Monthly Archives: October 2009

Bear death under scrutiny — Investigation into roadside shooting continues

By Jenny NeymanPhoto courtesy of Russell Hepner. Unidentified hunters stand near a brown bear shot alongside the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing on Oct. 3. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports the incident is still under investigation.

Redoubt Reporter

Three weeks after seeing a brown bear shot by the side of the Sterling Highway near the Russian River Ferry, Jerry Holly said the incident is still eating at him, and he wants to know why the situation developed as it did.

“I’ve never seen such a fiasco in my life as this was. I don’t know what other words to use, other than just an absolute joke,” Holly said. “I have no trouble with hunting and I’m an avid hunter myself. But if that was hunting, I’m a jet pilot. That’s just absolutely ridiculous.”

Bruce Woods, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife in Anchorage, said the incident is still under investigation, and he can’t release information about it until the investigation is concluded.

Holly, a contractor in Soldotna, said he couldn’t imagine how the situation didn’t violate some sort of regulation or law, considering the multiple threats to public safety involved.

Holly and his wife were driving to Cooper Landing the afternoon of Oct. 3. As they passed a bend in the highway bordering a treeless slope down to the Kenai River, they saw the area mobbed with people — cars parked along the side of the road and in a pull-off area just before the slope, and people with cameras standing along the guardrail looking down at the river.

Must be a bear, Holly figured. Being a longtime central Kenai Peninsula resident, since 1958, and an avid hunter and fisherman, he’s seen enough bears that he wasn’t motivated to stop and join the crowd. An hour and a half later, after shooting scenic pictures for a photography class assignment and picking up a Kenworth dump truck from a job site his construction company was working at in Cooper Landing, Holly and his wife headed back to Soldotna.

As they neared the same highway bend, they saw it still choked with people. An Alaska State Troopers car with two troopers was on the scene this time, attempting to manage traffic. Troopers motioned for traffic to stop, with Holly in the dump truck at the head of the mounting column of traffic in the left-hand lane, and his wife in the car behind him.

About 100 feet in front of him, people started backing up from the guardrail and heading for their cars.

“So I go, ‘Aha, here comes Mr. Bear,’” Holly said.

It was a good-sized, male brown bear, Holly said. Fish and Game has described it as a subadult male.

“He steps up on the road, looks over my direction and troopers’, looks at the people backing up. They decide to run. That triggered Mr. Bear and he goes about maybe 10 or 15 feet toward them, and I mean a bear can move. He was not going on no mission here, he just took off on a little bit of a gait,” Holly said.

The bear stopped, turned and walked back along the guardrail toward where Holly was parked, then turned and looked across the road at the 75- to 100-foot rocky slope leading up to tree line, Holly said. He started heading up the slope, and troopers turned on their siren, probably to encourage the bear to leave the area, Holly figured.

About that time, two hunters in camouflage carrying rifles came running along the guardrail from the pullout where traffic was parked.

Holly is a longtime rifle and bowhunter, a member of the National Rife Association and taught a youth competitive rifle club for nine years. He’s supportive of hunting, but was incredulous that these men were going to shoot under these conditions, he said.

“It was embarrassing to watch that, totally embarrassing. The ethics of a bowhunter are so much different than this. I mean, you don’t even take a shot unless you’re totally confident and sure that you’re going to place that arrow. And these guys are running and dropping a knee, and all these people, all these tourists and all these cameras around,” Holly said. “Anybody trying to get a shot off when you’re running and your heart’s pumping, it’s not only dangerous, it’s poor sportsmanship. I can’t think of enough adjectives to tell you what that does to your aim. You don’t want to be placing bad shots.”

Troopers were standing next to the hunters as they took aim at the bear, which had paused on the edge of tree line, Holly said.

“I thought maybe at this point that they had actually given them permission, or maybe they called for these guys. I was really amiss as to where these guys even came from,” Holly said. “They (troopers) certainly didn’t prevent these guys from dropping to a knee.” Continue reading

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Baby steps — Girl’s condition improves with brain surgery

By Jenny Neyman

Emily Jacobs Web

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Marcia Jacobs looks at a book of Disney fairies with her daughter, Emily, in their Soldotna home Friday. Emily suffers from Chiari malformation of the brain and had to undergo brain surgery earlier this month to relieve pressure on her brain stem. Jacobs said Emily has been doing better since they got home Oct. 13.

Redoubt Reporter

At 2 years old, Emily Jacobs can count to 14. She can name all the Disney fairies. She can tell you about the sun being up and going down. She can point out a shark — “aaah!” — and a kitty — “so cute.” She can look at a syringe and tell you it’s for medicine — “icky.”

What she can’t yet do isn’t measured in terms of cognitive or educational milestones, like counting to 20 or writing the alphabet. It’s more basic than that.

She can’t swallow thin liquids without choking. She can’t toddle down the hallway without resembling a pinball careening into the walls. She can’t quite sleep through the night without waking up in pain. She can’t look forward to a childhood without the very real possibility of needing major brain surgery.

In June, Emily was diagnosed with Chiari malformation of the brain, where space in the lower rear portion of the skull is smaller than normal. Some people live with the condition symptom-free for their entire lives. But in Emily’s case, the base of her brain is compressed and her cerebellum is putting pressure directly on the top of her brain stem. The pressure has restricted cerebrospinal fluid flow around her brain, and the excess pressure has forced a hole in her spine where the fluid is leaking out into her spinal column.

Emily has been sick almost from birth, showing signs of increased intracranial pressure that her mother, Marcia Jacobs, of Soldotna, recognized all too well. Jacobs’ first child, Anjuli, died of brain cancer in 2001 at 4 years old.

In May, Jacobs took Emily to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where Anjuli was treated. Doctors told her Emily would need brain surgery to remove part of the base of her skull to relieve the pressure. It’s a massive, risky surgery, involving taking patches of bone from elsewhere in the skull and cauterizing the cerebellar tonsils, a portion of the cerebellum shaped like the tonsils in the neck, at the base of the brain. The risk of infection, paralysis and even death are greater the younger the patient is, so Emily’s doctors wanted to wait until she was 3 to try it. She turned 2 on June 10. Continue reading

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Haunting memories — ‘Nantiinaq’ sightings, spirits led to desertion of Native village

By Naomi KloudaPhoto provided. Malania Helen Kehl, Nanwalek’s eldest resident, remembers the unsettling events that led to the desertion of Port Chatham on the southern Kenai Peninsula.

Homer Tribune

Malania Helen Kehl, Nanwalek’s eldest resident, is frequently called upon around the village to impart her memories of how life used to be on this southernmost tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Among her remembrances are medicines used to heal the sick and ways of preserving sea lion meat in barrels for winter. She also is one of the last to tell the ghostly story of how the village of Port Chatham came to be deserted; why the abandoned town was shunned, and those who once lived there vowed never to return.

Kehl was born Jan. 25, 1934, at Port Chatham, then a small village founded at the edge of a peaceful moorage. The village once offered shelter for many people, including Capt. Nathaniel Portlock’s ship on his 1786 Alaska expedition. But when Kehl was a baby, the family abruptly moved away from Chatham, leaving the house and every board of its frame behind.

What frightening situation caused John and Helen Romanoff to take their children and flee to Nanwalek?

“We left our houses and the school, and started all new here,” Kehl said in a recent interview, speaking in her traditional Sugt’stun through translator Sally Ash. “There was plentiful land here for gardening and people. My parents built a house on the beach.”

What had frightened Kehl’s parents hadn’t been a single event. Over a “long period of time,” a Nantiinaq (Nan-te-nuk) — or big, hairy creature — was reportedly terrorizing villagers. And Kehl also told of the spirit of a woman dressed in draping black clothes that would come out of the cliffs.

“Her dress was so long she would drag it,” Kehl said. “She had a very white face and would disappear back into the cliffs.”

The goose-bumped terror felt when people encountered these spirits was nothing compared to what happened to Kehl’s godfather. He was working on a boat in 1931, when someone or something hit him over the head with a winch. The blow reportedly killed him instantly.

Kehl isn’t the only one to tell of strange events at Port Chatham. Port Graham Elder, Simeon Kvasnikoff, said he remembers when Nantiinaq was blamed for the disappearance of a gold miner.

“This one guy over there had a little place where he was digging for gold,” Kvasnikoff said. “He went up there one time and never came back. No one found any sign of him.” Continue reading

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Cheers to fall — Central peninsula breweries tap into special beers

Editor’s note: Thanks to Kassik’s, Kenai River and St. Elias for kindly sharing their craft, time and knowledge for this story, and to Bill Howell, home brewer and adjunct professor of a beer appreciation class at Kenai Peninsula College, starting in January, for lending his palate and opinions. Hey — reporters get to have a little fun now and again, too. Cheers!

By Jenny Neyman

beer Kenai River brews Web

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai River Brewing Co. has new beers out for fall, including a Winter Warlock, left, and a Skilak Scottish.

Redoubt Reporter

Fall flowing into winter can bring seasonal changes of which Alaskans are not too fond — slippery roads, increasing darkness, higher heating bills. But for those who enjoy craft beers, the turn in seasons is to be celebrated on the central Kenai Peninsula, because that’s when local brewers start pouring their specialty, experimental and labor-of-love-intensive beers.

Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop, Kenai River Brewing Co. and St. Elias Brewing Co. all brought seasonal beers on tap this October, with more planned in November and December. In the summer, brewers hustle to keep up with increasing demand, making sure the supply of staple, popular, familiar brews don’t run dry. Being busy is a good problem to have, but it means brewers have little time or tank space to devote to experimental projects, new recipes or more labor-intensive creations.

So for brewers, summer is for indulging the growing mass appeal of craft beers, whereas fall is where they can really let their creativity flow. And it often flows into more robust, potent beers.

beer St. Elias Bill Zach Web

Bill Howell, left, and Zach Henry, brewer at St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna, discuss Henry’s new seasonal ales Saturday. Fall and winter is when brewers have a chance to indulge their more creative sides.

“A big reason I put these kinds of beer on in the wintertime is because I have time to brew them,” said Doug Hogue, of Kenai River Brewing Co. in Soldotna. “In the summertime, we’re brewing our standard beers that are in distribution, and then with selling them out the door, it’s just so hard to do any kind of a specialty batch. So we have to take advantage of it in the winter. It’s nice when we can do some of these bigger ones that we can tuck back, and then if we want to bring them on in the summertime, we have that opportunity. And being like a bigger-alcohol beer, it’s easier to drink in the wintertime, I think. Because you’re just sitting around the fire drinking a little bit of beer.” Continue reading

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Hollowing Halloween — Local sculptor to hone talents on giant pumpkin

By Jenny Neyman

pumpkin carving 08 Web

Photo courtesy of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. Tlingit carver Benjamin Schleifman creates a Native design in J.D. Megchelson’s giant pumpkin last year at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Redoubt Reporter

A jack-o’-lantern won’t  do for this job. An extraordinary pumpkin requires an extraordinary design.

That’s the attitude Kenai sculptor Joy Falls will use to approach the 319-pound pumpkin she’ll be carving at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center this week.

“I’m a sculptor and it will be sculptural. Kind of a 3-D character. It’s too wonderful a pumpkin to just make a jack-o’-lantern out of it,” Falls said.

Beyond that, though, she wouldn’t tip her hand about what design she’ll be creating.

“I think you’d better be surprised. You’ll just have to come take a look,’ she said.

The pumpkin was grown by master horticulturist J.D. Megchelson, of Nikiski, who has been producing giant pumpkins for the Alaska State Fair — and winning state titles for his efforts — for years.

An off growing season this year resulted in a smaller-than-usual pumpkin for the state fair weigh-off. Well, small by Megchelson’s standards. It’s a mere 319 pounds, versus previous years’ pumpkins that have tipped the scales at over 500 pounds.

Having a somewhat smaller specimen may actually be beneficial for Falls, though, since it’s got a more rounded, typically pumpkinlike shape and smoother outer skin than the more giant, giant pumpkins generally do. Continue reading

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Almanac: Ready to rumble — Kenai was grounds for Evel vs. Awful, Peninsula Clarion vs. Cheechako News

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

The comparisons were obvious and understandable. Evel Knievel, famed daredevil motorcycle rider, planned to jump over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho on Sept. 8, 1974. The previously unknown Awful Knawful, on the other hand, planned to jump over Beaver Creek in Kenai three weeks later, on Sept. 29, 1974.

Knievel planned to make his jump in a two-wheeled, steam-powered vehicle that he had painted red, white and blue and dubbed the X-1 Skycycle. Knawful, whose budgetary considerations forced him into a slightly lower-tech operation, planned to make his jump on a three-wheeled, specially designed tricycle. Both would take off from a ramp — Knievel’s aimed skyward, and Knawful’s pointed down.

For publicity, Knievel hired Bob Arum’s company, Top Rank Productions (which usually promoted boxing matches), to put the event on closed-circuit television and to arrange all the financing for the jump itself. Knawful employed his press agent, Royce Adams, to get the word out, and subsequently a brief article promoting the jump appeared on the front page of The Cheechako News three days before the event.

The Cheechako promo ended with this ringing endorsement from Adams: “This is no joke. A special ramp is being built for the jump.”

Knievel hired aeronautical engineer Doug Malewicki to build the X-1 Skycycle, which was powered by an engine built by former Aerojet engineer Robert Truax. After a test launch in 1972, Truax built a second Skycycle, dubbed the X-2, which is the vehicle Knievel climbed into on Sept. 8, two years later. Knawful used assistants, too. He employed Joe Ross as his engineer, and had Harry Axson, Jay Lietzke and Mike French construct a 64-foot-long, 20-feet-high wooden ramp from which to launch his attempt.

Knievel launched at 3:36 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time. As a huge television audience watched, the steam that powered the Skycycle engine was superheated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and the force of the blastoff created immediate problems.

The drogue parachute deployed too soon because the bolts holding its cover stripped out, and the subsequent drag did not allow the rocket to land properly, even though the X-2 made it the full three-quarters of a mile across the canyon to the north rim. Instead, the chute caused the rocket to drift backward, and it landed on the riverbank on the same side from which it had been launched.

Knawful launched at about noon, Alaska Daylight Time. In front of a crowd that may have been generously estimated at 300 onlookers, Knawful got rolling. Continue reading

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Science of the Seasons: Winding waterways — Streams don’t stick to the straight and narrow

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

meander Swanson 012 Web

Photo courtesy of David Wartinbee. A section of the Swanson River in early spring shows common asymmetrical meander patterns, as well as a number of crescent-shaped old “oxbow” channels. Some are old oxbows, while a fairly recent cutoff is shown in the upper portion.

Last week I flew over the Caribou Hills and spent some time looking at the headwaters of Deep Creek and the Ninilchik River. Along the way I took a couple pictures of stream meanders in another area and I got to thinking about what that picture was telling me. Meander patterns are found in rivers and streams all over the world, so there must be some things they all have in common.

Meanders are the undulations of a stream back and forth across an imaginary line that goes straight downhill. Generally, the slower a stream moves, because of a shallow gradient, the more frequently the stream meanders. Of course, that is assuming the substrate material and discharge rates are uniform.

When the stream makes a loop to one side, crosses the downhill line and makes a loop back to the other side, it is called the meander length. Faster rivers have longer meander lengths than slower rivers. It turns out that this meander length is somewhat predictable and is usually 10 to 14 times the bank-full width of the stream. So, if we know how wide the stream would be during high water, we can take a fairly accurate guess about how far downhill we have to go to find a completed meander cycle. If we really want to get into predictive hydrology, there are also general formulas for calculating the theoretical curvature of the meanders.

Theoretically, meanders should be fairly symmetrical when flowing through uniform substrates, along a uniform gradient. However, neither of these conditions are often found in nature, so the meanders aren’t often symmetrical, either.

Asymmetry in meanders seems to be the rule rather than the exception. This asymmetry is believed to be caused by various substrate changes along the way, or variations in discharge volumes. This means that a tree stump or a large rock can easily cause the asymmetry that is so common. On top of that, once meanders start to become asymmetrical, that seems to breed even more asymmetry and our predictive formulas kind of go out the window.

The ultimate result of asymmetrical meander growth occurs when a meander turns back on itself and cuts into the original stream channel. Now the water flows straight past the old meander and leaves a looped section of stream with little or no water flowing through it. These old, curved channels are called oxbow lakes or oxbow channels. Continue reading

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Catching a break — Now’s the time to smoke, process summer’s bounty

By Mark Conway, for the Redoubt Reporter

If you are like me, you may have some leftover fish in your freezer.

When it gets toward the end of the season, my wife and I cut up some of our salmon in rounds to take out later when things slow down, only cutting off the tail and head and gutting the fish. Then we freeze the fish, thaw it out later, fillet the bones off and smoke some of our catch.

We then can some of the smoked fish, and vacuum pack and freeze the other. When we can our smoked fish, I like to put a slice of jalapeño pepper or a clove of garlic with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the jar with the smoked fish for added flavor before canning.

I’m amazed at how many people don’t know how easy it is to smoke fish. If you were not raised around smoking fish, it’s probably something new for you.

Here are a few helpful tips to get you started.

Buy yourself a small smoker at a garage sale or at one of the local retail stores. Get a bag of smoker wood chips. If you are creative, you can build a simple little smokehouse in a half a day with spare lumber. I built a smokehouse one year just using pallet boards. It only took about four hours. You can use a small barbeque in the middle of your smokehouse, then place your wood chips in a pan and place the pan on briquettes or a hot plate.

The brine is one of the most important ingredients for properly smoking your fish. You want to cure your fish meat or “cook” it with sodium to preserve the fish meat texture and flavor. The brine is where everyone’s secret to taste comes into play. You can make your fish taste real salty or just the right amount of salt, depending on what you like most.

First, cut your fish into strips that are easy to handle and eat, not too thin and not too wide or thick. Before placing the fish in the brine, slice down into the meat every 1.5 to 2 inches to allow the brine to penetrate the meat. When making these cuts, be careful not to slice through the skin.

Some folks like to put their fish in a liquid solution or apply a mixture of dry brine to the fish to quick brine it. Use a cup and a half of salt to every 2 cups of sugar in your brine with every gallon of water. We like brown sugar, but white sugar works great, too. We have also used sugar substitutes, which work fine and should be used the same as real sugar.

Continue reading

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Better footing — Rotary, business donations make a difference a world away

By Phellisha Dobson

Nicaragua shoes Web

Photo courtesy of Chuck Cook, Soldotna Rotary. Masaya, Nicaragua, residents show off the new shoes brought to them by Soldotna Rotary Club volunteers last spring break, donated by Foot Flare ’N’ Wear in Soldotna.

and Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

In a poverty-stricken area of Nicaragua, where owning anything beyond a pair of flip-flops would be a mark of prosperity, school outfits do double duty. If a child attends school in the morning, they pass their school clothes and shoes off to a sibling for afternoon wear. After a visit from Soldotna Rotary Club members last spring break, bearing a donation from a local business, 100 kids got to share the wealth, but no longer had to share their shoes.

Soldotna Rotary wrote a grant for $105,000 to send 140 wheelchairs to Nicaragua and raised money to work on houses in the Masaya area. Over spring break, eight volunteers traveled the 8,000 miles to the country, with three containers of wheelchairs and suitcases stuffed with 100 pairs of shoes donated by Foot Flare ’N’ Wear.

“It’s just neat how a business in little Soldotna, Alaska, can bless kids 8,000 miles away. The rewards are endless. It’s just neat to see that love,” said Soldotna Rotary member Chuck Cook.

Foot Flare ’N’ Wear opened in June 2008 in Soldotna by podiatrist Dr. Harry Cotler and wife, Lisa, to offer stylish yet foot-healthy footwear, along with clothing and accessories. After a busy summer and autumn season, the Cotlers found they had extra stock left over. Around that time, Dr. Cotler, a Rotary Club member, heard about the upcoming trip to Nicaragua.

“The timing just worked out for everything,” Dr. Cotler said. “Instead of keeping the inventory here until the following season, we just felt that it would be humbling to donate these shoes to a community that needed them. They’re new shoes. They’re not hand-me-down shoes. They don’t have to share the shoes; it was just a humbling gesture on our part to do that.”

In Nicaragua, 10 percent of the population needs wheelchairs, Cook said, and adequate housing is a challenge to provide. While in Nicaragua, Soldotna Rotary members worked on 11 houses, distributed 200 to 300 outfits and the 100 pairs of shoes.

“It’s almost unbelievable for us to put into words how blessed they are when they get a new pair of shoes, because if you go to their house they have no extra clothes. They have no other pairs of shoes. They have no toys. They have no refrigerator. A pair of shoes is extremely important,” Cook said. “Every time I go down there, I’m reminded that we don’t have the right to complain about nothing. We don’t have the right to complain about food, bad roads, we have it so good.”

Continue reading

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Plugged In: High image quality for small budgets

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

A reader recently inquired which cameras and lenses we thought would provide the best image quality without breaking the bank. That’s a very timely topic. We’ve already discussed upper-end cameras, and so this may be a good time to make some recommendations.

Get a good entry-level digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR) camera and a good lens or two. That’s it in a nutshell.

Manufacturers have introduced nearly 150 “new” compact and consumer cameras during 2009 and even though the better ones now cost $300 to $500, their image quality is noticeably deficient compared to almost any current dSLR.

At the same time, dSLR cameras have become much better, somewhat more compact and much less expensive. As a result, we’re at a crossover point. A decent entry-level digital SLR camera now costs perhaps $100 to $150 more than an expensive compact camera like the Canon G11 or the Panasonic LX3, but the dSLR’s image quality will be better and the dSLR will be more versatile.

The only real trade-off is that the dSLR will be larger and heavier. If you’re on a budget, though, and want quality photos, then this is a very sensible trade-off. Even though I really like using a high-end compact camera, whenever economics force a choice, I would definitely choose a dSLR camera rather than a high-end compact like the Canon G11.

Overall, the optical quality of any camera’s lens is at least as critical to good images as the internal sensor. A poor lens is always a poor lens. At the same time, although you change to a better lens on a dSLR, you’re permanently stuck with whatever sensor is built into your camera, so choose your camera carefully.

There are a few compact dSLR cameras whose bulk and weight are not overwhelming. Choose one of these if compact form is important to you. Fortunately, two of the best compact dSLR cameras, the new Pentax K-X and the Olympus E620 are also among the least expensive and have some of the best “kit” lenses. Continue reading

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CIRI venture backs out of Kenai Hydro — Company refocusing on several other energy projects

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Wind Energy Alaska, partly owned by Cook Inlet Region Inc., a Southcentral Alaska Native-owned corporation, has announced it is pulling its support from Kenai Hydro, a joint venture with Homer Electric Association to investigate the feasibility of installing hydroelectric projects on streams in the Kenai Mountains near Moose Pass.

“What we’ve determined is, looking at this project, it’s not the best use of our time right now, because we have a number of things going on,” said Jim Jager, director of corporate communications for CIRI, also speaking on behalf of Wind Energy Alaska. “… We have quite a few different projects in the hopper right now, and given what we’ve been learning about the Kenai Hydro projects, and given everything else, we’ve determined that Kenai Hydro doesn’t make sense for CIRI or Wind Energy Alaska to be participating in.

“We’re handing the project over to Homer Electric, and Homer Electric will decide whatever it decides in terms of pursuing the project. But we’re just saying it’s not the right project for CIRI or for Wind Energy Alaska at this time.”

Joe Gallagher, HEA spokesman, said in an e-mail Monday that “HEA believes that the project(s) could be feasible.”

“Kenai Hydro has not made a decision to terminate the licensing process. The next step is a public meeting, tentatively scheduled for early November,” Gallagher wrote.

CIRI is a 50-50 partner in Wind Energy Alaska with enXco Inc., which seeks to develop renewable energy projects. Wind Energy Alaska joined with Homer Electric Association to form Kenai Hydro LLC. Kenai Hydro was granted preliminary permits by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in October 2008 to study the feasibility of installing small-scale hydro projects on four waterways in the Moose Pass area — Crescent Lake, Ptarmigan Lake, Grant Lake and Falls Creek.

On Aug. 6, Kenai Hydro submitted a Pre-Application Document and Notice of Intent for a combined project involving Grant Lake and Falls Creek, which would generate an estimated 4.5 megawatts of electricity.

On Sept. 25, Kenai Hydro submitted notice to FERC that it wished to relinquish its preliminary permits on Ptarmigan Lake and Crescent Lake, saying that, after initial investigation and meeting with stakeholders, the projects appeared to be unfeasible.

Work still is progressing on the Grant Lake/Falls Creek project, with a joint meeting between involved agencies, organizations and the public tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12 in Kenai, where Kenai Hydro will review and discuss study plans and summarize the project description and potentially affected resources outlined in the Pre-Application Document. The meeting initiates a 60-day comment period on the study plans and information from the Pre-Application Document, according to Long View Associates, a Kenai Hydro contractor. Project scoping meetings also are tentatively being scheduled for the range of Dec. 8 to 10 in Kenai.

Jager said the decision for Wind Energy Alaska to withdraw support from Kenai Hydro was not made suddenly.

“It’s not something that they’re (Kenai Hydro’s other partners) just finding out about. We have talked with them (Homer Electric) as recently as this morning. We’ve also talked with them or sent letters and had communications leading up to this. And I don’t know what the formal date is, I’m not sure that’s important so much as they’ve been apprised of our position that we’re giving them the project and letting them make their decision,” Jager said Monday. Continue reading

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Warm memories — Quilt tells of Funny ways homesteaders got around

By Jenny Neyman

This quilt block, part of the Alaska statehood anniversary quilt project, shows how early Funny River homesteaders used a homemade cable car to cross the Kenai River.

This quilt block, part of the Alaska statehood anniversary quilt project, shows how early Funny River homesteaders used a homemade cable car to cross the Kenai River.

Redoubt Reporter

The Funny River block in the statehood anniversary quilt project represents a scene Patsy Bird remembers well, but not with the comfy coziness a rendering in colorful material and thread would suggest.

The block depicts Bird and her family crossing the Kenai River in their homemade cable car, standing on a 6-foot, open-air platform that was hauled back and forth above the frigid, fast-moving waters of the Kenai by hand-strung cables and a motor from a meat grinder. In the quilt, their fabric replicas look serene and hearty. In reality, the trip was anything but serene for Bird.

“It worked. But I don’t like heights. I wasn’t very crazy about the cable car,” she said. “I liked the barge better than the cable car. The barge was down on the water.”

A call went out for Alaska quilters to design and create quilt blocks representing their communities, with those blocks being sewn into quilts to be displayed as part of the celebration of Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood. The quilts are on display this month at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center.

In Funny River, the call was answered by the Thread Benders quilting group, which decided to work off of a photo showing how the area’s original homesteaders crossed the river before Funny River Road was put in. The photo is of Glen and Bertha Moore, Pat Bird’s parents, but the quilt block design shows Pat and her husband, Elmer, and a baby riding the cable car. Bird’s family built the cable car in 1960.

The Moores moved to Alaska in 1951 with the intention of homesteading on the Kenai Peninsula, but a fire destroyed all their belongings shortly after they got to Anchorage.

“It took them another seven years to get enough together to go ahead and come down,” Bird said.

By then it was 1958. Bird had finished high school in Anchorage and married Elmer. She and Elmer, her parents and her two brothers — the younger one with his wife — all filed on homesteads in the Funny River area. They had an idea of what the land looked like, having frequently fished from Jack and Ruby Bradford’s homestead off Scout Lake Loop Road in Sterling, which is across the river from what ended up being their Funny River homesteads. But the land was not easily accessible.

At first, boats or a barge got them to and from their homesteads.

“We used an 8-foot boat to cross the river. Sometimes when we went there was slush in the river and you just had to push through the slush and get across,” Bird said. “And the barge, I liked the barge. It was easier for the women, as far as I was concerned. But you had to know how you ran it, too. Depending on how you tied the ropes, the current carried it across the river.”

Elmer Bird said they built the barge by banding together oil drums and guided it by a cable strung across the river.

“You’d angle it against the river and let the current push it across, and when you got ready to go back you angled it the other way and the current carried it back. We took everything across that barge — people, supplies, livestock, buildings. I can tell you, cows didn’t like to ride on it,” Elmer said. Continue reading

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