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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Top Canadian environmental officials have rejected calls from Southeast Alaska for a new, more thorough environmental review of a mine that may threaten jointly targeted salmon stocks.

The massive Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine being developed by Seabridge Gold already won approval from the province of British Columbia, but Alaskans, with fishing, Native and environmental groups leading the way, called for a more stringent "panel review" at the Canadian federal level.

But Friday, Canada's environment minister and other officials announced they'd concluded that no further review was necessary...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A new $10 million-plus Alaska Marine Highway System ferry dock planned in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, is the subject of dueling protectionist policies in the U.S. and Canada.

Because it will be funded in part through the Federal Highway Administration, the project is subject to restrictions -- known as "Buy America" provisions -- requiring such projects to use American steel.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has blasted that provision as "unacceptable" when it is enforced on Canadian soil...

Pat Forgey

Even before oil prices plunged in current fiscal year 2015, something interesting happened to Alaska finances in 2014: Oil revenue, long the king, was unseated as the state's top moneymaker.

In fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, investments led the way, bringing in $8.1 billion for Alaskans. That topped the $5.7 billion that Alaska made from oil and the $2.5 billion it got from the federal government. The remaining $1 billion included assorted taxes and fees.

Total revenue for the year amounted to $17.2 billion, close to an all-time high, according to the Alaska Department of Revenue's closely watched Fall Revenue Sources Book , released this week...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Former Gov. Sean Parnell's plan for dealing with Alaska's troubled and underfunded retirement system called for borrowing money to pay this year's costs and deferring repayment of the debt to future administrators and legislators, according to the Parnell administration budget released Friday by new Gov. Bill Walker.

What the budget shows is Parnell appeared ready to issue what are known as "pension obligation bonds," and selling those bonds on Wall Street. It would then use the money raised to make statutorily required $257 million payment into the retirement trust funds for teacher, city and state employees' already incurred pension and health care obligations for fiscal year 2016...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Wide-eyed children wended between tables mounded with cookies and gingerbread houses, and asked parents just how many cookies it was acceptable to pile on a plate, while the adults shook hands with new Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov Byron Mallott and their families at the governor's mansion Tuesday.

While Juneau was enjoying a traditional wet holiday afternoon, residents appeared to not notice the rain as they lined up to do something they've done 100 times now -- visit the annual open house at the governor's residence in Alaska's capital city.

Juneau's Julie Coppens, visiting with 9-year-old daughter Elsie, said she also attended the open house when it was hosted by Gov. Sean Parnell...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The long-contentious road north from Juneau may be taking a new higher profile, even a national profile, as groups for and against the road have worked to turn the Alaska Department of Transportation's public comment process on the road into a referendum on the project.

That process drew a surprising 42,746 comments on the $574 million project to extend the Juneau road system 50.8 miles up Lynn Canal toward Skagway and Haines. A new ferry terminal would take vehicles from the road's end to those cities, where travelers can connect to the Alaska Highway and the continental road system...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Here's another financial worry for Alaska and new Gov. Bill Walker.

Stock markets and many other investments have been on a tear recently, adding to Alaska's billions in savings and bulking up the state's troubled retirement trust funds.

But Department of Revenue staff and their outside advisers are worrying that markets may be headed for a fall.

Markets, especially stock markets, go up and down regularly and are currently "pricey," said Gary Robertson with Callan Associates, which advises Alaska agencies on investments.

He warned that markets have risen for so many years that they are likely to go down, because they always do, referring to the Wall Street adage about market cycles that "trees don't grow to the sky."...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Following complaints that the ferry being built to replace the aged Tustumena would be too big for Kodiak's cramped harbor, the vessel has been redesigned. But the new plan from the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has the vessel lengthened by 5 feet.

It will be the stern, not the bow, that will be lengthened, said DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow. That should limit the impact on neighbors along the crowded waterfront, he said.

But some in Kodiak are saying the change surprises them, and that an even longer vessel will be a problem no matter which end is lengthened...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Hinting at difficult times ahead, Gov. Bill Walker talked of tough times in Alaska's past and how his family, other Alaska families and the state as a whole survived and prospered.

"My family's story is Alaska's story," Walker told a packed Centennial Hall in Juneau where he was sworn in as governor Monday under spectacular blue skies.

The rare sunny weather, following the year's first snowfall, seemed to contribute to a sense of optimism in the room.

The mood was boosted by one of Juneau's own, Democratic Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, half of the "unity ticket" that made the Walker governorship a reality...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Gov .-elect Bill Walker won't get a pay raise next year, thanks in part to Rick Halford , the co-chair of the governor-elect's transition team .

Halford also chairs the State Officers Compensation Commission , which is charged with setting salaries for top state officials, including the governor, lieutenant governor, legislators and department heads such as the attorney general and commissioners.

That commission this fall decided not to recommend pay raises for any positions this year in the face of years of growing state budget deficits...

Pat Forgey

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