Monthly Archives: October 2013

Water woes worsen — Weekend rains exacerbate flood along K-Beach

Borough declares emergency in fall flooding

On Tuesday, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre signed a local disaster emergency declaration due to the unseasonably heavy rain and elevated ground water that have resulted in the flooding of many homes, properties and roads throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough, according to a borough news release. One of the primary areas affected includes numerous subdivisions covering approximately 6,000 acres adjacent to Kalifornsky Beach Road, from Mile 11 to Mile 16.

The declaration has been sent to the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which will be reviewed and forwarded to Gov. Sean Parnell for consideration. If approved, the disaster declaration could open the door to governmental funding to address damages caused by the flooding.

On Monday, the borough issued a warning to use extreme caution when driving in neighborhoods adjacent to Kalifornsky Beach Road, from Mile 11 to 14, where roads, culverts and ditches are covered in standing water. Access should be limited only to four-wheel-drive or ATV vehicles when necessary. Never drive in conditions beyond the limits of visibility, including standing water where the depths are unknown, according the borough. The following roads are listed as having dangerous standing water conditions: Bore Tide, Kalgin, Ebb Tide, Karluk, Buoy, Green Forest, Bore Tide Court, Eider, Patrick, Eastway, Seabiscuit, Skiff Court, Trawling, Dogfish and Westway off of Karluk.

For more information on this road hazard warning, and on dealing with flooding, visit the borough Office of Emergency Management online at www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency-mgmt.

 

Photos courtesy of Tammy Vollom-Matturro. Waterfowl paddle through a yard in the Karluk neighborhood. Rains over the weekend and into Monday dumped additional water onto already flooded neighborhoods along Kalifornsky Beach Road. The Kenai Peninsula Borough on Tuesday announced a disaster declaration for flooding in the borough this fall.

Photos courtesy of Tammy Vollom-Matturro. Waterfowl paddle through a yard in the Karluk neighborhood. Rains over the weekend and into Monday dumped additional water onto already flooded neighborhoods along Kalifornsky Beach Road. The Kenai Peninsula Borough on Tuesday announced a disaster declaration for flooding in the borough.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The depressing reality for residents dealing with flooding this fall along sections of Kalifornsky Beach Road is that there’s isn’t much they can do to address the situation but keep on keeping on, holding out the rapidly diminishing hope that the high water table saturating the ground and wreaking havoc on homes and roads recedes before winter’s freezing temperatures set in.

Within the last six weeks that the water table has risen, the situation has gone from bad — with roads, basements and crawl spaces flooding — to worse — with septic systems failing and all the potential health risks posed by swamped leach fields near water wells — to ridiculous over the weekend as a storm dumped inches of rain into the already saturated neighborhoods and surrounding wetlands area.

“It’s laughable. I mean, it’s not funny, but it is funny, because what else can you do but laugh? Seriously, what can you do?” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, of Karluk Avenue, on Monday, pondering how she was going to get her two daughters home from the bus stop that afternoon through the river that had become the road and the lake that had overtaken her driveway.

“I didn’t even get to the end of my driveway and the water was over my boots. I hadn’t even hit the road yet. So I’m thinking, ‘There is no way that my daughters would get to the front door today if I wasn’t home.’ Usually they walk home from the bus stop,” she said.

Karluk Avenue is covered in standing water Monday.

Karluk Avenue is covered in standing water Monday.

Not Monday. Instead, she would drive from her house through the bumper-deep water to her neighbor’s higher driveway across the street, then navigate carefully up the road to the bus stop, taking extra caution to avoid the now-invisible flooded ditches on the sides of the road that a road crew from the Kenai Peninsula Borough had recently put in.

“The problem is they dug these ditches really, really deep on Karluk and now that the water’s flooding the road you have no idea where those ditches are. I guarantee they’ll be pulling someone out because you can’t see where the road ends and that ditch begins,” Vollom-Matturro said.

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Land Trust to preserve habitat along Anchor River

By Carey Restino

Homer Tribune

Photo by Carey Restino, Homer Tribune. Streams on Anchor River property recently purchased by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust were found to have juvenile coho salmon in them. These groundwater-fed streams provide valuable habitat as well as are a source of cool water in the summer.

Photo by Carey Restino, Homer Tribune. Streams on Anchor River property recently purchased by the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust were found to have juvenile coho salmon in them. These groundwater-fed streams provide valuable habitat as well as are a source of cool water in the summer.

Climbing through the tangle of willow bushes and tall grasses topped by cottonwood trees and interlaced with streams, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Marie McCarty stops, looks around and comments on how beautiful the surrounding scene is.

“And you know the best thing,” she asks, sidestepping a large, groundwater-fed pool. “The best thing is that this land is going to stay just like this.”

For several years, the land trust has been working to identify parcels along the Anchor River that have significant value in protecting the health of the popular fish resource. The Anchor River, as well as many other rivers in Alaska, runs the risk of being impacted by increasing water temperatures as Alaska climate changes. Areas of the stream with overhanging banks help provide cool spots for salmon, as long as they aren’t developed or damaged by human impacts.

More than a decade ago, the land trust began to identify parcels of interest from a conservation standpoint along the river. A 55-acre donated parcel near Blackwater Bend jump-started those acquisitions. The land trust was able to use that donation to help acquire another 64-acre parcel on the other side of Blackwater Bend. More recently, the focus has moved to the other side of the river, off the Old Sterling Highway, where it purchased the 11.76-acre parcel in 2011 after years of effort searching for funds and grants to help buy the valuable land. This property, along with a 12-acre chunk owned by Kachemak Moose Habitat Inc., started to make a significant portion of stream-abutting land protected from development. Add to that a parcel across the river owned by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources designated for moose habitat and public access under the Kenai Area Plan and the strength of the protection value increases geometrically.

Then, last summer, the land trust was able to add yet another chunk of land with Anchor River frontage beside the land it purchased in 2011. This new 15.35-acre parcel on the South Fork will add to those dedicated for permanent conservation to protect important salmon habitat.

Land trust board member Donna Aderhold, a biologist, pointed out features of the land as the group toured the land last week. Having large portions of land next to each other protected adds significantly to each acre’s value, she said, because streams move through all the parcels uninterrupted. The groundwater-fed streams found on the land that flow into the Anchor River not only keep the water cold in the summer, but also provide open water sources in the winter, thus making the properties even more valuable. Juvenile coho have been found in the backwater channels.

“We’ve been slowly patchworking these pieces together,” said McCarty. “They are important to the people, to the local economy and to us recreating.”

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Nature of the artwork — Art imitates nature in sculptor’s processes

"Droplet," resin and aluminum, part of a "Waterline" exhibit by Fairbanks artist Wendy Croskrey on display at Kenai Peninsula College.

“Droplet,” resin and aluminum, part of a “Waterline” exhibit by Fairbanks artist Wendy Croskrey on display at Kenai Peninsula College.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Branches snuggled in hoar frost’s furry coat, a delicate lacey filigree of ice on a windshield, the continuum of concentric circles wrinkling water’s silken surface — every trip outside is an opportunity to witness Alaska’s natural splendor.

“You don’t even have to be hiking and you are in the wilderness, you’re driving down the road and there’s beautiful mountain scenery. Last year I came out one day and I had a great frost pattern on my windshield. I tried to get a photograph of it but I was in a hurry and I thought, ‘Oh, well, it’ll happen tomorrow.’ But it didn’t happen the same way the rest of the year, so I think when you see things like that you have to take a record of it in some way,” said Wendy Croskrey, a sculptor in Fairbanks and associate art department professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

When awed by such examples of natural beauty, often the inclination is to capture it. Photographs help, but don’t quite represent the experience in all its three-dimensional textural lavishness. That’s the gift and curse of Alaska’s scenery — there’s always something to see, but the view’s always changing.

Unless you’re Croskrey, that is. Though she hasn’t managed to capture the beauty of the natural world in a bottle, she has managed to come close in representing it in her work, by emulating processes occurring in nature. Examples of the results can be seen in her exhibition “Waterline,” on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery and Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus through Nov. 8.

The pieces demonstrate Croskrey’s fascination with the natural world, both in process and finished product. Or, more specifically, in the look of the finished pieces through the processes she uses.

“I think that you can’t really, truly make something that’s exactly an imitation of nature, there’s just no way to really do that. So I let the processes sort of create these effects, which is something that I can’t do by taking a carving tool to it or sculpting it in clay. I’m using certain materials that aren’t from nature but they do imitate processes in nature,” Croskrey said.

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Frightful fun flicks — Halloween-related classic films draw costumed crowds

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Chris Morgan, Chris Morgan and Amanda Pugh, all of Soldotna, came in costume for the midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Orca Theater on Saturday.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Chris Morgan, Chris Morgan and Amanda Pugh, all of Soldotna, came in costume for the midnight showing of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Orca Theater on Saturday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There was a bit of a time warp last weekend at the Orca Theater in Soldotna. As part of Halloween-season festivities, fans of two movie classics, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “The Shining,” were treated to an opportunity to see these films on the big screen, but only for one night, one showing, at midnight Saturday.

“We did ‘Rocky Horror’ last year,” said Orca owner Shelly Endsley. “It was a great turnout and great to see all the people that dressed up for the show.”

The theater packed a nearly full house for the late-night showing, and despite that most audiences are expected to be interactive — dressing up, shouting lines and at times squirting water and throwing various props — theater manager Sarah Covault said that the crowd had a good time without causing any harm to the screen or theater.

“It was packed and you could hear them hooting and hollering from out here (in the lobby), but there was no more mess than after a usual movie,” she said. “Part of that is because we tell everyone the rules as they come in. They can sing, dance, shout and throw popcorn, but no toast or toilet paper or anything like that because our screen is a lot closer to the audience than most theaters where ‘Rocky Horror’ plays.”

As Halloween came closer this year, Endsley said that customers began asking her if the Orca would again screen the campy musical, and as the clock ticked closer to midnight of the screening, fans of the film began showing up in fishnets and corsets, and various other costumes representing the characters.

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Link Up harmonizes kids, adult musicians

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Staging a Link Up concert between the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, elementary school students and Carnegie Hall is a big undertaking, akin, it might feel, to the distance between the peninsula and Carnegie Hall in New York City. But one with big results, not unlike the work/reward of practicing, then performing a challenging yet thrilling piece of music.

That’s just one of the lessons that comes from the Link Up program — that music is worth the work.

“This is the second one we’ve done,” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, director of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra. “It was fantastic last year, we had our biggest audience of our lives — over 900 people in that auditorium. It was a huge, positive response all around the board.”

Link Up is an educational outreach program through Carnegie Hall, which has elementary school students learning songs to sing and play on the recorder, to perform with a bona fide, grown-up orchestra. In this case, students from Soldotna, Kenai, Ninilchik and Anchor Point schools will perform with the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra on Friday and Saturday, against a backdrop linked up via videoconference with Carnegie Hall.

Each of the three Link Up programs available have a different theme. Last year’s KPO Link Up program was “The Orchestra Sings.” This year is “The Orchestra Moves.”

“In all of these pieces, the underlying theme is movement — the melodies move, people move to the music and the music moves you, so all these pieces depict movement,” Vollom-Matturro said.

The program will include the first movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” Strauss’ “Blue Danube” waltz, the “Toreador” song from “Carmen,” and “Nocturne” from Mendelssohn. And, of course, given the movement theme, a can-can.

“All these great pieces, it’s really a fun show,” Vollom-Matturro said.

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Tips from the scales — Read between the lines to learn salmon data

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Fishery biologist Tony Eskelin, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna, points out features in an impression of a salmon scale magnified through a microfiche reader. As the head of the Fish and Game’s sampling of kings harvested in the Cook Inlet East-side commercial set-net fishery this summer, he examined over 600 scales like this to gauge the ages of the fish caught.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Fishery biologist Tony Eskelin, with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna, points out features in an impression of a salmon scale magnified through a microfiche reader. As the head of the Fish and Game’s sampling of kings harvested in the Cook Inlet East-side commercial set-net fishery this summer, he examined over 600 scales like this to gauge the ages of the fish caught.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If only salmon could talk. Biologists could solve some of the age-old mysteries about these wild, wily creatures, and answer questions regarding Alaska king salmon that have become increasingly worrisome in recent years.

It might go something like this:

How you been? Back so soon? Been getting enough to eat?

In a way, salmon can talk, at least so far as communicating information about themselves. It just takes a trained eye, rather than ear, to “listen.” And a fish scale, rather than mouth, to “speak.”

A single scale can say a lot about a salmon — its age, its growth patterns, its general life history. Similar to how a tree can be aged by counting its rings, calcified structures in fish, such as their scales and otoliths (ear bones), develop tiny rings, called circuli, that correspond to the growth of the animal. “Reading” the patterns of circuli and spaces between them can reveal information about a fish — did it grow a lot when it was out to sea? Did it survive some kind of injury or other limitation on its health? How many years did it spend in the ocean before returning to its natal stream to spawn?

The method for doing so is intricately precise, yet has a bit of a mystical feel, sort of like if biologists set up a tea leaf-reading booth at a science fair.

“Do you see it? Concentrate right in here. You can zoom out if you need to, that helps sometimes. The other trick is to step back and all of a sudden, ‘Oh, I can see the lines,” said Tony Eskelin, fisheries biologist in the Soldotna office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Eskelin headed the sampling project of king salmon harvested in the East-side Cook Inlet commercial set-net fishery this summer, meaning he had the task of aging hundreds of scales this fall. As with most nonintuitive processes, practice makes more proficient.

“I got a lot better after the, oh, 600 I did,” he said. “There are little things you can do to see them better.”

The idea of mining calcified structures for biological information is an old one — scientists first started examining fish scale patterns as a means to identify different groups of fish in the early 1900s. The standard technology used isn’t exactly going to set a Silicone Valley tech conference on fire, either. Sampled scales are affixed concave side up — like a contact lens — to scale cards marked with a grid three tall by 10 wide, accommodating three scales each from 10 fish. The cards are then pressed onto clear acetate sheets to make impressions of the scales, so the patterns can be examined while the scale cards themselves are filed into storage.

Scale cards lined with king salmon scales await pressing to transfer their images into the acetate covering the cards.

Scale cards lined with king salmon scales await pressing to transfer their images into the acetate covering the cards.

The scale press looks like a cross between an industrial drill press and an Easy-Bake Oven. The scale cards are covered with precut acetate sheets and placed on a metal tray, which is fed into a slot between two plates in the press. Pumping a lever brings the plates together, with a dial showing the force of pressure. Another gauge shows the temperature. There’s a specific recipe to be followed.

“It needs to get up to 25,000 PSI for two minutes, at at least 190 degrees,” Eskelin said.

When the cards are pressed they’re removed — hot, use gloves — and examined to make sure the impressions are clear. If not, they’re repressed. If they’re good, the cards are ready to be examined. On to hulking technological relic No. 2 — a microfiche reader, the kind used in libraries to examine film of old newspaper clippings.

salmon scales press

Tony Eskelin loads three scale cads, covered with a layer of acetate, into a scale press at the Fish and Game office in Soldotna. The machine presses and heats the scales, so that an impression is made in the acetate. The acetate then can be examined, while the scales are filed away in storage.

They might not be on the hot list at Best Buy this Christmas, but the machines are still used because they still work great for this task, said Wendy Gist, fisheries biologist in the Soldotna office, whose task this year was aging scales taken from sockeye salmon sampling.

“It’s kind of funny we use these old-fashioned machines. But I’ve done so much research because I’ve wanted to update to keep up with technology, but nothing works like this,” Gist said.

Once the microfiche is loaded, the science the science of scale reading becomes a little more of an art form. The methods of examining scales have been refined and standardized, sometimes minutely enough for one stock of salmon versus another, but there’s definitely an acquired knack to telling one clump of teeny-tiny wiggly lines from another clump of teeny-tiny wiggly lines.

That’s what the examiner looks for — bands of concentric circles radiating out from the focus — the line where the scale was attached to the fish. The distances between the circuli indicate how rapidly a fish has grown. Closer-together lines indicate a period of slower growth, which generally means wintertime, when feeding conditions aren’t as good. That’s a winter check. Bands with farther-apart circuli indicate a period of rapid growth, which generally occurs in the summer.

“You see a summer here, where it’s a little bit wider spaced — that’s better feeding, typically. Different feeding patterns are what create this pattern,” Gist said.

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Don’t get hung up on phone scams — Avoid falling victims to cyber crime

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Answering her phone Friday afternoon, Mary Toutonghi, of Soldotna, was understandably surprised to be informed she had won $5 million. She wasn’t, however, nearly as thrilled as the caller hoped she would be. Instead of following his instructions and calling the number she was given — likely in an effort to mine all manner of personal information — she was motivated to make a different phone call, to report what immediately struck her as a scam.

Problem was, not only did she not know who was calling and trying to scam her, she didn’t know how to go about reporting it.

“I was trying to figure out, who should I call? This should be reported to somebody, I just don’t know who,” she said.

The call was to her home phone, from a man who identified himself as Mike. He said he was calling from within the U.S., but his accent, to Toutonghi’s ear, placed him elsewhere. Toutonghi is a speech therapist, a career that has put her in contact with people of all manner of nationalities.

“I’d worked with quite a few kids from the East Indies in Seattle, so I recognized his accent as Jamaican, but he said, ‘Oh, well, we’re here in Las Vegas,’” Toutonghi said.

He told her she’d won $5 million. To receive it, she should call this phone number, give them this confirmation number and pin number, “And give them your information and they’ll take care of you,” she said.

He didn’t offer much explanation of how her good luck had come about. Only a vague statement to the effect of, “Have you heard of Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes?” He did not say, Toutonghi noticed, anything as definitive as he was with Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, or the contest was part of Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

“I think you’re supposed to be so excited you miss that part,” she said.

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