Elizabeth Earl

Apache to shutter Alaska operations

Apache Corporation, which has been exploring oil and gas resources in the Cook Inlet area, announced recently that it will exit the state.

The Houston, Texas-based corporation has been exploring north of Nikiski since approximately 2010. Apache’s Alaska general manager, John Hendrix, informed the Legislature of the company’s decision.

Smaller commercial salmon harvest forecast for Lower Cook Inlet

Commercial salmon fishermen in Lower Cook Inlet can expect about a quarter of 2015’s harvest in 2016, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s projection.

The Lower Cook Inlet Salmon Fishery Outlook, published Friday, includes both wild runs and returns from the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association’s hatchery projects in the area. The total commercial common property harvest is expected to be 548,000 fish, 10 percent of which will be hatchery fish, according to the projection.

Assembly approves pot rules

The night before entrepreneurs across Alaska were able to apply for marijuana business licenses, the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly affirmed its local regulations.

With a few exceptions, marijuana businesses in the Kenai Peninsula Borough will be regulated similarly to the way the state has chosen to regulate them.

Number of nonresident guides growing steadily

The number of guides and guiding businesses in Alaska is staying stable but the percentage of nonresidents is still climbing.

Since the state saw a drop in guide participation in 2009, the numbers have stabilized, according to the 2014 license and logbook data published by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in January. In 2014, there were 1,805 licensed guides in Alaska and 132 licensed businesses, with 983 holding a combined license. The majority are in the Southcentral region.

Alaska gender pay gap closing slowly

Women in Alaska earned about 79.1 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 2014, according to an analysis from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The analysis, which compared the median weekly earnings for women in various careers across the state, found that women earned a median of $797 weekly compared to the $1,008 median weekly earnings for men. This is a larger disparity than the nationwide average, which has women earning 82.5 percent of men’s median earnings.

Kenai Peninsula scores strong on being affordable

Although the outright price for homes is cheaper in Fairbanks, buying a home may be more affordable overall in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The average price of a home on the peninsula in the first half of 2015 was $265,912, as compared to Fairbanks’ $239,413, according to a December 2015 analysis from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The most expensive homes are in Anchorage, Juneau and Kodiak.

Consultants examine area hospitals

The job is getting serious for the borough’s Healthcare Task Force as members are still trying to determine a purpose and direction.

The task force and members of the public got a first glimpse at the contracted health care consultants’ opinions at the task force’s Feb. 3 meeting. Altogether, the Kenai Peninsula’s three hospitals are in relatively good financial shape but have some work to do to get on track with national trends, they said.

Despite downturn, Hilcorp still buys

As other oil and gas companies seek to trim expenses with layoffs and stalling development, Hilcorp Alaska has no plans to stop acquisitions.

The company will continue to buy properties in Alaska, said Chad Helgeson, the Kenai area operations manager, in an update to the public at the annual Industry Outlook Forum in Kenai on Jan. 28.

“Hilcorp is a growth company, acquisition-based,” Helgeson said. “That’s been our model.”

Ruffner reappointed to fish board

Groundhog Day came Monday evening for Robert Ruffner.

The Soldotna conservationist got a call from Gov. Bill Walker Monday night asking if he would accept a nomination to the state Board of Fisheries again, nearly a year after his first confirmation narrowly failed to pass the Legislature.

Ruffner said the call came as a surprise. After a talk with his wife, he decided he was up for another round.

Miller Energy, SEC settle for $5 million

The U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission has reached a settlement for a $5 million payment with Miller Energy Resources after the company inflated the value of its assets.

The settlement, reached Jan. 12, will conclude the SEC’s investigation into the oil and gas company, the parent company of Cook Inlet Energy.

The SEC charged the company, two former executives and one of its former accountants with fraudulently inflating the values of the company’s Alaska oil and gas properties by more than $400 million.

Beluga concerns arise for Cook Inlet oil leasing

With the annual lease sale approaching and the Alaska LNG Project proposed to enter Cook Inlet, some groups are asking what oil and gas development may do to beluga whale habitat in the inlet.

The Cook Inlet belugas, about 340 individuals as of 2014, migrate through upper Cook Inlet and cross through multiple oil and gas lease areas. Although conservation efforts are ongoing, the numbers decreased by about 1.6 percent annually between 1999 and 2012. A 2014 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration survey recorded a slight increase since then.

Cook Inlet might have more oil

Cook Inlet may have more oil and gas to give, but developing it could present a challenge.

Though there is active development on oil fields in the northern Cook Inlet and one producer in the Cosmopolitan field near Anchor Point, there may be resources that are going unexplored in other parts of the inlet, particularly along the west side.

There is likely more oil deeper below the rock layers that are currently being drilled in Upper Cook Inlet.

Borough debates changes to local option zone code

Forming a local option zone may soon be easier for residents who want more control over what businesses can move into their neighborhoods.

Local option zones are areas in which the majority of residents have control over what businesses can be established there. The code was last revised about 15 years ago. Since then, six of the areas have been formed. There are currently 14 total local option zones within the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Borough’s Marijuana Task Force debating additional restrictions

With less than two months before the state will accept marijuana business applications, the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Marijuana Task Force is still debating whether to set additional restrictions.

The task force has not yet reached a set of recommendations for the borough assembly. Several members supported sticking to the state regulations without any additional rules specific to the borough, but the task force ultimately voted down member Dollynda Phelps’ proposal to adopt the state regulations with no addition.

Micciche: Solutions that cut costs, fund Alaskans’ way of life needed

With the Alaska legislative session beginning Jan. 19, many residents are holding their breath to see how legislators will address the budget concerns.

About a third of Alaskans wants the governor and Legislature to address the economy, and another third are looking for discussion on the budget and taxes, according to a July Rasmuson Foundation poll. As the price of oil hovers around $35 per barrel, the Legislature is planning to examine additional revenue sources as well as more cuts.

Drones to help spot stranded belugas

When the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales strand, it can be a guessing game as to how many and how old they are. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will soon have a little help monitoring them.

The agency will use an unmanned aircraft system, also known as a drone, during strandings to gather more information about the whales. Alaska Aerial Media, a licensed drone pilot company based in Anchorage, will do the actual flying.

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