Top 20 Cordova stories in 2018

Bears, tanner crab, earthquakes and tsunami warnings, and of course, salmon dominate Cordova headlines in 2018

The remains of the landmark cannery building, built in 1908 by Alaska Packers, were removed from wooden pillars on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. The vintage structure, which served for many years as an ice house and storage facility, collapsed on Saturday, April 21. Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times

Cordova celebrated its first tanner crab fishery in 30 years, struggled with bear issues, came together during tsunami warnings, and mourned the loss of a historic cannery building in 2018.

Readers, you chose these top 20 most read stories of the year by clicking on these headlines that follow. Below is a look back at the most read news on during the past 12 months according to Google Analytics.

1. Pre-trial hearing on Cabana case postponed

By The Cordova Times

Feb. 13, 2018

A fourth pre-trial conference at the Cordova Courthouse involving charges of assault, serious injury and use of a weapon in the collision of two commercial fishing vessels in Prince William Sound in August 2016 has been continued from Feb. 6 to April 17.

Meanwhile attorneys for both sides in a related federal court case confirmed on Feb. 13 that a settlement was reached and dismissal of that case was pending. Due to an agreement of confidentiality on the settlement, attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants declined comment.


Initial charges were filed on May 24, 2017 by the Alaska Office of Special Prosecutions against Kami Cabana of Girdwood, Alaska, skipper of the F/V Chugach Pearl.

The case involves an incident in which the salmon seiner F/V Temptation, owned by Herbert and Barbara Jensen of Cordova, was allegedly struck by two other fishing vessels, and crewmember Gerald Cunningham suffered serious injuries.

2. No commercial opener for Copper River salmon fishery

By Margaret Bauman

June 6, 2018

Faced with a sonar count that is the ninth lowest on record since 1978, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the Copper River district of Prince William Sound would remain closed to commercial fishing.

The midday announcement on June 6 assured that the district would open to subsistence fishing on June 7.

Cumulative commercial harvest to date is the second lowest harvest in the last 50 years, ADF&G said in an announcement from its Cordova office.

The announcement said that the Miles Lake sonar passage has declined since June 4 and cumulative sonar count through June 5 was 95,515 fish, whereas a minimum of 175,559 fish were projected by that date.

3. Michelle Ridgway fatally injured in car crash

A lifelong Alaskan, her passion was in marine ecological research, consulting and education

By Margaret Bauman

January 3, 2018

Marine ecologist Michelle Ridgway, best known in the fisheries and environmental communities for her passion as an ocean conservationist, died in a Seattle hospital on Jan. 2 from injuries suffered in a vehicle accident near Juneau on New Year’s Eve.

Tributes pouring in to her work and spirit of adventure included one from Ketchikan’s fisheries artist Ray Troll, who wrote on Ridgway’s Facebook page “Michelle was a true warrior for the deep … a hero of mine and just flat-out brave as well.

“We talked many times about the wonders of the deep … and exploring the depths of the Bering Sea. I draw pictures of the deep … but damn … Michelle actually went there, deep down into the blackness in a tiny submarine. Bad ass in so many ways and utterly passionate about her work,” Troll said.

4. Hikers charged by brown bear sow on Ridge Trail

By Emily Mesner

June 14, 2018

Three hikers charged in a surprise attack by a brown bear sow with cub in tow on Ridge Trail escaped life threatening injuries, thanks to bear spray and a helicopter rescue, but the incident now has area residents on alert.

The hikers were ascending one of the peaks along Ridge Trail between Power Creek and Crater Lake trails on Saturday, June 9, when they heard something crashing through the scrubby spruce and hemlock trees through the vegetation toward them, said Alicia King, public affairs/partnership staff officer for Chugach National Forest. “It became quickly apparent that it was a brown bear. The animal was exhibiting stress behavior and vocalizations and immediately charged the group.”

The sow knocked one of the hikers to the ground and a second hiker suffered injuries while seeking cover, King said. None of them were bitten or scratched.

“Bear spray was used and proved effective in deterring the bear and stopping the incident,” she added. “It was because of that bear spray that they’re still around. That whole situation could have been a lot worse,” said Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Robin Morrisett.

5. Cordova receives first Tanner crab delivery in 30 years

People line dock for delivery, welcoming F/V Ace

By Emily Mesner

March 16, 2018

Deckhands Robert Bernard and Danny Delozier moved energetically around the F/V Ace as it docked at Trident Seafoods.

Delozier stood on top of 15 or so crab pots, holding on to a rope while waiting for the first bucket to drop on March 6 to fill with Tanner crabs, the first such delivery in Cordova since 1988.

Once the cloudy water drained from the fish hold, piles of bright red, orange and brown Tanner crabs emerged.

The first bucket was lowered to the vessel as Trident Operations Manager Rick Isaacson and Trident South Plant Manager Chris Golatto watched.

Trident opened its plant early this year to process Tanner crabs, a first for the facility in Cordova and Isaacson’s first time overseeing a delivery.

“I know the city of Cordova worked hard on this too and it was a nice collaboration between the city, industry and departments,” Isaacson said. “Hopefully it will develop into a long-term fishery.”

Trident employees lined the dock, waiting to fill the first tote. One leaned over the edge, snapping a cell phone photo of the boat and crabs below. His eyes were glued to the wriggling crabs below, and a smile sprawled across his face.

“They were just excited to get back to work a little earlier than they normally would,” Isaacson said of his employees. “They thought it was pretty fun seeing something live crawling down the conveyer belts.”

6. Harvesters charged with killing sea lions

By The Cordova Times

April 19, 2018

A commercial fisherman and his deckhand have been charged with harassing and killing 15 Steller sea lions found dead during the opening of the 2015 Copper River salmon fishery.
Jon Nichols, 31, of Cordova, captain of the F/V Iron Hide, and deckhand Theodore “Teddy” Turgeon, 21, of Wasilla, are charged with harassing and killing the Steller sea lions with shotguns and then making false statements and obstructing the government’s investigation into their criminal activities, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage said April 19.

The charges include conspiracy, violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, obstruction of a Marine Mammal Protection Act investigation, false statements and obstruction.

According to the indictment, 15 Steller sea lions were found dead along the sand bars at the mouth of the Copper River fishing district during the first few weeks of the salmon gillnet season that opened on May 14, 2015. The government alleges that between May and June of 2015 that Nichols regularly directed his crew, including Turgeon, to get a shotgun aboard the vessel and shoot at the sea lions while fishing. At times, Nichols would shoot himself, and he also at times drove the vessel in the direction of the Steller sea lions so Turgeon could get a better shot at the sea lions, the indictment said.

7. Old cannery building collapses

‘I swore I heard her exhale to anyone who cares’ – Vivian Kennedy

By Margaret Bauman

April 27, 2018

A vintage cannery building constructed of sturdy Pacific Northwest timbers 110 years ago has collapsed, bringing to an end another chapter of Cordova’s storied history as a robust coastal Alaska fishing community.

“It’s a shame to see it fall down,” said Phil Lian, a commercial fish harvester from Cordova who is now retired from that industry and living in Washington state.

“It’s an era that is coming to a close,” said Lian, who began fishing in Cordova with his own boat back in 1953.

“The timber used by Alaska Packers to build that cannery back in 1908 was very likely hemlock and fir brought in from the mills down in Seattle,” Lian said. “The timber is worth a lot of money, a lot of big timbers.”

“It takes an awful lot of upkeep when you have a building that is 110 years old and built on pilings over the water. After a while you can’t afford to keep it up,” he said.


8. 7.9 quake strikes outside Kodiak; tsunami warning lifted

By The Associated Press

January 23, 2018

ANCHORAGE — A powerful earthquake struck off an island in the Gulf of Alaska early Tuesday, prompting a tsunami threat that sent people living along the state’s southern coast and western Canada fleeing for higher ground.

After a few intense hours, the tsunami warning was canceled, allowing people to return home from shelters. There were no immediate reports of damage, not even on Kodiak Island, the closest land to the epicenter of the magnitude 7.9 quake.

9. Hunters found after four-day search

By The Cordova Times

January 1, 2018

Three hunters from Wasilla overdue on a trip from Montague Island to Whittier aboard a 20-foot Duckworth jet boat have been found on Chenga Island and hoisted aboard an Air Station Kodiak helicopter forward deployed to Cordova, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Jan. 1.

A relative in Wasilla said all three men were in good condition, but had no details on the actual rescue, which the Coast Guard confirmed was made on land.

The woman, who started GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for rescue efforts, had identified the trio on that page as George A. Matveev, Afanasy G. Tipikin and Leonti G. Tipikin.
The GoFundMe effort raised pledged of $13,080 from 93 people within two hours.

10. Coast Guard Authorization Act heads to White House

Legislation relieves owners, operators of vessels under 75 feet of incidental discharge regulations

By Margaret Bauman

December 2, 2018

The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month, was approved by unanimous consent in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 27, and now goes to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it by year’s end.

The bill, which is identical to one passed by the Senate on Nov. 14, includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, which provides a permanent exemption for commercial vessels, including fishing vessels, under 75 feet from the need to obtain permits though the Environmental Protection Agency for ballast water and other incidental discharges.

11. She’s 19 and Homegrown food truck owner

Wiese’s eatery serves fresh fare, locally sourced seafood steeped in family tradition

By Emily Mesner

July 27, 2018

Homegrown, a food truck offering homemade meals by owner Heidi Wiese, is the latest addition to the Breakwater Fill Lot, where families come to see fishermen off and watch bowpickers safely returning home.

Meals by Wiese, a 2017 graduate of Cordova Jr./Sr. High School, feature locally sourced fish from 60° North Seafoods, that Wiese gets from her cousin John Derek Wiese, co-owner of 60° North.

“I don’t know what I’d do without all the help that this town has given me,” Wiese, 19, said.

12. Cordova Chronicles: Veteran pilot retires after 50 years of adventures

Kennedy: ‘The hardest thing to learn in flying is when to say no’

By Dick Shellhorn

December 1, 2018

Terry Kennedy made his last commercial flight on Oct. 31, 2018, ending a remarkable 50-year career flying small planes in Alaska’s challenging conditions.

Kennedy plans on continuing his love affair with air as a flight instructor, and perhaps as an author. He certainly is not about to distance himself from planes; and in fact, lives in a small apartment directly above a trio of Super Cubs parked in his hangar near the small airport beside Eyak Lake, “right in his work”, according to his daughter, Andrea Kennedy Whitcomb.

I’ve known Terry for years, and have flown with him several times, as have many Cordovans. He lives for flying, and it should come as no surprise, that when I stopped by to shoot the breeze, he directed me to sit in a repaired pilot’s seat right in the middle of his crowded apartment, while he shared wisdom and tales of an airborne lifetime.

Kennedy is quiet, soft-spoken, and modest; and it is his sense of humor and humility that stand out once you get him flying verbally, so to speak.

13. Cordova-Valdez bear death toll hits 23

By Emily Mesner

September 14, 2018

A perfect storm of hungry bears, a dismal year for salmon and berries, and tempting dumpsters has proven deadly for 23 bruins in Cordova and Valdez so far this year.
That’s the highest number of bear kills in the two communities since 11 were shot in 2006.
“I don’t believe this is the way we were meant to interact with other species,” said Charlotte Westing, Prince William Sound area wildlife biologist with the Cordova office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

In Cordova, five bears were killed by authorities and nine others in defense of life and property incidents, while in Valdez seven bears were shot by authorities and two others for defense of life and property. Agency kills include any bear killed by ADF&G, the Police Department, or the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Ten of the Cordova kills have occurred since Aug. 31.

One of those incidents involved a black bear sow, known locally as “harbor bear,” who was found feeding on rice dumped in a parking lot in the south fill, near the harbor, Westing said. The sow then began dumpster diving and eventually made her way to the docks.

14. Copper River salmon fishery opens May 17

Pike Place Fish market posts $174.93 apiece for first run sockeyes

By Margaret Bauman

May 11, 2018

Harvesters, processors and consumers alike are bracing for the start of the famed Copper River salmon fishery, which opens at 7 a.m. on May 17, amidst predicted rain showers and temperatures in the 40s.

Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle has posted prices of $54.99 a pound for whole Copper River kings, $174.93 for whole Copper River sockeyes, $74.99 a pound for Copper River king fillets and $34.99 a pound for Copper River sockeye fillets, while advising customers to call for availability.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game run forecast is for 19,000 to 66,000 Chinook salmon, which would be 4.4 percent below the recent 10-year average, plus 1,264,000 to 2,208,000 sockeyes, which would be 16.5 percent below that 10-year average.

For the Gulkana Hatchery, the run forecast is for 108,000 to 188,000 red salmon, bringing total Copper River production to an estimated 1,391,000 to 2,376,000 fish.

15. Marijuana business is now legal in Cordova

City council nixes resolution to put issue on March 6 general election ballot

By Emily Mesner

January 4, 2018

Commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana is now legal within the city of Cordova.
The city council vote to remove the expired temporary prohibition against marijuana establishments with city limits came on the evening of Jan. 3, after a lengthy discussion and strong public comment before the council.
Section three of the ordinance, “Surtax levied on certain sales, services and rent” was eliminated.
Council members also voted 6:1 against putting to a vote during the city’s regular election on March 6 the question of whether or not to prohibit operation of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities as well as marijuana retail stores within Cordova.
Melina Meyer and her father Greg Meyer both gave moving arguments against the resolution to have the public vote on this topic in regular elections.

16. F/V O’Letta goes over five miles from Cordova

By The Cordova Times

July 28, 2018

U.S. Coast Guard officials in Anchorage say five people aboard the seiner F/V O’Letta abandoned ship into a skiff on July 26 when their fishing vessel overturned while harvesting pink salmon at Orca Inlet, about five miles from Cordova.

None of the five crew members was injured.

The fishing vessel stayed afloat and efforts were underway on July 27 to salvage it, the Coast Guard said.

17. Copper River Highway washout forces early business closures

By Emily Mesner

August 24, 2018

Erosion along the Copper River Highway is never unexpected, but now the raging Copper River seems intent on cutting a new channel, as evidenced by a washout at mile 45 that cuts off access to the Million Dollar Bridge.

Jack Stevenson, owner of The Riverside Inn & Childs Glacier Tours, shared the news on Aug. 19, and word spread quickly.

Going “out the road” is a way to unwind, submerge the mind and body in nature, and escape from the constraints of life in town; something not easily done in the community which has no road connecting it to mainland Alaska. “Out the Road” was even featured as the 2002 Cordova Iceworm Festival theme.

18. All-clear given after Cordova tsunami warning

By Emily Mesner

November 30, 2018

At 10:02 a.m. a cancellation of the tsunami warning following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit seven miles north of Anchorage was issued.

A tsunami warning was issued for Western Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Homer, Seward and Cook Inlet, said Cordova Police Chief Mike Hicks. Although Cordova was not in the tsunami warning zone, precautionary evacuation steps were taken.

People evacuated from low-lying areas to Mt. Eccles Elementary School, the city’s first recommended evacuation site. Cordova Jr./Sr. High School was immediately evacuated to the elementary school following the earthquake. Fire engines and an ambulance were staged at Second Street as well.

19. Beckett hired as CTC’s next general manager/CEO

By The Cordova Times

January 10, 2018

On the heels of a nationwide search for new general manager and chief executive officer, the Cordova Telephone Cooperative, Inc.’s board of directors on Jan. 10 announced the selection of Jeremiah Beckett.

With several very competitive candidates to choose from the board ultimately felt that Beckett’s management and business experience made him the clear best choice for the job, said Will Osborn, CTC board president.

Beckett, who grew up in Cordova, has more than 20 years of managerial and business experience. He started two successful technology-related companies and has worked with several large telecommunications companies. He started the Cordova School District’s robotics program and continues to volunteer his time overseeing the program and coaching the Cordova High School Robotics Team.

20. Baja Taco expansion under way

Remodel will bring more dining, storage space to popular restaurant

By Dick Shellhorn

November 18, 2018

It began in 1989 as a place down near the harbor to purchase savory fish tacos.

Liz Pudwill had sampled this delicious fare while on vacation in Baja, Mexico, and decided to sell them in Cordova, using fresh fish from nearby waters. An old bus was outfitted as a kitchen, and what has evolved into one of Cordova’s most popular diners was born.

Over the years, the Baja Taco menu has expanded, as has the demand for its tasty items. In 2002, a larger bus was purchased and parked for good, with additions for eating both inside and outside added.