Daily Archives: June 17, 2009

Whale of a phenomenon — Fishermen reporting seeing more marine mammals than usual

By Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

Anglers taking halibut and king salmon charter trips out of Deep Creek this spring got extra bang out of their buck as fishing trips turned into inadvertent whale watching trips. The word on the saltwater among sportfishermen off the lower peninsula has been whales, whales and more whales this spring.

Charter boat fishermen who have fished in the area 20-plus years say they have never seen anything like it. Fishermen have been spotting whales in shallow and deep water in an area roughly as far south as Anchor Point and as far north as Deep Creek, and particularly in shallow waters near Happy Valley and Twin Falls.

It’s not uncommon to see a few whales passing through the area in late May and the first few days of June. But this spring, area fishermen regularly spotted whales, some of which stuck around for long periods of time and swam much closer to shore than they had in the past. As of Friday, Walt Barton, owner of Kenai Alaska Fish On, said he had seen whales on every saltwater trip he’s done this year, other than his first two trips he took in early May.

“They’ve been very, very consistent. Since the 15th of May I’ve seen them every day I’ve been out and that’s not normal,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never seen it like this. There’s some kind of a phenomena out there and I couldn’t tell you what.”
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Peace at last? — Soldotna council hopes cemetery site selection is end of contention

Editor’s note: This is part one of a series on the Soldotna cemetery

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Soldotna agrees on building a cemetery.

It’s a shared vision, a priority of two mayors and two city managers, a concept enjoying widespread support — that a community should serve the needs of its residents from the beginning of life to the end, and that every time someone is forced in death to leave the place they chose as home in life, Soldotna loses a piece of its history, and itself.

But the groundswell of support for a cemetery did not immediately result in a groundbreaking ceremony.

Not even close.

In the 15 years since building a cemetery was included in Soldotna’s comprehensive plan, and in nearly the decade that it’s been actively pursued, the consensus of wanting a cemetery has been tinged with so much contentiousness that it has nearly become irony.

When it comes to a cemetery, Soldotna has agreed on wanting one and on little else — especially where to put it.

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Taking it to the grave — Cemetery wasn’t high priority in Soldotna’s formative days

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Spruce Grove Memorial Park in Kasilof served the needs of Soldotna’s earliest settlers. By the time building a cemetery became a priority, the task had become more challenging. To this day, Soldotna residents must bury their loved ones somewhere out of town.

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Spruce Grove Memorial Park in Kasilof served the needs of Soldotna’s earliest settlers. By the time building a cemetery became a priority, the task had become more challenging. To this day, Soldotna residents must bury their loved ones somewhere out of town.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, there are 39 private and public cemeteries — a few of them sprawling and some of them very small. With one exception, all of the cities and communities of the central peninsula have at least one cemetery.
That one exception is Soldotna.

The 2004 updated version of “Cemetery Inscriptions and Area Memorials in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Borough,” by the Kenai Totem Tracers Genealogical Society, lists 15 cemeteries in the central peninsula:

Sterling has tiny Bear’s Rest Cemetery. Cooper Landing has the Cooper Landing Cemetery and the St. John Neumann Catholic Cemetery. Ninilchik has the American Legion Cemetery and the Transfiguration of Our Lord Russian Orthodox Church Cemetery. Nikiski has the McGahan Cemetery and the Monfor Cemetery. Kasilof has the Kasilof Boat Harbor Cemetery, the Kasilof Village Orthodox Church Cemetery, the Robinson Cemetery and Spruce Grove Memorial Park. And Kenai has the Cannery Cemetery, the Heavenly Meadows Cemetery, the Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church Cemetery and the Kenai City Cemetery.

By many accounts, Soldotna — despite its recent spate of attempts to create a cemetery and settle on a location — has not historically put “cemetery” on its priority list since incorporating as a fourth-class city in 1960.
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Life on the edge — Crumbling Nikiski bluffs cause destruction, even death

Editor’s note: This is part one of a series on bluff erosion.

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. A semi hauls a shop belonging to Tina and Erik Barnes up the Kenai Spur Highway on Monday. The shop had to be moved due to bluff erosion.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. A semi hauls a shop belonging to Tina and Erik Barnes up the Kenai Spur Highway on Monday. The shop had to be moved due to bluff erosion.

Tina and Erik Barnes once enjoyed an unobstructed view of Cook Inlet from their home on an ocean-side bluff in Salamatof, but one day the view became a bit too intimate. When the Barneses built their house on the bluff in 1964, it was 70 feet from the bluff’s edge, but in less than 40 years Cook Inlet ate away at the bluff until it exposed a corner of the house’s basement. The Barneses used steel beams to cantilever the weight of the house toward the landward side of the bluff, but knew better than to stick around long and soon moved the house to South Miller Loop Road.

Moving the house did not mark the end of the hardships the Barneses would endure as the ocean consumed their property. The Barnes are commercial fishermen and have a fishing cabin on the beach below the bluff where their house used to be and once had a 40-by-70-foot shop above the cabin for storing and repairing equipment. They have rebuilt their fishing cabin five times and moved their shop for the second time Monday night, blocking the Kenai Spur Highway with the towering structure as a semi tractor slowly pulled it to a new location about a mile north.

The Barneses estimate that in the more than 40 years they have lived and worked on the coast in Nikiski, beach and bluff erosion have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. They said moving the shop likely cost them more than it would have cost to build a new one, but they could not let the old shop fall over the bluff to the beach where it would obstruct their fishing operation.

All along the western Kenai Peninsula, coastal bluffs present a zone of steady destruction and sometime tragic losses. Some of the greatest bluff erosion extends from the mouth of the Kenai River to as far north as the Forelands, just northeast of Nikiski. But while a bluff stabilization project has been planned for Old Town Kenai, near the mouth of the river, there is no such plan to prevent or slow the erosion undermining homes perched on disappearing bluffs in northern Kenai, Salamatof and Nikiski.
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Russian to catch a good view — Salmon watchers have options off the fishermen’s beaten paths

salmon jump 1 June 12 09 WebPatrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

In spring and summer, the Russian River attracts sportfishermen like a magnet, but for some fish enthusiasts the attraction of the river goes beyond sportfishing. As salmon swim for miles against river currents, tear free of fishermen’s lines, dodge hungry bears, jump waterfalls and maneuver their way through weirs, some fish fans just want to watch the salmon’s quest to seed the next generation, and perhaps cheer them on.

At the Russian River, opportunities to watch sockeye salmon abound. Unlike the number of fish allowed to be caught with a pole, there is no bag limit on the number of fish that can be caught on camera. In contrast to many designated sportfishing areas, prime salmon viewing areas are generally quiet and secluded. There is plenty of combat fishing to be found on the Russian River, but there will likely be no combat viewing.
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Science of the Seasons: Dark times ahead for Redoubt-area glaciers

By David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of David Wartinbee. A glacier at the eastern end of Lake Clark Pass in the Chigmit Mountains in 2004.

Photos courtesy of David Wartinbee. A glacier at the eastern end of Lake Clark Pass in the Chigmit Mountains in 2004.

A glacier at the eastern end of Lake Clark Pass in the Chigmit Mountains is seen covered in ash last week.

A glacier at the eastern end of Lake Clark Pass in the Chigmit Mountains is seen covered in ash last week.

As spring approaches, I look forward to certain activities that start occurring as the ice thaws and snow melts away. Hunting morel mushrooms and lake trout fishing are a couple of those favorite early season outings. Another thing I look forward to is flying over to the west side of Cook Inlet looking for bears.

Once a bear rouses from a winter-long slumber, finding food is a priority. There are limited opportunities for meat until newborn moose and caribou calves appear or the salmon return on their spawning runs. However, grasses and sedges start growing early and frequently are the food of choice for hungry bears. Bears can often be spotted grazing on sedges around saltwater marshes. That’s where airplanes come in, since it allows scanning many miles of the plentiful marshes on the west side of the inlet.
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Scout it out: It’s never too early to start hunting

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose browses in the woods on the central Kenai Peninsula recently. Though hunting season doesn’t start until fall, summer is a good time to scout locations.

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. A bull moose browses in the woods on the central Kenai Peninsula recently. Though hunting season doesn’t start until fall, summer is a good time to scout locations.

Hunting season per se is largely a fall proposition. With the exception of spring bear hunting, virtually all Alaska hunting is done in the fall. Fall starts much earlier here, and Aug. 10 marks the opening of hunting season for numerous species, including most small game.

In truth, the opening of hunting season only means that the harvesting of animals is legal. The remainder of the year and particularly the month preceding the opening of hunting season, one can still hunt, just not harvest. For individuals who hunt locally, time spent “hunting” before the legal season starts is arguably the most critical time to increase the odds of success.

Hunter success rates for moose, the most popular big game species on the Kenai Peninsula, typically run 10 percent to 15 percent. This is in part a reflection of Alaska in general, where vast numbers of animals are just not available, and for the Kenai in particular, due to bear predation, road kills, lack of access to much of the peninsula and lack of prime habitat. Finding a legal bull moose is the most difficult part of the equation.
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