Daily Archives: June 19, 2013

Report details effect of inlet commercial fisheries

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As the push-pull of allocative arguments continue to churn in Cook Inlet fisheries, the Alaska Salmon Alliance has released an economic report to support its position that commercial fisheries are a significant part of the Kenai Peninsula economy, and so should have a place in the water and at the regulatory table.

The “Cook Inlet Drift and Set Net Salmon Fisheries” report, prepared for ASA by Northern Economics, based in Anchorage and Bellingham, Wash., was released this month, and estimates the 2011 ex-vessel value of the Cook Inlet salmon fishery — including drift- and set-net salmon fisheries as well as purse seine and hatchery cost-recovery fisheries — at $56.4 million, which exceeds the estimated 2011 value of all Lower 48 salmon fisheries combined.

“There’s just been a lot of speculation about the value of Cook Inlet commercial fisheries. And as it turns out it’s rivaling the Bering Sea’s crab fishery, which is substantial. There’s major preoccupation with sport and personal-use fisheries in this Cook Inlet region and we felt that we needed to get the word out that we’re an important part of the overall economy of the Kenai Peninsula. That comes out loud and clear,” said Arni Thompson, ASA executive director.

A five-year average ex-vessel value for Cook Inlet salmon fisheries was estimated at $32.1 million, with a low of $15.3 million in 2006 and the high of $54.2 million in 2011. For comparison, the five-year average of Lower 48 salmon fisheries was pegged at $37.2 million, the West Coast shore-based trawl fishery at $45 million and the Hawaii tuna fishery at $53.8 million.

The cumulative harvest value of the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries between 1980 and 2011 was estimated at $2.15 billion. Sockeye were noted to be the predominant species harvested in inlet commercial salmon fisheries, accounting for 78 percent of landings between 1980 and 2011, and 88 percent of that $2.15 billion.

The report notes that in 2010 and 2011, Cook Inlet commercial salmon fisheries ranked fourth in ex-vessel value among the major salmon fisheries in the state, behind Southeast, Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, and ahead of Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and the statewide troll fisheries.

The wholesale value of all species and products produced by processors of Cook Inlet salmon was found to exceed $212 million in 2011, according to the report.

“Then when you add in the economic multiplier for indirect and induced service and purchases from various industry suppliers it goes up to $350 million. That’s using a very conservative multiplier. I don’t want to try to reach out for a bigger one because you can’t really verify it right now. But we’re planning to go to the next phase with an analysis to pretty accurately estimate what the real indirect value is. And it’s very likely that value will grow to over $400 million,” Thompson said.

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Bugging out — Soggy spring brings swarms of mosquitoes

Photo by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. Late, large snowmelt pools in Southcentral Alaska have spawned a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

Photo by Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter. Late, large snowmelt pools in Southcentral Alaska have spawned a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Only two things in life are certain, as the saying goes: Death and taxes. Alaska could add one more to that list — mosquitoes. And this spring, the inevitable swarm of the relentless bloodsuckers has hatched in such ferocity as to make the first two certainties seem not the worst of the list.

“It’s probably going to be a nice buggy year,” said Janice Chumley, integrated pest management specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Office in Soldotna.

That’s putting it mildly. Kelly Keating-Griebel, of Soldotna, puts it less so:

“Never seen it like this before, and I’ve been here 42 years,” she said.

Southcentral Alaska is experiencing a perfect storm of conditions to produce a mass spring hatch of mosquitoes. Or rather, experiencing the consequences of storms last fall. Southcentral was deluged with rain last September and October, followed by temperatures plunging below freezing before an insulating layer of snow fell. That pushed frost deep into the ground, ensuring a slow thaw come spring. On top of that came a period of late snowfall in March. To pile on even further were cool, cloudy conditions persisting into April. It wasn’t until the end of April and into early May that the spring thaw really began in earnest.

But even as sunshine and warmer temperatures started making soggy work of the snow, the ground below was still frozen, leaving the excess water sitting in expanding melt pools on the surface.

That’s a perfect nursery for a certain type of mosquito.

“I think it’s just a late and heavy snowmelt,” said Matt Bowser, entomologist with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “On my property and here at the refuge we had more and deeper pools that persisted later, so I think it was ideal conditions for this species of mosquito to really produce a lot.”

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Science of the Seasons: Summer mosquitoes excel at surviving winter

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

There are several dozen species of mosquitoes found in Alaska, and each of them has its own particular life cycle, although all of them are aquatic. Some prefer lakes, others ponds or various marshy habitats. Eggs are laid in the water and hatch out to become “wrigglers,” or larvae. Most of the larvae feed on algae or dead plant materials. They then form a pupa and shortly afterward emerge and become the aerial mosquitoes we love to hate.

The females usually mate and then look for a blood meal — and your arm looks like a great source of that blood. Note that only the females need a blood meal, so those buzzing around your head are all female mosquitoes.

When you and I swat at the mosquito that’s buzzing about, we probably don’t take the time to differentiate the particular species. But each species has its own approach to surviving the Alaska winters.

Many species overwinter as an egg that is laid in water during late summer or early fall. The egg remains underwater in a diapause state of inactivity until spring thaws. In the spring when water temperatures rise, the eggs hatch and the larvae feed voraciously. Within a week or so, they pupate and quickly become the aerial insects we know so well.

Another overwintering approach is for adults to find a safe hiding spot and wait out the cold of winter. Often these hiding spots are within leaf piles on the forest floor, in tree holes or under tree stumps. These areas, especially with a snow cover, provide insulation from the very coldest temperatures of winter.

An important goal for overwintering adults is to prevent ice crystal formation within their hemolymph (insect blood). First they reduce the amount of water in their hemolymph, kind of like concentrating their blood. Then they produce glycerol within the hemolymph, which acts as antifreeze. Now the adult is protected down to some pretty impressive temperatures. This activity is just like what we do to our automobile radiators each winter.

However, if the temperatures around the adult fall below the protected temperature range, the adult will die. Very cold temperatures during a winter with minimal snow cover can reduce the spring population of early mosquitoes.

For overwintering adults, when the ambient temperatures rise in the spring, they are quickly able to leave the hiding place and seek out a blood meal. One particularly large Alaska mosquito uses this overwintering technique so well that it is called the “snow mosquito.” These are usually the first large mosquitoes we see flying around when there is still snow on the ground in early April.

David Wartinbee, Ph.D, J.D., is a biology professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. He is writing a series of columns on the biology of the Kenai River watershed.

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Free wheelin’ — Fundraiser to help mom continue her independence

Photo courtesy of Maggie Winston. Maggie Winston cares for her twin boys, Dylan and Daemon, but worries that a move to their own home in October will limit their mobility because she won’t have her own transportation.

Photo courtesy of Maggie Winston.
Maggie Winston cares for her twin boys, Dylan and Daemon, but worries that a move to their own home in October will limit their mobility because she won’t have her own transportation.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Lifelong Alaskan Maggie Winston, 21, is as busy as most working, college-student moms — that is to say, very.

She recently graduated with an associate’s degree from Kenai Peninsula College, where she is continuing work toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as working as a tutor in the school’s leaning center.

When not at college, she is usually dropping off, picking up or volunteering at her twin boys’ — Dylan and Daemon — elementary school. She also takes them to various places around town, such as the park to play, or to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank to learn about volunteerism and other important life lessons related to giving and sharing.

Winston also is active in various organizations, such as serving on the board of directors for Frontier Community Services and the Independent Living Center. And when she’s not involved in any one these activities, she enjoys art and recently had her first book of illustrations published.

There is one exception, though, and it’s a major one. All her activities and responsibilities — her mom duties, household upkeep, work schedule, pickups, drop-offs, heres and theres — are done from a wheelchair, as Winston has been quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, since 2005.

“Everything changed drastically after that,” she said, referring to that day when her spinal cord swelled from an autoimmune disorder called transverse myelitis. Within two hours of the first sharp pains in her back she lost the ability to use her arms and legs. She spent months in hospitals in Anchorage and Washington before returning home to start learning a new way to live.

“Independence has always been a really important thing for me,” she said, her tattoos and fireweed-pink hair being an external testament to that free spirit. “So doing nothing was not an option, but not being able to use my arms, especially as a mom, was very difficult. You have to learn to do everything differently. It took a long time, but now my friends tell me they forget I’m paralyzed.”

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Fire danger crackles on Kenai Peninsula

Redoubt Reporter file photo

Redoubt Reporter file photo. The Shanta Creek Fire was sparked by lightning June 29, 2009, in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It burned more than 13,000 acres. Wildfire danger is again rated at high on the Kenai Peninsula.

By Carey Restino

Homer Tribune

By all accounts, the Kenai Peninsula has had some extraordinary weather this month. Day after day of warm, sunny weather, however, has done more than add a little extra color to the cheeks of local residents — it has dried grasses and lowered humidity to a dangerous level prime for wildfire.

A fire on Alan Drive off East End Road in Homer on Sunday grew to a half acre before it was put out by firefighters, said Andy Alexandrou, public information officer for the Alaska Division of Forestry in Soldotna. Luckily, wind has been minimal in the area and the fire didn’t spread. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Alexandrou said initial reports were that it involved sparks from a power line.

“That fire carried really well,” Alexandrou said. “It wasn’t a rip-roaring fire, but it still had 4-foot flame lengths.”

Much of the state is under red-flag conditions, a fire term for extreme fire danger, but the Kenai Peninsula is not at this point because it is lacking wind, Alexandrou said. Still, it is in planning level five, an extreme fire danger rating.

“We have temperatures climbing into the 70s and 80s and 90s,” Alexandrou said. “It’s a fine line.”

The extreme conditions mean all burn permits are suspended until further notice, and even burn barrels are prohibited until the weather shifts. Kenai Peninsula residents are still allowed to have campfires, but are advised to use extreme caution and to keep fires to smaller than 3-by-3 feet, Alexandrou said.

While other parts of the peninsula have greened up, the Homer area is still dealing with a dangerous mix of hot, dry temperatures and an abundance of dead, dry fuels, Alexandrou said. While fire crews are on high alert, patrolling the peninsula and staging in areas where they are most likely to be needed, the real responsibility lies with residents to be careful, Alexandrou said. Almost no fires on the southern Kenai Peninsula are started by lightning, historically — they are almost all man-made.

While lighting burn piles off at this time of year under these weather conditions is obviously a bad idea, residents would be well advised to think beyond just that egregious situation when it comes to potential ignition sources. A fire in Caribou Hills near Ninilchik in 2007 was started when sparks from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel ignited dry grass in the area. It destroyed a total of 55,438 acres of wilderness, and about 197 structures, including 88 cabins and other homes and 109 outbuildings. Other fires have been started from people driving four-wheelers and other recreation vehicles through fields. The hot exhaust system has been known to ignite dry fuels.

Regardless of whether you meant to or not, if you light a fire, you are liable for the cost of suppression and any damage you caused to the property of others.

Alexandrou said that the statewide high fire danger over the next week has caused the state agency to call in an extra air tanker capable of dumping retardant on fires from the Lower 48. But hot, dry weather is expected to stay with Alaska at least until the end of the week.

“The fire danger will remain high until the weather moderates,” Alexandrou said.

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School district predicts budget tightening to cover shortfall

By Carey Restino

Homer Tribune

This year’s Kenai Peninsula School District budget is more than $2 million in the red after state funding came in lower than expected. For this year, the district will balance the $149 million budget using its reserves, but in coming years, adjustments will have to be made to account for the shortfall, said KPBSD Superintendent Steve Atwater.

“We anticipated receiving more money from the state, and we did, but it came in the form of funding for security and safety changes for the district, and we needed it for operations,” Atwater said.

The district had already anticipated a $1 million shortfall, but the state funding came up another $1 million short, he said. While this year’s spending is already set, the district is soon going to have a conversation about how to proceed in the future, Atwater said.

Since 82 percent of the district’s budget pays for people, cutting staff is the most likely way the district will balance the budget, he said. How to do that is tricky, though. Since the district’s student population is gradually declining districtwide, the district’s funding from the state continues to decline. But district pupil-to-teacher rates set the maximum number of students in each classroom, and the loss of a student here or there may not change the staffing numbers. Atwater said that there is enough funding in the reserve account to keep the current budget afloat for five years if state funding remains at its current level.

“It would be nice if the state would give the Base Student Allocation an increase,” he said. “It makes no sense to drain the reserves down to zero.”

Atwater said that the district faces challenges because there are so many small schools in the area. While none of those schools are in danger of closing at the moment because of low enrollments, it is expensive to keep so many remote schools going.

The school board will likely have to discuss measures, such as increasing the pupil-teacher ratio, in coming years if the state funding formula doesn’t change, Atwater said.

Meanwhile, the state did appropriate about $1.4 million for the school district to make safety and security improvements districtwide. Atwater said that one of the first ways that funding will be used is to change the door locks on a lot of the schools. Currently, the doors lock from the outside only, he said. New locks that can be locked from the inside, as well, will be installed, he said.

Atwater said the quality of the education experience for peninsula students isn’t likely to be significantly changed by future budget adjustments, but that there will need to be some cost-cutting measures.

“We are not looking at compromising our kids’ experience in a dramatic way,” Atwater said. “I think they are still going to get a quality education experience, but we are going to be looking at tightening our belts in the coming year.”

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Take aim at disc golf craze — Tournament lands growing popularity with new course

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mikhail Parrish, 5, plays in the Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday while on vacation from Germany. The event was hosted by River City Rotaract and held at the 19-hole course at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Mikhail Parrish, 5, plays in the Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday while on vacation from Germany. The event was hosted by River City Rotaract and held at the 19-hole course at Tsalteshi Trails behind Skyview High School.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As Mikhail Parrish, on vacation with his family from Germany, stepped up to the tee, he realized the immense task that stood in front of him. There was a deep dogleg to the right obscuring his drive. Even without the bend the narrow fairway had tall spruce and dense vegetation on either side, also obstructing his field of view, and the course dropped dozens of feet in elevation from the tee.

Still, if he felt any trepidation, he didn’t show it as he stepped up, focused on his foot placement, aimed for an end goal he could not see, then let a flat, tangerine-colored disc rip into the nearly cloudless sky.

Not a hole in one, but not a bad toss, especially given that Mikhail is all of 5 years old. It was good enough to bring a smile to his face, and to the faces of the organizers of the inaugural Salmon Toss Disc Golf Tournament held Saturday on the new course at Tsalteshi Trails behind to Skyview High School. Roughly two dozen people took part in the tournament, which involved 19 holes of play, as well as longest drive and closest-to-the-pin events.

“This is a good turnout for our first event. I’m really pleased with it,” said Stephanie Musgrove, an organizer of the event and co-chair of River City Rotaract, a group of young adults who are service partners with Rotary International and responsible for the course’s inception this past year.

“The purpose of this event was primarily awareness,” she said. “We wanted people to know it was here, so they could come all summer and play.”

The goal of the organizers also was to give kids, teens and adults an opportunity for fitness, friendship and fun. Those involved Saturday were of varying ages, experience levels and from different regions of the country and world, all engaged in the fun of disc golf, whether they call it that, “frolf” or aiming for the chains.

While Parrish was one of the youngest players of the day, Mike Guilliame, 49, of Anchorage, brought much more experience. While he only began playing disc golf about two years ago, he said that when he was a kid he played Frisbee on the beaches of Florida, from which he originally hails.

“Within eight months I started winning events and last year I was the Ace Race winner in Anchorage,” he said.

Stocky-framed, silver-haired and accurate with his throws, Guilliame said that he got so good so quickly by putting in a lot of practice hours.

“I play a lot more than most people,” he said. “Some people play once to twice a week, but I used to live next to a course, so I played two to four times a day for eight months.”

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