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Robert Woolsey, KCAW - Sitka

Robert Woolsey is a reporter at KCAW in Sitka.

Sitka building official William Stortz. (KCAW file photo)

Final Sitka landslide victim recovered

Search crews have recovered the final victim of the Aug. 18 Sitka landslide. The body of 62-year-old William Stortz was found Tuesday afternoon.

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August 26, 2015

Body recovered from landslide debris

Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller reports that a team of cadaver dogs from Juneau led searchers to a sweatshirt on the west side of the slide, and subsequently to the body. Miller would not confirm the identity except to say, “It’s one of the boys.”

August 20, 2015
David Longtin. Photo: Robert Woolsey/KCAW.

Fleeing the slide: a survivor tells his story

As crews continue to cautiously work through debris searching for the three victims of Tuesday’s deadly landslide in Sitka, it’s clear that the event could have been much worse. There are many homes below and to either side of the slide, and there were two other people directly in its path who escaped.

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August 19, 2015
Governor Walker holds up a "before" photo against a a backdrop of damages from the Sitka landslides. Gov. Walker is in Sitka on Aug. 19 surveying the damage. Photo: Governor's office.

Sitka landslides: Part of a larger landscape change?

The landslides that struck Sitka early Tuesday morning are the latest in a series of similar events that started in 2011. Although these slides are triggered by a combination of wind and rainfall, forecasters believe it’s too early to correlate these incidents with changing weather patterns — but that may change.

August 19, 2015
3 missing persons in Sitka landslide ID’d and presumed dead

3 missing persons in Sitka landslide ID’d and presumed dead

Three people are missing after heavy rain triggered a series of landslides in Sitka Tuesday morning. Governor Bill Walker plans to be in the city Wednesday to visit the affected areas.

August 18, 2015
4 missing in Sitka landslide event

4 missing in Sitka landslide event

Those missing were all likely involved in the construction of several new homes on Kramer Avenue. The slide in that area destroyed one of the new homes entirely, and damaged another.

August 18, 2015
The EM cameras on the Magia, Steven Rhoads’ 55-foot longliner, are mounted on an outrigger boom. “I would pay to have electronic monitoring every day, rather than be selected to carry a human observer,” Rhoads told the council. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Cameras to remedy observer problems in Alaska?

Smaller boats in Alaska’s offshore fisheries may no longer have to carry human observers in the future, if a plan to deploy cameras proves feasible. At its Sitka meeting this month, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council gave the green light to an inter-agency effort to develop Electronic Monitoring. The council would like to see cameras in action within three years.

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June 12, 2015
The 80-foot tender Kupreanof slips beneath the waves just seconds after the last crew member was hoisted aboard an Air Station Sitka helicopter. (USCG image)

With seconds to spare, Coast Guard rescues crew of Kupreanof

Four people are safe after their fishing tender sank off Cape Fairweather early Wednesday morning. A helicopter from Air Station Sitka hoisted the crew of the 80-foot tender, just as the vessel rolled and sank in six-foot seas near Lituya Bay.

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June 10, 2015

Magnuson-Stevens: Concerns Abound Over Exempting Fisheries Decisions From NEPA

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council will likely recommend some significant changes to the current version of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — but not during its meeting in Sitka. Council members have concerns over amendments that would exempt fisheries decisions from the National Environmental Policy Act, and open the door to potentially biased science.

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June 4, 2015
Not all drones are alike. This unmanned aircraft — now banned by the Board — is just large enough to carry a camera. (Flickr photo/Don McCullough)

Drones Don’t Fly At Alaska’s Board Of Fish

The Alaska Board of Fisheries closed some waters near Angoon to purse seining in order to improve subsistence harvests, in action over the weekend. They also shot down the use of unmanned aircraft to aid in salmon fishing.

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March 2, 2015
St. Matthew Island sits just north of the 60th Parallel. Like Sitka’s St. Lazaria, St. Matthew is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge system.

Southeast Alaska King Salmon Head North In Search Of Cooler Waters

Some king salmon reared in Southeast Alaska are traveling farther north as ocean temperatures rise. This news was delivered to the Alaska Board of Fisheries as their spring meeting opened in Sitka Monday afternoon.

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February 24, 2015
The hospital classroom fills for the board’s noon meeting. Staffers urged transparency as the board moves forward. “A lot of what’s happened has been a mystery to us,” said one. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka Hospital Cuts Ties With Former CEO, Moves Toward Transition

Sitka Community Hospital has an interim CEO. The hospital board named Chief Nursing Officer Raine Clarke to the post at a special meeting on Monday. The term of Clarke’s service is not known at the moment. What is known, however, is that former CEO Jeff Comer will not be receiving anything more than his paycheck for his work through last Friday, as Sitka’s embattled hospital struggles to balance its books and find direction.

January 6, 2015
Hospital CEO Alleges Assault, Leaves Sitka

Hospital CEO Alleges Assault, Leaves Sitka

The appointment of Michelle Putz wasn’t all the assembly drama Friday night. A scheduled discussion on hospital issues with CEO Jeff Comer was sidetracked when Comer didn’t appear. Instead, he sent hospital board president Celeste Tydingco to read a statement.

January 5, 2015
Hospital staffers participate in the Alaska Day Parade. (SCH photo)

$1 Million Loan to Buy Sitka Hospital ‘Breathing Room’

Sitka Community Hospital will get a $1-million infusion of cash from the Sitka assembly, in order to meet short-term expenses. A long-term solution for the hospital’s cash woes is still on the horizon.

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December 26, 2014

Hoonah Sound’s Herring Spawn-on-Kelp Fishery Will Remain Closed in 2015

The herring spawn-on-kelp fishery in Hoonah Sound will remain closed in the 2015 season – for the second year in a row. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced the closure this week after forecasts for the area predicted herring numbers far below the threshold required for commercial harvest.

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December 4, 2014
Moller Field re-opened in 2012 after a $2.6-million renovation. (KCAW photo)

Settlement Signed In Sitka Gender Equity Dispute

The Sitka School District has reached a settlement in a gender equity dispute over the community’s new ball field.

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November 10, 2014
AK: Looking Inside

AK: Looking Inside

On AK we often travel to wild and strange places and meet the people who live there. Today’s journey is no different, except the place is inside each of us. Earlier this year Sitka had a tarot card reader in residence. The Tarot, it turns out, is mystical — but not magic. Like professional therapy, it’s really about looking into a mirror, as tarot skeptic Robert Woolsey discovers.

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October 17, 2014
Landslide Destroys Restoration Projects Near Sitka

Landslide Destroys Restoration Projects Near Sitka

High rainfall this month is being blamed for a major landslide near Sitka. The U.S. Forest Service reports that a 100-acre slide came down in the Starrigavan Valley, about ten miles from town. Although there was no structural damage in the event, hundreds of thousands of dollars of watershed restoration projects in the valley have been wiped out.

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September 25, 2014
Magnuson-Stevens created 8 separate regional councils to manage fisheries in federal waters. According ALFA’s Linda Behnken, not all regions have placed as much emphasis on resource protection as the North Pacific. (NOAA Fisheries image)

Groups Hope MSA Update Won’t Move Fish Conservation ‘Backwards’

A number of regional fishing associations are joining forces to strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act.The Sitka-based Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association announced last week (9-9-14) that it’s reached an agreement with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and several east-coast industry groups to form the Fishing Community Coalition. The new organization wants to ensure that Congress makes protecting fish stocks a priority as it prepares to reauthorize the nation’s most important law governing the harvest of seafood in federal waters.

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September 18, 2014
Not My Town! ‘Grizzly Trade’ Ambles Through Places, Personalities of Southeast

Not My Town! ‘Grizzly Trade’ Ambles Through Places, Personalities of Southeast

It’s got a Vietnam vet with a big heart and anger management problems, a small-town newspaper reporter, and a hippie radio station. Throw in some meth-fuelled wildlife crime and a few cruise ships and you have the makings of an adventure mystery set in Southeast Alaska. Dale Brandenburger is a former biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game who’s combined decades of journaling and a knack for storytelling into a new novel called Grizzly Trade.

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September 3, 2014