- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

March 23, 2015

Ketchikan Daily News: Food for thought

Quick, what do farmed salmon and gruel have in common?

Answer: They are both, in their natural state, gray.

The flesh of wild salmon is orange or red because wild fish eat krill and shrimp, picking up organic pigments along the way. Farmed salmon, meanwhile, eat pellets that are often comprised of other fish. (Pellets also frequently include fat, soy, corn material and, believe it or not, ground up feathers).

Farms add the pigment astaxanthin (the same thing found in shrimp) to their pellets. It’s an additional expense, but the alternative would be shipping a fleet of slate-gray fillets to supermarkets across the country.

And no one would buy that.

Now, salmon is good for you no matter how you get it, but here’s a couple things you should keep in mind:

- Multiple studies in the 2000s found that farmed salmon have higher levels of toxic, man-made chemicals than wild salmon (neither type of fish had dangerous amounts).

- According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, fishery scientists found that salmon farms greatly increased the presence of parasites known as sea lice in wild salmon, a type of parasite that is potentially deadly for young salmon.

- In salmon farms, water pollution from fish excrement and leftover feed is common.

While keeping those facts in mind, remember one more thing: Wild salmon tastes great.

When it comes to fish, you get what you pay for.


March 24, 2015

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Bills would suspend state funds for school construction, leaving Barnette Magnet in limbo

For four decades, the state has reimbursed local governments for a majority of the cost of school construction and major maintenance projects. The reimbursement of those voter-approved school bonds has never really been guaranteed, however. It’s just been the official policy to do so when the money is available.

And the money has been available.

So, voters in local school districts - Fairbanks among them - have grown accustomed to the state reimbursement during the many years of the program.

Now, with the state facing a budget shortfall that is expected to run in the billions of dollars annually for several years, that bond program is in jeopardy.

Two bills - Senate Bill 64 and its House Bill 138 - would suspend the program for five years and then bring it back at a reduced reimbursement rate. The program now reimburses local governments up to 70 percent of a school construction project funded through locally approved bonds. That rate would drop to 50 percent when the program returns after five years under the two bills.

It’s difficult to argue in this extraordinarily difficult fiscal time, brought on by declining oil production and a plummet in the price of that oil, that this program should be spared. Lots of programs are going to be reduced or eliminated.

What can be argued, though, is the scope of the projects affected by suspending the bond reimbursement is unfairly broad.

The clear example of this in the Fairbanks region is the lengthy, multi-year renovation of 55-year-old Barnette Magnet School, the oldest school in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Fairbanks voters previously approved bond packages for the first two phases.

It was hoped the final phase would be funded in full through the state’s capital projects list, but Barnette just missed the ranking cutoff. That led to discussion in Fairbanks about putting the final phase out as a bond proposal on the October ballot and obtaining the usual state reimbursement.

Appearance of the school bond reimbursement legislation complicates that thinking.

Would Fairbanks voters approve the bonds without the 70 percent state reimbursement, meaning that local property taxes would have to pay the full cost of that $12 million final phase?

Or would Fairbanks leaders decide to wait five years until the bond reimbursement program returns, albeit at a reduced level? Waiting that long for a project that has been underway for several years already and is nearing completion doesn’t make much sense.

A fair solution would be to exempt from the bond reimbursement suspension those programs like Barnette Magnet School that are underway or for which local voters already have authorized the issuance of bonds.

The savings to the state won’t be as much, of course, but allowing for such projects to proceed seems fair.

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