Econ 919 — How the Kenai Peninsula Works

9:01 a.m. and 5:01 p.m. Fridays
  • Hosted by

Econ 919 is a weekly economic report for the Kenai Peninsula from the KDLL News Team.

Photo: Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media

Real estate agents can often take a breather after the summer, when the busy season slows.

And this year's busy season was busier than ever, as buyers outnumbered listings and house prices shot through the roof.

While the market isn't quite as chaotic as it was earlier in the summer, Soldotna real estate agent Marti Pepper said those trends are still lingering as fall begins. And she doesn't see a huge correction coming any time soon.

Photo: KTOO file photo

Alaskans can expect their Permanent Fund Dividend checks in mid-October. The Legislature signed off on $1,100 PFDs this week.

It was a scramble to get the PFD plan across the finish line in the final hours of the Legislature’s third special session.


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?

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.


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. 

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.


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.


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. 


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

When an 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit near the Alaska Peninsula Wednesday, local alert systems sprang into action, beeping, buzzing and blaring to notify Alaskans in coastal communities they should get to higher ground.

Those notification systems require lots of preparation and funding well before a tsunami threat hits, explained Dan Nelson, emergency manager with the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management.

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.


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."


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. 


Econ 919 — Fireworks

Jul 2, 2021
Photo: Wesley Early/KOTZ

Personal fireworks are largely illegal on the Kenai Peninsula. That rule goes for most of Southcentral, too, though each municipality is responsible for its own rules.

But there is at least one place in Southcentral where fireworks are legal on private land: the city of Houston, between Willow and Wasilla. Houston is also the home of Gorilla Fireworks, which says it's Alaska’s biggest fireworks store.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

There have been a lot of “help wanted” signs in store windows this spring. The Kenai Peninsula, like the rest of the country, is facing a worker shortage, with too many job openings and not enough applicants.

It’s impacted Shelly Endsley, who owns the Orca Theater on Kalifornsky Beach Road. 


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Triumvirate Theatre might be moving to Kenai. The nonprofit is asking the city for a donation of two acres for a new building after its Nikiski theater burned down this February.

The Kenai City Council isn’t making a final decision on the parcel until next month. But at a meeting Wednesday night, council members were enthusiastic about the donation.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

There’s no doubt about it — Alaskans like their guns.

But there’s only so much you can do with a gun without bullets. And this past year, those have been harder than ever to come by.


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

A Massachusetts company is sending genetically modified salmon to dinner tables in the U.S. for the first time. AquaBounty Technologies said it’s shipping five tons of bioengineered salmon to distributors this month.

It’s marketed as a sustainable alternative to other kinds of salmon. But AquaBounty’s fish hasn’t received the warmest reception in Alaska, where it’s often called “Frankenfish.”


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

The western Kenai Peninsula is car territory. Even for locals, a car is pretty necessary to run most errands or to take part in most fishing, kayaking or hiking trails in the area. That’s the case for tourists, too, particularly those who fly here and want to explore the state on their own.

Unfortunately, this year, rental cars are thin on the ground. Really thin.


Econ 919 — EV update

May 21, 2021
Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Alaska Energy Authority was scouting spots along the Railbelt this spring to place 10 to 14 electric vehicle charging stations — covering the 600-mile-long stretch of highway between Homer and Fairbanks.

It was one of the first steps in the corporation’s plan to make the Railbelt friendlier to electric vehicles. The project is funded in part from Alaska’s share of a 2017 settlement with Volkswagen over a Diesel emissions scandal.

Photo Cyrus Read/Alaska Volcano Observatory/U.S. Geological Survey

Two companies are looking at the geothermal energy potential of Mount Spurr, a volcano about 40 miles west of Tyonek in Cook Inlet.

Once they have the final go-ahead from the state, GeoAlaska and Raser Power Systems can explore adjacent leases on the south side of the volcano.

 


Photo: Sabine Poux

Alaska sets aside money each year for projects that contribute to healthy salmon stocks and habitats.

The Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund is the state’s share of a federal program geared toward protecting Pacific salmon populations. The fund is also distributed between five other states and tribal partners.


Photo Elizabeth Earl

Like little kids, the flowers at Funny River Peonies are tucked under blankets while they sleep. Springtime means it’s time to wake up.

“Once we get these off, these blankets off, then I’ll be going around and putting fertilizer and lime in every hole, ’cause we do that in the spring," said Denise Carey. "We also put a pre-emergent weed spray down so the seeds don’t germinate.”


Alaska Salmon Fertilizer

Earth Day was April 22. For this week’s Econ 919, Ryan Bacon with Alaska Salmon Fertilizers talks about his company’s work to recycle fish waste into nutrient-rich plant fertilizer.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

It’s been a long and wet winter, but the snow in Southcentral is finally melting.

If you’re in the business of snow removal, like Alex Matiaco, that means it’s the end of your season. After years of plowing for others, he started his own snow removal business this year — K-Beach Plowing.

He's happy with how his season went. By the end of February, Matiaco said, he had 25 contracted clients.


Photo: Redoubt Reporter

Imagine if you could catch a couple salmon and then get your coronavirus vaccine, all without even leaving the beach.

This summer, Kenai’s popular dip-net fisheries might also be public health hubs.


The ground on the central Kenai Peninsula is still buried beneath a thick, albeit shrinking, layer of snow. But the Division of Forestry has already started preparing for this year’s wildfire season, which typically falls between late April and August.

Kyle McNally works at the division’s Soldotna office, as a wildland fire resource technician. He said part of preparing means assessing what the division has at the ready.


Almost a fifth of the $1.9 trillion in the newly approved American Rescue Plan is headed straight to state and local governments.

Most details about how that money will be distributed are still up in the air, said Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District. His team helped distribute Alaska CARES funding last year.

He’s not sure whether KPEDD will be playing an official role in distribution this time around. But he says what he does know is cities and boroughs will likely start parsing through their funds next month.

Alaska fisheries more than three miles offshore fall under the purview of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a group of 11 voting members that makes policy decisions about the federal fisheries off the Alaska coast.

One of those council members is Seward’s Andy Mezirow. He was just appointed to his third three-year term by Gov. Mike Dunelavy. It’ll be his last, due to term limits. 


Ninety days before it was finished, a new apartment complex on Redoubt Avenue in Kenai already had a waitlist.

“We had people, the contractor and construction crew had people coming by throughout last summer, wanting to know when they were going to get done and when they could sign up," said Steven Rouse. He's executive director of Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiatives, a Homer-based nonprofit with affordable housing complexes across the peninsula.


An Alaska resident last year would have to pay $29 for a sport fishing license. Same goes for the 14 years before that. 

This year, the same license costs $20. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game scrapped the surcharge after paying off a bond debt on the construction of two hatcheries.

But the reduction might just be temporary. Legislators are considering levying another, smaller surcharge on those licenses this summer. This time, the charge would fund maintenance projects at sport fish hatcheries around the state. 


Pages