The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By LOG Staff 

2013 Year In Review


Sam Wasson | For The LOG

MARCH: Three generations of Seaveys were all smiles after Mitch's 2013 Iditarod win. From left; Dan Seavey, Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey.

The LOG looks back through the pages of 2013. Click on headline to read full story...

- January -

Shell ships face stormy December

A series of powerful winter storms have contributed to the difficulties of Royal Dutch Shell and delayed the conclusion of its 2012 sea-based drilling operations in Alaska. Saturday, while beginning a transit of the Gulf of Alaska, engine failures disabled one of the large tug boats towing a non-powered drilling craft, the Kulluk. The Unified Command reported Monday night that the Kulluk grounded at about 9 p.m. on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island with no one aboard. The crew of the tug Alert was ordered to separate from the Kulluk at 8:15 p.m. to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the towing vessel.

30 years of prevention keeps the doctor away

On Dec. 10 Lois Daubney received an official proclamation for her 30 years of service as Seward's Public Health Nurse. Mayor David Seaward made the pronouncement on behalf of the City of Seward. Over the past few years Daubney has found the injection of politics into the funding and administration of public health within the state additional incentive to consider retirement. The trend of politicization of certain aspects of health care along with budget cuts and changes in budget priorities between the state of Alaska administration and the legislature are an issue that's hard to address from within the system, and now Daubney feels more freedom in commenting on them.

Seward Community Library Museum opens

The community turned out in large numbers to attended the Jan. 12 dedication of the new Seward Community Library Museum building. As the doors opened to the public for the first time, a line out the front doors and around the newly completed structure reached nearly to the old library. New arrivals continued to enlarge the crowd as the foyer, museum and a side conference room filled with appreciative Sewardites and the happy chatter of youngsters.

Plungers take on cancer head first

The 2013 Seward Polar Bear Jump was another one for the books. From the plunger friendly weather to the large crowd of visiting sightseers and jumpers who showed up despite a blizzard watch for a snowstorm that never materialized, last weekend Seward was the most fun anyone could have in Southcentral Alaska. Local firefighter Jonathan Gage was busy getting on the job training from outgoing Polar Bear Jump boss Marilyn Sutherland. He'll be taking the lead for next year's Jump while Marilyn spends some quality time near much warmer water and beaches.

Mayor, administration build working relationship

Last Friday Seward Mayor David Seaward and Councilor Ristine Casagranda met with City Manager Jim Hunt and Assistant City Manager Ron Long at Seward City Hall. The meeting marked the end of a long drought in communications between the mayor and the administration of the City of Seward. The conference came after a tempestuous city council meeting on Monday of that week which, because of protracted controversy, resulted in a rare continuance of a council meeting to the following day.

- February -

DEC study clears the air

The findings issued in the preliminary report of the DEC study released last year were well received by city council members. And the Seward Journal, owned by council member Vanta Shafer, published an article titled "Coal dust no problem in Seward, despite local worries" although air samples had not been analyzed. The final report was received with similar acclaim two weeks ago and spurred Council Member Marianna Keil to urge city officials to publish it to its website for all to see.

Due date narrows for octopus mom

Over the last ten months the giant Pacific octopus LuLu, a resident of Alaska SeaLife Center, has proven to be an attentive mother to the hundreds, or thousands, of eggs she laid last spring. She's sucking water in through her mantle, and blowing it over them, and fanning it to give them plenty of oxygen and keep the water circulating.

Bear Creek Community Center coming soon

Over the next two summers the grounds of the Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department are undergoing a transformation. Bear Creek is Seward's bedroom community which around 40 percent of area residents call home. The area has been served by its own volunteer fire department since 1977 and now that organization is paving the way for the Bear Creek Community Center.

SCCC changes guard

John "Craig" Turnbull, Superintendent of Spring Creek Correctional Center, retired today from the institution where he began his career in corrections over 20 years ago. In the State of Alaska penal system where most administrators are one to three years into their jobs, he was the second most senior superintendent among them. Turnbull contrasts his age with the age of SCCC and, in turn, the State of Alaska by mentioning that he's older than the State of Alaska. "Our state is still young. Alaska's corrections system is still young and developing," he said.

Tusty needs more work for thinning hull

The Alaska Marine Highway System's versatile 296-foot Marine Ferry Tustumena, sometimes called the "Trusty Tusty," will remain at the Seward shipyard until June, almost two months longer than originally scheduled. The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry was hauled out of the water at the end of December for her annual maintenance and overhaul. The vessel was due for its hull, machine and propulsion inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping. But exploratory work during inspection revealed extensive deterioration to parts of the 50-year-old ship's steel, which must be repaired and replaced before the ferry can return to service.

- March -

1-2-3 lift!

Under contract to Royal Dutch Shell, last week the Noble Discoverer concluded its stay at dockside in Seward. Saturday, Seattle Western's towboats Alaskan Titan and Arctic Titan maneuvered the floating drilling rig over the submerged deck of the Chinese Overseas Shipping Company's Xiang Yun Kou, a semi-submersible heavy transport ship. The Xiang Yun Kou is built to haul large vessels by dropping its deck below water and allowing the passenger to be floated into place. Water is then pumped out of the transport until the deck and piggybacked vessel are above water.

Mitch aces second Iditarod

After a close contest, Mitch Seavey crossed the finish line late Tuesday night to win his second Iditarod and become the oldest musher to win the 41-year-old sled dog race. The 54-year-old musher and his dog team mushed under the burled arch in Nome at 10:40 p.m. March 12 with 10 dogs in harness. He finished the 1,000-mile race in 9 days 7 hours 39 minutes and 56 seconds with an average speed of 4.41 miles per hour.

Spring Creek faces staffing, training deficits

With over 1,000 inmates scheduled to arrive in Alaska over the next few months, employees of Alaska's Department of Corrections have serious questions about the level of staffing and training at Spring Creek Correctional Center. SCCC is a maximum security prison in Seward, which has been in operation since 1988. According to current and former SCCC staff, recent violence at the prison underlines the need for advanced training and methods to cope with an evolving inmate population and a facility in transition.

City council commits to CHC

The new CHC would absorb many of the functions of the Providence-operated Seward medical center that deals with day to day medical appointments and care outside of the emergency room or hospital setting. The CHC would have more flexibility in establishing costs for treatment along with different billing standards. It would also be able to negotiate costs for drugs and medicines as a federally funded facility.

Dorms demolished

Starting Tuesday demolition of the 1970s vintage AVTEC dorms began as the large residential complex was razed to the ground. In a frenzy of defenestration, a large clawed excavator took bucket size swipes at walls and windows as it reduced the structure to piles of rubble. Later in the day workers took a break from the smashing and grabbing to move the piles into waiting trailers. Construction of the new $12.7 million 120-room residential building will commence thereafter with preparation of the foundation and by June construction will be in full swing. The new AVTEC dorms are scheduled to ready for occcupancy Jan. 1.

Site council votes to move sixth grade

Seward Schools Site-based Council voted to recommend moving Seward Elementary's sixth grade to Seward Middle School near the close of their monthly meeting last week. The vote last week was almost unanimous with one abstention. That abstention would likely have been a "no" were it not for the considerable support given the move by a recent community survey, according to the abstainer.

- April -

Natural food store moves downtown

Many still remember the small grocery store called Bob's in the Brown & Hawkins Building, where they could pick up milk or eggs downtown. Now folks can stop downtown and purchase real, natural, organic or locally-grown dairy, produce, maple syrup, jams, herbs and homeopathic nutritional supplements, and natural soaps and cleaners that don't harm the environment. Frontier Healing Arts & Sciences, LLC, a natural foods store, moved downtown this week to the Style N' Stitches building directly across Fourth Avenue from Edward Jones and The Seward Phoenix LOG. Owners Kerry Romig and Butch Tiner purchased the building and moved the store from the Seward Real Estate log building across the Seward Highway from Spenard Builders Supply at mile 4.

Thai food restaurant comes to Seward

Woody's Thai Kitchen, named after the famed local sea lion attraction, is set to open this week as Seward's latest eatery. The new restaurant at the corner of Fourth Avenue and B Streets will feature traditional Thai cuisine with a couple of twists like bacon fried rice with onions, scallions and egg. It's a dish that its owners Rene Likitprachacomb and Justin Biocic enjoy and believe their customers will, too.

Man killed in bus fire

An overnight fire in a former school bus in a storage yard in Seward resulted in a fatality on Friday. Shortly after midnight Seward Fire Department, acting on a report of a boat fire, arrived at 1714 Leirer Road to find the vehicle fully involved in fire with two exposures to the east. According to a SFD press release, the fire was contained to the bus with only slight damage to two neighboring vessels. During overhaul an occupant who perished inside the bus was discovered.

Novice mushers take on Mayor's Cup

The weather couldn't make up its mind for the duration of the 18th Annual Seward Mayor's Cup dog sled race, alternating between blue skies and spring sun and significant flurries. The Saturday race pitted a melange of mushers, novices all, teamed with a diversity of sled dogs of varied age and training. The mix between the insubstantial nature of the entrants and the hounds of unknown provenance would help to determine the outcome of the day's contest, turning it into a crap shoot according to some open mouthed observers. The race, a fundraiser for the Seward Iditarod Trail Blazers, also serves to honor the office of mayor of Seward, a sometimes thankless and otherwise unheralded position. The Trail Blazers have a continuing mission to highlight the Seward area's place in the Iditarod legend as the starting point of the famous National Historic Trail.

Seward's port expansion projects advance

The just concluded legislative session added $10 million to the funds available to construct the next phase of the Seward Marine Industrial Center. The total project cost for the SMIC breakwater, the centerpiece of that portion of construction, was pegged at almost $18 million. Combined with $10 million from the recent statewide transportation bond package, the legislative appropriation barely covers the budget for remaining engineering work as well as construction of the breakwater. City officials are prospecting for other monies to cover completion of the phase 1 engineering as well as phase 2 design and other expenses.

Highway projects promise smooth sailing

Summer projects will keep road crews busy along the Seward Highway from Seward to Anchorage. Work is wrapping up on the Trail River Bridge around mile 25 with traffic now using the new span while contractors Hamilton Construction and Bristol Corporation remove the detour bridge. Two temporary 149-foot bridges over Falls and Ptarmigan creeks were replaced with permanent fixtures over last year's construction season. Disassembling the three span, 383-foot long Trail River detour bridge is the next step to completing work on this stretch of the highway with only the final paving remaining.

- May -

Fish processors scale up

The biggest challenge facing Seward Fisheries and many other Alaska fish processors is an abrupt reduction in seasonal worker recruitment. For the past few years the seasonal employment of foreign students on so-called J-1 visas became an industry mainstay. This year the industry was deprived of that steady source of workers by changes in allowable uses of the J-1 visa. Certain service industry jobs in Alaska are now excluded under the visa program because of reputed abusive or coercive practices elsewhere.

Local radio returns to Seward

Seward is about to get its very own locally-based community FM and AM radio stations, with towers and translators installed at strategic locations along the highway bringing the FM signal to Moose Pass and perhaps as out as far as the wye intersection at Tern Lake. If all goes according to plan, area listeners should soon start to hear local Seward weather, community events and information, and a wide variety of automated musical programming broadcast over KIBH 91.7 FM via a 100-watt low power transmitter, said longtime Alaska commercial broadcaster and radio techie Wolfgang Kurtz. KIBH went back on the air Tuesday.

Health center board makes plans for new clinic

In September a list of newly approved Community Health Center applicants will be announced by the federal government. Seward's CHC board hopes that that their application makes the final cut this time. An application submitted in 2010 got the group's foot in the door, failing to achieve funding by only one ranking point and barely missing the cutoff as 67 other facilities were funded nationwide. Suzannne Niemi, consultant to Seward's CHC board, urges optimism that a more thorough, considered application in this round is going to make the difference. In fact, the Seward initiative was backed in its current bid by a grant from the funding agency which was provided to assist the community board in producing a more effective application.

Library mural dedicated, museum opens

Willard Dunham, Amy Carney and Keith Campbell cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Seward Community Library's museum as a crowd looks on. Three pairs of scissors weren't enough to go around for all the dedicated volunteers and staff on hand, so this trio were the chosen few. Prior to the museum ceremony, the dedication of the library's mural was officiated by Patricia Linville, Seward Museum Library Museum director. The mural which is a visual portrayal of the storytelling tradition, is Seward's largest among many.

Chinooks wins Alaska Seafood Contest

Chinooks Restaurant of Seward took first place at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's second annual Great Alaska Seafood Cook-off. The live competition featured finalists from around the state of Alaska culled from around 20 entrants at the Bill Sheffield Railroad Depot on May 8. Chinook's Chef Kevin Lane and Lori LeMaster, who owns Chinooks with her husband Dan Butts, were the winning team from a field of competitors that included Anchorage chefs Drew Johnson of Kincaid Grill, Brett Knipmeyer of Kinley's Restaurant and Bar, and Robert Lewis of Maxine's Fireweed Bistro.

SHS Seniors look beyond graduation

Phyllis Rutledge, Jesse Wolfe's grandmother flew up the day before from Minnesota to attend Jesse's graduation. He'll be the third grandchild to graduate from Seward High. "I would have walked all the way if I had to," she said. Her advice to the graduating class? "Keep your nose to their books and do something worthwhile. It doesn't matter what it is, but in this day and age you need more education to succeed or have some skills already that we don't know of."

Knotek, Adelmann tops in state track

Track and field capped off the Seahawks athletic year with stunning victories as two graduating Seward High School students took home big wins and one state record at the state finals in Fairbanks over the weekend. Three-time state champion Tessa Adelmann's first throw at the state meet in the shot put was a new school record and a new 123A Alaska state record. Among a competitive field, Miles Knotek took the 2013 123A state championship in the 3,200-meter race and ended up on top of the state list for 1,600-meter runners for the season.

SeaLife Center announces sea lion pregnancies

Alaska SeaLife Center scientists recently announced that they have reached a major milestone in efforts to learn more about Steller sea lion reproduction. ASL resident female sea lions Eden and Tasu are pregnant. Last summer, breeding was facilitated by housing Eden, Tasu and Sitka, three of the Center's female sea lions, in the same habitat with Woody, a 20-year-old male.

- June -

Jesse Lee Home project missing puzzle pieces

As Friends of the Jesse Lee Home proceed to completion of designs for layout and operation of a new school in Seward, they do so without title to the building and property central to the project. With the backing of the governor's office and a budget of $11 million over the last three years, the designs for the Balto School have significant space set aside for living quarters or dorms. However, with the exception of a handful of specialized teaching areas, there are not sufficient quarters onsite for classrooms.

New fire chief continues tradition

Seward's new fire chief has been on the job since late Friday and it's been non-stop. Business as usual at the Seward Fire Department. Eddie Athey took over the reins from former Fire Chief David Squires on Monday but not the desk. While you can actually see Squires' old desktop, a carpet of paperwork spreads across Athey's. For now, he's still in the same chair as when he was deputy fire chief, but with all the responsibilities and duties of being Seward's lead firefighter.

Chief Squires makes last call

Now retired City of Seward Fire Chief David Squires composes a final radio call and then loses his composure a few moments later when young upstarts Sean Corrigan and Eddie Athey set him up for a rousing dousing. Ensuing retribution was hidden by fire engines, but it was highly probable that Corrigan received at least one bucketful in response. Corrigan has taken up the duties of Squires' recently retired wife Sheila as city dispatch supervisor and Athey has assumed the position of fire chief.

Thai cuisine rolls into Seward

Boombai Thai is the second of three new restaurants to open in Seward over the past two months. Mark Teckenbrock, known to many as the local Seward High School auditorium tech, jazz guitarist and guitar teacher, has found himself onboard a hip new trend – curbside food service. He's opened a new Thai food truck with the catchphrase "Curry Up," that will be offering four tasty Northern Thai-style dishes this summer, and into early fall. It's is the second Thai place to open the first being Woody's Thai Kitchen, at Fourth and B.

Mow reflects on changes

Jeff Mow, the Kenai Fjords National Park Superintendent, along with wife Amy and son Peter, is leaving Seward this summer after nine years to take a position as superintendent of the Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. It's a stunning national park with a million acres to manage, with seven times the visitation level as Kenai Fjords, an annual budget of more than $12.5 million, and a staff of about 110, five times the size of the staff here.

Airport floods in heatwave

As of Tuesday the 4,240-foot 13L-31R runway is closed, according to Denny Hamilton who operates a fueling business at the airport. Seward Air, Hamilton's business, is the only fixed-base operator at the facility providing services to aircraft flying in and out. Over the years he has tried to encourage improvements at the airport that would protect it from periodic flooding and help make it more attractive to more air traffic. He says that the State of Alaska has put quite a bit of work into the facility, but they haven't changed much.

Mountain rescue ends well

A distressed hiker on Mount Marathon called into City of Seward Dispatch via 911 at 4:33 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12. Dispatch advised the Seward Fire Department that the hiker was calling from his cell phone and had said that "he was in a bad spot." Fire department personnel made contact with the stranded hiker to determine an approximate location and identify the best access to him.

Longtime mission directors leaving

Pastor David and Ina Hawkins, directors of the Seward Seaman's Mission, are relinquishing their positions and moving in July to Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada along with their son William. Pastor David has directed the missions in Seward and Whittier for the past two decades. Ina is a registered nurse who many know from Providence Seward Medical & Care Center and other medical facilities over the past 20 years. But due to health reasons and a bad accident he suffered three years ago, Hawkins regrettably finds that he is unable to meet the demanding challenges of the job. On the eve of their retirement party Tuesday, the Hawkins had heavy hearts when they talked about leaving although they're leaving the mission in good hands.

Halibut tourney escalates

It took the mere publishing of the name of last week's 2013 Seward Halibut Tournament leader to instigate a larger monster flatfish to leap onto someone else's hook. Kristine Jordahl aboard the Cisco Kid wrestled in a 166.8-pound halibut to take the lead on June 20. Then on June 22, Pete Imhof riding with Alaska Glacier Fishing brought a 140.2-pounder aboard the Noble Eagle to edge into second place. Samuel Strawbridge with his 139-pound 'but caught with Aurora Charters way back on June 1 remains at third. With just a few days left in the competition and the current leader printed in the media, all bets are off.

Moose Pass Fest better than fair

A sea of white tented booths flapped in the gentle breezes at the 35th annual Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival on Saturday as crowds packed the midway and bandstand area. Festival souvenirs in popular sizes sold out within a few hours and there was a brisk business in hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers and fish tacos at the outdoor grilling center. With more space and more vendors along with decent weather, the organizers for this weekend's Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival were ready to break some records. They broke one right off the bat, selling out all their vendor spaces within two weeks.

The second half of the LOG's Year in Review will be in the Jan. 2 edition.


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