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Posts from the 'Local News' category

Anchorage residents plead not guilty to Sockeye Fire charges

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The two Anchorage residents accused of starting the Sockeye Fire last month pleaded not guilty, according to court documents. Greg Imig and Amy Dewitt are each charged with eight misdemeanors connected to the fire. The charges include burning without a permit, allowing the fire to escape, negligent burning, failing to clear the burn area, leaving the fire unattended, and three counts of reckless endangerment. The Sockeye Fire reached a size of approximately 7,220 acres and destroyed fifty-five homes before it was contained by firefighters.

In an affidavit filed earlier this month, fire investigator Thomas Greiling (GREE-ling) says the fire spread from an unattended pile of smoldering debris spread to nearby forested land. According to the affidavit, Imig, Dewitt, and Dewitt’s juvenile son left the property after the fire started. Greiling says Dewitt told him that she called 911 before leaving, but did not provide an exact location or cause for the fire.

An arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday, but both Dewitt and Imig filed waivers for the hearing, as well as paperwork allowing hearings in their absence.

Assistant District Attorney John Cagle says the DA’s office is currently attempting to contact victims of the Sockeye Fire to determine how much restitution to seek.

Attorneys for Greg Imig and Amy Dewitt did not respond to a request for comment.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for August 21st.

Talkeetna recycling scheduled to begin in early August

Monday, July 27, 2015

After a very successful fundraising period, Talkeetna’s recycling program is days away from getting started. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is currently scheduled for 11:00 am on Monday, August 3rd at the Talkeetna transfer site for the first recycling container.

Recycling in Talkeetna has been attempted multiple times in the past. One major factor that played in favor of the current effort is the willingness of the Mat-Su Borough to transport the recycling containers once they are filled. Butch Shapiro, Solid Waste Division Manager for the borough, hopes that recycling will mean less trash in the landfill. Over time, that would mean less need for new landfill cells, each of which costs millions of dollars to build to federal specifications, and millions more to decommission once they are full.  In an effort to promote the program, the borough will not charge for recycling through the current fiscal year. That could change during next year’s borough budget process.


The recycling containers will be refurbished garbage containers, similar to the ones already at the transfer site. Each is split into three compartments, allowing three different types of recyclables. The plan for the first container is to recycle aluminum cans, steel cans, and number two plastic jugs. The second recycling container, which is also in the works, is planned for number one plastic bottles, number five plastics, and mixed paper. Recyclables do need to be separated.


The Talkeetna Recycling Committee is seeking volunteers to help during the periods that recycling will be available at the Talkeetna transfer site.

Scientists hope to determine more precise height for Denali

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Denali is the tallest mountain in North America. Officially, its height is listed at 20,320 feet. The survey establishing the mountain’s height was made in 1953. Two years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey used a method involving radar to map large portions of Alaska. The mapping resulted in an estimate for the height of Denali’s South Summit that is eighty-seven feet lower than the official survey at 20,237 feet. The USGS says that, while the radar method is useful for mapping areas that are difficult to reach, it lacks some precision with regard to elevations of specific points.   The best way to get accurate data to work from is still the old-fashioned way.


Recently, a team has traveled to the top of the continent’s highest mountain to gather that data. The team consisted of one UAF scientist and a team of three GPS experts. Scientists will now take that data and formulate a new estimate for Denali. In a press release issued on Thursday, the USGS announced that the new official height for Denali is anticipated late next month. The USGS will work with the North American Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alaska Fairbanks to determine the mountain’s elevation.


The USGS says that the determination will likely be more accurate than the 1953 survey, owing to advances in surveying technology. No matter what the new elevation number is, it’s very unlikely that Denali will lose its position as North America’s highest mountain. It has the second highest, Mt. Logan, beat by more than 700 feet.

Four years after stroke and heart attack, mountain guide solos Denali

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

by: Katie Writer


The last climber is off of Denali, and the summer season is now officially over. Out of the thousand-plus climbers that attempt the mountain each year, there are always a few exceptional stories of perseverance and courage. KTNA’s Katie Writer spoke with Doug Nidever about his climb and how it marked an important milestone in his road to recovery.

Doug Nidever has worked as a Professional Guide for the American Mountain Guides Association for decades, guiding rock climbing all around the world. At the age of 58, Doug suffered from a stroke and heart attack that his doctors were not certain that he would survive. With the support of family and friends, Doug slowly recovered.

Four years later at age 62,  Doug soloed Denali. He and a friend had started the West Buttress route together, but turned around at 11,000 feet. Something did not feel right to his climbing partner. Doug flew back to the Lower 48 and spent one restless night at his June Lake, California home. The next day,  Doug returned to Alaska to finish what he had11168185_10153038884471795_4647327177835954563_o started. And that was to give his best shot at reaching Denali’s Summit.

In a interview with Doug shortly after coming off the mountain, Doug reflects on early stages of his recovery. He had to relearn everything, and he means everything.

“Basic things, how to go to the bathroom. You know, you think that would be hardwired into your body, but having to re-learn that. Having to learn how to cook and read and drive and climb and spell and this and every aspect of life.”

In the midst of re-learning life, Doug decided that he was not going to settle for the life in a wheelchair that doctors thought was going to be his reality.  Instead, Doug chose to pursue his “gold standard” of living through his passion for mountaineering.

“Something extra difficult for me to go do something this big by myself with the uncertainties …what have I learned, what have I forgotten, what’s floating in the mix out there…just wanting to see where the boundaries lie.”

Doug says completing the climb by himself was actually a great opportunity to see just where he was at with his recovery from his stroke and heart attack.

“It’s a good completion of a four year struggle to get back to some sense of normality…finding out that I can understand, I can make good decisions, and I can do this somewhat correctly and have it work out.”

In addition to the need for physical fitness, Doug says those decision making skills are critical to safe travel in such an environment where crevasses are a constant hazard.

“One, these are the biggest crevasses on the planet that we live and if you fall in you are probably not coming out. There are a hundred and one different components that go into the decision making there.”<Doug Crevasse Danger>

Doug partially credits his success to his own stubbornness.  Slowly but surely, he progressed 1000’ a day with only a single load carry.  Most climbers shuttle their gear back and forth on the way up. Doug jokes that he’s “kind of a lazy guy,” knowing that his choice of travel was unique.  All of the perseverance in the world only matters in the Alaska Range if Mother Nature cooperates, however. Fortunately for Doug, the weather held, and he made it to the summit on a chilly midnight in late June. After a few minutes, alone, at the highest point in North America, Doug safely descended to his camp at 17, 200’.

11168185_10153038887261795_7524243424079589986_o“You know, so I got to sleep from 4 am until late afternoon. And mill around and see what body parts are sore and what still worked and what didn’t.  A little bit of loss of elevation brings your energy level so far up.

Doug’s solo climb of Denali gives him an appreciation for his own recovery.which he says wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his friends and family.

“Nobody stands alone very well.”




Man rescued after vehicle rolls down Petersville Road embankment

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Monday night, emergency responders rescued a man who was reportedly trapped in his vehicle with multiple broken bones on the Petersville Road.

According to the Alaska State Troopers, an unidentified person called 911 shortly after 11:00 pm Monday and reported that a man, later identified as Casey Cizek, was trapped inside a vehicle, and had a broken bone protruding from his leg.

Trapper Creek Rescue, troopers, the Rescue Coordination Center, and LifeMed responded to the scene. Troopers say that Cizek’s vehicle had rolled about 100 feet down an embankment near mile 32.5 of the Petersville Road and came to rest in the area of Peters Creek.

In the time it took responders to arrive, Casey Cizek was able to crawl out of his vehicle. He was found alert and conscious at the bottom of a ravine. Cizek told rescuers that he was driving to a gold mine in the Peters Hills when he lost control of his vehicle and rolled down the embankment.

Trapper Creek Rescue personnel hoisted Cizek into a LifeMed helicopter at the scene. He was then transported to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, where he is being treated for broken ribs and a compound leg fracture. His injuries are considered serious, but non-life-threatening.

Plane crash leaves Trapper Creek man dead

Monday, July 20, 2015

On Sunday, a plane crash claimed the life of Michael Zagula, 54, of Trapper Creek. According to the Alaska State Troopers, Zagula was flying over the area of his daughter’s wedding reception when the landing gear of the Cessna 206 he was piloting struck a tree. Zagula was declared dead at the scene. Troopers say there were no passengers in the plane at the time of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were notified of the crash. Troopers say next of kin were at the scene when the accident occurred.

State lifts spending freeze on Susitna-Watana Hydro Project

Thursday, July 16, 2015

After a spending freeze by the governor and multiple attempts by the legislative minority to place it back into the state’s general fund, the Susitna-Watana Hydro Project team will now be allowed to spend over six million dollars it has left from previous years. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.


Last week, a memorandum from the state’s Office of Management and Budget lifted the spending freeze on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project instituted by Governor Bill Walker in December. Walker’s order had halted new spending on six projects, including the proposed 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna River.

At the time of the administrative order, the Alaska Energy Authority, the state corporation in charge of Susitna-Watana, said it had around $30 million remaining from previous appropriations. Of that, $6.6 million was unencumbered. The rest was already committed to studies for the proposed megaproject.

Emily Ford, spokeswoman for AEA, says, now that the funds have been freed up, the pre-licensing study process will continue through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“We’re just going to be picking up where we left off as part of this Initial Study Report Process. We essentially pushed a big pause button in the middle of that effort by filing for a license abeyance with FERC. So next, what we’ll do is lift that abeyance and resume with the FERC schedule.”

The money that AEA is once-again allowed to spend on Susitna-Watana represents just over three percent of total allocation to the current project proposal to date. Emily Ford says that means there are not currently plans for the type of large-scale research that took place in the Susitna Valley over the last two years.

“The focus and the goal is to preserve the investment that the state’s already made in the project by either wrapping up studies that are near completion or synthesizing data that was collected in the field and making sure that it’s in a usable format.”

After that, it will be up to the legislature and the governor to determine whether additional funds go to Susitna-Watana. AEA estimates the project’s cost at over $5.5 billion, and Emily Ford says that the agency plans to act based on the funding that the state’s fiscal reality allows.

On Thursday, the Talkeetna-based Susitna River Coalition, a group opposed to Susitna-Watana, issued a statement expressing disappointment with Governor Walker’s decision. The Coalition cites criticism by federal agencies, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, of studies conducted as part of the early phases of the project. Coalition board member Becky Long believes the decision runs contrary to Governor Walker’s stated policy goals, and that Susitna-Watana, if built, would be costly beyond the price tag for construction.

“We have to look at future litigation costs, future mitigation costs, and, in general, the governor has been talking up a lot about fiscal responsibility and fish-first policies. And we think this goes against those policies.”

Becky Long says the Susitna River Coalition is concerned that AEA may not be able to finish the studies already underway without cutting corners, which could lead to litigation.

Now that the fiscal picture has, at least temporarily, cleared, AEA plans to establish a new schedule with federal regulators. That schedule will include public meetings on the Initial Study Report completed last year. AEA’s Emily Ford says those meetings will likely occur in late fall of this year.

Obituary for Patricia Grosz

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Submitted by the family:

Longtime Alaska resident and beloved wife and mother, Mrs. Patricia Josephine Grosz, née Callahan, 69, passed away at home surrounded by family on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
Patricia was born on August 18, 1945 in Spenard, Alaska to Nellie Ivy Callahan, née Atwater, and John Leahy Callahan. She was the second youngest of 4 siblings. Her father nicknamed her “Paddy” when she was young, inspired by her name and her Irish heritage. When Paddy was a little girl her father moved the family to Gold Creek. The family homesteaded there for several years before becoming seasonal residents, spending summers out on the tracks and winters in Anchorage. (more…)

End of king season sees increased returns on Deshka, Little Su

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

King salmon season has ended in the Northern Cook Inlet Region, and at least one river posted the highest counts in five years. On the Deshka, which has housed a fish weir since 2011, 23,609 kings were counted as of Monday. The Deshka was one of the few places where anglers could potentially take a king salmon home. Numbers from 2011 to 2014 failed to reach 20,000 fish. The Deshka’s escapement goal is between 13,000 and 28,000 king salmon.

On the Little Susitna River, the 4,727 returning kings are a significant increase over the last two years. Data from a handful of years in the eighties and nineties is also available for the Little Su, and the only year that topped this year’s run was 1988, when nearly 8,000 kings returned to the river.


Other Upper Valley rivers did not have counting weirs, but anecdotal reports from catch-and-release areas tell of fair-to-good fishing.