Youth rowing makes a splash — Mackey Challenge builds teen skills

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Teams Four Oars and Rocky Rowers race in the Mackey Challenge youth rowing event put on by the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association in Soldotna on Aug. 22.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Teams Four Oars and Rocky Rowers race in the Mackey Challenge youth rowing event put on by the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association in Soldotna on Aug. 22.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Considering the logistical challenges to getting all her ducks in a row for the Alaska Midnight Sun Rowing Association to hold its first-ever youth event Aug. 22, Coach Nancy Saylor said that, all in all, the event went swimmingly.

“It’s gone pretty well like we planned it. I like to plan and then just let it go and see what happens and it usually works out pretty well,” Saylor said.

Saylor said she’s wanted to do a youth event for years. The Soldotna team currently only has a few youth members — more are always welcome — and it’s nice to give them a chance to participate with their peers. In rowing, it isn’t always feasible to field a whole team to travel to a race event, especially in Alaska where the season is short and participation isn’t huge. So rowers go as individuals and form teams with whoever else is looking to fill a boat.

“You get together with a group of people, you might not know everybody there but you can find ways to work together. So, to me, that’s what today is all about. I’m just really excited to have the kids here, they’re just a kick in the pants. Sometimes they’re just so funny, some of the things they do, and they’re willing to learn and try new things, so I really enjoy that part of it,” she said.

To further that goal of working together, Saylor mixed the eight Anchorage and four Soldotna teens up into three teams — the Rocky Rowers, Four Oars and Chocolate Milk. Yes, they picked their own names.

“Chocolate milk because we have chocolate milk here,” Saylor explained. “And one of the Anchorage teens was very impressed with that because there’s never chocolate milk at regattas so she was very excited, and so their team name is Chocolate Milk.”

The teams cycled through a series of stations. There was a safety relay, where they were timed in putting on a hat, glasses, whistle and lifejacket. They also rigged a bare boat to be ready for the water.

Alaska Midnight Sun volunteer Laurie Winslow helps team Chocolate Milk carry its boat to the water on Mackey Lake. Cooper Plumhoff, a senior in Anchorage, brought special footwear for the lake’s water launches.

Alaska Midnight Sun volunteer Laurie Winslow helps team Chocolate Milk carry its boat to the water on Mackey Lake. Cooper Plumhoff, a senior in Anchorage, brought special footwear for the lake’s water launches.

“Some of the kids here from Anchorage had never rigged anything before so a part of what I wanted to do here today is that everybody learn something and they all work together as a team,” Saylor said.

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Crown jewel of king salmon sonar — Advancements make for best ever year counting kings in the Kenai

Image courtesy of Jim Miller, Alaska. Department of Fish and Game A screen shot of the ARIS sonar interface shows fish images picked up by sonar in the Kenai River and counted by technicians to track the king salmon escapement in the river.

Image courtesy of Jim Miller, Alaska. Department of Fish and Game
A screen shot of the ARIS sonar interface shows fish images picked up by sonar in the Kenai River and counted by technicians to track the king salmon escapement in the river.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The black computer screen lit up with blueish flashes moving across the window. It looked like a maternity ultrasound, but the images weren’t depicting the developing limbs of a baby. Clear as day — or clear as night with a high-powered flashlight — the display showed fish swimming by.

“When we went from split beam to DIDSON it was like turning a flashlight on underwater because you could ‘see’ so much more. You could make out what was going on so it was more than just these funny squiggly lines,” said Jim Miller, Kenai chinook sonar project biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The difference in the king salmon sonar program in the Kenai River 10 years ago to today isn’t quite “I-was-blind-but-now-I-see” biblically dramatic, but the advancement is revelatory.

When Miller started in Alaska’s salmon-counting sonar program in 1992 on the Nushagak River, Bendix sonar was the technology of the day. The interface spat out data on a paper tape and displayed the echoes bounced off the fish on a tiny oscilloscope screen.

“You could see the blips on the oscilloscope as the fish went by and that’s all you had — a blip on an oscilloscope and a tickertape,” Miller said.

On the Kenai, king counting used to be done with split-beam sonar. The echoes from the low-frequency sound waves appeared on a computer screen as a series of dots in patterns called fish traces. Technicians would count the fish traces to determine the number of fish passing by, and use the pattern of echoes to determine whether it was a larger fish — a king salmon — or something smaller, such as a sockeye.

“And then split beam, you had an echogram where you could see squiggles of fish going through. They were just squiggles, but you get the ‘S’ shape to them so they look like a fish swimming through,” Miller said.

While S-shaped squiggles were an improvement, split-beam left a lot to be desired. It was difficult to differentiate kings from other fish, and to tell fish apart when swimming next to each other.

The sonar location, too, was a challenge. At River Mile 8.6, it was close enough to the river mouth that water levels were tidally influenced. At higher water fish could swim behind the transducers and be missed. It was assumed that kings stuck to the deeper water midriver while sockeye preferred to hug the shore, but biologists eventually realized that wasn’t always the case at that site, with water levels and currents being variable.

Plus, the site was continually plagued by debris.

“On the outgoing tide was the possibility of damaging your gear because of the big trees. At the end of last season we actually had a huge tree come down and hook onto this sonar and pull it downstream about a half mile and snap the cable. The only reason we were able to retrieve it is because the guy on shift saw it going down and so he jumped in the boat and followed it,” Miller said.

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It’s Clear: Cats need more than nine lives — Rescue organization takes on challenge of finding forever homes for felines

Photo courtesy of Clear Creek Cat Rescue. Harrison is one of several cats available for adoption through Clear Creek Cat Rescue, a nonprofit volunteer organization trying to find homes for cats so they aren’t euthanized. It relies on a network of foster homes until adoptions can be arranged.

Photo courtesy of Clear Creek Cat Rescue. Harrison is one of several cats available for adoption through Clear Creek Cat Rescue, a nonprofit volunteer organization trying to find homes for cats so they aren’t euthanized. It relies on a network of foster homes until adoptions can be arranged.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Despite that last fall voters approved the borough to exercise animal-control powers and intervene in animal rescues, funding for the measure was not approved and borough-wide animal control remains in limbo. Animal shelters in Kenai, Soldotna, and Homer serve their respective cities, but they can’t do much for cats and dogs outside city limits, and their space and financial resources are stretched thin managing the animal intakes they deal with annually.

“I wanted there to be another option,” said Julie Furgason, of Kenai.

Six months ago, Furgason created a local branch of the Clear Creek Cat Rescue organization. In that time her new branch has found homes or staved off euthanasia for 25 cats and 12 kittens.

Originally begun six years ago to help find homes for cats of the Mat-Su Animal Shelter, the organization has grown to rescue cats in need on the Kenai Peninsula, giving them care and rehabilitation, and working to find forever homes.

“We needed more options for shelter and feral cats here,” Furgason said. “The city shelters do a great job, but they’re limited to working in city limits. There’s no boroughwide animal control to help cats in need or to enforce spaying and neutering outside the cities,” she said.

The Kenai Animal Shelter will take in animals from outside city limits, but doing can mean an overcapacity of cats. When that happens room must be made, through euthanasia or, now, by placing cats with rescue groups like CCCR.

“The shelters are great at working with rescues, and we take in cats from both the local shelters, as well as those from Homer, Anchorage and the Mat-Su,” Furgason said.

Jessica Hendrickson, chief animal control officer at the Kenai shelter, agreed that rescues like CCCR help when the numbers swell.

“We had seven kittens brought in today alone and we have three litters of kittens — 14 total — here already, so rescues do serve a purpose, and it’s great when people will come forward and foster. We have a good relationship with (CCCR) and other rescues and we’re fortunate they have the capabilities to do what they do,” Hendrickson said.

But CCCR doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar facility. They are a group of individuals facing the problem of having more cats in need of homes than there are fosters with which to put them.

“We don’t have a building. We operate by signing up foster families for the cats, and we desperately need more. We have six right now, but some of them can only take in one cat at a time or will only take in kittens,” Furgason said.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Historic hullabrew — ‘Mythic’ old beer style sees revival

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. An East India Porter is dark in color with perhaps some garnet highlights. The style was nearly lost to history, but will be available at St. Elias later this year.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. An East India Porter is dark in color with perhaps some garnet highlights. The style was nearly lost to history, but will be available at St. Elias later this year.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

I’ve been a history buff for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved learning about the deeds of those who came before us and I agree with the quote from the movie “Gladiator,” “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

Since I began researching and writing about beer, I have learned how important brewing has been in the long-running saga of human civilization. Look at almost any historical event in the last 5,000 years and you’ll probably find that beer or wine or both played a part in it.

Unfortunately, when it comes to much of what passes for beer history these days, another quote comes to mind, this one from Henry Ford, “History is more or less bunk.”

Books have been written debunking popular historical beer myths, yet you continue to see the same wrong history repeated again and again. I don’t know whether this is due to laziness or ignorance on the part of writers, but neither cause reflects well on them.

One of the most often repeated of these beer myths deals with the origin of India Pale Ale. The gist of the story is that the dark brown porters, brewed in London from the early days of the 18th Century, couldn’t survive the four- to six-month sea voyage from Britain to its newly acquired imperial gains in India.

So a new beer style had to be created, a pale ale rather than a dark porter, brewed with more alcohol and more hops to act as preservatives. The new style was an immense hit in India and was named India Pale Ale. The end.

A great tale, with only one flaw — it’s not true.

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Anniversary party pooper — Going for the gold can trip up on the runs

Photo courtesy of Jacki Michels. Spoiled or soiled? Jacki Michels’ pup took the stuffing out of a pillow, feathering her outdoor nest with the mess. But that was nothing compared to the anniversary present left by her brother.

Photo courtesy of Jacki Michels. Spoiled or soiled? Jacki Michels’ pup took the stuffing out of a pillow, feathering her outdoor nest with the mess. But that was nothing compared to the anniversary present left by her brother.

Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, by Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter

One of my most prized possessions is a fine China plate embellished with genuine 24-karat gold paint and the number 50 displayed proudly in the center. It’s not really my style, but I cherish it like no other thing. It was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary gift — their golden anniversary.

For me, it’s rock-solid proof that love endures. Theirs was a true love story. It also serves as a perpetual reminder that love is an intensively fragile thing, something to be carefully cherished and protected. To make sure the plate isn’t accidentally broken, it is tightly clasped to a sturdy wire plate hanger that embraces it tightly. That hanger is secured to one of the thick logs that make up our home with a three-inch metal screw.

This year was our silver anniversary. With all my heart, I aimed to celebrate the anniversary with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance such an event deserves. The thing is, who celebrates anniversaries anymore? Back in the day when we had cable, there were plenty of shows about weddings. Entire magazines are devoted to weddings. Cards, gifts, parties and showers are dedicated to weddings. Sure, there are a few cards for the anniversarial occasion, but I can’t remember the last time I bought one for someone else. And as far as I know, there is no prime-time programming such as, “Yay, Rah, You Endured Another Year.”

Yet I have noticed a few Hallmark cards dedicated to divorce. It made me wonder what happened between the two big events.

I let my mind ponder that when last week’s memories resurfaced like a bad case of food poisoning. Hubs was at work until the next week. How am I? (Insert crazy-woman rant here.)

The proper answer: Like everyone else at end of a whirlwind Alaska summer — busy. Exhausted. One stuffed pillow short of a matching set. That is because the dog ate the other pillow. Ate it. As in she completely obliterated the outer shell that contained what was at one time an entire heard of feathered friends.

Poof.

When I opened the door to let her in I shrieked (insert soprano scream here). “Something died in the driveway!”

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Plane crash claims 2 lives — Cessna 180 clips trees, crashes off South Cohoe Loop in Kasilof

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Above, an Alaska State Trooper, the first responder on the scene, looks for survivors in the wreckage of a Cessna 180 that crashed in Kasilof on Saturday. Two people were aboard. There were no survivors. Below, Central Emergency Services firefighters extinguish the fire sparked by the crash at about 8:11 p.m.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Above, an Alaska State Trooper, the first responder on the scene, looks for survivors in the wreckage of a Cessna 180 that crashed in Kasilof on Saturday. Two people were aboard. There were no survivors. Below, Central Emergency Services firefighters extinguish the fire sparked by the crash at about 8:11 p.m.

Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Investigators are trying to discover the cause of a plane crash Saturday night in Kasilof that killed two local men.

Pilot Brian Nolan, 69, and 57-year-old Peter Lahndt, both of Kasilof, died when Nolan’s Cessna 180 crashed into a stand of trees about 150 feet from Cohoe Loop Road, just inland from the bluff over Cook Inlet near the mouth of the Kasilof River. The plane immediately burst into flames. The crash was not survivable, according to an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane went down around 8:11 p.m. Saturday at Mile 3.2 South Cohoe Loop Road, near Powder Keg Avenue. Dan Brown lives across the street and a little to the south of the crash site. He heard the plane throttle up, then crash a second or so later.

“Right after I heard him gun it I heard the impact on the ground. And so I knew it had crashed. It was just really, really quick. In fact at that time I was on the telephone. I said, ‘A plane just crashed I gotta go,’” Brown said.

Brown and two of his daughters jumped in his car and were at the crash site within about two minutes, where they could already see smoke rising from the trees.

“When I got there you could tell where the plane had clipped some spruce trees and where it had to have flipped over because it went into the round tail first from the direction is was coming from. So it hit trees, broke the tops of the trees off and then hit going backwards,” Brown said.

The plane was already on fire and the heat was too intense for Brown to get up to the wreckage.

“I couldn’t get close enough to it. I felt real bad about it (that) I couldn’t get in there. I couldn’t hear anything from them, there was no noise from anybody in the plane. I went around both sides of it trying to get into it and I couldn’t, it was too hot,” he said.

Within about 45 seconds the flames got even more intense.

plane crash four“That fuel really got going and then the whole thing was engulfed in flames and you couldn’t be within about 20 feet of it,” Brown said.

He made about a 50-foot circle around the plane, looking to see if anyone had been thrown from the wreckage. By that time the plane’s tires burst into flames, and Brown started hearing explosions.

“I’m pretty sure they had quite a bit of ammunition on board. It sounded like a war down there,” he said.

He told his daughters to get back to the road while he made another wider loop around the plane, looking for survivors. As he did something hit him in the leg. It was smoldering and left a black mark, but didn’t penetrate the skin. Brown decided he’d better get back to the road, too.

Central Emergency Services and Alaska State Troopers from Soldotna responded to several reports of the downed plane and fire. Traffic on South Cohoe Loop was restricted until about 10:30 p.m. CES had the fire extinguished by about 8:50 p.m.

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‘Something fishy’ — Protesters sign their disapproval of Kenai River Sportfishing Association

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Demonstrators protesting the Kenai River Sportfishing Association met outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday evening while participants of the Kenai River Classic held a banquet inside. Protesters also floated with signs outside the riverfront home of founding KRSA member Bob Penney during another Classic event Aug. 19.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Demonstrators protesting the Kenai River Sportfishing Association met outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday evening while participants of the Kenai River Classic held a banquet inside. Protesters also floated with signs outside the riverfront home of founding KRSA member Bob Penney during another Classic event Aug. 19.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The hundred or so people holding signs outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon were demonstrating their opposition to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which was holding a banquet inside as part of its annual Kenai River Classic fundraiser. But their message wasn’t directed at KRSA. Neither were the similar signs displayed by eight boats and a kayak in front of the riverside home of KRSA founding member Bob Penney on Wednesday evening during another Classic event.

They hoped to reach community members — there were some honks and waves as cars drove by — who might not give fish politics much thought unless an issue is jumping up and wriggling in their face. And they particularly wanted to reach KRSA’s guests — the business executives, industry representatives, politicians and others who come to fish in the Classic and support KRSA with their donations.

“Awareness in our community,” said Dave Athons, a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist and board member of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition — which organized the demonstration — regarding the purpose of the protest. “And what we would really like to do is have some of the folks that attend the Classic open their eyes and see that the community does not support this organization, and some of the signs point to that. So we would hope that they would question, ‘Why are we spending our money here if we’re really not doing what we think we’re spending our money to do?’”

Participants included private sport anglers, personal-use fishermen and some who don’t even fish much at all. No sportfishing guides were in attendance. Most of the participants had a commercial fishing interest.

“There’s no doubt about it there’s a fair number of commercial fishermen here. It may be the majority. But the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition has no commercial fishermen on their board of directors and they organized this, so they’re getting support from a broad spectrum of people,” said Ken Tarbox, also a retired Fish and Game biologist.

Megan Smith is all of the above.

krsa protest group“We ice fish in the winter and we fish on the river in the fall and we set net during the summer, so I’m just like every other Kenai resident. You’ll find me behind a dip net every once in a while, too,” she said. “I’m a Kenai resident, and I feel like Kenai River Sportfish isn’t a good neighbor. And I feel like, as a Kenai resident, my voice is being drowned out by people who yell a lot louder and have a lot more money than I do.”

Demonstrators’ signs ranged from the obvious — Kenai River Sportfishing Association with a circle and over it — to more nuanced, the variety of messages speaking to the multiple complaints that motivated demonstrators to participate.

“Support Diverse Fisheries” and “We Support Our Set-Netters” references a ballot initiative to ban set nets in urban parts of Alaska — which primarily would gut commercial fishing in Cook Inlet, where there were over 730 active set-net permits in 2015.

“I like to support the diversity of fisheries, I think that’s a real good slogan. I don’t think KRSA represents me or a lot of people on the peninsula,” said Bruce Vadla, a private sport angler. “I’m totally against shutting down the set-netters just for an allocation issue.”

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