Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fish under fire — State officials field questions, answer complaints from fishermen

By Jenny Neyman

From left, Gretchen Harrington, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Stefanie Moreland, senior adviser for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy with Gov. Sean Parnell’s office, and Susan Bell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, answer questions from the crowd.

Redoubt Reporter

There are a lot of ifs involved in whether or not a commercial fishing season is successful — if the fishermen have all the necessary gear, crew, permits and equipment ready to go, plus the knowledge and experience of how best to use them; if fishery managers open opportunities to fish; if the fish arrive in decent numbers and in times and places coinciding with fishing openings; and if there’s a market offering decent prices for the catch.

Likewise, there are a lot of ifs involved in whether or not fishermen affected by the low king runs to Cook Inlet this summer — primarily, the east side set-netters whose July sockeye season was shut down in order to protect the king returns to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers — will get any economic relief through the federal disaster declaration process.

The difference being, fishermen know the ifs involved in fishing, whereas the ifs of the disaster declaration process have been as speculative as the causes behind what’s happening with the declining kings.

A meeting hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association on Friday at Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road was meant to explain the unknowns of the declaration process, with Susan Bell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; Gretchen Harrington, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service; and Stefanie Moreland, senior adviser for fisheries, oceans and Arctic policy with Gov. Sean Parnell’s office. Jim Butler, local attorney and commercial fisherman, moderated the question-and-answer discussion between the panel and the crowd of more than 100 fishermen, elected officials and agency representatives.

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Filed under commercial fishing, economics

Fishing for answers — Department representatives hear comments from fishermen

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ken Coleman, a commercial set-net fisherman, asks a question of a panel of state and NOAA representatives in Soldotna on Friday to answer questions about a federal economic disaster declaration regarding low king returns to Cook Inlet this summer. Representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game also spoke with the 100-plus audience, at the meetings hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association.

Redoubt Reporter

Representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game got what they asked for in a public meeting hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association on Friday at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

“This is a great opportunity for me to speak to you, but also to hear from you about your questions and concerns,” said Cora Campbell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Campbell, along with Jeff Regnart, Division of Commercial Fish, and Charlie Swanton, Division of Sport Fish, spent two hours being peppered with questions and emotionally charged statements from the crowd, particularly regarding the closure of sportfishing for king salmon in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers this summer, and the subsequent closure of the east-side Cook Inlet commercial set-net fishery for sockeye.

A caveat in the late-run Kenai king management plan requires the department to close commercial sockeye set netting if in-river king fishing is shut down due to low king runs, a measure passed by the Board of Fisheries intended to spare kings from set nets in order to boost escapement in the rivers.

Several in the audience questioned the wisdom and fairness of that requirement. Department representatives acknowledged that this method of protecting kings lacks finesse.

“It’s a very blunt tool,” Campbell said of that provision of the management plan. “But it indicates that if we’re projecting that we’re not going to meet escapement for late-run Kenai kings, that the in-river fishery closes and the set-net fishery closes. That was something that the Board of Fish adopted years ago. That’s what the management plan directs us to do.”

Regnart was asked if he thought the plan was an effective way of managing the fisheries in season. It gets the job done, he said, though the consequences can be steep.

“It does it in a way that can be quite difficult. Everybody here in this room felt the weight of that plan this year. As the commissioner described, it’s a blunt tool. It’ll get the job done, so I guess my answer to this would be yes, but it does it in a way that the users can pay a very high price,” he said.

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Filed under commercial fishing, fishing, Kenai River, salmon

Fire safety doused — Cohoe gravel pit closed to Firewise use

By Joseph Robertia

Photos courtesy of Leif Jenkinson. A slash pile burns at the Aurora Gravel Pit along Cohoe Loop Road in 2008, as part of the Firewise program. The Department of Transportation closed the pit to slash collection this June.

Redoubt Reporter

After several years of being an example of how to live safely in an area with high wildfire risk, and being the second Firewise community established in the state, the residents of Cohoe Loop Road, south of Kasilof, found themselves stymied this summer in having a place to bring their burnable yard waste. While the inconvenience initially was temporary, the situation may end up becoming permanent.

“I’ve had calls from people furious about it. Some were mad they couldn’t bring slash to the pit, others had already loaded up a truck or trailer and then found out they couldn’t get in. I had one guy call and yell for 10 minutes before I could calm him down, and I’m just a volunteer. I’m not even getting paid for any of this,” said Leif Jenkinson, Cohoe resident and one of the founding board members of the Cohoe Firewise organization.

Nationally, Firewise is a cooperative effort among local, state, federal and private agencies and organizations to promote fire safety in the wildland/urban interface, after it was realized that firefighters do not have the resources to defend every home during a wildfire. The program teaches homeowners how to reduce their risks, defend against and prepare for a wildfire.

In Alaska, the Horseshow Lake community, located within the larger unincorporated Big Lake community, became the first Firewise community in the state in 2006, largely in response to the Miller’s Reach fire of 1996, which consumed many homes in the area.

In 2007 the Cohoe Loop area become the second Firewise community in the state, as a response to a Cohoe Loop-area fire in 2006 that burned for more than a week and engulfed more than 95 acres of land.

The fire started after a Cohoe resident, who was attempting to burn slash on her property, had her fire get away from her. She never left the fire unattended, but was later charged with being in violation of the terms of her burn permit, having an inadequate firebreak and having the fire spread/damage the property of another.

“We’ve really been trying to avoid that kind of thing happening again,” said Jenkinson.

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Pioneering historic preservation — Meeting displays conventional wisdom of homesteading spirit

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Jabila’ina dancers from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe perform at the opening of the Pioneers of Alaska’s Grand Igloo convention Thursday in Soldotna.

Redoubt Reporter

“It’s nice to see some old friends I served in the Legislature with — Bert Sharp and Mike Szymanski. We used to call each other names at times, but never ‘pioneer.’ That was not one of the ones we used,” said Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre in his welcoming address to the statewide annual Grand Igloo convention of the Pioneers of Alaska fraternal organization, meeting Thursday through Saturday at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Yes, there was business to attend to — officer elections, voting on resolutions, advocating for the preservation of buildings and relics significant to Alaska’s history, to name just a few items on the agenda. To that end, the jokes, swapping of life stories, trips to a local brewery and cultural center, and just general breeze-shooting going on, sometimes hushed in deference to the business happening at the microphone, sometimes spoken louder to be heard despite the speakers — might seem a bit off topic.

But in the case of the Pioneers of Alaska, socializing is every bit as much of the purpose of the meeting as anything more official-sounding on the agenda.

“I went to every convention and met people from all over the state and I loved doing that,” said Marilyn Wheeless, of Kenai, who served as secretary of the Grand Igloo Foundation — the organization’s nonprofit fundraising arm — for 10 years and has been attending the annual statewide Grand Igloo convention since 1992. “Because there’s such a tiny population for such a huge state, so it’s like everybody is family and you just look forward every year to going somewhere and seeing them all and visiting, and catching up and finding out what’s been going on.”

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Merry murder — Dinner theater offers hilarious whodunit

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The cast of “Eat, Drink and be Murdered” rehearse a scene for their show this Friday and Saturday at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center. From left are Allen Auxier, Charlissa Magen, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Ian McEwen and Donna Shirnberg.

Redoubt Reporter

Irish temper — somewhat unexpected, extremely passionate, yet very short-lived. That about perfectly sums it up for the victim in “Eat, Drink and be Murdered,” a murder mystery dinner theater show to be performed this weekend in Kenai.

The play, by Tony Schwartz and Marylou Ambrose, is about an Irish family feud, between the O’Riley and McFadden families. Rose, an O’Riley, had the audacity to marry a McFadden, and now, at her 80th birthday, is the elderly matriarch of the extended blended family. But don’t be misled by the festivities into thinking this family blends as well as a nice Irish whiskey. They’re more like mixing moonshine with milk.

Rose, played by Terri Zopf-Schoessler, may have been crazy in love back in the day, but she wasn’t crazy.

“She gave her husband, a McFadden, the recipe for Wild Irish Rose Whiskey, but she held back a single ingredient. She goes down to the distillery every day and puts the secret ingredient in. That’s how she retains control,” said Ken Duff, who is producing the show, with Ann Shirnberg directing.

We meet the family at Rose’s 80th birthday celebration, where everyone is scheming to get a hold of the secret ingredient, both the O’Rileys who work at the distillery, and the McFaddens who own it.

There’s Connor McFadden, Rose’s ruthless son, who runs the distillery, played by Ian McEwen. Seamus O’Riley, played by Cliff Bouchard, works as foreman and dreams of taking over the distillery. Local priest and Rose’s nephew, Father Michael Francis Patrick O’Riley, played by Allen Auxier, has motives as dark as his black priestly garb. Connor’s wife, Kathleen McFadden, played by Donna Shirnberg, had secrets of her own. Rose’s old-maid sister, Hannah O’Riley, played by Margaret Gilman, is about as bitter as they come. And then there’s Nurse Kelly, Rose’s caretaker, played by Charlissa Magen, who is as potently mysterious as the family’s Irish Rose Whiskey is just plain potent. And for a dash of complete ridiculousness, there’s “Janet from Another Planet,” played by Larissa Notter.

This being a murder mystery, someone has to take an ill turn. Duff doesn’t want to ruin the surprise, though.

“I’m not going to give up who dies. But I will say he is the worst character in the whole show. It becomes obvious that everybody wants to kill him,” Duff said.

Worst as in morally reprehensible or — since this is a melodrama — worst as in the most scenery-chewing, nerve-grating character?

“A little of both,” offered McEwen.

“But more the morally reprehensible,” Duff said. “Everybody makes a death threat against him.”

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Filed under comedy, entertainment, theater

Night Lights: Falling daylight means rising starlight views

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh

Compared to September, the sky shifted somewhat toward the east, with Bootes setting in the northeast. Its brightest star, Arcturus, can be seen in the early evening on the northeastern horizon.

Prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper low and the Little Dipper (part of Ursa Major) high in the north; and Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair still high in the west. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that, in Alaska, we can see this summer triangle all winter along, albeit on the horizon.

Cassiopeia appears overhead, near the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond is high in the south. Late in the evening, Orion rises with Betelgeuse and Rigel in the east, following Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster.

Neither Mercury, Mars nor Saturn are visible because they are setting at about the same time as the sun.

Jupiter rises in the east late in the evening. Due to its glaring brightness, you can’t miss it, just left of reddish Aldebaran in Taurus. Jupiter will be visible during the evening all winter long. The gibbous moon joins the giant planet Oct. 4 and 5, placing itself between the giant planet and the red giant.

Venus will be the morning planet all winter long. Look for this really bright planet during and prior to dawn in the east early in the month very close to Regulus in Leo. At that time, Jupiter shines almost as brightly high in the south. The crescent moon joins Venus on Oct. 12.

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Almanac: On with the Showcase

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of Jean and Clayton Brockel. Jean Brockel and Marc Berezin sing and perform along with the accompaniment of pianist Maria Allison in the very first Sunday Showcase at Kenai Peninsula Community College in April 1984.

Redoubt Reporter

It was April 1, 1984 — a fine day for a joke.

Jean Brockel, Maria Allison and David Forbes had a good joke ready: At Kenai Peninsula Community College, they offered a free concert designed to welcome a “Mr. Kimball” to the campus.
The concert itself was no joke, but the conceit for it was.
Mr. Kimball was the new Kimball piano recently purchased for the college so that Brockel, a KPCC adjunct, could more effectively teach voice/chorus classes.

And now, 28 years later, the college is still having the last laugh from the effort.
The April Fools’ Day Concert was the first installment in a series that became known as the Sunday Showcase, and is now referred to as the KPC Showcase. The series began with almost exclusively local talent, performing music, providing lectures or displaying other exceptional abilities.

Over the years the Showcase has broadened or narrowed its offerings, depending upon funding constraints.

Brockel and Forbes had put their heads together back in 1984 and attempted to concoct a means by which Brockel’s students could culminate their experiences in voice classes. The result of all this mulling of ideas was the Sunday Showcase, which they decided would be, in part, a literal “showcase” for student talent. Performing in a Showcase became part of passing the class.

In order to initiate the Sunday Showcase, Brockel and Forbes wrote a script and then got together with Allison to plan the debut. In addition to entertaining the audience of about 70 with a pair of Gershwin pieces on the piano, Allison also played accompaniment as Brockel and Forbes sang and acted onstage.

The name Sunday Showcase was “a steal,” Brockel said, from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Bob Pond, who founded Anchorage Community Theatre. And the scheduling for each season revolved around Brockel’s voice class.

“The student-based perform-ances were always a given when planning the Showcase season,” she said. “But local folks made up the rest of the Sundays.”

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Filed under Almanac, entertainment, Kenai Peninsula College

Common Ground: Hares snare populations of other animals

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. High hare years can mean low grouse numbers, which appears to be the case this hunting season.

The varying hare, more commonly known as the snowshoe rabbit, is an influential little bugger. Their peculiar cycle is noticeable, in their absence when they are in a low cycle of abundance, and eating of all your flowers and vegetables when they are in an up cycle.

Their cycle is commonly thought to run in seven-year increments, which is only generally true. Until three years ago the hares had not shown a traditional up cycle since the 1980s. A traditional up cycle means the hares are everywhere, when you can’t throw the proverbial dead cat without hitting one. After so many years of seemingly low numbers, they have been prolific for three seasons now.

Nature, in its remarkable way, quickly detects when the hares are cycling up, and the result is a proliferation of predators. Lynx populations on the Kenai the past two seasons have exploded, resulting in record numbers of catches by trappers. Lynx sightings are common even in areas that support human populations.

The astonishing increase in the number of hawks, falcons and owls on the Kenai in the past two years is no coincidence, either. Coyote numbers are clearly up, as well. Again, the hares are to blame, or to thank, depending on your perspective.

All of this abundance of predators is great for wildlife viewers, fur trappers and predator hunters. It isn’t so great for young hunters out learning the ropes on spruce grouse, big game hunters looking for camp meat or upland bird hunters and their dogs.

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Filed under ecology, hunting, wildlife

Plugged In: Spendy full-frames stealing the show

Redoubt Reporter ‘Fall into winter on the Kenai’ photo contest

 The Redoubt Reporter is holding another in its series of reader-submitted photo contests.

Photos will be judged and winners selected by a three-member panel. After each contest closes, we’ll publish and discuss some of our favorites in the Redoubt Reporter. Some of the selected photographers will be invited to frame and hang their photos at a Redoubt Reporter June 2013 group photo show scheduled at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Dec. 1, 2012. All submissions must be in high-quality digital format. Submit no more than five JPEG images by email to

Entry rules:

1. Our theme is “Falling into winter on the Kenai” and submissions must fit this theme.

2. Entrants must be amateur photographers who are residents of the central Kenai Peninsula.

3. Photographs can be of any subject fitting the theme but must have been taken of the Kenai Peninsula on or after Aug. 1, 2012.

4. If you submit photographs in which people are recognizable, you must also provide us with their permission for us to publish any such photographs.

5. Please do not submit portrait photos. Do not submit photographs whose content would not be appropriate for publication in a family newspaper. Do not submit photos of illegal subject matter. All such photos will be deleted immediately without notice to you and at the sole discretion of the editor.

6. Photographers must include their name, telephone number, email address, town of residency and each photo’s date, location and description of subject matter.

7. Submitted JPEG images should be of the best possible technical quality. Good technique and technical quality are important, but originality, creativity, interesting subject matter, artistic merit and good composition are even more important.

8. By submitting photos, you agree to our publication of them in the Redoubt Reporter newspaper and on our website. The Redoubt Reporter will have the right of first publication of your photos. However, you will retain the copyright for all other purposes and your name will be listed if we publish any of your photos.

9. Our decisions about what’s published or selected for exhibition are final and are admittedly subjective. Space is limited, and the judging panel and editor reserve the right to choose photos at their discretion.

10. Retain your original digital files of all submitted images. We are not responsible for preserving copies of your digital images.

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Bull binds — Fish and Game fields several calls of moose tangles

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Larry Lewis, Alaska Department or Fish and Game. A bull moose tangled in a homemade swing in Soldotna had to be freed by Alaska Department of Fish and Game personnel last week. Fish and Game has received several calls lately of bulls with their antlers caught in swings, a hose and other debris.

Redoubt Reporter

As summer gives way to fall and the golden leaves begin to flutter down from the trees, male moose grow impressive palmed and pointed antlers which they use to spar with other males in an effort to determine who will lay claim to the cow moose of their particular area. However, the spiked racks of a few bulls on the Kenai Peninsula have recently ensnared them in more than a battle to breed.

“It’s not that unusual for a male moose to get tangled up in things, but we’ve had a few calls this year,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

The first call came a few weeks ago as motorists and residents in the Kasilof area began seeing a medium-sized bull moose with what appeared to be a plastic swing set wrapped around its antlers.

“It was generating a lot of calls,” Selinger said. “We’re not sure how it got on there, if it was sparring with a swing set or if it just walked through and got snarled up, but we went out and looked for it a few times, and about a week later Larry (Lewis, a wildlife technician with Fish and Game) was able to catch up to it off of Pollard Loop.”

Lewis sedated the animal and was able to remove the swing, the seat of which was dangling like a chandelier under the tangle wrapped around the antler itself. The seat may have been interfering with the bull’s field of vision, which could have caused problems for the animal when looking out for predators or possibly even when crossing the road.

“If it’s not inhibiting their movement, vision, ability to eat or their health, then we’ll typically leave them alone, because whatever’s tangled on there will just drop off when the antlers drop, but this one was affecting its ability to see and the swing was banging off his head,” Selinger said.

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Casting about for answers — Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association to host town hall-style meeting with Fish and Game commissioner

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. With plenty of time on their hands due to the commercial set-net fishing closures imposed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in July, many set-netters, such as Aaron Kershner, a crewman for a Kasilof set-netter, protested the closure in front of the Fish and Game offices on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Redoubt Reporter

The nets are back in storage, the boats are hauled ashore for winter and the sockeye salmon have pushed into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers to spawn. The 2012 Cook Inlet commercial sockeye fishing season is finished, yet east-side commercial sockeye set-net fishermen, and others affected by restrictions and closures of the Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries this summer, still have active questions regarding management of the fisheries, as well as what assistance might come from a federal disaster declaration of Alaska fisheries issued Sept. 13.

The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association is hosting a meeting Friday in hope of getting answers to those questions.

“This is for the community as a whole so anybody that has questions about economic relief or has questions about how the season went, or the future, and wants a chance to talk to the commissioner (of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game), this is what we’re offering,” said Paul Shadura, board director of the KPFA.

King salmon returns were low throughout several areas of the state this year, including to Cook Inlet. Fish and Game took a conservative approach to managing the area’s fisheries in order to preserve kings to help meet escapement goals in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. Managers first enacted restrictions on in-river sport king fishing, then an all-out closure of in-river king fishing July 19. That triggered a caveat in the area’s king salmon management plan for a simultaneous closure of east-side commercial sockeye set-net fishing, to prevent the accidental mortality of kings that sometimes get caught in the set nets targeting sockeye salmon.

Though Fish and Game subsequently announced that the king run was late but not as drastically low as Fish and Game had thought it would be, that crumb of good news was too little, too late in the season for commercial set-net fishermen to salvage the fish and revenue they missed while their nets sat high and dry on the beach for all but a few openings in July.

The abysmal season left set-netters without revenue to pay their deckhands, fuel bills, site leases and other costs involved in commercial fishing, but with plenty of questions for Fish and Game, regarding the reliability of the department’s sonar king counting program, the wisdom of protecting kings to the point of allowing overescapement of sockeye by restricting commercial fishing, and many more.

“The department doesn’t seem to be willing to offer solutions and the commissioner is not willing to stand out on their own position and offer relief in-season using their authority, so then it comes into the political arena of the Board of Fish. The Board of Fish has its duties to allocate and set policies, and they’re supposed to be also concerned about conservation, which I’m sure they are, and development, which doesn’t seem to be a key consideration. I’m worried that it will be back in the political nature of the Board of Fish and less in the science-based accountability that’s required for good, sound fisheries management,” Shadura said.

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Filed under commercial fishing, Cook Inlet, salmon

School contract talks resume — District, unions to meet before scheduled arbitration

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The school bells have rung, and while students and parents are settling into the new school year, teachers and other personnel of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are doing so on an extension of last year’s contracts, as the district, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association have yet to reach agreement on new three-year contracts supposed to start with the current fiscal year.

Negotiations between the bargaining teams for the district, KPEA and KPESA stalled at the end of last school year over the big-ticket budget items of salaries and health care benefits. Talks were postponed for the summer following a round of mediation that also failed to produce an agreement.

Arbitration is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2 and 5, but the associations are planning to make one more effort to come to agreement without having to bring in a third party. On Friday the associations invited the district back to the table Sept. 26. LaDawn Druce, KPEA president, said the hope is to get contracts settled as quickly as possible.

“Arbitration is a process of waiting, in a sense, after you make your case,” she said.

It could be as late as December or January before the arbitrator would make his or her decision, at which point the negotiating teams would still need to come back to the table to decide whether to accept the decision, she said. The members of the associations’ bargaining teams — made up of teachers, custodians, secretaries and other district personnel — would rather settle contracts as quickly as possible and be done with negotiations, she said.

“The people at the bargaining table, they’d just like to get back to their jobs in the district and not have this continuing on throughout literally the rest of this calendar year,” Druce said.

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Filed under Kenai Peninsula Borough School District