Elizabeth Earl

Lower Cook Inlet oil leases advance

Residents of Anchor Point, Homer and Seldovia could see drilling rigs off their coasts in the future if the federal Department of the Interior gives it the green light.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, has issued a draft environmental impact statement for oil and gas exploratory leases in Lower Cook Inlet. The proposed leasing area stretches from approximately Ninilchik to just north of Augustine Island, not including Kachemak Bay.

App gets people out to catch some monsters

Soldotna Creek Park’s playground looks safe enough in the sunshine with kids clambering over monkey bars, but to the right eyes, it’s full of monsters. These monsters are tamable, though — they’re Pokemon, and there are hundreds of trainers, or players, on the Kenai Peninsula ready to catch them.

Keenan Orth and his sister Ginni Orth maneuvered near to a railing near the edge of the playground known as the Fish Railing, lined with a number of brightly painted wood salmon silhouettes.

Dipnetting spurs entrepreneurs

Rattling along the deep ruts of the sand on the Kenai River’s south beach in a side-by-side, Jason Floyd took orders for mochas.

He wheeled the vehicle expertly among dipnets, dipnetters, coolers and tents on the beach Monday — this crowd, though still thick, was nothing compared to the crowd the weekend before, he said. A cooler full of ice rides in the back of the side-by-side beneath an Alaska flag and the signature yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden flag.

Heroin, $23,000 seized in Kenai raid

Alaska State Troopers and the Kenai Police Department seized nearly half a pound of heroin and $23,000 in cash from a Kenai home in a raid Monday.

At approximately 3 p.m., troopers served a warrant on a home in Kenai with the assistance of the Kenai Police Department. Inside, they found Kenai resident Corey Clifton, 42, whom they arrested on outstanding felony warrants for probation and parole violations, according to a trooper dispatch.

In the search, officers discovered drugs, drug paraphernalia and cash in the home, according to the dispatch.

Borough OKs USAD to extend Funny River gas line

More residents of Soldotna’s Funny River area will soon have access to natural gas in their homes.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved a resolution at its June 21 meeting forming the Funny River East Utility Special Assessment District, which will allow for the extension of an existing natural gas pipeline in the area to reach 309 more parcels from Angler’s Roost Street and Treeline Avenue northeast to Moonshine Drive and Zackery Street.

Keep out: Kenai Peninsula land managers work together to curb invasive species

Wearing a pump-powered backpack sprayer, long yellow gloves and protective goggles, Jen Peura looked more like she was out hunting ghosts than killing flowers.

The seasonal biotech for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge pointed to a thin, leafy sprig near the narrow Egumen Lake trail. The innocuous-looking plant blended in with the grasses around it, bearing only a small knot of a bud at the top.

Borough sees increase in oil property values

The values of some oil and gas properties in the Kenai Peninsula Borough jumped in the most recent state assessment, producing about $1.1 million more for the borough in property taxes.

Much of that increase comes from the Nikiski area, where the tax values for the year increased by approximately $559,991, according to the borough’s fiscal year 2017 budget.

The increase allowed for a mill rate decrease for residents of Nikiski from 2.90 to 2.80 for the next year. The borough assembly approved the new mill rate at its June 7 meeting.

Proposal would move hospital service area south

A proposed ordinance before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly would move the hospital service area boundary south.

The move would shift Ninilchik from the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area to the Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area, resulting in a drop in the mill rate for Ninilchik property owners. Residents of the southern service area pay a mill rate of approximately 2.3, while central peninsula service area residents pay a rate of .01.

Report examines five-year outlook for peninsula economy

The Kenai Peninsula’s relatively diverse economy has some room to grow in the next few years, accommodating for lower oil prices and production as well as an aging population.

The most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, compiled by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, reviews some demographic and employment statistics while proposing broad goals for the next five years. The plan will be updated every year but provides a broad framework for the future of the economy, said Rick Roeske, the KPEDD’s executive director.

Borough eliminates funding for CARTS program

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly cut its support for the Central Area Rural Transit System out of its Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

The borough has given funding to the nonprofit since 2001 in support of its operations. The organization, abbreviated to CARTS, provides door-to-door public transportation for a fee to riders who have registered accounts with it. Riders have to notify CARTS 24 hours ahead of time and be ready to go within 15 minutes on either side of the scheduled pickup time.

Assembly shoots down gun range in Seldovia

The power of public comment took down an effort to set up a gun club in a valley near Seldovia.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly considered a resolution May 17 to reclassify a parcel of land near the remote community of Seldovia on the southern Kenai Peninsula as recreational. The Seldovia Sportsmen’s Club, a recreational club, requested the borough reclassify the land so the club could apply to lease it for the purpose of setting up a shooting range.

Division of Parks to sell merchandise to help pay costs, become self-sufficient

Add promotional hats, water bottles, visors and other promotional items to the list of ways Alaska hopes to balance its budget without hiking taxes too high.

The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation got a green light from the Legislature to sell parks-themed merchandise for a profit.

As long as Gov. Bill Walker signs the bill, SB 101, the division can begin ordering merchandise and pricing it to offset the division’s cost of operating.

Support industries feel pinch

The round tables were fringed with people chatting leisurely and exchanging bits of news, like they were on lunch break. A few feet away, two young men ignored the conversation and clicked away on desktop computers. Yet another group stood on the edges of the room, pacing and waiting, their heads snapping up when the fronts doors opened.

All heads turned as soon as Rachel O’Brien called for session participants, and all rose, shuffling slowly toward the back room of the Peninsula Job Center in unison. As soon as the door closed, the room fell silent.

Ordinance would merge two borough departments

Facing decreased revenue from the state, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has proposed merging the Capital Projects Department with its Purchasing and Contracting Department.

The Capital Projects Department handles capital improvement projects in the borough, such as roofing a school or repairing a water-damaged baseball field. Seven permanent staff and some temporary positions for individual projects make up the department.

Teen birth rate declines in Alaska

The number of teenage parents in Alaska is continuing its downward trend.

Nationwide, the birth rate among teenage women 15-19 years old has declined dramatically since 1991, from 61.8 per 1,000 teens to 24.2 out of every 1,000 by 2014, according to a May 3 bulletin issued by the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. In Alaska, the rate is higher than the national average — 27.8 per 1,000 teens age 15–19 years — but it has fallen significantly from 42.6 per 1,000 in 2008, according to the bulletin.

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