Tag Archives: Alaska

Lingering among the brown bears of Pack Creek

With a reputation steeped in lore and a history spotted with imperfections, Admiralty Island bruins find refuge, harmony

This article appeared in the August 12 issue of The Juneau Empire

Photo by Amy Condra, A brown bear sow and two cubs find repose on the banks of Pack Creek on Admiralty Island in July. “We manage Pack Creek so that our human presence is as benign as possible,” said Harry Tullis, U.S. Forest Service Lead Wilderness Ranger for Pack Creek. “We’re just a background to their normal activities.”

by Amy Condra

Raindrops drum on the Cessna’s aluminum floats, adding an urgent rhythm to our mission as one by one we ease ourselves out of the plane and into the shallows.

Clad in waterproof jackets and rubber boots we splash to shore, but reaching land doesn’t improve anything as far as the rain goes; there is no shelter as we stand on a gravel bar beneath a lowering sky.

Nobody is complaining, because our attention has been caught by something more compelling than the weather: Someone has spotted a bear.

“Oh my God!” exclaims a young woman in our group, as the rest of us squint and strain to make sense of a blurry shape far ahead of us.

I fumble for my binoculars, scanning the mud flat at Pack Creek.

And there it is: A brown bear walking along the stream’s rocky banks.

The animal moves in a way that seems almost casual. Then suddenly, swiftly, it plunges its paw into the creek; water flies in all directions as the bear pulls out a wriggling pink salmon.
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Southeast energy challenges lead to interest in biomass

Increasing diesel costs, shortage of hydro storage lead to talk of shift toward biomass to ease Southeast Alaska’s energy demand

This article appeared in the January 27, 2012 issue of The Juneau Empire.

by Amy Condra

Water is abundant in Southeast — it falls freely from the sky throughout the summer and fall, filling rivers and creeks that tumble down our mountains, into the lakes, channels and canals, the bays and straits that wind their way throughout the land. Here, this water has sustained humans for thousands of years, providing fish, fur and a means to navigate the region.

And for more than a century it has generated power for homes, offices and industries.

Southeast has a significant number of hydroelectric power projects, and these plants have been a reliable and relatively inexpensive source of locally produced, renewable energy for many of our communities.

But according to a draft of the recently released Southeast Alaska Integrated Resource Plan, while Southeast might have plenty of water to generate hydroelectricity, it is running short of ways to store it.

“We are storage-challenged,” said Dave Carlson, CEO of Southeast Alaska Power Agency and a member of the Advisory Work Group that assisted with the SEIRP. “(The draft plan) identified the problems we know of here, that we had more than a sense were coming. The winter time heating loads have just been skyrocketing.”

Why? Because as heating oil costs have risen dramatically over the past few years, Carlson said, “people have felt it in their pocketbooks, and have decided it’s cheaper to heat with electricity than with oil. It’s a dilemma.”

A closer look at Southeast’s energy use

“I think it’s a fair statement that the energy picture is evolving very fast for everyone in Alaska — and particularly in Southeast Alaska — due to the price of heating oil,” James Strandberg, Project Manager for Alaska Energy Authority, said.

The SEIRP was prepared for AEA by Black and Veatch Corporation, a worldwide engineering firm specializing in power production and transmission, and was funded by a legislative appropriation with additional funding by AEA. The intent of the SEIRP is to chart a regional energy strategy for the next 50 years.