Brian Smith

The elephant in the room

It is time for us to all talk about the Elephant in the Room. The giant pink, 10,000-pound elephant that is truly responsible for the chain of events leading up to this profoundly sad recall effort of three council members in Homer.

The elephant, my friends, is Donald J. Trump.

Homer is a microcosm — a mirror — of what is happening all across this country. A nation divided to an extent that I cannot recall ever before in my 58 years. This new Administration has polarized us in a way that is truly unprecedented.

Assembly considers $73.2 million budget

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly introduced its $73.2 million fiscal year 2014 budget on May 7.

The budget is contained in Ordinance 2013-19 and, if approved after a June 4 public hearing, would take effect July 1. The budget calls for $73.2 million in expenditures, an overall increase of $301,679 from this year’s budget, and $71.9 million in revenues.

Apache’s seismic work still stalled by permit delays

After launching one of the largest and fastest 3D seismic data gathering campaigns in Cook Inlet’s history, Apache Oil Corp.’s work in the area has paused — victim to slow permitting processes in key areas.

The company made headlines when the work it planned to complete halted in mid-September 2012. Previously, Apache had gathered more than 300 square miles of seismic data spread across the west side of the inlet from the east Forelands area north including portions of Nikiski and up into Tyonek.

Buccaneer spuds first well at Cosmo site

Buccaneer Energy has spudded its first well with the Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up rig nine months after it arrived in Alaska waters from Singapore.

Buccaneer, which recently received the thumbs-up to drill from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, started drilling at the Cosmopolitan prospect Sunday, the company announced in a press release.

HEA’s steam dream approaches reality

Bob Day, Homer Electric Association power production manager, gets visibly excited when he talks about the technology behind the utility’s new Nikiski Combined Cycle Conversion project.

Day said he could go on talking for hours about the technology HEA uses to capture exhaust heat from its gas-powered generation turbine, convert it to steam and then to electricity for area consumers.

KP borough, union announce tentative contract agreement

The Kenai Borough Employees Association announced last week it had reached a tentative agreement with the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration on terms of a three-year collective bargaining agreement.

Terry Bookey, Central Emergency Services captain and union negotiating team chair, said the two sides met about 20 times in the process of reaching the agreement that he said both sides will likely find beneficial to run from fiscal years 2013 to 2016.

Taking a stand for Kenai kings

For 24 years, Greg Brush has been cementing the foundation of his life — faith, family and fish.

When he was a 27-year-old, he abandoned his union job, moving away from Northern California’s salmon and steelhead fishing in search of the famous, giant king salmon. He built his life around that decision — he met his wife, had kids, bought a house and built his business as a full time Kenai River guide.

Assembly approves Homer gas line loan

Describing the action as a dual benefit for both the borough and the city of Homer, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly gave the thumbs-up Tuesday to a multi-million dollar loan to help build a Homer natural gas grid.

“It makes good sense,” Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said. “I can understand why some think maybe we shouldn’t be in this business, but all we are in the business of is investing funds that we have available and getting a reasonable return that can be used to offset expenses for the borough.”

Multi-agency team finds options to reduce oil spills in Cook Inlet

The Cook Inlet Risk Assessment Advisory Team recently identified eight oil spill risk reduction options it feels could be immediately implemented to reduce the chances of accidental oil spills, or to reduce the impact of spills in area waters.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation created the Cook Inlet Risk Assessment to look into spill risk reduction measures, like policies, rules, equipment, systems and services.

Apache's Hendrix speaks of frustrating permitting delays, inlet beluga lawsuit

John Hendrix, Apache Alaska general manager, told a crowd of energy industry representatives Friday he was frustrated by federal permitting processes that have stalled his company's seismic exploration and called for their support.
"This is a proven basin, but if we don't have permits to run there is not going to be a pace and there is not going to be production," Hendrix said during a morning speech to the Alaska Support Industry Alliance at the Kenai Industry Education Forum hosted at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai.

Buccaneer official: Still no firm date, but jack-up rig could start drilling in spring

The Endeavour-Spirit of Independence jack-up rig — idling at dock in Homer since late August — could start drilling after the snow melts, an official with Buccaneer Energy said Friday.

What was planned as a short eight-day stay in Homer before leaving to drill in northern Cook Inlet waters turned into a months and seasons-long marooning of the rig due to delays, repairs and permitting complications. Eventually, Buccaneer and the company hired to prepare and operate the rig, Archer Drilling, parted ways.

Assembly to consider $13 million loan for gas distribution system

Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are considering loaning Homer and Kachemak City a combined $13 million to help create a natural gas grid on the heels of last year’s state capital appropriations that will bring a gas line from Anchor Point south.

Although the borough helps connect residents with gas through utility special assessment districts outside of city limits, it usually does not make such large loans and therefore the assembly must consider whether or not to amend their investment policy to allow for the transaction.

HEA predicts busy year ahead

Homer Electric Association will be “extremely busy” in 2013 finishing projects and preparing the utility for a looming shift that will place it in direct control of area power generation needs, a co-op spokesman said.

For several years HEA has been setting wheels in motion anticipating the severing of a decades-old agreement with Chugach Electric Association at the end of this year. Since the early 1960s, HEA has purchased most of the power local consumers
require — usually 58 megawatts with peaks at about 80 megawatts — from the Anchorage-based CEA.

Measure to repeal borough stream ordinance withdrawn over open meetings concerns

A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member’s attempt to introduce an ordinance that would have undone an expansion of the borough’s anadromous waters habitat protection ordinance was foiled by an unlikely source: the “reply all” button on his email.

Newly elected assembly member Kelly Wolf withdrew Ordinance 2013-03 from introduction Tuesday night citing concerns from borough administration about possible violations of Alaska’s Open Meetings Act.

Central peninsula lawmakers present united front on issues

Three area lawmakers told a crowd gathered Friday they were encouraged about the prospects of solving some of the state’s biggest questions — tweaking oil taxes, shrinking the state’s operating and capital budget and getting gas from the North Slope to Alaskans.

House Speaker Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said what’s needed is hope. Coincidentally, Chenault recently acquired the small town of Hope in his district during the most recent round of redistricting.

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