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Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A controversial half-billion-dollar road out of Juneau has been delayed again, ending chances construction could start as soon as this fall.

Now the new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Juneau Access Improvement Project isn't scheduled for release until "late" in the year, according to a posting on the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' project website...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A new study says that Alaska has the most volatile state revenues in the nation, with income fluctuating more than twice as much as that of its nearest rivals -- which are often also resource states.

The study recommends that states set up and make regular deposits into "rainy day" funds, into which they can dip when tax revenues fall short.

This week, some leaders of past efforts to plan for the future said Alaska needs to resume those efforts, and new deficits may actually prompt that.

"When we've been flush, the public sees large surpluses and comes to us looking for things that the public thinks are good and needed," said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage.

Then legislators respond with more spending...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU - Stock markets are at all-time highs, which might make this a risky time to invest in equities. Bonds are no better, with yields so low that investing there won't do much good, and might be risky as well.

But it is those financial markets in which state chief investment officer Gary Bader was handed $1 billion to invest, and he was told he's expected to make at least 8 percent per year on it for 30 years.

Oh, and he'd better not lose it, either.

"There's going to be a lot of eyes on how this is invested, and we just want to do it as prudently as we possibly can," said Bader...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A surge of water released from behind an ice dam flowed through Juneau this week but crested late in the day Friday and had emergency officials breathing a sigh of relief.

"We did see a few homes, in areas that we're used to, get flooded, but it looks like the event has crested and started to subside," said Tom Mattice, emergency manager for the City and Borough of Juneau.

"We still have resources in the field, but it looks like we're on the right side of the curve," he said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- It's been pouring rain in Juneau lately, which has some people bracing for a new and unusual kind of flooding precipitated by climate change.

High above Juneau's populous Mendenhall Valley, Suicide Basin is filling with rainwater, snowmelt and ice, which is being held back by a dam of the Mendenhall Glacier.

Sometime soon, the water may come surging toward town.

Scientists studying the glacier say there are indications the dam will soon release and send billions of gallons of water surging toward the lake at the terminus of the glacier, then into the Mendenhall River.

Eran Hood of the University of Alaska Southeast is part of a team watching the basin and says a release appears to be imminent...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The one highway on which Alaskans have long been encouraged to drink while traveling is the Alaska Marine Highway, but budget cuts will eliminate that pastime for some -- and possibly all, eventually -- state ferry travelers.

On Alaska state ferries, the designated driver is a licensed vessel captain, but unfortunately for some bar patrons, the bar is costing the ferry system more than it's bringing in.

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities officials say that given tight state funds, and the fact that intoxicated passengers can occasionally be a problem for ferry crews, bars can no longer be justified...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The one highway on which Alaskans have long been encouraged to drink while traveling is the Alaska Marine Highway, but budget cuts will eliminate that pastime for some -- and possibly all, eventually -- state ferry travelers.

On Alaska state ferries, the designated driver is a licensed vessel captain, but unfortunately for some bar patrons, the bar is costing the ferry system more than it’s bringing in.

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities says that given tight state funds, and the fact that intoxicated passengers can occasionally be a problem for ferry crews, bars can no longer be justified...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A state retirement bill signed and praised by Gov . Sean Parnell Monday will increase the state's unfunded liability and increase costs years into the future, actuaries told the Alaska Retirement Management Board this week.

"The first year, you're not even paying interest on the unfunded liability, and the unfunded liability grows," said David Slishinsky, an actuary with Buck Consulting, the board's main actuarial consultant.

That's because legislators changed the way required annual payments for the unfunded liability are calculated, reducing their costs for several years, and shifting much of the cost 20 to 30 years down the road. The liability now won't be fully paid off until 2039, Slishinsky said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- A state retirement bill signed and praised by Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday will increase the state's unfunded liability and increase costs years into the future, actuaries told the Alaska Retirement Management Board this week.

"The first year, you're not even paying interest on the unfunded liability, and the unfunded liability grows," said David Slishinsky, an actuary with Buck Consulting, the board's main actuarial consultant.

That's because legislators changed the way required annual payments for the unfunded liability are calculated, reducing their costs for several years, and shifting much of the cost 20 to 30 years down the road. The liability now won't be fully paid off until 2039, Slishinsky said...

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- The state ferry Tustumena is already a compromise, needing to be big and powerful enough to deal with the Gulf of Alaska's notoriously rough weather, but small and handy enough to maneuver in the sometimes-cramped small-town harbors where it provides service.

Now plans to replace the aging vessel are encountering criticism locally, as the Alaska Marine Highway System discovers how challenging it can be to strike a balance between seaworthiness and versatility.

The first problem is Kodiak, where the ferry dock is tightly wedged between a fish plant and a fuel dock, and can overhang both.

"An extra 25 or 50 feet would cause major, major, major conflicts with my operation," said Paul Lumsden, manager of the Trident Seafoods plant in Kodiak...

Pat Forgey

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