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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Denali National Park: No Goats Allowed

Monday, July 28, 2014

If you’re looking for a place to walk your goat, scratch Denali National Park off the list.  The park is planning to prohibit goats from its land in order to protect Dall Sheep.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.

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A recent story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner discussed plans by Denali National Park and Preserve officials to ban goats inside the park.  This came after an Anderson man was cited for walking his goat in an area where no domestic animals are allowed.  While goat-walking is not exactly a popular activity within the park, biologists are concerned about possible impacts on the local Dall Sheep population.

“These animals can carry diseases that are easily transmissible to wild sheep and goats, as well as other wildlife.” (more…)

Troopers Make Two Arrests in the Upper Valley Over the Weekend

Monday, July 28, 2014

Over the weekend, the Alaska State Troopers reported two incidents in the Upper Valley.   The first occurred early Saturday morning.  According to the trooper dispatch report, Talkeetna resident Christopher Ebner was arrested for assaulting a household member and causing injury.  He was charged with fourth degree assault, a misdemeanor, and taken to the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility without bail.

The second incident took place on Sunday afternoon.  Troopers say that Christopher Frazer of Wasilla was stopped near mile 97 of the Parks Highway after troopers received a report of dangerous driving.  Troopers say they found less than one ounce of marijuana in Frazer’s possession.  He was charged with misconduct involving a controlled substance and released at the scene.

Writer’s Voice–Building an Alaskan life: A decade to cherish, by Katie Writer

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This article by

Talkeetna pilot and mother Katie Writer

  was published this month

in Aviation for Women magazine.

(Text and photos follow audio, 12 min 37 sec)

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 Earlier this year I hit the ten-year mark of moving to Alaska for my first flying job. I recall the unknown of a new adventure being somewhat daunting. As a newly certified flight instructor, the responsibility of teaching others how to fly floatplanes in Alaska required professionalism beyond the years of flight training. Thinking back, I could have easily been stalled by fear of the unknown. (more…)

Agriculture: Peonies in the Upper Valley

Friday, July 25, 2014

Peonies are a growing business in Alaska.  Ample sunlight and moisture make for good growing conditions, and more farmers are looking at the flowers as a profit-maker.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited a family farm in Trapper Creek, and has this story.

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When most people hear “Alaskan exports,” they think of things like gold, salmon, and oil.  Now, however, some Alaskan farmers are capitalizing on the timing of the growing season to cash in on a new market, peonies.  Peonies are a family of flower with somewhere between twenty-five and forty species.  The blossoms contain many petals, and can open to be quite large, with the flower of many species averaging six inches across or more.  In Alaska, some can get even larger.

“They were as big as my head!”

That’s Pat Holloway.  She is the Professor of Horticulture at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and she is describing some of the flowers in her own garden this summer.  Professor Holloway is also a big part of the reason that farmers are growing peonies in Alaska.  She says she spoke with a flower industry expert nearly fifteen years ago, who told her that Alaska is in a unique position to grow peonies commercially.

“Ours bloom in July instead of May, where most people have peonies.  He says to me, ‘If you look in to the world’s markets on cut flowers, nobody has peonies blooming in July.”

Armed with that knowledge, Professor Holloway obtained grant money to start trying to grow peonies in Alaska.  Because the growth was being carefully documented, Holloway says she got an unexpected phone call two years into the experiment.

“In 2003, I was in my office, and I got a phone call.  This gentleman introduced himself as a flower broker from London, and he wanted me to send him 100,000 stems!”

As it turns out, flower distributors are very eager to expand the period in which they can sell peonies.  That particular broker had been searching the internet for late summer flowers and found Professor Holloway’s records.

“My little paper that was on the internet was the only resource that had a calendar in it, and he goes, ‘You’re it.’  He says, ‘You have them.’  I just sat back going, ‘Oh my gosh, there is something to this.’  I was just so dumbfounded.”

Part of the reason for year-round demand for peonies is how they are used.  Bryan Hoffmann, whose family grows peonies in Trapper Creek, says that peonies are in high demand around the world for one specific occasion.

“It seems to be bridal bouquets.”

Research shows that wedding budgets overall are going up.  Part of that cost is fresh flowers.  Bryan Hoffmann says that the trend is looking good for peonies.

“They’ve done a lot of research into how much money is spent on flowers, and it’s a lot.”

Bryan Hoffmann grew up on a farm in Wisconsin.  He works in Prudhoe Bay, now, but says he would like to find a way to make farming his full-time job again.  Marilyn Hoffmann, Bryan’s wife, says that the family discovered peonies as an Alaskan crop as a matter of necessity.

“Our first year moving up here, all three acres of this was hay, and we found out that our son was allergic to hay, so we had to figure out something different, so Bryan did research on peonies.”

Part of that research that Bryan Hoffmann saw was what Professor Holloway had produced.  Now, the family grows three acres of peonies.  It’s a learning process for the Hoffmanns.  Marilyn explains how cutting the flowers is different in Alaska than anywhere else, because florists want them while they are still in bud stage .

“You’re out here four times a day.  You’re constantly in the field, checking buds.  Last year, even from midnight–which would be my last cut–to six in the morning, I would have so many blown that I couldn’t send to the distributor because they were already too far open.”

The Hoffmanns are far from alone in peony farming in the area.  The Mat-Su Borough recently designated itself as the peony capital of Alaska.  Bryan Hoffmann says farmers in the Valley are all working on the best way to grow the flowers, and often share information on what’s working for them within the relatively new industry.

“Up here, everybody’s still trying to figure it out.  There’s a lot of communication between farmers in the area.  We talk to a lot of farmers, ‘Hey, what’s working for you?…We tried this, it didn’t work for us,’  A lot of information sharing.

Bryan Hoffmann says one of the reasons that farmers feel comfortable sharing techniques is that Alaska has a corner on the market that it is nowhere close to exhausting.

“There’s such a big demand; I don’t know that Alaska will ever exceed the demand.  Once you flood the Lower 48, you still have Europe…you still have the rest of the world.”

The supply in Alaska, and on the Hoffmanns’ farm is continuing to grow, but it still has a long way to go before the hundreds of thousands of flowers that distributors, florists, and wedding planners are asking for can be exported.  This week, flower distributors were touring farms across Alaska, and, by all accounts, they are impressed not only with the extended peony season, but also the quality of flowers that grow under the midnight sun.

Susitna Salmon Center to Host Grand Opening and Community Art Project Wednesday

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Artist Katherine England with part of the salmon totem project that will be unveiled at the Susitna Salmon Center on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Susitna Salmon Center in Downtown Talkeetna is celebrating its grand opening with fish-themed art and education, and they’re giving the community a chance to pitch in on a special art project.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning visited the Susitna Salmon Center on Tuesday, and has this report:

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One of the things the Susitna River is known for is its salmon.  All five species can be found in the river, and sport fishing is common when state regulations allow.  This week marks the grand opening of the Susitna Salmon Center in Talkeetna.  The Center is on First Street near the ballfield in downtown.  The building contains an art gallery with works by Alaskans as well as an education center.  As part of its grand opening, the Susitna Salmon Center is unveiling a special piece of artwork dedicated to the river’s famous fish.  It’s a six-foot salmon totem with each species represented by a sculpture mosaic.

Katherine England of California put the project together.  She has done a number of projects for non-profits in the past, and says that this was an opportunity for her to not only create a unique, locally themed piece, but to learn more about the subject matter as well. (more…)

Close Encounter Between Plane and Whale in Southeast Goes Viral

Friday, July 18, 2014

by: Greta Mart, KCAW – Sitka

A 48-second YouTube video catching the swift reactions of a Sitka floatplane pilot went viral this past week. KCAW’s Greta Mart tracked down the pilot and the man who took the video to bring us the full story of how a routine flight in Southeast Alaska made waves on news programs and websites around the world.

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“…And a close call for the pilot of a pontoon plane in Alaska who just narrowly missed landing right on a humpback whale near Angoon…take a look here you’ll see just before the plane hits the water, the pilot then pulls up and then lands safely a few feet later…”

“My name is Rob Murray. I’m chief pilot at Harris Air in Sitka.”

On the morning of July tenth, Murray was flying four passengers into the small Southeast community of Angoon, coming down for a landing in Mitchell Bay.

“I didn’t see the whale…I was definitely looking right at the spot where the whale turned out to be…the first thing that I saw was just before touchdown was the spray, so thank god the whale decided to exhale because that is what I saw.” (more…)

Melting Permafrost May Help Curb Greenhouse Gases

Friday, July 18, 2014

by: Emily Schwing, KUAC

Scientists have long believed melting permafrost emits large amounts of carbon-rich greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide to the atmosphere resulting in a warming climate.  But a new study published online by the journal Nature on Wednesday indicates ancient lakes that formed after permafrost fin the Arctic first melted roughly ten thousand years ago may in fact have a net climate cooling effect over long time scales.  As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, the the study also increases the total amount of carbon estimated in the frozen soils of the Far North by more than 50 percent.

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Katey Walter Anthony is an Associate Professor at  the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology.  She studies methane emissions from Arctic thermokarst lakes.

“Until now, we have understood these thermokarst lakes, or lakes where permafrost thaws, to be a really important source of methane, a greenhouse gas that causes the climate to warm.” (more…)

Borough Seeking Input on Transportation Plan

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Mat-Su Borough is soliciting public input in order to update its Long Range Transportation Plan.  The plan was last updated in 2007, and was intended to act as a guide for borough-wide transportation improvements through 2025.  The update currently in progress will run through 2035.  While the plan covers the entire borough, the focus for the update is on fast-growing areas such as Knik Goose Bay Road and the Big Lake and Meadow Lakes areas.

The goal of the LRTP is to allow infrastructure to keep pace with growth.  It involves plans for roads, trails, airports, and public transportation.  While the update is focused more on the core area of the borough, the rural areas are also covered.  Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, and Sunshine all have lists of community desires listed in the 2007 plan.  For Talkeetna, that includes items like the wish to continue as an “end of the road” community.  Trapper Creek’s largest item is the improvement of the Petersville Road, and Sunshine has requests for pedestrian access and general safety improvements, especially along high traffic roads and the Parks Highway. (more…)

Government Hill Residents Protest Demolitions for Knik Arm Bridge

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

by:  Anne Hillman, APRN

On Tuesday potential demolition contractors were shown buildings the state wants torn down on Government Hill in Anchorage, and protesters chanted and held signs protesting the demolition as premature. It’s the result of planning for a bridge by the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, or KABATA, that has now been taken over by the state. Local home owner Marjorie Ellis did not mince words in her criticism of that bridge idea:
“Everything they’ve done is to destroy Government Hill, which is the oldest community in Anchorage.”

Funding prospects for the bridge hang on seeking a federal loan. But
Jill Rees of the state Transportation Department says right of way
acquisition has to run well ahead of any construction:

“You can’t wait until you’re ready with the financing to start building the bridge.  You might be three or four years down the line, at that point, of just getting properties purchased.  Also, especially in the Anchorage Bowl, prices aren’t going down.”

The demolition is planned for November.

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