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

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Mushing Legislation Proposed for Mat-Su Borough

Monday, November 17, 2014

The next regular meeting of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will be on Wednesday.  One item on the agenda is an ordinance sponsored by Assembly Member Vern Halter, whose district includes the Upper Valley.  The proposed ordinance deals with sled dog facilities, and comes in the wake of the Alaska Legislature declaring Alaska a “right to mush” state.

The proposed legislation would allow owners of sled dog kennels to apply for a special designation.  To qualify, owners must have been registered as a kennel for at least three years, and must meet a list of care requirements that are more strict than regular kennel regulations.  Vern Halter says that there is no requirement to register for the special license, but that it comes with benefits.

One potential benefit is the official recognition of tethering as the traditional method of restraint for sled dogs.  The practice is opposed by some animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.  The ordinance also lays out that sled dog kennels are loud places at times, and that a certain level of noise is to be expected.  Property licensed as a sled dog facility would thus be exempt from the borough’s animal annoyance code.  Subdivision covenants and city ordinances would still apply.

In addition to the special licensing, the proposed ordinance would make it illegal to intentionally interfere with legal mushing activity, such as felling trees in trails or using firearms to scare mushers or dogs.   The Borough Assembly will hear public comment on the ordinance and make its decision on Wednesday.

Final Assessment of Talkeetna Sewer and Water System Submitted

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The final assessment of Talkeetna’s sewer and water system has been completed.  Included is analysis of the functionality of the system, suggested improvements, and plans to make the system fiscally solvent.

In total, the assessment of the sewer and water system in Talkeetna is hundreds of pages.  It was funded through a $100,000 grant from the state legislature at the request of local residents, including the Talkeetna Sewer and Water Advisory Board.  CRW Engineering did the study, and looked at a number of areas.

Not much changed in the assessment of the system itself since the draft report was released in July.  One interesting note has to do with the water treatment plant.  The plant was not required until allowable levels of arsenic were dropped from 50 parts-per-million to 10 parts-per million.  The increased cost of operating the plant is a major cost driver.  The report says that arsenic levels are still too high to meet regulations, but that the region as a whole has seen shifts in levels of arsenic, with some of them dropping.  If the base level of arsenic were to fall below 10 parts-per-million and stay there, it could be feasible to shut down the treatment plant.

Whether or not that happens in the future, the system is currently deep in the red.  According to the study, the current annual deficit is likely to be over $100,000.  If rates were to remain constant, that figure would grow due to inflation and other factors.  As a result, the report suggests revenue increases of 13% per year for water and 6% for sewer for each of the next five years. The report notes that this would allow the system to break even on operations, but that more money would be needed to establish a reserve fund and for repair and replacement costs. (more…)

Mat-Su Borough Assembly to Certify Election Results This Week

Monday, October 20, 2014

All of the counting in this year’s Mat-Su Borough election is done, and none of the results have changed.  Final numbers show 13.6% of eligible voters went to the polls earlier this month, up from an initial figure of 11%.

Upper Valley voters decided on two ballot issues and two school board seats.  The candidates for both of those seats ran unopposed.  Proposition B-1, which passed comfortably, allows the borough to redraw district maps to bring them in line with the state’s voting precinct boundaries.  Borough officials have said that the change will mean fewer unique ballots will have to be printed due to precinct overlap between the borough and the state.

Proposition B-2 passed overwhelmingly, and allows for increased property tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled veterans.

Elsewhere in the borough, Steve Colligan was re-elected to represent District 4, which covers much of Wasilla, in the borough assembly, and Dan Mayfield defeated Bill Kendig to represent District 5, which includes Big Lake.  Darcie Salmon, who currently represents District 5, did not run for re-election.

The results will be certified at a special meeting of the borough assembly on Tuesday.

Litigation Blamed for Port MacKenzie Rail Spur Delays

Friday, August 8, 2014

by:  Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Construction of the railroad link between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough city of Houston and Port MacKenzie is over budget and way behind schedule. Borough officials blame litigation for the delays.

At Tuesday night’s Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, updated earlier financial data on the cost overruns beyond the initial $272 million  pricetag.

“When you add all this up, it totals about $31 million. So if you take $ 272 .5 and add $31 (million) to it,  you get a total project cost now of  $303. 5. (million)” (more…)

Proposed Vehicle Registration Changes Could Cost Borough

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Next Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will hold a regular meeting for the first time since June.  One ordinance that is scheduled for introduction next Tuesday would eliminate recurring registration for older vehicles.   While that could mean less out-of-pocket expense for some drivers, KTNA’s Phillip Manning found that it could also come with trade-offs.

The ordinance, sponsored by Assembly Member Jim Colver, takes advantage of a new state law that gives municipalities the option to allow permanent registration of vehicles that are more than eight years old.  Under the proposed system, owners would have to register the vehicle one last time and pay a $25 fee to the state, but would then be exempt from state or borough registration fees as long as the vehicle did not change ownership.

While that could mean a significant convenience for many borough residents, it’s not without a potential cost in the form of lost revenue. According to the borough’s estimates, it could mean a total loss of more than $2.4 million in revenue by fiscal year 2018.  According to Terry Dolan, Public Works Director for the borough, dust control is a major part of what the registration fees cover. (more…)

Port MacKenzie Poised For Post-Oil Economy

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

By: Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Earlier this month, the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s Port MacKenzie took on a load of sixteen miles of cement-coated pipe from a foreign vessel.  The pipe now rests at the Port, awaiting shipment to Nikiski to be used in construction of a new Cook Inlet oil platform. As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, although the pipe shipment has boosted Borough revenues,  some are asking questions about whether the port will ever be profitable.

29port mac budget

Port MacKenzie director Marc VanDongen says the load of cement – coated pipe proves the Port’s heavy lifting capabilities:

“Each piece of pipe is 42 feet long and it weighs 10,500 pounds. So we were lifting four pieces of pipe at a time off the ship, 42, 000 pounds at a time, and placing them on flatbed trucks. “ (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…)

Draft Report Looks at Talkeetna Sewer and Water

Friday, July 11, 2014

Currently, the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System is operating at a six-figure annual deficit, according to a draft report by CRW Engineering Group.  CRW was contracted by the Mat-Su Borough to assess the system with $100,000 allocated by the state legislature last year.  The idea is to get a picture of the current state of the system, which was installed in the 1980s, as well as to look at the financial status.  In all, there are hundreds of pages of raw data in addition to the report itself.

CRW Engineering did two separate assessments, one for sewer and one for water.  On the operational side, they found that the water treatment and distribution system does have some issues, but that the system is working well, and has some room for growth in usage.  One of the larger issues that was pointed out is the inability of the current backup generator to supply both well pumps.  Normally, that isn’t an issue, but if there was a sudden, dramatic spike in usage during a power outage, say, in the event of a fire hydrant opening, the pumps might not be able to keep up.  The borough was already aware of the issue, and has begun looking for funding for a more powerful generator. (more…)

Borough Official Updates Talkeetna Council on Flood Recovery and Control

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

At Monday night’s meeting, the Talkeetna Community Council received an update from Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook regarding federal money for recovery from the fall 2012 flood.  Cook also shared a new piece of information regarding the Talkeetna Flood Service Area that could have implications on future flood mitigation efforts.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:


If one were to choose a single word to describe funding for flood mitigation and recovery in the Upper Valley, a good choice would be “complicated.”  With more than a dozen agencies involved from the borough to the federal level, it’s easy to get confused by the process.  In short, after the fall 2012 flood was declared a disaster, the Upper Valley became eligible for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Actually getting that money, however, is a long process that involves mountains of paperwork. (more…)