Elizabeth Earl

Watershed Forum gets new director

As the new head of the Kenai Watershed Forum, there is a lot to learn, but Jack Sinclair said he’s up to the task.

Sinclair has taken over the role of executive director for the Soldotna-based conservation nonprofit after former executive director Robert Ruffner announced he would step down earlier this year. He said he has been working part-time in the role for about a month but transitioned into a full-time position on Dec. 18.

State focuses on business retention

In the face of impending fiscal disaster, the state of Alaska is partnering with regional economic development organizations and chambers of commerce to research the statewide business climate.

Economists have been examining ways to diversify the state’s economy as the price of oil continues to drop, taking the state’s budget with it. One way to shore up the economy is to promote local businesses, so the partners are hoping to find out more about what makes businesses stay in an area.

Kasilof special use plan blasted

Several organizations and activists are voicing opposition to the Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining, Land and Water plan to build a parking lot near the mouth of the Kasilof River.

The department, which manages the Kasilof River Special Use Area, proposed a development plan in late October that includes two parking lots on the north side of the river mouth. The parking lots together would accommodate 315 vehicles, a footprint some conservationists are saying is too large and could infringe on wildlife.

FDA approves ‘Frankenfish’

After five years of debate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved genetically modified salmon for food.

The AquAdvantage salmon, produced by Massachusetts-based biotechnology company AquaBounty Technologies, is the first genetically modified animal approved for food in the United States. The salmon is designed to reach a larger size faster than farmed Atlantic salmon by splicing in a gene from Pacific Chinook, which allows the fish to produce more growth hormone.

LNG project could bring more traffic to busy Kenai River

Managers are concerned that pressure on the Kenai River could increase if the Alaska LNG project goes through.

The project is still tentative and will not receive a final ruling until 2018 at the earliest, but if it does go through, the borough could see an influx of as many as 5,000 workers for the five years it takes to construct the 900-acre plant in Nikiski. Unless the camp is closed, many of them will likely recreate on the Kenai River.

Navarre proposes uniting 3 hospitals under 1 umbrella

The Healthcare Task Force zeroed in on the hospitals at its meeting last week.

At its third meeting, the Healthcare Task Force heard from the representatives of Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board and the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board about their roles in hospital operations. Borough Mayor Mike Navarre also gave the borough administration’s recommendations for connecting the hospitals in Soldotna, Homer and Seward.

Here comes the boom: Peninsula business offers crane certification

The whole lot smelled of diesel, mud, rubber and rain. Brandon Leary, a crane operator for Crowley Maritime, delicately extended the hydraulic lift on the dull yellow crane, lowering the round weight onto a wood platform.

Bill Elmore swung his right arm horizontally, raindrops pinging from his hardhat. That Leary was done with the practical exam for his crane certification and could stop the crane was all said in one hand signal.

Anchor Point man faces federal weapons charges, making threats against law enforcement

An Anchor Point man faces federal charges for allegedly threatening law enforcement over the radio.

Larry Clarence Volz Jr., 58, was arrested Oct. 1 during a Federal Bureau of Investigation search of his home on the 41000 block of the Old Sterling Highway in Anchor Point. An FBI SWAT team executed a search warrant as part of a Safe Streets Task Force investigation, according to a statement from the FBI’s Anchorage office.

Angelica is back

She walks slowly, but Angelica Haakenson is walking.

Twelve-year-old Angelica of Anchor Point lost both her legs in a car accident on Christmas Day of 2014. After months of convalescence in Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital at Providence in Anchorage and physical therapy, she is slowly transitioning out of a wheelchair onto prosthetic legs.

Alaska sees increase in people in poverty

New census data shows that poverty has increased in Alaska, but it may not be as simple as the numbers make it look.

Alaska’s statewide poverty rate climbed in 2014 to 11.2 percent, a 1.3 percent increase from 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey data. It was the only state that saw both an increase in the number of people living in poverty and the percentage.

Hilcorp applies to drill 2 wells

Hilcorp Alaska’s plans to drill two additional oil and natural gas exploration wells southeast of Ninilchik are moving forward into the permitting phase.

If approved, the company plans to begin clearing vegetation in late September, construct a gravel pad and begin drilling two wells to be completed by May 2016.

New borough system will make it easier to share chemical safety information

All government and school facilities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough will soon have access to an online system for chemical safety information.

After an August 2014 Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection showed deficiencies in the Bear Creek volunteer fire station, the borough faced a fine and a citation for insufficient Hazard Communication.

New community health center to open in Kenai

A new full-service community medical center is slated to open in Kenai.

A federal grant to the Peninsula Community Health Services of Alaska, a Soldotna-based nonprofit that already operates two facilities that provide dental, behavioral health, psychiatric and medical services, will fund the center. The grant, awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resource and Services Administration, provides $858,333 to the new center.

Assembly OKs bonds for Soldotna hospital

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted on Tuesday to move forward with issuing more than $3 million in bonds to fund a Central Peninsula Hospital project.

The bonds, which were originally proposed to fund medical equipment purchases for the Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, will be extended on short, 8-year terms, according to Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre. 

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