All posts by Chris Cocoles

Makers Of The Ripchair, Howe And Howe ‘A World Leader In Extreme Vehicle Fabrication’

Makers Of The Ripchair, Howe And Howe ‘A World Leader In Extreme Vehicle Fabrication’

Howe and Howe Technologies, Inc., is a world leader in extreme vehicle fabrication and one of the foremost creators of advanced robotic platform solutions and applications.

HHlogo final


With a reputation for innovation, efficiency, and outstanding ethics, Howe and Howe Technologies continues to exceed expectations and impress industry and clients alike, from the U.S. Government to national utility companies to Hollywood movie makers.


It is the ability to approach a problem uniquely, and overcome any obstacle or challenge that a project presents, that has allowed Howe and Howe to show, time and again, that sharp minds with the right motivation can change the world.



For more, see these web pages:

No Games Of Drones On Hunts

Admittedly, I don’t know a ton about drones, but I found this report interesting about the use of them for hunters in Alaska. Actually it’s more past than current tense. Here’s a little bit from the Anchorage Daily News:

A drone system allowing a hunter or helper to locate game now costs only about $1,000, said Capt. Bernard Chastain, operations commander for the Wildlife Troopers. Because of advances in the technology and cheaper prices, it is inevitable hunters seeking an advantage would, for example, try to use a drone to fly above trees or other obstacles and look for a moose or bear to shoot, he said.

“Under hunting regulations, unless it specifically says that it’s illegal, you’re allowed to do it,” Chastain said. “What happens a lot of times is technology gets way ahead of regulations, and the hunting regulations don’t get a chance to catch up for quite a while.”

Troopers brought up the issue with game board members in February after hearing about a drone-assisted moose kill in Interior Alaska in 2012, Chastain said. That moose hunt was reported to troopers by state Department of Fish and Game staff, the trooper captain said, but there were few details about it, because the moose kill was apparently legal and troopers did not investigate it.

“I think more than anything, the change in the law represents thoughts that we’ve heard for several years, and based upon how the regulations are written, we had to take an affirmative step to make those illegal,” Chastain said.

Read more here:


Exxon Valdez spill: 25 years later

Tugboats tow the Exxon Valdez off Bligh Reef to a harbor for repair and salvage efforts, two weeks after the beginning of the oil disaster. The tanker changed names and owners several times, and was bought in 2012 by an Indian company, which scraps ships for steel and spare parts.Tugboats 
 Photo by Getty Images
 Has it been 25 years already? The tragedy of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez oil all over the waters surrounding the port sharing the city’s name still is having an impact on Valdez and Prince William Sound, as this CNN report states:

Persistent oil poisoning, and a cascade of ecological effects, continue. There’s not much we can do now for Prince William Sound, short of protecting it from more harm. But we can keep from repeating our mistakes elsewhere. This is, after all, why we pay attention to history.

Unfortunately, we still haven’t learned the biggest lesson of all from the Exxon Valdez oil spill: The only real solution is to stop using so much oil.

Whether it’s Prince William Sound or the Gulf of Mexico, seldom is more than 10% of the spilled oil recovered. This will be especially true in Arctic waters. And regardless of how safe we make oil drilling, tankers, or pipelines, we’ll never reduce spill risk to zero.

But the larger reason to reduce our dependence on oil is this: Even if we as a society don’t care about oil spills destroying natural environments, we’ve got to care — eventually we will all care — about how burning this oil is destroying our environment through climate change.

As the south coast of Alaska struggles to recover from one spill a quarter of a century later, Alaska’s polar bears are drowning from lack of Arctic sea ice.


An event like this one provides damning evidence that you never full recover from such a traumatic accident with a quarter-century’s worth of long-term ramifications. Life goes on, but it never stays the same.




Taquan Air: Floatplanes In SE Alaska

Photo courtesy of Taquan Air

Photo courtesy of Taquan Air

Welcome to Taquan Air, Ketchikan’s finest float plane operation.  Our
fleet of eight Dehavilland Beavers provide service from Misty Fjords
Flightseeing tours to daily scheduled service to the bush communities
of SE Alaska.  Whatever your needs are let our staff at Taquan help
you realize your Alaskan Adventure.

Taquan Air is committed to having the nicest fleet of DeHavilland
aircraft in commercial operation while maintaining the highest level
of safety in ground and flight operations.  This goal begins with
aircraft maintenance and aesthetics.  The company’s comprehensive
maintenance program is staffed with a highly trained and experienced
team of aviation professionals working in a state of the art facility.

Taquan Air’s safety plan and culture start with the president’s
commitment, involvement, and dedication of company resources to
achieve safety standards above those required for FAA FAR Part 135 Air
Carriers.  Over the last six years, over $1,000,000 has been committed
to employee safety, systems and pilot training, and maintenance
upgrades to the entire aircraft fleet. The company’s safety plan has
been expanded to include participation in the nationally acclaimed
Medallion Program and FAA’s Capstone Program and Taquan continues to
be Ketchikan’s only 5 Star Medallion Shield Carrier.

For more information, check us out at



$4.1 Billion Is A Lot Of Bucks (And Bulls, too)

Photo by Tom Reale

Photo by Tom Reale


So this is why Alaskans are so concerned about all things hunting and fishing. From the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:

Press Release: March 13, 2014

Contact: Maria Gladziszewski, Assistant Director, Division of Wildlife Conservation, Juneau, (907) 465-4114

Wildlife Interests Worth $4.1 Billion to Alaska’s Economy, New Study Finds

(Juneau) – Almost a million resident and visitor households embarked on at least one trip in Alaska to hunt or view wildlife in 2011, according to research presented in the recently published report, “The Economic Importance of Alaska’s Wildlife in 2011.” Along the way, the $3.4 billion spent by those hunters and viewers accounted for $4.1 billion in economic activity statewide.

“Visitors reported that wildlife is one of the main reasons they visited Alaska,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, director of the state’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, “and residents said wildlife contributes to their quality of life and reasons for living here.”

Of the $3.4 billion spent by hunters and wildlife viewers in Alaska in 2011, resident hunters and wildlife viewers each spent more than $1 billion. Visiting wildlife viewers spent $1.2 billion, while visiting hunters added some $150 million. That spending generated more than 27,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in labor income.

“This study demonstrates what many instinctively know: Alaska’s wildlife is important to Alaskans and visitors. Because people value it, they’re willing to spend a lot of money here to hunt, view, and experience wildlife,” Vincent-Lang said.

The report will be featured in a presentation at the Alaska Board of Game meeting on Friday, March 14, at the Dena’ina Civic Center in Anchorage, and the public is invited to attend.

The research was conducted by economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, which gathered core data for its analyses through six interlocking surveys in 2012. The surveys were conducted by phone, Internet, and mail and information was provided by about 7,000 residents and 2,000 visitors.

To see the report summary, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website (PDF 1,204 kB)



Prince of Wales Island Is Royalty

PrinceOfWales-1      PrinceOfWales-5

Photos courtesy of Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce


Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce is an unusual Chamber,considering its membership is not from just
one city or even a county, but a whole wfrom a whole Island.  Here, 12
communities are surrounded by the Tongass National Forest, Naawell
Forest, Native lands, and State lands.  Prince of Wales Island is the
third largest island in the United States.

Prince of Wales Chamber of Commerce can be found at No. 7 in the
Klawock-Heenya Plaza. Our Chamber office has a wealth of information.
There are brochures from businesses on POW Island, from all
communities and cultures alike. We mail out Relocation Packets to
those moving to our Island. Inside these packets are found helpful
materials on utilities, housing, activities, stores, businesses,
transportation, telephone book, calendar, USFS map, ($15 value),
annual Visitor Guide, and loads of other necessary items. We are the
place to call when planning a trip or just wanting to find information
about POW Island! Our Visitor Guide is distributed to more than 20,000
people a year. People from all over the United States, Germany,
Canada, call and write asking for information on our beautiful Island,
and it is mailed out FREE, at no cost to you.


PrinceOfWales-3        PrinceOfWales-4

On our web site,, you will find valuable
information about our Island. Our annual publication The Prince of
Wales Island Visitor Guide is one of the most informative &
picturesque Guides you will find anywhere.

Chamber hours are Mon & Thurs 7:30am-3:30pm; Tues & Wed 8am-4pm; Fri
10am-4pm. Call ahead & make an appointment if designated hours don’t
work for you. All this information can be found by going to our web
site or calling the Chamber office 907-755-2626, email us at, or write POW Chamber of Commerce, PO Box
490, Klawock, AK    99925.


PrinceOfWales-2     PrinceOfWales-6

EPA Kicks Off Bristol Bay Protection Plan

The Nushagak River's salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

The Nushagak River’s salmon run is among the Bristol Bay fisheries the EPA is vowing to protect from the Pebble Mine project. (BRIAN LULL)

By Chris Cocoles

UPDATE: State of Washington U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, who spoke at last month’s stop the mine rally at Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal, and Patty Murray, praised the EPA’s announcement:

Here’s Cantwell’s reaction:

“I applaud this action today to protect Northwest fishing jobs from being destroyed by the largest open pit mine in North America,” said Cantwell. “Washington and Alaska fishermen depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods. Ruining headwaters with mining pollution is too big a risk to existing jobs in Pacific Northwest.

“Today, the administration is saying that potential gold mining is not more important than a $1.5 billion sockeye fishing industry. Gold might be an valuable commodity but it’s not more important than Pacific Northwest salmon.

“Wild salmon populations already face a number of threats,” Cantwell added. “Adding mining pollution to the spawning ground for the world’s number one sockeye salmon fishery doesn’t make economic sense. Mining pollution could threaten 14,000 fishing jobs and a critical food source that subsistence fishermen depend on. I will work hard to ensure that fishermen have a voice as the 404C process moves forward. We cannot afford to put thousands of fishing jobs at risk.”

The mining company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, also released a statement, which reads, in part:

“For a wide range of reasons, we remain confident that final decisions about Pebble will be made by federal and state regulators working within the rigorous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting process, and not unilaterally and pre-emptively by EPA,” said Ron Thiessen, President & CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. “We will participate fully in EPA’s process to consider necessary safeguards to ensure that responsible mineral development can co-exist with clean water and healthy fisheries in Bristol Bay, and we will continue our efforts to prepare for the NEPA permitting process to come.”

Thiessen said both EPA and the Peer Reviewers they contracted to review the Bristol Bay Assessment have acknowledged that their study is insufficient as a foundation for regulatory decision-making with respect to the Pebble Project. In response to Peer Review comments on theBristol Bay Assessment, EPA states: “The assessment is not intended to duplicate or replace a regulatory process”…and “We agree that a more detailed assessment of direct and indirect impacts of mining…will have to be done as part of the NEPA and permitting processes.”


The Environmental Protection Agency, which last month released its extensive Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine report on the potential ramifications to the salmon industry there in the event of a mining mishap, announced today it’s beginning the process of helping to protect what’s known as “The World’s Last Great Salmon Fishery.”

Here’s the EPA’s complete press release:

(Washington, D.C.—Feb. 28, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine. 

This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale. It does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting. 

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the agency’s Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen,” McLerran said. “The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them.”

Today’s action follows the January 2014 release of EPA’s “Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” a study that documents the significant ecological resources of the region and the potentially destructive impacts to salmon and other fish from potential large-scale copper mining of the Pebble Deposit. The assessment indicates that the proposed Pebble Mine would likely cause irreversible destruction of streams that support salmon and other important fish species, as well as extensive areas of wetlands, ponds and lakes. 

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to 31 Alaska Native Villages. Residents of the area depend on salmon as a major food resource and for their economic livelihood, with nearly all residents participating in subsistence fishing. 

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year. The salmon runs are highly productive due in large part to the exceptional water quality in streams and wetlands, which provide valuable salmon habitat. 

The Bristol Bay ecosystem generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose, and caribou. 

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide — the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. 

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Act emphasizes protecting uses of the nation’s waterways, including fishing. 

The Clean Water Act generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

The steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process are:

  • Step 1 – Consultation period with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and owners of the site, initiated today.
  • Step 2 – Publication of Proposed Determination, including proposed prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit, in Federal Register for public comment and one or more public hearings.
  • Step 3 – Review of public comments and development of Recommended Determination by EPA Regional Administrator to Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • Step 4 – Second consultation period with the Army Corps and site owners and development of Final Determination by Assistant Administrator for Water, including any final prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit.

Based on input EPA receives during any one of these steps, the agency could decide that further review under Section 404(c) is not necessary.

Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process. 

EPA has received over 850,000 requests from citizens, tribes, Alaska Native corporations, commercial and sport fisherman, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, sport recreation business owners, elected officials and others asking EPA to take action to protect Bristol Bay.

The EPA also sent out a letter to Thomas Collier, president of Pebble Partner Limited; Joe Balash, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources; and Col. Joseph Lestochi of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that “initiates review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act of potential adverse environmental effects associated with mining the Pebble deposit in southwest Alaska.”






Watch Out For Lunging Sea Lions



By Chris Cocoles

Whenever I walk my dog down the Alki trail in West Seattle, I hear the singing of sea lions in Elliott Bay. They seem to be among the most playful creatures of the coast. Around my hometown near San Francisco, Pier 39 tourists get entertained by sea lions that sun themselves along the docks. An Alaskan fisherman didn’t have such a cute encounter recently.

From the Anchorage Daily News:


A sea lion jumped out of the water Sunday in Sitka and bit the rear end of a 19-year-old sitting on the railing of a fishing boat, Alaska State Troopers said.

The man, who was not identified, was aboard the fishing vessel Confidence with his back to the water when a larger bull sea lion came out of the water and bit him, leaving several large scratch marks but no puncture wounds, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. The man’s injuries didn’t require medical attention.

“Thankfully he was wearing rain gear or it would likely have been worse,” Peters said in an email.

The vessel was offloading bait herring at Seafood Producers Cooperative. The co-op processes salmon, halibut, sablefish and albacore tuna, according to its website.

Authorities said they don’t believe anyone aboard the Confidence was feeding the Steller sea lion when the attack occurred.

Read more here:


Watch out for flying sea lions!



Anchorage Cabela’s Store Set To Open April 10

Posted by Chris Cocoles

News out of Sidney, Neb. today is exciting news for outdoors-crazed Alaskans: The state’s first Cabela’s store is set to hold its grand opening on April 10. Here’s the release from the Cabela’s folks:

Cabela’s Announces Official Opening Date of Anchorage, Alaska, Store

Ribbon-cutting scheduled for 10:45 a.m.; doors to open at 11 a.m.


SIDNEY, Neb. (Feb. 7, 2014) – Cabela’s Incorporated, the World’s Foremost Outfitter® of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, will celebrate the official grand opening of its Anchorage, Alaska, store Thursday, April 10.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Cabela’s executives will begin at 10:45 a.m. and doors will open for business at 11 a.m. Opening day will kick off a weekend-long celebration featuring giveaways, special guests, events for the entire family and more.

The 100,000-square-foot store – the company’s first in Alaska – is located on the south side of Anchorage near the intersection of Minnesota and C Street next to Target. It will feature thousands of outdoor products, museum-quality wildlife displays, a mountain replica, aquarium, indoor archery range, gun library, bargain cave, deli, fudge shop and more. Approximately 250 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees will staff the store.

And, although doors do not open until April 10, customers can get a head start on shopping beginning today.

Those who order eligible merchandise via between Feb. 7 and March 19 can have it shipped to the store – free of charge – by selecting “in-store pickup” at checkout. The gear will then be delivered to the store and be ready for pickup on April 10. This program, which will continue after the store opens, gives customers convenient access to all Cabela’s products. For additional information, visit

Currently, Cabela’s operates 50 stores across North America with plans to open an additional 20 over the next two years.




American Sportfishing Association Weighs In On Pebble Mine

Fishing on the Nushagak River in the Bristol Bay area. (BRIAN LULL)

Fishing on the Nushagak River in the Bristol Bay area. (BRIAN LULL)

The American Sportfishing Assocation   has weighed in on the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay debate. The ASA released the following on Monday:

For Immediate Release
Mary Jane Williamson, Communications Director, 703-519-9691, x227
Alaska’s Proposed Pebble Mine Not Worth the Risk
Alaska Senator and the EPA reach same conclusion as sportfishing industry
Alexandria, VA – February 3, 2014 – The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) watershed assessment which concludes that opening the massive gold and copper Pebble Mine in Alaska poses significant risks to Bristol Bay’s salmon populations. Following the EPA’s announcement Alaska Sen. Mark Begich issued his own statement in opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
In his statement, Begich said, “Years of scientific study has proven that the proposed Pebble Mine cannot be developed safely in the Bristol Bay watershed. As the multi-year watershed assessment details, the mine would likely threaten the largest and most lucrative salmon run in the world. Bristol Bay produces half the world’s red salmon and supports thousands of fishing jobs and way of life thousands of Alaskans. Thousands of Alaskans have weighed in on this issue and I have listened to their concerns. Pebble is not worth the risk.”

Bristol Bay supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs, primarily because the bay’s freshwater salmon habitat is largely untouched by development. Bristol Bay is also home to several other important recreational species, like Arctic Char, Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, lake trout, Dolly Varden, northern pike and whitefish. Collectively, recreational, commercial and subsistence activities in the Bristol Bay region contributes over $480 million in economic activity annually and supports over 14,000 jobs.

“The recreational fishing industry and our nation’s anglers depend upon clean, healthy waters and abundant fish,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Mining operations in the Bristol Bay watershed pose a real and considerable threat to the fishery resources, water quality and sportfishing opportunity in the region. In addition to the inherent risks of the mining operations themselves, the Bristol Bay region is a seismically active area and this increases the risk of an unintended breach of reservoirs and other environmental containment facilities containing heavy metals, acid waters and toxic chemicals.”
Robertson further noted, “From the beginning, ASA has expressed concern about proposed mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. In 2011 we supported an EPA Watershed Assessment and, depending on the assessment’s results, the EPA using its authority under the Clean Water Act to withdraw Bristol Bay’s watershed area from future mining operations including disposal sites for dredging and fill. We are pleased that the assessment and Sen. Begich support our position regarding this magnificent natural resource.” 

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.