Monthly Archives: October 2015

Containing the Kasilof — State proposes new facilities for personal-use fishing crowds

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s  increasing use.

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia
Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s increasing use.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With the ever-growing popularity of the Kasilof River personal-use fisheries, the beach is becoming increasingly recognized as an area being loved to death.

The crowds that come to fish, camp and recreate in the summer overtax the suitable parking and camping areas, and seasonal garbage and toilet facilities. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has incrementally increased services in recent years — and local efforts resulted in a fence to protect a stretch of sensitive sand dunes and beach grass on the south beach — but not enough to stem the tide of damages resulting from the flood of people each summer.

The department is stepping up its efforts on the north beach with a proposal to create a paved parking lot that can accommodate 315 vehicles, a two-way, 40-foot-wide beach access road and developed areas for seasonal Dumpsters and toilets. A 45-day public comment period began Oct. 15 and closes Nov. 30 on the site concept plan for the North Side Improvement Project planned for the Kasilof River Special Use Area.

“The issues or problems to be solved with this project include addressing degradation of sensitive coastal Kasilof the problemdunes and wetlands, unimproved parking areas, insufficient access for emergency and sanitation services and trespass onto private property,” Clark Cox, the department’s regional manager, stated by email.

So far the plan doesn’t propose instituting user fees, such as for parking or camping.

“User fees are not being proposed at this time. In order to have the ability to collect user fees for the Kasilof River Special Use Area during the personal-use fisheries at some point in the future, the department would be required to adopt a regulation through a public process,” Cox stated.

Participation in the personal-use fishery overall and at the Kasilof, in particular, has skyrocketed. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in the first year of the fishery, 1996, 14,575 permits were issued to Alaskans, and dip-netters participated on 1,300 “household days” at the Kasilof. A household day is fishing by one or more household member in a 24-hour period. For comparison, the Kenai River experienced 10,503 household days fished the same year.

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ARTSpace making new spaces for local art — Park installation part of community public art initiative

Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi, ARTSpace, Inc. The new Art Park installation at Soldotna Creek Park opened with a ribbon cutting Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi, ARTSpace, Inc. The new Art Park installation at Soldotna Creek Park opened with a ribbon cutting Saturday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

A painting is the interplay of individual brushstrokes. A photo is the composition of gradations of highlight and shadow, hue and saturation, tint and shade. The art is the sum of its parts, but the rendering of subject matter through context and perspective creates meaning greater than its components.

The new art display installation at Soldotna Creek Park does that, as well. Its parts are two wood-framed, glassed-in panels on which photo prints, paintings, drawings and other two-dimensional artwork can be exhibited out of the elements yet amid Soldotna’s busiest park, smack in the middle of downtown.

And the Soldotna Art Park itself is a component of a larger public art initiative being implemented by ARTSpace, Inc., the Rotary Club of Soldotna, city of Soldotna, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and local businesses.

“The idea is a long-term approach to community beautification and public art where all parts fit together as a whole and don’t cost a lot of money to implement or maintain in the long term,” said Joe Kashi, president of the nonprofit ARTSpace organization. “The community has to look nice and be attractive to people to attract better-paid people to come work here. So it’s one part of a larger economic development aspect for the Soldotna community. But in and of itself, the idea of community beautification and public art makes it a nicer place for everybody.”

Photo courtesy of Mark Dixson, city of Soldotna. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague, left, presents a plaque to Kelly Keating and Geri Litzenberger at the ribbon-cutting for the new Soldotna Art Park, in appreciation of their contributions to the construction and design of the installation.

Photo courtesy of Mark Dixson, city of Soldotna. Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague, left, presents a plaque to Kelly Keating and Geri Litzenberger at the ribbon-cutting for the new Soldotna Art Park, in appreciation of their contributions to the construction and design of the installation.

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Borough mulls joining fire, hospital services — Efficiencies could result in cost savings

By Carey Restino

Homer Tribune

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre knew the words centralization and consolidation weren’t going to sit comfortably when talking to many from the southern Kenai Peninsula, but he said them anyway.

Navarre spoke at the Homer City Council meeting Monday, bringing the message that dwindling budgets may necessitate the consolidation of some Kenai Peninsula Borough services — primarily emergency services and health care.

“I wanted to let you know about a couple things we are considering that sometimes caused consternation because they are deviations from the status quo,” Navarre said.

Navarre said that when he first took over as mayor he immediately asked why there are three separate fire and emergency service delivery agencies — the Anchor Point Volunteer Fire Department, the Homer Volunteer Fire Department and the more recently formed Kachemak Emergency Services — operating on the southern peninsula.

“I asked, ‘Can we get better cooperation and communication and working relationships between the different entities?’” Navarre said.

In other areas of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, there is a single service provider for medic and fire response — Central Emergency Services — but the mayor acknowledged that the city of Homer gets to make its own decisions about letting the Kenai Peninsula Borough take over its emergency service providing.

“Homer controls its own destiny,” he said. “All we can do is put the information together, present it to the city, and Homer gets to decide this. We can’t force Homer to do anything.”

Navarre said he understood that changing to a centralized emergency services provider would mean a big change for those individuals who have positions at local fire departments. But, he said, with the state’s fiscal situation where it is, there will be a trickle-down effect that will have some big impacts on local municipalities and boroughs.

Another area Navarre said he will be examining closely is the borough’s hospitals. He created a Health Care Task Force to examine the possible ways health care on the Kenai Peninsula could be improved.

“Health care in the way it’s delivered now is simply and undeniably unsustainable,” Navarre said. “I think we can build a better model.”

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Where there’s smoke, there’s buyers — Tradition of smoked beers finding renewed popularity

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

For most of us who live in Alaska, the flavor of smoke is quite familiar, given the amount of smoked foods available for us to enjoy. In the past, when almost every kind of food would have been cooked over wood, the flavor of smoke would have been even more ubiquitous. This is also true of beer, since its main ingredient — malted barley — would have been dried over wood fires. Smoke flavor in historical beers typically wasn’t mentioned, not because it was absent, but because it was omnipresent. It was only mentioned when it became so excessive as to detract from the taste of the finished product.

All this began to change three centuries ago, as new smokeless fuels became available. First coke and then more recently steam, natural gas and electricity made possible the production of unsmoked malt. Beers with smoke flavors hung around longer in some backwaters, like gold rush-era Alaska, but by the early 20th century, smoked beers were essentially extinct, with one notable exception.

In the town of Bamberg, in the Franconia region of Germany, smoked beers (rauchbier in German) have continued to be produced to the present day, most famously by the Schlenkerla Brewery. It produces three smoked styles, an urbock, a märzen and a weizen, all from malt that has been dried over beechwood fires. Its smoked märzen is considered by many to be the gold standard of smoked beers and represents a direct link to the taste of beers from centuries ago.

While Bamberg may be the home of these wonderfully anachronistic beers, Alaska can rightly claim the honors for inspiring the modern American smoked beer.

In 1988, Alaskan Brewing Co. (then known as Chinook Alaskan Brewing) had been in business for all of two years. Just across the street from the brewery was Taku Smokeries, owned by Sandro Lane, a business that smoked salmon using local alder wood. Alaskan owner/founder Geoff Larson recounted what those days were like in a March 2012 interview for All About Beer magazine: Continue reading

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Making a Halloween start to Thanksgiving dinner —  Confessions of a seasoned seasonal killer

Hunting, Fishing and Other Grounds for Divorce, by Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt Reporter

I can’t help it, killing is simply something I do. Some people golf or enjoy a few rounds of Balderdash now and then.

I kill.

I get a certain primal satisfaction out of it. Sometimes my hubby joins me in creating carnage. Surely there’s some saying about “The couple who slays together, stays together?” If not, there should be a saying about matrimonial odds of the couple who raises livestock together without slaying each other.

The dispatching part is only a small facet of the entire experience. It’s the most dramatic part, but not really the part that keeps me keeping birds around the house. My carnal pursuit requires a delightful amount of ritual, and there is a stark beauty to the process.

First, there’s the gathering of the proper tools. The axe my hubby scored on eBay is indispensable. It’s a handsome antique implement of gore whose gently curved blade sharpens strong and silvery. The sheath is genuine leather with cedar-colored sinew laces that crisscross the handle, hinting at a dark, ancient, Viking past.

The belly and back of the handle are perfectly balanced at the grip point. As I contemplate the deed I’m compelled to commit, I study the rise and fall of my swing, noting that it feels sturdy and natural in my hand. When the time is right, I know it will land swift and sure.

The toolbox of carnage also includes a several knives, a practical steel sharpener, a scraper and a well-crafted slip noose. Any truly gruesome job requires tidiness, so a sturdy spade shovel, bleach and old towels are always on hand.

We might be killers, but even killing has a certain code of ethics. After our tools are properly assembled, we thoughtfully evaluate our potential victims, generally the old and slow, but sometimes we target juicier fare. Anonymity is vital. We deliberately don’t assign anyone a pet name. It’s much easier that way.

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Plugged In: Don’t let wireless be lacking in data security

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Internet communications can be likened to walking in a beautiful but snake-infested jungle — you need to watch where you step. Train yourself and those around you to be security conscious.

Computer security is as much commonsense and a security-conscious mindset as it is a specific program or piece of hardware. For others to compromise your security, they must first have some sort of “in,” whether physical penetration, operating system security deficits that have not been identified and repaired, or the surreptitious installation of malicious software by infected removable storage media, from other infected computers on your office network or delivered as an Internet payload.

  • Avoid the back alleys of computing that are especially likely to mug your data or privacy. Some Internet sites look and sound like the real thing but are silently redirected to scammers. This practice is termed “phishing” but can be readily countered by turning on the “phishing filter” in most browsers, avoiding redirected websites and using some common sense. Although an old exploit, it’s still very common. In fact, I recently saw this occur with TED talks, of all things.
  • Never give out personal and financial data of any sort in response to email. Be especially wary of unsolicited emails to the effect that your login data or financial and bank account information should be verified or updated. These are often crude but frequently effective attempts to get enough information to victimize the unwary. If you really must make changes, then do so by telephone to an independently verified telephone number to your bank’s service department or a known good login site that you independently enter into your browser’s URL window.
  • Be particularly careful about opening the attachments to unsolicited email. This is a favored delivery mechanism for malicious payloads.
  • Always enable some sort of firewall program on every connected device, whether mobile or office-centric.
  • Avoid using remote access features that allow you to access and manipulate your office network. These can be severe security risks unless you set up what is termed a “virtual private network,” which uses a dedicated port for secure, automatically encrypted, two-way communication over the Internet. A VPN requires the same encryption keys on both ends, so it’s relatively safe. If at all possible, disable all forms of remote access into your devices.
  • One of the most important general security approaches is to ensure that your computer downloads and installs both routine and critical security and operating system updates. After ensuring that your system is up to date, check your general security settings, making a sensible balance between security and ease of use.
  •  Turn off the automatic execution by your Internet connection of scripting, Java, apps and Active-X components. Require that you be prompted to give affirmative permission before running them or altering your operating system, programs or apps. Doing so gives you at least a little bit of control over potentially rogue programs that might damage your system or compromise your privacy and security.

Wireless networking

Wi-Fi wireless networking can be relatively secure, and the latest .11n versions have reasonably good bandwidth. Unfortunately, we still see a fair number of wireless network users who do not implement whatever security their hardware allows.

Mobile computers and other devices with activated Wi-Fi hardware can be susceptible to ad hoc network intrusion. A few years ago, I spoke about computer security at the American Bar Association’s annual technology conference in Chicago, placing a $20 bill on the podium and challenging audience members to see whether they could connect to my notebook computer. It took some of the audience members less than three minutes to do so, even though there were no nearby Internet “hot spots.”

Most people don’t realize that the wireless connections of some Windows operating systems can silently make direct ad hoc connections to other unsecured Windows computers with peer file sharing activated. In such cases, a stranger can read your files and write to them without your knowledge.

I’ve personally observed wireless security breaches literally occurring in real time when Windows network bridging features surreptitiously connect one notebook computer’s wireless card to another wireless-equipped computer and use that rogue wireless connection to further connect to a business’s theoretically more secure, hard-wired network. It’s among the more significant problems that can occur when people use their own devices for business purposes. So-called rogue computers are then beyond any security measures instituted by the firm and can then infect other systems, compromising the security of the entire network.

While waiting at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after speaking about computing security to an American Bar Association technical conference, I startled a group of waiting passengers by simply turning on my notebook computer, watching as it detected and connected to powered-up notebook computers being carried down the concourse by other passengers. These people, of course, had not implemented even rudimentary wireless network security.

Bluetooth and Near Field devices are probably even less secure when used without sufficient care and knowledge of their connection methods. Always pair Bluetooth and Near Field devices in a secure area, then turn off discovery and lock down your Bluetooth to ensure that nothing but already paired, trusted devices can connect.

Losing flash disks

Those tiny, ubiquitous flash drives and memory cards are easy to lose. Inexpensive USB 3 flash drives now frequently store as much as 256 to 512 gigabytes of data. That’s larger than the hard disk capacity of many busineses’ central network file servers. Some newer devices, such as the Ironkey USB external hard disks and flash drives and Sandisk flash drives sold at Costco, include data encryption capabilities built into the drive. More expensive versions include biometric authentication devices. The Ironkey devices with biometric authentication are relatively expensive compared to the competition but are the safest option if you’re carrying sensitive data.

Computer security is inevitably a moving target requiring reasonable diligence in identifying technology that’s convenient and helpful without unduly jeopardizing security. Mobile computing and communication has not only the usual risks for office-centric systems but also security concerns unique to the mobile experience. If you use mobile devices and cloud service, then you’ll need to take into account the additional mobile concerns that we highlight in this article.

Art of satire contest

The Redoubt Reporter and ARTSpace, Inc., are sponsoring a satiric art writing contest open to everyone, with suitably satiric prizes. Parody pomposity! Release your inner philistine!

Good visual art either works or it doesn’t. Attaching pretentious, pompous writing that “explains” the image adds little value. Too often, though, boring images are subject to art “criticism” that seems to bear more resemblance to the writer’s inner projections than to the image itself or the artist’s intent.

In appreciation of delightfully horrid, florid writing, we’d like you to give it a try.

We’ve published several unmanipulated photos of real objects and scenes that appear abstract. Write some satiric commentary about one or more images, identifying which photo(s) you are satiring. Your parody should be plausible, pretentious-sounding and humorous.

I’m unwilling to hold anyone else’s images up to ridicule, so these are my own photos. Fire away! When the Redoubt Reporter publishes our favorite submitted satires, we’ll tell you what these photos really are.

The images and more information can be found here: www.redoubtreporter.wordpress.com.

Email entries to redoubtreporter@alaska.net. Be sure to mention which photo(s) you are referencing. Entries on each photo should be no more than 150 words. Tell us your name and a little about yourself — profession (or school you attend if you’re a student), where you live and any art background you might have. The deadline to enter is Dec. 7.

Local attorney Joe Kashi received degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.

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Driven to assess — AK LNG presents Spur highway reroute options

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There are still far more questions than answers about the proposed AK LNG project and its potential terminus facility in Nikiski. But of the many unknowns, one thing, at least, was certain Monday — the route driven by the more than 100 attendees of a community meeting at the Nikiski Recreation Center will not be the same road driven in four or five years if the project does happen.

The Nikiski facility as it’s currently envisioned lies right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway.

“When we are looking where plant site is, the highway does bisect that and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So we’d like to look at options of redirecting that traffic and redirecting the major road that goes through this area in a safe manner,” said Lydia Johnson, technical manager for the AK LNG project.

The facility will need around 700 to 800 acres, she said. The current design places it between about Industrial Avenue south to Robert Walker Avenue and from the bluff east to about McCaughey Street. That puts it right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway as it parallels the bluff between its intersections with North and South Miller Loops.

Project managers are working with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, federal highway managers and the Kenai Peninsula Borough to look at how to relocate the road, and want public input, as well. To that end, an open house was held Monday evening to provide information on the project, answer questions and collect feedback. As with previous meetings AK LNG has held in Nikiski, this one got a sizable turnout.

“Hopefully the message has gotten out that we’ve just really started in this process and we really want to hear feedback and comments from the people that live here and are going to have to live with this road,” Johnson said. “So we want to make sure that gets stewed into our designs and into all of our considerations, as well, so we’re thrilled that there are this many people here.”

Large-scale maps showing the various reroute options were displayed around the room with sticky notes provided so people could write and affix their observations, preferences and concerns. The new section would be posted with a 55 mph speed limit and have two, 12-foot travel lanes with a 12-foot turning lane to ease the additional traffic to the LNG facility, 8-foot shoulders and a 12-foot multiuse pathway separated from the road.

Eleven highlighted route options crisscross the map. Most turn inland around South Miller Loop and head north either between Cabin Lake and the AK LNG site or along the eastern side of Cabin Lake. They connect back to the existing highway route in a variety of options — including along North Miller Loop, south and north of Bernice Lake, near Foreland Street and along Island Lake Road.

It’s a bit of a spaghetti bowl, Johnson concedes, because nothing has been ruled out yet. Options will be whittled down based on several factors — community input, regulatory requirements, acquisition of land parcels and environmental concerns, among many others.

“And it will depend on what the geometry will look like and what the water looks like and what the geology looks like of the roads and then, ultimately, how our site lays out, as well,” Johnson said. “We still haven’t finalized that either. You have to be certain distances from different things for air emission and noise and all of that stuff. So it’s all a big puzzle that we’re putting together, so that’s why all those options are out there.”

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