KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song

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Alaska Senate Finance Co-Chair: Supplemental Susitna-Watana funding “Up in the air.”

Unless support materializes soon, the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project may not get the additional funds Governor Sean Parnell requested for it this year.  In February, Governor Parnell submitted his amended budget proposal to the Alaska legislature.  Included is a request for $32.7 million for the proposed Susitna-Watana Project.  If approved, the funding would be used to fund the 2014 field study season.  Governor Parnell has also requested $10 million for the fiscal year beginning in July, and the Alaska Energy Authority says it still has about $30 million left from the current budget.

With talk of the gas pipeline dominating energy and financial discussion, the smaller mega-project has not received as much attention.  On Wednesday, however, two Senate Republicans gave less than enthusiastic answers about the additional money.  Senator Kevin Meyer, who co-chairs the Finance Committee and focuses on capital projects, says that there are some items that the state “needs to fund,” but that Susitna-Watana is not currently one of them.

“I’m not convinced that it has to be funded….They haven’t used the appropriation we have given them in previous years, and obviously our focus right now is on the gas pipeline.  That one’s still up in the air, as far as I’m concerned.”

Thus far, no Senators in the Republican minority have come forward to publicly support the funding request for Susitna-Watana in what is already a tight budgeting session.  Senator Fred Dyson says it’s the wrong time for the project.

“At gas prices that we will see for the next ten, fifteen, twenty years, spending the capital cost to get the dam build and the transmission tie-ins is not economical.  I think it’s a decision that needs to be postponed at least a decade, and I think what the Governor has in mind is just keep the present engineering [and] surveying rolling forward.”

According to documents released by A-E-A on Monday, the additional $32.7 million for the current fiscal year would have an impact on 24 studies, including eleven that could not go forward at all this year without the additional funds.  A-E-A’s current timetable calls for limited field work this year, with the completion of many of the studies in the summer of 2015.   A-E-A estimates it will need a total of $110 million dollars to complete the studies necessary to apply for a federal license for the dam.

State Senate committee hears testimony on Knik Arm Bridge

On Tuesday, the Alaska Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on the proposed Knik Arm Crossing.  Last week, Senators heard the details of a new plan to finance the project.  Current estimates place the cost of a two-lane bridge between Point Mackenzie and Government hill in Anchorage at $895 million.  The new plan does not call for the construction cost to eventually be paid back completely by loans, a plan that many critics viewed as unachievable.  The new plan involves state revenue bonds and federal highway funds to lessen the amount that the state would have to repay if toll revenues fell short.   Read More »

Writer’s Voice–Ice Road Moose, by Peter Mathiesen

 

 

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Talkeetna resident Peter Mathiesen reads a chapter from his book Tales of the Alaska State Troopers, to be published this fall.  This story is about how a local trooper had to deal with a road-killed moose on a very cold winter night.

Borough Assembly approves revised plan for Susitna State Forest

This week, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approved a resolution supporting an amended plan for the proposed Susitna State Forest.  The Assembly voted 6-to-1 in favor, with only Assembly Member Darcie Salmon opposing.

Chris Maisch went over some of the changes in the forest plan, which the Assembly voted down on two previous occasions.  The biggest alteration comes in the removal of more than 75,000 acres of land east of the Parks Highway from the plan.  The new total size of the forest comes in just under 700,000 acres.

If approved by the state legislature, Susitna State Forest would be used to accommodate logging and timber industry, as well as facilitate the building of access roads.  It would restrict what development is allowed on the land outside of use for timber.  Chris Maisch says the current bill, House Bill 79, is the result of three years of meetings with communities.

House Bill 79 is still in the Resources Committee, and could receive a hearing soon.

New business aims at health and wellness in the Upper Valley

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Gluten-free, organic, and GMO-free are terms that have begun to appear more and more frequently as people around the country take a closer look at their eating habits.  At Sunshine Organics, a new local business has stepped in to the market to provide for people looking for organic and whole foods.

“I kind of wanted to bring health and wellness to the community and have a lot of good stuff available that I like.  Not only good food, but from good sources.” Read More »

Talkeetna town hall meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski

Attached to this post is the complete recording of the town hall meeting with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski.

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Senator Lisa Murkowski answers questions at Talkeetna town hall meeting

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Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at Talkeetna Elementary School on March 18th.

Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke with about fifty residents of the Upper Valley on Tuesday on topics ranging from health care to the proposed Susitna-Watana dam.  The meeting began with first and second grade students from Talkeetna Elementary sharing some of their favorite books that the school received through a Library of Congress program.    Senator Murkowski then gave a brief overview of current activity in Congress, including work on the upcoming federal budget, which she says will be her top priority on returning to Washington.

“This is actually good for us–to have a budget, to have a return to what we would call in Congress regular order.” Read More »

Senator Mark Begich talks flood insurance, air carrier tax, and election

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This week, U.S. Senators for Alaska are returning to the 49th state to speak directly to constituents.  On Monday afternoon, I spoke with Senator Mark Begich about a number of issues that impact the Upper Valley as well as the upcoming mid-term election.

First, Senator Begich discussed flood insurance.  The issue has gained national attention after Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, and other recent flooding events.  In Alaska, floods in the Mat-Su, Galena, and the Kenai Peninsula have brought the issue closer to home.  Last week, the Senate approved a bill that would limit flood insurance premium increases in areas newly classified as flood zones.  A previous bill that did not get voted on would have stopped rate increases for four years.  Senator Begich supported both measures. Read More »

Borough Assembly again delays sewer and water rate increase

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly once again delayed a measure that would increase the rates for Talkeetna Sewer and Water.  The topic did generate more discussion than at previous meetings, however.  Vern Halter, Assembly Member for the area that includes Talkeetna, spoke first, and said he does not support the increase at this time.

“The state funded a $100,000 study to study the whole system up there, including the rate structure and what to do next…I don’t think that’s done yet…and I don’t see anything, unless I’m missing it, from the Talkeetna Sewer and Water Board on this, so I’m not voting for this.” Read More »

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