Jay Barrett

Morning Edition host/news reporter

Born in Dillingham, Jay Barrett started in public radio at the age of 12, when the school district there started KDLG-AM. He has gone on to work in radio, television and print as a reporter, photographer and editor/news-director across rural Alaska. For the past dozen years, he’s been news director at KMXT Kodiak, where he’s produced The Alaska Fisheries Report for the last 10 years. He returns to KDLL 20 years from when he first came to the station.

Here's a question for you: do you feel as if you're living in any of the top 10 most dangerous cities in Alaska? Some days it feels like the answer is yes, other days it's hard to imagine. But using raw data from the FBI, a travel website has determined just that. Soldotna is the sixth most dangerous city in the state, up one spot from seventh last year, while Kenai, meanwhile is ranked 10th, but it has fallen six spots from number four last year, that's according to "Road Snacks."

Last month’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake off Kodiak Island meant different things to different people on the Kenai Peninsula, and it all depended on where they lived. In areas closer to the open ocean of the Gulf of Alaska, it meant evacuation to high ground, while in the Central Peninsula, it was a midnight diversion, something to post about on Facebook for a few days.

For the people of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management, it was the time to swing into high gear to warn residents in vulnerable areas of possible tsunami danger.

Photo ConocoPhillips

  The mothballed natural gas liquefaction plant in Nikiski has a new owner, changing hands officially a week ago. ConocoPhillips sold its Kenai LNG plant to its industrial park neighbor, Andeavor, which operates the crude oil refinery across the street. 

The price of the sale was not disclosed. Nor were Andeavor’s plans for the nearly 50-year-old facility. A quote from Andeavor spokesman Scott LaBelle in an announcement caught the eye of former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral chief of staff, Larry Persily, an expert on natural gas issues.

Outdoor enthusiasts with more gasoline than ski wax running in their veins finally got the word they were waiting for: effective immediately, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is open to snowmachine use. Refuge Manager Andy Loranger announced the opening today (Tuesday), saying it applies to all areas of traditional snowmachine use.

  The last series of lakes in the central peninsula to be treated for invasive northern pike is the subject of a public meeting Thursday night. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will have on hand the project biologist, the area sport fishery manager, and the area research supervisor will be in attendance to answer questions. 

The public meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 Thursday evening at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

Libraries used to be quiet as mausoleums, with people shuffling quietly from the card catalog, to the stacks, to a straight-backed wooden chair at a table to read under harsh fluorescent lights. Stern librarians would peer over their glasses and give a “shush” at any sound.

Not so much any more.

“Libraries are not quiet any more. And there are some people who are kinda upset about that sometimes,” says Kenai Library Director Mary Jo Joiner. 

The Internet age was supposed to be the death knell for America’s public libraries. Google was supposed to replace the Dewey Decimal System and the Kindle was going to end paper books altogether. But, no. Not only are libraries like the ones in Kenai and Soldotna surviving, they’re thriving. We’ll find out why on the Kenai Conversation as host Jay Barrett welcomes head librarians Mary Jo Joiner and Rachel Nash from Kenai and Soldotna, respectively.

At last week’s regular meeting, the Soldotna City Council made a fundamental change to how city hall and the Soldotna city government is structured. The council moved oversight of the city clerk from the city manager to the city council.

As Councilwoman Linda Murphy, a one-time Alaska Clerk of the Year herself, explains, a city Soldotna’s size should be structured in this manner.

Bill Laughing Bear

This past weekend may have been the busiest of the winter. What with Native Youth Olympics, the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, the Arctic Winter Games, and who can forget the KDLL Annual Membership Party?

Well, on Saturday out at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge visitors center, a mushing guide turned author demonstrated his Siberian mushing set up, and talked about his new book, "An Alaskan Adventure: Tales of a Musher."

National Weather Service

  The Kenai River at the Soldotna Bridge entered minor flood stage several times on Thursday and Friday, according to National Weather Service measurements.

The Service issued a special weather statement Sunday warning of the rising water levels on the Kenai River as freeze-up continues. As ice forms the river, the statement says, it can build up and restrict the flow of the water, backing it up behind the ice and raising levels.

The city of Kenai is looking to grow its economic base. That begins with one of the city’s more abundant resources — land. Shaylon Cochran has more on the plans to catalog and encourage development around the city:


Jay Barrett/KDLL photo

  Project Homeless Connect, a one-day outreach to the peninsula’s disadvantaged, attracted scores people to the Soldotna Sports Complex Wednesday. Frank Alioto, whose daytime job is at Central Peninsula Hospital, is a co-leader of the project.

There was another strong earthquake felt in Kenai almost exactly two years ago, though much closer than Tuesday morning's 7.9 event, meaning it caused a whole lot more damage in the Central Peninsula.

Some of that damage occurred to the Kenai City Dock during the January 24th, 2016, 7.1 earthquake.

City Manager Paul Ostrander explained to the Kenai City Council the administration’s plan to repair the damage, using funds left over from two other, completed projects.

Alaska's economic future pretty much balances right now on a  natural gas pipeline running from the North Slope to Nikiski. It's the main focus of Governor Bill Walker's administration, and he's lobbied two presidents and several foreign leaders to get on board.

While the project is making progress through a recent agreement with China, it's far from a certainty, at least in the mind of local elder statesman John Williams.

The latest Alaska State Trooper Citizen Academy on the Kenai Peninsula is under way. Lieutenant Dane Gilmore of the Soldotna trooper post says the 12-week program is designed to help citizens learn about the role of troopers in the community.

"The idea is to create community awareness of the equipment and resources and limitations of the AST and the criminal justice system overall," he said.

He says the academy is important partially to dispel some misconceptions people have about the troopers.

 

The state Legislature gavels in amid hopes that increasing oil prices and TAPS line throughput can help quell the state's budget mess, while Hilcorp has big plans for its stake in Cook Inlet.


On this week's Kenai Conversation, former Kenai city and borough Mayor John Williams returns to discuss the issues of the day with host Jay Barrett.

  Twice a month a group of folks get together in Soldotna over lunch and talk. It happens all the time, but this group is noteworthy because they're trying to get better at it. At talking, not lunch. The group is Soldotna Speakers, which helps people improve their public speaking and leadership skills. KDLL's Jay Barrett spoke with Soldotna Speakers' organizer Rosie Reeder about the program. The next gathering of Soldotna Speakers, which meets on the first and third Tuesday of the month is February 6th.

A charter bus carrying the Homer girls basketball team got stuck partially in the ditch in Cooper Landing, blocking traffic in both lanes for some time on Saturday night. No injuries were reported.

According to a Facebook post by Chad Felice, coach of the Lady Mariners, the road was so icy that the bus, moving at under 20 mph, just slid down with the grade of the road.

In this first episode of Econ 919, we take you to the recent Economic Outlook Forum and introduce you to one of the newest players in the central Kenai Peninsula's economy. And we wrap up with some potentially encouraging news about your PFD.


It's been over two months since the Kenai Peninsula Borough has opened the landfill in Soldotna to hazardous waste disposal, but Saturday citizens will be free to bring in up to 55 gallons of household waste.

Commercial disposers are charged a fee, and have to register in advance, but if you're just an innocent bystander with a garage full of half-empty paint cans, used motor oil and fluorescent light bulbs, your trip to the dump is free.

A few years ago residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough went to the polls and said they would like to have animal control, which currently is only provided by certain organized cities. The voters also said they wanted it basically for free.

Since that time, animals, mostly dogs, have continued to roam freely in the unincorporated areas of the borough, which occasionally leads to citizens asking the borough assembly to finally do something about it. Last week it was Amanda Berg of Kenai who spoke up during citizen comments.

Two items on Wednesday night's Soldotna City Council agenda will mark the beginning of the end in legalizing cannabis within city limits. One ordinance limits operations to commercially-zoned areas of the city only, while the other ordinance sets up the framework for taxing the product.

What the ordinances do not do, though, is allow any commercial growing of marijuana in the city, regardless of zoning.

Thursday, the League of Women Voters of the Central Kenai Peninsula will host an informational session on voting issues. Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship will be the keynote speaker. She calls it "sort of voting 101."

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has an open comment period through the end of the month for its plan to enhance the king salmon run on the Kasilof River and Crooked Creek, as well as in Kachemak Bay.

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