Daily Archives: September 19, 2012

Bull binds — Fish and Game fields several calls of moose tangles

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Larry Lewis, Alaska Department or Fish and Game. A bull moose tangled in a homemade swing in Soldotna had to be freed by Alaska Department of Fish and Game personnel last week. Fish and Game has received several calls lately of bulls with their antlers caught in swings, a hose and other debris.

Redoubt Reporter

As summer gives way to fall and the golden leaves begin to flutter down from the trees, male moose grow impressive palmed and pointed antlers which they use to spar with other males in an effort to determine who will lay claim to the cow moose of their particular area. However, the spiked racks of a few bulls on the Kenai Peninsula have recently ensnared them in more than a battle to breed.

“It’s not that unusual for a male moose to get tangled up in things, but we’ve had a few calls this year,” said Jeff Selinger, area wildlife manager with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.

The first call came a few weeks ago as motorists and residents in the Kasilof area began seeing a medium-sized bull moose with what appeared to be a plastic swing set wrapped around its antlers.

“It was generating a lot of calls,” Selinger said. “We’re not sure how it got on there, if it was sparring with a swing set or if it just walked through and got snarled up, but we went out and looked for it a few times, and about a week later Larry (Lewis, a wildlife technician with Fish and Game) was able to catch up to it off of Pollard Loop.”

Lewis sedated the animal and was able to remove the swing, the seat of which was dangling like a chandelier under the tangle wrapped around the antler itself. The seat may have been interfering with the bull’s field of vision, which could have caused problems for the animal when looking out for predators or possibly even when crossing the road.

“If it’s not inhibiting their movement, vision, ability to eat or their health, then we’ll typically leave them alone, because whatever’s tangled on there will just drop off when the antlers drop, but this one was affecting its ability to see and the swing was banging off his head,” Selinger said.

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Casting about for answers — Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association to host town hall-style meeting with Fish and Game commissioner

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. With plenty of time on their hands due to the commercial set-net fishing closures imposed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in July, many set-netters, such as Aaron Kershner, a crewman for a Kasilof set-netter, protested the closure in front of the Fish and Game offices on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Redoubt Reporter

The nets are back in storage, the boats are hauled ashore for winter and the sockeye salmon have pushed into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers to spawn. The 2012 Cook Inlet commercial sockeye fishing season is finished, yet east-side commercial sockeye set-net fishermen, and others affected by restrictions and closures of the Upper Cook Inlet salmon fisheries this summer, still have active questions regarding management of the fisheries, as well as what assistance might come from a federal disaster declaration of Alaska fisheries issued Sept. 13.

The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen’s Association is hosting a meeting Friday in hope of getting answers to those questions.

“This is for the community as a whole so anybody that has questions about economic relief or has questions about how the season went, or the future, and wants a chance to talk to the commissioner (of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game), this is what we’re offering,” said Paul Shadura, board director of the KPFA.

King salmon returns were low throughout several areas of the state this year, including to Cook Inlet. Fish and Game took a conservative approach to managing the area’s fisheries in order to preserve kings to help meet escapement goals in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. Managers first enacted restrictions on in-river sport king fishing, then an all-out closure of in-river king fishing July 19. That triggered a caveat in the area’s king salmon management plan for a simultaneous closure of east-side commercial sockeye set-net fishing, to prevent the accidental mortality of kings that sometimes get caught in the set nets targeting sockeye salmon.

Though Fish and Game subsequently announced that the king run was late but not as drastically low as Fish and Game had thought it would be, that crumb of good news was too little, too late in the season for commercial set-net fishermen to salvage the fish and revenue they missed while their nets sat high and dry on the beach for all but a few openings in July.

The abysmal season left set-netters without revenue to pay their deckhands, fuel bills, site leases and other costs involved in commercial fishing, but with plenty of questions for Fish and Game, regarding the reliability of the department’s sonar king counting program, the wisdom of protecting kings to the point of allowing overescapement of sockeye by restricting commercial fishing, and many more.

“The department doesn’t seem to be willing to offer solutions and the commissioner is not willing to stand out on their own position and offer relief in-season using their authority, so then it comes into the political arena of the Board of Fish. The Board of Fish has its duties to allocate and set policies, and they’re supposed to be also concerned about conservation, which I’m sure they are, and development, which doesn’t seem to be a key consideration. I’m worried that it will be back in the political nature of the Board of Fish and less in the science-based accountability that’s required for good, sound fisheries management,” Shadura said.

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School contract talks resume — District, unions to meet before scheduled arbitration

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The school bells have rung, and while students and parents are settling into the new school year, teachers and other personnel of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are doing so on an extension of last year’s contracts, as the district, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association have yet to reach agreement on new three-year contracts supposed to start with the current fiscal year.

Negotiations between the bargaining teams for the district, KPEA and KPESA stalled at the end of last school year over the big-ticket budget items of salaries and health care benefits. Talks were postponed for the summer following a round of mediation that also failed to produce an agreement.

Arbitration is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2 and 5, but the associations are planning to make one more effort to come to agreement without having to bring in a third party. On Friday the associations invited the district back to the table Sept. 26. LaDawn Druce, KPEA president, said the hope is to get contracts settled as quickly as possible.

“Arbitration is a process of waiting, in a sense, after you make your case,” she said.

It could be as late as December or January before the arbitrator would make his or her decision, at which point the negotiating teams would still need to come back to the table to decide whether to accept the decision, she said. The members of the associations’ bargaining teams — made up of teachers, custodians, secretaries and other district personnel — would rather settle contracts as quickly as possible and be done with negotiations, she said.

“The people at the bargaining table, they’d just like to get back to their jobs in the district and not have this continuing on throughout literally the rest of this calendar year,” Druce said.

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Borough, EPA settle hazardous materials dispute

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

Three years after the fact, the Environmental Protection Agency clamped down on the Kenai Peninsula Borough for not properly handling hazardous wastes at its maintenance shop, and fined it $12,800.

“It took awhile to work through the process,” said Borough Mayor Mike Navarre. “During an inspection in September of 2009, the EPA said the borough may be in violation, and then notified us of a violation in May 2011.”

The EPA states that, “the facility failed to determine if waste it was managing was hazardous waste, and failed to label containers of hazardous waste and used oil waste. The substances included paint thinners, kerosene and a mix of solvent and antifreeze. The improperly labeled containers ranged in size from 2-gallon containers to a 300-gallon tank.”

The borough admits to no wrongdoing, but has agreed to build a new facility for accumulating the necessary containers of fluids it needs to use to maintain buildings.

Navarre said that the fine and the agreement to construct a special building is in lieu of litigation and saves the borough additional legal fees that would have been incurred to fight the EPA’s finding. In the intervening years since the EPA first found the unlabeled waste and hazardous materials, the borough changed how it was accumulating the substances and properly labeled it all, Navarre said.

It will cost $30,000 for the new building, but Navarre said the borough needed the facility anyway and it has been budgeted for construction.

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Concern over invasive species surround Endeavour ceremony

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

Buccaneer Energy’s top official commemorated the work of the jack-up rig Endeavour on Tuesday morning as the “key” to unlock the future of Cook Inlet.

“Dream no small dreams for the lack the ability to stir man’s soul,” Chief Executive Officer Curtis Burton quoted, contending that it takes bold actions to make the nation’s big dreams of an energy independent future come to reality.

Buccaneer officials were in Homer on Tuesday to celebrate the arrival of the jack-up rig Endeavour. The ceremonial event included a blessing by Glacier Baptist Church’s Rev. Richard Wise that called for divine protection of the rig as it begins its work in Cook Inlet in a manner that protects the environment.

Remarks were brief since the event was postponed from Monday, due to travel difficulties from stormy weather.

“Buccaneer is evidence that we have shown up,” Burton said, noting that the Endeavour — Spirit of Independence was named by an Alaskan in a contest to find the rig’s name. It is named after Capt. James Cook’s ship that sailed up the inlet in 1778.

“We share your vision of creating an energy independent state. People will say the big oil and gas companies are all about profit. We are not that big company that would pledge profits above everything,” Burton said. “We want to make a pledge to the people of Alaska. Yes, we are here to find hydrocarbons. But profit is not a four-letter word.”

Profits make it possible to create jobs and pay taxes, he said.

“Without profits, none of this happens,” Burton said.

Caring for the environment comes in taking care of the hardware and the employees, Burton said.

“If you take care of your people and your hardware, they will take care of the environment,” he said.

Tours of five or six were then ushered aboard the Endeavour, with rules that no one could take photos.

“You can’t take anything off the rig,” cautioned public affairs spokesman Richard Loomis to the group. “There will be no cameras in the rain, while people are holding onto rails. If you slip, it will not be our fault.”

Safety lessons and a safety waiver needed to be signed to go aboard the rig.

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Tour de jour — African safari packed with wildlife, culture, adventure

By J.P. Bennett for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos by J.P. Bennett. Giraffes at Crater Lake Game Sanctuary.

The Masai Mara is half a world away from Soldotna yet this Kenyan game preserve is remarkably similar to some of its counterparts in Alaska.

Nearly a half-million wilde-beests have migrated there from the Seringeti in Tanzania and, like their caribou cousins, the beasts provide sustenance for a variety of predators and carrion feeders. During our first afternoon drive through the savannah, nearly as treeless as the Alaska tundra, we came across a pride of lionesses, bellies completely gorged, sunning themselves under the African sky. These queens of the beasts were completely oblivious to the half-dozen minivans stuffed with

Hippos at Lake Navashu.

tourists that had converged on the aftermath of the carnage.

There were 15 of us, mostly young professionals from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, aboard a 24-foot overland truck that transported us from Nairobi to the Masai Mara. The big rig now doubled as our mobile viewing platform as we crisscrossed the veldt in search of wildlife. The truck gave us a height advantage over the vans. Aside from being able to look giraffes in the eye, we could easily scan the vast grasslands.

There was much to see. In two days, we also spotted zebras, warthogs, gazelles, impalas, cape buffalo, elephants, bat-eared fox, dik-diks, ostriches and cheetahs.

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Common Ground: Mocha mettle — Brewing interest in outdoors supplants need for convenience, comfort, fancy coffee

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

A friend once told me that she never wanted to live a life where she couldn’t have a mocha every day. This would limit her in several ways, I thought. She’d either be forced to live in areas populated enough to support an espresso culture, or she would have to invest in a professional-grade machine that could exert enough pressure to yield an ounce of liquid in 18 to 26 seconds. If she wanted to be entirely self-sustaining, she’d have to get a cow.

As she was sipping her mocha from a paper cup, I guessed it was the former of the two options. “I think I could go without a mocha for a few days,” I said.

“How many days?” she asked.

When I was 19, the thought of not having a mocha every day was a bit frightening. Especially since I worked at a coffee shop and required seven shots of espresso to achieve a baseline. I pondered her question.

“I guess two days,” I said. “A week at the most.”

This answer only applied to professionally crafted mochas by certified baristas. If I had to get a cow so that I could have a mocha, I wanted the opportunity to change my answer.

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