Pat Forgey

JUNEAU — The Alaska Supreme Court’s dismissal of illegal fishing charges against former state Sen. Albert Kookesh and other Angoon residents was applauded Friday by the Alaska Federation of Natives as a boost to subsistence rights. “The court’s ruling on this case is good public policy for our rural communities that depend on subsistence,” said Julie Kitka, president of AFN. Kookesh is a former co-chair of AFN as well as former chairman of Sealaska Corp., the Southeast Alaska regional Native corporation. The court issued its ruling Friday from the 2009 incident in which Kookesh and fellow Angoon residents Rocky Estrada, Stanley Johnson and a fourth man were arrested and charged with taking more sockeye than their subsistence permits allowed. The fourth man’s charge was changed and he was...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The name "Bridge to Nowhere" still rankles in Ketchikan 10 years after congressional opponents of earmarks used it to attack federal money for the bridge to nearby Gravina Island and the city's airport. But some of that money was still spent building a road to nowhere. The Gravina Island Highway was to become part of what's officially known as the Gravina Access Project to better connect the city with Ketchikan International Airport. Improved access was to have come from the controversial bridge, but with bridge plans officially abandoned recently, the state is now looking to better ferry service to improve access to the airport and help open Gravina Island to development. In 2006, with the bridge in dispute and increasingly unlikely to ever be built, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Department of Forestry Thursday announced that budget cuts have forced the closure of its Haines office, responsible for managing the 286,000-acre Haines State Forest. The closure of the office took local legislators by surprise. "It just doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense to me," said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. "Here we have a working forest, multiple-use, proven regeneration, creating jobs, (and) we're going to shut the state forest office down for long periods of time." But the Division of Forestry said the closure was forced by the state Legislature's budget cuts. The closure isn't permanent -- the one remaining part-time forester will open the office for two weeks in January to manage a scheduled timber sale, and local residents can contact the office then...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- How Alaska responds to its budget crisis will determine who pays the most and who pays the least, said Legislative Finance Director David Teal. But some of the government funding options available to legislators can shift costs that are currently borne by Alaska residents to others, he said. To answer questions about revenue options such as income and sales taxes and spending Permanent Fund earnings on running state government, the Legislative Finance Division has developed a spreadsheet that lawmakers and citizens can use to weigh various options they might face. "We've had so many people curious about those things that we thought it was best to put it in a spreadsheet and post it than try to answer every question individually," Teal said. "It was just more efficient." And in...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Leaders of Alaska's deficit-ridden government were already unlikely to get pay raises next year, but on Friday a commission set up to handle the politically sensitive pay question took steps to make that official. The State Officers Compensation Commission met in Anchorage to review pay for Alaska's governor, lieutenant governor, top department heads and legislators. With the state facing another deficit next year of more than $3 billion, raises never appeared likely. But the commission worked through each position, looking at the history of pay raises, comparable pay for similar positions in Alaska and elsewhere and the demands of each job. It quickly decided that some, such as legislators, didn't need raises. Neither did the governor and lieutenant governor. Others, such as...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Alaska's big three oil producers are all reporting falling profits in the last quarter, but only ConocoPhillips, the state's largest producer, reported an overall loss. With oil prices hammering revenues for all companies producing oil, Alaska's big producers, which include BP and Exxon Mobil along with ConocoPhillips, have announced capital spending cutbacks. So far, none of the three producers has singled out Alaska for extra cuts, but company capital spending is crucial in Alaska for both stemming the decline in traditional oil production and to finance a massive liquefied natural gas export project that state leaders hope will be its economic salvation. The Alaska LNG project needs ongoing spending to get to a point where a decision to build it can be made, and then may need...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- New Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Executive Director Angela Rodell has begun work with a salary of $290,000 a year, said spokesperson Laura Achee. The new salary represents a raise from last year of about $140,000, when she was a state commissioner in then-Gov. Sean Parnell's Cabinet. Rodell's Permanent Fund salary is significantly below the $355,000 paid to Mike Burns, who served as the fund's executive director from 2004 until earlier this year. Rodell was selected by the corporation's board of trustees as the fund's new executive director Oct. 9, pending an agreement on salary. She began work as executive director Oct. 28, Achee said. When Rodell was commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue, she served as a member of the board of trustees. Her compensation in 2014 was...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- TransCanada has been trying to bring Alaska's vast natural gas reserves to market for decades, but now the pipeline company that was once viewed as Alaska's savior is on the verge of ending a high-profile relationship with the state. Gov. Bill Walker is asking the Legislature for money and authority to buy out TransCanada's investment in a proposed 800-mile natural gas pipeline to a liquefaction plant and liquefied natural gas export terminal in Nikiski. Legislators already have spent a week in special session considering the question. That decision may result in TransCanada going its own way and focusing its efforts on its own plan to export Canadian LNG from Prince Rupert , British Columbia. Walker said that ending TransCanada's role in the project is not the result of any...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. reversed years of losses with a profitable year, the state-owned corporation reported last week, but is struggling to bring in revenue while interest rates remain low. AHFC's previous losses came as a result of low interest rates making it difficult for the publicly owned corporation to compete for mortgage business. "Eventually we're going to see rates go up, and when we do I think we're going to see our net income go up," said Bryan Butcher, the state-owned corporation's executive director. AHFC's net income, or profits, for the fiscal year ended June 30 came to $8.4 million, on revenue of $298 million, according to preliminary numbers released this week. Its board held a regular meeting in Anchorage Wednesday. The reported profits follow five...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Lawmakers are saying it may take time for both them and the general public to digest Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to shift the focus of the Alaska Permanent Fund from paying dividends to using it to pay for some state operations. But several said the first-year governor appears to be on the right track, and the Alaska Legislature may not have any choice but to do some version of what he’s proposing. “I think it's a concept worth exploring, and it uses our wealth in a way we haven’t used it before,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River. But moving the Permanent Fund’s priority to funding government instead of paying dividends is likely to be a difficult sell to the public, said Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage. “There’s always a healthy skepticism when it comes to politicians and...Pat Forgey