Monthly Archives: August 2011

Stock up on king data — Genetic testing adds to Kenai, inlet knowledge

By Jenny Neyman

Photos courtesy of Tim McKinley, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. An Alaska Department of Fish and Game technician takes a tissue sample from a monster king salmon at the Fish and Game test-net site on the lower Kenai River. Samples are run through genetic testing to determine which spawning stock the fish is from.

Redoubt Reporter

As much as we might wish them to, fish simply don’t talk. Though biologists and fishery managers in Cook Inlet are constantly trying to learn more about king salmon, especially those from the Kenai River, pulling a chinook alongside a boat and asking it, “Where you from?” “Been here long?” or “Where you headed?” does not elicit a response. At least, not in so many words.

But advances in genetic testing make it just about that easy to get much better acquainted with king salmon.

“It’s pretty simple anymore,” said Tim McKinley, research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sport Fish Division. “In this business, when there’s a change in technology there’s rapid learning that goes on about your critter of interest. It’s kind of like when they put the Hubble Telescope up there. It was a whole new leap in technology for the astronomers and physicists and everything else.”

The leap for fishery biologists came with improvements in genetic testing that led to much easier and cheaper ways to derive information from tissue samples. Twenty-five years or so ago, genetic sampling of salmon was a time-intensive, technical, expensive and deadly process.

“If you were going to take genetic samples from fish you had to kill the fish because you were taking all kinds of weird stuff — like heart tissue or kidney or liver and blood. And then, once you took that sample, it had to be preserved using stuff like liquid nitrogen,” McKinley said.

Running the genetic testing lab work could cost a couple hundred dollars per sample.

“If you needed to run dozens or hundreds or thousands of samples, it gets ridiculous,” McKinley said. Continue reading

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Filed under Cook Inlet, fishing, Kenai River, science

Clam Shell to close — Landmark shuts doors following owner’s death

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. An iconic structure between Kasilof and Ninilchik, the Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch will soon be closing and the building going up for auction.

Redoubt Reporter

Driving the sparse stretch of Sterling Highway, there doesn’t seem to be much between Kasilof and Ninilchik, just the blinking red star atop of the Clam Shell Lodge to serve as a beacon to weary travelers.

As the area’s only restaurant, motel, bar and liquor store, snowmachiners in the winter making their way down from the Caribou Hills could stop in for a warm meal, while in summer, tourists and fishermen could poke in for a cool drink. But the establishment has been much more than just a food stop or watering hole.

The lodge has also served as a staging area or host for numerous Alaskana events, such as the Hippy Olympics, the Clam Jam and DeadFish summer music festival, the Way Out Women charity snowmachine ride, and a checkpoint for the Tustumena 200 and Clam Gulch Classic sled dog races, not to mention an oasis of social interaction for locals looking to catch up with friends or meet some new ones.

No longer. The watering hole oasis is drying up from financial hardship following owner Guy Baker’s death in a vehicle accident earlier this summer. The Clam Shell is preparing to close up tight for the last time.

“It’s devastating, but this is a huge place with huge bills and I just can’t keep up with it myself,” said Patty Baker, Guy’s widow and the remaining owner. Continue reading

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Chuitna coal debate heats up — Gov. Parnell’s administration charged with violating rules

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

A lawsuit against the Gov. Sean Parnell administration will be the next step if a legal process for protesting the Chuitna coal development continues to go unanswered.

Under hard-rock mining laws, Unsuitable Lands Petitions cannot be filed, such as in the case of the Pebble Project. But under soft-rock mining for coal, a provision exists for citizens and groups to petition the government arguing that a particular area should be deemed unsuitable, said Cook InletKeeper Executive Director Bob Shavelson.

“There is a section specifically written that states if an area is unsuitable for mining and cannot be reclaimed to its pre-mining values, then petitioners can ask to have it removed from the mining plan,” he said.

This legal right for interjecting public input is outlined in the Alaska Surface Coal Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

The proposed coal project would run through 11 miles of salmon stream. Though PacRim Coal has said it can rebuild the habitat that supports wild salmon, biologists have disagreed.

Shavelson fired off a letter Monday to the governor reminding him that the Unsuitable Lands Petition response deadline has come and gone. Under law, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources had a legal duty to respond to the petition by April 19. Four months later, the administration has failed to act, Shavelson wrote in the letter. Continue reading

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Filed under ecology, mining, utilities

Slim berry pickings — Pickers have to hunt harder to reap fruits of labor this fall

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Janice Chumley, Cooperative Extension Service. A caterpillar munches its way through a leaf this fall. An outbreak of caterpillars earlier this year has resulted in a damaged blueberry and salmonberry crop this fall.

Redoubt Reporter

The invasion began in spring. After parachuting down on silken threads and then burrowing into soil, they emerged and began to wage their war in the thick canopy. Camouflaged in various shades of green they are almost undetectable in the foliage, but the wake of the damage they left behind is obvious and will take time to repair.

“It’ll probably be around two years to recover,” said Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician at the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in Soldotna.

She was referring to the damage done to native trees and shrubs by the caterpillars of Bruce spanworms and autumnal moths.

“Alder was their first choice, then willow, then they began dropping down and munching on other plant materials, including berry bushes,” she said.

The infestation appears to have begun on the lower Kenai Peninsula in 2009 and quickly spread, Chumley said, citing surveys conducted by CES, Native-owned Chugachmiut Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service.

The caterpillars have been documented in Anchor Point, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Ninilchik, Seward and mountain passes on the Kenai Peninsula, including Summit Lake and Turnagain Pass, she said. The insects have also been found farther north in the Anchorage, Matanuska and Susitna areas.

Chumley said the insects seem to have a preference for two berry bushes. Continue reading

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Almanac: Ringing up the past — Kenai-area businesses came, went, left their marks

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part feature on central Kenai Peninsula businesses that put their names on the line. Each of these establishments were named for their owners, were in business roughly 50 years ago, and no longer exist under the same name or at all. The first part of this feature appeared last week.

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of KPC Anthropology Lab. Eadie Sutton was an exotic dancer who came to Kenai in the early 1950s to create the Last Frontier Dine and Dance Club in North Kenai. Despite controversy, her establishment lasted for more than three decades. Here, as Eadie Henderson, she is seen in her leopard-skin coat fraternizing with some of the regulars in Kenai Joe’s bar.

Redoubt Reporter

Once of the most famous “name establishments” on the central Kenai Peninsula was not originally known by the name of its owner. The Last Frontier Dine & Dance Club, which opened its doors in North Kenai in May 1952, remained in operation for more than three decades but was rarely called anything but “Eadie’s,” for its owner and main hostess, the colorful and occasionally controversial Eadie Sutton.

Even the briefest glimpse into her history reveals how her fiercely independent spirit and the toughness of her character made her first name more recognizable than the actual title of her club.

Born on April 18, 1926, to a Russian-Jewish mother and a Greek father, Eitha Chenlikas ran away at age 13 from a hardscrabble, Depression-era home in Youngstown, Ohio, but she didn’t run far. At age 14 she created her stage name of Eadie Sutton and got her first job, dancing striptease, in a Youngstown burlesque club.

Over the next few years, Sutton parlayed this “career” into a series of opportunities. Married briefly at age 15, she traveled to and danced in Florida, Panama, Los Angeles, and finally north to Alaska.

In 1946, at the age of 20, she arrived in Anchorage and immediately secured a dancing gig. She entertained in Anchorage clubs, then in Fairbanks and back in Anchorage, when she heard that a military base was going to be constructed near the fishing village of Kenai, so she moved there and paid $8,500 for a 300-by-400-foot lot near the entrance of what would become Wildwood Station.

In the years that followed, she and the Last Frontier Dine and Dance Club, called Eadie’s Frontier Club in newspaper ads of the late 1960s, benefited from the money and men rife in an area that became known for its salmon, its soldiers and its oilfield workers.

Although her two-story business (strip joint and bar downstairs, hotel upstairs) was often decried as a brothel, Sutton was defiant: “They still haven’t proven anything when it comes down to it,” she said in a 1986 interview. “I’m not admitting it; all I’m saying is that people have had a good time here and enjoyed themselves immensely. People may have come in as strangers, but they always left as friends.”

Beyond her first brief marriage, Sutton wed at least three more times, becoming Eadie Randall, Eadie Zummert and Eadie Henderson, but, despite the sign out by the highway, her place of business never stopped being just “Eadie’s.”

Eadie died in January 2000, and the building that for so long housed her club is now home to a church.

Most of the other 1950s- and ’60s-era businesses named for their owners actually had the names on the building. Some of the other now-defunct establishments (with some assorted details) are: Continue reading

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Child’s play — Family gets early start on outdoor activities

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Burns. Zoe Burns smiles during a canoe trip down the Swanson River this summer. Even 3-year-olds can enjoy multiday trips in the outdoors, with patience and preplanning.

Redoubt Reporter

The idea of canoeing the 24 winding miles of shallow water that stretches from Sterling to Nikiski can be a daunting task, but for one Sterling trio that recently made a late-summer canoe trip down the Swanson River, it was an adventurous family getaway.

“Alaska is amazing anyways, but exploring with a little one really opens your eyes to everything around you. We’re so lucky to have the biggest playground here for kids,” said Stephanie Burns, who paddled the Swanson River over the course of two days last week with her husband, Brian, and their 3-year-old daughter, Zoe.

Not everyone could put a toddler in a canoe for two days, but Stephanie said outdoor adventures have been a part of her child’s life since she was born, and her interest in this area continues to grow as she gets older.

“She’s really outdoorsy,” Stephanie said. “She’s really into ‘Dora the Explorer’ and has her own backpack and we make maps together. She started canoeing with me when she was about 3 months old, and this year she started kayaking with me. She just sits right in front of me.” Continue reading

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The Green Beet: Mulch to make bulb plants damp, happy

By Jen Ransom, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Jen Ransom. Any heavy mulch will help keep moisture levels consistent, which is important for ripening onions and garlic.

Onions and garlic both need to maintain even soil moisture during the last month or months of growth in order to mature. Onions will often swell above the ground, as they are shallow-rooted.

Garlic just takes so long to mature that any setbacks, such as a day of dry ground, can mean the difference between homegrown garlic and the store-bought variety come fall. In fact, spring garlic, as I planted, often won’t mature enough to harvest much.

So plan on planting another round this fall, in the same manner as other fall-planted bulbs, for a bumper crop next year. Store-bought bulbs might work if you can’t get your hands on dry sets, but keep in mind that these are often sprayed with chemicals to retard growth unless you purchase the organic variety.

Right now the name of the game for these two bulb varieties is mulch, mulch and more mulch. Heaps of mulch will keep the moisture level from fluctuating much, not to mention keep the weeds at bay. Because much of my mulching material has made it into next year’s compost pile or around other plants, I scored a few bags of grass clippings from my neighbor’s hard work in her yard (always double-check if there have been chemicals used if collecting mulch from others). Grass clippings are nitrogen rich, a bonus for garlic, which requires quite a bit of nitrogen to fully mature.

I spread the clippings between the two veggie patches during child nap times — no small feat to get them both asleep at the same time. Granted, this was a relatively easy garden task that could have been done with kids in tow, but since I think of my garden as mommy’s grown-up playground, I like to occasionally do some of the “work” sans kids. Continue reading

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