Soldotna helps businesses spruce up their storefronts

The city of Soldotna approached local business owner Gary Hinkle with a proposal. It requested Hinkle improve the exterior of his River Terrace RV Park; it would help by reimbursing $5,000 of the project's total cost.
At first, Hinkle had reservations about the Soldotna Storefront Improvement Program. But after completing the project he's more than happy with the results, he said.
"I am very positive about the program, and I think it's a very reasonable program for the city to take on," he said.

State officials: Inlet has gas

JUNEAU — Cook Inlet may have plenty of natural gas for years to come, Alaska officials are telling lawmakers.

“There’s still large volumes of gas and oil, we believe, to be discovered,” said Dan Sullivan, commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources. Sullivan said companies are planning to spend millions of dollars to bring new Cook Inlet gas to market.

New chef at Beluga Bar and Grill trades Arizona desert for Homer flavors

While some winter-weary locals think of warmer climates this time of year — the desert sun in Arizona is a good example — Robert Isaly has done the opposite.

Formerly of Jerome, Ariz., Isaly has recently taken up a Homer address and, as the new chef at Beluga Bar and Grill, he’s brought the taste of the Southwest with him. 

“We’re anxious to be able to do some changing up on the menu,” said Beluga manager Diane Hively. “It’s a godsend to have someone willing to go some different directions.”

Recent decision could set in motion Augustine Island geothermal energy

By Brian Smith

Morris News Service - Alaska

A recently released document has given the thumbs up for companies to take the first step in a potential geothermal energy project on Augustine Island, which hosts the volcano of the same name.

A Jan. 14 document from Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas determined it is in the state’s best interest to investigate the island’s geothermal energy potential signaling the first regulatory step needed to see any future developments to fruition.

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.

Alaskaloha shirts connect Alaska, Hawaii

On a blustery winter day with the temperatures dropping into the teens, the wind blowing 30 and the sun setting before 6 p.m., Alaskans look south — way south — and imagine themselves strolling a Hawaiian beach. Though thousands of miles apart and distant in latitude, we of the 49th state have deep connections with the 50th state.

That connection is the idea between Alaskaloha, a clothing line created by Homer entrepreneur Tiffanie Story. Her simple designs all feature the iconic Hawaiian state flower, the yellow hibiscus or pua aloalo.

Industry Outlook Forum comes to Homer

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District’s “Industry Outlook Forum” is coming to town, with a two-day event at Land’s End Resort on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. The forum’s theme is “Cook Inlet — Energy for All Alaska” and it is hosted by the KPEDD and the city of Homer.

Usually held in the central peninsula, this is the first time the annual forum has been scheduled for the southern peninsula.

USDA-funded program grows bond between local farms and restaurants

By Dan Schwartz

Morris News Service - Alaska

Cyndi and Craig Ramm opened the Corner Café in Soldotna not long ago. They said they want to use more than 75 percent organic ingredients and, when possible, buy local produce.

“We don’t want to support a big company out of Seattle,” Cyndi Ramm said. “We want to support the business down the road.”

Bell elected chief of staff at South Peninsula hospital

Dr. William Bell has been elected chief of staff for 2013 at South Peninsula Hospital. Bell is a family practice physician and the medical director of Homer Medical Center.  He has been on the hospital’s medical staff for more than 30 years, and replaces outgoing chief of staff,
Dr. Kenneth Hahn.  

Dr. Harold Smith, emergency room medical director, was elected to serve as chief of staff elect, and Dr. Maureen Filipek, radiologist, is the newly elected secretary. 

Parnell pushes new oil tax revamp

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell is proposing an overhaul of Alaska’s oil tax structure, saying his new plan is simpler and aimed at making the state more competitive while encouraging new production.

The proposal, which was expected to be announced Wednesday, scraps the progressive surcharge that companies have said is a disincentive to new investment and revamps the state’s system of tax credits, focusing those incentives on companies that produce oil from new fields on the North Slope.

Without cuts, Alaska faces budget deficit, says new legislative report

JUNEAU — Alaska would face a budget deficit of $920 million if spending for next year matched that of the current year, a report released Monday states.

The Legislative Finance Division report offers a sobering look at the state’s fiscal situation amid declining oil production and lower oil prices. It was released a day before the start of the new legislative session.

Task force considers changes to Cook Inlet plan

Ten Upper Cook Inlet Task Force members met Monday to address the mountain of data generated since their last meeting, propose changes to salmon management plans and hear from local fishermen.

The day began with a presentation on a draft escapement goal recommendation of 15,000 to 30,000 late-run chinook salmon in the Kenai River.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Chief Fisheries Scientist Bob Clark answered questions about the draft report and how the DIDSON-sonar based goal was developed.

Old hospital debate re-ignites as CPH purchases therapy services

By Brian Smith

Morris News Service - Alaska

SOLDOTNA — Recent action by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will result in Central Peninsula Hospital incorporating additional facilities and offering more services for physical therapy.

The assembly’s thumbs-up reignited an old debate on the merits of the hospital’s continued growth in the community as residents on both sides testified about their perceptions.

Construction projects at KPC on track

By Jerzy Shedlock

Morris News Service - Alaska

Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus is set to become the most technologically advanced training facility in the university system. The new Career and Technical Education Center, scheduled to open in August, will house a state-of-the-art oil water separator. The two-story device will replace the college’s old separator. It simulates real-world process technology scenarios.

Ultimately, the separator will strengthen an already popular program, said KPC director Gary J. Turner.

Business Briefs

Application period open 

for HEA board seat

Homer Electric Association is accepting applications for a vacancy on the board of directors for District 3.

Applicants must be a member of HEA and a bona fide resident within the District 3 boundary, which includes portions of the Kasilof area south to Homer and across Kachemak Bay to the Seldovia area.

The term of office will begin after appointment by the board of directors and expire in May 2014.

Marine highway turns 50


Morris news Service - Alaska

Just a few years after the half-century mark of the state it serves, Alaska’s Marine Highway System hits the big five-o.

The marine highway system has gone through a number of changes since it first went into operation with the M/V Malaspina in 1963, Jeremy Woodrow, spokesperson for AMHS, said in an email interview. Serving areas beyond Southeast communities was an early step. 

Despite slight increase, Cook Inlet belugas ‘are not recovering’

ANCHORAGE — The beluga whales that swim in Cook Inlet are continuing to struggle and appear headed for extinction if nothing changes, a government official said Friday.

A survey done in June found the whales “are not recovering,” said Julie Speegle, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We don’t know why.”

Cook Inlet belugas, considered genetically distinct, have been struggling and in decline for years.


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