Monthly Archives: February 2013

UFA seeks legal action against KRSA — Commercial fishing group alleges sportfishing association eavesdropped on teleconference

Editor’s note: A call to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association office in Soldotna seeking comment was referred to Eldon Mulder, chair of KRSA. Mulder was unavailable for comment on this story by press time Tuesday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

United Fishermen of Alaska leadership says the organization is prepared to see the process through as it awaits response in pursuit of recourse to its allegations that someone at the Kenai River Sportfishing Association eavesdropped on a teleconference of a UFA board of directors meeting.

“We intend to follow it through to some sort of logical and final conclusion,” said Bruce Wallace, interim president of UFA, a commercial fishing trade association representing 34 member organizations in Alaska.

In a Feb. 12 press release, UFA announced that on Feb. 8 it “began the process of turning over information to the authorities with the expectation that a full investigation would be initiated.”

Wallace said that UFA’s lawyer has been in contact with the district attorney’s office in Juneau and was awaiting a response, with the realization that patience might be required as the DA’s office has a plate full of other matters.

“All I know for sure is it’s in an investigative phase,” Wallace said. “I expect this will take awhile to go through the office.”

UFA held a board of directors teleconference Jan. 17, with members calling in from around the state to discuss appointments to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, particularly recommendations for a vacancy which Gov. Sean Parnell filled Feb. 6 with the appointment of Fairbanks guide and charter operator Reed Morisky.

In a Jan. 31 letter to KRSA board members and chair, Eldon Mulder, also copied to the governor, Wallace alleges that, “We have since learned that about 20 minutes into our meeting, someone at the offices of Kenai River Sportfishing Association surreptitiously and without authorization joined the call and listened in on our discussion for approximately 70 minutes.”

Further, “We have also learned that information about the substance of our discussion during the teleconference was transmitted to the chair of the Board of Fisheries, who has since confirmed that he received ‘detailed information’ concerning the substance of our teleconference.”

In its Feb. 12 press release, UFA states that the teleconference vendor provided a phone log of the teleconference, which included a number registered to the KRSA headquarters in Soldotna. No one from that office or organization was invited to participate in the call, nor did anyone uninvited announce his or her entry to the teleconference.

“KRSA is not affiliated with UFA in any way. KRSA is not a member of UFA. KRSA was not invited by UFA to join the teleconference. The person or persons who listened in on UFA’s meeting from the KRSA offices did not acknowledge their presence when joining the teleconference,” the release states.

The teleconference phone number is sent to board members a few days before a meeting, Wallace said. Upon calling the number, participants enter a code to be connected to the teleconference.

“Clearly (KRSA) knew when the conference call was, knew what the phone number was and, more importantly than anything, knew what the conference access code was. It was obviously not as secure as it should have been,” Wallace said.

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Snowplow know-how — DOT increases efficiency with new equipment

Photo courtesy of Carl High, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Kenai Peninsula highways will be cleared of snow more quickly the rest of this winter with the arrival of a tow plow, which can cover an more of a roadway with one pass than traditional plows.

Photos courtesy of Carl High, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Kenai Peninsula highways will be cleared of snow more quickly the rest of this winter with the arrival of a tow plow, which can cover an more of a roadway with one pass than traditional plows.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Many Kenai Peninsula residents have experienced it at one time or another. Several inches of snow fall overnight, making the morning drive to work arduous, to say the least. During the commute one question runs through the mind over and over again:

“When will this mess get plowed?”

While the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Maintenance and Operations division, has worked hard over the years to plow winter roads in a timely manner, it now will be able to be even more efficient at snow removal due to new equipment.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve production and reduce cost, and this will definitely allow us to do more with less,” said Carl High, DOT peninsula district superintendent.

The piece of equipment High is referring to is a new tow plow, which was deployed in Soldotna recently. While utilized in 17 of the Lower 48 states and Canada, this is the first tow plow to be used in Alaska.

“We’re excited about the addition,” High said. “We got it a few weeks back and did the training on it last week. We ran it a few times and it went great, so we’ll put it into service from here on out.”

The tow plow, High explained, is basically a trailer with two steerable axles that has a 26-foot moldboard attached to the right side. When the blade is lowered and the trailer is articulated to approximately 30 degrees, it clears a 13-foot-wide path, which is in addition to the 11-foot-wide path cleared by the truck towing it, more than doubling production, yet with only a 30 percent increase in fuel costs and no increase in labor.

“In places like the Kenai-Soldotna urbans, the Sterling urbans, and other four- to five-lane areas, we can now do one pass down and back. With the single trucks we’d have to make four to five rounds,” High said.

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Negotiations stick on health care — School district, associations, working out details of health care plan

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Negotiations between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and Kenai Peninsula Education and Support Associations continue to inch forward in an effort to set a three-year contract, which is now half a year beyond when it was set to take effect.

Bargaining teams for the district and associations have been meeting since January 2012, but were unable to come to agreement in spring 2012, as was the original hope. Instead, talks paused for the summer and now have continued for more than a year, past a round of mediation and nonbinding arbitration. Teams are scheduled to meet again Thursday in Soldotna.

Recent meetings, including one Feb. 20, have centered on issues related to health care — specifically, how contributions to the district’s self-funded health care plan will be calculated, and the makeup and function of the Health Care Program Committee, which oversees benefits of the plan.

Talks took a major step forward toward settling the most contentious issues of the contract — salary and health care — following the culmination of nonbinding arbitration in December. The district re-crafted its offer to adopt much of the arbitrator’s recommendations, including that the pay scale be increased by 2 percent for each of the three years of the contract, which was supposed to begin with the 2012 school year.

The district also agreed to shoulder more of the cost of the district’s self-funded health care plan, at a split of 80 percent in the first year of the contract, 83 percent in the second year and 85 percent in the third year, with employees contributing the other 20 percent in year one, 17 percent in year two and 15 percent in year three. The district agreed to the arbitrator’s recommendation to do away with additional fees for family coverage and the previous practice of splitting any health care cost overruns 50-50 with employees, a measure that was particularly unpopular with employees when hit with unexpected health care premium increases at the end of the year.

The one significant deviation in the district’s offer from the arbitrator’s recommendation was in proposing changes to the membership and authority of the Health Care Program Committee, to prevent changes in health care coverage without agreement by district representatives and association members. Since the district will be shouldering more of the financial burden of paying for health care, it wants more say in decisions that would have financial ramifications to the plan.

Working out those changes has been the fodder of the recent negotiations sessions. The current proposal includes increased representation for the district on the committee, with four representatives selected by KPEA, three representatives selected by KPESA, one representative selected by the Kenai Peninsula Administrator Association and three employees selected by the superintendent. Further, the committee must vote on any proposed changes in benefits or increases in administrative expenses, with an 80 percent majority required for passage of motions.

Beyond that, the district and associations have moved toward a platform of agreeing to disagree in how health care contribution rates will be set. Both sides agree to the prudence of estimating what costs for the year are likely to be, and budgeting for premium payments accordingly. Come the end of the fiscal year in June, the year’s actual costs will be known. For its contributions, the district intends to budget conservatively, expecting that health care costs will increase 8 to 10 percent per year, so as to avoid having to contribute extra money to cover cost overruns come June.

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1st bill of session favors cruise ships

Photo courtesy of the Homer Tribune. The cruise ship Amsterdam visits Homer in a previous summer.

Photo courtesy of the Homer Tribune. The cruise ship Amsterdam visits Homer in a previous summer.

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

A measure of the Gov. Sean Parnell administration to roll back cruise ship wastewater standards was voted down by Homer’s Rep. Paul Seaton and voted up by Soldotna Sen. Peter Micciche.

House Bill 80 passed into law Feb. 19, in a Senate vote of 14-6. It effectively rolls back standards set in a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2006.

In voting against it when the bill was in the House, Seaton said he was concerned about the discharges that would be allowed in critical habitat areas, such as Kachemak Bay. He tried to gain protective amendments, but none of them passed.

“A large concern of mine about this bill was allowing the (Department of Environmental Conservation) to determine if they would permit pollution discharge levels that required a mixing zone in legislatively designated critical habitat areas like Kachemak Bay,” Seaton said.

A mixing zone is an area of water where pollutants from a point source discharge are mixed naturally with cleaner water. In the mixing zone, the level of toxic pollutants is allowed to be higher than the acceptable concentration for the general body of water. His amendments would have kept the higher standards before discharging in a critical habitat.

Seaton also asked for a reduction in the amount of acceptable copper, which harms a salmon’s ability to hone its way to home waters. And he wanted a prohibition of discharge within two miles of shore.

The legislation, already passed by the House, is the first bill to clear both the House and Senate in the 2013 legislative session that began just over a month ago.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-District O, also had wanted an amendment to prohibit wastewater dumping in Kachemak Bay. In the end, he voted in favor of the measure.

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e(Major)Harmony — Musicians seek others in tune with chamber performance

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Emily Grossman, violin, Maria Allison, piano and Kevin Charlestream, cello, rehearse in Kenai on Saturday for an upcoming Musica Borealis performance.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Emily Grossman, violin, Maria Allison, piano and Kevin Charlestream, cello, rehearse in Kenai on Saturday for an upcoming Musica Borealis performance.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

First, the overture, in which they meet:

They see each other across a crowded room, pass each other in the hallway, then are introduced by a mutual acquaintance.

There’s something intriguing about each other. They talk enough to realize their commonalities. He seems interested. She contemplates bringing him home to introduce to her friends. He could be just the one she’s looking for.

But they neglect to exchange last names, emails or phone numbers. Time passes. The lack of contact is disappointing.

Were this the introductory strains of a romantic duet, that might have been the finale — it seemed promising but logistical stars got crossed and ah, well, there are other fish in the sea.

But romance wasn’t the goal of this pairing. This is the start of a relationship that can be even more challenging to form. She is Emily Grossman, a musician on the Kenai Peninsula longing to expand her repertoire. And he, Kevin Charlestream, is a rare catch, indeed, in Alaska — a cellist interested in chamber music willing to go out of his way to perform it.

“We’ve been kind of cello-deficient on the Kenai Peninsula, and there’s a whole world or repertoire for chamber music that’s just not accessible without it,” Grossman said.

Though the peninsula is graced with many accomplished musicians, cellists with enough free time and interest to devote to chamber music are few and far between, yet that instrument is a necessity for the bulk of the repertoire written for various iterations of string ensembles. That effectively hamstrings the ensemble possibilities for local violinists, like Grossman, and pianists, like Maria Allison.

“It’s been something that’s been on all of our minds. We meet new people moving into the community and ask, ‘Do you play cello? No? Oh,’” Allison said.

As well as being active in the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, Grossman travels back and forth to perform with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. Going on two years ago she caught sight of Charlestream, a relatively new-to-town addition to the orchestra.

Her desire to find a cellist interested in chamber music was widely, almost jokingly, known, at home, to the point where friends told her they’d pray for her to find one.

“I was completely oblivious of all this,” Charlestream said.

Grossman noticed the new cellist in the halls but isn’t one for overly forward introductions, such as, “Are you the cellist of my dreams?”

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Almanac: Survey says: Johnson was first … mostly

Photos courtesy of Brent Johnson. Henning Johnson (in white hat, center) poses with a survey crew in the middle 1980s. At left, standing, is Henning’s son, Jerry. His other son, Brent, is kneeling in front of Jerry. At right are Scott McLane (standing) and Sam McLane.

Photos courtesy of Brent Johnson. Henning Johnson (in white hat, center) poses with a survey crew in the middle 1980s. At left, standing, is Henning’s son, Jerry. His other son, Brent, is kneeling in front of Jerry. At right are Scott McLane (standing) and Sam McLane.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

Some debate exists over who was the first registered surveyor on the Kenai Peninsula, and the honor generally goes to Henning Johnson, who moved to Homer in 1953 and then lived in the Clam Gulch area for about 40 years, starting in the late 1950s.

But there are some caveats to the claim, according to Johnson’s son, Borough Assemblyman Brent Johnson, of Kasilof.
To begin with, said Brent, state surveying licenses were issued numerically, and Henning’s license does not have as low a number as a few other individuals who also worked as surveyors on the peninsula.

For instance, there’s Charlie Parker, who was surveying in Anchorage before moving to Soldotna. Parker surveyed Soldotna’s second subdivision in 1952, but he didn’t become a peninsula-based surveyor until 1961.

Then there’s Dave Bear, who also has a lower number than Henning Johnson, but, according to Brent, Bear “only visited the peninsula, living in various places while working.”

And there’s Stan McLane, who came to the central peninsula around the same time as Henning Johnson but had a much higher registration number, indicating that he became official later than Johnson. McLane probably began his surveying career in Anchorage before moving south to live.

Therefore, said Brent, “Dad was the first resident surveyor on the peninsula, so long as we don’t count Featherstone Williamson.”

Featherstone W. (“Billy”) Williamson, a native of Pennsylvania, participated in a survey of the United States-Mexico border in the early 1900s, before moving to Juneau in 1906 to become a surveyor for the U.S. General Land Office. In 1920, he and his wife, Harriet (“Mickey”) built a home and fox ranch at Coal Creek in the Kasilof area, and, according to a historical note by the Society of Professional Land Surveyors, he was “in charge of most work extending the Rectangular System of Surveying in the Cook Inlet Basin from 1917 to 1924.”

The Williamsons later moved to Lawing on the upper end of Kenai Lake, and then on to California sometime after the market for fox furs declined.

And therefore, said Brent, “I think it is true that Dad was the only licensed surveyor on the peninsula in 1953 and for a while.”

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Common Ground: High times for highcountry bird hunting

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Winchester the magnificent shows his prowess at upland bird hunting.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Winchester the magnificent shows his prowess at upland bird hunting.

Buy Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

There are times, like in the Kenai Mountains, when the ptarmigan are all around you. Their fresh tracks are visible in the snow at the base of shrub willow and along the trail.

All the days they weren’t there before disappear, and you know that any second you will hear a cluck and a bird will materialize or the dog will flush 20 birds into the sky. “This is the place,” I think. “We’ll just spend the day here and find our birds at an easy elevation.”

But my hunting partner is walking fast to keep up with his English setter. Both of them have their eyes on a mountain peak. It doesn’t matter if we might just be walking past 300 birds, they are not hunting those easy birds. They are hunting the birds at the very top.

I finally catch up enough so that I can tug an article of clothing. “Hey,” I say. “I think there’s birds right around here.”
“Well,” he says, “If they’re still here when we get back… .”

Before I could argue, he was already out of earshot ahead of me on the trail. His dog was a mile ahead and running the snow-brushed rocks a hundred yards above us. I wondered if I had missed an important meeting about exactly what it was we were doing.

When my English setter was the bird dog on task, she would do appropriate-looking things, like sniff the air for birds. His dog, on the other hand, was considered the Olympic athlete of the bird dog family because he could find the lone bird perched on the summit or hold a point for the half hour it took to catch up to him on an avalanche chute two valleys away.

The vein on my forehead started to protrude as I realized that this was not the first time I’d followed these two sheep hunters all the way to the top of a mountain just to eat a sandwich and hear my hunting partner say, “It doesn’t matter if I get a bird, I just enjoy watching the dog.”

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