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Zaz Hollander

SUTTON -- Ed and Val Musial built their house nearly a quarter mile from the Matanuska River in 1959.

Today, just six feet of sidewalk and sod separate the Musials' back door from the riverbank.

A once-grassy backyard leading to trees ends in an abrupt bluff over roiling gray water. Chunks of land litter the cobbles below. The septic tank fell in last summer.

The view from a window over the kitchen sink is all moving water.

“We built this thing ourselves, every damn bit of it,” said 87-year-old Val Musial. “And it was hard work. We lived in the basement for 17 years because Ed doesn’t believe in debt.”

At 91, Ed Musial is clear-headed and mobile. He still mows the front lawn to golf-course precision...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s never-used passenger ferry Susitna will get a much-needed tuneup, but one that doesn't include removing the layer of sea life coating its hulls.

The Mat-Su Assembly on Tuesday approved nearly $115,000 in work on the long-idle craft, in need of maintenance after being berthed since April 2012 in Ward Cove near the Ketchikan shipyard where it was built...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Sorry, locavores. Food from nearby fields is scarce at the Alaska State Fair.

Just a few of the nearly 70 food vendors at the fair this year build their menus around locally grown, fresh produce despite the Matanuska Valley’s New Deal farm colony roots and a two-year Alaska Grown campaign to get more veggies from nearby fields and other local products into food booths.

Vendors tell state agriculture boosters that locally grown produce doesn’t always come in the form they need -- shredded iceberg lettuce for tacos, say -- or supply enough volume to feed an estimated 300,000 people eating their way through the two-week fair.

But let’s be honest here...

Zaz Hollander

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly has delayed action on a proposal to waive registration fees for owners of older cars, trucks and trailers.

The idea, backed by state Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, and Mat-Su Assembly member Jim Colver, would allow people who own cars, trucks or trailers that are at least 8 years old to pay a $25 fee and register one more time, then not have to pay the $170 that Mat-Su residents pay every other year on aging autos. It would start in January.

The Assembly scheduled a hearing and possible deliberations Tuesday night, but Colver moved discussion of the waiver to Sept. 2 to allow time to make changes to the proposal...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Wasilla City Council this week postponed a decision on a contentious proposed ban on off-road vehicles.

The council tabled an anticipated decision in a unanimous vote Monday night, despite two hours of public testimony largely opposed to evicting off-roaders from the city. Council members say they’ve also been hearing from scores of residents begging for an end to all-terrain vehicles and snowmachines in the city.

The council will discuss the city's existing regulations governing off-road vehicles at a meeting Sept. 8 as members decide how to handle the issue.

Wasilla already has a more than 15-year-old ATV law on the books that, among other things, requires helmets, institutes a 10 mph speed limit and places restrictions on riders under 16...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- The dinosaur questions hit Sabrena Combs as soon as she donned her bright orange apron and stood in front of the beige “Ask Me About the Fair!” sign on Friday.

Combs coordinates a team of 24 fellow volunteers who answer questions about the Alaska State Fair and help the hordes navigate what turns into a city of 300,000 over a two-week period.

Top questions last year involved the location of the diaper-changing station for the first half of the fair and the “pork chop on a stick” booth the second, according to Dean Phipps, the fair’s marketing and communications director.

Early indications this year show the new “Age of the Dinosaurs” exhibit is shaping up to be a contender...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaska Farm & Food Facebook group usually stays pretty calm and pastoral.

But the immediate and angry response to this humdinger of a question blazed right past the posts on when to pick pumpkins, artichoke-threatening aphids and pictures of chickens for sale.

“I heard the cows in Wasilla from the dairy farm are free to get or hunt is this true(?)” one curious gentleman innocently asked Tuesday night.

Hundreds of commenters jumped into the fray with a mix of outrage, killer-cow jokes and a few people wondering the same thing.

“Ur going to hunt a cow? Like a moo cow? Why?” one dismayed group member wrote...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Eric Feige, the Chickaloon pilot who served two terms representing a sprawling Mat-Su state House district known for its conservatism, was losing his bid to try for a third.

Jim Colver, a Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member and surveyor from the Hatcher Pass area, appeared to be the Republican who will face Democrat Mabel Wimmer in November’s general election, according to early results posted Wednesday.

Colver's signs blanketed the massive district that stretches from Whittier and Valdez to Palmer-area subdivisions to Delta Junction and Glennallen. He wore his pickup tires down to the metal threads driving its far-flung reaches...

Zaz Hollander

Kenai Peninsula Borough rescuers snagged four men out of the frigid, rain-swollen waters of the Kasilof River on Monday after their small boat flipped and started sinking, leaving them clinging to a nearby bridge.

The men, all from out of state, set out around 7 a.m. Monday in a drift boat for a fishing trip, authorities say. Guide Justin Derks and the three others put in just below a busy boat launch, according Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Megan Peters.

Rescuers say they were immediately swept into the fast-moving water swollen by recent rainfall and pinned against a pillar of the bridge, located at about mile 109 of the Sterling Highway...

Zaz Hollander

Alaska State Troopers say a 55-year-old man apparently drowned near Dillingham after his boat’s motor exploded and threw him into the water.

The man, whose name is not being released until next of kin are notified, was working on the motor in the area of Ralph Slough when the explosion occurred, troopers said in an online release posted Wednesday. He was not wearing a personal flotation device.

Troopers say they were notified just before 11:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Zaz Hollander