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NSI Holds Fourth Cardboard Regatta

Monday, July 6, 2015

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By: Katie Writer

For more photos, visit the KTNA Facebook page.

The fourth Annual Northern Susitna Institute Cardboard Boat Regatta attracted a big crowd, many of whom observed the family fun event from the middle of the lake.  This year’s various boat and paddle board designs decorated the beach at Christiansen Lake for judges to inspect for the “right stuff.” This means that cardboard is the main ingredient with water soluble paint and duck tape at the seams only. There were some impressive designs mixed in with considerable color, creative themes, and basic crafts meant to withstand a few minutes in the chilly water.  Some were greater works of art than function and those captaining such rigs had to work extra hard, including Cayman Kingery’s ‘Ice Cube’ and Shelby Whitecar’s ‘Lily.’ The cheering crowd added fuel to their pursuit to round all four marks and paddle into the finish area.  This year’s Commodore, Chris Mannix, kept the action flowing with several heats of 3 boats racing at a time.

With 11 boats in the Kid’s Division, it took 4 rounds and some carnage of sinking boats included to pick the top 3 for the finals.  There was a lot of splashing at the start of final race where Maya Mossanen led the 15 and under division in her sleek craft called ‘SS Hippie Mobile’.  Though several years younger, 5 year old racer, Jasper Marder of ‘Blue Canal’ paddled not too far off her lead. Obvious theatrical backgrounds and ‘bath tubish’  design earned the ‘Four Musketeers’ the Titanic/Most Dramatic Sinking Award.

Of the 3 boats entered in the Family Division, the Bet-Sea Ross carried the most 054passengers first thru the finish line, though not without considerable effort. Some obvious experienced paddlers on board with fancy strokes managed to make moving this giant along look easy. There were plenty of boats on patrol to pick up the debris from rigs that fell apart in the lake.

The Adult Division’s Lambeau Field earned the Commodore’s Award of the Day.  Driver, design, and will power were the elements that made for top finishers this year while the comical paddlers and simple regatta fun made this a fun day for all.

Su Valley Voice July 1st, 2015: Talkeetna Recycling

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

 

Talkeetna Recycling Works Facebook page

Valley Community for Recycling Solutions Facebook page

VCRS Website

Opening of Houston fireworks stands “highly unlikely”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Sockeye Fire is nearly contained, and fires continue to burn throughout the state. Now, many are questioning whether or not fireworks will be available and legal for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The state has lifted its fireworks ban, with the exception of Western Alaska. Many municipal and borough restrictions are still in place, however. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

Robert Hall is the owner of Gorilla Fireworks, which operates stands in Houston and North Pole. He says it is almost certain that the North Pole stand will not open, and doubtful that the city of Houston will lift its ban on the sale of fireworks.

“[It is] very unlikely that we’ll open in Houston. They’ll make a final decision on Thursday based on a lot of different factors, not just weather.”

Hall says one of those factors is the strain that the Sockeye and other fires have placed on fire departments in the Mat-Su Borough. He also says consideration for the victims of the Sockeye Fire will play a role.

“These people in Willow are friends of ours. Our kids went to school with their kids. They’ve been through an awful lot, and that’s a consideration, too.”

Currently, the sale of fireworks is banned in the City of Houston. A final decision from the city is expected on Thursday. Robert Hall says the city consults with the state’s Division of Forestry and local fire departments to make its decisions regarding fireworks.

“I’m very comfortable that the City of Houston will make the right decision, and that, if they made the decision today, it would be not to open firework stands.”

Hall says that, if the Houston stands do open, that they will only be selling sparklers, fountains, and other fireworks that are not designed to leave the ground.

Whether or not fireworks are available for sale this week, the Mat-Su Borough has placed a ban on use of fireworks, and borough spokeswoman Patty Sullivan says code enforcement officers will be patrolling over the course of the weekend.

Mat-Su Borough election field begins to take shape

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This October, voters in the Mat-Su Borough will choose their mayor, three school board members, and three assembly members, including the seat that represents the Upper Valley. Thus far, four candidates have registered with the Alaska Public Offices Commission to run for borough office, which allows their campaigns to both receive and spend funds.

Two candidates have registered with the state as candidates for Mayor of the Mat-Su Borough. Larry DeVilbiss, the current mayor, has registered to seek re-election.   Vern Halter, who currently sits on the Mat-Su Borough Assembly representing District 7, has also registered with APOC to run for mayor. Halter is not eligible to run to retain his assembly seat due to term limits.

Willow resident Randall Kowalke has registered to run for the Borough Assembly seat that Halter is vacating. Wasilla resident Robert Doyle has also registered to run for the assembly, although for a different seat.

Three individuals have filed letters of intent with the state, which allows them to receive campaign donations, but not to spend them, and the state does not officially consider them candidates, yet.

Sarah Welton of Wasilla has filed a letter of intent to seek re-election to the Mat-Su School Board. The other two letters of intent, one filed by Erick Giorgiana of Palmer and one with the candidate name “Exploratory,” but filed by Roger Purcell of Houston, do not specify the office they might eventually run for.

While all candidates may currently, the borough’s candidate registration will take place from July 20th through the 31st.  The Mat-Su Borough election will be held on October 6th.

Sockeye Fire Still Listed at 96% Containment

Monday, June 29, 2015

With the Sockeye Fire nearing 100% containment, many of the firefighters assigned to fight the 7,000-plus acre blaze have demobilized or moved on to fight other wildfires in the state.

The last official report lists the fire as 96% contained. About eighty firefighters will remain assigned to the fire, and the incident command post has moved from Houston to the Willow Community Center.

While the Sockeye Fire is on its way to being extinguished, officials say that “minor” fire activity, including scattered smoke and small flames, can still occur and do not necessarily need to be reported.

Those inside the fire zone are urged to use caution, as there are still pockets of hot ash and trees that were weakened by the Sockeye Fire. Officials suggest wearing gloves, boots, and long sleeves while inside the area.

In total, the Sockeye Fire destroyed fifty-five homes and many outbuildings. The State of Alaska has opened its individual assistance program for those who lost property. Information on the program is available at ready.alaska.gov.

Local Firefighters Reflect on Sockeye Fire

Thursday, June 25, 2015

By:  Katie Writer – KTNA

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The Sockeye Fire is 94 % contained as of Thursday’s morning report. All involved with the massive effort, including Firefighters, the Mat-Su Borough, Red Cross, and out-of-state help are beginning to feel relief after what was the highest priority wildfire in the country last week nears containment.

Mother Nature sometimes helps with rain, but not in this case. Human effort, hard work, sweat and tears are responsible for the progress.

When driving through the Willow area on the Parks Highway, the sight of burnt trees and fallen homes tug at any viewer’s heart strings. Willow’s battle with the Sockeye Fire is nearly at its end and homemade signs saying “Thank You Fire Fighters!”  line the highway.

When talking with Caswell Fire Department on Tuesday, there was a moment to look back on the IMG_3849past week of chaos. Firefighter Marika Carey remembers how quickly the fire grew.

“It was way out of control by the time that we got there, within 1/2 hour of the call.”

Fellow Caswell firefighter Garret Davidson says,

“The Second Day we were working on a house of a person we know very well.  We had been back there several times. On the fourth time, everything around the whole house was on fire and we thought we were going to loose it. Somehow, we pulled it off.”

After a long pause, Garret quietly says, “At one point, I was about to cry.”

Firefighters braved dangerously close contact with this high speed fire. Sometimes, at the point of trying to save a home or getting everyone out of harms way, including themselves, choices are made. One of the hardest choices a homeowner makes is to stay or go, and that can mean life or death.

The adrenalin on top of the physical demands of being a firefighter  is something to behold.

Marika Carey says

“It was like being in a dream for 36 or so hours…it was pretty intense!”

While fifty-five homes were lost to the blaze, no human lives were lost, thanks to the tireless efforts of first responders.

IMG_3804During the Sockeye Fire, the FAA set up a temporary Flight Control Tower at the Willow airport to manage the fire related air traffic. Now that the fire is 94% contained, they will move on.

The Temporary Flight Restriction surrounding the Willow area was lifted mid-day Thursday.

More than 300 firefighters continue working to contain the Sockeye Fire.  The areas still burning are located near the Susitna River, Willow Creek, and Little Willow Creek.

Denali Height Being Measured By Climbers

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This story by KNOM’s Francesca Fenzi :

A dispute over the height of North America’s tallest mountain may be resolved this week, as surveyors climb to the top of Mount McKinley.

McKinley – recognized throughout Alaska by its Koyukon Athabascan name, Denali – has long been thought to stand at 20,320 feet, a measurement recorded in 1953. That number was contested in 2013, when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) used radar technology to re-calculate the mountain’s height. The result was a mere 20,237 feet… 83 feet lower than the previously recognized elevation.

“Oh, people didn’t like the lower number. And I was bothered by it myself. I mean I had people say, ‘It’s still over 20,000 feet, I hope?’ And I said, ‘Yes it’s still over 20,000 feet, but I don’t know how much over 20,000 feet.’”

Dave Moune is Senior Project Manager with Dewberry Geospacial Products and Services – a company contracted by USGS to perform the 2013 survey. Moune says the “new” elevation, in addition to being controversial, may not be entirely accurate.

He says the measurement was taken from the air using radar frequencies, to create 3D images as part of an ongoing mapping project around the state. And while that technique is great for mapping complex terrain in 3D, Moune says its single-point elevation measurements could be off by several meters.

He adds the most accurate way to measure height for a specific peak is to use GPS. But for that, you need old-fashioned boots on the ground…

“Hey there, this is Blaine. We’re up at 14,000 feet on Denali on the summit survey expedition.”

Blaine Horden is leading those boots – and a team of three surveyors – to the summit of Denali this week. Their mission: To set the record straight.

As of Monday night, the team had settled in at 14,000 feet… with plans to push for the summit as early as Wednesday. But Moune says the task of measuring a mountain isn’t an easy one.

“These guys are not just taking themselves to the top of the mountain. They are carrying a lot of equipment with them. That all has weight associated with it. Some of it is stuff they have to keep inside their coat so their bodies will help keep it warmer. That all adds to the complexity of the climb.”

 In addition to challenges faced by all high-altitude climbers, the team will need to clear a few logistical hurdles. For example: finding the physical peak of Denali – rock that has been buried under feet of ice and snow.

This is an ambitious goal. No survey of the mountain so far has calculated elevation using its natural peak… all measurements have been taken from ice resting on top of the mountain. Which, Moune says, could have contributed to some level of error in the past.

“People want to know how high is Denali. And perhaps the best we can do is tell them how high the ice and snow is in 2015 on the day that we surveyed it. Recognizing that the thickness of the ice and snow may change whenever it snows and rains up there. Or melts for that matter.”

 Moune says even if Horden’s team also measures from the ice at Denali’s summit, the data they gather will still provide an improved estimate of the mountain’s true height.

The expedition could take as long as three weeks to complete, but Moune reports that the surveyors are currently ahead of schedule – and could begin their descent by the end of this week.

Update on Parks Highway, Evacuation Zones

Friday, June 19, 2015

By:  Liz Ruskin – APRN

 

Managers of the Sockeye Fire near Willow plan to begin letting residents back into the evacuation area today.

At 10 this morning, the evacuation zone will be reduced to the fire perimeter line, controlled by nine security checkpoints. Homeowners who have lost homes will be let into the fire zone, starting at 11.

The evacuation is set to end entirely on Saturday but security checkpoints will remain in place through the weekend.

On the Parks Highway, traffic will be controlled between mileposts 71 and 78 until Monday. At least 26 homes were destroyed in the 7,000-acre blaze. Firefighters are still working in the area to put out hotspots.

Talkeetna man charged with theft from properties destroyed by Sockeye Fire

Friday, June 19, 2015

On Thursday, an unidentified Talkeetna man was charged with stealing copper wire and tubing from two properties in Willow.

Troopers patrolling the evacuation area for the Sockeye Fire received a report at about 3:30 p.m. reporting a theft of copper wire from a destroyed property near Mile 74 of the Parks Highway.

Just after 7:00 p.m. Troopers contacted a thirty-year-old Talkeetna resident who they charged with the Mile 74 theft as well as theft of copper wire and tubing from a destroyed property on Polis Circle in Willow. Troopers say the thefts happened between Wednesday and Thursday. The man has been charged with two counts of criminal trespassing and third-degree theft. The man’s name has not been released.