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Pork project packs potential

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

That other white meat in the grocery store could someday be home grown if a Soldotna entrepreneur's plan to bring hog farming to Alaska, and possibly the Kenai Peninsula, is successful.

Richard Metteer has been working on the Alaska Pork Project for the better part of a decade, he told the Kenai City Council Wednesday night, and he is prepared to move ahead with a formal business plan.

Metteer was before the council seeking a resolution of support to aid his raising $396,500 to pay for a formal feasibility study and business plan.

Metteer presented the council with a 48-page preliminary study he and the Dutch company Agriment International prepared to detail the feasibility of their plan.

Metteer said the project, once operating at full capacity, would produce 660,000 head of hog a year for export and that it could gross $300 million a year and pump $40 million in wages into the economy.

He said Alaska's strategic location on the Pacific Rim could result in fresher pork shipments to the large Japanese and Asian markets.

"Currently Japan is served with frozen product," he said. "But it is very appealing to (Agriment) to serve Japan with deep chilled pork from Alaska."

Alaska also is attractive for having no endemic swine diseases, something that cannot be said for much of the world.

He said he had been looking at a location north of Valdez or in the Point McKenzie areas, but has recently begun talks with an undisclosed Native group on the peninsula about a 25,000-acre site here. He said all the elements of the operation do not need to be in one place.

"Seward is an ice-free port where we can import 220,000 tons of grain, Kenai could package and process the hogs, and then they can be shipped back to Seward," he said.

Packaging and processing could mean as many as 240 jobs, he said.

He gave the council a thumbnail of how the hog farm would be set up. He said there would be six 5,000 sow units on 25-acre sections, housing the breeding stock and piglets. They will then be transferred to areas known as finishing farms where they will be fattened up from about 15 pounds to 250 pounds, at which point they will be ready to slaughter.

Metteer said pig manure, rich in nitrogen, is excellent fertilizer, and some of what is produced on the hog farms could be sold to potato and barley farmers. The excess, he said, would be processed in an on-site waste water treatment plant.

After Metteer's presentation, Mayor John Williams directed the city's administration to examine the study and bring a resolution of support for the council to vote on at its next meeting May 16.

In other council news from its Wednesday meeting:

n The council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association's plan seeking more federal matching funds to help with its fisheries enhancement projects. The council was asked two weeks ago for its support.

n The council voted 6 to 1 to go ahead with preparing for the sale of block three of the Five Iron Heights Subdivision, adjacent to the Kenai Golf Course. Council member Duane Bannock dissented.

n The council voted 7 to 0 to delay the sale of 53 lots in the Inlet Woods Subdivision from Friday to May 18 to allow time to advertise a change to the sale requirements. The minimum sale price of the lots -- which are to be sold as one -- would remain $180,000, but the successful bidder also would have to post a bond equivalent to 120 percent of the cost of extending telephone and electric utilities to the land.

n The council awarded a $13,620 contract to Hanson's Roofing for repairs to city hall.

n Public Works Director Keith Kornelis reported that permitting of the Unity Trail to connect Kenai and Soldotna along the Kenai Spur Highway was on hold due to permitting problems concerning the crossing of Beaver Creek.

He did say that work on the Spur Highway repaving project will begin this week. He said work will resume on the Redoubt Avenue and Forest Drive repaving this week, as well.

n Williams asked the council for approval for the city to purchase a plaque and tree in the name of former Kenai Rep. Hugh Malone at Leif Hansen Memorial Park. The council agreed.



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