic to see, and fun to see it come together,” Moreland said.
By Heidi Zemach for Seward City News
A massive dredge called “Big Bob,” mounted atop one of two adjacent barges, with a tugboat, the Norman O pushing from behind, keeping them in place, has begun operating recently in the Seward Small Boat Harbor. The area dubbed L-1 is the area between the fuel dock and Z float, protected by the extended breakwater. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with West Coast Construction, on behalf of the city, to dredge that, and other areas. They’re currently dredging 3,146 cubic yards of gravel, loading it onto a barge, offloading it, and trucking it to Seward Marine Industrial Center for upland disposal. At last week’s Seward City Council meeting, the council agreed to contract to dredge out an additional $161,600 of material, not present in the Corps’ 2009 survey. That survey estimated that they needed to dredge 2,250 cubic yards. The remaining portion of dredge material, which does not contain remnants of fuel present, will be deposited in various other locations in the boat harbor and Resurrection Bay that have previously been identified.
The dredging is quite an interesting sight to observe. “Big Bob,” named after the construction company owner’s father, towers over everything in sight, making even the large Coastal Village ships docked at Z float, and the mountain range beyond appear small. It is the largest dredge operating in the U.S., according to one of the army corps workers on the scene. It’s a powerful machine that digs down deep. You can hear the gravely sounds when its arm is clawing beneath the surface, and when its arm and bucket rises from the surface of the water, it makes quite a splash, accompanied by circular wave action, as it begins draining water from its claw. The orange crane arm then slowly swings around, and dumps the dark gravel material into a waiting barge. A skiff operator, dwarfed by the barges and crane, stands by in his little skiff, and makes sure that the boom that surrounds the dredging activity remains in place.
By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The RV Sikuliak, that new world class ocean-going research vessel that will one day be home-ported in Seward, has been commemorated in music. A recording of “The Song of the Sikuliak,” an eight-minute orchestral piece composed by UAF graduate music student Emerson Eads, with the Arctic Chamber Orchestra performing, will be played tonight (Friday) at a gala for donors of the ship, prior to the ship’s launch ceremony Saturday in Marinette, Wisconsin.
The piece, written for Mezzo-soprano, Trumpet, Percussion and orchestra, is both a celebration of the grandeur of the new, state-of-the-art ocean-going icebreaker, as well as a warning of the need for passionate stewardship of our marine environment due to the sober, important nature of its seagoing missions, researching the marine environment in a time of Global Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.
The piece was commissioned by the UAF Department of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, which will operate the ship, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, which owns it. The recording features vocalist Marlene Bateman, Chris Rose on trumpet, Kaylee Bonatakis, on percussion, and the Arctic Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Eduard Zilberkant.
The project came about as the result of a friendship by two university chorus-based singers: Eads, and Rolf Gradinger, the UAF assistant dean of fisheries. They sang near one another, became friends, and gradually, Gradinger came to learn that Eads was also an accomplished young composer. Gradinger asked more about Eads’ composing style, listened to what he had already written, and picked up on the young musician’s enthusiasm for his work, and decided to commission him to do the piece. Gradinger, and Mike Castellini, UAF dean of fisheries, shared with the musician their passion about the new research vessel, and the kinds of research it would be doing. Sometimes, when people from two very different worlds collide, the scientific world and the musical world, beautiful things happen. Thus, “Song of the Sikuliak” was born.
Initially, Eads planned to visit the Sikuliak at the ship builders in Wisconsin along with fellow music students, trumpeter Chris Rose and percussionist Kaylee Bonatakis, to record organic sounds that the ship made to be included in the piece. They had secured a People’s Endowment grant for $5,000 for the trip, but because being on site required that they all undergo background checks and other security precautions, they could not make the visit in the time they had available. So Eads he scrapped that idea, and had to start again from scratch.
Eads then thought he’d focus on the instruments he felt best represented the idea of the ship, its mission, and incorporate the enthusiastic, awed feeling he got from his UAF deans of fisheries friends. As ships generally are referred to in the feminine gender, he selected the mezzo Soprano voice. Marlene Bateman, who sings it on the recording, was a perfect choice, Eads said. She’s an amazing woman, who has twice summited Mt. McKinley. Her part represents Mother Earth or Mother Nature, the song of the ship, and a call of warning for environmental stewardship.
The trumpet, best known for its regal, celebratory sounds, represents the celebration of the ship’s construction and launching, and its timbre lends itself to the idea of its strength and brassy modernity. The trumpet part was written to support, rather than supplant the singer’s somber plea. Even Rose’s jazzy improvisation it is meant to be played delicately, rather than to overwhelm the rest of the orchestra, Eads said.
The percussion represents a battery of different sounds: everything from the brittle sound of ice-cracking, (joined by the strings’ percussive use of their bows), to Eads’ personal favorite, the deep creaking sound a ship makes. The “Lions Roar” is played by pulling up on a wet rag attached to a drum head that vibrates. Eads also makes use of an Ocean Drum, a large drum head filled with rice or beads that make a Ssssh-y sound when rolled around, similar to that of waves and water.
Eads was interviewed while driving to the Marinette shipyard Friday afternoon. He was hoping he’d make it in time for the evening performance, and was very much looking forward to seeing the Sikuliak in person. Seward City Officials Jim Hunt, Ron Long, Harbormaster Mack Funk, and Vice Mayor Jean Bardarson also were planning to attend the launch ceremony.
The public is invited to the UAF Seward Science Center on Monday, Oct 15, 4:00 p.m-7:00 p.m. for a celebration of the Sikuliak’s launch. Refreshments will be provided.