2017 in Review: A look back at the most read news stories of the year

Cordova fisherman Robert Cunningham Jr. scored a TKO against a brown bear in a Jul 2017 heavyweight bout at Softuk. And the bear wasn’t wearing Everlast gloves. Photo Illustration by Vivian Kennedy/The Cordova Times

Salmon, storms and a tale of tangle with a brown bear dominated the headlines in Cordova during 2017. We took a trip through the archives with a little help from our Google Analytics to find our 24 most-read stories of the year. Time travel through 2017 with us as we take a look back at the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the year.

1. Cordova Chronicles: Cordova fisherman scores TKO over brown bear

By Dick Shellhorn

August 19, 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen:  Today’s Main Event features Robert Cunningham Jr., 7 foot 1 inch 300 pounder, of Cordova, versus Ursus Arctos, a 350 pound 4 foot tall  (at the shoulder) brown bear, of Softuk.

It was a brief bout in the middle of nowhere.  In an unusual heavyweight match no one other than a trio of cubs witnessed, Cunningham waylaid a charging sow with one strong right to the chops.


The city of Cordova Christmas tree rests partially in the road on First Street shortly after midnight on Dec. 11, after strong winds ripped through Cordova.
Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times

2. Extreme weather: City Christmas tree snaps in 108 mph winds

By Emily Mesner

December 11, 2017

The city of Cordova’s Christmas tree succumbed to high winds, snapping in half and falling into First Street, shortly before 12:15 a.m. Monday, Dec. 11.

The downed tree was first reported to The Cordova Times by Amanda O’Brien.

Rob Campbell reported 68 knots at his weather buoy in the harbor. “Glad I tightened my lines!” he wrote on The Cordova Times Facebook page.

Conex shipping containers near the shipyard collapsed and fell onto a nearby boat just five days after high winds shattered a window on one Cordova home.

The Cordova weather station sensor recorded gusts of 94.2 knots — or 108 mph — at 11:44 p.m. Sunday night.


Kynan Clarke went with his father, Sean Clarke, to check out the family’s home in Little Cypress, Texas, after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey during the last week of August. The water, which flooded the neighborhood, was still several feet deep in their home. Photo by Sean Clarke/For The Cordova Times

3. Clarke home damaged by flood waters

Family reaches out to their hometown for assistance in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

September 22, 2017

Former Cordovan Sean Clarke, his daughters Kinzie and Kaylin, and son Kynan, were rescued during Hurricane Harvey when a boat pulled up to the door of their flooded house Aug. 29, in Little Cypress, Texas.

“I picked up Kaylin, and Kynan picked up Kenzie,” Clarke said. “We were waist deep in water. The water came into the house so fast. When we were inside, we could see out the glass door that the water was six inches higher outside, then it was inside.”

Clarke, 48, 10-year-old twins Kenzie and Kaylin, and Kynan, 14, had lived in Cordova all of their lives, up until last year when he and the children moved to Texas.

Clarke said he’s been through some of Cordova’s toughest storms, but nothing like Hurricane Harvey, which whipped through East Texas as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds.


This aerial photograph taken in October, 2013, shows Kushtaka Mountain and Kushtaka Lake. The Bering River is above Kushtaka Lake, in the Bering River Coal Fields area.
Photo courtesy David Little / Eyak Preservation Council

4. Bering River Coal Field rights retired

Pact will protect Bering River and Carbon Mountain watersheds from coal mining

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

January 25, 2017

In a groundbreaking decision announced on Jan. 25, a large portion of coal rights for the Bering River Coal Field, 55 miles southeast of Cordova, are being sold and retired.

The agreement sealing the fate of the bituminous coal field, some 25 miles north of Katalla, in the Carbon Mountains region, was reached by Chugach Alaska Corp., New Forests, The Nature Conservancy, and the Native Conservancy Land Trust.

New Forests, founded in 2005, is a sustainable real assets investment manager offering leading-edge strategies in forestry, timber processing, land management and conservation.


5. One rescued from bow picker in Copper River Delta

By The Cordova Times

May 26, 2017

A Good Samaritan aboard the F/V Crown Royal came to the rescue on May 25 of the lone occupant of the 24-foot bow picker F/V Bad Boy that capsized on the Copper River Delta, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Coast Guard Sector Anchorage received a report of a capsize about noon of that day. No injuries were reported.

The Bad Boy is home ported in Cordova.

Cause of the incident is under investigation.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Valdez was coordinating with federal and state agencies to oversee salvage of the vessel and ensure protection of the marine environment. As fishing activity surge with the opening of the commercial salmon fishing season, this capsizing is a reminder to all that the Alaskan maritime environment can be dangerous. The Coast Guard is urging mariners to check their vessels’ safety equipment and remain vigilant.


Fishmonger Abby Copeland holds up a Copper River king salmon at City Fish Co. in Pike’s Place Market. Photo by Kinsey Justa/for The Cordova Times

6. Copper River salmon sales are hot

Retail prices have started their anticipated drop, with steady demand for the fresh fish

By Margaret Bauman

June 2, 2017

From gourmet restaurant entrees to Costco roadshows, Alaska is rolling out the red carpet again for Copper River salmon.

Copper River sockeye entrees, with rice pilaf and grilled asparagus, were on the menu in late May at the Glacier Brewhouse, in downtown Anchorage, for $34.95, and the 49th Street Brewing Co., in the midst of its Crab Fest, featured a sockeye stuffed with crab entree, plus mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, for $32.99.


7. Alaska seafood is radiation free

Testing shows the health of Alaska seafood is not impacted by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster

By Margaret Bauman

January 12, 2017

State testing of seafood samples, in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, reaffirms that the quality and health of Alaska seafood has not been impacted by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In a statement issued on Jan. 9, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that testing for 2016 and dating back to 2014 revealed no detectable levels of Fukushima-related radionuclides.


8. Sea lion bites fisherman at Sand Point dock

F/V Cape St. Elias had no fish on board at the time

By The Cordova Times

March 3, 2017

A crewman aboard a fishing vessel tied up at the Peter Pan Seafoods dock at Sand Point was bitten by a sea lion who jumped aboard the commercial fishing vessel, causing severe injury, the Aleutians East Borough said in a report published Feb. 28.

The attack on Michael “Mack” McNeil, of Deer Park, WA, occurred on Jan. 23, on board the F/V Cape St. Elias, the borough reported in an article written by Laura Tanis, borough communications director and editor of “In The Loop,” the borough’s online newsletter.

Owner/skipper Ben Ley said the attack was unprovoked.

“We were taking off a pollock net and putting on our cod net at the time,” Ley said. “There were zero fish on board. That’s what’s kind of eerie about this.”


Vessels respond to assist with the recovery of the F/V Kaybee on Wednesday, Sept. 6. The F/V Kaybee broke loose from the dock in Cordova Harbor and washed ashore of Spike Island during a windstorm Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Photo by Joe Hamm/The Cordova Times

9. F/V Kaybee broke loose from Cordova harbor in Tuesday’s windstorm

Readers took to social media to share

By The Cordova Times

September 6, 2017

High winds and rain swept into Cordova on Tuesday night with gusts surpassing the 40 mph according to the National Weather Service.

Commercial fisherman Robert Linville’s boat, the F/V Kaybee broke loose from the dock in Cordova Harbor and washed ashore on Spike Island. Several other vessels arrived at the scene Wednesday morning to help recover the vessel.

Cordova Times readers reported downed trees, building damage, a destroyed greenhouse and an upturned trampoline on social media.


10. Coast Guard, good Samaritans aid vessel in distress

By The Cordova Times

June 23, 2017

Crew aboard the fishing vessel Kodiak Sockeye got an assist from the U.S. Coast Guard in Cordova and good Samaritans on June 23 after their vessel began taking on water near Knowles Bay in Prince William Sound.

A Coast Guard Air station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, forward deployed to Cordova, a Coast Guard Station Valdez 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore and crew from the good Samaritan vessel Rocky B provided the crew of the Kodiak Sockeye with dewatering pups.

The vessel was then towed by the RB-M crew 37 miles to Cordova.

The response came after Coast Guard sector Anchorage watchstanders got a report from the Kodiak Sockeye crew that the engine compartment was flooding. An urgent marine information broadcast prompted the launching of the Jayhawk, RB-M crews
and the Sycamore. Two good Samaritan vessels, the Rocky B and the Remedy, also responded.


Cordova fisherman Clifford “Mick” Johns, lost his life May 25, while commercial fishing on the Copper River Flats. In this photo, taken in 2012, Johns and his son, Matt Johns, are shown drifting along Pete Dahl Bar.
Photo by Bob Martinson/For The Cordova Times

11. Clifford “Mick” Johns, 69, died on the Copper River Flats May 25, doing what he loved to do

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

June 2, 2017

Clifford “Mick” Johns, a well-known, well-respected Cordova fishing veteran, died March 25, while commercial gillnet fishing at Pete Dahl Slough on the Copper River Flats, just outside of Cordova. Johns was 69.

Johns had been fishing these same waters since 1971. He didn’t make it home that night. His body was found on Pete Dahl beach later that evening, according to reports.

The U.S. Coast Guard Command Center, Anchorage, first received a call regarding the missing mariner shortly before 9 p.m., said Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios, at the Coast Guard’s public affairs office in Juneau.

“We received a call from a fisherman who had spotted the fishing vessel, F/V Dances With Clams, going in circles. The caller didn’t think there was anyone on board. We then received another call confirming that the vessel had been boarded, and (the owner) was not on board,” Rios said.


Power Creek Road washed out for the second time this month on Aug. 29. DOT spokesperson Meadow Bailey said the agency is looking at long term solutions to the repeated road washouts caused by heavy rainfall and storms in the Cordova area. Photo courtesy the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities/For The Cordova Times

12. Power Creek Road washes out anew

Hydroelectric transmission cable in danger of further exposure; DOT set to inspect site in September

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

August 29, 2017

A 50-foot length of Power Creek Road washed out for the second time in a month on Aug. 29, in the aftermath of seven inches of rainfall in just 48 hours.

“Power Creek Road is currently closed,” said Meadow Bailey, communications director for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “We are monitoring the situation and will make repairs when the weather improves and the water subsides.”

About half a mile of Power Creek Road is under a foot of water, and there’s a 50-foot long section where water is about four feet deep and crossing the road, she said.

It is the same section of road that washed out earlier this month and was repaired by DOT just over a week ago, she confirmed.


13. Fisheries board says no to emergency petition on Copper River fishery

By Margaret Bauman

May 17, 2017

An emergency petition that would have increased closures and restrictions on the Copper River commercial salmon fishery that gets underway this week was defeated May 17 during a special meeting of the Alaska Board of Fisheries in Anchorage.

The vote was 3-4.

The Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee had submitted the petition asking the board to require the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to publish an additional emergency order on commercial fishery management actions to be taken to assure the sustainable escapement goal for king salmon for the Copper River in 2017. ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten responded to the petition earlier, saying that he concluded that the situation did not warrant such action.


Shepard Point, a deep-water access site near Cordova. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved construction of oil spill response facility with access to the all-weather airport at Shepard Point, Native Village of Eyak announced on Oct. 16. Photos courtesy Native Village of Eyak
Shepard Point, a deep-water access site near Cordova. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved construction of oil spill response facility with access to the all-weather airport at Shepard Point, Native Village of Eyak announced on Oct. 16. Photos courtesy Native Village of Eyak

14. Oil spill response facility to be built at Shepard Point

Approval from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers comes after more than 16 years of study

By The Cordova Times

October 16, 2017

An oil spill response facility at Shepard Point, a deep-water access site near Cordova, with access to the all-weather airport, has received construction approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Native Village of Eyak announced on Oct. 16.

Approval came after more than 16 years of study by federal and state agencies. The project has the support of NVE, Chugach Alaska Corp., the city of Cordova, the Eyak Corp. and Alaska’s congressional delegation, NVE officials said.

The facility was one of three such facilities outlined in a federal court approved consent decree to resolve litigation in the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Tribal leaders said that NVE took the lead in soliciting funds from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and over the last two decades worked to design and redesign the facility to minimize and mitigate adverse environmental impacts of the project. They also said they were pleased with the Corps’ decision on location of the site as the preferred alternative, and that it is the only available site to locate a deep draft dock near Cordova that will allow for quick response to Prince William Sound in the event of an oil spill or other incident.


15. Four rescued from sinking seiner

By The Cordova Times

August 4, 2017

Four crewmembers aboard a seiner were rescued on Aug. 4 when their fishing vessel capsized near South Knight Island in Prince William Sound, Coast Guard officials said.

All four people on board the 52-foot All In were hauling in the vessel’s nets at the time of the capsize, the Coast Guard said. They were rescued by crew of the fishing vessel Trail Blazer.  No injuries were reported.

The All In, homeported at Kenai, remained capsized and partially submerged off shore of South Knight Island between Point Helen and Hogan Bay.


View from a flight from Cordova to Anchorage in June 2016. Annette Potter / For The Cordova Times

16. Ravn temporarily suspends Cordova flights

By The Cordova Times

September 9, 2017

Ravn Alaska will temporarily suspend scheduled Dash 8 service between Cordova and Anchorage on Oct. 1, with plans to resume seasonal service no later than May 1, the company announced on Sept. 8.

David Pflinger, chief executive officer for the air carrier, said Ravn is working with its passengers and the community to reduce the impact caused by this decision.

The company offered no specific reason for the decision.

Ravn Alaska is aware of the impact these changes have on its passengers and is committed to ensuring all affected passengers will be provided alternative travel options, Pflinger said. Passengers who have purchased a ticket to or from Cordova have been contacted by Ravn Alaska and offered an alternative option on Alaska Airlines or a full refund, he said.


City Crew work to clear 50-foot spruce tree that snapped in half on Dick Shellhorn’s property during the windstorm on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Dick Shellhorn/For The Cordova Times

17. Windstorm shatters window, rattles nerves

By Emily Mesner

December 6, 2017

Howling winds rattled Cordova, causing buildings to shake and glass to shatter.

Around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, strong winds and rain ripped through town. The Eyak Inn’s walls trembled as rain blew sideways.

David Janka, owner of Auklet Charter Services, said that readings from the National Weather Station in the Cordova Boat Harbor calculated the peak wind gust at 71 mph.

However, Janka guessed that it easily reached 80 mph.


Rachel Hoover, owner of Darling’s Ferments, watches as her daughter, Una Darling Honkola, takes the first sip from the inaugural batch of passion fruit kombucha on tap at Harborside Pizza.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

18. Darling’s Ferments goes commercial

Business expands from craft fairs to Harborside Pizza, Nichols’ Front Door Store

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

April 14, 2017

After much success at local craft fairs, where her krauts and kombucha quickly sold out Darling’s Ferments owner Rachel Hoover is branching out to market her creations at Harborside Pizza and Nichols Front Door Store.

The first batch of Hoover’s kombucha on tap at Harborside Pizza is passion fruit. As of press time, neither the folks at Harborside, nor Hoover, knew how much a glass of the elixir will sell for, but it will be affordable.

The kombucha flavor will change with every keg, she said, “We plan to keep it exciting.”

Beginning April 16, Nichols Front Door will carry four varieties of Darling’s Ferments – Kimchi, Curry Kraut, Ginger-Beet Kraut and Classic Kraut, at $13.99 for a 16-ounce bag.


Cmdr. James Jarnac inspects the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore’s crew during the change of command ceremony June 1. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

19. Outgoing cutter commander thanks Cordova

Jarnac: Sycamore’s crew is the best crew in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

June 9, 2017

U.S. Coast Guard’s Cmdr. James “Jim” Jarnac officially relinquished command of the Cutter Sycamore, homeported in Cordova, to Lt Cmdr. Collin Bronson June 1, during the change of command ceremony at the Coast Guard pier.

“Command at sea is an amazing opportunity and I am eternally grateful that the Coast Guard has trusted me with the Sycamore and her crew,” said Jarnac, who served three years as commander of the Sycamore, beginning in June 2014. “I am a Coast Guard seagoing officer through and through, and there is no greater honor than to serve in command of one of our ships,” he said.

At one point during the ceremony, Jarnac’s voice wavered and his eyes visibly teared up as he credited his wife, Jo Ann Jarnac, for her unwavering support.


A steady stream of fishermen head out of the Cordova Boat Harbor bound for the Copper River flats. Anticipation is high for the first Copper River commercial fishing opener of 2017.
Photo by Donni Adams/for The Cordova Times

20. Copper River fishery opens

Harvesters garner $8 for sockeyes, $11 for kings

By Margaret Bauman

May 23, 2017

Upwards of 400 fishing vessels were on the grounds for the opening of the Copper River salmon fishery on May 18, to harvest some 36,000 sockeyes and 1,900 Chinooks, and fishermen were rewarded with record grounds prices.

“It’s another record,” said Scott Blake, a veteran harvester who is president and chief executive officer of Copper River Seafoods, as he held a 40-plus pound king salmon fresh off of an Alaska Airlines jet in Anchorage the following afternoon.

Fishermen braved temperatures in the low 40s and off and on rain throughout the first opener, made 481 deliveries, garnering $8 a pound for the reds and $11 for the kings, up from $7 and $9 respectively a year ago.


Enrique Zamudio played guitar during the July 2016 Salmon Jam music festival in Cordova. Zamudio's family remembered his love of music in the Cordova Courthouse on Dec. 5, 2017. J.D. Stimson will serve three years in prison for criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence in the vehicle crash death of his friend Zamudio in August 2016. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times file, 2016
Enrique Zamudio played bass guitar during the July 2016 Salmon Jam music festival in Cordova. Zamudio’s family remembered his love of music in the Cordova Courthouse on Dec. 5, 2017. J.D. Stimson will serve three years in prison for criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence in the vehicle crash death of his friend Zamudio in August 2016. The Cordova Times file photo, 2016

21. Stimson gets three years in fatal Cordova crash

Enrique Zamudio remembered as family speaks at hearing

By Emily Mesner

December 15, 2017

J.D. Stimson will serve three years in prison for criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence in the vehicle crash death of his friend Enrique Zamudio in August of 2016.

“This has been the hardest, most painful, brutally honest year of my life and I can only imagine what it’s been like for the Zamudio family,” Stimson said during the sentencing at the Cordova courthouse on Dec. 5. “I lost someone I loved deeply.”

Through tears, Stimson addressed the court and Zamudio family, “I’m sorry for not learning my lesson the first time. I’m sorry for putting Enrique and the community in danger and I’m sorry for ripping the darkest, most painful hole into the Zamudio family.”

Stimson, then 19, lost control of his vehicle and struck a utility pole on August 9, 2016 on First Street near the ferry terminal, according to Cordova police records. Zamudio, 18, a passenger in the vehicle, was fatally injured.

A design overview reveals the extent of all the work that is being done at Cordova Airport. Note Taxiway D to the right of existing Taxiway C, which will eliminate the need for jet turn-arounds on the Runway. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

22. Alaska Airlines construction begins Feb. 24

By The Cordova Times

February 17, 2017

Alaska Airlines will begin extensive remodeling of its Cordova airport terminal on Feb. 24, a project expected to take about two weeks, and cause longer wait times for check in and in luggage drop areas, as well as the security screening checkpoint.

Cargo customers should also anticipate longer wait times, said Sean Langhelm, an airline spokesman and customer service manager at Yakutat.

The Cordova project will involve replacing the terminal floor, remodeling of bathrooms, painting the interior and exterior, and upgrading fixtures to LED lighting, he said.


Ranney’s first book includes 78 photos.  This one shows the author after landing Fishing & Flying’s Cessna 185 near Cape St. Elias. Photo courtesy Gayle Ranney collection

23. T-Craft Tales: A book worth reading

Ranney: One of the passengers had said there was no way he was going to fly with a woman pilot … but then he guessed it would be okay.

By Dick Shellhorn

April 21, 2017

Cordova’s Gayle Ranney has written a book titled “T-Craft Tales”.  It’s about flying small planes in Alaska, and much more. After a 40-year career that spans 26,000 flight hours, she certainly has plenty to write about.

This 220-page book is so entertaining it only took me four hours to read it and I am a notoriously slow reader. The book centers around page-turning anecdotes, beginning with a chance encounter with an Alaska Bush pilot back in 1965 when Ranney took a teaching job in Juneau. Gayle learned to fly there, and the title comes from the first plane she owned, a Yakutat based T-Craft she purchased sight-unseen before she even had her private license.


Bree, Everleigh and Bryan Mills began the process of domestic infant adoption in January 2017. They’re currently waiting for the right match with an expectant mother who is making an adoption plan for her child.
Photo by Chelsea Haisman, Chelsea Haisman Photography/For The Cordova Times

24. Mills family hopes for adoption by Christmas

Nearly $20,000 saved with community help, but costs could reach $60,000

By Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson

September 20, 2017

Thoughts of adoption has always been close to the hearts of Bree and Bryan Mills, and now the Cordova couple, parents of a six-year old daughter, are hoping to have their new baby at home for Christmas.

The couple, who have one daughter, Everleigh, 6, decided in January that adding to their family through the adoption of an infant was what they wanted to do.

“Growing up in the church, we both had many friends whose families grew through adoption. We always considered it a completely valid way of choosing to grow your family. We had spoken about the idea of adoption before we were even married, as something we’d both thought about exploring more someday, but that plan was expedited when I experienced unexplained secondary infertility after we had Everleigh,” Bree said.


And they did welcome their new daughter before Christmas:

Birth: Evangeline Autumn Mills