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University of Alaska Fairbanks

The tiny but mighty phytoplankton live at the base of the food chain in the Gulf of Alaska. They're a food source for small crustaceans, which in turn feed small fish, then bigger fish, then seabirds and marine mammals. 

Each spring and summer, a large concentration of phytoplankton blooms in the gulf. This year, researchers recorded the biggest bloom they’ve ever seen.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

To win the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby, you don’t have to catch the largest coho, or even the second largest.

The Kenai derby is all about hitting the magic weight. City Manager Paul Ostrander said that’s to limit the number of salmon injured by catch and release fishing.

Photo: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The proposed Pebble Mine project has long been a source of controversy in Alaska. It's faced scrutiny nationally, too, as as each presidential administration has taken its own look at the plan to build an open-pit copper and gold mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. 

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency dealt the latest blow to the project.

So, what makes this new twist different from the others?

Sabine Poux/KDLL

When it comes to its new voting machines, the borough is making a list and checking it twice.

Teri Birchfield and Linda Cusack with the canvass board were running through a checklist of tests Thursday morning on one of the borough's new Dominion Voting Systems machines.

They said most voters won’t register the new technology when they come in to cast their ballots. But for voters with disabilities, it could be game changing.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Most mornings, a line of cars snakes from the front of Capstone Clinic in Kenai, past McDonalds, spilling out onto the residential Walker Lane.

Clinics like Capstone have been seeing a growing number of people coming in for COVID-19 tests as the Delta variant has tightened its grip on the state.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting turned into a debate about the coronavirus last night, when a resolution condemning vaccine mandates generated hours of conversation about unproven COVID-19 treatments and took the meeting right up to its 11:30 p.m. automatic end time.

Wonderlane/Wikimedia Commons

Another round of relief money is coming down the pike for Alaska renters.

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is again accepting applications for COVID-19-related relief starting Sept. 13. It's the latest in a string of relief programs from AHFC and the first to take place since the federal moratorium on evictions ended at the end of July.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Alex Rydlinski isn’t just interested in the pretty parts of reindeer farming.

When the Kenai painter decided to shadow and paint Fairbanks reindeer farmer George Aguiar, he wanted to capture all sides of his process.

And that’s what he did, in a series of eight oil paintings and eight etchings of Aguiar and his herd. The exhibit, called “The Reindeer Man,” is on display at Kenai Art Center through the month of September.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Rewind several decades. Kenai’s waterfront was buzzing with business. 

“There’s always been a lot of activity down there," said John Williams, Kenai mayor from 1986 to 2004.

He said the cannery scene by the Kenai Dock has changed since then as the commercial fishing presence has declined. Now, there’s just one processor there. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

One minute, there are zero rainbow trout in John Hedberg Lake. 

Fewer than 30 seconds later, there are 700.


Econ 919 — Zoom town

Sep 3, 2021
Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Working from home became the order of the day for many workers last March.

Since then, cities and states around the U.S. have tried to market themselves to remote workers — and their wallets.


Courtesy of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District

Farmers market season is winding down. But there’s still one more chance to celebrate local growers.

“This is kind of the last big hurrah for local farmers to sell their produce and for locals to stock up if they’ve missed their opportunity," said Heidi Chay, with the Kenai Local Food Connection. The organization is holding its Harvest Moon Local Food Festival on Sept. 18.

Chay said the festival is in part a celebration of how far the local food scene has come, even just since 2013, when the festival first started. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Dave Salter’s yard is, quite literally, falling into the ocean. He didn’t know it was going to happen so fast when he bought the place on Toyon Way, in Kenai.

“The agent that showed us the property said, ‘Oh, a few inches a year,'" he said. "And being from Texas, I didn’t know any better.”


Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and several members of the assembly want to publicly denounce what they call “vaccine segregation” from the government.

Resolution 2021-067, set to be introduced at next week’s assembly meeting, says the borough encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But, the resolution says, the assembly and borough administration “Do not support government-mandated restrictions imposing mandated COVID-19 vaccine segregation in our community.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game didn’t always pay much mind to how people used the kelp that washed up on Cook Inlet beaches. 

“We assumed that it was like somebody going to the beach and picking up driftwood, or picking up pretty rocks or things like that," said Glenn Hollowell, the area management biologist for lower Cook Inlet.

He said in the last four years, the department has learned more about those detached kelp populations.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

UPDATE, 6 p.m. Tuesday:

Starting Wednesday, Seward Middle School, Seward High School and Moose Pass School will join Seward Elementary in requiring masking for all students and staff, at least until Sept. 10.

The Susan B. English, Port Graham and Tebughna schools are all also requiring face coverings at this time. There is no district-wide mask mandate in place.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Hydraulic mining during Hope’s gold rush brought the town riches and residents.

But local marine life was not so fortunate. Mining activity fundamentally changed the shape and flow of Resurrection Creek, destroying habitat for its many types of salmon.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Central Peninsula Hospital sends some of its worst trauma cases up to Anchorage.

The hospital is still sending some patients on a case-by-case basis, hospital spokesperson Bruce Richards said. But as Anchorage facilities are filling up, it’s getting harder to find beds.

Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Davis

When the world turned to home improvement projects at the start of the pandemic, Andrew Davis saw an opportunity. 

Davis co-owns Seward Milling and Lumber, just outside Seward city limits. But the company didn’t start out as a commercial mill. He and a partner first bought into the business to deal with the trees in their own yards.

When the pandemic hit, they started milling other people’s wood, too. And a year and a half later, they’re still really busy. 

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The federal government said it will continue taking steps toward a potential oil and gas lease sale in Cook Inlet, after a Louisiana district court judge ordered the Biden Administration to resume its lease programs there and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has been at odds with several Republican states over the federal leasing program since Biden halted the two auctions and promised to review the program earlier this year. It was part of a larger executive order aimed at fighting climate change.

Aaron Bolton/KBBI

The Kenai Peninsula Borough spent the winter sharing updated information about the coronavirus and resources for getting vaccinated.

Now, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is using his platform to challenge local doctors and promote unproven COVID-19 treatments, on local talk radio and in public meetings.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

This particular pocket of Beaver Creek is not far from the road, just a short and muddy tromp away from a gravel parking lot between Kenai and Soldotna. But it’s home to several cold water inputs that could be crucially important for young salmon as they swim from the Kenai River to Cook Inlet.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula’s older population is larger than it was a decade ago. It’s one of the many trends that emerged in U.S. Census data released earlier this month, which also shows that the peninsula’s population has generally grown, while others, like Anchorage, have seen numbers drop.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nearly 2.5 million late-run sockeye are projected to pass through the Kenai River by the end of the month, overescaping the river by over one million fish.

Those numbers concern fishermen like Joe Dragseth, a drift-netter in Kenai. He said he worries about the health of the river. And he said it’s unfair commercial fishermen have been restricted while so many fish have made it up the river.

Alaska State Troopers

UPDATE 11:15 a.m. Tuesday:

Alaska State Troopers say they arrested the man who shot a trooper in Anchor Point yesterday, following a search that lasted into the night.

Troopers say a Special Emergency Reaction Team arrested 60-year-old Bret Herrick near his Anchor Point residence around 8:40 a.m. Tuesday, after following up on a tip. The trooper he allegedly shot is in fair condition at an Anchorage hospital, according to an online statement.

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

After a year of hurdles, heaps more people needing their services and extra helpings of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank was looking forward to a return to normal.

The food bank’s annual Soup Supper and Auction, scheduled for Saturday, was supposed to be held as usual — in person, with live and silent auctions, with everyone in attendance getting a hand-made pottery bowl and something delicious to put in it.

But COVID isn’t done throwing curve balls. With case numbers spiking on the Kenai Peninsula, the food bank’s board of directors made the call this week to cancel the in-person event and shift to a virtual model this year.

Amy Van De Grift is the bookkeeper at the food bank and one of many hands helping to launch the virtual event tomorrow.

“Let’s just say, you know, 2020 prepared us. So, our staff has been amazing and has handled these last-minute things and we are just fighting to do what we have to do in order to get where we need to be,” Van De Grift said.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Alaska’s senators joined most of their colleagues last week in voting for a massive infrastructure bill that would combine $550 billion in new spending, plus $1 trillion in previously approved spending, to update highways, salmon passageways and other facilities around the U.S. 

The bill still has to clear the House. But Larry Burton, chief of staff for Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, said he thinks there’s a lot for Alaskans to look forward to in the bill. He briefed a crowd of sportfishermen at the Kenai Classic Roundtable on Recreational Fishing in Soldotna on Wednesday.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

Sen. Dan Sullivan has been an outspoken critic of the Biden Administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Sullivan himself served in Afghanistan and last week, he signed onto a letter asking the State Department to expand eligibility for the Afghan Special Immigration Visas program.We talked to him in Soldotna Wednesday about that letter, climate change and the infrastructure bill he just voted to pass through the senate.

AVTEC

Fall marks the end of Seward’s busy tourism season. But as summer ends, a new class of students is just starting at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center. Classes resumed at AVTEC’s Seward campus this Monday.

Cathy LeCompte is AVTEC’s director. She says the dorms and on-campus apartments are back open, with a slew of COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that nursing homes receiving Medicaid and Medicare payments must require all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to continue receiving those funds. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are crafting the regulations, which could go into effect as soon as next month. 

That means staff at Heritage Place in Soldotna, operated by Central Peninsula Hospital, will be subject to the requirement, as the vast majority of the nursing home’s income is in the form of Medicaid payments.

“Ninety-four percent. It’s a big deal,” said Bruce Richards, director of external affairs for the hospital. 

Most of that 94 percent is Medicaid payments, will a small amount of Medicare. The remaining 6 percent is from private insurance and a small amount of self-pay.

Given that, Richards said they have to comply.

“I don’t think there’s another option,” he said. “We would have to close, obviously, if we don’t get paid by CMS for providing these services.”

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