Daily Archives: February 2, 2011

Mute points — When public speaks, does DNR listen?

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Anyone who would equate “public comment hearing” with “boring” might have left a Jan. 19 meeting in Kenai regarding the proposed Chuitna coal mine with a different opinion. The three-and-a-half-hour session at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, with more than 150 people attending and nearly 60 people testifying on a petition to designate portions of the Chuit River Watershed as unsuitable for surface coal mining operations, resembled, at times, “Judge Judy” more than C-SPAN, more performance piece than watching paint dry.

Interspersed with the facts and figures — scientific and economic data cited, examples related, talk of precedents to be set and harms that could result — were more colorful testimonies. People quoted from books and delivered their own carefully crafted speeches. They teared up, made jokes and lashed out. Some spoke in elaborate prose, while others dealt out off-the-cuff quips. They invoked God, family histories and cultural heritage. Some brought props. One sang a song.

Several took the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to task for what they perceive to be a lack of consideration given to the public’s wishes.

“DNR, you’ve got to listen to what we’re telling you. I don’t eat coal, I eat salmon. Our elected officials don’t listen to us anymore. We’re tired of this stuff with outside interest groups coming up here destroying our wildlife and our habitat. If everybody in this room would call the governor and (Alaska DNR) Commissioner (Dan) Sullivan, that’s more people who’s going to get noticed,” said George Pierce, of Kasilof. “It’s too bad that these people have to take time out to address this ridiculous matter. It’s sad it’s gone this far.”

While the vehemence, emotion, diction and drama added to the interest of the evening, it likely did not achieve the presenters’ aim — to sway the DNR decision on the petition. It’s not that the speakers weren’t welcome to talk, or that their comments weren’t heard and recorded — they just weren’t all saying what DNR is directed to consider.

“We’re looking for all comments. People need to be able to speak what’s concerning them. But what would really help is information that is directly related to what is being decided upon,” said Russell Kirkham, project manager for the Alaska Coal Regulatory Program, under DNR’s Division of Mining Land and Water. Continue reading

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Filed under ecology, mining

Not n’ice — Vandals poach walrus sculpture tusks

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. An ice walrus has gotten a lot of attention since it was carved Jan. 19 and 20. Its tusks have been knocked off twice.

Redoubt Reporter

When the Firth family put the finishing touches on an ice carving of a walrus outside of Soldotna Professional Pharmacy on Jan. 20, the business’ owners and staff couldn’t be happier with it.

“Just the details that are in ours, the whiskers, the fat rolls, even just way they have his fins in the back, it looks like he’s in the water. It’s pretty awesome,” said Kimberly Hansen, daughter of pharmacy owners Tom and Lyn Hodel.

The sculpture, one of 18 created around the Kenai-Soldotna area as part of the Peninsula Winter Games kids festival, drew a steady stream of admirers through the rest of the week and into the weekend.

“There’s been lots of people coming by to look at it, posing with it and taking pictures,” Hansen said.

On the afternoon of Jan. 23, Tom Hodel went by the pharmacy to take some photos of his own, only to discover two very big and prominent details were now missing.

Someone had stolen the walrus’ tusks.

At least, that’s what seemed to have happened at first.

“They were broken right off. They stuck maybe an inch out and then were broken off. It wasn’t like they just melted off,” Hansen said.

Sometime between noon — when another photographer came and took pictures of the still-tusked walrus — and when Hodel arrived at about 4 p.m., the walrus had its teeth knocked out. Continue reading

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Filed under art, crime, winter

Chicken, or eat the eggs? Only the strong willed survive this stomach-stretching contest

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Marcus Cisneros, of Kasilof, eyes the eggs he is about to attempt to eat before the start of the fifth annual Kasilof Eating Championship at Rocky’s Café in Kasilof on Saturday.

Redoubt Reporter

A small group of men with large appetites and plenty of stomach storage capacity met in Kasilof on Saturday for an egg-cellent display of gastrointestinal greatness as part of the fifth annual Kasilof Eating Championship.

Spaghetti with meat sauce was on the menu for the first two years of the event, followed by ice cream the third year and minihamburgers — known as sliders — last year. This year the task was as many hard-boiled eggs as entrants could consume within 400 seconds.

Rocky Laster, owner of Rocky’s Café at the Kasilof Mercantile and promoter of the event, said it was his wife, Destiny, who came up with the idea of eggs.

“‘Cool Hand Luke’ is one of her favorite movies,” Laster said, referring to a scene in the 1967 classic in which Paul Newman’s character eats 50 hard-boiled eggs in an hour to win a bet.

As in the movie, contestants did not have to peel their own eggs, and they were allowed to use a few aids to help get them down. One contestant used a knife to slice his eggs in half, while a few others had small dishes of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip to help lubricate the eggs on the way down. All contests gulped glasses of water at some point, as well.

The winner of the eating contest gets $150, but this year Laster wanted to sweeten the pot to try and entice more eaters to belly up to the food bar. He offered $1,000 to anyone who could break the world hard-boiled egg-eating record. Continue reading

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Filed under Food, Kasilof

Drug disposal a prescription for safety

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt reporter

When food expires, there’s a natural warning system to indicate it’s time to throw it away. Fuzz, funky smells and decomposition slime are all clear cues the item should be discarded, rather than consumed. Miscellaneous bottles of condiments or the odd jar of olives may hang out in the fridge longer than they should, but it’s rare for perishable items to stay on the shelf for years to decades past their prime.

The same doesn’t hold for medications, where there’s no indication of expiration save a date on a label. But just like food should be tossed after it expires, so should drugs of all kinds — from over-the-counter painkillers and cold remedies, to prescription medications.

That’s the stance of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which is promoting a nationwide effort to encourage safe, routine drug disposal. On the central Kenai Peninsula, law enforcement agencies, the Central Peninsula Hospital Foundation and Soldotna Professional Pharmacy have teamed up to encourage and facilitate unused and/or expired drug disposal as a way to protect the health of homes, communities and the environment.

“Returning unwanted med-ications makes homes safer, getting them out of the hands of kids or other people who shouldn’t take them,” said Kimberly Hansen, with Soldotna Professional Pharmacy. “For our community, proper and safe disposal prevents theft and improper use of the medications.” Continue reading

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Old dogs still have tricks — Veteran mushers notch T-200, T-100 wins

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Dee Dee Jonrowe, of Willow, crosses a lake not long after leaving the starting chute of the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race on Saturday. Jonrowe pulled into the lead early into the competition and maintained it for two days to win the race.

Redoubt Reporter

The weekend’s Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race proves that the “old guard” of mushing isn’t too old to keep in front of younger competitors.

“Yeah for the AARP crowd,” said 57-year-old Dee Dee Jonrowe, of Willow, not long after crossing the finish line at 2:33 p.m. Sunday to win the race. “Maybe this is the year the old guys win.”

She wasn’t the only veteran musher to do well in the Iditarod-qualifying race, which started Saturday in Kasilof. Paul Gebhardt, 54, of Kasilof, won the T-100, crossing the finish line at 1:57 a.m. Their next closest competitors were several years younger. Cim Smyth, 34, of Big Lake, was second to Jonrowe in the T-200, finishing 10 minutes behind her, while Merissa Osmar, 16, of Ninilchik, finished 15 minutes behind Gebhardt in the T-100.

Jonrowe said there was a bit of irony to her win, since just last week a reporter questioned if she was getting a little too long in the tooth to still be riding the runners.

“He asked if I was still racing to win or just out there enjoying the scenery,” she said. “I think this speaks to that point. I think this answers his question.” Continue reading

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Filed under Kasilof, mushing

Almanac: Criminal minds not all Einsteins

By Clark Fair

Redoubt reporter

On Friday night, Jan. 16, 1970, thieves made a successful haul when they broke into the Peninsula Medical Center in Soldotna and escaped with drugs. At least that’s what the thieves themselves must have thought. A second look at their escapade, however, casts its “success” in a more dubious light.

To begin with, the two burglars struck at 9 p.m., when most folks aren’t in bed yet and, moreover, two boys who had been hired to clean the upstairs of the center were still at work. Additionally, the burglars made so much noise in the process of their break-in that the cleaning boys could hear them over the sounds of their own labor.

One of the boys locked himself in a bathroom for safety while the other sneaked outdoors and downstairs to check on the disturbance. Seeing evidence of a crime in progress, the boy raced through the night to the nearby home of one of the center’s physicians, Dr. Donald P. Mersch. The boy led Mersch to the scene of the crime just as the first of the thieves was exiting through a first-story window.

Mersch and the boy ducked out of sight, and the thief ran past them with his haul. A few seconds later, the second thief followed suit, giving the two witnesses an excellent view of both criminals.

The Soldotna Police Department was notified and received solid descriptions of both perpetrators. Police Chief Russell Anderson then took a look at the damage and assessed the losses. After his inspection was complete, he told the local press that the evidence demonstrated “the stupidity of drug users.”

If the perpetrators had any hope of inducing highs from their swag, he said, they were going to be mostly disappointed.

Included in the thieves’ haul was a small amount of mild tranquilizers; other than that, the booty wasn’t exactly a bonanza: a supply of penicillin in vials and some premixed penicillin in disposable syringes; three types of cortisone and four to five types of estrogen; and various B-complex and B-12 vitamins. Continue reading

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Filed under Almanac, history

Old Duck Hunter: Lust is in the airwaves

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

Oddly enough, coyotes do share a trait with humans that, as with humans, can lead to moments of bliss or catastrophe, depending on how it all works out for them. The trait, of course, is stupidity when infatuated with the opposite sex. Nothing creates more lapses in good judgment.

Coyotes, like humans, tend to abandon their survival instincts when coupling is at hand, and for the predator hunter, there is no better time to exploit this one weakness the coyote has. From late January through March, coyotes are on the prowl, as it were, and there is arguably no better time for the predator hunter to get out in the field and use coyotes’ own lust against them.

My admiration for the coyote as a game species is probably only shared by the dedicated predator hunter. Many view them as a nuisance and, particularly for farmers in the Lower 48, a significant drain on their earning potential. Coyotes in the Lower 48 amass millions of dollars in loss to farmers and ranchers across the country. It is probably unlikely to get much admiration for the coyote out of these folks.

Nevertheless, when one really looks at the attributes of the coyote and attempts to hunt these characters on their own turf it would be difficult not to find a soft spot for them. Over the past 50 to 60 years coyotes have expanded their range to encompass the streets of Chicago, alleys in New York City, suburbs of Los Angeles and virtually everywhere in between. Just about everywhere on the North American continent, sans the farthest reaches of the Arctic, coyotes can be found. Their ability to adapt, tenacity, toughness and uncanny senses contribute to their ability to survive virtually anywhere. To go into the field and hunt these marvelous predators on their own turf and succeed is a very noteworthy accomplishment. Continue reading

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Filed under hunting, outdoors, wildlife