Roofs to rivers, students care for the Kenai

Southern Kenai Peninsula students swept clean the annual “Caring for the Kenai” awards at Kenai Central High School last week:
First place, $1,600: Katherine Dolma, Homer, with a proposal for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to install green roofs;
Sixth place, $550: Jane Rohr, Homer, who is working with the Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly to construct a commercial composting site in Homer;
Top-12 finalist, $400: Patrick Latimer, Homer, for wanting to implement a stream watch curriculum for elementary-age students to be taught by Homer High students to scientifically monitor water quality;
Top-12 finalist, $400: Melissa Ehlers, Ninilchik, for her plan to install a wind generator at Ninilchik High School to reduce energy costs;
Top-12 finalist, $400: Lisa Wisner, Homer, for writing an elementary school curriculum called “Peers for the Future,” to mentor the next generation of environmental decision-makers;
Top-12 finalist, $400: Cassidy Soistman, Homer, for organizing a cross-country ski race that raised funds to improve the Calvin and Coyle Woodland Park.
“Out of 12 finalists, Homer had five,” said Dolma, a Homer High senior who plans to put her winnings towards college expenses.
The competition asks students to respond to the question: What can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?
Green roofs have been an interest of Dolma’s since she was in middle school.
“Green roofs are known for lowering energy cost, storm water management and longevity,” Dolma said in her CFK presentation.  
When a bond issue was on the ballot several years ago for replacing and repairing school roofs, Dolma thought the time was right to present her green roof idea. She sent letters to the borough assembly and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District administrators. Rather than try to sell it as a replacement for the district’s 43 acres of roofs, Dolma’s idea was to begin with one test roof.
She estimated the cost for installing a green roof would be between $10 and $25 per square foot. Her proposal called for a multi-layer construction, beginning with the roof deck. On top of that is a waterproofing membrane, insulation, a barrier topped with a protection fabric, a drainage layer, another filter layer and, finally, the growing media and vegetation.
“It can be pretty much anything. Vegetables. Flowers. It can be a layer of grass,” said Dolma, using a roof at Coal Point Trading Company on the Spit as an example.
“I even know someone that has strawberries on their roof.”
The feedback she received has been varied.
“A lot of people I talked to gave me another name to talk to, saying they didn’t have the power to make the decision, but I also got emails back saying, ‘Really cool project. I’m going to talk to someone else about it.’ Others said they liked the idea and were considering it for their own houses,” said Dolma.
Suggestions from Bill Smith, who represents Homer on the borough assembly, matched Dolma’s approach.
“One of the suggestions I had was that she focus on a partial refit of a particular facility and try to come up with a practical example,” said Smith. “That’s how I think we could possibly prove the concept.”
Caring for the Kenai’s signature sponsor is Tesoro Alaska, in partnership with Chevron, Kenai River Raven, Hilcorp Energy, Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Conoco Phillips. Four hundred students participated this year.
Second place and $1,100 went to Kyrsten Maxson of Kenai Central for her idea to recycle junk mail; third place and $900 went to Taylor Sheldon of Kenai Central for his campaign to increase food production through high tunnel farming; fourth place and $750 went to the Skyview team of Morgan Chesley, Austin Craig and Aurora Derflinger for diverting books headed for the landfill and shipping them to needy African countries; and fifth place and $650 went to Braden Ellis of Nikiski for his plan to reduce the use of plastic bottles by installing water bottle refill stations in schools. Haley Trefon of Skyview was a top-12 finalist with her idea of using the song of the golden crown sparrow to identify when the salmon return is coming.
In addition to $7,500 in cash prizes for finalists, $20,000 will be awarded to the science departments of schools participating in CFK 2014.  
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at