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Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The central Kenai Peninsula could soon have a functional cold-weather shelter — a long-awaited step in a years-long effort to secure emergency housing for the area’s homeless population.

“A lot of pieces are falling together. And I believe we can have an open shelter on the Kenai Peninsula by the first week in December," said Tim Navarre, who's part of the Kenai Peninsula Homelessness Coalition.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Two separate incidents this fall have some Kenai Peninsula Borough School District teachers worried about book censorship.

Teachers at Kalifornsky Beach Elementary School were told to temporarily stop teaching a book after a school administrator found it age inappropriate. Separately, the district withheld books about sexuality from the Seward High School library that it deemed “controversial.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

In less than a day, two Kenai residents raised over $5,000 for the Kenai Community Library.

The fundraiser is a response to a decision from the Kenai City Council to hold off on accepting a grant until the library can provide a list of books it plans to buy, which the fundraisers' organizers say is censorship.

 

 

Redoubt Reporter

The Alaska Board of Fish will consider a proposal to loosen restrictions on Cook Inlet set-netters this March, two years ahead of its scheduled meetings on the fishery.

Courtesy of Homer Electric Association

The Dixon Glacier, on the other side of Kachemak Bay from Fritz Creek, is rapidly receding.

That’s true for glaciers around Alaska, and the world. But what’s special about Dixon is it sits just a few miles from Bradley Lake, a source of hydropower that supplies the Railbelt with about 10 percent of its energy needs.

Rashah McChesney/Alaska Energy Desk

The federal government has filed another draft environmental impact statement for a federal oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet and is asking for comments from the public.

It’s the second time in less than a year that the feds have put out an environmental review on a potential Cook Inlet sale, since the Biden Administration halted the process leading up to the auction earlier this year. That pause was part of a larger executive order aimed at fighting climate change.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai City Council is holding off on accepting money from the National Library of Medicine until the Kenai Library can provide the council with a list of books it plans to get with the grant.

Photo Courtesy of Renewable IPP

An Alaska energy company wants to build its biggest solar panel farm yet on the Kenai Peninsula. First, it’s asking the Kenai Peninsula Borough for a tax exemption, which it says will help it produce energy for less.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

ATVs will soon have the greenlight to drive on many Alaska roads. 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration passed a set of regulations to allow all-purpose vehicles on roadways where speed limits are 45 miles per hour or less. The new regulations go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Courtesy of Dan Olsen / North Gulf Oceanic Society

Scientists in Homer and Seward have spent the last several decades tracking a population of mammal-eating killer whales called the Chugach Transients in the Gulf of Alaska.

Mitch Michaud

You might see smoke coming from parts of the Chugach National Forest this week and next.

But it’s no cause for alarm. The Forest Service said it’s burning slash piles in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass, partly in an effort to mitigate the local spruce bark beetle problem.

Courtesy of ShakeOut.org

Each year, Alaskans drop, cover and hold for a minute as part of the Great Alaska ShakeOut — an earthquake drill held across the state each third Thursday in October.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding the Kenai Peninsula Borough with a competitive grant to create a community-wide composting project, making it possible for more individuals and businesses on the central peninsula to send their organic waste to farms instead of landfills.

“Oh man, I’m so excited about this project," said Kaitlin Vadla, regional director for Cook Inletkeeper. "It’s a huge win for the borough and for our area. It’s hard to get these big national grants. And so the fact that we got it is really exciting.”

Courtesy of Justin Hansen

A River City Academy senior and biathlon racer will represent the U.S. at the Winter University Games, an international competition for student athletes.

Seventeen-year-old Justin Hansen has been cross-country skiing since he was in middle school. He picked up biathlon this year and has competed with the Anchorage and Alaska biathlon clubs. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Residents say there have been more power outages in Cooper Landing and Moose Pass this year. The local utility, Chugach Electric, says it’s working on the problem as part of a regular capital improvement project.

Arden Rankins hopes those repairs help. She owns Sunrise Inn on the Sterling Highway and said she had to close several times when the power went out this summer.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Winter trapping season is coming up in Alaska. 

But recreationists hoping for trapping restrictions along trails in Cooper Landing will have to wait. This week, members of the Federal Subsistence Board voted down a proposal to place setbacks alongside area trails — a plan advocates hoped could mitigate conflict between user groups.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

There's a lot that needs to come off a boat when it docks. And it’s not uncommon that some of that waste ends up in the ocean instead of the trash.

Bristol Bay fisherman Tav Ammu wants to gather more data on how clean Alaska’s harbors are and how the people who use them think about harbor cleanliness. He’s interviewing and surveying harbor users for an Alaska SeaGrant project and is basing his study in Ninilchik.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

An Alaska State Trooper based in Soldotna is jailed on charges he sexually abused two girls, and authorities are asking the public for information about other possible victims.

Thirty-nine-year-old Benjamin Strachan was arrested Wednesday on one count of sexual abuse in the first degree and six counts in the second-degree. Strachan moved to Soldotna to be an Alaska State Trooper in June 2020. 

C. Spencer/National Park Service

Voter turnout in local Kenai Peninsula elections was really low this fall.

But there’s one competition in Alaska that saw its highest voter turnout ever this year. That’s probably because its contestants are thousand-pound brown bears.

Emily Kwong/KCAW

A small chunk of money from a multi-billion-dollar settlement over the opioid crisis could reach the Kenai Peninsula.

Alaska’s one of a few dozen states that signed onto a class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and three drug distributors, alleging those companies helped fuel the country’s opioid crisis by distributing addictive painkillers, even as rates of addiction were high. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The last of the absentee ballots are in and all votes have now been tabulated for this year’s Kenai Peninsula elections.

Courtesy of Rhonda Johnson

It’s hard to believe Rhonda Johnson doesn’t have more time in the day than everyone else.

Over the last seven years, the Soldotna resident has volunteered more hours than she can count to help build at least 45 houses for low-income Alaskans through the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, or RurAL CAP.

This fall, the national Community Action Partnership chose Johnson from volunteers around the country for an award celebrating her years of service. The organization flew her out to Boston to accept the award last month.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A 68-year-old man incarcerated at Wildwood Correctional Center died last week — the fifth COVID-19-related death at Central Peninsula Hospital this month.

The Department of Corrections said Monday the man, John Andrew, died Friday after being in custody for a decade. The department said Andrew’s was the ninth death in its custody this year.

Farmers Almanac

If you’ve found yourself stumped with a gardening question, you may have queried the hive mind at Central Peninsula Garden Club.

The club saw a slight drop in membership earlier in the pandemic while its meetings were held virtually, said Larry Opperman, who’s on the club’s board of directors.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Soldotna's Roger and Jodi Helvie aren't taking any part of life for granted, after a harrowing experience with COVID-19.

You can hear more about Roger and Jodi's experience on next week’s Kenai Conversation at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, rebroadcast at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, on KDLL.

It takes a good idea, the right market and a lot of research, planning and preparation to get a new business off the ground.

Ready cash doesn’t hurt, either.

If you’ve got the first part, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has the second in its Spark Soldotna competition.

It’s patterned off the “Shark Tank” TV show, where entrepreneurs submit a business pitch for a panel of sharks — experienced businesspeople — to review. Five finalists are selected to pitch their ideas to a live audience, and one will win $4,000.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

If you’re looking for a less-rustic approach to rainbow trout fishing on the northern Kenai Peninsula, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a spot for you.

The department recently finished improving access to Barbara Lake, about 30 miles north of Kenia. Access is off Ballard Drive, off Halibouty Road.

Fish and Game has been stocking the lake since 1980. It’s not one of their highest-use fisheries, but this project might help hook some more interest.

“It’s more just improving the access and experience for anglers that either live out in Nikiski or choose to travel out there and go look for fish,” said Colton Lipka, area management biologist.

Courtesy of KPEDD

Among the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act are pockets of funding that could advance projects on the Kenai Peninsula.

Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is working with communities and organizations to match projects with available sources of money.

Municipal election day saw low voter turnout across the Kenai Peninsula Borough but a nail-biter for a Soldotna City Council seat, and a few upsets in the works.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday for in-person voting across the borough, but absentee, questioned and special-needs ballots still need to be counted before results are certified. Across the borough, 7,395 votes were cast on election day, which is about 14 percent turnout.

Courtesy of Bend the Light Photography

Editor's note: James "Hobo Jim" Varsos died Oct. 5 at his home in Tennessee. KDLL's Sabine Poux interviewed Varsos two weeks ago.

Alaska’s State Balladeer announced last week he’s been diagnosed with end-stage cancer.

James Varsos, best known to Alaska and the world as “Hobo Jim,” said his cancer is untreatable and that doctors told him he has three to six months to live.


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