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Monday, March 29, 2021

Please Vote for Me

MEA Serves Eagle River Well

(2021©donnliston.com)

 



 

When Chugach/Eagle River wanted electrical power, at a time when the community was sleepy but growing, Municipal Light and Power (ML&P) didn’t want the bother of hooking us up from Anchorage. A Chugiak area activist, Justine Parks took the steps to involve Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) in delivering power to local residents at a time when the co-op was very young and vulnerable. Mrs. Parks had been active in establishing the first schools in this area, too. [1]

 

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MEA Electrical Co-operative members in Eagle River have recently received ballots in the mail for the upcoming Board of Directors election. Information about my candidacy is lasted in the booklet provided. All of these people are good people who are willing to serve. I ask for your vote because I think with my experience I can best represent the interests of our community at this time. I welcome your questions and as a board member I will be available and transparent in what MEA is doing to promote reliability and economic efficiency. I believe those are the issues that matter to ratepayers.

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Today the area of the Municipality of Anchorage, known as Assembly District 2 (AD2), is very fortunate to have MEA as our energy provider. The Municipality of Anchorage-owned ML&P has recently been sold to the Chugach Electric Association (CEA) co-op, and local politicians in the mudflats appear more interested in spending money from the sale for items on their hidden agendas than in reducing property tax burdens on residents.



 

CEA used to supply power to MEA before MEA decided to lower rates to consumers over the long run buy capitalizing a new state-of-the art Eklutna Generation Station. This is the crown jewel of the Southcentral Alaska Electrical grid.

 



 

Building the Eklutna Generation Station was a statregic financial stretch that today is paying dividends for MEA ratepayers.

 

In a recent zoom meeting with this writer, MEA CEO Tony Izzo explained how the organization works non-stop to deliver reliable power to members, while reducing costs, stabilizing rates, and providing the highest level of customer service.

 

I have experienced this personally as an MEA member and electrical service ratepayer at two locations.

 

“In the past an electrical utility would only receive media coverage if somebody was electrocuted,” explained Izzo. “But today, with social media, we have many interests who think we should do something more than deliver power in the most efficient manner. I have seen this change in my more than 40 years in the business.”

 

I am learning all about our Southcentral Alaska electrical power grid as a candidate for the Eagle River seat on the MEA Board. Only MEA members in Eagle River will be able to vote for me but I cannot resist sharing the feeling of gratitude I have for a member-owned cooperative electrical provider that is run on common sense and professional exceptionalism.[2]

 

This is a screenshot from a recent meeting with candidates to discuss the MEA System.


 

From the MEA Web site:


Matanuska Electric Association, Inc., Alaska’s oldest existing and second-largest electric cooperative, is owned and operated by its 51,000 members. MEA’s service area covers approximately 4,500 miles of power lines in Southcentral Alaska.

 

MEA is governed by bylaws and articles of incorporation that are voted on and approved by the membership. Elections are held each spring as part of the annual meeting process; members of the seven-seat Board of Directors are elected then.

 

I am old school, I think a regulated electrical utility must be dedicated to providing the most dependable source of electric power at the most efficient means possible. I don’t see this as a place for spurious ideological fads. If individual members want to supplement reliable MEA power with something else, that’s fine, but ratepayer/members should not have to subsidize alternate energy.

 

That is what Chugach Electrical members are doing with windmills on Fire Island. By contrast MEA provides opportunities for members who wish to pay for their own alternative energy sources to reduce their own bills through “Net Metering.”



 

If we had commercial companies competing for business, as occurs in Texas, our electrical cost profile would be different. According to Izzo Texas ratepayers saved some $3 Billion with such competition, but when storms overwhelmed the system it cost  $10 Billion to fix. Our Alaska co-op model allows guys like me to run for the board, maybe get to participate in policy deliberations according to what I believe is in the best interest of a majority of Eagle River residents, and report back on what I see as  successes vs. challenges.

 



 

The MEA Board of Directors held a Special Meeting on Wednesday, March 24, 2021 beginning at 9:00 a.m. to discuss Carbon Reduction Plans. I listened to testimony from a range of participants--from seasoned engineers urging a practical approach to environmental activists saying the utility should be paying for solar panels on every member’s home. I don’t think MEA should go to great expense to reduce our carbon output until it has a realistic economic return on investment, and I am not convinced that this is an immediate challenge requiring increased costs to MEA ratepayers.

 

The irony of calling for reduction in Fossil fuel use, in a state where we have paid for 80% of our government over more than 40 years with petrodollars, is not lost on me. I remember when Alaska was broke. Fossil fuels have improved Alaskan lifestyle in monumental ways, as it has for civilization around the world, by fueling abundance. Our need for transportation and home heating in Alaska will continue in the foreseeable future. Technology will determine whether certain alternative energy sources can be used for specialized needs, but electrical power is essential to our way of life. The Beluga Gas Field provides the power to electrify this entire region.

 

MEA is estimating a 3% reduction in fossil fuel generation in 2021 due to an increase in available hydro generation resources. If we had more dams in Alaska we might have even cheaper and cleaner electrical power.

 

By contrast, members of Chugach Electric Association (CEA) pay as much as one dollar per month each to subsidize those Fire Island eyesores supplying erratic power. By contrast, MEA pays the going rate or less for power from the Willow Solar Farm when such alternative power is available. The old Eklutna Hydro Plant still provides power from which MEA benefits.




Let’s savor our bounty: That new CEA generation plant along Glenn Highway leaving Anchorage has two turbo generators that stand on their ends like jet engines. They produce most efficiently when they are at 100 percent output. Anchorage doesn’t need 100 percent of the output at that facility all of the time so the loads have to be balanced between the dual-fuel Eklutna Plant and the gas only CEA generator. If the gas gets cut, they are dead.

 

According to the CEA Website (excerpted):

 

Beginning in January 2021, Chugach’s electric rates are decreasing for all customer classes. This is the first rate change following Chugach’s acquisition of ML&P.

 

Chugach has two rate districts: North and South. The North District is the ML&P legacy service area and the South District is the Chugach legacy service area.

 

As a result of the recent sale of ML&P, the Municipality of Anchorage is subsidizing feepayers $36 million to reduce electric bills.

 

The larger reduction to Chugach North District members is primarily attributed to the rebate provided by the MOA in the utility sale that returns equity contributions realized from ML&P legacy members. The rebate totals $36 million and is being provided as an offset to North District member rates through 2023. [2]

 



The sale of ML&P has been beneficial to MEA too.

 

Year with another rate decrease

 

January 11, 2021


Palmer, AK – MEA members will begin the first quarter of the new year with an overall rate decrease due to some noteworthy changes at their local electric co-op. In an ongoing effort to keep rates stabilized, MEA’s Board of Directors voted for no change in base rates, which were the lowest among the Railbelt utilities in 2020. Additionally, the Cost of Power Adjustment (COPA) rate decreased nearly 6.5% in the first quarter of 2021. This larger decrease in the COPA rate came from an increase in economy energy sales to other utilities and MEA’s increased share in economic power sources as a result of the ML&P sale including more access to cheaper power produced from the Eklutna Hydro source

 

And, nobody is getting their electrical bills subsidized at MEA.

 

I believe we are fortunate in Eagle River to have MEA as our electrical power supplier, and I understand why the early efforts to distinguish this community from Anchorage were so necessary. The reliable electricity we all enjoy is part of what makes living in this community so meaningful as I reflect on the Alaskan lifestyle and people I have known. If you are a member of MEA in Eagle River I would appreciate your vote. If I am elected I promise to let my friends and neighbors know what our electrical co-op is doing to serve our interests. I ask a lot of questions and make decisions based on facts.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

References:

[1] https://www.echoak.com/2016/10/schools-never-ending-challenge/

[2] Statement of Candidacy


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Our ASD Public Education Challenge

 

Parents in Eagle River/Chugiak Deserve Local Control

(2021©donnliston.com)

This is the dimension of the Anchorage School District: 46,115 students, of which more than 14,000 are identified as having special needs, 2,680.76 teachers and 2,930.40 other staff.

The Anchorage School District is too big, with a top-down Command-and-Control system accountable to a school board governed by members elected at-large, but ultimately accountable to no one, according to former ASD teacher and principal, Sean Murphy.

 

In retirement, Murphy is a member of the EaglExit Board of Directors.

 

“I worked at Alpenglow Elementary for several years, then went to east side of Anchorage to help open up Begich Middle School,” explained Murphy. “With that experience I chose to go into administration and was the principal of Wonder Park Elementary—also on the east side--for eight years. My own kids have all attended Eagle River schools, graduating from Chugiak High School, and I coached at Chugiak High School. I tease my kids that I followed them to high school and became a basketball coach to keep an eye on them!”


https://www.asdk12.org/wonderpark


Good parents keep track of the academic progress of their children.

 

“I will tell you, there is such a diversity among schools in ASD—and not just between Eagle River and Anchorage--but between each of the different schools,” Murphy continued. “The needs are different. The school communities want different things. You see it in Eagle River with our optional programs. The community wanted those kinds of programs."

 


Murphy has studied test scores among the ASD Schools and reports that generally schools in AD2 have a 10 percent higher score level among students than the rest of Anchorage. Some of that has to do with the socio-economic status of parents, and he experienced the challenge as a teacher in a school with high number of families qualifying for Title 1 federal funding. [1]

 

When you have a kindergarten, kid brought to school in the front seat of a police car and his dad is in the back on his way to jail, how is that kid going to learn today? asks Murphy.



Title I allots Federal funds for schools with students from low socio-economic families. AD2 doesn’t have any schools that have majority Title I student populations although most schools in ASD have some individual students who qualify for this extra funding.

 

“How do we try to fix that?” asks Murphy. “What I saw is ASD uses Title I funds to try and take care of some of the need, but then the State will take some of those funds in our centralized system for education where all of the money goes to a Command-and-Control School District. Administration disseminates all of that money based on a formula, with a cookie-cutter approach that may not address the real needs of individual communities.”



Relating to his experience, Murphy explained: “At Alpenglow we saw the expansion of that valley with housing development down there, and that area got nick-named “Little Elmendorf” because of all the military population growth. Wonder Park—located just outside the gates of the base--by contrast had only 2 families out of out of some 400 kids that were military. That’s a huge contrast. When you have kids with low socio-economic situations you have everything that follows them with that trauma.”

https://www.asdk12.org/alpenglow

 

“The federal money becomes available, and some decision-makers decide what they need is more technology,” Murphy continued. “They say let’s buy up all the computers we can get for these kids, but the kids cannot read and write yet because Mom and Dad never read to them. If their vocabulary tanks are half-full when they come to us at five-years-old, that means extensive remediation to help them learn to read, and ultimately become good citizens”.

 

But there is more to the problem of a district that is too large. [2]

 

“A lot of things are going on in public education that are in the news every day with COVID, cost, and budgets. Failing grades, poor graduation rates, and the rising cost of employees, healthcare, and fuel. I would like to bring in to the public’s attention our school district has become too inefficient at meeting our schools needs.  Our school district has gotten so large that I have witnessed them going to cookie cutter approaches rather than address needs of every school—including how they want the schools administrated and how the curriculums will be implemented,” said Murphy. “They want to come into the classroom and say: “Teacher, you will teach spelling for this many minutes, and you will teach writing for this many minutes. I felt they took teachers and principals entirely out of the discussion.”

 

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html


Do you remember your favorite teacher using a stopwatch to keep track of what you were spoon-fed?

 

The failed Everyday Math curriculum adopted in a narrow vote of the Anchorage School Board is an example of why teachers need to be supported rather than put on pedagogic treadmills.

 

“As a teacher at Alpenglow Elementary I remember well the district coming in with a canned curriculum to teach Reading,” said Murphy. “It was a big book with extra pull-outs, and it was all regimented, doing one thing for 30 minutes and another thing for one hour. At that time teachers taught reading and they were in charge of teaching it; we had literature circles and boxes of books in a whole room dedicated to reading—novels, books in tubs, that we saved and scraped to buy because we didn’t get that federal money. After we had saved and saved the district came out with the new curriculum and said You WILL adopt this approach to teaching reading. It was top-down again, and we fought it for years until finally we were told “no more” you have to give in on this and adopt it.”

 

Anyone reading this article who wants to assure a positive direction for ASD needs to vote for these candidates.

Murphy has a different vision for AD2 schools: “If you listen to the candidates for school board, they will tell you they are accountable to meet every need of every student, but that is absolutely impossible in a district the size of ASD. AD2 has three high schools, a couple of middle schools, 14 elementary schools and a couple of different charter/homeschool programs. anywhere from 7,000 to 9,000 students, 400 teachers; what a difference in size from ASD! We could have a school district the size of this region if we wanted one, with a school board if we wanted one, and small advisory boards--however we wanted to organize it--in accordance with Title 14, which regulates how public schooling will be conducted in Alaska.

 

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html


“We are running our schools in the old industrial farm model,” concludes Murphy “We are not in that model anymore; our students must be able to compete globally. It is exciting to think about what options we might consider! I think with EaglExit we can invite community members to come forward and create new options for building a better system. Let’s consider: “What can we do better?”

 

References:

 

[1] ASD Title 1 Schools

https://www.asdk12.org/Page/5320

 

Preschools

 

Alaska Native Cultural Charter School

Chester Valley Elementary School

Fairview Elementary School

Lake Otis Elementary School

Mountain View Elementary School

North Star Elementary School

Russian Jack Elementary School

Tyson Elementary School

Williwaw Elementary School

 

Elementary Schools

 

Abbott Loop Elementary School

Airport Heights Elementary School

Alaska Native Cultural Charter School 

Chester Valley Elementary School 

Creekside Park Elementary School 

Fairview Elementary School

Klatt Elementary School

Lake Hood Elementary School

Lake Otis Elementary School 

Mountain View Elementary School 

Muldoon Elementary School 

North Star Elementary School 

Northwood ABC Elementary School 

Nunaka Valley Elementary School 

Ptarmigan Elementary School

Russian Jack Elementary School 

Taku Elementary School 

Tyson Elementary School 

Williwaw Elementary School 

Willow Crest Elementary School 

Wonder Park Elementary School 

 

Secondary Schools

 

Bartlett High School

Begich Middle School 

Central Middle School of Science

East High School

Benny Benson Secondary School (Alternative)

[2] Designing Education

https://eaglexit.com/designing-education/


[2] Designing Education

https://eaglexit.com/designing-education/

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Challenges from Anchorage

Matanuska Brewing Company Innovates 

 (2021©donnliston.com)

Dining in our own bubble; Waneta Liston, Bill Borden, Brenda Borden and this writer, recently had a wonderful meal at Matanuska Brewing Company in Eagle River.


Matanuska Brewing Company owner Matt Tomter believes his business absorbed the pandemic shutdown better than some other area businesses because of innovation to safely protect and improve on customer experience at the company’s three restaurants located in Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer.

 

And Tomter takes the long view of the challenges faced: “If you look at this worldwide, it is the first time we have been in the same situation together since World War II. The entire country is dealing with something nobody knows how to fix,” he said. “There have been a variety of ideas about how to deal with the pandemic; some I don’t agree with, some I do agree with. It has been a year now and I expect to get back to normal pretty soon.”

 

But normal for MBC will now include a creative feature of the business borne out of social distance requirements: clear igloos that comfortably seat six guests.

 



“I called a friend I had met on a trip to France, who owned an aerospace fabrication company that made parts for Boeing and Airbus. I asked if they could consider an idea I had for this structure,” he said. “They designed the whole thing that your family and I are sitting in now. We worked on the project together since October and here we are at the beginning of 2021 with the Astreea Igloo.”

 

Read about another amazing Eagle River Business here:

                      The Cozy Side of Eagle River

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

 

Some might remember when MBC in Eagle River had a large white tent early in the Municipality of Anchorage business shutdown.

Each MBC location features four Igloos for guests.
Tomter says they book fast most evenings.



“Would you rather be in a tent, or in this?” enthused Tomter, looking up through the clear bubble. “The silence inside is very nice, you cannot even hear the cars going by on the highway or the people talking in other igloos right beside us. It is like your own personal VIP room. For us this is a really cool thing that came out of a lousy situation.”

 

MBC owner Matt Tomter talks about innovation during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
(Photo by Waneta Liston.)

What has been your experience working with Anchorage compared to working with Palmer as a business owner?


The Matanuska Brewing Company in Anchorage features
a replica of the Palmer Water Tower.


“Palmer handled the COVID-19 situation very different than Anchorage,” explained Tomter. "Palmer kept all businesses open. It was extremely
frustrating dealing with how Anchorage responded. It made no sense. 

"For instance, hospitals continued normal operation throughout 2020, and now in 2021, doing elective surgeries," continued Tomter. "You can get a boob job at a local hospital, without it being an emergency situation.  I have 100 percent sympathy and compassion for the front line healthcare workers, but as long as the business side of a hospital can operate as if there is no emergency and provide cosmetic  surgery, I think my business should be open."

That was not the case in Anchorage. 

Read about another amazing Eagle River Business here:

What Happened to Anchorage Hospitality?


https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-best-thing-about-being-in-anchorage.html

"I would encourage anyone living in Eagle River to drive out and spend a day in Palmer," said Tomter. "The city is clean, well policed and business is thriving. Palmer has its own schools, police department, and fire department. I would love to see Eagle River separated from Anchorage and run as its own city. If Palmer can do it well so can we."

 

Tomter continued: "At my restaurant in Anchorage we battle daily with street living intoxicated people. They are left alone by the Anchorage administration to do pretty much what ever they want. There are no consequences for their behavior. A guy named Mike Buckland once told me "conduct has consequences”.  Well, he was right.  I want a city that enforces the law equally on all people, and when you're breaking the law you get arrested. Why is it now so different than when I grew up."



"I am a huge fan of keeping Eagle River safe for the people that live here," said Tomter. "The current Anchorage Assembly--minus our Eagle River elected members--seem to be following in the footsteps of Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. I didn’t move up here 30 plus years ago to live in San Francisco."  

 

"I have regressed from the original question," Tomter concluded. "But I love our little town of Eagle River. It has been a significant challenge to operate the last year considering how things have gone with Anchorage city government. We have been fortunate to have a loyal local following at my business. I do not want to see Eagle River become more like Anchorage. With the right leadership, Eagle River could succeed at separating from Anchorage and then maybe become more like Palmer."

For more about EaglExit go to: EaglExit.com.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Kodiak Island Area Beef Production

The Sorry State of Alaska Agriculture

(2021©donnliston.com)



The State of Alaska has a high opinion of the value of Agriculture Land, which includes Agricultural Homesteads with Agricultural Rights Only, and Fee Simple land with Agricultural Covenants. Perhaps that is why so little ag land is in production in Alaska. It is just too valuable to allow much of it to be used.

 

Such lands are defined in Alaska Stautues at:

Agricultural Restrictions~AS 38.05.321 “A perpetual covenant for the benefit of all Alaska residents and running with the land that restricts or limits the use of the land for agricultural purposes”. [1]

 

Any agriculture that IS happening is encouraged by the Alaska Division of Agriculture, whose mission is:

 

To promote and encourage development of an agriculture industry in the State.




 

In other words the Division of Agriculture, based in Palmer, is a cheerleader agency for farmers. It is similar to the of the Division of Seafood Marketing, which is “Alaska's official seafood marketing arm committed to maximizing economic value of the Alaska seafood resource.”

Some commercial fishermen like to call themselves farmers of the ocean. Commercial fishermen contribute to promoting their industry to consumers beyond Alaska. But Alaskans could all starve for all they care.



Can you tell a difference? The Alaska Department of Commerce & Economic Development, Division of Seafood Marketing, is based in Juneau. The commercial fleet that harvests Alaska seafood is mostly based on the West Coast. Alaskans be damned, you get to catch the leftovers.

 


Working directly with the Alaska seafood industry Division of Seafood Marketing in the Alaska Department of Commerce [2]

 

Alaska Division of Agriculture primarily promotes to Alaskans who can afford Alaskan Grown.


But you must be an Alaskan to farm on terra firma and you need to know if you are a farmer that the Division of Agriculture is rooting for you to succeed. Ra Ra Sis-boom-ba!

 

Alaska Agricultural Land is managed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Lands, Minerals and Waters, not the Division of Agriculture. In the big picture of this department, value of all Alaska Lands gained under statehood--and through subsequent acts of Congress--is gauged by how the state might bring the highest economic return for the land, according that land’s best use. So, if the best-use of certain Alaska lands is not readily apparent the wheels of government turn slowly and the land remains fallow.

 

That’s because wildlands are okay and have value, too.

 

But the big bucks come from oil and mineral development. Fortunately the Prudhoe Bay find was on State Land, and since oil started down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for transport to market from Valdez in 1977, the priority of elected officials and non-profit organizations in Alaska has been to build infrastructure and save what they are required to save—not a penny more.

 

Alaska Agriculture Boondoggles have been the norm, not the exception. Providing food for Alaskans has been a low priority. Seattle keeps public officials in Juneau well fed.

 

One need only look at the difficulty of farmers around the state in eking out a living on postage stamp parcels of state ag land—such as those parcels provided at low rates for 200 U.S. Midwest framers brought to Alaska in 1935--to see ag land is not likely to add much to the coffers of Alaska’s Permanent Fund. We have some successful farms that provide some Alaskan Grown foods for general consumption, but compared to what must be shipped into Alaska to sustain Alaskans, what is grown instate is a pittance. [3]

 

The other question is: How much more should Alaska consumers be willing to pay for the same vegetables and meat grown here over the price for products shipped in?[4]

 

Kodiak’s Rich Livestock Ranching Potential


 

In the 1940s, during World War II the U.S. military determined it was necessary to have enough Alaskan Livestock available to feed people involved in Alaska wartime operations. An ag land lease program was engineered and the US Bureau of Land Management administered over large parcels of Kodiak grasslands for livestock grazing farms. Alaska had some 5,000-6,000 cattle there, with some nine grazing leases, according to Chris Flickinger, who has held a 31,000-acre section of sweet Kodiak grasslands since 1999. That’s the year he and his family bought the state lease and moved here from Colorado.

Chris Flinkinger screen shot from video call.

 

“After statehood the BLM transferred the leases to the State of Alaska and the terms were supposed to be as good or better than what the Federal Government provided,” explained Flinkinger in a video chat with this writer on February 25, 2021. “The State has forgotten about that, in my book.”

 

After some 20 years of running cattle on the state grazing lease Flickinger is going through a difficult lease renewal.

 

“When we first got here the Director of Agriculture called the shots on grazing leases,” explained Flinkinger. “When that responsibility switched to the Division of Mining, Land and Water things changed. State terms for these grazing leases were 25 years, which was reduced from the BLM Leases of 30+ years. I was one of the last of the renewals to re-apply when our 24-year lease came up--4-5 years ago--and they told me they were giving me a 10-year lease. I told them: I am appealing that because I have a lot of fence to build and I’m not doing that monetary stuff on a 10 year plan.

“We remain year-to-year now,” he said, we just keep paying the lease bill and they keep accepting our payment.”

Flinkinger adds: “Everything is wearing out around here and we cannot do a major infrastructure rebuild on fences or anything on a year-to-year--or even a 10-year plan. I just need the state to renew my lease and get out of the way.

Is it tough to raise cattle in Kodiak?

“Not really,” said Flinkinger. “We worked our butts off in Colorado before we bought into this. We graze most of the year and ship in a little bit of concentrate in the wintertime to supplement their diet, but we are able to run the cattle cheap here more than we would have ever thought of doing in Colorado. We don’t feed any hay, we just bring in this “cake” concentrate that we feed out in 1-1/2 pound per animal per day.”

How have you had to adapt to Alaska farming?

“We learned we cannot bring cattle in here without a huge pocketbook. Over the first two years any new cattle have to acclimate to the island but animals from the other islands are already able to get along here fine. There is no brush on those two islands, at least we have a little brush here for cover from the elements.”

The other two nearby islands which also have cattle on them are Chirikof, and Sitkinak. Each island has its own kind of critters. [5]

“Cattle on those other islands gentle down better, they are smarter and more thrifty than the ones originally from Kodiak,” explained FlinkInger. “On one occasion on Chirikof I roped about 20-30 of those animals, pulled blood and ear tagged them. I was younger then! The genetic study says there could be some yakuts blood there, which is an endangered Siberian breed. There may be some other Asiatic genes and some longhorn cattle from the shipwreck of 1898, too. They had 3-4 longhorn cattle on board and that’s the ship Donald Trump’s granddad was on.”

That’s another story; Flinkinger has a bunch of stories.

“We have built up our stock through natural breeding and gotten some off the other Islands, to replenish the herds,” continued Flinkinger. “About 16 years ago the feds were going to go and shoot all the cattle on Chirikof. We told them that was a bad idea because they represented emergency food. I ended up getting a bull and a cow from that time.”

Flinkinger says his operation could take an additional 600 mother cows and he has 329 head right now. “We would have to hire more help,” he adds. He estimates there are a total of some 500 cattle on Kodiak Island among various other farms.

“Our neighbors are the Launch Site and the Burton Family farm has about 200 Bison,” Flinkinger added.

What about food security for Alaska?

“I think there are a lot of Alaskans who are uninformed about our needs to raise more cattle in Alaska,” said Flinkinger. “I was on the phone with a cattle rancher at Sitkinak a few hours ago and we are trying to work out a deal because they have the mobile USDA (processing) facility there on Sitinak. Because of the winter last year he lost a lot of cattle so I am trying to find a way to fill some of his orders if we have extra. He is thinking of killing them there and then bringing them here to cut up, to save costs.“

Have you heard about the federal mini-grant program to promote food security being administered through the Alaska Division of Agriculture?

“I think our farmer’s co-opt is going to seek funding here for our slaughterhouse,” Flinkinger explained. “This is a custom-exempt facility, which means we sell the animals alive and slaughter there. We do that, and the neighbors all do that, and we have an 80-head cooler capacity. This has been running probably 20-23 years and we have passed a number of inspections over that time.”

Does a lot of this meat go to the local market?

“We provide a lot but not enough to fill demand,” Flinkinger said. “I have shipped cows to Mt. McKinley Meats and Sausage. They came and picked up a load of steers one year, but now with Covid-19 and the ferry system cutbacks the logistics haven’t worked out to send more.”



“You probably haven’t heard of the guy, Joe Zentner,” continued Flinkinger. “He was the one who started this lease. He had the homestead attached to this lease, which has since been subdivided. Outdoor Life magazine did a story about him and the Kodiak Bear Wars. He had a Piper Cub airplane with an M1 Grand mounted on top of it to shoot the bears down. They were able to supply food to everybody here and to the military with nine active leases. Now we are down to two.”

This is an Alaska enterprise trying to do what can be done with limited resources while the Division of Agriculture promotes innovation in gardening and happy talk about Alaska food security under current state policy.

Once again we are watching as the Alaska Legislature is making a spectacle of itself and accomplishing nothing. Almost makes a person wonder: If the Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives from Kodiak, Louise Stutes, and Kodiak Senator since 2003 Gary Stevens, might be able to collaborate with Representatives, Senators and the Governor from the Mat-Su Valley, to consider agriculture options to help feed Alaskans on a scale even close to state efforts to promote the west coast based seafood industry, what might happen?

Other related stories by DONN LISTON:

 Addressing Alaska's Heirachy of Needs:

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/02/alaska-has-food-security-options.html

Legislative Hopes for this Year

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/legislative-hopes-for-this-year.html

Food for Thought for Alaskans

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/alaskas-food-security-options-2020.html

Our Economic Sweet Spot; The Mat-Su Valley

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/10/alaskas-economic-reality.html

Feeding Alaskans (Alaska Food Security)

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/10/feeding-alaskans.html

Who Dares to Farm in Alaska (Alaska Food Security)

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/09/who-dares-to-farm-in-alaska.html

Who Does the Alaska Legislature Really Represent?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/sen-shelley-hughes-speaks-out.html


References:

 

[1]Alaska State Agricultural Lands, State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture

http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/Sales/AKStateAgLandPP.pdf

 

[2]Alaska Department of Commerce and Economic Development, Division of Seafood Marketing

https://www.alaskaseafood.org/

 

The Division of Economic Development (DED) supports the growth and diversification of Alaska’s economy through business assistance, financing, promotion, and public policy. The division works closely with industry leaders, allied agencies, and economic development organizations across the state, including the 11 state designated Alaska Regional Development Organizations.

[3] Pandemic Reality; Meat is Essential

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/how-can-alaska-gain-food-security.html

 

[4] Realities of Alaska Food Security

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/who-is-making-difference.html

 

 [5] Geographical place descriptions from Dictionary of Alaska Place Names 1967.










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