Monthly Archives: January 2013

School district, unions head back to bargaining table

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Negotiating teams for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and Education Support Association are headed back to the bargaining table Wednesday with just one remaining area left to hammer out in contract talks that have been ongoing since last January.

Negotiations went before nonbinding arbitration in October, with the arbitrator’s advisory report released in December. Teams reconvened Jan. 22, where the district presented what it termed its “last best offer.”

The proposal adopts many of the arbitrator’s recommendations, including an annual salary increase of 2 percent each of the three years of the contract. In health care, the district is offering to shoulder a greater portion of the cost of the district’s self-funded insurance, lowering participating employees’ monthly premium to $291 per month, down from the $340 per month they were paying in fiscal year 2012. The district also agrees to eliminate the additional amount employees were contributing for dependent, spouse and family coverage.

The district also agreed to do away with the 50-50 split on cost overruns of the health care plan. In the previous contract, if health care expenditures exceeded the predetermined monthly contributions from the district and employees, those cost overruns were split 50 percent by employees and 50 percent by the district. Now if there are cost overruns, they will be paid at a rate of 80 percent by the district in the first year of the contract (fiscal year 2013), 83 percent in year two (FY2014) and 85 percent in year three (FY2015), with employees paying the resultant 20 percent in year one, 17 percent in year two and 15 percent in year three.

All this was welcome news to the associations in the closed-to-the-public bargaining session Jan. 22. There was just one deviation in the district’s offer from the arbitrator’s recommendation. The district is proposing changes to the membership and authority of the Health Care Committee, to prevent changes in health care coverage without agreement by district representatives and association members.

The district is proposing to eliminate one KPEA seat and add three seats to be appointed by the superintendent. Currently the committee consists of four KPEA members, three KPESA members and one Kenai Peninsula Administrator Association member. The district also proposes requiring a supermajority of 75 percent in any vote on changes to district benefits.

Also in the proposal is the stipulation that the district would not be required to adopt changes if they resulted in violations of established laws or regulations, altered the administration or management of health care benefits, resulted in a cost increase to the plan of more than 5 percent or would be detrimental to the financial interests of the district, as determined by the superintendent.

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Ideas afloat — Kenai fishing task force hears plans to change management

By Jenny Neyman

File photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. A stringer of sockeye salmon were fished from the Kenai River at River Bend. The Upper Cook Inlet Task Force is mulling ways to better balance management of the Kenai’s sockeye and king salmon returns and fisheries.

File photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. A stringer of sockeye salmon were fished from the Kenai River at River Bend. The Upper Cook Inlet Task Force is mulling ways to better balance management of the Kenai’s sockeye and king salmon returns and fisheries.

Redoubt Reporter

“There’s nothing worse than not fishing then having to go to meetings to talk about not fishing.”

That jest, from Jim Butler, a member of the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force, drew chuckles from the crowd assembled for the Jan. 14 meeting at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai. Though it was a fitting sentiment for the six hours of detailed, science-heavy, acronym-laden discussion, the trumping sentiment of the day was one of progress.

“I think this is a starting point. It’s trying to make the best of Armageddon, if there’s a way to do that,” said task force member Ken Coleman, a set-net fisherman. “… We are trying to make sure there’s a place in the sun for both of us. How do we achieve that is the art of the deal. We’re heading that way, I think.”

Three proposals to change fishery management plans for the 2013 fishing season were submitted for discussion. Each aim to prevent 2013 from being a repeat of the disastrous fishing season of 2012 — with sport and set-net fisheries shut down — should similar factors of a late and/or low king return amid a robust sockeye run again be the case.

East Side Set-Net Proposal

The set-netters’ proposal suggests several changes to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan, including:

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One bear, two bears, more for you bears? Brown bear genetic hair sampling snares higher population estimate for Kenai Peninsula

By Joseph Robertia

Photos courtesy of John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A brown bear boar leaves a hair-collecting station during a population census conducted during 2010. The resulting report pegs the Kenai Peninsula’s brown bear population at 624, the highest probability point in the range produced in the study.

Photos courtesy of John Morton, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A brown bear boar leaves a hair-collecting station during a population census conducted during 2010. The resulting report pegs the Kenai Peninsula’s brown bear population at 624, the highest probability point in the range produced in the study.

Redoubt Reporter

For years many people have anecdotally suggested there are more brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula than the thrown-about estimate of 250 to 300. Last week the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge released findings from its DNA-based mark-recapture study that confirmed the sentiment, with a new estimate of 624 brown bears.

But, does this mean that there are more bears, much less, as some suggest, too many bears on the peninsula?

“Just because we have 624 now doesn’t necessarily mean there are more bears,” said John Morton, a supervisory biologist with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge who oversaw the project. Rather, he said that the 624 number may simply reflect a more accurate estimate for a population number that has been here for years.

“It’s still at the low end for coastal brown bears, and not really a lot for the entire peninsula when you consider its overall size and resources. But it is a more solid and scientifically based estimate compared to the 250 to 300, which was useful at the time, but was based on densities from the Susitna area.”

The new estimate — comprised of 200 males, 200 females and 224 cubs — was derived after refuge biologists spent more than a month collecting hair samples in 2010. Bear habitat across the peninsula was divided into cells forming a grid. Each cell had a lure station baited with a mixture of fermented fish oil and cow’s blood, surrounded by barbed wire. As the bruins passed the wire — stepping over or going under it — their hair got caught in the barbs.

Using two helicopters with two, four-person crews assigned to each one, the two crews leapfrogged each other from one sampling point to another, deploying and retrieving traps and collecting hair samples, from 16 to 20 hair stations each day. That equates to checking each station about every seven to 10 days. The number of hair samples retrieved varied depending on location. Some stations had zero and some stations have had up to 721, but 12 samples seems to be the average.

“We got more than 11,000 hair samples in the end,” Morton said. “It was a lot of work, and I’m thankful that — given the

A tired bear census crew member rests in front of a helicopter used to shuttle crews from lure station to lure station.

A tired bear census crew member rests in front of a helicopter used to shuttle crews from lure station to lure station.

nature of what we were doing, landing helicopters in remote areas where we knew there were bears — I’m glad no one was hurt.”

Despite the arduous nature of collecting the hair samples, the real hard work began when the collection phase was over. The hair samples were sent to a lab in British Columbia and had to be separated — brown bears from blacks, which took months. Then the samples had to be analyzed further and the data reviewed for accuracy. It was these latter points that resulted in the two-year delay of releasing the final number of 624.

“We took months to crunch the numbers, but it was best to have it peer-reviewed by people outside the refuge and outside of Alaska,” Morton said.

Having a more accurate estimate will bring some changes related to the brown bear population, Morton said, but it’s tough to say for certain what those may be, since state and federal wildlife managers often have different ideas and directives about how to manage bruins.

“We manage game collaboratively with the state, but at the refuge, our mandate is to conserve wildlife. We’re not interested in artificially inflating or deflating a population, so for us, I don’t see anything being too different in the short run for how we manage brown bears.”

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Back in the saddle — Greenhouse sprouts kids’ riding dreams year-round

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mercedes Tapley, 8, of Kenai, goes for a ride on miniature horse, Cowboy, led by  Gracie Carroll, 13, of Sterling, at C&C Alaskan Horse Adventures’ greenhouse-turned indoor horse arena during a kids’ horse camp on Jan. 21. Connie Green modified her greenhouse to be able to offer lessons even during the winter.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mercedes Tapley, 8, of Kenai, goes for a ride on miniature horse, Cowboy, led by Gracie Carroll, 13, of Sterling, at C&C Alaskan Horse Adventures’ greenhouse-turned indoor horse arena during a kids’ horse camp on Jan. 21. Connie Green modified her greenhouse to be able to offer lessons even during the winter.

Redoubt Reporter

Outside Connie Green’s greenhouse-turned-arena, a breeze ambled unbridled across the rolling hills of Sterling, making the air feel icy, like the layer of slick, frozen crust barely hidden under a scant covering of snow.

Inside, with the wind blocked by the clear sheeting attached to the curved metal rib cage, the captured warmth from the afternoon sun mingled with the retained temperature generated from a propane heater and the bodies gamboling about within.

Some were two-legged and diminutive, requiring a coat to ward off any remaining Alaska winter chill. The others were four-legged, were equipped with coats and were plenty capable of generating their own heat from their couple hundred- to 1,000-pound frames.

All were enjoying activities usually reserved for fairer seasons in Alaska — horse-riding  lessons.

The newly built greenhouse allows Green, owner of Alaska C&C Horse Adventures on Jim Dahler Road in Sterling, to teach kids horsemanship year-round.

“There are personal indoor arenas around, but they usually aren’t open to the public, so this has been real special, especially to bring kids. The kids say, ‘Really? You’re riding in the winter? We can come in here, turn the heater on if I need to. It’s out of the wind, out of the rain, the snow, the darkness. I’ve got lights that come on at 4 p.m. and it just lights up like a football stadium in here,” Green said.

As she well knows, a love of horses isn’t seasonal.

“It’s my passion. It’s 24 hours for me, I love it,” she said. “And there’s so many kids out there who can’t afford horses. And because of my journeys in life and my love for horses, I yearn to share.”

Green leads Mercedes through the nuances of cinching a saddle.

Green leads Mercedes through the nuances of cinching a saddle.

The participants in Green’s most recent horse camp, a no-school day Jan. 21, were Green’s horse-wrangler-in-training,

Gracie Carroll, 13, of Sterling, and four other girls, all as enamored with all things equine as Green had been at their ages.

“I’ve loved horses always, since I was a kid,” said Kylie Ness, 10, of Sterling.

“Ever since I knew how to say ‘horse,’” said Jenna Helminski, 13, of Sterling.

“They’re fun to ride, you can groom them, you can walk them — there’s so many fun things you can do,” Kylie said.

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Almanac: Driven to exceed — ARC foreman had long, storied career

Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part story concerning the life and accomplishments of Ralph Soberg, a general foreman for the Alaska Road Commission who was in charge of building the Sterling Highway. The first two parts introduced Soberg and provided a description of some early stages in the highway construction. Part three continues the discussion of Soberg’s life and the completion of the highway.

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of Hardscratch Press. In 1964, two years after his first retirement, Ralph Soberg posed for this photo on his gillnetter.

Photo courtesy of Hardscratch Press. In 1964, two years after his first retirement, Ralph Soberg posed for this photo on his gillnetter.

Redoubt Reporter

At the end of the day, Ralph Soberg would remember the biting insects and whose blood they liked best almost as much as he would recall the purpose of his journey.

On that day in the summer of 1947, the Norwegian-born Soberg and his longtime mentor and boss, Angelo F. “Gil” Ghiglione, climbed into a skiff near the village of Kenai, cranked the outboard motor into life, and headed upriver to determine the best site for a bridge across the Kenai River.

After motoring up to the original survey line (through present-day Soldotna), they measured the distance from riverbank to riverbank and discovered that a bridge at that location would need to be exactly 250 feet long.

They were pleased by the news — but decidedly displeased by their winged attackers.

“It was the black flies Gil and I had for company that day,” Soberg wrote in his memoir, “Bridging Alaska.” “When we went ashore, we were practically inhaling them.”

Photo by Al Hershberger. This aerial photograph shows the Alaska Road Commission headquarters on July 4, 1949, about two miles east of the village of Kenai. This is the current location of Wal-Mart.

Photo by Al Hershberger. This aerial photograph shows the Alaska Road Commission headquarters on July 4, 1949, about two miles east of the village of Kenai. This is the current location of Wal-Mart.

To escape the swarms, they opted to have lunch on a gravel island just downstream from the bridge site, hoping that the breeze along the water would disperse the insects. “But all we succeeded in doing,” Soberg said, “was finding out that they liked Italian blood better than Viking blood. After they took a few nips from me, they invited all their friends and went to work on Ghiglione. He got the worst of it by far.”

After lunch, they ran the skiff about three-quarters of a mile farther upstream to the mouth of Soldotna Creek, where they picked out a site for the permanent Alaska Road Commission maintenance headquarters that would eventually control the new highway and its ancillary roads.

A big movement of equipment was required before work on the new bridge began in the early spring of 1948, and by that time Soberg had made a big move in his personal life, as well — he had gotten married.

As a young immigrant boy on Unga Island, he had known and teased an even younger girl, Ruth Lauritzen, who had been born on the island but was also the child of Norwegian immigrants. Nearly two full decades after he left the island in search of employment, they found each other again, this time hundreds of miles to the east.

As Ruth Benson and the mother of two young daughters (Jackie and Jerry), she was living in Seward, where Soberg needed to travel frequently for supplies. They got hitched on Ruth’s birthday in December 1947, and the following spring, they all moved to the ARC maintenance camp in Kenai, where they lived in a Quonset hut until a small home was set up for them nearby.

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Bowled over by support — Scholastic league benefits from donations, fundraisers

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mason Yamada, Keenan Orth and Morgan Bilyeu share a few laughs during a 1970s-themed night of bowling Saturday at Alaskalanes Family Bowling Center in Kenai. The event was a fundraiser for the youth who are all members of the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic League of bowlers.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mason Yamada, Keenan Orth and Morgan Bilyeu share a few laughs during a 1970s-themed night of bowling Saturday at Alaskalanes Family Bowling Center in Kenai. The event was a fundraiser for the youth who are all members of the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic League of bowlers.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Standing in front of crowd can be embarrassing for teenagers. Making your way to the front of a room full of your peers with “Disco Fever” blaring, while wearing a neon pink Velour leisure suit with a leopard-pattern lapel, and donning a giant floppy pimp hat, well, that would be awkward for anyone, regardless of age.

Mason Yamada handled this exact situation with poise Saturday at Alaskalanes Family Bowling Center in Kenai, where he was recognized for his pin-pounding prowess during a 1970s-themed night of bowling to raise money for him and several other young bowlers.

“Bowling is my sport. It’s what I do and I love it,” he said.

Yamada, one of eight middle- and high-school-aged youths involved in the Kenai Peninsula Scholastic League of bowlers, recently pitched a perfect 300 game — a tough task for any bowler. In addition to the bragging rights from his accomplishment, he also gained some green to one day be used for college tuition.

“The way it works is local businesses, adult bowlers and leagues support the kids, putting money into scholarship funds. This is our sixth year, but over the last five years we’ve given out between $15,000 and $20,000 in scholarship money,” said event organizer Kathy Waterbury.

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Plugged In: Calibration — Color me accurate

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

“What you see is what you get” has long been the norm for imaging and word-processing programs, eliminating nasty surprises where the printed final output doesn’t match what you saw on your computer monitor. Until recently, most digital photography was far more hit or miss.

Consistent and complete calibration is the key step in precision photography, ensuring that what you saw when you took a photo is also what your end viewers will see, whether as a final print or on a computer screen. It’s also key to reducing wasted and expensive supplies.

This week, we’ll examine the many factors that affect the appearance of your photographs and how to control these factors through careful calibration of each step of the photographic process. This is a somewhat technical but important topic, so we ask your indulgence and attention.

Careful calibration has always been key to good photography. During the film era, Ansel Adams’ “Zone System” was the best-known approach to reliably making high-quality photographs that accurately reproduced the photographer’s intent. In the digital era, it’s just as important, but easier and more affordable. You’ll not need to repeat precision calibrations very often but, over time, they’ll avoid a lot of wasted effort.

You’ll need some specialized hardware and software to calibrate accurately. Eyeballing camera and computer screens, then making guessed adjustments is neither accurate nor repeatable.

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Art Seen: Rare sights at ‘Rarefied Light’

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

“Things We Leave Behind” by Laura Avellaneda-Cruz.

“Things We Leave Behind” by Laura Avellaneda-Cruz.

It has taken me awhile to warm up to this current “Rarified Light” exhibit currently on display at the Gary Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. “Rarified Light” is an Alaska traveling photography show put on by the Alaska Photography Center each year, and it has been around for many years. In days past, it was more edgy and involved more photography-based mixed media than it does now, and it was much easier to be wowed by the imagery.

My first thought upon greeting this exhibit was that the juror (they are different each year), Cig Harvey, has a thing for people, and for their hands. Some of the portraits are especially engaging, like both of Michael Conti’s selections, “Riley” and “Enzina.” And Lauren Holmes’ “The Next Generation” is “loaded” with meaning, capturing a small Native boy on a coffee table with a big gun and looking like he’s ready to take the world on, while elders sit in the background.

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Tackle the task — Fishing representatives mull changes to prevent repeat of poor 2012 season

By Jenny Neyman

File photo. Sockeye salmon wait to be picked from a set net in one of the few openings for east-side, Kenai-area Cook Inlet commercial set-net fishermen last summer.

File photos. Sockeye salmon wait to be picked from a set net in one of the few openings for east-side, Kenai-area Cook Inlet commercial set-net fishermen last summer.

Redoubt Reporter

There was no lack of data, analysis, statistical models, facts, figures and hypotheses presented at the second meeting of the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force on Jan. 14 at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.

But for the six hours of answers and information, the main question driving the creation and effort of the task force remains unanswered: If the 2013 Kenai River king and sockeye runs shape up similarly to the 2012 returns, how can the disastrous fishing season that unfolded last year be avoided in the coming one?

While nothing has been settled yet, an answer is coming closer. Work this meeting was advanced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s recent release of its new late-run Kenai River king salmon escapement goal, recommending 15,000 to 30,000 fish be spared from hooks and nets to get upriver to spawn.

The report still is in a draft form undergoing peer review and the revision process, and it’s only an interim figure to be used until the goal comes up for review and revision to the Alaska Board of Game in 2014, in accordance with its regular three-year cycle.

But it represents progress, especially in times of low abundance of kings, as has been the trend in recent years, said Robert Clark, chief fisheries scientist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who gave a presentation on the updated escapement recommendation.

“We need to manage carefully because runs are going to be small in the near term — they just are, it’s a certainly. But this analysis is a breakthrough from our old assessment. Now I think we have a way forward,” he said.

The new goal was developed using king count estimates generated with DIDSON sonar technology, seen as far more accurate than the previously used target-strength estimates produced by split-beam sonar technology. Split beam has been shown to confuse smaller kings with sockeyes, especially when both fish are mixed together in the river. The previous goal range of 17,500 to 35,000 fish was developed using the old sonar estimates. The department switched to using DIDSON technology exclusively at the king sonar site at mile 8.6 last year, but was still using the old escapement goal. Now a DIDSON-based escapement will be tracked with DIDSON sonar.

Keeping better count of the fish is only part of the battle. Deciding how to manage fisheries is the other.

“This 15,000 is our best guess that balances the risk of the fisheries — keeping fisheries viable and going — and balancing that against the risk to the stock in terms of overfishing,” Clark said.

That balancing act was particularly difficult under a perfect storm of factors contributing to the maelstrom that became the 2012 Kenai River fishing season. A low early run of Kenai kings in June and poor returns of kings elsewhere in the state raised a red flag that the Kenai late run of kings might also be low. Further supporting that concern was a late arrival of the late run. Meanwhile, a robust return of sockeyes streamed into the river while kings were merely trickling in.

The result was restrictions in the sport and personal-use fisheries on retention of kings, then an all-out in-river closure on king fishing. That triggered a closure of the area’s commercial set-net fishery for sockeye, in order to prevent kings from getting caught in the commercial nets. When it became clear that kings were late more than nonexistent, governing management didn’t allow for creative solutions to address the unusual situation. Save for a few, mostly unproductive openings, the set-netters lost their season, sport fishermen lost much of their Kenai king fishing season and more sockeye than were desired made it upriver, all to protect kings that ended up making escapement.

“The problem with last year really wasn’t abundance, it was how the run showed up, and a lot of it showed up late. In those situations you try to do as a good a job as you can projecting those kinds of problems,” Clark said.

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Aussie Alaskan — K-Beach teacher brings Down Under experiences back north to Alaska

By Joseph Robertia

Photos courtesy of Jason Daniels. Jason Daniels, a teacher at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, visits the Sydney Opera House during his yearlong exchange program in Australia.

Photos courtesy of Jason Daniels. Jason Daniels, a teacher at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School, visits the Sydney Opera House during his yearlong exchange program in Australia.

Redoubt Reporter

For many Alaskans, Australia is a world away, best referenced through the “Crocodile Dundee” movies, or Steve Irwin’s “Crocodile Hunter” fame. But for Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School teacher Jason Daniels, Australia is as real a place as Alaska, not just seen through a TV screen. Daniels recently returned from spending more than a year Down Under as part of a teacher exchange program, and said it was the trip of a lifetime.

“My wife, Heather, and I so enjoyed the Australian people, culture and landscapes. Any amazing thing you’ve read about Australia is probably true. It’s truly an inspiring place,” he said.

Daniels worked at Wodonga South Primary School, an open design/pod school, a little more than a year old. He said that it was staffed with some of the kindest people he’s met anywhere.

“From day one they took me under their wings and made sure that if I fell, someone was there to pick me up. I was always met with a smile and a kind word — usually a question about what it’s like back home,” he said.

Just as Alaskans may hold stereotypes about Australia, so, too, did the Australian imagery of the 49th state revolve around what had been seen on TV or in movies.

“Many of the Aussies thought we are part of Canada. I am glad I was there to correct them. Some of the kids thought we lived in snow all year and we have polar bears around town and we drive sled dogs to work. They only have TV and movies to go on,” Daniels said. “I did find it amazing, however, that Heather and I watched many shows on Alaska. I think Aussies have a fascination with Alaska. Many people we met had either been or are going. Most want to go someday.”

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Bills begin the queue — Legislative work progressing in Juneau, D.C.

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

Alaska disaster funding stripped

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, announced that the House of Representatives stripped funding for the federal- and state-declared chinook fishery disaster and tsunami debris cleanup in Alaska from the natural-disaster funding bill that passed the House last week.

“Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed in this action,” he wrote.

Begich believes the Senate will most likely vote on the House version of the Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill this week.

“Though the House may have forgotten natural disaster victims in Alaska, I have no plans to hold up funding for the victims of Hurricane Sandy when the bill comes back before the Senate. I assure you that I am fighting for disaster funding and plan to seek funding for the chinook fishery disaster and tsunami debris clean up in the next available legislative vehicle,” he wrote.

Micciche assigned to eight committees

No time was wasted assigning freshman Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche to eight committees as soon as he was sworn into office Jan. 15. Perhaps the biggest assignment is on the Trans Alaska Pipeline Service TAPS Throughput Decline Committee, as co-chair with Sen. Mike Dunleavy.

He is now a member of the standing committees of Health and Social Services, Resources, Community and Regional Affairs and Labor and Commerce.

Micciche also was assigned to the joint committees of World Trade and will vice chair the Legislative Council. He also is on the Senate Special Committee on In-State Energy. This committee and TAPS were both created this session.

Seaton lands 9 assignments

The southern Kenai Peninsula’s House District 30 Rep. Paul Seaton is sitting on Resources, Health and Human Services and Education committees this year. He is chair of the Fisheries Special Committee.  Seaton also has been assigned to three Finance subcommittees — Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, and Transportation and Public Facilities.

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Alaskans Ambush Las Vegas — Women’s hockey takes ice skills to the desert

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Alaska Ambush coaches Shannon Murray, right, and Heidi Hanson jostle for the puck during a practice scrimmage last year.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Alaska Ambush coaches Shannon Murray, right, and Heidi Hanson jostle for the puck during a practice scrimmage last year.

Redoubt Reporter

Vegas, baby! That’s where 12 local ladies are heading this week. But not for gambling or a wild trip with the girls — at least not in the usual sense. The women, all members of the Alaska Ambush hockey team, are headed to take part in the sold-out 2013 Las Vegas Women’s Hockey Classic.

“And we’re going to win,” said Heidi Hanson, who doubles as both a player and coach for the team.
Having attended multiple Vegas tournaments over the years, Hanson remembers just a few years ago when the Kenai-Soldotna based team nearly took it all in the nine-bracket, 42-team, 71-game, three-day event.

“When we went in ’05 we were very competitive. We went into double overtime in the final game and lost by one point, and we didn’t have a team like now,” she said.

This year’s team headed to Vegas is made up of Hanson, Jenica Rose, Vicki VinZant, Dawn Lesterson, Brooke Ames, Shonia Werner, Julie Powell Tree, Lacey Wisniewski, Marcy True, Karen Martinelli, Brandi Urban and Beth Selinger. And, while there are two other teams going from Alaska, Hanson said that she has high hopes it will be the Ambush bringing home the cup.

“This year’s team is very competitive. We have a lot of strengths. So I’d be pretty surprised if we didn’t end up in the championships,” she said.

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