North to Alaska

18 10 2010


Alaska Day is a legal holiday in the U.S. state of Alaska, observed on October 18. It is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States which took place at a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sitka on Friday October 18, 1867.

Alaska Day is legally observed statewide, and is a paid holiday for State of Alaska employees. The official celebration is held in Sitka, where schools release students early, many businesses close for the day, and events such as a parade and reenactment of the flag raising are held.


Alaska’s Flag May It Mean To You

20 08 2010

A couple weeks ago, Alaska lost one of it’s most beloved political figures.  Regardless of what you  thought about his politics, Ted Stevens played a huge role in making my state what it is today.  He and his staff were always friendly and caring, and he was always willing to meet with and listen to his constituents.

I’ve included one of many of the articles that ran in the News-Miner in the days following his death.

Six years ago, on a warm July evening in a northwest D.C. neighborhood, about 160 people gathered in a back yard to raise money for Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s election. The menu featured Alaska salmon, sizzled on a grill built from trans-Alaska pipeline parts. The cook was Sen. Ted Stevens.

Scurrying through the crowd of lobbyists, staff members, donors and other assorted invitees, his face red from the grill’s heat, the 80-year-old Stevens was elbow-deep in two great passions — politics and fish — and loving it.

Denied by the voters in 2008 any further participation in the former, Stevens continued with the latter. So the only good thing about the circumstance that ended his life Monday night was this: He was on a fishing trip to southwestern Alaska with friends when his final moment arrived.

Stevens’ death in an airplane crash brings to a close his personal chapter in the story of Alaska, but not his role in Alaska itself. The modern state was shaped by this man as much as any other, and his legacy will continue in perpetuity. And given the height to which he rose in the U.S. Senate, his influence was substantial in the national and international arenas as well.

Stevens was a driven young man who distinguished himself before arriving in Fairbanks in 1953 as the U.S. attorney. Raised in part by his uncle and aunt in Southern California, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps at the apex of World War II. He hoped to fly fighter jets but was assigned to cargo planes in Southeast Asia. Returning home, he earned a law degree from Harvard and went to work in Washington, D.C.

Sent by the Justice Department to Alaska, he caught the statehood fever and forged a lasting friendship with the former publisher of this newspaper, C.W. “Bill” Snedden. Stevens returned to D.C. and rose to become the Interior department’s solicitor shortly after statehood legislation succeeded in 1959.

Then it was back to the new state, where he practiced law and politics in Anchorage. In 1968, then-Gov. Walter Hickel appointed him to the U.S. Senate when E.L. “Bob” Bartlett died in office.

Starting with statehood, Stevens played a part in every piece of federal legislation affecting Alaska during the past 50 years.

From 1997 to 2004, he led the Senate Appropriations Committee, a position from which he steered billions of dollars to Alaska through agencies and creations such as the Denali Commission. He told critics that his earmarks fell within broad budget caps set by Congress, which, he reminded them, has the power of the purse under the U.S. Constitution.

In 1995 and 2005, Stevens nearly captured his Holy Grail — the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain to oil drilling. In ’95, a budget veto by President Bill Clinton killed the legislation; in 2005, Stevens’ effort to use a defense spending bill collapsed on the Senate floor a few votes short.

Ironically, Stevens was probably best known in recent years to the American public as the senator who described the Internet as a set of “tubes.” It was a perfectly accurate analogy, and, had he said “pipes” — the standard industry jargon — the world might not have noticed. Instead, he was mocked by millions watching the 15-second clip on YouTube. Those who actually knew about Stevens’ decades of detailed work in communications policy and his personal embrace of Internet technology were stunned by the misportrayal.

Stevens also suffered unjustly in 2008 from charges he had intentionally failed to report gifts. The prosecution’s behavior in the case was so bad that the judge vacated the conviction, but not before it cost Stevens the election.

Stevens pursued his vision of Alaska diligently throughout his life. Of course, not all Alaskans shared that vision at all times, and some were suspicious of his motives. But he worked with good intentions, dedication and skill that earned him the respect of people of many political persuasions. He could be irascible but also charming, demanding yet generous and thoughtful. His mind, like the state he served, was a big place where many interests and ideas competed. But always he sought the best for Alaska and its people.

Read more:Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – Theodore F Stevens Senator served Alaska to the end

‘Nother Brick in The Wall (Brick 8)

13 08 2010

On August 14, 1967, after an unprecedented record rainfall upstream, the Chena River began to surge over its banks, flooding almost the entire town of Fairbanks overnight. The results of this disaster eventually led to the creation of the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project, which built and operates the eight-mile long, fifty-foot high Moose Creek Dam, designed to prevent a repetition of the 1967 Flood by being able to divert water in the Chena River upstream from Fairbanks into the Tanana River (and thus bypassing the city).

‘Nother Brick in the Wall (Brick 7)

6 08 2010

The state of Alaska is technically the western-most and eastern-most US state since it extends into the eastern hemisphere and is the northern-most US state.

‘nother Brick In the Wall (Brick 6)

30 07 2010

The pipeline, which I saw a lot of on my way to start the Denali Highway, is a pretty major part of Alaska.

  • The Trans Alaska Pipeline System was designed and constructed to move oil from the North Slope of Alaska to the northern most ice-free port in Valdez, Alaska.
  • Length: 800 miles.
  • Diameter: 48 inches.
  • Crosses three mountain ranges and over 800 rivers and streams.
  • Cost to build: $8 billion in 1977, largest privately funded construction project at that time.
  • Construction began on March 27, 1975 and was completed on May 31, 1977.
  • First oil moved through the pipeline on June 20, 1977.
  • Over 15 billion barrels have moved through the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.
  • First tanker to carry crude oil from Valdez: ARCO Juneau, August 1, 1977.
  • Tankers loaded at Valdez: 19,625 through April 30, 2008.
  • Storage tanks in Valdez – 18 with total storage capacity of  9.1 million barrels total.

Additionally it crosses 3 fault lines and was designed to withstand an earthquake of 8.9 on the Richter Scale. This design was tested on November 3, 2002  when The pipeline’s earthquake design withstood a 7.9 earthquake that was centered along the Denali Fault, in the interior of Alaska, approximately 50 miles west of the pipeline. Estimates indicate that the ground along the fault moved 7 feet horizontally and nearly 2.5 feet vertically. The 7.9 quake was the largest on the Denali Fault since at least 1912 and among the strongest earthquakes recorded in North America in the last 100 years.

Now if only the same amount of preventive thinking had gone into the drilling in the gulf…. but I digress.

‘Nother Brick in the Wall (Brick 5)

23 07 2010

In 1915 the record high temperature in Alaska was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Fort Yukon; the record low temperature was -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.

Temps this summer have been great, mid 70’s into the low 80’s, but in true Alaskan fashion there have been some 45 degree days thrown in the mix as well.

‘Nother Brick in the Wall (Brick 4)

25 06 2010

Chinook salmon, or king salmon as they are more commonly known, are the state fish.  The Yukon River has the longest freshwater migration route of any salmon, over 3,000 kilometers (1,864 mi) from its mouth in the Bering Sea to spawning grounds upstream of Whitehorse, Yukon. Since chinook rely on fat reserves for energy upon entering fresh water, commercial fish caught here are highly prized for their unusually high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

The present Alaska state sport fishing record is 97.25 lbs taken on the Kenai River. In fact, of the top 10 king salmon record holders 9 of these fish were taken in the Kenai River. King salmon spend from 2-5 years in the ocean so their size in a run varies a lot, the State of Alaska average for this salmon is about 20lbs., however Kenai king salmon are typically in the 50 lb range.

world record king salmon from kenai river