Econ 919 — How the Kenai Peninsula Works

9:01 a.m. and 5:01 p.m. Fridays
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Econ 919 is a weekly economic report for the Kenai Peninsula from the KDLL News Team.

Photo: Rashah McChesney/Alaska Energy Desk

At the start of 2021, Homer Electric Association made a sort of New Year’s resolution: source half of all its power from renewables by the end of 2025. 

It’s the most ambitious renewables goal of any utility on the railbelt. Some of the board’s directors say it’s too ambitious. The co-op relies on natural gas for more than 85 percent of its energy today.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

About half of Grey Wilson’s clients are first-timers — those who have never had their knives professionally sharpened before

But then there are the clients who bring in blades they treasure and have kept in use for decades. Some have stories. Wilson loves a story.


Sabine Poux/KDLL

Holiday season is in full swing. If you’re still looking for a gift for someone on your list, consider buying them a book.

Peggy Mullen and Monica Heath from River City Books in Soldotna have recommendations.

Several are by Alaska authors and illustrators. All are available at River City Books.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula’s elderly population is booming.

But basics like housing and public transportation have not always kept pace. And what is available can be out of reach for many seniors.


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Seattle catches some of the best bites from Alaska's fisheries each year at the Symphony of Seafood — an annual competition put on by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation to promote the state’s value-added seafood products.

This year, there were 18 competition entries in the mix, including a Kenai Peninsula company. AlaSkins makes wild fish skin treats out of Kenai and has a storefront in Soldotna.

Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

The pantry and freezer at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank are filled with granola bars and apple sauce and ground meat.

But there isn't as much Thanksgiving food as you’d expect just two weeks ahead of the holiday.


Photo: Sabine Poux/KDLL

Fishermen in Cook Inlet reeled in more salmon and higher earnings in 2021 than they did last year. That’s according to the 2021 harvest summary released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game earlier this week. 

But comparing 2020 and 2021 reveals just a small part of a much larger story about the state of the fishery. 

Photo courtesy of Chandera Tolley

Cook Inlet belugas don’t have a lot in common with cryptocurrency, the online dollar that’s becoming increasingly popular around the world.

But a 14-year-old in Puerto Rico is using her digital art, and the online currency, to raise tens of thousands of real-life dollars for beluga conservation in Alaska.


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.


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.


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.

 


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