Monthly Archives: February 2009

Creek name decision may be complicated


By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Earlier this month, a small stream near Kenai made front-page news when Kenai resident Debbie Sonberg applied to the Alaska Historical Commission to have the 1.5-mile “unnamed” creek designated as Reds Creek, partly in honor of longtime area resident Glen Rex “Red” McCollum Sr., who died in 2002.

Now it appears that the creek, which runs alongside the Wal-Mart store construction site before trickling into the Kenai River about a mile above its mouth, may have been named previously — twice.

Al Hershberger, who worked for the Alaska Road Commission from 1948 to 1951, remembers seeing what he believes was a surveying map that named all of the streams flowing through culverts beneath the then-new Kenai Spur Highway.

According to Hershberger, the stream names alternated between animals — Weasel, Beaver, Mink and Otter — and tabletop items — Salt, Coffee, Pickle and, perhaps, Sugar. One hand-drawn ARC map at the National Archives and Records Administration office in Anchorage displayed these streams, but the only one named was Beaver Creek.

Diana Kodiak, an archivist with NARA, said that the bulk of old ARC maps, containing more details and names, would likely be available at the Alaska State Archives and Records Service in Juneau.

Hershberger said he is uncertain of the exact order of the names on the map he saw, although he believes that Otter Creek was the one closest to the tower called Site 17. Longtime Soldotna resident Marge Mullen remembers a Pickle Creek on the approach to Pickle Hill just outside of Soldotna, and she also remembers Weasel Creek to the east of Kenai Central High School. She said that Weasel Creek used to occasionally flood the road and become a hazard for drivers.

Beaver Creek was in the same location it is now, and Mullen said it was known by that name when she arrived on the peninsula in 1947.

Beaver Creek itself, however, has an older name — a Dena’ina name, Hkayitnu, meaning “Tail River.” Whether that “tail” refers to a beaver’s tail is unknown.

Like Beaver Creek, the creek currently under consideration for official naming has a Dena’ina name, according to information in the 1930s research data of anthropologist Frederica de Laguna, the written remembrances of Dena’ina who lived in this area, and “A Dena’ina Legacy: K’tl’egh’I Sukdu,” the collected writings of Peter Kalifornsky.

Alan Boraas, a Kenai Peninsula College anthropology professor who helped edit Kalifornsky’s book, says “with virtual certainty” that the creek was named Shk’ituk’tnu after the village of Shk’ituk’t, which was located on the flat top of the steep bluff near the current Kenai Senior Citizens Center.

The name Shk-ituk’t means “we slide down place” in Dena’ina. The “-nu” suffix on the creek name denotes flowing waters and is usually translated as “river.” According to Boraas, Dena’ina names usually indicate either the physical features of landmarks or the uses of those features. Thus, “Shk’ituk’t” referred literally to a place where the Dena’ina slid down the bluff, and the creek below the village took on the village name as an extension of that place.

When the Dena’ina living there moved away from the north side canneries and into Kenai, the village was abandoned and the name Shk’ituk’tnu passed from common use. When the Civil Aeronautics Administration took over the village site in the 1940s, the bluff top was bulldozed and leveled to make room for the new CAA facilities. Now a small bluff-side parking lot sits at the end of a soccer field on the site.

Ultimately, the future name of the creek lies in the hands of the Alaska Historical Commission, which is taking public comments until March 15, according to Joan Antonson, deputy state historic preservation officer with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Part of the commission’s decision will rest on prior identities for the creek, as well as the merits of the proposed name, Reds Creek. The commission does recognize commemorative name choices, and McCollum — who moved to Kenai in 1959, was a well driller and commercial fisherman, and served on the Kenai Harbor Commission — may fit the bill.

The commemorative choice, however, does not supersede the use of an Alaska Native place name when determining the designation of “unnamed” landmarks, according to state law.

Looking back on a busy time: 1966-67

Here are some central peninsula highlights from two big years, about a decade after the discovery of oil on the Swanson River field:

  • When the clock struck midnight to signal the beginning of New Year’s Day, 1966, Wildwood Air Force Base celebrated the end of its first day of existence. On Dec. 30, 1965, command of the former U.S. Army post had been transferred to the Air Force. The Army had controlled the Wildwood Station for more than a decade.
  • On that same day, the Kenai Peninsula Borough officially became a toddler, celebrating its second birthday. The borough had been created by popular vote in 1963 and began its official operation at the beginning of 1964.
  • Later that month came something that is familiar now to peninsula residents — Mount Redoubt erupted. Threats from the volcano may seem commonplace these days, but the January 1966 eruption, which hurled ash 45,000 feet skyward, was the first from Redoubt since 1902.
  • In March 1966, Roland “Doc” Lombard won his third Alaska State Sled Dog Championship in the Kenai-Soldotna race. A local favorite, the New England musher competed against other top sprint mushers of the time, perhaps most notably George Attla of Huslia.
  • In April 1966, work began on the new terminal at the Kenai Airport. In May, 77 seniors received their diplomas from Kenai Central High School, which was the only central peninsula high school until Soldotna High opened its doors for the 1980-81 school year.
  • The official population of Alaska, according to statistics released in July 1966 by the U.S. Census Bureau, was approximately 272,000 residents.
  • In September 1966, a hovercraft company put on demonstrations to display its cargo- and passenger-carrying capabilities over Cook Inlet. Later that month, Soldotna voters said no for the third time to a proposal to change from a fourth-class to a first-class city.
  • In November 1966, numerous peninsula residents flocked north for a chance to see President Lyndon Johnson, who was making a stopover at the Anchorage airport. In that same month, Alaskans elected Walter J. Hickel over incumbent William Egan as their new governor. Hickel resigned in January 1969 to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior for newly elected President Richard Nixon.
  • In December 1966, work was completed on the Rig Tenders Dock on Salamatof Beach in North Kenai. Inside a reinforced-steel retaining wall, the builders dumped eight acres of sand and gravel. About this same time, peninsula residents willing to drive to Anchorage had a big new place to spend their money, as the Sears shopping center opened for business.
  • In February 1967, the U.S. Post Office Department officially changed the city’s postal name from Soldatna to Soldotna. Accordingly, Postmaster Bobbye Tachick ordered new cancellation stamps.
  • In July 1967, the Collier Carbon and Chemical Corporation, a subsidiary of Union Oil, awarded a contract to the Chemical Construction Company of New York to build a $50 million complex to process ammonia. In 2008 money, that construction would cost just over $322 million.
  • In that same month, the Kenai National Moose Range completed the second stage of its canoe-trails system. This system, with its interconnecting portages, would eventually number nearly 70 lakes.

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Editorial: Homeless doesn’t have to be hopeless

Growth for some organizations is bittersweet. For Love INC, organizers are happy to finally be able to expand services to include transitional housing for people without homes, even if it’s only on a limited basis so far. It’s a goal the group has been working toward for years, and Love INC is poised establish to a consistent, sustainable program.

It’s coming just in time, as economic woes are putting more people in need of Love INC’s services.

“In December it was so cold, and we said, ‘We’ve got to do something,’” said Ingrid Edgerly, executive director.

The organization worked out an arrangement with a local hotel to rent out rooms to those needing housing for a steeply discounted rate. The money comes from donations from businesses and organizations in the area. It’s a shining example of how a community support net should work — people see a need, they decide to step up and figure out a way to meet it and others jump on board to support those efforts.

But it’s not nearly enough. In 2007 there were already 400 to 500 people who considered themselves homeless on the Kenai Peninsula, according to the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. More recent figures aren’t available yet, but Edgerly can attest to the fact that those numbers are growing, just as their requests for services are.

People don’t have to be standing on street corners or sleeping in boxes to be homeless, and it’s not a situation most people find themselves in by choice. Especially these days, any unexpected cost or unforeseen circumstance can lead someone to eviction.

And neighbors don’t have to make six figures to help. Donating what they can, when they can goes a long way toward helping Love INC extend its reach to housing.

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Guest column: Following a murky trail


Storm water may lead to pollutants muddying up Kenai creeks

The Kenai Watershed Forum has discovered that in the past several years, No Name Creek and another unnamed creek in Kenai have shown a trend of elevated turbidity levels. Turbidity is a way of measuring the cloudiness of water and can be caused by natural sources, like glaciers, or human sources, such as storm drains. Extremely high turbidity levels can kill salmon, and elevated levels can make it difficult for salmon to find food or migrate.

So where exactly is all the turbidity coming from? To answer that question, KWF employees spent last summer walking the streets of Kenai to establish where water travels during a rainy day before it enters creeks. As one astute observer pointed out, water flows downhill. Indeed, Kenai does not have any pumping stations, so all storm water travels by gravity to the outlets. However, Kenai’s storm-water system was implemented in pieces as the city grew, so storm water sometimes follows more of an illogical pattern, depending on the construction of roads rather than natural topography.

To find out the path of storm water and the pollutants it can carry, KWF used a Global Positioning System unit to determine the coordinates of culverts, manhole covers and storm-drain inlets and outlets.

A construction level and observations on rainy days were utilized to clarify which direction storm water travels through ditches and gutters that eventually drain into No Name Creek and the unnamed creek.

Once the series of storm drains and gutters were mapped out, this data was used to build a drainage network in a Geographic Information System. This digital drainage network provides a better understanding of how the different areas of Kenai are linked to No Name Creek and the unnamed creek. In a few weeks, monitoring equipment will be placed where the storm water connects to the stream and water samples will also be collected. Using the GIS, monitoring equipment and water-quality collection in unison will help narrow down potential sources of water pollution that are being flushed into two of Kenai’s creeks and harming salmon habitat.

Jennifer McCard is a watershed scientist at the Kenai Watershed Forum.

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Science of the seasons: Textbook case of collaboration


Did you ever wonder what it takes to write a book on topics like the “Birds of Alaska” or the “Insects of South-Central Alaska?” Is it possible for one person to have visited every part of Alaska? And have they been able to find every bug or bird that is found there?

Sometimes one person actually can put together a book about something they have studied extensively for a long period of time. In virtually every case, the author has done extensive field observations and some of these are from a lifetime of collections and investigations. As an example, Dominique Collet, who has recently written the above-mentioned insect book, has an extensive personal collection of insects from many parts of Alaska.

However, most authors look beyond their own experiences and collections. There are a variety of species lists that can be examined, as well as historical records to be perused. As an example, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is currently compiling a list of all the species of organisms that have been identified from the refuge.

In some cases these records can be very old. For instance, there are extensive ship’s logs and records of the animals that were seen or collected by G.W. Steller during Vitus Bering’s voyages from Russia to Alaska in the 1700s. It was fairly common for early exploring ships to take a naturalist on voyages to record the biota that were encountered. Charles Darwin was such a naturalist on the famous voyage of the Beagle.

Museums throughout the world are repositories for ship’s logs and many extensive biological collections. If well-preserved, well-cared-for and properly documented, these collections can be used by researchers and specialists for a great many years. Darwin’s many biological collections from the early 1800s can still be examined in the British Museum. Most authors will spend considerable time examining the collections held in various museums.

Many authors will be well-versed in the specific biota of an area but will join with others who have collected specimens from additional areas. Professors Ken Stewart, of Texas, and Mark Oswood, formerly with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have written a book on “The Stoneflies (Plecoptera) of Alaska and Western Canada.” Together they compiled a vast collection of stoneflies. They have both visited many parts of Alaska, collecting stoneflies wherever they went.

In addition, there are many other colleagues in Canada and the U.S. who have shared their Alaska collections with them. In the book, they describe all the specimens they have examined, list the hundreds of biologists who have collected them and list where the insects were found. I have personally been sending them stonefly specimens from Alaska for almost 30 years.

Because many book topics are so large, it is common for several authors to join together to create a book on a particular group of organisms. This is common when there are vast numbers of different subcategories within the overall group. The most authoritative book on identifying aquatic insects is “An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America.”

It was put together by three specialists — Rich Merritt, Ken Cummins and Marty Berg. Instead of being listed as authors, they are described as “editors.” While each wrote a section of this 1,214-page book, they have invited a variety of other international experts to write a section (with identification keys) about a specific order or family of aquatic insects. The number of insect groups covered in this book is so large that it is almost impossible for any one author to know them all. In this case, it has taken a large team to put together one book.

One of the hallmarks of taxonomists — specialists who identify and name newly discovered species — is a willingness to work with others on identifying unusual, unknown or new specimens. There is a constant sharing of specimens between specialists as they collaborate to understand the scope of any particular group of organisms.

As a new graduate student many years ago, I found the aquatic insect taxonomists and the authors of many of the well-known identification books were some of the most gregarious, engaging and helpful scientists I met.

A highlight of attending international meetings on aquatic ecology is seeing the cooperative and collegial work among so many taxonomists, as they try to understand the great variety of life that surrounds us.

David Wartinbee, Ph.D, J.D., is a biology professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. He is writing a series of columns on the biology of the Kenai River watershed.

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Plugged In: To print, or not to print

Editor’s Note: The following column contains puns. Be forewarned.

Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune-gouging, or to take arms against a sea of paper, and end it?

All mock seriousness aside, whether to print a document, and the best way to do so, is a question to which there are a variety of right, or nearly right, answers. Actually, I was tempted to say “write answers,” but I’ll forego that homonymic bad pun. Really. One needs to be restrained in these printed pages and, as a modest word-wright, show the Write Stuff.

Paper documents remain highly useful, even though more than 95 percent of all business documents are electronic, and e-mails with grandparents are now more common than scrawled thank-you notes. Paper handouts are usually a more effective way to conduct meetings. A few sheets of paper can be folded and carried easily in a pant or jacket pocket. Printed documents can be read by any literate person when there’s no computer around and are often a more effective way to present data and reasoning, particularly in complex matters — for example, note that the homonymic puns in the first two paragraphs work only in written form. Courts require paper exhibits, even if they are photocopies. A high-quality, fine-art photo enlargement is almost always preferable to photos displayed on a computer screen.

In my opinion, though, paper is no longer the data recording, archival and filing medium of choice. Paper is easily misfiled, cannot be easily searched and is expensive to reproduce and store off-premises in case of a disaster. Losing your business records, especially accounting records, to any sort of casualty like fire, flood or storm, is tantamount to ultimately losing your business. That’s happened to several of my business clients over the years.

I believe that the best overall approach is to preserve documents electronically in a standard, easily searchable format, and to print paper copies only when needed. This approach has several benefits. It maximizes your business efficiency and effectiveness. It minimizes storage and filing costs, is much more economical, and is more ecologically sound. It’s also more convenient, especially when you can e-mail signed copies in seconds and enable electronic marginal notes and comments by readers, who can then electronically return their comments to you with a few mouse clicks.

Let’s first look at the more modern approach to “printing” electronically. Adobe Acrobat PDF files are already the de facto standard for the federal government, most state and local governments and businesses generally. Thus, printing a document to Adobe’s PDF makes the most sense as a long-term medium for storing data electronically in a way that’s easy to search, back up and protect.

It’s always been important to store data in an open data file format like Acrobat’s PDF, and to avoid long-term storage of data in proprietary data file formats. It’s unwise to trust that most niche vendors, or their file formats, will be around next year, or that the data will be usable with another program. That’s especially true in tough economic times.

Acrobat documents can be “printed” to a standard format electronic file directly from digital data stored on your computer, such as e-mail, Web browsers, spreadsheets, word processing programs or photographic programs. Basically, printing data to a PDF file costs you nothing in supplies. Unlike printing paper documents, “printing” to an electronic PDF file is essentially without any cost — it’s only some electrons being moved around the computer and hard disk.

If you already have paper documents that you wish to preserve electronically, then you can scan them directly into Acrobat using a wide variety of flat image scanners and document scanners that can feed and scan many pages a minute. I’ll discuss scanning in the near future.

Adobe has recently provided a new, archival version of Acrobat, PDF/X, that should be suitable for long-term data storage so long as you take care to ensure that the physical storage (hard disks, portable USB flash drives, CD disks, etc.) are in good working order and that you regularly transfer the electronic files to newer types of data storage hardware.

In order to make Acrobat PDF documents easy to search across a large hard disk, you’ll need to run the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process so that the internal contents become readable to search programs and to Acrobat itself. I like Copernic’s Desktop Search because commercial versions can search an entire network, rather than your computer alone. Google’s desktop search program also has its enthusiasts. Downloads of each are free and worth trying.

Even if you are committed to storing all of your data electronically, there will be many times when you will want, or need, paper copies. That obviously requires a printer. There are several types of printers in common use: color laser printers, monochrome laser printers, ordinary inkjet printers and photo-grade inkjet printers. Each has unique uses, advantages and disadvantages.

Inexpensive, compact home printers are usually inkjets, often part of “multifunction” devices that include a slow scanner, light copying functions and perhaps some fax capability. These are typically inexpensive to purchase, are suitable for light home and home office use but are too slow, and insufficiently robust, for heavier business use.

Because smaller inkjet printers use very low-capacity but expensive ink cartridges, your ink cost is the killer. Light-duty inkjet printers are like the reputed Gillette razors of years past — the razor itself is basically given away to induce you to buy only Gillette razor blades and at a pretty high unit cost. As with razor blades, the real profit for inkjet vendors is in the supplies.

Some midrange consumer inkjets, such as HP’s Photosmart series, the Kodak ESP-7 and ESP-9, or some Canon or Epson multifunction devices, can do a very creditable job printing lab-quality photographs up to 8.5-by-11. If you don’t care about photo-quality printing, then almost any inexpensive multifunction device will be suitable for home use.

Businesses should generally consider getting a laser printer. Laser output is typically faster, looks better and is more water-resistant than inkjets. If you do not believe that you will ever need color output, then a monochrome (black and white) laser printer will be sufficient. Low-end monochrome laser printers tend to be fairly inexpensive, while upper-end ones tend to be quite fast. I have tried several brands, but HP LaserJets have always proven to be the most reliable, and the HP dealer in Anchorage, Lewis and Lewis, has been very good to work with.

Realistically, though, color laser output is becoming the norm and it is quite useful. Color laser printers are often more convenient. Most color laser printers run slower than advertised, so don’t buy an inexpensive one that claims high output speed and then expect quick results. I have had several Lexmark color laser printers costing less than $1,000 and I have been disappointed.

I have, as a result, reverted to HP’s slow Color LaserJet 2,600 series. These printers do a quality job but are suitable only for fairly low volume, despite being advertised as a printer sufficiently fast to service an entire small business. I found that was not the case and purchased an excellent Konica-Minolta 5,670 printer. This series is very fast and the quality is adequate, although not quite as good, in my opinion, as the photo output from my HP LaserJet 2,605. Konica-Minolta printers are sold locally at Frontier Business Systems and Hi-Speed Gear. Konica-Minolta also makes some less-expensive, slightly slower color laser printers that I found to be good values.

Color laser printers are generally limited to 8.5-by-11 output, and their photographic print quality is not very good compared to good inkjet printers. If you want any sort of printout larger than 8.5-by-11, particularly photographic work, then you’ll need to buy a large-format inkjet printer. Large-format photo printers deserve an entire article, and we’ll do just that next week.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his Web site, http://www.kashilaw.com.

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Legal ease: Don’t let precious paper pile up

The dark days of winter are leaving, but the long days of winter are yet to come as we crowd into the end of February. If you want something important to do that will be helpful for you and for your family, then it is time to dust off several important papers in your house and get them in a single, safe place.

For many years, my wife and I kept a briefcase by the front door. In the briefcase were our passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, estate plans and other valuables that could be taken out of the house in a moment’s notice in the event of fire. As time went on, we purchased a fireproof safe. Too heavy to carry, but fire safe.

A really great project for this time of year is to gather up all of those papers and get them into a fireproof box or safe. These documents, while not impossible to replace most of the time, are very difficult to replace. Birth certificates and baptismal certificates are still necessary items when you hire for a new job or need a passport.

With passport requirements changing at borders, these documents are more necessary than ever. Having them safe is also important. I can spend $20 and get my birth certificate, and it may just take three weeks to get. But more than likely when I need it, I need it today, not in three weeks.

Your insurance policies also are important. This tells you what your house and its contents are worth. Since you bought that couch back in 1965, it has gone up in value and its replacement will require a lot more money. Simultaneously, you and your spouse may have accumulated jewelry, guns, coin collections, rare stamps, stocks and bonds, children’s birth certificates and the pedigree of your dog.

All of these documents are important enough that they should be kept safe and they also should be checked again for value.

The single biggest difficulty I hear about after a house fire is not that there was no insurance (which happens far too often) but rather that the dwelling and its contents were greatly undervalued.

People who are the victims of a house fire or severe damage suddenly discover that the house they paid for will now require a new mortgage to be rebuilt because its value to the insurance company wasn’t updated.

People like to rent a safety deposit box at the bank, but there are a couple of things to know first. If you put the box in your name only and something happens to you, there is a list of problems if someone has to get in it.

First, somebody has to know that you have a safety deposit box. They have to know where the key to the box is or the box has to be drilled out and the lock replaced, which costs money. Third, because the box is an important item, you have to have a court order to get in if someone is incapacitated or dies.

When the court order gets issued to open the safety deposit box, some tax authority has to be standing by when you open it to be sure there isn’t an excessive amount of cash or property on which you may be obligated to pay taxes.

If you’re renting a safety deposit box to keep your insurance policies in, you’re paying for awfully expensive storage. A good floor safe will keep an honest person honest.

You may not be interested in keeping grandpa’s gold watch there, but keeping a document safe in the closet of your bedroom means you can access these important documents and they are safe from fire and hazard. And this may cost you less than a couple of months of safety deposit box rent. A couple of screws in the floor or a cable around the back stud of the closet will keep anybody from running off with the safe.

A safety deposit box will certainly keep thieves away from the expensive valuables. But a good safe or fireproof box in the floor of your closet will certainly give you substantial peace of mind concerning your policies, important documents, and the valuables you will find time-consuming and difficult to replace in the future.

So get those policies updated and your important documents safe.

Mark Osterman is a lawyer in Kenai and has practiced in Alaska, Michigan and federal courts for 19 years doing family, commercial, divorce and criminal law. The information in this column is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please contact a legal professional for specific questions.

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Playing their respects — Musicians honor local songwriter, shop owner

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Whitey wasn’t able to make an appearance at the party held in his honor at the Kenai Elks Club on Sunday night, but he was there in spirit, in carrying on the tradition he lived his life by — people young and old, aspiring and accomplished, getting together to hang out, swap stories and make music.

By one count more than 300 people cycled through the memorial gathering for Timothy “Whitey” Dyment, of Sterling, who died Feb. 16. More than 30 bands took to the stage to “say hello to Whitey,” as one performer put it.

“There’s really nothing else to do that would do him justice,” said his daughter, Elizabeth Dyment, of Sterling. “It’s good to see so many different people and different age ranges. There are three generations of people here who love Whitey and want to remember him.”

The crowd resembled a roll call of the central Kenai Peninsula’s music scene. From the gathering evolved a set that felt more organic than organized — just like Whitey would have liked. The scenario was a larger version of the one that played out most days in his store, Whitey’s Music Shoppe on Kalifornsky Beach Road. People stopped by, hung out, shared food and laughs, and struck up whatever songs they were moved to play, whether it was country or classic rock, folk, swing or blues, covers or originals — including some of Whitey’s songs.

“This is what Whitey was about, bringing people together and celebrating life and celebrating music,” said Angela Jamieson, his fiancee. Continue reading

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