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Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Eva Knutson calls some of her boxes “boredom busters.” They look like they’d do the job, with topics like entomology, forensic science, and oceanography. They’re designed with instructions from start to finish, so parents can just unbox them and enjoy them with their kids, even if they don’t know much about entomology themselves.

 

"Everything is kind of spelled out in the materials, so if a parent gets 'entomology' and they don’t know anything about insects, all the printables have facts, all the information, so if a parent wants to teach their kid about spiders and insects, they can," she said. "Even if they don’t know anything about it, they get to be the teacher, which I really like, because I really like tht parents appreciate that."

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby became an Olympic champion last night in Japan. The 17-year-old swimmer placed first in the 100-meter breaststroke, beating record holders and earning the state its very first Olympic swimming medal.

Back home, it felt like the whole town of Seward was watching.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

Outside the walls of Central Peninsula Hospital, in local parks, restaurants and bars, life is going on without masks or social distancing.

But the coronavirus spike inside the hospital shows the virus is hardly a thing of the past.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Soldotna welcomed back its Progress Days event on Saturday with a bang—or lots of them, depending where along the parade route you were standing.

There were tractors. There were horses. There were dancers. There was a giant copy of the U.S. Constitution. Most importantly to many of the kids along the way, there was plenty of candy. The parade was cancelled last year due to concerns about the coronavirus, but came back this year with gusto, along with vendors and music in Soldotna Creek Park this weekend.

Alaska State Troopers

A California woman died in a three-car crash on the Sterling Highway near Kasilof this weekend, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers say 60-year-old Nancy Virlee Christiansen of Emerald Hills, California was driving north in a blue 2019 Hyundai around 6:30 p.m. Sunday when she crossed the center line and crashed with a black 2016 Nissan Murano, around milepost 111. Christiansen’s car then collided head-on with a red 2016 Chevrolet pickup.

Redoubt Reporter

Commercial setnet fishermen in Cook Inlet had their season cut short last week. When the Alaska Department of Fish and Game closed the Kenai River to sportfishing for king salmon, it closed the east setnet fishery completely. Some of them had only had a handful of openers.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

At best, the lack of nearby parking in downtown Soldotna every Wednesday in the summer is a nuisance for marketgoers.

But Soldotna Wednesday Market organizer Annette Villa said it can also drive away customers.

“When they drive through and there’s no parking spots, then they tend to leave," she said.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Seafood in Southcentral Alaska for the most part means fish.

But there’s another growing seafood sector in the region, taking shape in shellfish and kelp farms. The Alaska Mariculture Task Force, convened by former Gov. Bill Walker in 2016, just released its recommendations on how to turn the new industry into booming business.


Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Jason Oles knows a lot about bears. He’s worked among Kodiak brown bears, Rocky Mountain grizzlies, North Slope polar bears, and Kenai Peninsula black bears, on various national parks and wildlife refuges. Now a ranger at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, he says there are definitely a few tricks to living, working, and recreating among bears.

Rashah McChesney/Alaska Energy Desk

The Alaska Industrial Development and Energy Authority, or AIDEA, is a state-owned corporation that focuses on economic projects meant to create jobs and diversify the state’s economy. It uses its own revolving fund to generate loans and fund projects, meaning it doesn’t draw funding out of the state unrestricted general fund, which the Legislature allocates for the budget every year.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A heat wave in the Lower 48 cooked shellfish alive on Pacific Northwest beaches and triggered excessive-heat warnings in several states. Climatologists say it’s because of a dome of heat that drove temperatures high above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and even skirted part of Southeast Alaska.

Southcentral Alaska hasn’t seen that kind of heat. But could scorching heat waves be in the region’s future?

Alaska State Troopers

A Soldotna man is facing murder and other felony charges after allegedly fleeing from the scene of a rollover crash that authorities said killed his passenger and injured two others in the car.

Alaska State Troopers said 50-year-old David Casey was driving in the early morning hours of Saturday after leaving a Kenai bar. Court filings said he lost control of a 2017 Audi on a curve and rolled over, fatally injuring a passenger who was ejected from the vehicle on Forest Lane outside Soldotna.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

The Kenai River will close entirely to king salmon fishing starting Wednesday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure Monday afternoon after nearly three weeks of watching the late-run king salmon fail to return to the Kenai River in large enough numbers. The lower river started July with a king fishery open to retention, but no bait allowed; the department moved to catch-and-release only, with a note that further action might be necessary. Even with the closure, biologists don’t think the run will make the minimum escapement goal.

A head-on car collision on the Kenai Spur Highway this Saturday killed three people, injured four and closed the highway for some time.

Kenai Police report that a small vehicle was headed south around mile 15 of the Spur and passed another car on the right side at a high speed. The Spur there is only two lane, and people will sometimes pass on the right on the shoulder of the road. Police say the driver of the small car lost control and crossed into the oncoming lane and collided with a pickup truck.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The current surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide is powered in part by a more contagious strain of the virus. But health officials are recommending more of the same.

"Get vaccinated, wear a mask, stay away from large gatherings," said Kenai Public Health Nurse Tami Marsters. "Just the same that nobody wants to hear.”

Nikiski Community Council

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking for public comment on a plan to add a community lake in Nikiski to its fish stocking program.

The department announced that it’s considering adding John Hedberg Lake to the stocking program, which would put about 700 catchable rainbow trout in the lake this year and 1,000 fingerlings annually after that. John Hedberg Lake is located in Nikiski Community Park near the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, about mile 23 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

Kenai Watershed Forum

There’s a footrace just about every week on the Kenai Peninsula in the summer, from the Pink Cheeks Triathlon in Seward in early May to the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi to the Kenai River Marathon in September. It’s pretty easy to get into running—all you really need is a pair of shoes. But keeping at it, or being willing to run alone, can make it more challenging.

A new running club in Soldotna is hoping to address some of those challenges. The Kenai Running Club meets at Skyview Middle School every Saturday at 8 a.m., with runners of all levels welcome.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Soldotna Rotary is celebrating a decade of beer. It’s holding its 10th annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival next month, with lots of familiar craft brew faces — from Kenai River Brewing, Kassik's and St. Elias on the central peninsula, to Cooper Landing Brewery and Palmer’s Bleeding Heart.

Matthew Pyhala with Soldotna Rotary helped get the beer festival started.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

When you start laying out the expenses line by line, a weekend of dipnetting doesn’t sound so cheap.

How much does it cost Kelly and Larry Williams?

“A ton! I was just thinking about that," said Kelly Williams. "We’ve spent, like, hundreds of dollars already and we haven’t gotten anything."


Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional comments. 

Cooper Landing has a long history as a trapping area — besides mining, it was one of the reasons people settled there in the first place. But in recent years, it’s also become a major recreation destination. Trails verge off into the mountains all around the town, and hikers, runners, skiers and bikers like to hit the trails year-round. Many of them also love to bring their dogs along.

Choosing Our Roots

An Alaska nonprofit is looking for hosts on the Kenai Peninsula to house homeless queer youth.

Choosing Our Roots matches volunteers with LGBTQ+ individuals between ages 13 and 24 who otherwise don’t have access to safe housing. The organization is now looking for hosts for six young people on the Kenai Peninsula who are either houseless or couch surfing, said Kat Banner, a volunteer coordinator for the organization.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Besides the urban centers in Kenai, Soldotna, Homer and Seward, most people on the Kenai Peninsula live pretty close to areas that could be vulnerable to wildfire. The borough is looking to update a plan on how to help reduce risk and deal with fire when it breaks out.Next week, the borough administration will be hosting open houses and informational meetings across the peninsula to get feedback on the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, or CWPP.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Critical race theory was not on the agenda of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board meeting Monday night, or the meeting before it. But it’s been coming up at those meetings anyway, as parents share concerns that their kids are being indoctrinated with a progressive agenda.

Meanwhile, the district said it doesn’t plan on teaching critical race theory at all.

Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys

Geologists have been warning Alaskans for over a year about a tsunami that could hit Whittier following a potential landslide at Barry Arm in Prince William Sound.

They’re still ringing the alarm bells. But now, armed with more information about the area, they’re saying that wave will be a lot smaller than they originally expected.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Weather-wise, it has been a dreary summer. If you’re a peony farmer like Wayne Floyd, that’s not really a bad thing.

“They’re at stage one," he said, gesturing to a bunch of peony buds. "They’re hard as golf balls. We sometimes call them ‘golf balls on a stick.’”


Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Commercial fishing is underway across Upper Cook Inlet. Some fishermen to the north of Kenai have had their nets in the water since May, but permit holders in the setnet and drift gillnet fisheries are just getting into the heat of the season as the Kenai and Kasilof sockeye runs pick up. That’s where the majority of the harvest is.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Go to most libraries in Alaska and you can ask for just about any book, movie or magazine. And 99 percent of the time, it’ll get to you, said Rachel Nash, librarian at the Soldotna Public Library.

“This system allows us to say yes every time," she said.

That system is the Alaska Library Catalog. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $635,900 in funding for the program and others as part of a slew of budget vetos earlier this month.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Every new challenge is just another problem to be solved—according to Abby Ala, anyway.

"It keeps life interesting," she said. "If you have problems, you always have something to work on, that’s always there to be worked on."

Photo: KTOO file photo

Eight Alaska lawmakers are meeting this month to talk through big-picture fiscal issues that have stumped Legislatures for years. 

The Comprehensive Fiscal Plan Working Group is bringing together lawmakers from each of the four caucuses to create recommendations on the state’s budget problems. The plan is to bring those recommendations to the broader Legislature ahead of the Aug. 2 special session in Juneau. 


Sabine Poux/KDLL

Triumvirate Theatre has been without a home since its Nikiski facility burned down this February. 

Now, the operation’s moving to Kenai. The Kenai City Council approved a land donation for the nonprofit this week.

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