2013 finally brought firm election boundaries to the region. A redistricting plan shuffled communities for the 2012 elections. But a judge ordered changes.
The new boundaries move Haines to a downtown-Juneau-Douglas-Gustavus-Skagway district. They also put Petersburg in with Sitka and some villages. And they kept Wrangell in with Ketchikan.
“We’re all together and we just need to make sure we’re all paddling in the same direction so we don’t get left behind,” said Sitka Senator Bert Stedman.
He’s the only Southeast lawmaker not on the 2014 ballot. The other five incumbents have indicated they’ll run again. At least three will face challengers.
2013 was another year for logging battles in the Tongass National Forest.
Shelly Wright, of the Southeast Conference, introduced a plan to make more timber available for harvest.
“Rather than set aside a big chunk for logging and a big chunk for no logging, open up all of the regulated set-asides and use it as a flexible forest,” she said.
On a different side of the issue, about 230 scientists petitioned Congress to protect more than 75 watersheds they consider critical salmon habitat.
And an Oregon group released research saying there’s enough second-growth stands to keep the industry going without cutting older trees.
Dominick DellaSala is with the Geos Institute.
“The faster we can get the Forest Service to move out of old-grown logging, the better it will be, because the Tongass is such a global resource,” he said.
Meanwhile, new legislation to turn more timberlands over to the Sealaska Region Native Corporation came before Congress.
New compromises brought an endorsement from a former foe, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. But nine communities near the proposed selections continued their opposition. The Senate measure passed its only committee, but moved no further.
In other Sealaska news, Chris McNeil, CEO for the past dozen years, announced plans to retire by the corporation’s 2014 annual meeting.
The Alaska Marine Highway System had some rough times in 2013, with breakdowns that cancelled LeConte and other ferry sailings. It also restructured, hiring a new top official, who oversaw a scale-back of plans for two Alaska Class Ferries serving Lynn Canal.
On the upside, the system celebrated its 50th anniversary — with a commemerative voyage on the Malaspina, port-city parties and a songwriting contest.
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- So far, the Juneau School District has enrolled about 230 more students than it expected. If the higher enrollment remains true in October, the district could get enough additional state funding to cover a near $200,000 deficit.
- Juneau-based nonprofit, Southeast Alaska Land Trust, was denied its property tax exemption earlier this year. Now the Assembly will take another look.
- "A lot of ice experts, including myself, thought we were headed for a record year minimum," said Hajo Eicken, a professor at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.