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KMXT 2015 Bear Crawl Results
 bear_logo.jpg What a day we had at the Bear Crawl. Thanks to all of our sponsors and the volunteers who helped pull this event together. Congratulations to all of the contestants - you were brave, you were fast, you were muddy! You can find all the results here: 2015_bear_crawl_results_corrected
Jul 01 2015
CDQ Group Turns Fishing Boat Into Pribilof Ferry
Wednesday, 01 July 2015
1.69 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Jay Barrett/KMXT
To call the small village of St. George, taking up just a corner of its namesake island in the middle of the Bering Sea, isolated doesn't quite do it justice. Surrounded by water, the community has no harbor; it has a small airport, but weather often makes in impossible to land an aircraft. And when you can fly in, say from neighboring St. Paul, you have to wait a week for a return flight.

Prices are high, jobs are few, and despite being in the middle of the richest fishing grounds in America, the community sees little profit from it. But the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association has put into motion a plan to hopefully reduce the isolation, lower prices, and bring some fishing dollars into town – with ferry service between St. George and St. Paul, 40 miles away.

APICDA's CEO Larry Cotter said the project has been in the works for some time, but finding the right vessel was an issue. When one of APICDA's own boats, the fishing vessel Atka Pride, was about to go up for sale, the decision was made to put it to work instead.

“Given the fact that we had the vessel and given the fact that the situation in the community is pretty darn desperate. Without a functioning harbor they're having to fly all of their food into the community,” Cotter said. “Putting the vessel to work just made a lot of sense.”

Saint George Mayor Pat Pletnikoff says the ferry service will be a welcome addition to the island.

“It's a small effort, but it's huge in implication for what kind of service Saint George needs to survive. And we're grateful to APICDA for that,” Pletnikoff said. “We're grateful to APICDA for recognizing that Saint George deserves an opportunity.

Passage on the Atka Pride is $300 each way, but for Pribilof residents it's $100, which Cotter says matches the one-way, once-a-week airplane fare. He says the total cost of the service for this summer is expected to be about $200,000, and he doubts it will break even.

A replacement wind turbine for the island is going up this summer to replace the unit that burned last year, so the ferry should get regular use. Pletnikoff says the 53-foot fishing boat will do for now, but if the experiment works, he'd like to see an upgrade:

“Once we're able to develop an economy, we could certainly utilize the income to expand it and get better vessels to provide this service,” Pletnikoff said. “Ideally, a high-speed catamaran in the 58-, 60-foot range would be the most suitable vessel for our transportation needs, at least surface-wise.”

CDQ groups like APICDA have community development right in their name, and, according to Cotter, direct their Bering Sea fisheries quota profits to projects like this.

“You know that's one of our responsibilities is to do what we can to help develop stable local economies,” Cotter said. “It's not easy. But this is certainly in line with our purpose.”

Ferry service has already begun, and will go through the end of August. Cotter said if the program continues to run in the future, they'll likely start in May and go into mid September. 
Jul 01 2015
Borough / City Joint Work Session One of Many Meetings on Jackson's Park Zoning Code
Wednesday, 01 July 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The joint work session between the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly and the Kodiak City Council last night promises to be the first of a series of meetings about the Jackson’s Mobile Home Park closure and related code.

Jackson’s Park falls outside city limits and one of the joint session’s purposes was for the borough to update the city on the property. Robert Pederson is the director of the borough’s community development department and says the owner of Rasmussen’s Mobile Home Park is looking into accommodating more trailers.

“He’s filed an application and the site plan shows 22 mobile home spaces in that piece of property and then also there’s a smaller piece of property. I don’t recall the acreage, but it’s mentioned in that bigger packet… and the site plan shows seven units in that piece,” says Pederson.

Assembly and council members asked questions about the population in the park, mobile home additions, and property codes. Jackson’s residents face a number of challenges besides immovable trailers and limited spaces in alternative parks. Pederson says one element is that all mobile home parks besides Rasmussen’s are nonconforming.

“But they’re all grandfathered in, and they were there for a long, long time. Many, many, many of the units in those parks are also nonconforming structures or uses by virtue of setbacks or the things that have been added onto them or are too close to the other unit,” says Pederson. “They don’t have walkways or play areas or they don’t need setbacks and all those sorts of things.”

In a packet the community development department prepared, it explains how park owners and residents have made many of these changes without department permission. Nonconforming property is just one part of zoning code local government will need to examine over the next few months.

Another issue, more specific to Jackson’s, are fees that will result from moving the trailers

“Building compliance fee for the new location and then the building, location, and plumbing fees for hooking up in the new location. There’s been discussion and I believe the sense of the assembly at the work session was that we should look at waiving fees for mobile homes that are being forced to relocate out of Jackson’s,” says Pederson.

That’s one matter the city and borough will discuss in the near future.  

The Planning and Zoning Commission will have a special work session tonight at 6:30 p.m.to discuss proposed code amendments. It will take place in the Kodiak Island Borough Conference Room.  
Jun 30 2015
Sockeye Catch Low, With Hope for Future Salmon Runs
Tuesday, 30 June 2015
sockeye_salmo_jimmerman_fish.jpgSockeye salmon. Flickr/Jimmerman Fish

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

This season’s salmon catch numbers are low across the state, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Todd Andersen is an Assistant Area Biologist in Kodiak and says the sockeye salmon catches are less than expected.

“We woulda thought we had a good run coming there, but the fishing has been relatively slow,” says Andersen. “A lot of the fishermen aren’t catching all that much right now, but the short closures that we have had this year have put plenty of fish up-river within our escapement objectives for each of the systems that we manage early in the year here.”

According to the latest department figures, the current sockeye harvest is over 385,000, while the average catch at this point of the season is usually around 600,000.

Andersen says there are many different reasons sockeye catches could be lagging.

“There’s a lot of smaller fish early on, so you could go with a large run, or feeding conditions are a little different. Who knows?” he says. “Various areas in oceans where all these fish go – could be any different area – and there’s certainly migration paths. They’re a little different any given year. I think we’ll have a better picture through the later parts of the run.”
Andersen says the numbers could improve.

“The fishing just hasn’t been there yet for a lot of the cape fishermen and the set-netters. That doesn’t mean it will remain that way, though. We’ve got a long season ahead of us and the pink run will dictate how much time and how good the fishing is.”

He says Fish and Game’s automatic pink openers are scheduled for July 6, and the length of the first couple of those openers will be 57 hours due to the lower forecast for this year.
Jun 29 2015
'She's My Family' - Security Found in Supreme's Marriage Ruling
Monday, 29 June 2015
0.96 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Sami King, left, and wife Jori Welchans. Photo courtesy King-Welchans family. 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
On Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, it came as a great relief for couples across the nation, including here in Alaska. Though already legal in Alaska, if the High Court had ruled otherwise, the state likely would have appealed the lower court ruling that made it legal here.

For couples from states such as Alaska, the High Court's ruling guarantees their marriage - and all the legal rights and responsibilities that carries - will be recognized nationwide.

"It's just good to know that your partner, your wife is in charge if something were to happen. There's just that security to not worry about it," said former Kodiak High School teacher and athletic director Sami King, who now lives in Palmer. She and her wife, Jori Welchans, were married just last month. 

"No one can deny her if I'm sick in the hospital. She can come see me, because she is my next of kin, she is my family. And that's huge," King said. "I guess it probably doesn't seem huge to most people because they already have that. But for someone who doesn't have that, it's tremendous."

King said it's hard to overstate that kind of new-found security.

"It is just literally indescribable. It's just one of those things in the back of your mind you know you don't have the same rights as everyone else," she said. "With the decision, it's like wow, we do now. So it's relief of ... again, you just can't even describe it. It's like you feel safe."

She said the ruling on marriage legality goes beyond security, and signals a new wave of acceptance.

"You know you make those connections and the all of a sudden those barriers, that fear and that misunderstanding is broke down," she said. "So I think this is just bigger than we can even, you know, wrap our arms around right now."

KMXT caught up with King on Friday morning while she was in Fairbanks.
Jun 29 2015
Novel "Afognak" Unfolds on Kodiak Island
Monday, 29 June 2015
rains_picture.jpgJames Rains, author of “Afognak.” Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak is the star of a new novel.

Author James Rains recently released “Afognak” with publisher Beaver’s Pond Press, and the thriller follows a doctor and other survivors after a virus hits the island.

Rains says he worked in Kodiak for a year at the police department and based characters on his coworkers.

“I wanted people to kind of relate to the people here in Kodiak and there was a lot of people who inspired me here,” Rains says. “Especially working at the police department. There’s a lot of great people who work for the police department here in Kodiak. And so I tried to do my very best to take some of the character traits from some of the people I really respected and kind of blend them together to make characters.”

Rains says he combined as much truth as he could with fiction.

“I would write locations. Monk’s Rock. Places that I really enjoyed here in Kodiak. The library. I spent a lot of time there. So, I wrote those things down and I’ve kinda set the plot around those locations and then I try to do my best job to describe them,” says Rains. “For example, I always thought the seminary here is absolutely beautiful. And the church. So, I made sure to try to make that a scene in the book.”

He says he got back home after his time in Alaska and launched into writing “Afognak,” which took six months, although the editing process would go on for another few years.

“I almost got like this fever,” says Rains. “I worked on it 10, 12 hours a day and I just kept writing, and writing, and writing. And it took on a life of its own. Like, everyone says, well, how did you feel to write “Afognak”? It was like, I don’t really remember because it was almost like I wasn’t writing it. It was almost like the story became alive and took on its own maturity after a while.”

Rains can identify several driving themes behind “Afognak” that as a writer he feels compelled to include.

“I love isolation. As a child, isolation terrified me and I think because of that, I love incorporating it into my books,” Rains says. “Fear is also another big thing. Fear of the unknown, which kind of goes hand in hand with isolation. I love when people really don’t know what’s going on, and to see how they react under pressure, that fear of the unknown.”

He says the novel sprang from one idea he had while living in Kodiak.

“I was sitting in a squad car in the parking lot of the hospital and the nuclear power plant was having issues in Japan, there was fear of a tsunami hitting Kodiak because of that, and I remember sitting there and watching a Coast Guard helicopter fly really low to the wind turbines and I just foresaw in my mind one of those just hitting that and that wind turbine exploding and just casting Kodiak into darkness,” says Rains.

He adds that scene did make it into the novel.

Rains says he’s currently teaching at a college in Minnesota and is already working on a sequel. You can buy “Afognak” on Amazon.com or borrow a copy at the library.
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