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Have you listened to West Side Stories?

The LegHead Report

legheadreport.jpg LegHead (ledj-hed) Report weekdays at 12:20 p.m.

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KODK is back on the air. Thanks to Steve and John at APBI in Anchorage who helped us get a loaner transmitter and to Joe Stevens and Willy who ran up the mountain in this nasty wind after running a bunch of tests to get it ready to do it's thing...90.7 FM is back bringing you spectacular alternative public radio programming in Kodiak.
Jun 23 2015
Councilman to Pitch Pedestrian Fishing Dock Idea
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
councilman_charles_davidson.jpgCouncilman Charles Davidson. Via the Kodiak City Council website
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

For those who can’t leave the city by land or sea for their fishing needs, one Kodiak City councilmember has a solution. Councilman Charles Davidson wants to answer a need in the community and says he’ll present his idea at the council’s work session tonight.

“The present ordinances for the city of Kodiak prohibit any fishing from any city dock and I’ve had several older people and young people approach me about ‘Where can we fish if we don’t access to a boat or a car?’ and I thought, well, maybe this is a time to consider putting in an actual fishing dock somewhere,” says Davidson.

People would be able to go out on that dock and legally fish in town. Davidson says this is the first time the council will hear of the concept and there are a lot of details to work out.

“As to cost, I haven’t the slightest idea. That’s what some of this could do is if we could find a location and then get a price estimate,” says Davidson. “We’ve got the pier I come in probably next year, so maybe by that time we would have some idea of what the cost would be and where it could go.”

Davidson says they could consult Fish and Game for ideas about possible locations.

He asks people to stop by the work session tonight and voice their opinions. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m in the public library’s multi-purpose room.  
Jun 23 2015
KEA Seeks to Divert More Water Into Terror Lake
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
The proposed diversion locations which would redirect water into Terror Lake.  KEA image
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The Kodiak Electric Association is embarking on its next step to ensure renewable energy remains the dominant form of power on the island into the future by directing more water into Terror Lake, which feeds three hydro-power turbines.
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While the capacity of the three turbines – 33-megawatts – isn't changing, the amount of water available to run them could be, according to KEA's Jennifer Richcreek:

“What we are changing is the amount of energy available to the project, and that energy is in the form of water. There's only so much water that can fit in that lake, and there's only so much snowmelt and rain that enters into that lake,” she said. “And so what we're looking to do is then create a new source of  more water that can come into the lake. An additional portion of the upper alpine area of the watershed that can supply some more water, some more energy, to the hydro plant so that those turbines can keep spinning with more water flowing through them.”

KEA wants to do that by diverting a tributary that drains to Hidden Basin at the head of Ugak Bay. It would actually be the fourth watershed diversion into Terror Lake. The first three were installed when the Terror Lake project was built.

“And these are three diversions that are on the Kizuyak side of the watershed. And so we already are very familiar with operating these kind of diversion,” Richcreek said. “And again, these are just taking portions of the upper areas of the watershed, capturing that snowmelt and that rain and funneling that into a tunnel so that it can flow through the powerhouse and make power.”

The project has an $80-million price tag, but the cost savings of diesel fuel and diesel generator maintenance is projected to exceed $450-million over the course of a 30-year loan to build the new diversions.

Richcreek says with the extra water flowing into Terror Lake, estimated to be about 9.7-billion gallons, the water turbines can go from running at 46-percent of their potential over the course of a year, to 56 percent.

“If those turbines were running full tilt boogie 24-hours-7, 365 days a year, then if that was happening, we'd call that 100 percent plant capacity factor, that would be 296-million kilowatt hours,” she said. “But now, with the3 water currently available to the project, we;'re currently generating 135-million kWh. So if you do 135 divided by 296, that brings it to 46 percent capacity factor. What are we really generating versus to what it's theoretically possible to generate.”

Richcreek says salmon habitat has been extensively studied in the watershed, and taking some of the Upper Hidden Basin runoff should not be an issues for spawning salmon further downstream.

“That's the science that we found. We presented that in our reports. We want this to be an engaged consultation with all of the agencies and all the stakeholders, and so if there's are any concerns, that's where we're entering into this scoping meeting and public consultation so that we can all make sure we're all in agreement that there are no negative impacts.”

Kodiak Electric currently has an application before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct the two small dams to divert new water into Terror Lake. There will be a meeting on July 21st with governmental agencies at 9 a.m., and with the public at 7 p.m., though the earlier meeting is open to the public as well. They will both be held in the KANA-Koniag Building on Near Island. 

After that there will be a 90-day public comment period and if all goes well, Richcreek envisions breaking ground in 2019. 
Jun 22 2015
Jackson's Park Faces Structural Challenges
Monday, 22 June 2015
jackson_sign.jpgSign forJackson's Mobile Home Park. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

One concern for residents as the Jackson’s Mobile Home Park closure approaches is what to do with their trailers. According to one resident who works in construction and does remodeling, people can’t just pick up and leave. Robert Mee says age has taken a toll on many of the structures.

“I think that they have too much additions, too much rust underneath, the skirtings – most of them – are rotten and the skirting is holding up the walls,” says Mee. “They try to jack these things up, the walls are gonna fall ‘cause the skirting’s gonna be gone, there’s no support any longer.”

He says his own home is fifty years old, and says moving trailers like his would be extremely expensive.

“These trailers are only worth 10 to 15,000 dollars. It’s gonna cost 10 to 15 to 20,000 dollars to get hook-ups and moving and tearing things apart and replumbing and, try to move them, things are going to crack," says Mee. "You got sheet rock and stuff inside of them. I don’t think they’re really moveable.”

Laurie Taylor is Mee’s neighbor and says she’s been at Jackson’s for seven years. She says she paid off her trailer two years ago and now she has concerns about moving it if she chooses to stay in Kodiak.

“I’m kinda scared that my place, like he said, the walls will fold in when I take the siding off. I mean, in the inside I’ve got it looking pretty good, but that wall’s falling off. It’s not attached all the way around the corner,” says Taylor. “And this green one over here was actually seen moved in here not so long ago – he tried to move, he was all jacked up ready to go. And apparently his place started to fold.”

Owners who can’t move their homes need take precautions if they choose to dispose of their trailers. One of the new requirements for the landfill’s acceptance of mobile homes is testing that the debris is clear of asbestos.

At last week’s regular meeting, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly discussed the rule. Engineering and Facilities Director, Robert Tucker, says the actual testing is not that expensive.

“Last I did it, it was 25 or 30 dollars for a bulk sample to have it tested under – they have to do it under a certain microscope to check for asbestos. It’s not super expensive to have that test done to find out whether it is or isn’t,” says Tucker. “The problem is if it comes back positive - removing it, then you have to hire someone who’s certified to remove it and that can get expensive.”

In response to concern over the extra expense for Jackson’s Park residents who already feel the strain of the closure, Assemblywoman Carol Austerman pointed out that the testing falls within any homeowner’s responsibility. And she says she hopes no one will burn their trailers to get rid of them.

“It is an obligation that you take on when you purchase a home and whether you’re purchasing a mobile home or whether you’re purchasing a brick and mortar home, you still take on that obligation, and it’s a responsibility to make sure you’re not endangering other people,” says Austerman.

Tucker pointed out that the only person who can legally burn a trailer is the property owner, and he believes residents will not go that far. The assembly agreed to move on from the topic and to return to it at a later meeting.  
Jun 19 2015
Sizable Fin Whale Die-Off Around Kodiak a Mystery
Friday, 19 June 2015
A dead fin whale calf photographed in late May floating near Afognak Island is thought to be one of a group that mysteriously died around that time in Kodiak Archipelago waters. Photo by Zoya Saltonstall 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
At least 10 Fin whales are dead, having fallen victim to a mysterious affliction that seems to have killed them all near Kodiak Island. Kate Wynn, marine mammal specialist with the University of Alaska in Kodiak, said all the whales seemed to have met their fate at the same time and place.

“The evidence suggests that all of these whales that we've found died at about the same time, which is like the third week of May, around the 20th, in a short period of time in a fairly localized area, and that's about all we know right now. So it rules out a couple of things. And the fact that the carcass are intact, it rules out killer whale predation," Wynn said. "But other than that, we're at a loss.”

The area the whales were found were all south of Afognak Island, the second largest in the Kodiak Archipelago, just north of Kodiak Island.

“Some have been on the Shelikof side, some have been on the east side. But they're all pretty much south of say, Marmot Strait, straight across Afognak," she said. "And so it could be somewhere in there they were feeding together. But it seems to be there and everything is downstream of that.”

All the dead whales spotted have been adults, except one calf and a couple of sub-adults, with a mix of genders. It's the feeding that Wynn thinks may be the most likely culprit in their death.

“It suggests that there's something, a feeding group of fin whales ran into a toxin, or bio-toxin, human caused, induced, toxin, something that they were exposed to together in a short period of time," Wynn said. "So we're looking at water temperature, harmful algae bloom possibilities. But there's a lot of things that don't add up with that theory. Mainly that we don't find the prey species dead on the beach or other species that would be eating the same prey, dying.”

Fin whales, the second-largest species after Blue Whales, are filter-feeders, meaning they strain tiny sea life in its baleen to eat. They do not eat larger seafood such as salmon or halibut.

Wynn said that a colleague at the Marine Advisory Program in Kodiak is checking for evidence of paralytic shellfish poisoning. 

“Right now Julie Matweyou, who's our local PSP and domoic acid expert is working with us," she said. "We're taking water samples and trying to keep track of what's going on with the phytoplankton all the way up through the food web to see if we see another sign of this happening.”

At least four of the whales have beached, Wynn said, but she doesn't think bears already feeding on them are in danger.

She added that the public's help has been especially helpful in keeping track of all the fatalities.

“They're coming in from pilots, from enforcement people, Coast Guard ship people, the ferry pilots have turned in reports and photos, hikers, yachtsmen," Wynn said. "All sorts of people are turning in photos with latitude and longitude and dates, and so we've been able to track some of these carcasses and not double count the whales that way. So it's been incredibly helpful.”

Blubber and muscle samples, and an eyeball, recovered from one whale has been sent for laboratory examination, and Wynn says results might be available next week. 
Jun 19 2015
Borough Assembly Discusses The Subsistence Access Management Act of 2015
Friday, 19 June 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT
A bill that could affect communities’ rural status and their subsistence rights turned out to be a controversial item at last night’s Kodiak Island Borough Assembly regular meeting.

Senator Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young introduced the bill, titled “The Subsistence Access Management Act of 2015”, which would disallow changing a community to an urban designation unless authorized by Congress. Losing rural status could remove qualification for subsistence rights in communities like Kodiak, which is labeled as legally rural despite being a city.

The ordinance on the agenda moved to support the act, but several audience members stepped up to speak against it.

Coral Chernoff serves on the regional advisory committee for the Kodiak Aleutians area and says the bill seems to be sidestepping the system Alaskans already have in place.

“There’s lots of people around this state who are involved in subsistence, who are involved in boards, who are involved in U.S. fish and wildlife services that already look at all these issues very, very closely,” says Chernoff. “I’d like to see that remain so. Just from talking and emailing around, it seems like the regional advisory councils didn’t even know this was happening.”

Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner says she also serves on the Kodiak Aleutians regional advisory council and recently met with members. She says having these status decisions made by people as far removed as Washington D.C. is not a good idea.

“The focus is on having local control, so having really the local RACs having kinda the say to determine if the community is rural or not because they’re the people in the community, they know the characteristics of the community, and there was a lot of concern with having those determinations made by people that don’t live in the communities,” says Skinner.
Borough Manger Bud Cassidy recommended the assembly postpone the decision on the ordinance.        

“I have to agree, it sounds good on its face, but having done a little more investigation, there’s a lot of issues here and, with the people I’ve talked with, [it] doesn’t like the regional advisory council really has complete knowledge about this,” says Cassidy. “And I think I’m gonna call our DC lobbyist tomorrow really explaining some of the testimony we had tonight, some of the concern about implementing this.”

Assemblywoman Chris Lynch supported dedicating more time to consider the bill’s consequences and any possible alternatives.

“At the very least, I would like to move to this postponement, so that we can see if we need to develop another approach and if we do in fact need to make a recommendation for some other action, then at least we can have a discussion and do that at a work session,” says Lynch.

The assembly agreed to postpone the ordinance to its next regular meeting on July 2.
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