After the state issued its first marijuana growing permits on June 9 and 10, nine local cultivators were approved by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday. Many expect to have crops ready by the end of the year.
BlueCrest Energy ceremonially opened their Hansen Production Facility, an oil wellpad on the shore of Cook Inlet near Anchor Point.
Within a few weeks drivers passing between Anchor Point and Ninilchik may see a new feature on the coastline — BlueCrest Energy’s 30 foot-tall drill rig, scheduled to be erected soon on the oil company’s wellpad around Mile 151 of the Sterling Highway.
Issues discussed in Homer Electric Association’s annual members meeting, held May 4 at Kenai Central High School, include what the electric cooperative is doing to reduce the electric bills of its members, a proposal to withdraw from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska — a state utilities oversight agency — and a possible settlement of HEA’s dispute with six other utilities over the cost of transmitting electricity over HEA’s powerlines.
Power costs and gas supply
Last spring, homeowners near Halibut Cove and Homer began to see needles on their spruces turning yellow and brown.
Naturalists from the Alaska Division of Forestry, the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, and the University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension Service examined the trees on trips in June 2015 and late March of this year.
Local representatives of the Alaska Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Project said that although their leaders have spoken of possible delays, employees of the project remain set on smaller steps before them.
These steps include creating final drafts of impact reports and completing property acquisitions for the prospective pipeline’s liquefaction facility and export terminal in Nikiski.
Rates paid by Homer Electric Association users will rise by 3.25 percent beginning Feb. 1. The Alaska Regulatory Commission, which permits rates charged by public utilities, allowed the rate raise on Friday.
HEA Manager of Regulatory Affairs John Draves said the temporary increase will be in effect until HEA can negotiate other ways of recovering costs — either with the permanent 1.8 percent rate increase that HEA is currently proposing to the Regulatory Commission, or by charging other utilities that transmit power over HEA lines.
Despite the scanty state spending expected in 2016, this year’s state capital budget may provide funding for long-deferred upgrades to Kenai’s wastewater treatment plant.
Built in 1981, Kenai’s wastewater plant discharges into Cook Inlet from an outlet in the Kenai beach mudflats. The ammonia in this discharge exceeds the plant’s August 2015 permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, which allows Kenai five years to bring the plant to the ammonia emission limits.
Homer Electric Association decreased its rates starting Jan. 1, while an unresolved proposal that may raise them remains suspended until July.
The cost of power adjustment price that HEA members pay for a kilowatt-hour of electricity was about 7 cents. On Jan. 1 it dropped to about 6 cents. For a member using 550 kilowatt hours a month (the average, according to an HEA press release), the decrease will save around $6.88 each month.
KENAI — Setbacks for commercial marijuana establishments may become more tightly regulated in Kenai than they are at the state level.
Alaska’s regulations for commercial marijuana require establishments to be be 500 feet away from schools, youth centers, churches and correctional facilities. In Kenai, a proposal from the Planning and Zoning Commission would add setback requirements for seven additional facility types and would create a system of measuring setbacks. The Kenai City Council may reduce this list when its members debate and vote on the proposal.
After considering several possible paths for a new highway section around Cooper Landing, the Alaska Department of Transportation named its preferred path for the new road on Friday.
On Friday, the Regulatory Commission of Alaska ruled that Cook Inlet Natural Gas Storage Alaska can sell 2 billion cubic feet of gas unexpectedly discovered in its underground storage facility, and that the profit will be divided between CINGSA and the four utility companies that use it for storage.
With Alaska Medicaid cut by $51.9 million in this year’s state budget, Kenai Peninsula Medicaid providers are seeing the first financial effects of the underfunded program in the elimination of annual increases to their Medicaid reimbursement rates.
Presenters at a June 17 joint meeting of the House and Senate Resource Committees identified Cook Inlet companies as heavy users of oil tax credits.
Three Alaska Native subsistence users addressed an audience of national wildlife policy advisers last week about the risks of climate change to subsistence-based communities, what those communities are doing to adapt, and how their adaptations may be helped or hindered by state and federal government.
The pipeline proposed by the Alaska LNG project would bring North Slope natural gas to liquefaction and export facilities being considered for construction in Nikiski.
Where the liquefied natural gas, LNG, could go from Nikiski is still to be determined, but its potential destinations increased on Friday when the Alaska LNG project was given a permit by the U.S. Department of Energy to export a maximum of 20 million metric tons of LNG per year to countries lacking a free-trade agreement with the United States.
The proposed Cook Inlet Harbor Safety Committee is another step closer to reality. After writing and receiving comments on a draft charter, the group’s convening committee is searching for another essential organizational element: members.
After two days of meetings in Kenai City Hall between Kenai administrators and regional and national officials from the Army Corps of Engineers, the two parties presented an agreement to share the cost of a study crucial to a collaboration between Kenai and the Corps to halt bluff erosion.
SOLDOTNA — Kenai National Wildlife Refuge staff said that their new visitor center, which began construction in 2013 and opened to the public for the first time on Friday, is not only larger than their previous center but more interactive.
Matt Connor, the refuge’s chief of visitor services, said that the old visitor center was “just kind of a little cubby-hole area with some exhibits around the corner. It was 30 years old. The exhibits didn’t really tell quite the same story.”
Although few specifics of the Alaska Liquid Natural Gas Project’s contracting procedures have been worked out, Alaska LNG contracting engineer Dan DeVries felt confident telling a diverse gathering of Kenai Peninsula contractors, service-providers and business owners that “for this project, we (Alaska LNG) will need basically everything.”