Daily Archives: May 7, 2014

Crash in a flash — All OK in sudden landing at Skilak

Photos by Jenny Neyman. Donny Joachim’s Cessna 172 sits in pieces at his home on Funny River Road this week, after crash landing at the foot of Skilak Glacier on April 29.

Photos by Jenny Neyman. Donny Joachim’s Cessna 172 sits in pieces at his home on Funny River Road this week, after crash landing at the foot of Skilak Glacier on April 29.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When Soldotna private pilot Donny Joachim and his three passengers spotted a black bear in the gravely moraine at the foot of Skilak Glacier on April 29, it was the topper of a gorgeous spring flight they thought couldn’t get much better.

In less time than it takes to deal a deck of cards it turned into the worst aviation experience they’ve had, and hopefully will ever have, as they luckily all walked away from the crash that soon happened.

One second Joachim’s Cessna 172 was circling around the black bear, having just glided down Skilak Glacier during a flight-seeing trip from Soldotna up over the Harding Icefield. The next, he hit the throttle, with no response. Seconds after that he was telling his passengers to brace for impact.

“I didn’t have that much reaction time. It was like, ‘This is happening, and it’s imminent, it’s now,’” Joachim said.

Joachim, 37, who lives out Funny River Road, took off from the Soldotna Airport about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, taking two friends, Levi, 25, and Logan Sutton, 22, of Soldotna, and their visiting cousin, Reid Nelson, 19, of Cokato, Minnesota, up to sight see.

“I was showing a kid Alaska from the air. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and I’m lucky to be able fly. I’ve taken loads up people up on that same flight,” Joachim said.

They headed to the Harding Icefield, climbing to 7,000 feet for views of the eastern peninsula and Prince William Sound beyond. Joachim headed down Skilak Glacier, traveling about 130 knots, descending to about 500 feet when they spotted the bear. He circled down to about 200 feet for a better look, slowing to about 60 mph (about 52 knots). Joachim made a pass, then hit the throttle to climb back up and out of the glacial valley, resulting in nothing but a sinking feeling to go with the quickly sinking plane.

“I put in power and there was just nothing — it didn’t climb, it just continued to descend. I pulled it out, put it back in, went through my emergency checklist and told the boys, ‘We’re gonna crash land.’ They thought I was joking, and I wasn’t. We continued descending, they braced themselves, we hit the ground and that was it,” Joachim said.

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Fowl hooked — Mackey pike nets snare ducks, eagle

Photos courtesy of Michael Moore. Ducks drowned last week after getting tangled in nets set to combat the pike infestation in Mackey and area lakes.

Photos courtesy of Michael Moore. Ducks drowned last week after getting tangled in nets set to combat the pike infestation in Mackey and area lakes.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The good news is that nets deployed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game last fall in four lakes in Soldotna were successful in catching more than 2,000 invasive pike. The bad news is that last week, as ice melted out of the lakes, the nets caught some nontargeted, noninvasive species, too.

“We did have one eagle entangled, and that was released from the nets. There was eight golden-eye ducks and one bufflehead duck in four of the lakes that were harvested,” said Robert Begich, area management biologist for Fish and Game.

Fish and Game decided to winter fish East and West Mackey, Derk’s and Union lakes as a way to combat the invasive pike population, which has decimated native fish species.

“The reason why we wanted to net underneath the ice is that during the wintertime the female pike, the larger ones, move quite a bit, more so than they

The nets were to be removed at ice out, but thaw came earlier than expected this year.

The nets were to be removed at ice out, but thaw came earlier than expected this year.

do in the summertime. And when the ice just starts to get thin, right at ice out, basically, is when pike spawn and move into the shallows, so we wanted to capitalize on that and then knock pike back during that time period,” Begich said.

The nets went in just before freeze-up and were meant to come out right at ice out, but the timing of the thaw didn’t happen as expected.

“This year, peninsulawide, it was about a week to 10 days earlier than normal. Stuff started to loosen up on the 28th. Mackey went out on Wednesday and Thursday,” he said.

Fish and Game retrieved the nets Thursday and Friday, after an area resident reported that waterfowl were being drowned and an eagle was ensnared, and pulled three nets onto shore.

“Some of the nets were still frozen so it was hard to get at them,” Begich said. “It’s a surprise for us, we don’t like to catch birds.”

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Swine time — Peninsula’s livestock season kicks off with a herd of oinks

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Tim Benson, in overalls, and Brian Rohr survey the swine scene at Kenai Feed last week.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Tim Benson, in overalls, and Brian Rohr survey the swine scene at Kenai Feed last week.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

It was a grunting, rooting, oinking sea of pink, but a relatively calm sea until Dan Chaloux entered. Gradually the noise became louder and the movement faster, and as Chaloux lunged, the sound of the creature caught was deafening.

“I should have brought my ear plugs,” he shouted over the screams of the swine he was carrying out of a high tunnel filled with 425 pigs at Kenai Feed and Supply last week.

The porkers were not going easily. Whenever Chaloux entered they would scatter. Once he had a hand on one they would kick, twist, bite and attempt to wrestle away from him with all their might.

“The best way is to go for the back leg and hold tight,” he said. “Then, if they’re little enough, I can get my other arm under them and scoop them up, or with the big ones I can get both back legs and kind of wheelbarrow them, but either way it starts with that back leg. If you go for a front, they have too much power behind them.”

The pigs were in the 20- to 100-pound range and being picked out for different reasons, according to Sarah Donchi, store owner.

“The small ones were born February 1st, while the larger ones were born in December. The little ones go to 4-H, while the larger ones are feeder pigs that people will raise for butchering, since some people like them to be done sooner,” she said.

Getting small pigs for 4-H isn’t just a prerogative, it’s in keeping with a policy. According to the rules for participants raising pigs for the Junior Market Livestock program, pigs had to be acquired by May 1 and weigh not less than 180 or more than 260 pounds by the time they are shown during the Kenai Peninsula Fair in August.

“I wanted one with a long back, because a long back means a long loin. I also wanted one with a little indent on their rump, because that shows how much muscle they have and they usually grow the biggest and make the most meat,” said Skyler Shadle, of Homer, a three-time competitor in JML, and the participant with the largest swine last year, weighing in at 260 pounds.

“He spends a lot of time with them,” said his mom, Jackie Eisenberg. “He gets them so big by mixing a little molasses into their feed, and our real secret is giving them fodder with sprouted barley, which we grow ourselves. It’s like wheat grass for pigs, high in protein and rich in micronutrients.”

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New HEA plant sparks capacity — Facility, upgrades mean energy independence

Photo by Hanna Heimbuch, Homer Tribune. HEA’s Nikiski Combined Cycle Plant began operating in January and was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting Thursday.

Photo by Hanna Heimbuch, Homer Tribune. HEA’s Nikiski Combined Cycle Plant began operating in January and was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting Thursday.

By Hannah Heimbuch

Homer Tribune

May Day welcomed more than early summer weather last week, it also marked the dedication of a new Homer Electric Association plant in Nikiski. About 100 of the energy co-op’s members and employees gathered at the Nikiski Combined Cycle Plant — which began operating the first of this year — to commemorate and tour the Nikiski plant and the Bernice Lake Combustion Turbine Plant.

“(It is) truly monumental in the history of Homer Electric Association,” said HEA Board of Directors President Dick Waisanen. The plant represents HEA’s transition into a new era in many ways, he said, both by its technology and the independence it represents.

As of Jan. 1, HEA became independent from wholesale supplier Chugach Electric Association.

“In the end, all of our lofty goals have been accomplished,” said Alaska Electric and Energy Cooperative President Bill Fry. “We are producing our own power, we are independent.”

That independence came with a boost in personnel, adding 34 full-time, long-term jobs to the HEA staff list. Some of those new positions are located at Power Dispatch in Nikiski, a state-of-the-art control center manned 24/7. Dispatch staff, posted in front of dozens of ever-changing information screens, match power generation to member load and maintain system frequency. This dispatch center connects HEA’s diverse power generation system, including the Bernice Lake plant. HEA purchased Bernice Lake from Chugach Electric in 2011. It uses three gas turbines to produce 80 megawatts of power.

The new plant at Nikiski also generates 80 megawatts of power, 18 of them produced by a new steam turbine. The steam turbine uses waste heat from the combustion turbine, converting the heat to usable energy that’s pumped back into the HEA grid without using any additional natural gas.

Plant Superintendent Larry Jorgensen describes a combustion turbine as a jet engine mounted on skids. The turbine capacity in Nikiski is equivalent to about 45,000 horsepower, he said. The heat recovery steam generator pulls the 950- to 1,000-degree heat coming from that turbine, and converts it to steam — 370,000 pounds per hour at maximum capacity.

“That’s the energy savings,” Jorgensen said. “We’ll remove that heat and convert it to power.”

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Caught in the acting —  Triumvirate stages one-act comedies

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Unicorn (Eli Graham) and a fantastical creature (Sandy Weeks) debate whether they’re going to board Noah’s arc in “The Chance of a Lifetime.”

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Unicorn (Eli Graham) and a fantastical creature (Sandy Weeks) debate whether they’re going to board Noah’s ark in “The Chance of a Lifetime.”

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Sandy Weeks is exhibiting the first signs of the contagious condition — the itch of excitement, uncontrollable bursts of laughter, bouts of dramatic pauses and restless gesture syndrome.

Yvette Tappana succumbed many years ago and now has such a full-blown case that she can’t stand to go long without treatment.

The bug? Acting. The treatment? Community theater, of which there will be an offering — “Scenes to See,” a presentation of one-act comedies from Triumvirate Theatre — this weekend and next in Soldotna.

“I was going through stage withdrawals, straight up. I was starting to shake. You can only talk to yourself in front of the mirror so often before you realize the audience of one sucks,” she said.

Weeks and her family are new to the area, and she decided to audition as an activity she could do with her teenage daughter. Her daughter ended up having scheduling conflicts and couldn’t participate, but by then she was hooked. Now she finds herself squabbling with her

Dog (Nicole Egholm) celebrates treeing Bear (Natalie Tucker) in “Duet for Bear and Dog.”

Dog (Nicole Egholm) celebrates treeing Bear (Natalie Tucker) in “Duet for Bear and Dog.”

husband about an unattended bag — among other things — at the airport in “Baggage Unattended,” by Eric Coble, directed by Sally Cassano-Archuleta. She’s also an ill-fated, fantastical beast in a fable of Noah’s ark, “The Chance of a Lifetime, Or How the Unicorn Lost His Spot,” by H. Michael Krawitz, directed by Terri Burdick.

“I chose it because it’s humorous and because it said, ‘A cartoon for the theater,’ and that just caught my funny bone,” Burdick said.

Burdick herself is performing in “A Duet for Bear and Dog,” written by Sybil Rosen, directed by Laura Forbes, about a bear treed by an unlikely dog in New York City, debating the merits of domestication versus remaining wild.

A wildlife safety officer (Tim Tucker) describes how he’s going to relocate Bear (Natalie Tucker) out of an urban park and back to the wilderness.

A wildlife safety officer (Tim Tucker) describes how he’s going to relocate Bear (Natalie Tucker) out of an urban park and back to the wilderness.

Marc Berezin is another pulling double duty, playing Noah in “The Chance of a Lifetime,” and the beleaguered husband in “Baggage Unattended.”

It’s addiction, yes, in that they find it hard to resist, but the one-act format means participation really doesn’t impose negatively upon their lives.

“We’ve been doing 10-minute plays for many years now and they’re always fun. The commitment isn’t too demanding, they’re just short little, generally humorous pieces, although they can be dramas. But it’s fun being in them, and directing a few,” Berezin said, as he’s directed in the past. “I’m just happy there were some parts for an old immature man.”

This versatile format offers opportunities for the mature and less so, in age or behavior. It’s a great introduction to theater for newcomers, and a way for veterans to stay involved without having it consume all their spare time.

“It’s a good opportunity for someone wanting to get into theater locally or theater in general. It’s a great way to get people in without feeling like they’re overly committed and scared, to kind of test their theater wings,” Tappana said.

It’s also an opportunity for audiences to get a variety of shows in one sitting.

“They’re always a lot of fun,” Berezin said.

“Scenes to See” will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 9, 10, 16 and 17 at Triumvirate Threatre at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna. Tickets are $15, available in advance at River City Books in Soldotna, or at the door. The show includes performances by Berezin, Ken Duff, Nicole Egholm, Eli Graham, Kate Schwarzer, Donna Shirnberg, Tappana, Natalie Tucker, Tim Tucker and Weeks, as well as “Ledge, Ledger and the Legend,” by Paul Elliott, directed by Ann Shirnberg.

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View From Out West: Coming of summer seasoned by dash of spring

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

I used to consider the appearance of robins to be the first true sign of spring. When I saw them bouncing lightly across my still-brown lawn, I knew it was time to throw open the windows, box up the winter coats, slide into my XTRATUFs and stroll outdoors to inhale and hail another season of resurrection.

Robins coincided with the deterioration of the back roads on the central Kenai Peninsula and usually preceded the appearance of snow geese on the Kenai River flats, hooligan and king salmon in the river itself, and mosquitoes at the edges of the forest. Robins were the heralds of warmer days in the lowlands and rising snow lines in the mountains. They signaled earlier sunrises and later sunsets, the squawking of sandhill cranes, the flights of arriving gulls and shorebirds, the hooved tread of cow moose preparing to calve, and the revival of hungry bears.

But over time, my pastoral view of robins as vernal messengers faded, displaced by a decidedly more cynical outlook.

I came to recognize a new (and more urban) symbol — a true peninsula herald — a modern mechanical monstrosity that alerts all peninsula residents to the season (and by that I mean the tourist season). That icon is, of course, the Winnebago and all similar box-on-wheels conveyances that will soon be clogging traffic on the Sterling Highway and filling the fringes of the Fred Meyer parking lot and campsites up and down the river.

Much to the delight of the aggregate chambers of commerce.

Not so much to the average local motorist, shopper or outdoor enthusiast.

Meanwhile, here in Dillingham, we have no Winnebagos. No motor homes to speak of, of any kind.

The reasons for this “deficiency” are simple: We have no campgrounds. We have damn few roads. And you can’t drive here from anywhere else, except Aleknagik — and you can’t drive to Aleknagik from anywhere else, except Dillingham.

So despite myriad similarities to spring on the peninsula, many of the signs of spring here are different.

The similarities are easy to enumerate: (1) As the ice begins to disappear from Cook Inlet and its beaches, the ice begins to disappear from Nushagak Bay and its beaches. (2) As the migratory birds reappear on the Kenai Peninsula, so do they reappear in western Bristol Bay. (3) Canneries in both places begin ramping up for another summer of boot-clad, knife-wielding workers and intense bouts of seafood processing. (4) Warnings are issued in both places to “be bear aware.”

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Hop to it — Breweries emerge from winter hibernation

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Seward Brewing Co. is reopen for business with new owners.

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell. Seward Brewing Co. is reopen for business with new owners.

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

Spring is here at last, and breweries across the state are awakening from their winter slumbers and ramping up production in anticipation of the hordes of tourists that will soon be descending upon our fair state. The 49th State Brewing Company, located near the entrance to Denali National Park in Healy, reopened for business April 25, while the Seward Brewing Company will reopen May 8, under new ownership.

During their winter shutdown, 49th State Brewing conducted a major expansion program. This expansion included a new, 15-barrel brewhouse and significantly increased fermentation tank space to attempt to meet the growing demand for its beers at the several venues around Denali National Park where they are on offer. The expansion should allow it to triple last year’s production of 500 barrels.

Just as it did in 2012, prior to its shutdown last fall, the brewery produced several beers and left them to condition in its tanks with the brewery thermostat set to just above freezing over the long, cold winter. The styles chosen were all ones that would benefit from a long, cold maturation process. The beers are collectively known as the Hibernation Series and will be released over the course of the summer.

The Seward Brewing Company opened its doors two years ago, in the summer of 2012, on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street. Originally a mercantile store with offices upstairs, the structure dates from the 1940s and boasts magnificent views of Resurrection Bay and the surrounding mountains. Its most recent incarnation, prior to being renovated as a brewpub, was an Elks Lodge. The owner at that time, Gene Minden, operated the brewpub for two summer seasons, closing each fall and reopening in the spring, before selling it to new owners this winter.

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