Daily Archives: June 1, 2011

Changing tides — Kasilof River gets new fence, special-use management

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. From left, volunteers Mike Wiley, Ricky Gease, Bob McCard and Harry Miller stabilize a piece of guardrail while Brent Johnson uses a Bobcat to drive a post into the sand Wednesday as part of the fencing project to protect the grass-covered dunes and estuary areas on the south beach at the mouth of the Kasilof River.

Redoubt Reporter

While salmon fuel the commercial fishing industry of the Kenai Peninsula, and sportfishing and personal-use harvesting of fish add to the tourism business of the area, it would be hard to deny that these same fish coveted by so many different user groups also can cause conflict, putting these groups at odds with each other from time to time.

However, the ongoing dune-fencing project at the mouth of the Kasilof River is turning into an example of how those with varied interests can work together toward a common goal of habitat protection. Several fishermen — commercial, sport and personal use — as well as others simply concerned with mitigating damage to their local area, joined forces last week for the betterment of an ecologically sensitive area that is vitally important as an estuary for young fish, migratory birds and other species of wildlife.

“The construction phase has gone marvelously. A great bunch of guys have volunteered to help,” said Brent Johnson, president of the Kasilof Regional Historical Association and a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, representing the Kasilof area. Continue reading


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Filed under ecology, fishing, Kasilof

Stormy sees pike plans — Fish and Game seeks input on ideas to combat invasive species

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Frozen pike are displayed during a public meeting about the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s plans to address the invasive species on the Kenai Peninsula, especially at Stormy Lake north of Nikiski.

Redoubt Reporter

Sucking oxygen out of the water, building a giant earthen dam and shooting sonic death rays may seem like extreme solutions for Stormy Lake, but when the problem is invasive northern pike, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is considering all its options, even the science fiction-sounding ones.

Biologists are hoping members of the public will consider the options, too, and let the department know their preferences, concerns and other thoughts as it conducts a scoping process for the pike remediation options on the table.

A series of public meetings was held May 13, 14, and 25 in Nikiski and Kenai, with an informational presentation, discussion and an opportunity for attendees to enter their comments and concerns into public record.

The goal was twofold, to disseminate information about the pike invasion on the Kenai Peninsula and to gauge public opinion for what Fish and Game should do about it.

Something has to be done, said Robert Massengill, fishery biologist with Fish and Game. By its charter Fish and Game must manage fish and wildlife resources for maximum sustained yield. Invasive pike have already depleted native fish stocks in peninsula lakes and pose a threat to more if they continue to spread.

“They have caused a lot of damage already,” Massengill said. Continue reading

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Filed under ecology, fishing, salmon

Short takeoffs, long on skills — Pilots soar in Valdez competition, stay grounded in safety

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Daryl Sutton. Soldotna pilot Shawn Holly won the light touring division of the short takeoff and landing competition at the Valdez “May Day” Fly-In and Air Show held May 6 to 8.

Redoubt Reporter

While it may be surprising that three central Kenai Peninsula friends were able to perform so well in their first crack at a takeoff and landing competition in Valdez, it’s not surprising the three are so humble about their success.

Through years of flying together, the trio has developed a kinship based on respect and safety. They’ve learned cockiness and flying don’t mix, and have a standing pact with each other to come down hard on any member of the group whose brashness gets out of line.

To hear Soldotna’s Shawn Holly give an account of this year’s Valdez “May Day” Fly-In and Air Show, his accomplishment in the short takeoff and landing competition was barely worth mentioning. It certainly ranked below the interest of meeting pilots from across Alaska and the country who came to participate in the annual event, seeing the flights of fancy and feats of engineering in the experimental airplanes, and watching how well his Kenai buddies Mike Sibley and Bill Bryant did in the competition.

Entering for these three was a lark, done for the fun of it. It wasn’t to show off their mechanical skills in how finely tuned and modified their planes are; to demonstrate their precise, Bush-honed flying skills; to measure up against pilots from as far away as Virginia and New York; or to claim bragging rights — although that’s exactly what they did. Continue reading


Filed under Alaska, aviation

Almanac: Engineering takes flight — Sibley’s Cessna modification makes plane Bush sense

By Jenny Neyman

Photos courtesy of Mike and Julie Sibley. Gerald “Sib” Sibley poses with a float plane. Sibley was an aircraft mechanic in North Kenai, pioneering a modification to Cessna 150s that made them more suitable for backcountry flying. He was a Bush pilot himself, taking frequent trips across Cook Inlet for fishing — as seen below — hunting and camping at his cabin on the Kustatan River.

Redoubt Reporter

There’s engineering, there’s skill, and then there’s physics. In aircraft mechanics, the first two can get an idea off the ground, but it’ll never soar without being grounded in the third.

That’s a lesson Gerald “Sib” Sibley knew well in creating his Cessna “tail-dragger” Bush plane modifications. The Kenai aviation mechanic wasn’t the only one to turn standard, nose-wheel Cessna 150s into planes better suited to taking off and landing in the backcountry, but he was the one to do it best.

“Some other outfits Outside did conversions to a tail wheel but they didn’t go off as good as the ones that Sib did. He had other ideas as far as the landing gear and how they needed to be configured, and he did them right,” said Warren Johnson, a longtime friend of Sibley’s, and owner of the hangar in North Kenai where Sibley operated his Peninsula Aircraft Service until he died in 2002.

Popularity of the tail-wheel planes in the 1980s was driven by economic and safety necessity. Prices for small, lightweight planes adapted to landings and takeoffs in all manner of off-airport conditions — beaches, gravel bars, mountain ridges and unimproved dirt strips — were rising along with interest in them. In Alaska, maintained airports were few and far between compared with all the villages, lodges, cabins, hunting and fishing grounds, and other destinations for Bush pilots.

“The other Bush planes were getting more and more expensive, and he realized the Cessna 150 was still a really affordable little airplane, so people were coming out with modifications to make them do better in the backwoods,” said Sibley’s son, Mike Sibley, of Kenai. Continue reading


Filed under Almanac, aviation

The Green Beet: Starts for the ‘easy’ gardener

By Jen Ransom, for the Redoubt Reporter

Yes, there are those around who have been planting since February. Their homes (and heated greenhouses) are full of enough seedlings that one may suspect a home garden business or, at the very least, quite a hobby farm. Some of us may be “green” with envy, but do not fret! There are still a few tried and true cool-weather vegetables that could benefit from a few weeks head start, even if you feel a little behind on a planting schedule. And most can fit in a sunny window.


Photo courtesy of Jen Ransom. Broccoli is an easy vegetable to get growing. Gardeners should start sprouting seeds now for fresh veggies throughout the summer.

Broccoli loves Alaska’s cool nights — and the Alaskans in my family love the crisp, tender taste of a batch of the fresh cruciferae come midsummer. While you can plant seeds directly in the ground in June, starting three or four weeks indoors to protect from the last spring frosts gives you a quicker harvest. Secondary shoots continue to produce once you harvest the terminal head, so an earlier harvest just means more broccoli throughout the rest of the summer.

Broccoli can be started in a flat, since the seeds are tiny, and then transplanted into individual pots after a week or so. Don’t run out and purchase a fancy flat if you don’t have any from previous years — any plastic container with some good drainage holes poked through will do (think spring salad mix plastic boxes, washed and sterilized). Sprinkle seeds on top, keep moist and enjoy seeing the quick-sprouting plant remind you that you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to grow your own vegetables. Continue reading

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Brewing up a new hobby

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Home brewing is a great way to appreciate good, craft beer, and not nearly as intimidating a hobby as it may seem.

If you’re reading this column, it’s probably a safe bet you’re at least mildly interested in drinking good, craft beer. If so, I’ve got a question for you: Have you ever tried to brew your own?

Like many of the most important things in life (sex, parenthood and fishing all come to mind), brewing is something you can only truly appreciate by doing it. You can read all the books you want about beer styles, how beers are brewed and why particular beers taste the way they do, but nothing will help you understand beer and brewing quicker than trying your hand at it.

Once you start down the home-brewing path, it’s totally up to you how far you choose to go. Want to keep things simple and make beer on your stovetop? No problem; I’ve been doing that for over 20 years. Continue reading

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Art Seen: Veiled views — New shows offer layers of meaning

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

These photo prints by Joe Kashi are on display as part of his show, “Obscured Views,” at the Kenai Fine Arts Center during June.

Some work is more cerebral than others, and it is apparent that both Joe Kashi, who has a large grouping of photography on display at the Kenai Fine Arts Center this month, and painter Will Harper, the next artist at my gallery, Art Works, in Soldotna, have a solid, skillful base topped with fascinating intellectuality.

Kashi treats his photography like poetry, with measured statements and simplicity whenever possible. His show is called “Obscured Views,” which refers to windows that are often difficult to see out of or into because of the presence of various conditions and atmospheres. Continue reading

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Filed under art, Art Seen