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Robert Seitz: Yes, I actually am qualified to discuss climate and energy issues

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Robert Seitz: Yes, I actually am qualified to discuss climate and energy issues


Sitka’s Green Lake Hydroelectric Project. Photo credit: Dept. of Energy

By ROBERT SEITZ

I read through the 25 comments from my recent commentary “Time to fight the assault on energy,”  and the 24 comments on my previous column, “More on climate, politics and energy in Alaska.” 

Some commenters question my motive for my columns, thinking that I am being financed by dark money or have a hidden political agenda. Some think I am not qualified to look at the data and come up with conclusions contrary to thousands of climate scientists they vaguely cite. Then there are some who show that they understand what I present and are supportive of my comments and recommendations. I thank them.

My motivation for writing articles about electrical systems, use of renewable energy in Alaska, and issues of climate concerns is to ensure people of Alaska are provided truth facts to guide them to a right and proper understanding and application of energy resources and to what urgency energy progress must be done. When I work on an electrical design I make sure I know what problem is to be solved or what objective is to be met and then make sure that this is kept in mind during the entire design, building and installation processes.  

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I have been investigating renewable and alternate energy resources since 1980 with consideration for their application for remote communities. Diesel fuel was expensive and at high risk of spill. Gathering wood is very time consuming. I have lived remotely in Alaska where the temperature got to -73oF.  I am qualified by training, education and experience to discuss the range of topics I cover.  

And, yes I will go against the reports of thousands of climatologist if what they advocate is wrong, is in error. In graduate school I studied physical oceanography, which included wind waves, ocean currents, tides and tidal currents.  I also studied meteorology, in which I learned of measurements of air temperature, winds, radiation, rainfall and other features. In my studies of Arctic Engineering, I learned about permafrost, soil temperatures, snow, ice (including sea ice), and other aspects of the Arctic.  

Then, with more than 50 years’ experience as an engineer in Alaska, I have successfully engineered systems and overseen their installation, to work with the environments we have in Alaska.  

I support wind, solar or other renewable energy sources to be connected to the Railbelt Electrical system when done to solve a particular problem to benefit the system as long as done with a free market approach, with a goal to  provide cheap electricity reliably and is not done through any legislated mandates.

There are practical reasons to have renewable energy resources incorporated into the Railbelt system. One application would be microgrids scattered through the system to provide power to isolated sections of the Railbelt system to provide local power when there are system wide outages. Battery energy storage systems have been proven over the last 20 years to provide stabilization for the electrical systems.

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At least one commenter thinks that I might not have sufficient ability, capability or access to proper data to make an assessment of temperature data in Alaska. Others wonder if I had access to HAD-CRUT (Hadley Centre/Climatic Research Unit Temperature) raw data. Much of the analysis on the HAD-CRUT and other data have been analyzed by comparing average annual temperatures which provide a very steep increase(to show global warming) for the years with less cold temperatures, but do not disclose that the high temperatures are still within normal range and show no great warming trend.  This was the point of my earlier article in which I questioned whether or not Alaska is warming 2 to 4 times faster than the rest of the planet.   

My positions have been:

  • Inclusion of renewable energy sources to the Railbelt Electrical system requires long term energy storage such as pumped hydro to provide the greatest benefit;
  • Any addition or modification of the electrical system must be done according to best and proper engineering practice and must be incorporated to solve a particular problem or provide improvement to the system;
  • Legislation to impose RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) and other forms of mandated increase of renewable (wind and solar) are not needed, but demonstrated need and free market forces should be trusted;
  • Cook Inlet gas production needs to be stepped up immediately and expanded sufficiently to ensure the Railbelt utilities can provide electricity and heat year round to ensure safety and economy for the Railbelt for the foreseeable future. In the meantime our future fuel supply can be determined and secured;
  • Alaska is not warming 2 to 4 or even 2 to 3 times faster than the rest of the planet. Temperature data has been in a form that is misleading.  The temperatures are not warming, we have just had less cold in recent winters.

I will continue to present additional information and comments on these and related topics and they will all be topics well within my capability and qualification to discuss.  We will present truth and evaluate the energy requirements and the condition and needs of Alaska and its people fully and accurately.   For those who doubt, keep reading.  I hope to final convince you of the actual reality we live in.

Robert Seitz is a professional electrical engineer and lifelong Alaskan.



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Alaska

Alaska’s education department wants a $750,000 external evaluator to study reading law

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Alaska’s education department wants a 0,000 external evaluator to study reading law


JUNEAU — The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development wants to hire an external evaluator on a $750,000 contract to study how a landmark measure is being implemented to improve reading outcomes for students between kindergarten and third grade.

The external evaluator would help write an annual report on reading improvement programs, and study their cost effectiveness — among other responsibilities. The education department’s contract was put out for bid Thursday.

The contract is set to run through June 30, 2026, with the option for two-year renewals through 2034.

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In 2022, the Legislature narrowly approved the Alaska Reads Act on the final day of the legislative session. The wide-ranging measure included targeted reading intervention programs and regular testing.

But some legislators representing rural House districts were critical of the measure, saying it didn’t do enough to account for the challenges of rural education.

Legislators appropriated $5.2 million in May to fund reading support after school administrators complained that the law was underfunded. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed that funding in June.

Alaska’s reading results have long languished at the bottom of national testing results. The bipartisan reading bill was intended to ensure all students could read proficiently by age 9.

After its first year in effect, Dunleavy touted data in June that he said showed students were “experiencing significant advances” in reading as a result of the measure he signed into law.

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Some educators countered that implementing the law had been bumpy, and that it was too early to say it had been successful. Others expressed concerns about the rigidity of new testing requirements.

Palmer Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes, who strongly supported the Alaska Reads Act, said Friday that hiring an external evaluator made sense because the state had effectively transitioned from one statewide test to another.

“I think it is important to have a baseline,” she said. “Good data is important in order to measure the progress we’re making.”

Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, who was a key legislative staff member behind the Alaska Reads Act, said in June that the law’s implementation had been “a bit of a mixed bag.”

Tobin said by text message Friday that she hadn’t reviewed the education department’s proposal for an evaluator, but the bill’s drafters had wanted a third party to analyze its effectiveness. She said that could help “give policymakers unbiased tools in determining next steps on how we support educators.”

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Officials at the state education department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why an external evaluator was needed, or how that position would improve the law.

In testimony to legislators, school administrators broadly said that Dunleavy’s signature reading measure was underfunded.

Legislators failed by one vote in March to override Dunleavy’s veto of a bill that would have permanently increased school funding at historic levels, and provided school districts with $10 million in dedicated reading support.

As a compromise, legislators approved $175 million in extra one-time school funding in the budget in May. Additionally, $5.2 million was appropriated to support reading. School districts would get $180 for each K-3 student. An extra $100 per student would be allocated to Title 1 schools.

Dunleavy then vetoed the $5.2 million for reading support in June.

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Like most vetoes, the cut was explained in an online statement as being needed to “preserve general funds for savings and fiscal stability.” The Dunleavy administration added that school districts received “additional funding support” from the $175 million approved by lawmakers.

Tobin said she anticipated additional budget requests next year to fund intensive reading programs, to support the law’s virtual education consortium, and for professional development support.

• • •





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Nanooks Men’s Basketball adds two of Alaska’s own

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Nanooks Men’s Basketball adds two of Alaska’s own


FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Another day of news for Nanook Nation as Coach Ostanik and the Men’s Basketball team added two more names to the roster.

First up is 6 foot 7 guard and Kodiak product, Jackson Krug. Krug spent the previous two seasons at Lassen Community College in Susanville, California.

Krug had28 appearances and 14 starts for Lassen in 2023-24. His field goal percentage was 43.5% and he shot 29.3% from beyond the arc.

He finished the season scoring 5.8 Points and grabbing 4.9 Rebounds per game adding 23 steaks and 5 blocks. His performances throughout his second season with the Cougars garnered All-Defensive Team honors. He was also recognized on the All-Academic Team while at Lassen.

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Ostanik is staying true to his previous comments on wanting all the talented Alaska basketball players by signing another Alaska product, Jeremiah (Shish) Hersrud.

Hersrud, a guard out of Wasilla, Alaska, signs with the Nanooks after spending the past two years at Bellevue College.

He played in and started 28 games for the Bulldogs, he averaged 31.1 Minutes and 9.8 Points per game, he shot 41.8% from the field, 32.4% from three and 79.5% from the line.



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Luxe in Alaska aboard Silversea's new Silver Nova

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Luxe in Alaska aboard Silversea's new Silver Nova


With its spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, picturesque towns and active excursion opportunities, Alaska is a paradise for adventure seekers and wildlife lovers with the added bonus of being in the U.S.

But even the biggest towns are small and most are not connected by roads, and provisions often can be hard to find. So if you’re going to send a luxury traveler to the 49th state, particularly an older or particularly anxious client, a cruise ship is the way to go.

Cruisers have many options in this busiest of Alaska seasons; Silversea’s Silver Nova is the newest. But it’s more than just the new-ship smell that makes it stand out. The design team has combined the latest trends — glass and light, open spaces, clean design, high ceilings and curved walls reminiscent of the waves themselves — to create a ship that brings the ice and snow of this state front and center and wraps it in luxury.

“I didn’t realize it was going to be this beautiful,” said Embark Beyond luxury travel advisor Victoria Page — and that’s just the point, of course. When every turn presents views of the sea lapping against snow-capped mountains or carries the promise of whale or eagle sightings, you want to be able to watch it from the bars, the pools and even the elevators. And Silver Nova delivers on that front.

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One thing we did learn on the fam trip I was invited on is that, in Alaska, the very first sailing of the season is potentially more suited to the adventurous traveler.

In late May, it was still cold and damp around Seward, with temps often in the 20s, and the seas were rough enough that many reached for their Dramamine. And while the staff was excited and grateful to see us, the salmon had not yet arrived on their annual trek to their breeding grounds.

The salmon will eventually cover the tops of the rivers and draw out many more bears, eagles and whales for their own version of fine dining. Still, sailing on the Silver Nova in Alaska is an unforgettable experience, no matter when you do it.

Embarking on the Silver Nova

Memorable excursions

The helicopter ride to the top of the Mendenhall Glacier is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of excursion; pricey at $429 but worth it. Sailing through the fjords also was amazing, and we did see a dozen or so whales on our whale watch, hanging out for about half an hour watching them dive and shoot water spouts into the air.

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We heard complaints from some about crowded conditions at the sled dog camp in Skagway; if clients are animal lovers like they were, they should opt instead for the beautiful ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway. And for active travelers, the 14-mile bike ride back down a mountain is not to be missed (though warm and waterproof clothing really is important). Or guests can just ride the train back in comfort instead.

At the end of a long, chilly day, our ship’s restaurants beckoned. 

The S.A.L.T. cooking classes aboard the ship are free, fun and easy. Photo Credit: Cheryl Rosen

Multiple dining options

On the Silver Nova and her sister ship the Silver Ray, the full grill and pizza restaurants of the Muse-class ships have been combined into The Marquee and moved away from the pool to a beautiful outdoor space.

While few guests took advantage of the outdoor seating at the main La Terrazza restaurant (perhaps because indoors the floor-to-ceiling windows offered great views) many braved the open-air Marquee, sitting under electric heaters while the staff wrapped diners in blankets on cold nights. 

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I found the most popular restaurant, S.A.L.T. Kitchen, was home to consistently amazing, fresh and locally sourced dinners, including my favorite: black cod. One guest said the filet mignon at Atlantide was the best he had ever tasted.

The S.A.L.T. Bar outside was a favorite, as well, with its British speakeasy decor and friendly staff who build customized drinks based on your individual tastes.

Clients with onboard credit might consider The Chef’s Table, well worth the upcharge of $180 per person. Or just sign up for the free, fun and easy S.A.L.T. cooking classes to learn how to make salmon cakes, smoked salmon spread, wild mushroom soup and wild berry crumble, along with knife skills and the best way to caramelize ingredients.

Kudos for the designers

On her fourth cruise with Silversea, Jennie McCalley of Savvy Journeys in San Diego was impressed with Nova’s asymmetrical design, which moves the traditional grand staircase and elevators to the side of the ship rather than making them the central focus and puts all the public spaces and restaurants on the top and bottom decks and all the staterooms in the middle. 

The living room area of a Medallion Suite aboard the Silver Nova.

The living room area of a Medallion Suite aboard the Silver Nova. Photo Credit: Cheryl Rosen

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Decks 6 to 9 have nothing but guestrooms, laid out on either side of a single hallway. “It’s less confusing, and I’ve gotten lost a lot less than I normally do,” McCalley said. 

Another result of the ship’s wavy design is that it “drives guests to become inquisitive, to seek out the little corners like the hidden library and the orange tree by the S.A.L.T. Bar, and try something new,” said hotel director Stephen Crimes. 

The entertainment, too, leans toward individual artists on sax, violin and piano, though the band and production crew are slightly larger than on other ships.

But as always when it comes to luxury, it’s the details that make the experience.

My Medallion Suite featured hidden plugs in the shelf in the dressing table, a bathtub, a laundry hamper and, best of all, a butler who emptied it daily and brought my clothes back clean by 6 p.m.

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My butler, Abhishek, surprised me with caviar from room service; a hot bath with candles and Champagne after a long, cold day outdoors; and clean sneakers when he noticed mine were soiled. 

I tried to hire him and take him home, but apparently his loyalty, like that of many customers onboard, is to Silversea. 



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