Local News

New borough, ferry accident top headlines in 2012

In Petersburg, 2012 was a year of change for government.

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Supporters and opponents waged a campaign over the formation of a new borough, expanding the planning and taxing authority of the municipal government to a much larger area.

So far, it appears a majority of area voters approved that change during a state-run mail out election in December. So 2012 will likely be the last for the city of Petersburg, which will dissolve and be reborn as a borough government. The final election results are set to be certified by the state in early January.

Meanwhile, the town lost a court battle to keep its current representation in the state legislature. The Alaska Redistricting Board’s reapportionment plan for Southeast put Petersburg in a new house district with Juneau, instead of a keeping it with smaller Panhandle communities.

The early May crash of the Matanuska into Ocean Beauty’s local cannery was captured by a passenger in this YouTube video. The Marine Highway system blamed the accident on a strong tidal current and maneuvering error by the ship’s captain. As a result, the seafood company did not operate the Petersburg plant this year.

The crew of the Petersburg based Coast Guard cutter Anacapa fired upon and sank a derelict Japanese fishing vessel in April in the gulf of Alaska, as captured in this video. The ship and other flotsam were among the first arrivals to US waters and shorelines after drifting thousands of miles across the Pacific from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan.

Meanwhile, a major reconstruction of Petersburg’s downtown streets got underway in September. The project to rebuild roads, drainage and sidewalks continues this spring and will finish by next fall.

Petersburg also celebrated the opening of a new fire station, started construction on a new public library and finalized plans for replacement of the town’s oldest harbor.

Controversy continued over management at the Petersburg Indian Association. The local tribal government saw the resignation of one administrator and the firing of another as well as commentaries on the radio and the newspaper editorial page.

Police had a busy and dangerous month in October. The school campus and hospital were locked down for a short time after reports that local man had threatened to kill people. He was soon arrested. Two days later, officers set up a road block and arrested another man after an armed standoff on Frederick Point road. Police say he fired at them with an assault rifle before eventually surrendering. Later that month police evacuated Halloween revelers from Kito’s Kave bar and arrested another man they say was threatening to kill people.

The state added a prosecuting attorney in the Department of Law’s Juneau office in response to concerns from Petersburg officials over the dismissal rate for court cases and lack of communication with police.

Local voters in October turned down the purchase of waterfront industrial land in Scow Bay for use by the harbor department.

2012 saw a number of brown bear sightings on Mitkof Island, which is typically home only to smaller black bears. Residents captured one brown bear on video at Frederick Point east and photographed another fishing for salmon at Blind Slough during the summer. Then in October a local hunter shot a brown bear while moose hunting on southern Mitkof Island.

On a rainy Veterans Day, the community joined family and fellow marines dedicating a bridge south of town to Harry Kito who was killed during the Vietnam War.

The potential for hydro-electric power production in nearby Thomas Bay remains up in the air. A private company was denied a federal permit to continue studying one potential site early in 2012. The city of Angoon did not renew permits for two other sites late in the year. Another private company is still hoping for a permit to pursue Thomas Bay hydro.

The U.S. Forest Service approved a large timber sale on the Tonka road system on nearby Kupreanof Island. Viking Lumber of Klawock is expected to start logging in 2013.

In fishing news, Southeast’s purse seine fleet approved a plan to reduce the number of permit holders in the fishery. Gillnetters near Wrangell and Petersburg had federal observers monitoring their fishing for marine mammal encounters, and longliners prepared for a new observer requirements that go into place in 2013.

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