Shaylon Cochran

News Reporter

Shaylon Cochran has been reporting on local government, energy, fishing and everything in between for KDLL since 2011. He earned a degree in journalism from Iowa State University and worked in radio news at KNIA/KRLS in Pella, Iowa, before visiting Alaska in 2010 and deciding this was the place to be. His work has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and Morning Edition and been recognized with awards from the Alaska Press Club. When he's not hosting the KDLL Evening News or the Kenai Conversation, you can usually find him biking or skiing around local trails, looking for his dog or sampling the latest from one of the peninsula's many fine breweries.

Managing the state's fisheries is a big responsibility. On this week's Conversation, we sit down with Robert Ruffner, one of the newest members of the state Board of Fisheries to talk about what challenges lay ahead in managing salmon fisheries on the Kenai Peninsula.

Kenai Peninsula Food Hub

There is a way to get seemingly anything online these days. That includes locally sourced, fresh produce and other foodstuffs. And it’s not just a big city thing, either.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will take yet another look at adjusting the boroughwide sales tax exemption on nonprepared food items. Assembly Member Dale Bagley, who sponsored the ordinance, says that with budgets tightening, this is a more palatable alternative to raising property taxes.

More and more people on the Kenai Peninsula are realizing its potential as a productive agricultural center. Now, backyard gardens are giving way to farmer's markets, food hubs and specialty growers. For this week's Conversation, we spoke with Lou Heite and Steve Dahl of Eagle Glade Farms in Nikiski and Ken Kynes, Executive Chef at The Flats Bistro in Kenai about how the local food movement is changing, growing and what needs to happen to make it sustainable.

This week, the Soldotna City Council approved setting aside $3 million for renovations and an expansion of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. That move, which doesn’t actually appropriate any money yet, is the starting point for what will be a big fundraising campaign. Tim Dillon, director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is a co-chair of the group spearheading the effort.

The Soldotna Regional Sports Complex was the hot topic at last night’s city council meeting. Mayor Pete Sprague and Council Member Regina Daniels sponsored an ordinance putting $3 million into the city’s general fund for work toward renovating the sports center.

 

The AK LNG Project continues forward, but not with the pace and fervor we saw when the project was first getting off the ground. The state of Alaska controls a bigger share of the project now, but doesn’t have a ton of extra money to put into it. And the economics are more difficult to make work with steady supplies of natural gas in the Lower 48 that are also a lot easier to get to. Larry Persily is chief of staff for borough Mayor Mike Navarre and this stuff is his specialty.

Joe Gallagher, Project SEARCH

 

 

Justin Mason loves working in a professional kitchen. He’s got his future job title all picked out.

“Japanese cuisine chef. I just like their cooking styles. Whenever you watch them cook it’s like art.”

Mason is from Nikiski and is one of five graduates from this year’s Project SEARCH program, joining Ian Smith, Gracie Satterwhite, Philip Kitchen and Michael Petrovich.

 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is looking at a future with less investment in energy and an aging population. How do we weather the current storm of low oil and gas prices (and the corresponding dips in state funding) while not losing the services already provided? Borough Mayor Mike Navarre and his Chief of Staff, Larry Persily, discuss those challenges, the prognosis of the AK LNG project and more on this week's Kenai Conversation.

Pacific Rim Logistics, the company behind the Cannery Lodge in Kenai, is moving ahead with big plans to expand its facility near the banks of the Kenai River. The Kenai City Council recently approved the sale of a few tracts of land which include an airstrip and the Dragseth Mansion. That would allow for fixed-wing aircraft to land near the lodge and mansion. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission will be voting on conditional-use permits for PRL at its meeting this week.

City of Kenai

 

 

The Kenai Birding Festival is in full flight this weekend, but if a soggy day in the woods isn’t exactly your thing, the city of Kenai and the Kenai Chamber of Commerce have you covered with a new eagle cam. It just went live Friday. City manager Paul Ostrander showed the first public video of the nest at this week’s city council meeting.

Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

 

 

The 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival is in full swing with tons of stuff going on throughout the weekend. Ken Tarbox is a long-time organizer for the event.

“And I think what festivals do, besides awareness of the outdoors and the fun you can have in birding, it’s a social event, too. People get together, they get a chance to talk about their birding experiences in the past year, they share stories from other areas.”

Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival

The 13th annual Kenai Peninsula Birding Festival is underway this week. Event volunteers Ken Tarbox and Toby Burke join Shaylon Cochran in the studio to talk about everything that's going on at the festival, how birding is gaining in popularity and the conservation concerns that popularity can bring about.

 

Every journey, they say, begins with a single step. That idea is profound in its simplicity. But if the journey is 800 miles around the beaches and bogs and wetlands of Cook Inlet, and if the steps you’re taking are dictated by a pair of curious toddlers, well, the whole endeavor is still mighty profound, but it’s no longer quite so simple.

 

 

 

A new group formed by the Alaska Humanities Forum is looking to change the conversation about salmon. A group of 16 Salmon Fellows, who represent just about every kind of fishing interest from just about every part of the state, met in Kenai over the weekend for the first in a series of gatherings over next year and a half.

As sure a sign of spring as anything, the bear sightings are beginning to pile up on the Peninsula. A couple black bears have been reported around Tsalteshi Trails and sightings have occurred along the Sterling Highway between Cooper Landing and Sterling. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Area Biologist Jeff Selinger says it's time to be bear aware once again.

 

 

Fireworks fans and aficionados in Kenai will have to keep making the trip to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley for their New Year’s party favors.

 

The Kenai City Council decided against expanding access to fireworks at its meeting Wednesday. Perhaps not too surprisingly, several public safety officers testified against the proposed ordinance, which would have allowed for sales of fireworks within the city and eased restrictions on use.   

 

This week the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly took its first look at the budget for next year. The real discussion will go on during public hearings in the coming weeks, but here are some basics.

 

At a bit more than $138 million dollars, the proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, represents approximately 3 percent growth over last year’s budget. As with every year, education takes the biggest piece of the pie, at roughly $54 million. Public safety is the second biggest spending area at $19 million, down a tick from last year.

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