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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Mat-Su Assembly Approves Expansion of Talkeetna Community Council Area

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Correction:  A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the expansion incorporated the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area.  A significant portion of the GTRSA lies within the Susitna Community Council area.  This story has been changed to reflect that.

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly has approved the expansion of Talkeetna’s community council boundary to the east.

The expansion keeps the Talkeetna River as the northern boundary, and the Sunshine Community Council as the southern boundary for as far as it extends. The newly included area is largely undeveloped, and stretches into the Talkeetna Mountains. Many neighborhoods closer to the Talkeetna Spur Road are also now part of the Talkeetna Community Council area, and the expansion means the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area is now inside either the Talkeetna or Susitna Council area. Only those living inside a council’s area are considered members and thus allowed to run for its board of directors.

Consideration of expansion by the Talkeetna Community Council began after the Mat-Su Borough Planning Department sent notice that council boundaries were being reviewed. Last year, a committee of Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. met and discussed various options. The one they settled on, and which the Assembly ultimately approved, matches up with the Talkeetna Comprehensive Plan. During discussions at TCCI board meetings, some members expressed a desire to make sure that the decision of which council the area would end up in was left to the local community. (more…)

Local Trail Expertise Helps Make the Oosik a Success

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
A competitor in the Oosik's 50km race makes his way through the Talkeetna woods.  Photo:  Phillip Manning

A competitor in the Oosik’s 50km race makes his way through the Talkeetna woods. Photo: Phillip Manning

by:  Katie Writer – KTNA

The 2017 Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has concluded, and hundreds of skiers from the Upper Valley and elsewhere have returned to their lives. KTNA’s Katie writer spoke with one of the event’s long-time participants and organizers about this year’s Oosik.

The 12th annual Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has come and gone. The ever-popular ski event has tripled in size since its inception in 2005.

While the costumes and festive atmosphere add to the day’s fun, a different 25/50K course makes each year’s race unique. Nordic skiing legends such as Olympian Adam Verrier and Norwegian Trond Jensen are fond of the Oosik’s rustic appeal. Unlike the typical well-groomed wide track of today’s

A sample of this year's festive Oosik costumes.  Photo:  Phillip Manning

A sample of this year’s festive Oosik costumes. Photo: Phillip Manning

nordic race courses, the Oosik trail is challenging and often unpredictable.

As Denali Nordic Ski Club founder, Chris Mannix explains.

“It’s this single track through the woods; you’ve got to communicate with other skiers as you pass. It’s a throwback to the early days of Nordic skiing, and I think that’s one of the attractions.”

Chris Mannix attributes the key role of the Trail Meister to the success of the event.

In the beginning, Chris and his brother, Art Mannix were not only the race organizers, but also the trail crew. They utilized Fish Lake for the start and finish area. Since then, a number of knowledgeable local woodsmen have played the role of the Trail Meister, including Mike Wood and Bill Barstow.

Putting in a ski trail entails much more than dragging a groomer up rivers and through the wilderness.  There is a tremendous amount of physical labor involved in brushing out trails, building bridges over creeks, and packing down a continuous 25-50 kilometer course.

Some years, the rivers are open, even in December. In recent years, there has been barely enough snow and race organizers teetered on the edge of calling off the race.

This year’s Trail Meister, Wade Hopkins utilized the zone up and around the Talkeetna River, including Whiskey Creek and up towards Papa Bear Lake.

The Oosik has had a reputation of being flat. More than one year, the course sent skiers for a majority of the miles up the Chulitna River. As beautiful it was to look up at Denali, the lack of variation of terrain led to boredom for the skiers. Not this year. With the steep and winding descents of the Talkeetna Ridge Trail, even the most experienced skiers were challenged.

“Yeah, I biffed big time at the bottom of that hill. It didn’t go smoothly for me, and I’ve been skiing that hill since the ‘80s.”

The flats that followed by the airport and various feed stations gave the skiers time to recover before the last grueling 3-kilometer climb to the finish at the Alaskan Lodge.

“The atmosphere that surrounds the Oosik is one of the things that make it special. Some other races, you get off the course, maybe chat for a few minutes, grab some food to eat, then off you go—you go home. But…Adam’s original intent was to make it more of an end of season get-together for Nordic skiers across Alaska.”


While the race is over, numerous local skiers and mushers are out enjoying this year’s Oosik trail as long as the snow conditions permit.

2017 Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour Results

Monday, March 20, 2017
Racers begin the 50k race at the 2017 Oosik in Talkeetna. Photo: Phillip Manning

Racers begin the 50k race at the 2017 Oosik in Talkeetna. Photo: Phillip Manning

This year, the Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour saw exceptional weather and more than 650 total participants.

Results for this year’s Oosik are divided into men’s and women’s division for the 25 and 50 kilometer races.

In the 50k, Dylan Watts came in first place, Galen Johnston took second, and Seiji (SAY-jee) Takagi came in third. Watts and Johnston are both on the coaching staff for Alaska Pacific University’s ski team, and Takagi skied for the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

For the women’s 50k, Nicole Bathe came in first place, Shalane Frost, last year’s winner, took second, and Nicole De Yong took third. Bathe and Frost both ski with UAF, and De Yong is a member of the University of Alaska Anchorage ski team.

In the 25k, Sadie Fox won the women’s division, with Karina Packer coming in second, and Nancy Pease in third. Fox skis for UAA, and Packer was a member of Dartmouth’s Nordic ski team. Nancy Pease is a well-known trail runner and a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. For the men, last year’s winner, Gus Schumacher of Service High School, took first place, Andrew Hull of South Anchorage High repeated in second, and Zachary Bassett of APU came in third.

Full results from the 2017 Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour

Trapper Creek Cabin Fever Reliever Ski Race Results

Friday, March 17, 2017

This story was submitted by Kathy Ernst.


The day dawned cloudy but became sunny and beautiful by afternoon. The ski trail was well groomed and fast (2.5 kilometers). There were a total 15 skiers competing from kindergarten to high school. Starting with the youngest – three skiers Kaiden Snider, Cipi Dmitryev and Charlie Spotts in the K-2nd grade category did a great job on the short loop through woods. One 2nd grader, Dustin Garrett took on the challenge of the 2.5 K and finished with a time of 30:21.


Cienna Gudmundson took 1st place in the 3-4th grade girls category with a time of 30:57. In the 3-4th boys division, Kasen Buzby took 1st with a time of 21:47. Harley Benedix (25:22) finished in 2nd place.


Seven 5th– 6th graders competed this year. In the boys 5th – 6th group Zavier Annis finished first with a time of 23:10. Christopher Spotts (31:02) was second and Joseph Silva   (56:32) finished third.


The fastest time in the girls 5-6th, as well as fastest in the race for the second year in the row was Cori Gossett who sailed into the finish line in 15 minutes 21 seconds. Cierra Gudmundson was second in her category and overall with a time of 19:13 and Lena Spotts was a close third at 21:58. Cadence Garrett placed 4th (24:59). Our one Su Valley student Aldon John took 3rd over all with a time of 19:51.


No adults officially entered the race but special thanks go to Ralph Kolbeck, Julie DeLoach, Katrina DeYoung, and Laura Derungs who helped keep our skiers safe out on the trail.


Joseph earned a Perseverance Award; he never gave up, had a smile on his face the whole time while he is mastering the sport of skiing. Race officials gave a special Sportsmanship Award to Cierra for the way she cheered on everybody in the race.


Alaska Senate Votes to Use Permanent Fund Earnings for Government Over Valley Senators’ Objection

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A bill that would impact how Alaskans receive Permanent Fund Dividends passed the Alaska Senate on Wednesday over the objection of Democrats and a handful of Republicans, including Senator Mike Dunleavy.

Senate Bill 26 would use part of the Permanent Fund Earnings to fund state government. Proponents of the bill say it will significantly close the state’s current budget gap. That would result in smaller Permanent Fund Dividend checks for qualifying Alaskans.

For the past few years, the State of Alaska has drawn on the Statutory and Constitutional Budget Reserve accounts in order to fund annual operating budgets. The statutory reserve has been all but depleted, and the constitutional reserve has significantly diminished in that time. Once those reserve accounts are exhausted, the Permanent Fund’s earnings could be the next place legislators look, which could endanger the PFD in its entirety. By beginning to use the earnings now and shrinking PFDs, those in favor of SB 26 hope to extend the life of the other reserve accounts.

Democrats opposing the bill say that SB 26 would disproportionately impact poorer Alaskans, who rely more heavily on the PFD as part of their annual income. For a family with children, the impact could be thousands of dollars per year.

Senator Mike Dunleavy, the Wasilla Republican whose district includes the Upper Valley, along with fellow Valley republicans Shelley Huges and David Wilson, all voted against final passage of the bill. Before the final vote, Senator Dunleavy attempted to amend SB 26 to restore the full amount of last year’s Permanent Fund Dividend. A veto by Governor Bill Walker reduced PFDs statewide by about $1,000 last year.

Prior to and during the current session, Dunleavy has tried a number of tactics to restore last year’s dividend to its full amount. Those attempts, as well as his desire to continue the current PFD funding model, place him on the side of the Democratic Senate Minority. The Senate Majority moved to table Dunleavy’s amendment rather than vote on it as a substantive issue. Caucus rules for the majority require members to vote as one on procedural issues. Thus, Senator Dunleavy was effectively forced to vote against his own amendment.

In final discussion of SB 26, Senator Dunleavy once again stated that he believes more cuts are necessary to state government, and that the draw from the earning’s reserve proposed by the bill is too large.

Senate Bill 26 ultimately passed by a vote of 12 to 8.


Mitch Seavey wins 2017 Iditarod in record time

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Correction:  A previous version of this story stated that Mitch Seavey’s 2017 Iditarod win is his fourth.  It is, in fact, his third Iditarod victory.

Mitch Seavey has won his third Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in record time.


Mitch Seavey crossed under the burled arch in Nome on Tuesday afternoon with a time of eight days, three hours, forty minutes, and thirteen seconds. That time is more than eight hours faster than the previous record, set by Mitch’s son, Dallas Seavey, in last year’s race.


Mitch Seavey is also the oldest musher to win the Iditarod at fifty-seven years old. As of Tuesday afternoon, only Seavey has finished the race, sixty-one mushers and their teams are still running, and five teams have scratched.

Funding approved for Talkeetna dike repair

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

After years of delays, Mat-Su Borough officials say they have secured federal funds for the repair of the revetment in Downtown Talkeetna.

Last week, Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook told the Mat-Su Borough Assembly that $1.3 million has been approved to make repairs to the structure, which was damaged in the 2012 flood. The funding comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The application process, appeals, and other delays meant the request took more than four years to be approved. Last year, planning began for the repairs with the understanding that FEMA approval was coming soon.

The delay in funding began when the request was first made after the flood. The Mat-Su Borough as an asset on the flood maps did not list the Talkeetna dike at that time, and FEMA initially rejected the request. Casey Cook and his staff at the borough navigated an appeals process and eventually got approval to submit a funding request for the revetment. After that came rounds of requests for additional information from FEMA. While not necessarily unusual, each of those requests for information pushed the application back in the queue until its final approval this year.

HDL Engineering has been working on a design since last fall, and the current plan is to align the repairs with a fish passage window later this year.

Talkeetna’s dike is not designed primarily as a flood control structure. Rather, its purpose is to help direct the man channel of the Talkeetna and Susitna Rivers away from town. The $1.3 million will not be used to improve the dike, but rather to bring it back to its pre-flood condition. Since the funding request was made as part of a disaster, that is all that was allowed. The Mat-Su Borough is pursuing other funding options for future work, including through the Army Corps of Engineers.



Work to resume on Talkeetna Airport project

Monday, March 13, 2017
The area of 2nd St. that will be re-surveyed for a walking path as part of the Talkeetna Airport Expansion and Improvement Project.  Photo:  Phillip Manning - KTNA

The area of 2nd St. that will be re-surveyed for a walking path as part of the Talkeetna Airport Expansion and Improvement Project. Photo: Phillip Manning – KTNA

Work on the expansion and improvement project at the Talkeetna State Airport is scheduled to resume later this week.


Last year, tree clearing and other preparatory work was done as part of the project, which will result in additional aircraft parking areas and taxiways.


The number of trees that were taken down last summer and fall concerned some area residents who live near the airport. While the Alaska Department of Transportation says a twenty-five foot buffer from the airport’s property line was kept in place, the presence of other cleared rights-of-way meant that some properties on Easy Street were left without any vegetative buffer to the airport.


This week, additional tree clearing is planned for the east side of the Talkeetna airport. Jill Reese, Public Information Officer for DOT, says this clearing is part of the original plan to comply with federal requirements for clearance near a runway that allows for instrument approaches. This portion of airport property lies partially on wetlands, which Reese says necessitates that the clearing happen while the ground is still frozen. She says 190 feet of trees are planned for clearing east of the runway.


In addition, Jill Reese says about one-half-acre between the railroad tracks and the Talkeetna Spur Road is planned for clearing.


In addition to the tree clearing, Reese says the planned walkway along Second Street is being re-surveyed. At public meetings last year, locals expressed a desire to preserve as many of the trees along Second Street as possible. Reese says the survey will determine which trees need to come down in order to accommodate the planned pathway. She adds that one tree in particular, a Mountain Ash near the offices of K2 Aviation, will be spared.


The tree-cutting operation is expected to last two-to-three weeks. After that, the project will be put on hold again until May. Reese says the air taxi services operating from the Talkeetna airport should not experience significant business disruption as the project moves forward.


Tips for Healthy Living–3-10-2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

Diane Ziegner


A  live 15-minute conversation about health and wellness

from health care providers in our communities.

It’s hosted by Holly Stinson, with today’s in-studio guest

Diane Ziegner, a registered yoga therapist in Talkeetna.


Diane discusses yoga therapy’s benefits and applications.  Yoga therapy can be used to address health problems and assist in reducing suffering.