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NOAA Fisheries taking comments on Gulf Rationalization. What do you think?

The LegHead Report

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

Fish Radio with Laine Welch

 Weekdays at 12:20 p.m.

Galley Tables

Burn ban in effect Borough wide
Due to current dry and windy conditions, there is a borough-wide burn ban in effect. No incinerator or open burning is allowed at this time.
Sep 02 2015
Press Conference Gives Update on Chiniak Fire From Beginning Until Now
Wednesday, 02 September 2015
press_conference_photo.jpgCity manager and Kodiak emergency services director, Aimée Kniaziowski, speaks at podium at Chiniak fire press conference. Chief Mullican stands second from left. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

While Kodiak residents can no longer see the Twin Creeks fire from the city limits, it is still active and in the process of being contained.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the firefighting effort and emergency services summarized events up until this point and announced the transition of the command to the State Division of Forestry.

Kodiak Fire Chief and Emergency Services Coordinator, Jim Mullican, said they received a report of the fire originating in the Twin Creeks area at about 9:30 p.m last Thursday. He said the blaze spread quickly, with flame heights reported to be between 80 to 130 feet.

“It was very obvious at that point that this fire was far larger than anything that we could possibly deal with, which puts it in firefighting terms into what we call a defensive posture. Life safety is number one. We need to take care of people first, deal with everything secondary from there. So all decision from there were made with that in mind.”

He said they got a sense of the fire’s boundaries and coverage on Friday morning during an overflight with the Coast guard.

“And at the time, basic estimates were 2000 acres. It’s obviously grown since then. But it was very obvious from that overflight that some astounding facts came out. One, the simple fact that a large majority of the structures out in Chiniak were untouched. And that was just something for me personally absolutely surprised me. With the size of the fire and what we were looking at, that we had so many structures that we untouched.”

According to the map of the fire’s reach, the fire burned down the library in Chiniak and Trespass Cabin on Lesnoi land, as well as one residence, but Mullican says the fire left 74 other structures untouched.
Map of fire's boundaries. Kayla Dersoches/KMXTscreen_cap.jpg

“It is so varied out there that this fire literally was traveling from one ridge top, jumping across to the next one, and then it would jump to the tops of trees and just kept on burning extremely fast, so although the wind hurt us in one regard, it also kinda helped us a little bit ‘cause it pushed the fire very quickly through some of these areas, allowing it essentially to skip the real deep burn areas and get away from the houses.”

He said some of the logging roads also contributed to stopping or slowing flame spread.

State Division of Forestry information officer, Jim Schwarber, said state crews are now on-site fighting the fire.

“There’s been a smooth transition between the local operations and the Division of Forestry, who’s the lead agency responsible for responding to wild land fire in this part of the state. There’s about 90 firefighters working under the incident commander. There’s two type II crews and one type II initial attack crew, the Yukon Crew, that came in yesterday via ferry from Homer.”

He said there’s been no growth in the fire perimeter or size over the past two or three days.

“Due to the winds, today’s the first day that we expect to be able to get an aircraft up or a helicopter, and we intend to fly a perimeter of the fire today and get that map, so we’ll have new information… accurate information on the exact size of the fire. The fire activity that we have been able to monitor from the ground has been limited to basically smoldering and the heavier fuels, but there hasn’t been active fire on the surface at this time.”

According to a press release, the fire covers almost 5,300 acres and Wednesday, Schwarber said crews had reached 30 percent containment, up from 20 percent Tuesday and 10 percent Monday.

Sep 01 2015
City Government to Move Forward on Near Island Quarry and Take Public Input
Tuesday, 01 September 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

The Kodiak Island Borough has granted the city a conditional use permit to continue a quarry construction on Near Island that began in 2009. The city applied for the permit after realizing it had been digging into the conservation zoning district, which requires special permission for certain land uses. Attorney Jill Wittenbrader is one of the people who spoke up at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing several weeks ago.

“The borough code sets out certain parameters that a conditional use permit must fall into and so the conditional use permit is supposed to be granted if it’s consistent with the nature and character of the surrounding land for instance, and I set forth my testimony at that hearing that I did not think it was consistent with the nature and character of the surrounding land.”

Development on the area has gained a lot of attention especially due to the trail near its boundaries. Wittenbrader says while the public uses Near Island for recreation, the area is not reserved for that purpose, which she says is something city representatives have stressed in meetings with her.

“There is no park land designation, really, through the borough, so when you go to North End Park, or you go to Rotary Park or you go to South End Park, we think of them as parks, and sometimes there’s even signs there saying they’re parks, but there’s nothing even formally designating them as parks beyond maybe a resolution or something.”

Wittenbrader says some of her concerns are about safety.

“I think the city’s looking at a real liability if somebody gets hurt. There’s blasting going out there without signage, without fences posted. There’s cliffs that people could fall off of. I mean, it’s really a dangerous situation,” she says. “I don’t want to advocate that the recreational use be limited, but I think it’s a little bit of a cowboy operation going on.”

Wittenbrader says the P & Z Commission put certain conditions in place, including installing signs and a fence, and restoring some of the vegetation surrounding the site. She says she’s met with various local government representatives and they agree that Near Island’s natural attractions and its harbor uses are important.

And she says they’re listening to the public.

“Many people were concerned. I feel like the Planning and Zoning Commission got that message. I’ve given public comment to the city council. I feel like the city council really gets the message. In the response that I received from them, I felt like they are really concerned about the situation that’s going on and how it’s kinda come about. They say that they’re interested in basically doing the right thing and making it right, and I just hope that there’s follow through on that.”

She says she met with the city manager and mayor about a week ago.

“They stated that this firm is coming down to take public input and public comment and review the plan for Near Island, so that is expected to be occurring this fall, so I would encourage people to submit written or public comments when that opportunity arises.”

The city council’s next work session is scheduled for September 9 and its next regular session for September 10.                    
Sep 01 2015
Talk of the Rock: Twin Creeks Fire
Tuesday, 01 September 2015
Host Kayla Desroches talks about the fire in Chiniak with Jim Schwarber, Alaska Division of Forestry fire information officer, Aimée Kniaziowski, Kodiak emergency services director, and Kathryn Hollis-Buchanan, who's with the Kodiak office of the Red Cross. They update listeners on the Twin Creeks fire, examine the information they now have about the night it started, and think about how to prepare for future emergencies.

3.74 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Sep 01 2015
'Hazard Trees' Pose Danger as Chiniak Fire Mop Up Continues
Tuesday, 01 September 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The State Division of Forestry is declaring 20 percent of the Twin Creeks Fire in Chiniak is now contained.

Current fire activity is limited to smoldering in areas of heavier fuels and there was no change in the size of the fire overnight. Firefighters are securing the fire line closest to homes on its northern flank, and are making steady progress extending additional containment lines at least 100 feet inside the fire's perimeter. The goal is to mop up 300 feet inside all around the fire. 

A challenge for the firefighters securing the perimeter, according to fire information officer Jim Schwarber, is the presence of large fire-damaged trees. 

"When a fire burns through a timber stand it weakens the roots, and those trees will turn into what we call 'hazard trees.' But they will fall down very easily with not necessarily even a strong wind, and that's very dangerous,” Schwarber said. “Our fire crews that are securing that line, up to 300 feet wide around the perimeter, for their safety, some of these hazard trees we're cutting ourselves with the professional fellers we have out there."

There are now about 90 firefighters working the blaze, including the Hooper Bay, Upper Kalskag and the Yukon Type II Initial Attack crew, which arrived on the ferry Sunday night. A Type 3 Incident Management Team from the Alaska Division of Forestry is in place, as well.

The Twin Creeks Fire, known locally as the Chiniak Fire, started last Thursday evening, possibly caused by a downed powerline during a wind storm with gusts to 65 mph. Overnight and the next day strong winds quickly spread the fire through 5,000 acres of grass, timber and logging slash on Leisnoi, Inc. lands. The Chiniak Library, at least one home, and a cabin were destroyed by the fire. 
Aug 31 2015
Assembly and Council Jointly Sign Trawl Bycatch Management Letter
Monday, 31 August 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A letter the Kodiak City Council recently approved to provide input on the Environmental Impact Statement for Gulf of Alaska trawl bycatch management has also gained the stamp of approval from the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly.

At a special meeting last Thursday night, fisheries analyst Heather McCarty helped explain the document, which addresses concerns about overconsolidation and regionalization and suggests an idea for a community cooperative.

“All of this right now is just for analysis,” said McCarty. “The council process is so lengthy and they go through several iterations of analysis of every one of these elements of the potential program and what this letter is suggesting is just that these elements are considered for analysis.”

The assembly agreed to sign the letter jointly with the council.

At the work session following the meeting, the assembly also reviewed the standard evaluation procedures for the positions of borough manager and clerk and discussed updating the job descriptions for both. Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner pointed out why that is a necessary step.

“One of the problems we saw is that what the manager and the clerk actually do is not fully captured in the job descriptions, so in some cases, they do more stuff that is not in the job description. In other cases, there’s things in the job description that everyone acknowledges they don’t actually do. And I almost have a bigger problem with that, because those are the things that fall through the cracks.”

The assembly decided that a smaller group of assemblymembers would review the evaluation criteria in the near future. The assembly also discussed the borough manager’s hiring authority and manager Bud Cassidy asked for the power to grant a higher salary than currently allowed.

“You’ve seen that we’ve not been able to hire anyone at a step C,” said Cassidy. “We’re dealing with a potential fire chief who is maybe even off the scale, so we know it’s not working. It’s a broken system being able to just hire to a step C. I will tell you to this day and age of just hiring employees, we’re not getting many applicants, and the ones that we are getting are not – and will not – accept a job at a C.”

Assemblyman Dan Rohrer suggested comparing the borough’s situation to other governing bodies.

“I guess my big question would be, is it a Kodiak issue, or is the city and the school district -  are they being able to find key positions and get them filled? Because they have some of those same – especially the city – have some very specially oriented jobs with their waste-water treatment plant and their water plant and things of that nature. I would be curious to see if they struggle with those same problems.”

The assembly decided the topic deserves further discussion. Its next regular meeting is scheduled for September 3 and its next work session for September 10.
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