Monthly Archives: October 2010

Fish or cut bait? Aquaculture association casting for new directions

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Cathy Cline, CIAA field assistant. Returning sockeye salmon to Bear Lake Weir are prepared for an egg take by Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association workers.

Redoubt Reporter

When the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association was established in 1976, the purpose, potential and parity of funding for the organization was a simple, straight line to follow: Commercial fishermen would voluntarily contribute 2 percent of the value of their catch to support the organization, which would work to perpetuate, rehabilitate and enhance fish populations through research, habitat protection and stocking programs, creating stronger and more consistent fish runs that fishermen could harvest.

In the intervening 30 years, that line has gotten tangled into a snarled web of complexity and challenges, leaving some fishermen today to wonder whether CIAA is producing enough benefit to warrant continued financial support — through the salmon-enhancement tax as well as public money in the form of state loans and state and federal grants — or whether enough is simply enough.

“It’s not uncommon for me to talk to people I fish near and around and with who express concern that the moneys that are being paid don’t necessarily realize a measurable benefit. And the benefit doesn’t necessarily have to mean, ‘Because I’m paying 2 percent I’m getting more fish,’” said Jim Butler, who fishes a set-net site north of the Kenai River and has been a Central District drift-net fisherman. He also is a former member of the CIAA board of directors. “I think the benefit I hear from a lot of folks is, overall, is it creating a broader opportunity for anybody to catch fish, whether they be sport or commercial? And it’s not clear that that’s the case, that that’s happening.” Continue reading

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Parody in person — Surprise guest gives dose of reality to election satire

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Carla Jenness. Mim McKay, who spoofs U.S. Senatorial candidate Lisa Murkowski in an election-season comedy, poses with the real Murkowski, who visited the show Saturday at Triumvirate Theatre.

Redoubt Reporter

Part of the humor in a good satire piece is being able to emulate those you’re skewering. For Triumvirate Theatre’s election-season campaign spoof, “Lame Ducks and Dark Horses,” that meant Chris Jenness growing a Joe Milleresque beard, Carla Jenness donning the red power suit and up-do hairstyle of Sarah Palin, Josh Ball channeling the amped-up, arm-swinging animation of Glenn Beck, and Randy Daly adopting the mouth-full-of-marbles drawl of Joe Biden.

For Mim McKay’s spoof of Lisa Murkowski, which recurs in song and sketch throughout the show, she brushed her hair into a bob and donned a trim business suit embellished with an ivory swan pin of the sort the senator often wears.

How well the spoofers do in pulling off their renditions of the targeted spoofees typically is measured through audience’s reactions. For McKay, one member of the audience at Saturday night’s show was particularly qualified to judge the accuracy of her imitation.

Turns out, the pin sealed the deal.

“What was a little bit disconcerting was to see Mim come out,” said Sen. Murkowski, who made a surprise appearance at the theater with a handful of campaign staff and local supporters to catch the last 15 minutes of the show. “She was me, but I actually have that exact same ivory swan pin she was wearing on her lapel. And Rachel, who works with me, was like, ‘She’s wearing your pin.’ I thought it was planned, but Mim didn’t know (I have that pin), so they did nail it.” Continue reading

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Gotta get your goat — Hunter goes to great heights, lengths for a shot at successful stalk

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Gary Todd. Gary Todd, of Kasilof, poses with a 1 1/2-year-old goat he shot in the mountains near Seward.

Redoubt Reporter

A moose hunt is challenging, especially if success comes far from transportation and the meat must be carried out.

Bagging a bear has difficulties, as well, particularly when the quarry takes to hillsides and brushy terrain.

But for hunters who want an experience that’s a grand adventure and a bit like dabbling into masochism at the same time, only a goat hunt will suffice.

“It’s definitely a bit of both,” said Gary Todd, of Kasilof, who recently returned from a successful hunt in Seward, after being “lucky” enough to draw a permit to pursue goats up the steep cliffs they call home.

Todd first attempted to take advantage of his permit about three weeks ago, but as is often the case near Seward, wet weather thwarted his hunting attempts. He spent six hours hiking through devil’s club and thick alders and climbing over deadfall along Fourth of July Creek. Near Mount Alice he got to a high point above the brush line where he could spot game from a bench ridge.

“We saw 10 goats on the other side, including a couple of billies, and we saw some other goats on our side, but they were way, way up,” he said. “With all the rain, we were already soaked and couldn’t get across the creek. It was too flooded. And the goats on this side, it would have taken another six hours just to get near them.” Continue reading

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Naturally bookish — Author pens text for Natural Geographic book on Alaska

By Clark Fair

Photos courtesy of Dave Atcheson. A new book on Alaska and Bristol Bay is set to be released in February.

Redoubt Reporter

Local writer Dave Atcheson already has a solid résumé of authorship — his own book, “Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula,” and freelance contributions to Alaska Magazine, Outdoor Life and Boys Life¸ among others — but early next year Atcheson’s list of writing accomplishments will take on a little more cachet with the publication of the National Geographic book “Hidden Alaska: Bristol Bay and Beyond.”

Atcheson, who works for Kenai Peninsula College and is a consultant to the Renewable Resources Foundation, has teamed with veteran National Geographic Society photographer Michael Melford for this 160-page photo book that examines the vast and endangered Bristol Bay region.

The book will appear only about two months after National Geographic magazine publishes a 26-page article on the controversy concerning Bristol Bay and the proposed Pebble Mine. The photography of Melford, who has been working with National Geographic Books since 1993 and whose work has appeared widely in National Geographic periodicals, will also be featured in that article.

“Hidden Alaska” began as the brainchild of Melford, who Atcheson said shot about 20,000 photographs in Bristol Bay while on assignment there and then became interested in using his images for another product.

“He came to us (the Renewable Resources Coalition) and said, ‘I want to do a book on this — on Bristol Bay, and on Pebble, and on the threat to it,’” Atcheson said. Continue reading

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Common Ground: Going to the dogs — 4-legged companion makes hunting that much better

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

I was staring at about a thousand ducks sitting on the water when my hunting partner suggested we get closer to the lake. We’d been sitting behind the only cover for an hour and a half without moving. I watched as another flock of a hundred ducks took flight. They were just out of range and flying away from us.

I had prepared a speech of disappointment that included the question of why it was that his father, who did not advocate for hiking the only mile between two roads, kneeling in the cattails for hours or crawling through bean stubble in the rain, managed to shoot more ducks than either of us in the past five days. I heard shots from the road, further rattling my nervous system.

My buddy’s father stayed next to a small pond near the road, and I imagined he shot the only bird of the day as it flew over the pond by chance. His good fortune made all the stories of miserable waterfowl hunting look like masochism. I had crawled and stalked every piece of private property with a pond in Ransom County, N.D. At the end of the day, my buddy, who would crawl just a little farther and wait just a little longer than I did, would bring back a few ducks. His father, who preferred easy access, consistently did just a little better.

He had something else we didn’t have — a black Lab named Lady. Getting a hunting dog was an option I’d considered briefly. The only time I’d wished either of us had a dog was when my buddy shot a pair of mallards over a slough at high tide. No tactic we could think of would get us across to the muddy bank where the mallards fell. Finally, without a fishing pole or way around, we gave up. My buddy came back the next day at low tide and found only one of his two mallards, mentioning for the first time that it would be nice to have a hunting dog. Continue reading


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Night Lights: High standards — November a good time to look up

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Compared to October, astro-nomical objects visible in the night sky have shifted somewhat toward the east in November, with Hercules on the northern horizon. Prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major) high in the northeast, the Little Dipper high in the north, and Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega, and Aquila with Altair low in the northwest. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that, in Alaska, we can see this summer triangle all winter long, albeit on the horizon.

Cassiopeia appears overhead, in the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond is right above the very bright Jupiter in the southwest. In the east, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, Cancer with the Beehive cluster and Leo have risen, following Orion with red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, which are now quite high in the south. Auriga with Capella and Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster appear now high in the southeast. Continue reading

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Almanac: Soldotna’s big screen — Town’s 1st movie house takes on new character

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of a three-part story told in reverse  —  the unusual history of the metamorphosis of the Soldotna structure known today as Beemun’s. Part one covered the history from the current time back through the fire of 1990 to the mid-1980s when the building was a bakery and was not yet square. Last week, part two started in the mid-1980s and worked back to the late 1960s. This week examines the building’s origins.

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of Beemun’s. In the early 1970s, as business boomed, Soldotna Drug owner, Earl Mundell, had a Quonsetlike addition attached to the main structure.

Redoubt Reporter

Rich King’s very first job upon coming to Alaska in 1973 was working for Earl and Alice Mundell, adding a perpendicular Quonset-style wing to the grey tin Quonset hut known as Soldotna Drug. Joining the two structures correctly was tricky, King said, but his on-site boss was able to work out the details on a lunch table.

To supervise the project, Mundell had hired Wiley Graham, whom King said was “sort of a jack-of-all-trades” — a Cat-skinner, an electrician, a welder, a pilot, a carpenter. “Wiley was the only person who was smart enough to figure out how to do that back then. He engineered the whole thing on a napkin over at Glady’s (Café). It was Wiley Graham and Earl Mundell scratching their heads together. We’d go to Glady’s for lunch, and those two would hash out what was going to happen.”

The aspect of the architecture that generated the most difficulty was the 8-foot, concrete-block retaining wall that framed the first story of the addition, and upon which the Quonsetlike second story rested. Graham devised a means of joining the straight walls and arched roof of the addition to the curved northern wall of the original building.

At the same time, the original Quonset’s freshwater well was capped, and Soldotna Drug hooked up to the city’s water main in order to power its new fire-suppression sprinkler system.

With the extra retail space, business at the drugstore continued to boom, so two years later Mundell began construction on a larger separate building on the adjoining property, and in 1976 Soldotna Drug was moved across the parking lot. Continue reading


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History in the making — Senior center club dresses its best in fashions from the past

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman Redoubt Reporter. Fashions of the Past club members meet for their monthly dinner outing in their historic finery. They are, from left, Erma Losser, Elaine Fullerton, Virginia Penson, Norma Cooper and Promise Rodgers.

Redoubt Reporter

When members of the Fashions of the Past club get together for their monthly dinner outing they dress like queens — or actually as queens, in some cases — in elegant finery spanning not only just past decades, but centuries.

It serves as a wistful reminder of the way things used to be — when going to dinner was an occasion warranting fine dresses with full-length pleated skirts, lace embellishments, hats and gloves. When men chauffeured, offered arms for strolls, opened doors and held chairs. When everyone was polite, meals were meant to be enjoyed among friends and there weren’t such things as cell phones to infringe on conversation and enjoyment of company.

“I’m sorry to see long skirts go. Women looked like women then,” said Norma Cooper, dressed in a purple Medieval-era gown with white lace trim, during a recent outing of the club to the Bear’s Den Restaurant in Soldotna. “We can’t dress like this ordinarily, so it’s fun to do it now.” Continue reading

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Plugged In: Big punch in little packages — Large-sensor compacts worth a look

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Until a few months ago, Panasonic and Olympus essentially owned the large-sensor compact camera market, with both vendors selling a variety of excellent cameras that use Panasonic’s 12-megapixel, Four-Thirds sensor.

Since then, two behemoths of consumer electronics, Sony and Samsung, have jumped into this new but rapidly growing market, introducing entirely new interchangeable-lens camera systems, with confusingly similar names, the Sony NEX and the Samsung NX. Sony’s E-mount NEX camera system seems both more radical and more polished. Continue reading

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Please fence me in — DNR approves Kasilof beach structure, seeks input on area’s management

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A truck drives through the grass on the south side of the Kasilof River. There’s a traditionally used trail beaten into the grass, but vehicles are carving out new routes, as well.

Redoubt Reporter

A decision by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to allow fencing to be installed around sensitive beach grass-covered dunes on the south shore of the mouth of the Kasilof River and to initiate a process to designate the region as a Special Use Area in order to better manage increasingly heavy use is a case of good news, not-as-great-as-hoped news for Brent Johnson, president of the Kasilof Historical Society, the group that applied to install the fence.

But at this point, after more than a year of waiting, wading through red tape and jumping through hoops involved in the permit process, Johnson is happy to take what approval he can get, as long as it means the mouth of the Kasilof, which has seen steadily increasing summer fishing season use and abuse, can finally get some protection.

“The fence decision wasn’t everything I asked for,” Johnson said. “There are some pros and cons to the decision, but I have conferred with Robert Ruffner (executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum) and we both think this is still very worthwhile to build, and may even be a sensible decision.”

The historical society was allocated $60,000 by the Legislature to construct a fence, which was originally planned to encircle the entire grass dunes area on the south beach of the river, blocking access to trucks, RVs, four-wheelers and other vehicles that rip up fragile beach grass that serves to protect the ecologically important dunes. The fence as originally proposed would mean all traffic would have to drive on the beach sand below the dunes to reach the river mouth, rather than driving on the commonly used trail that’s been cut into the dunes from decades of vehicle traffic.

The DNR Division of Mining, Land and Water, which oversees the area, approved a fence permit in late September, but stipulated that a fence must leave the traditional-use access road open. That means the historical society either needs to come up with more money to encircle the grass below the access trail as well as fence off the rest of the dunes above the trail, find cheaper fencing material to stretch funds to cover both areas, or simply abandon protection of the grass below the trail, facing the water.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources approved a permit application from the Kasilof Historical Society to install a fence to protect fragile beach grass on the sand dunes at the south beach of the mouth of the Kasilof River, but the fence must leave access open to a trail already carved through the grass.

“DNR decided to hold the fence back from the leading edge of the grass and to allow it on the upland side of the trail nearest the beach,” Johnson said. “I wanted to build the fence where it would best protect the habitat. The bottom line is, we can only build the fence where the public will accept it, and where DNR will permit it.” Continue reading

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Not many problems a’bruin — Peninsula sees few bear issues this summer

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Problem brown bear interactions continued to decline on the Kenai Peninsula this year.

Redoubt Reporter

As fall comes to a close and brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula start settling into their dens for winter, they do so without a lot of fanfare, not having been the subject of near as many headlines or problem interactions with people this year as they were just three years ago.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are hoping the comparative lack of attention bears generated this summer on the peninsula is because people are actually paying more attention to them. Only time will tell if this being a quiet bear year is a factor of temporary conditions or an increasing payoff of efforts to reduce negative bear interactions on the peninsula.

“We did have some activity — we always do — but I would say it’s down from what it was a few years ago. I’m hopeful that’s a trend we’ll continue to see,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife biologist with Fish and Game.

So far in 2010 in Game Management Units 7 and 15, covering nearly all the peninsula, there’s been 18 reported human-caused brown bear deaths attributable to something other than hunting. This can include vehicle collisions — one brown bear was hit and killed by a train this year — and, mostly, bears killed in the defense of life and property. In 2009, there were 21 nonhunting, human-caused mortalities. In 2008 there were 40.

Selinger said he’s hoping this downward trend is at least partially the result of efforts to create better bear awareness on the peninsula. Fish and Game and community partners have been encouraging the use of bear-resistant garbage cans and electrified fencing for chicken coops and livestock, and reminding people to secure outside freezers, take care in disposing of fish waste and not leave pet food, bird feeders and garbage out where they could draw bears looking for an easy meal.

“A lot of people are now taking steps to minimize the availability of attractants around their homes,” Selinger said. “All you have to do is drive around. There’s bear-resistant garbage containers in a lot of places there never used to be. People are electrifying chicken coops more and are more cautious about storing things in freezers outside.

“It’s grown. When you start something new like that a lot of people are reluctant to change. As it starts pushing along, my belief is you get to a tipping point eventually where pretty soon the majority of people are doing it and new people moving in are aware of it right away — ‘Oh. This is how you store stuff here.’” Continue reading

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Air apparent — Youth go big in skate, BMX bike challenge

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. At left, Jake Graham, of Soldotna, wows the crowd with a backflip during the inaugural Soldotna Bike and Skate Challenge on Saturday. The trick lend to him placing first in the competition for his age division.

Redoubt Reporter

The scene looked like a cross between a shoot for a John Hughes film, an energy drink commercial and an X Games competition.

Teens dressed in fluorescent-colored clothes, oversized sunglasses and trucker hats swigged back 16-ounce cans of sugar and caffeine while waiting to ride their skateboards or modified BMX bicycles.

They nervously laughed with each other before taking their turns to ride, and attempted to stay warm in the 30-degree temperatures. As cool as the air was, though, the adrenaline surging through their veins and the fire of competition burning within helped keep warm and sharp the nearly two dozen athletes who had come to participate in the first Soldotna Bike and Skate Challenge on Saturday at the Soldotna Skate Park.

“I ride every day, for five to six hours a day. I feel like I’ve worked hard for this and put in the time,” said BMX athlete Jake Graham, of Soldotna.

Competing in the event was not something anyone could just jump on a board or bicycle and do with success. Like any traditional sport, freestyle skateboarding and BMX riding requires hard work, practice and perseverance, and the vertical disciplines of these action sports are perhaps the most extreme manifestations. It takes not just skill, but cool nerves to ride the U-shaped half-pipe ramp that stood roughly 10 feet tall on either side. And these athletes didn’t just ride the ramp, they blasted off it, seemingly defying gravity as they performed a multitude of tricks midair.

“I moved to Alaska when I was 10 and that’s when I started riding,” Graham said. “I’m 18 now, so it’s taken me this long to get some of these tricks

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Travis Bittick, of Soldotna, concentrates while riding at the top of one of the half-pipes during Saturday’s competition.

down.” Continue reading

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