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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Talkeetna sewer and water customers will see rate hike in July

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Starting next month, customers of the Talkeetna Sewer and Water system will see higher bills.

The rate changes happened as part of the budget process, but are not technically part of the budget itself.

Both residential and commercial users will see a rate increase of close to twenty percent beginning in July. Residential water and sewer bills will now total $138 per month. Commercial users’ base bill will be just over $200. In addition, the fee for commercial users who go over a set amount of usage will see their fees for additional water increase by one-fourth.

An accompanying explanation says that the Talkeetna sewer and water system continues to operate at a deficit, and that a rate increase is needed to help close the gap.

This year marks the third in a row with increased sewer and water rates. In October, voters residing inside the sewer and water district will choose whether or not to levy a sales tax in the district to pay for the system. In past interviews, Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Randall Kowalke (kuh-WALL-kee) has said that his hope is that the proposed tax could eventually bring in enough money to bring rates back down.

Workshop features natural building methods

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Lasse Holmes (L) looks on as workshop participants apply the methods he is teaching. Photo: Katie Writer - KTNA

Lasse Holmes (L) looks on as workshop participants apply the methods he is teaching. Photo: Katie Writer – KTNA

by:  Katie Writer – KTNA

The summer months can feel rather manic for many Alaskans who are constructing homes and building additions on others.

Recently, a group of natural builders gathered in Talkeetna to insulate a ‘shop type building’ for Northern Susitna Institute.

The Light Straw Clay Insulation technique was then taught in a workshop on June 10th, led by Lasse Holmes.

Mr. Holmes has been teaching workshops around the country for over decade and is also known as an expert on the rocket mass heater.

KTNA’s Katie Writer spoke with instructor, Lasse Holmes of Canyon Arts School of Natural Building about the advantages of using natural materials.


MEA provides additional information on Thursday’s power surge

Monday, June 12, 2017

More details have been made public regarding last Thursday’s power surge and outage in the Northern Susitna Valley.

According to Matanuska Electric Association spokeswoman Cassi Campbell, multiple lightning strikes over the course of about forty-five minutes were the cause of a power surge that damaged MEA infrastructure. In addition, many area residents report damage to surge protectors and electronics across the area.

The first lightning strike hit the main transmission like shortly after 5:00 pm on Thursday. Campbell says that strike affected two substations servicing the area from Willow to Talkeetna. Much of the Willow area lost power temporarily as a result.

All power was restored by around midnight. One of the last locations to come back online was the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge at Mile 133 of the Parks Highway.

Campbell says MEA has a form that members who suffered damage to property as a result of the surge can fill out. She says a third-party insurer will review the claims. The insurer will determine whether the damages resulted from negligence on the part of MEA.

MEA also has a briefing available online on various types of surge protectors, their efficacy, and their proper use.


New Su Valley, Talkeetna Elementary principals unanimously approved by school board

Friday, June 9, 2017

On Wednesday, the Mat-Su Borough School Board unanimously approved the hiring of two new principals in the Northern Valley. Lisa Shelby, formerly principal of Talkeetna Elementary, will be taking over at Susitna Valley Junior-Senior High School. School Board President and Talkeetna resident Donna Dearman expresses enthusiasm about Shelby’s hiring.
“I will say that I have been honored and thrilled to work with you over the last several years at Talkeetna Elementary.   Your creativity and ability to think outside the box has been absolutely amazing. You have helped grow that school. You brought ideas and excitement to that school that raised those children to a whole other level, so I’m very excited to see what you’re going to do at Su Valley.”


Lisa Shelby moving to Su Valley meant a vacancy at Talkeetna Elementary. After Shelby’s confirmation, the school board unanimously approved the hiring of Becky Moren. Among other roles, Moren was deeply involved in Talkeetna Elementary’s science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, curriculum. When asked, she says she hopes to continue and expand learning through technology.


“That’s probably my passion at this point. In terms of growing that program, maybe rolling some things up to the high school that were started there. I’d love to get a makerspace in the school. It’s absolutely part of the whole-child education.”


Both new principals come from rural teaching backgrounds, including experience in the Northern Valley.

MEA: Lightning strike caused Thursday’s power surge and outage

Friday, June 9, 2017

Matanuska Electric Association says a lightning strike caused the power surge that was experienced through much of the Northern Valley on Thursday.

According to MEA social media, approximately 1,900 customers lost power around 5:00 pm on Thursday in the Willow, Nancy Lake, and Caswell Lakes areas. At least one person reported an extended outage at the McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge north of Trapper Creek.

Even in places where the power stayed on, many people say they experienced a significant power surge. On local social media groups, Upper Valley residents say that breakers, surge protectors, and some home appliances and electronics were affected by the surge.

Approximately two hours after the initial outage report, MEA said on social media that the surge and outage were caused by a lightning strike.

Denali Report for June 9, 2017: Crevasse Rescue

Friday, June 9, 2017
Martin Takac was trapped in a sixty foot crevasse for about sixteen hours before rescuers could reach him.  NPS Photo/Frank Preston

Martin Takac was trapped in a sixty foot crevasse for about sixteen hours before rescuers could reach him. NPS Photo/Frank Preston

This week on the Denali Report, KTNA’s Phillip Manning discusses an increase in the summit rate and the emergency rescue of a climber that combined efforts of guides, rangers, and volunteers.

As predicted by mountaineering rangers last week, the summit rate on Denali has finally started to rise significantly. As of Thursday, it was listed at thirty-six percent, with over 150 climbers having made it to the top of the mountain.

This week also saw a harrowing rescue on Denali. Tucker Chenoweth, South District Ranger for Denali National Park and Preserve, says warming temperatures mean this time of year is often the most dangerous for crevasse falls. Late Sunday evening, Slovak climber Martin Takac fell into a crevasse near “Camp One” on Denali. Takac was climbing with a partner, but the two were not roped together. His partner saw the fall and went to base camp for help.

Tucker Chenoweth says guides from Mountain Trip guide service responded to the scene, but quickly realized they were not equipped to free Takac from the deep, narrow crevasse.

“[The] initial report was forty feet. It ended up being more like sixty feet down in a crevasse that was twelve to fifteen inches wide, and not straight down. It kind of arced, so you couldn’t even see

View from the top of the crevasse, with Martin Takac and a rescuer inside, but not visible from the surface. NPS Photo/Frank Preston

View from the top of the crevasse, with Martin Takac and a rescuer inside, but not visible from the surface. NPS Photo/Frank Preston

[Takac] from the top.” (more…)

Rep. Eastman comments on Governor’s fiscal plan

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Alaska State Legislature has just over three weeks before a potential government shutdown. Earlier this week, Governor Bill Walker proposed a set of measures as the starting point for a budget and revenue compromise. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with Representative David Eastman, whose district includes the Susitna Valley, about his impression of the governor’s plan.




Borough: First 2017 test of Talkeetna sewer lagoon in compliance

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Talkeetna’s sewer lagoon passed its first round of tests for 2017, according to the Mat-Su Borough.


Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan says the lagoon, which has struggled with compliance issues for the last few years, is now showing test results well within permit requirements.


Specifically, Dolan says fecal coliform bacteria levels tested very low. The presence of too much fecal coliform in the water flowing out of the lagoon was a consistent problem in recent years.


Dolan’s staff has taken multiple measures to try to bring the system back into compliance, including mechanical aeration, clearing of grease on the surface, and addressing excess water leaking into the system.


Consistent issues with the lagoon led to a notice of violation from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in 2015. The borough and ADEC have held multiple closed-door discussions on the lagoon and what level of fines and/or corrective action will be required.


While Terry Dolan says the current test results are good news, he hopes to see consistency going forward in the busy summer months. While this is the third test in a row that has come back in compliance, he says the months of June and August have been the most problematic for the system.


In the meantime, Dolan says work will continue, including manhole repairs and a video inspection of the system’s sewer lines.

School board to consider hiring of new Su Valley, Talkeetna Elementary principals

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Final approval of new principals for Susitna Valley Junior-Senior High and Talkeetna Elementary schools are scheduled for Wednesday night.

While a great deal of attention will be on the next Mat-Su Borough School Board meeting for budget and potential labor outsourcing reasons, the board will also have the final say in approving Lisa Shelby as the principal at Su Valley. Shelby has been the principal at Talkeetna Elementary since 2014.

Lisa Shelby’s proposed successor is Becky Moren. Moren has taught technology classes at Talkeetna Elementary, and has served as the North Valley Specialist for the school district’s homeschool program through Mat-Su Central School.

The Mat-Su Borough School Board meeting is scheduled for 5:00 pm on Wednesday.