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A grey day in February (2005-02-06 16:08:49)

Just another gray, wintery cold day in February. Ok so it's super bowl Sunday...

and overcast, windy and about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Out the window it's disfunctionally wintery. The ground is white but the snow is useless for anything except storing frozen water. Ever since the big thaw in early January that didn't quite totally melt the snow, it has been like icy concrete. You can't ski on it or make a snowball. It's hopeless. The gym has become the place to go rather than out skiing in the fresh air.

snow in the forecast (2005-02-08 10:04:18)

The last measurable precipitation we had was over a month ago, the beginning of January.

We keep hoping for snow. Maybe today will be the day. According to the National Weather Service, "Today...Snow likely. Snow accumulation of up to 2 inches. Highs in the upper 20s to mid 30s. North wind 15 to 30 mph in the morning becoming light. " The roads are generally bare and dry, great for driving. The trails are ice, weathered and pitted, but slick all the same. To walk the trails around here you need stableicers (a rubber footbead with flat metal "spikes" that fasten to your shoes) or something similar. We've found the pricier velcro-attached stableicers are superior to the rubberized pull-on versions which can get sucked off when 'post holing' through deep snow or hiking steep and rough hillsides. On Super Bowl Sunday (2 days ago) the Ski for Women held at Kincaid Park in Anchorage became the "walk for women". According to the Anchorage Daily News (2/7/05) "Even with no skis and almost no snow, the ninth annual Ski for Women still paraded a wind-chilled, nordic Mardi Gras through the forest of Kincaid Park on Super Bowl Sunday. To the squeaky, scratchy sound of ice grippers and sneakers, more than 500 women and girls walked, trotted or even ran over a 2.5-kilometer course marked by frost, gnarled ice, brown grass and frozen gravel..." A clerk in Nordstroms agreed that "we need snow" but added "we need it now, not in April or May." Absolutely.

snow at last (2005-02-08 17:54:47)

Snow at last.

Finally, today, the snow arrived, successfully blanketing icy trails and driveways (watch out though they seem even slicker beneath the new snow) and camouflaging the frozen mounds of dirty brown snow that had been piled up in out of the way places, by intersections and the back of parking lots. During the dry month of January (think arctic desert) the Matanuska, a well known and dreaded local winter wind, carried glacial silt out of the river channels into the air, silt that eventually filtered to the ground, adding to dirt and grime thrown up by vehicles and particulate fall-out from wood burning stoves. At least we don't have any major dirty industrial pollutors in this land of clean natural gas energy. And for now these piles of dirty snow are gone, hidden beneath a couple inches of clean whiteness.

February is almost gone. Where's the snow? (2005-02-25 09:28:44)

February slips by like days flowing out of a nozzle. Not quite the langorous "dog days" of summer but one semi-winter day after another. The main reason this is worth noting is because it is so warm. Is this just a blip in the historic weather pattern or is it so significant that even the non-believers must come around to believing in global warming, or at least polar warming.

I believe. I see winter after winter here, in southcentral Alaska, that is too warm. And why, I ask, live in Alaska if you can't go skiing right out your back door? If the snow (assuming there is snow) doesn't crunch and slip under your feet, like dry beach sand? if there aren't crystal clear, dark nights where the aurora paints across the sky. Or moon lit nights where the hairs freeze inside your nose and the trees cast unseemly shadows across the pale snowy landscape. And where there is lots of snow, not rain and not dry clouds. Where are these experiences?

One lackadaisical low pressure system after another glides up out of the gulf covering our patch of earth with insipid grayness and wind and temperatures so warm it doesn't even occur to you to plug in your car. What snow there is becomes "wet and squishy", alternating with "hard and icy"--the two worst versions of snow for cross-country skiing. And the roads and trails are too icy for running and if you thought you'd "run" on the shoulder of a road then you'd probably be breathing (1) car exhaust and/or (2) the cars are sluicing you with a brew of road slush and icy water or alternatively stirring up clouds of dust (which you inhale)--think heavy metals, chemical fertilizer and salt. Ick. And you shouldn't be running on groomed cross-country ski trails either, the skiers will hate you.

Well there is Independence Bowl skiing...

Why does MEA want a power line through Crevasse Moraine? (2005-02-26 11:27:17)

Since the Matanuska Susitna Borough is the fastest growing part of the state, shouldn't we all work towards keeping the superb scenic and natural values that are why many of us live here in the first place? Those scenic values are at risk because Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) is determined to run a power line along the section line through Crevasse Moraine trail system and University land.

I run, hike and ski on the Crevasse Moraine trails. I can tell you these trails are priceless as they are. Step onto these trails and you feel like you have left a populated area and are in a remote wilderness. You will not see off road vehicles (ORVs) or people shooting or GIANT 90 foot tall power lines. You can excercise and enjoy the outdoors, a perfect and accessible way to relieve stress.

For some incomprehensible reason MEA is fighting the Borough and the University; they claim the new hospital at the south end of Trunk Rd has to have more power by early 2006 and the fastest, cheapest "legal" way for them to get power there is to run 90 foot high towers down the section line, across the cells of the landfill, through the Crevasse Moraine trail system and across University land. (It has been reported that the hospital is ok with it's plan for backup power for the time being, at least.)

You can probably tell from the name, "Crevasse Moraine", that these trails are built on a bunch of Moraines. Moraines, of course, are those depositions of old glacial silt, sand, and rocks left behind when a glacier recedes. If you look at a high altitude photograph of this area you'll see that the topography looks like the wrinkles on an elephant's neck, deep, steep sided and wrapping around close to each other. A section line is, by definition, straight. It's a line. If MEA builds their power line down the section line they will be marking an invisible line (the section line) with a high and visible line -- the power line. Visualize a line that ignores the topography. Towers at the top of the moraines, high voltage wires draping down across valleys and lakes.

Looking south along section line cleared by MEA

Looking north across a small lake, Talkeetna Mountains in background (visualize those 90 foot towers).

Last fall when I was running I saw the surveyors brushing the section line. Last week we walked through and saw they really had cleared a small path down the section line, even though the borough has taken them to court to try to stop them using this route through the pristine Crevasse Moraine trail system.

What's the problem with this? Ninety foot towers will ruin the view and change the character of this open land. We can expect there to be erosion along the access road that will be cut through for construction and maintenance. And we can expect ORV access to and use of this area. As the power line access crosses established trails it will give ORV easy access to the existing (non-motorized) trail system.

MEA is a cooperative. By definition we are members of this cooperative. MEA is operating without a social conscience, as a bad-tempered child determined to get their way and to avoid having a real and open public process.

It seems only reasonable that, before high voltage, tall towered power lines are constructed there should be an open public discussion and process, a verifiable demonstration of need, a cost/benefit study (looking at ALL the costs and benefits) of suggested routes, and that special attention should be given to 'utility corridor' routes that are acceptable to a majority of the community.


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