Daily Archives: February 5, 2014

School board dives into pool issue — Skyview facility to close unless funding found

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Special Olympics athlete Bryce Braun is all smiles while taking part in a swimming practice for the Central Peninsula Special Olympics Team at Skyview High School in April. He is aided by Alanna Hutto.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Special Olympics athlete Bryce Braun is all smiles while taking part in a swimming practice for the Central Peninsula Special Olympics Team at Skyview High School in April. He is aided by Alanna Hutto.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

On paper, closing the Skyview pool makes financial sense.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing a projected shortfall of at least $3.4 million next year, or as much as about $4.6 million factoring in costs of salary increases and depending on how state and borough funding shakes out. The annual cost of maintaining the pool is about $170,000, with another $80,000 scheduled to be spent this summer on a filter overhaul.

Kenai only has one pool. Soldotna has two. With the upcoming reconfiguration of Soldotna-area schools, Skyview will become the area’s middle school. Currently, students take swimming in high school.

With the majority of the district’s budget allocated to pay personnel, it’s tough to find places to cut that don’t involve teachers and other staff. The pool is used by the community as well as the school, but the district’s first priority is to its students.

“The pool is a positive place, and it’s an unfortunate situation we’re placed in, but we’re charged with doing what we can for children, not citizens who want to swim laps, so we’re doing what we can with the kids in mind. We’re not required to teach swimming — we’d love to, but we’re not mandated to. And the bottom line is there are two pools within a two-mile area and we can meet our mission’s goals with the kids at the (Soldotna High School) pool,” said Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent.

But to those who want to keep the pool open, doing so makes sense apart from budgets, as they see value beyond just dollars and cents.

“Kids need to learn how to swim and SoHi pool can’t accommodate all the swim lesson needs that we have here. I know people who currently drive to Homer to use the pool because the ones here are closed on weekends. Also, Skyview is used by many for rehab purposes, and so many people benefit from low-impact exercise. And swimming is such an important aerobic activity for your heart,” said Patty Moran, of Soldotna. “We need to be promoting healthy communities here on the peninsula. Taking away one of our huge resources for that is really unthinkable. Many people’s lives will be negatively impacted by the loss of that pool. It makes no sense at all,” she said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is holding public budget meetings at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Seward High School library, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Soldotna High School library and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Homer High School library. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend one of the meetings. For more information, contact Lassie Nelson at 714-8838.

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Moose record shot down — No bull: 75 5/8-inch rack topples Soldotna man’s record after 20 years

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club. Heinz Naef’s bull, shot along the Yukon River, was certified Jan. 24 as the new world record. Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, unseats the previous record holder, John Crouse, of Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Heinz Naef, of Dawson City, Yukon, is one happy hunter these days, what with the bull moose he shot Sept. 22, 2013, along the Yukon River near Stewart Island having recently been certified as the new Boone and Crockett world record.

That’s a feeling few hunters can claim, but it’s one with which John Crouse, of Soldotna, is familiar. His moose, taken in 1994 in the Fortymile River area, was the previous world record-holder, finally dislodged about 20 years later by Naef’s behemoth bull.

Naef was hunting by himself, more interested in winter meat than a trophy, according to the Boone and Crockett Club. He removed the antlers from the skull with a chainsaw, nicking them in the process, but they remained intact to measure 75 5/8 inches at the widest point — about the width of a king-sized bed. The left side had 17 points and a palm measuring 17 5/8 inches wide by 51 inches long, which is longer than the average shoulder height of a black bear. The right antler had 19 points and a palm measuring 23 6/8 inches wide by 50 7/8 inches long. The record was certified by a special judges panel convened at the Boone and Crockett Club Wild Sheep Foundation convention Jan. 24 in Reno, Nev. With a final score of 263 5/8 points, the bull has the largest antlers ever recorded for the Alaska-Yukon moose subspecies.

By just the antler spread, Crouse’s moose wouldn’t seem to measure up, at 65 1/8 inches wide. When he first spotted the bull, and even after shooting and butchering it, it didn’t occur to Crouse that he might have a record on his hands.

Crouse, a wildlife biologist, was living and working in Cordova at the time. This bull was by far not the widest antler spread he’d seen.

“The guy I was working for had an 84-inch Copper River rack hanging on the wall in our office,” Crouse said. “And so I walked up to (this moose) very happy thinking, ‘This is a nice, big moose,’ but I was not thinking record book at all because it’s mid-60s. My impression of records at the time was big, wide racks and I wasn’t familiar with the scoring system.”

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Dredging up gold-era history — Effort to save mining relic goes up in smoke

Photos courtesy of Jane Haigh. Chatanika Gold Dredge No. 3, outside of Fairbanks, is seen before being scorched in a fire in August 2013. The dredge is co-owned by Jane Haigh, of Soldotna, who bought it to try and preserve this 70-year-old, 300-foot piece of gold mining history.

Photos courtesy of Jane Haigh. Chatanika Gold Dredge No. 3, outside of Fairbanks, is seen before being scorched in a fire in August 2013. The dredge is co-owned by Jane Haigh, of Soldotna, who bought it to try and preserve this 70-year-old, 300-foot piece of gold mining history.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It was a quintessential impulse buy: completely unplanned, wholly unpractical, outside the bounds of discretionary spending, yet completely irresistible.

“I’m, like, ‘Gotta have it,’ you know?”

That was the response of Jane Haigh, of Soldotna, upon seeing a classified ad in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in 1997.

The object of her desire? Not a snowmachine, nor a fish smoker. Neither a hot tub, backcountry cabin, sport boat or any of the myriad other items for which Alaskans develop itchy spending fingers.

Here’s a hint: At the time, she was a mining historian, living in Fairbanks since 1970 (and now is a history professor at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus).

Here’s another: It’s bigger than a breadbox. Much bigger. Possibly bigger than the manufacturing machinery that made breadboxes, and was employed in significantly altering miles upon miles of Alaska’s landscape and hydrology.

“I’m a mining historian, so I knew about gold mining in Alaska and I’d been fascinated with gold dredges for years. And they had an ad in the paper,” Haigh said.

For sale: One ginormous, intact but inoperable, metal-and-wood hulking hydraulic relic at Mile 29 Steese Highway, complete with 50 acres of scraped-out pond and machine-made corduroy tailings mounds, a testament to the power and prevalence of the 1920s industrial gold mining boom in Alaska.

Or something like that. Whatever the wording, even if simply, “Chatanika Gold Dredge No. 3 for sale,” Haigh was intrigued and mentioned it to another history-minded friend, Patricia Peirsol. They marshaled the finances to purchase the dredge and surrounding property.

In terms of monetary value, it wasn’t much of an investment, and they had no particular plan for the dredge. They weren’t hoping to open a tourist attraction, make it into some kind of TV show-worthy extreme home or sell it off piece by piece. Exactly the opposite. They bought it to do nothing with it, so no one else would try any of those things, and the history would remain just as it was.

“I didn’t want anybody to turn it into a restaurant or RV park, which is what people were talking about. We didn’t want that to happen, so we thought, ‘We’ll just protect it by buying it.’ It was kind of a thing of, ‘Well, if we owned it, it wouldn’t be lost,’” Haigh said.

Or moved, or massively transformed, which, to a historian, is another kind of loss.

“I just like to preserve historic buildings, and it would be nice if they could be preserved where they are. You kind of lose something when you’re living in this environment where everything is new,” Haigh said. “I’ve done a lot of trying to preserve things, I think that was part of it.”

Trying more than succeeding sometimes, it feels like. Haigh can rattle off physical reminders of Fairbanks’ gold-era beginnings that are now gone — historic cabins, coal bunkers, the Northern Commercial Co. general store downtown that dated back to the turn of the century.

The dredge had a significant effect on the topography of the Chatanika valley, dredging out a pond covering the valley floor, scooping up buckets full of gravel and depositing the tailings into huge new mounds.  Even though the dredge was damaged in a fire, the area itself still has value as a peek into Alaska’s early industrial gold-mining era, said Jane Haigh, co-owner of the dredge.

The dredge had a significant effect on the topography of the Chatanika valley, dredging out a pond covering the valley floor, scooping up buckets full of gravel and depositing the tailings into huge new mounds. Even though the dredge was damaged in a fire, the area itself still has value as a peek into Alaska’s early industrial gold-mining era, said Jane Haigh, co-owner of the dredge.

“Nordstrom bought it,” she said. “Not so surprisingly they just decided to up and tear it down, and we got really upset. But by the time you hear about these things it’s too late. People were saying, ‘They can do whatever they want, it’s their property.’ So someplace in there it occurred to me that if you want to save something, you’re going to have to buy it.’”

They approached prospective partners and mined some potential funding veins, but none panned out.

“I guess in this new world of the millennial generation they sort of wait for these angel funders, and they have all these new things that they can do — Kickstarter or whatever,” Haigh said. “They seem to be able to raise millions of dollars at the drop of a hat. I don’t really know how that happens. Sometimes if you want to do something, you have to just do it — you can’t wait around for someone to fund it.”

So they just did it, bought 50 acres of tailings mounds and a nearly 70-year-old, 300-foot industrial mining relic. Sixteen years later, on Aug. 3, 2013, their aspirations of preservation went up in smoke.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Craft beer brewing booms economically

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Devin Wagner, new brewer at Kenai River Brewing Co., stands with the brewery’s new fermenter.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Devin Wagner, new brewer at Kenai River Brewing Co., stands with the brewery’s new fermenter.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

The number of craft breweries in the U.S. continues to grow, as does their economic importance. According to a new analysis by the Brewers Association — the nonprofit trade association that represents the majority of U.S. breweries — small and independent American craft brewers contributed $33.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012.

During this time frame, craft brewers sold an estimated 13,235,917 barrels of beer, with a retail dollar value estimated at $11.9 billion. The industry also provided more than 360,000 jobs, with 108,440 jobs directly at breweries and brewpubs, including serving staff at brewpubs. There are now more than 2,400 craft breweries and brewpubs out there, spread across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, plus hundreds more in the planning stage.

If we narrow our focus and look just at Alaska, our local breweries and brewpubs have the equivalent of 1,288 full-time employees, pay over $52 million in wages and generate over $150 million in total impact to our state’s economy. This works out to $293.57 for every 21-and-older adult in the entire state. In this statistic Alaska ranks a very respectable sixth in the nation, behind only Oregon ($448.50), Colorado ($436.50), Vermont ($418.57), Maine ($324.36) and Montana ($315.37). Alaska’s beer economy is almost twice the national average of $149.56 per capita.

I have speculated in past columns as to why Alaska “punches above its weight” so consistently when it comes to craft beer, so I won’t revisit that. However, if anyone out there needs more data in addition to the economic numbers above to convince them that this is indeed the case, I would have invited them to attend Alaska Beer Week, which was held Jan. 9 through Jan. 19 this year.

While this 10-day celebration of craft beer is still primarily a local affair (and I hope it always remains so!), it is also attended by craft beer lovers from all across the U.S. The reputation of Alaska’s brewers is such that people think nothing of flying up to Anchorage in the dead of winter from places like North Carolina, Georgia, California and Colorado just to have a chance to meet them face to face and sample their beers.

One of the breweries whose beers are so sought after by these visitors from Outside is Soldotna’s very own Kenai River Brewing Co. Doug Hogue and the rest of his merry band have established a real reputation for excellence, especially for some of their more unusual offerings, such as their infamous Gummi Bear Tripel.

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Beer, bacon brews up fun

Photos courtesy of Tracie Howard. Beers await judging in the homebrew competition.

Photos courtesy of Tracie Howard. Beers await judging in the homebrew competition.

Staff report

It would be difficult to say whether the beer or the bacon was the bigger hit at the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society’s Beer and Bacon Festival on Jan. 25 at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai. Likely it was the combination of the two, as participants entered their appetizers and entrées in the cooking competition, and homebrewers submitted their bottles to see whose was deemed best.

When the crumbs settled, best professional entrée was awarded to Mykel’s Restaurant, with best professional appetizer awarded to Main Street Tap and Grill. Novice awards were

Steve Ford, of Kenai, enters his and Chris Arbelovsky’s Russian imperial stout in the homebrew competition.

Steve Ford, of Kenai, enters his and Chris Arbelovsky’s Russian imperial stout in the homebrew competition.

presented to Bruce Babbot for best entrée, and Team Challenger for best appetizer. In the homebrew competition, Chris Arbelovsky and Steve Ford were selected for their Russian imperial stout. The two only began brewing in 2013.

“We dove into it and had some fair to poor results, which evolved into some good questions for the more experienced brewing members of the (other brewers in the club),” Ford said.

The Russian imperial was their third try, brewed over the summer.

“You use more malt in this style of beer, which offsets the bitterness of the hops. We also used yeast that can survive higher alcohol levels, which results from the yeast converting the sugar during fermentation,” Ford said.

The result was an 11 percent ABV ale that can age for years like wine.

“(It) was black as night and heavier feeling in the mouth, more like swallowing an oyster. It was loaded with flavor,” Ford said. “… We entered our last bottle in the competition. This is one recipe we will make again.”

And this is one festival the club will hold again. Get your beer and bacon ideas brewing for the 2015 festival, scheduled for Feb. 7. For more information on the Kenai Peninsula Brewing and Tasting Society, look them up online on Facebook or Meetup.

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Night Lights: Planets persist to shine

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Late in the evening, winter constellations such as Taurus, Pegasus and Andromeda have set already. But others show their glory — Orion with seven bright stars, among them red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, Auriga with yellow Capella, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, and Procyon and Sirius in the Canis Minor and Major, both arching toward the horizon from the Twins. Leo, a harbinger of spring, with Regulus in its front paw appears high in the south, the Big Dipper is now virtually overhead, blue Vega and Cygnus with Deneb is just above and the Little Dipper and Polaris, as always, are 60 degrees above the northern horizon. In the east, Bootes with red Arcturus appears.

Planets in the evening and all night:

You still can’t miss bright Jupiter as it rises in the northeast in the early evening, moving through the south and setting in the northwest when school starts in the morning. This winter it appears in Gemini, making a nice triangle with Pollux and its fainter twin, Castor. Farther to the right (west) you can see red Aldebaran’s arrowhead in Taurus, as well as the Pleiades star cluster, also called the Seven Sisters, or Subaru in Japanese. The gibbous moon is next to Jupiter on Feb. 10.

If you have good binoculars, prop your elbows on a car roof and observe Jupiter’s moons. You get good views every evening, but Feb. 24 you can see them lining up next to the giant planet in order of their distance — Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Mars rises in the east around 11 p.m., next to Virgo’s Spica, both of them making a very acute triangle with Bootes’ Arcturus. The gibbous moon is nearby on Feb. 18 and 19.

Saturn rises around 1 p.m. It is joined by the crescent moon Feb. 25.

Uranus and Neptune appear too close to the sun, so that it would be too difficult so see them against bright twilight.

Andy Veh is an associate professor of physics, math and astronomy at Kenai Peninsula College.

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Plugged In: Avoiding high-resolution shock from shake

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

It’s nearly axiomatic that the resolution of photographic tools constantly increases, with some cellphone cameras claiming an astonishing 41 megapixels, but it’s not a free ride. As photo resolution increases, so do potential pitfalls.

With some knowledge and discipline, these problems are readily avoidable. This week, we’ll consider a few basic practices whose importance becomes more evident as resolution increases. These tips are just as useful for users of cellphone and basic cameras as for persons using more advanced photographic tools, perhaps more so because cellphones and basic cameras don’t have as much technical leeway to compensate for sloppy technique.

It’s worth remembering that digital photography generally provides a higher level of image quality with less hassle than traditional film photography. During the film era, it was difficult to produce an excellent quality, 11-by-14-inch color print from 35-mm film or a technically excellent print larger than 16-by-20-inches with a large-format view camera.

Now, even consumer-grade, interchangeable-lens digital cameras are quite adequate for most professional requirements, easily exceeding the quality of film photography and early digital photography. These technical advances encourage modern users to make much larger prints than prior practice and to project their images onto giant TV screens.

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