Nikolaevsk water system earns honor

When it comes to outstanding water systems, Nikolaevsk has it. Actually, it has the best in the state for a community with a population of less than 1,000, according to the Alaska Rural Water Association.

The announcement was recently made during the association’s 15th annual training conference in Anchorage.

“Nikolaevsk’s system continues to be well maintained and the operations and maintenance are outstanding with great record keeping which is a necessity for regulatory compliance,” the announcement read. “They are diligent in their system operations and take proactive steps to comply with all EPA regulations. This results in quality water to all their residents.”

“They” refers to Karson “Dan” Dorvall, who has operated the system since 1991. Formed as a nonprofit, Nikolaevsk Inc. provides the village water. The current system was put in place in 1995-1996. It has 74 active connections and serves about 300 people. The monthly rate for a one-inch residential hook-up is $65. Commercial hook-ups are charged more. Assisting as back-up operator for Dorvall at the present is Stash Kalugin.

In 2010, Dorvall was recognized as “operator of the year” for systems serving less than 1,000. Now, Dorvall is in the process of “kind of retiring.” 

“There comes a point where you’re working on things and you think you’re not doing this as well as you used to,” said Dorvall. “It’s time to pass it on to someone younger who has more energy, more zeal.”

That “someone” is Vasily Yakunin and his wife, Efrosinia.

“I’ve always wanted to be more a part of the community and this gives my wife and me a chance to do that,” he said. “It’s a good system and we’re very fortunate.”

Yakunin is not completely unfamiliar with how the system works. When a new street was put in about eight years ago, he helped extend the water service to that area.

From. Nov. 11-15, the couple was in Fairbanks to take state of Alaska training in water distribution. The first step is a provisional certification. Yakunin’s wife also has been taking accounting classes so she can assume the record-keeping responsibilities of providing village water. They also will have Dorvall nearby to provide assistance if needed.

“There’s so many things that you wouldn’t be able to know even working here for a year,” said Yakunin, who calls Dorval “Papa Dan.” “We’re going to need someone that’s been here awhile.”

Dorvall served on the Nikolaevsk volunteer fire department beginning in 1998, and left that role a few years ago. 

“I used to call myself a ‘man of many hats,’ but I’m starting to shed some of those hats,” said Dorvall.   

He and his wife, Luba, operate Luba’s Garden and sell their produce at Homer Farmers’ Market.

“We took it over from my wife’s parents, who said they were getting older and it was hard for them and why didn’t we take it over. We said we’d help,” said Dorvall. “The first year, 2006, we helped. In 2007, we ended up kind of taking it over and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

Dorvall and his wife have three daughters. The eldest lives and works in Anchorage; the middle daughter is a senior at Nikolaevsk High School, plays basketball and is looking at colleges for next year; the youngest is in the eighth grade at Nikolaevsk and also plays basketball. 

In addition to the garden and parenting, there is another hat Dorvall isn’t ready to shed. Since 1992, he has been custodian of Nikolaevsk School.

“I’ve got about five more years before I can retire from the school,” he said.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at