Daily Archives: August 5, 2009

Because, why not? Redoubt Reporter marks 1-year anniversary

RRlogo08(birthday)By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter
I have always been one to appreciate the wisdom and witticisms of others.

My refrigerator, desktop, computer monitor and other flat surfaces I spend time around tend to accumulate favorite sayings, poems and quotations. My message T-shirt collection is extensive. In college, my car was held together by bumper stickers. Perhaps that’s why I like being a reporter — it’s an excuse to find out what people think and have to say.

“You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.”
— Mark Twain

Yet, a little over a year ago, I found myself launching into an endeavor that required me to ignore much of what I was told. I started a newspaper.

Common knowledge, conventional wisdom and the raised eyebrows and held tongues of friends and colleagues — some more successfully restrained than others — were rife with reasons why I shouldn’t do it. And that was even before the economy took a powder.

“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
— Frank A. Clark

The prevailing wisdom is that the newspaper industry has one foot in the grave, and the other has a nasty case of gangrene. Newspapers all over the country are downsizing, going belly up and shutting down. Why would anyone, anywhere want to start one? Much less in an area already served by print media?

Because.

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Caught in between — Commercial nets dry while dipnetters finish season

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Alaskans fishing the opening weekend of the Kenai River dipnet fishery in July, stand silhouetted against a haze of smoke that blew into the area due to a wildfire burning on the Kenai Wildlife Refuge. Some believe this year’s Kenai River dipnet fishery may have been the biggest one yet.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Alaskans fishing the opening weekend of the Kenai River dipnet fishery in July, stand silhouetted against a haze of smoke that blew into the area due to a wildfire burning on the Kenai Wildlife Refuge. Some believe this year’s Kenai River dipnet fishery may have been the biggest one yet.

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

On July 24, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s projected return of Kenai River sockeye salmon dropped from a preseason estimate of 2.4 million fish to an in-season estimate of less than 2 million fish.

As a consequence, many commercial fishermen sat idle for more than a week, as fishing closures restricted the commercial catch of Kenai River sockeye salmon to the greatest extent possible. The dipnet fishing revelry on beaches at the mouth of the Kenai River, on the other hand, continued without a stutter until July 31, the end of the river’s dipnet season.

After a second season in a row of waiting out closures while the dipnet fishery continued uninterrupted, commercial fishermen did not share the Kenai River dipnet fishery’s festive mood as the month of July wound down. Some commercial fishermen were unhappy their fishery closed in order to put sockeye salmon in the river, while the dipnet fishery was removing them, said Pat Shields, assistant area management biologist for upper Cook Inlet.

Everyone should share in the burden of conservation, said John McCombs, a Ninilchik driftnet fisherman.

“There’s not one bad guy here, but we shouldn’t be sitting on the beach paying the full price of conservation,” he said.
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Muddy waters — Overactive year in natural turbidity stirs up challenges for river water monitoring

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Trees double over the Killey River as high waters discharge large amounts of mud and debris into the Kenai River on June 26. The Killey River is believed to have contributed to a spike in the Kenai River’s turbidity in the days following a rise in water levels after June 22.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Trees double over the Killey River as high waters discharge large amounts of mud and debris into the Kenai River on June 26. The Killey River is believed to have contributed to a spike in the Kenai River’s turbidity in the days following a rise in water levels after June 22.

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

The impacts of human activities on Kenai River water quality are not as clear as environmental regulators would like. So when the Kenai Watershed Forum failed to secure enough funding to continue the second year of a study measuring the river’s turbidity, state regulators stepped in.

Turbidity is the amount of dissolved solids, like mud and glacial silt, suspended in water. The results from turbidity research conducted by the Watershed Forum last summer suggest the amount of mud stirred into the Kenai River by boating activity may exceed environmental regulatory standards. To be certain, regulators require a minimum of two years of data. So when it looked like turbidity research on the Kenai River might not continue a second year, regulators dug into state coffers to support it.

“We truly believe the Kenai River is a great resource that we want to protect, so we felt it was necessary to find the funding to do this work,” said Tim Stevens, an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation environmental programs specialist.

Without at least two years of data, regulators cannot define the river’s naturally occurring turbidity levels and, consequently, how much of the river’s turbidity is human induced. The Kenai River has naturally occurring background levels of turbidity, which generally stay within certain levels but occasionally spike due to natural events that carry large quantities of silt into the river over short periods of time.

Turbidity levels in the Kenai River can be erratic, since part of the Kenai watershed is glaciated and some of its tributaries, such as the Funny, Skilak and Killey rivers, can dump large amounts of sediment into the river over short periods of time.

“If they start acting up, the turbidity levels can change drastically,” Stevens said. “At this point we’re not sure we’re going to stop at two years. … It would be smart to get more years of data so we can get the wide variance.”
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If money were no obstacle … Federal stimulus funds help address salmon habitat

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

Juvenile salmon once darted back and forth between the placid waters of Tern Lake and the meandering waters of Dave’s Creek, using both to find food and shelter. But construction on the adjacent Sterling Highway in the 1950s turned Dave’s Creek into a one-way street for juvenile salmon.

To make way for the highway, construction crews altered the flow of the creek’s water with three small dams and routed part of the creek through a ditch alongside the highway. After the changes, juvenile salmon could swim the creek downstream, but the dams prevented them from swimming upstream back to the lake. Additionally, the creek’s straightened path along the highway accelerated water-flow velocity, which inhibited juvenile upstream migration.

“They can only swim hard for short bursts and if you have a really long area of fast water, they have nowhere to rest,” said Jennifer McCard, a watershed scientist with the Kenai Watershed Forum.

“A normal stream has lots of twists and turns and meanders and nice overhanging banks that provide shelter.”

Thanks to federal stimulus money and a Kenai Watershed Forum grant proposal, projects removing juvenile salmon barriers to Tern Lake and similar barriers faced by other juvenile salmon on the Kenai Peninsula will receive a major boost.
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Holey memory — Origins of Kenai River fishing hole names can be elusive

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Two fishermen fish for king salmon in a hole named Eagle Rock. The rock was mostly submerged in late July due to unusually high water levels in the Kenai River. No fishermen asked had ever seen an eagle sitting on the rock.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Two fishermen fish for king salmon in a hole named Eagle Rock. The rock was mostly submerged in late July due to unusually high water levels in the Kenai River. No fishermen asked had ever seen an eagle sitting on the rock.

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai River has been carving an ever-changing path through the Kenai Peninsula since long before fishermen invented fishing nets, lures or fishing rods. But ever since humans discovered the art of harvesting the river’s abundant salmon, they have been tying names to the river’s nooks and crannies to mark their favorite fishing spots.

Naming fishing spots along the river began with the Natives naming fish camps along the Kenai’s banks, where they would haul in fish with nets. With the introduction of fishing rods, motorboats and sportfishing, fishermen began to name fishing spots narrowly defined by their location relative to both the river’s length and breadth. And as the river’s fishermen have become more populous, so have the fishing holes they’ve named.

A few long-famed fishing holes have maintained the same names for as long as sportfishermen can remember. Eagle Rock and Big Eddy are likely the two oldest fishing hole names along the river, said Dale Sandahl, who has been fishing the river since 1968. But for many other fishing holes, the names and sometimes the stories behind them have changed with the generations of fishermen passing through.
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Common Ground: Wearing thin — Performance is high fashion in the wilderness

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

A picture of a woman dressed in an expensive burgundy dress wearing a pair of generic hip waders caught my attention. The hip waders were folded over below the knee, overlapping to the ankles with additional straps wrapped like bohemian braids, a stylish and purpose-defying statement of beauty stranded helpless in a fishing stream. The dress — $389; the imported earrings — $198; the deconstructed hip waders — $7.99; the girl hooking a salmon and filling her boots with water before falling in the drink — priceless.

The photos were themed to a world that doesn’t really exist: The chic outdoors. Creative backgrounds and props place models wearing expensive beaded halter dresses on horseback and chiffon ruffle tunics leaning against badly painted barns. While the reality would be closer to holding prom in a diesel shop, the clothes did look especially nice.

Back when I thought a balaclava was a Grecian dessert, I had no idea I’d one day be bulking up in layers and spreading Kenai River mud on my face to keep myself invisible to ducks.

After a few seasons in the field, I’d acquired a new wardrobe, one that contained the three Ws: windproof, waterproof and whiff-proof (scent-proof may be a better term, but it doesn’t start with “W,” and wombats aren’t really a problem in Alaska).

It wasn’t long after I started duck hunting that I bought my first pair of chest waders. The bulk was unfamiliar, so I kept tightening my shoulder straps. With the straps snug, I thought I looked all right. I took off across the Kenai River flats, which are not, as the name would indicate, always flat.
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Science of the Seasons: Wet ’n’ wild enough to drive you buggy

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

As we motored up river after a great day of rainbow fishing on the Kenai River, we couldn’t help but smile as the setting sun retreated below a golden western sky.

Smiling was short-lived, however, because we were being peppered by hundreds of tiny bugs flying just above the river’s  surface. We kept thinking of the joke about how happy motorcycle riders end up with bugs on their teeth. Thank goodness for my glasses and learning to keep my mouth shut.

What was going on here, and what were these bugs that were stinging our faces?

A few days earlier while working in the yard, I was surrounded by a swarm of tiny bugs that were doing their best to drive me crazy. They seemed content to buzz around my glasses and crawl on my beard. What were these bugs and what were they doing?

The bugs in both situations were the same, but were involved in two different goals as adult aquatic insects. First, both situations involved an encounter with black fly adults. Black flies are tiny “true flies” and members of the family Simuliidae. Those hitting our faces as we headed home at dusk were probably laying their eggs on the surface of the water. Those swarming around my head were sizing me up and preparing for their next blood meal.

For some reason, Alaskans often call them whitesox. In some areas of the country they are called buffalo gnats because they have a disproportionately large, humped thorax for such a small insect. The “black” refers to their predominant color. No matter what we call them, these tiny insects can be distracting.
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