Monthly Archives: May 2011

State budget holds funds for Kasilof fishery

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A truck drives over dune grass at the mouth of the Kasilof River during a past personal-use fishery. The state capital budget now before Gov. Sean Parnell includes several line items of funding to manage increasing crowds at the fishery and the habitat damage people cause.

Redoubt Reporter

The personal-use fisheries at the mouth of the Kasilof River have for years generated frustration among the people who call the Kasilof and Cohoe areas home, rather than a once-a-year fishing and camping destination. They are the ones who, after the 54-day set gillnet and dip-net fisheries, are left to contend with the damaged dunes and ecological habitat, improperly discarded garbage, fish waste and human excrement, and other impacts of the crowds.

Members of a group calling itself the Cohoe-Kasilof Community Council are hoping to stand up for the place they live and recreate. The group received a grant of $150,900 in the state capital budget, now awaiting Gov. Sean Parnell’s veto decisions.

“The thrust of the community council organizing is response to a perceived problem we were experiencing in the community on both sides of the river,” said council President Debbie Brown.

Anyone within the 99610 zip code — which encompasses more than 1,200 families — who is 18 years or older and is an Alaska resident can be a general member of the council, and the board of directors is made up of elected members, Brown said. Currently, in addition to Brown, George Pierce serves as the vice president, Dianne Macrae is the records manager/secretary, Bill Carlson is the treasurer, and Jack Brown and Harry Miller are members at large.

The group’s stated goal is to develop and implement an action plan to ensure responsible community, social and economic development compatible with the best interests of local residents. It supports sustainable regional projects that will improve the quality of life for residents and aims to achieve these measures by working with local, state and federal governmental entities.

Since forming in October 2010, the group has been meeting on a nearly monthly basis, including Monday night at Tustumena Elementary School, where the discussion centered around the upcoming personal-use fishing season and possible funding to provide educational community outreach, habitat protection, coordination of human waste disposal and public safety support.

The council’s $150,900 Kasilof River Safety and Habitat Protection grant proposal has been approved by the Legislature and included in the capital budget, which is being reviewed by the governor.

“We put together a proposal, a request for legislative funding, that would be a good fit for other projects already ongoing in the community,” Debbie Brown said. “If we make it through the governor’s veto we’ll go forward to see what the plan is for this year, and if we can’t implement it at this stage, we’ll go forward with it for next year.” Continue reading

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Rx for change — Certificate of Need: A cost or cure?

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When someone is facing an emergency or life-threatening medical situation, the first thought is about getting better, not about how much treatment will cost or who’s going to pay for it.

The idea of denying someone needed medical care because they can’t afford it is one that immediately raises the hackles of human morality. Turn away an expectant mother in labor? Refuse nitroglycerin to a heart-attack sufferer? Deny chemotherapy from someone with a treatable form of cancer?

Unthinkable, to patients in those situations, their loved ones, the medical professionals who devote their life’s work to providing that care, and residents of a community who want to take it for granted that the only obstacle to life-saving care is the trip to their local hospital.

“I have the honor to touch new life for the first time, and I hold people’s hands sometimes when they’re dying, sometimes in tough times. And it’s never about business. Money is not a factor,” said Dr. Katy Sheridan, a private-practice family doctor in Soldotna.

Whether or not people stop to think about it in an emergency situation, the inescapable fact is that medical care costs money. And in this day and age of the health care industry in the United States and Alaska — it costs a lot of money. The average spending on health per capita is about $7,500 in the U.S. according to the 2010 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey.

If refusing services isn’t an option and if some patients aren’t able to pay for those services, then someone has to foot the bill. How that happens, without negatively affecting the costs and quality of health care available to the entire community, is one of the questions driving conversations about the future structure, management and finances of Central Peninsula Hospital.

“At the end of the day, hospitals need to make a profit to sustain themselves, and I think that we’re in trouble here. The federal government is going to quit paying for our health care,” said Charlie Pierce, a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and alternate of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Health Care Task Force, which was created by the assembly to consider how to ensure the hospital is able to meet potential changes on the horizon in the health care industry. Pierce was citing the ballooning national debt and disproportionately high, compared to the Lower 48, reimbursement rates Alaska hospitals enjoy in treating Medicaid and Medicare patients.

One potential change to health care in Alaska that could have a significant effect on Central Peninsula Hospital relates to charity care — paying for services for those who can’t afford it themselves. In Alaska, that is in part managed by the Certificate of Need program.

Continue reading

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Calling for a stop to peninsula crime — Community partnership promotes residents looking out for each other

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kathy Musick, of Jersey Subs, and Ed Beddow, of Peninsula Crime Stoppers, display a Crime Stoppers sign Musick will hang in the sub shops to promote awareness for the crime-reporting organization.

Redoubt Reporter

A metal padlock wasn’t enough to prevent a crime at Jersey Subs in Soldotna last week. Owner Kathy Musick is hoping a metal sign displaying a phone number is.

Someone took a crowbar to a locked freezer outside the back door of the Soldotna sandwich shop last week and stole about $800 worth of meat. About four years ago someone broke in and stole the shop’s cash register. There have been no arrests in either case.

“What’s so frustrating is (police) know who does it but they can’t prove it. So what do we, as business owners and citizens, have to do?” said Musick, who co-owns and operates Jersey Subs locations in Kenai, Soldotna and Kasilof.

Pitch in, she decided.

Musick lives in Kasilof, where she is active in a neighborhood watch program. She takes the program seriously, keeping an eye on her neighbors and their property. Starting this week she’s applying that model at her business locations, as well, by hanging up signs for Peninsula Crime Stoppers, which encourages people to take an active role in keeping their community safe.

In the 15 or 16 years she and Jimmy Fallon have operated Jersey Subs, Musick said she’s seen crime escalate on the central Kenai Peninsula, and she’s attempting to do something about it. The sub shops now have surveillance cameras, and when approached by Crime Stoppers to display a sign listing its 283-TIPS phone number, she bought three.

The signs are a fundraiser for the organization, to generate money for the cash rewards it pays for tips that result in arrests in felony crimes. The signs are also an effort to raise awareness of the organization in the community. At $100 for each sign, Musick figured $300 is still a small price to pay if it helps prevent further burglaries. Sure, the $800 in stolen meat could be reimbursed through insurance, but the deductible and possible rise in premiums makes it not even worth reporting, she said. And while new locks, cameras and other security measures may make her businesses more secure, they don’t do anything to help protect the rest of the community. Raising awareness does.

“Crime has seemed to escalate more and more, and I don’t think it’s the economy because actually Alaska has a low unemployment rate. I just think it’s people that are abusing the system,” she said. Continue reading

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Early run, big bites — Kings starting push into rivers

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The fishing party of Kyle Weza, of Boston, watches his guide, Mark Glassmaker, net a salmon on Monday morning while fishing on the Kasilof River.

Redoubt Reporter

A storm is coming — waves of chrome-bright, sea-strong, lure-crushing king salmon. The height of the frenzy is a little ways off yet, but the leading edge is already pulsing into Kenai Peninsula rivers.

“You have to work for them, but each day we’ve had a handful of opportunities to boat at least one nice fish per trip,” said Mark Glassmaker, of Alaska Fishing with Mark Glassmaker, while nearing the end of a guided drift boat fishing trip on the Kasilof River on Monday morning.

King salmon fishing on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers has been slow so far with small pushes of fish entering both systems with each tide, but the fish are out there if the salt water is any indication.

“Compared to years past, it’s been pretty exciting out in the salt,” said Nick Finley of Ninilchik, who’s been fishing the inlet between Ninilchik and Anchor Point as he does every year at this time. Last week the bite was much hotter than usual for this early in the season, he said.

“Last year we went out at the same time and spent six hours out without a bite,” he said. “This year, within three hours we had seven solid hits and had caught three kings, and one that got away rolled at the surface and it was at least 30 to 40 pounds.”

There were at least 10 other boats around his and he saw several skippers bring salmon aboard, he said.

“The predications were it would be a crappy year, but it’s not starting out that way,” Finley said.

Charter Capt. Rod Van Saun, of Van Saun Charters in Ninilchik, agreed that the saltwater bite has been quite good so far this fishing season.

“It started strong with some nice fish caught, and the bite is still really good,” he said. “It’s been a lot of 15- to 20-pounders, but there’s been a few 50 and above caught, and I even got a white-meat king last week.” Continue reading

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On the lookout for lake loons  — ‘Common’ variety a regular sight during spring, summer

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. A common loon paddles on Hidden Lake recently. Loons are claiming territory now in preparation for mating season.

As soon as the ice cover melts on Hidden Lake, it’s time to get the boat out for the first run of the season. Besides the lake trout fishing, I also enjoy these early season forays because one can see waterfowl, like common loons, mergansers, golden-eye ducks, grebes and scoters. Whether feeding, courting or establishing territories for future breeding, they have their brightest plumage this time of year.

My favorite birds on the lake have to be the common loons. Perhaps this fondness comes because of their bold, black-and-white coloration. Maybe it comes from their haunting calls and yodeling that seems to be a sign of wilderness. Either way, I love seeing these birds and watching their antics during breeding or territory defense. There are a couple other species of loons found in Alaska, but today I will concentrate on the common loon, Gavia immer.

Just about any lake with a native fish population will attract these 7- to 12-pound birds since fish are their primary food source. Most all of their fish are caught while swimming underwater. Smaller fish are usually swallowed underwater but loons will come to the surface to wrestle with larger fish. I have watched a loon struggle with, and finally swallow, a 10-inch rainbow trout. While fish are their preferred diet, they are also known to feed on various invertebrates, like mollusks, leeches and aquatic insects.

Capturing fish underwater may seem daunting to us but it is all in a day’s work for loons. They have powerful webbed feet situated at the very back of the body so they are fast and agile swimmers. Interestingly, this body that is so well adapted for swimming means they are clumsy when out of the water. While most birds have hollow bones to conserve weight for flight, loons have relatively solid bones. Their heavy weight and streamlined body shape enables them to act like a submarine and slowly sink underwater or dive out of sight. Continue reading

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The Green Beet — Tale of 2 flower beds

By Jen Ransom, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Jen Ransom. With a little effort, composting can produce nutrient-rich soil that makes a big difference in gardening.

Two of my seven flower beds are cleared and ready for summer planting. This was no small feat. Normally, it consists of pulling a few weeds and roughing up a little dirt. But with no attempt to clear any of the dying plants last fall — we were a little busy making sure baby No. 2 stayed in the “oven” long enough — prepping the beds this year requires a bit more care, and a lot of debris needs to be removed.

The interesting thing I noticed as I ripped away dead flowers and live chickweed is that the two beds had very different soil quality. The back bulb bed was teeming with life — beetles, worms and spiders were present and working the loose, rich soil. The front bed, closest to the house, was void of any life, aside from a few spring flowers popping through, and the soil was as hard as a rock.

I wondered, what had I done differently? My yard, in general, has better-quality soil in the back, but had I really treated the two beds so differently in the past three summers that one could be void of life while the other thrived? As I reviewed my notes and my brain, I realized the one major difference. For the past few seasons I have used a light layer of newspaper and bark chips (from our wood-splitting area) in the back bed as a sort of mulch to keep the weeds down — the bulbs are strong enough to grow through, the chickweed, on the other hand, is at least fighting to get through. At the end of each season, save last one, I’ve worked the decomposing newsprint and wood into the soil. Essentially, I’ve been layer-composting on a small scale in that particular bed. The front bed has only received a little organic fertilizer in the middle of summer. No newsprint, no chips, no composting. Continue reading

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Common Ground: Half-cocked advice: Shoot what you aim for

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

After a season of struggling to shoot more than one clay target in a row at the trap range, I heard a piece of advice that could potentially solve all of my worldly problems, shooting or otherwise.

I had just completed a rather poor performance of trap shooting one day and was trying to decide on an excuse for my poor performance. There were a few easy excuses from which I could choose — the wind, the bulky clothing, the new cheek pad I was using. My hunting partner and a guy who could shoot a hundred clays in a row on a unicycle stood near the door of the clubhouse awaiting my inevitable excuse.

I shook my head. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t know.”

That’s when I heard the greatest advice I’ve ever failed to understand in my short history on earth. It came from my hunting partner, a firearms instructor and qualified gun expert. He said, “When you hit one, you know you’re doing it right, so do that.”

I looked around for the masses of believers who might benefit from this wisdom. The two shooters both nodded in agreement. These two guys are a regular pair of philosophers for all the deep sayings they have. They might as well have told me about trees falling in the forest without a sound or the power of a mustard seed. I didn’t know what I needed to work on first, my relationship with a higher power or my aim. Continue reading

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Fishin’ for Chix fun — All-women organization reels in Southcentral members

By Naomi Klouda

Photo by Naomi Klouda, Homer Tribune. Members of the Southcentral chapter of Fishin’ Chix gather for a group photo during a halibut-fishing outing to Kachemak Bay on Sunday.

Homer Tribune

No offense men, but women fishing in the company of women offers some different fish to fry.

For one, it’s satisfying to be able to talk about different things, like divorces or children, when the Fishin’ Chix get together. Not that a sunny day fishing for halibut on Kachemak Bay fostered anything too somber. On Sunday a group of 10 women went out on Ocean Charters and each one limited out on halibut. The largest halibut was caught by Shauna Laws, who reeled in a 38-pounder.

“We just want to have a good time and go fishing,” said Fishin’ Chix’s Jackie English, who organized the chapter, which now has 32 members. “To me, it is very satisfying. I was taken back by the number of women who showed up when we had our first chapter meeting in April. It made me realize there’s a lot of women who want to learn how to fish, or just want the camaraderie.” Continue reading

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Almanac: Learning through doing

By Clark Fair

Photos courtesy of the Soldotna Historical Society. This is the Slikok Valley School as it appears today. It stands near Damon Hall on the grounds of the Soldotna Historical Society’s homesteading museum near Centennial Park.

Redoubt Reporter

Tommye Jo Corr was accustomed to seeing moose tracks in the snow when she walked to and from work, but one day when she came across the tracks of a pack of dogs, she decided she needed protection.

Corr used to walk regularly between her home, on what was then called Kalifonsky Beach Road, and the Slikok Valley School, where she was the lone teacher during the school’s two-year tenure, from 1958 to 1960. After she saw the dog tracks, she said, “I started packing a pistol. The Department of Education didn’t mind, just as long as the gun was unloaded during school hours.”

Corr’s quote is part of Slikok Valley School history recorded in a scrapbook and kept available for viewing in the main building at the Soldotna Historical Museum, which opens for summer business May 15 every year.

What is now called Kalifornsky Beach Road was opened as little more than a Cat trail in 1956, but by 1958 several families were living along the roadway and were finding it difficult to get their children to the nearest available school — all the way over in Kenai.

Plans were being discussed to build a school in Soldotna, but Soldotna Elementary would not be completed and ready for students until the fall of 1960. Going to Kenai via Soldotna was the only option in the winter, since the Warren Ames bridge would not be completed until the mid-1970s, and the ice over the river was too treacherous to cross safely.

Consequently, depending on where their homes were located, parents were forced to have their children walk — typically three to eight miles — to the Sterling Highway near the Kenai River bridge in Soldotna, where they could be picked up by a school bus and driven the remaining 14 miles to Kenai. They would, of course, have to reverse that journey once school was over.

In addition to the distance, the conditions for the children’s walks were often difficult, at best, and hazardous, at worst. During the winter months, temperatures were usually below freezing and sometimes below zero. In the warmer periods of spring and autumn, thick mud, washed-out trails or melting snow prevailed, and the route also included a calving ground for moose, which drew in bears, wolves and stray dogs. Continue reading

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Art Seen: Spring for some new views

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

“It’s Only Just a Flower, People” by Lucy Graham, is on display at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street.

Kaladi Brothers serves up more than drinks and biscotti again this month, with a multiperson exhibit at the old Kaladi Brothers, on Kobuk Street, that is part whimsy, part exploration and part internal pondering. At the new Kaladi, on the Sterling Highway, is a surprisingly mature and quite thoughtful solo photography exhibit from a 20-something local.

There wasn’t any accompanying information that I could find about the group show, though a staff member thought the group was called the Birchwood Artisans. It’s hard to distinguish how much art training or education has been involved with any of the creations, but the participants are all apparently full of an appreciation for the creative process.

Ernie Prior puts out some wonderful ink sketches that are gestural and doodlie and make me think of works done by musicians, like John Lennon’s or Greg Brown’s loose and funky renderings. His singular watercolor is aptly titled “Landscape” and is somewhat over-saturated and fairly abstract. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Better gear only half the equation of better photos

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

A better camera won’t automatically make you a better photographer, or will it? Sadly, no.

Simply buying more, and more expensive, highly automated camera equipment may end up being a crutch that hampers your long-term development. Test pilots and astronauts don’t start out flying supersonic jet fighters. They gradually improve their aviation skills by first flying simple training aircraft that requires constant thought, manual operation and good judgment.

Becoming a better photographer is much the same, though less dramatic. Better results arise from a deepening knowledge of photographic techniques and developing an “eye” for interesting, noncliched images.

However, a better camera can improve your image quality once you’ve learned how to consistently take those compelling photos.

For example, let’s assume you like to shoot fast-moving athletic events. Using a multithousand-dollar pro digital SLR camera at its default automatic settings may increase your percentage of usable action shots somewhat compared to a consumer-grade long-zoom camera. However, auto focus and auto exposure don’t always work reliably when the action is fast and there are many different points that may attract the camera’s automatic settings. Continue reading

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Kings count in the Kenai —  Sonar sites track fish numbers

By Patrice Kohl

Photo courtesy of Patrice Kohl. The Kenai king sonar site camp is a familiar sight among sport fishermen who troll the lower Kenai River for kings. Sonar site crew monitor the site’s sonar operations from the camp’s beige tent, staffing the site 24/7 throughout the Kenai king sonar site field season.

For the Redoubt Reporter

It may seem like only a passionate trout fisherman could get excited about waking up at the crack of dawn in early May to jump into a 42-degree river — but then there’s Jim Miller.

“It’s better than coffee,” Miller said as he shimmied into a pair of chest waders early Thursday morning for a dip in the lower Kenai River.

Miller is the project leader for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Kenai River king salmon sonar site. On Thursday, Miller waded ankle, thigh and finally waist deep into the cold river water to deploy the sonar transducers now collecting Kenai king run data for this year’s fishing season. Miller, with the help of his crewmembers Trevor Davis and Mike Hopp, deployed a total of four sonar transducers mounted on two tripods — one for each bank — during low tide.

The king sonar site is 8.6 miles upstream from the river mouth’s meeting with Cook Inlet, and river width at the site can swell from a low of about 70 meters to 100 meters wide under the influence of Cook Inlet’s tides. On Thursday morning, the river’s exposed muddy banks yawned wide above Miller as he shuffled around in the water to position the tripods just the right distance from shore. Continue reading

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