News

Most people know about the Kenai and Soldotna historical societies and museums.

Kasilof also has an active historical association. And few people know Kasilof's history better than the association's president, Brent Johnson. He’s our guest on this week's Kenai Conversation.

 

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.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nikiski is a little greener these days. Gardeners have tilled and planted a garden next to the Nikiski Community Park on Hedberg Drive, where volunteers can plant, pick and take home their own produce.

Toni Loop, of Nikiski, has been planning the project for a while and made headway this summer. About a third of the garden is now planted.

It’s been a hard year and a half for most professionals. Teachers and education support staff in particular faced a myriad questions about safety, sick leave and remote teaching last school year.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Cook Inlet salmon fishery was once an economic engine for Kenai.

But the fishing there is no longer lucrative. Many fishermen with deep ties to the inlet are retiring — or moving elsewhere. 


Courtesy of Arctic Fox Adventures

The skies over Southcentral Alaska are hazy with smoke. But it’s not from any nearby fires. 

The haze is blowing east from wildfires in Siberia, amid one of the worst wildfire seasons Russia has ever experienced.

“The whole northern hemisphere is burning right now. But the wildfires in Siberia are particularly bad this year," said Mike Lawson, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Soldotna Public Library, Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and other city buildings will require face masks starting Monday morning, as COVID-19 case counts continue to climb locally.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Tuesday is the first day of school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. For many families and staff, the usual first-day jitters are accompanied by deep concerns about rising coronavirus case numbers on the Kenai Peninsula.

The district is starting the school year with a new COVID-19 mitigation plan. Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said they’ll handle cases of potential exposure to the virus a little differently than they did last year.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Ninilchik has fewer than 1,000 year-round residents.

But in the summer, the town balloons with thousands of tourists. Over two weekends in particular, during Salmonfest and the Kenai Peninsula Fair, the area’s packed with festival-goers. 

While the additional bodies — and wallets — are good for local businesses, they can also be a bit overwhelming.


Redoubt Reporter file photo

Kenai’s South Beach is seeing higher-than-normal levels of bacteria, likely due to the abundance of seagulls and fish carcasses on the beach.

Laura Eldred is an environmental program specialist with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. She said beach-goers should take some precautions to avoid getting sick but the high levels of bacteria aren’t cause for major alarm.

Rashah McChesney/Alaska Energy Desk

A federal judge ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revise its regulations on oil dispersants, siding with Cook Inletkeeper and other plaintiffs that the current regulations don’t reflect updated research on how toxic those chemicals can be.

Courtesy of Hannah Etengoff

To most Alaskans, it’s food. To some, a livelihood. To others, a sport. No matter how you slice it, or filet it, salmon is deeply important to Alaskans. And salmon lovers across the state, like Steve Schoonmaker, of Kasilof, are celebrating the species today.

“First of all, I’m waking up and I’m remembering what Alaska Salmon Day means," he said. "And how lucky we are in Alaska to have wild salmon.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Alaska’s largest newspaper is no longer delivering print copies to the Kenai Peninsula. The Anchorage Daily News delivered its last physical newspaper to the area last week after it became too expensive to send papers south of Girdwood, said Daily News Circulation Manager Mark Wasser.

Wasser said the Daily News saw a 60 percent decline in print subscribers from the Kenai Peninsula in the last decade, as more started reading the paper online. And he said, amid high transportation costs, print delivery no longer made economic sense for the company.

Courtesy of Doug Blossom

Kenai Peninsula set-netters were already having a bad summer, following the early closure of their fishery earlier last month.

That situation turned from bad to worse for four set-net families late last week when their beach sites in Clam Gulch were vandalized. Alaska State Troopers said they have since identified and charged the vandals, two juveniles, through their posts on social media.

Salmonfest returns

Aug 6, 2021
Sabine Poux/KDLL

After taking a year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Salmonfest is back, Aug. 6, 7 and 8. KDLL reporter Sabine Poux is at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik to see how the 10th annual music festival is shaping up. Cook Inletkeeper Executive Director Sue Mauger and Kenai Peninsula Fisher Poet performers says its important to celebrate salmon.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said the current process for appointing city representatives to the borough’s planning commission needs an update. He drafted an ordinance that outlines several suggestions to revamp the code last month.

But representatives from borough cities worry those changes would take what’s historically been a city decision and place it in the hands of the borough. 

Alaska State Troopers

A Niksiki motorcyclist died in a collision on the Kenai Spur Highway Wednesday evening, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers said 40-year-old Martin Marlin was driving his motorcycle near mile 18 of the Kenai Spur a little after 5 p.m. when he collided with a Nissan SUV that was turning in front of him.

Photo Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Municipal Airport is is the first thing a lot of people see when they get into town.

So it’s important that it looks good. And it’s much more up-to-date now, after a nearly $14 million remodel that wrapped up last spring. 

The city is cutting the ribbon on the updated terminal this week. 


Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Researchers and the Cooperative Extension Service want to know how the pandemic and the 2019 Swan Lake Fire impacted food resilience on the Kenai Peninsula.

Courtney Long is a PhD student at Iowa State University. She said the study on the peninsula is one of five she’s conducting in rural communities across the country. 

Krissy Dunker / Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Biologists have been working on eliminating northern pike from Kenai Peninsula lakes and streams for years. Northern pike are native to Alaska north of the Alaska Range in areas like Bristol Bay and Fairbanks, but they were introduced to lakes in Southcentral in the mid-20th century. Since then, they’ve been stuffing themselves on salmon fry and degrading salmon runs in the Mat-Su Valley, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula.

"You get down in Southcentral where pike have been on the landscape 60 years or so—we have a before and after picture," said Krissy Dunker, who manages the Southcentral Alaska Invasive Species program for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We know certain systems that used to produce coho, chinook and other things, and those are gone now. It’s just pike."

Redoubt Reporter file photo

Sport anglers can keep double the normal number of sockeye salmon in the Kenai River starting tomorrow as the run is ramping up.

 

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the bag limit increase this afternoon. Starting tomorrow morning, anglers can keep up to six sockeye per day with twleve in possession. That applies to the river downstream of Skilak Lake.

Central Peninsula Hospital is celebrating a half century in business this year.

But for a long time, the hospital was just an idea — one spurred by the central peninsula’s growing population but stalled over intense community rivalries and funding drama.

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