Pat Forgey

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker celebrated a traditional wet Christmas season Tuesday, but cheerful residents of Juneau didn't appear to notice as they stood in long lines in the December drizzle to tour the historic Governor's House. Visitors were able to tour the festively decorated house, meet and shake hands with Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, munch on cookies and listen to live entertainment. "It's absolutely magical in this house, especially this time of year," Walker said. "And the volunteers absolutely outdid themselves with the decorations." The annual open house is a cherished part of Juneau's history, and this year's event was the 100th in the house's 102-year history. Two were canceled during World War II. This year the open house came bracketed between difficult announcements...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- For years, Juneau has wanted to expand its boundary south, but it hesitated and on Friday the Alaska Supreme Court said it lost, ruling the land should now go instead to the newly created Petersburg Borough . “I don’t know why they waited until we applied and got all the signatures and then appealed, rather than just trying to annex into their borough already,” said Mark Jensen, Petersburg mayor. But the delay, and the competing claims, led to a protracted and costly legal dispute between the two Southeast neighbors. It went first before the state’s Local Boundary Commission, followed by Superior Court, and then finally in the Supreme Court. Possible future revenue is at stake. “We get taxes from the federal lands there, and state money as well, and if anything is developed...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Newly elected Mayor Greg Fisk died of natural causes Monday, and facial injuries that sparked rumors of an assault actually came from a fall, Juneau police said Wednesday. "The first assumption was someone had done something to him," said Bryce Johnson, Juneau police chief. An autopsy was conducted by the State Medical Examiner Office in Anchorage, Johnson told reporters at a press conference in Juneau Wednesday afternoon. Two Juneau detectives in Anchorage on other business attended the autopsy, he said. The cause of death has not been specified, but Fisk had a history of heart issues, Johnson said. Fisk's family was given the autopsy results privately before the public announcement, he said. The results from the autopsy are preliminary, but the conclusion that the 70-year-old...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The state medical examiner is scheduled to conduct an autopsy on the body of Juneau Mayor Greg Fisk on Wednesday, and police hope that will tell them why he died unexpectedly on Monday. "I do not know what caused the death. I cannot say if it was foul play or if it was not. I need to get cause of death first," said Bryce Johnson, Juneau's police chief. Fisk, 70, was found in his downtown home Monday afternoon by his son, Ian Fisk, after he had missed appointments that morning. Fisk was divorced and lived alone. Johnson said it is not obvious what caused Fisk's death, but there is no evidence of suicide. There were injuries that may have come from a fall or assault, and the autopsy might determine which is more likely. The lack of an obvious cause of death has caused speculation...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- Natural gas is being looked at as the solution to high energy costs in Southeast Alaska, but it is Canadian gas, not Alaska gas, that's likely to be shipped to Juneau and other Panhandle communities. Juneau's electric utility, Alaska Electric Light and Power, has provided the city with power since before it was the capital, but it was recently purchased by Spokane-based Avista Corp., which not only provides electricity to its hundreds of thousands of Pacific Northwest customers but natural gas as well. Now Avista wants to use what it's calling a "virtual pipeline" to ship liquefied natural gas to Juneau, where it would be restored to a gas and piped to homes and businesses through a new distribution system. In a city where almost everyone uses heating oil, Avista's ability to...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU -- The Tongass National Forest has withdrawn a proposed timber sale near Petersburg that could have provided 30 million board feet of timber to the Southeast logging industry. Local environmental groups that had opposed the sale are praising the decision, and are claiming a victory. But the U.S. Forest Service said it canceled the sale due to "industry concerns," and plans to bring a revised sale back later. The cancelation of the sale will mean more deer available for local hunters on Mitkof Island, where the sale was to have been held, said Becky Knight of Petersburg, with the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community. "Deer habitat has been greatly reduced, so deer populations are way down so we can't meet our subsistence needs," she said, prior to sitting down to dinner...Pat Forgey
JUNEAU — While Alaska struggles to put together a plan to export liquefied natural gas to Asian markets, a federal agency is already subsidizing competing LNG projects in two foreign countries targeting the same potential buyers. And those projects are likely to be in production , perhaps with long-term contracts, years before Alaska would be able to get its gas to Asian customers — if Alaska's project is built. Helping out the two projects, one in Australia and one in Papua New Guinea , is the federal Export-Import Bank . That bank is part of a national economic development effort that began in 1945 to help American companies do business overseas, providing direct loans, loan guarantees, and other financial help to take some risk out of foreign operations. But the bank has recently...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