Katrin Frye

Flathead Reporter

Katrin Frye reports twice weekly on northwest Montana news from her native Flathead Valley. Frye is a graduate of the University Of Montana School Of Journalism and Davidson Honors College. Before coming on board with MTPR, she reported for the local CBS affiliate in the Flathead Valley, and worked as a contributing writer to the weekly paper the Flathead Beacon. Her reports covering the news of the Flathead Valley and northwest Montana have been heard on National Public Radio’s Evening Edition, NPR News and National Native News.

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The Columbia Falls Aluminum Plant is eligible for “Superfund” designation. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a reassessment report looking at contamination on the site, and in nearby waterways. Site Assessment Manager Rob Parker called this a screening assessment. They did not look at all potential sources for contamination, but focused on the landfill, percolation ponds, and sludge pond.

Katrin Frye

The Kalispell School District is trying a little different approach as it asks voters to approve a $1.2-million Technology Levy.

It’s asking voters for a 10-year Technology Levy for both the high school and elementary school districts. Each request is $600,000 per year, over the ten year period.

A 2010 building reserve and technology levy failed to pass for the high school district, it passed for the elementary schools.

Kalispell tried again, and failed in 20-12.

Katrin Frye

Sure Montana has cows, but it also has dairies, cheese and ice cream makers. The same is true for wheat, barley, beer and liquor. Many of these are small, local businesses, but they do create jobs, and encouraging the growth of the value-added agriculture industry in Montana is part of the goal behind the state’s “Growth Through Agriculture” grant program.

The Flathead-based Sweet Peaks ice cream shops recently won a $15,000 matching grant through the program.

Owner Marissa Dauenhauer says different ice cream flavors they make feature different Montana-grown products.

Katrin Frye

A sold out job fair is a sign of the changing economic times in the Flathead. For the past three years Flathead Valley Community College and the local Job Service have sponsored a spring Job Fair. They had stopped offering it for a few years prior to 2012 because of the lack of job openings.

Manager of the Flathead Job Service Bill Nelson said in the depths of the recession they were listing about 40-job openings.

Over the last few days its closer to 5-hundred.

Student Advisor and Navigator Jori Bullemer with FVCC also used to work at the Job Service.

William Munoz

Using dance and movement to teach concepts like conduction, convection and radiation is the goal behind a Co-Motion Dance Project about fire ecology. The Project is based out of the University of Montana and brings dance into the classroom as a teaching tool.

The Program, “Fire Speaks the Land,” was written by Director of the CoMotion Dance Project Karen Kaufmann and her husband, Steve Kalling. Kaufmann said the idea is to help understand concepts through movement.

Say you’re in the restroom at a public place, like the mall. You’re at the sink, washing your hands, and you see the sign, complete with step-by-step pictures, on how to wash your hands.

Ever actually read that sign? It tells you to wash your hands for 20-seconds.

Registered Nurse Melody Finch said proper hand hygiene is the first step in prevention, and this relates to alcohol-based hand sanitizers as well as soap and water.


The only medical office offering abortions in the Flathead Valley may not reopen after extensive vandalism shut its doors earlier this month. The man arrested for the break in is the son of a founder of a local pro-life organization.

All Families Health Care offers primary care by Physicians Assistant Susan Cahill.

“I take care of children, and geriatrics as well, men – they don’t come in as much, and women, they come in more often either because of their reproductive years, menopause, etcetera,” Cahill said.

Katrin Frye

Two large, yellow buoys with “Flathead Lake Biological Station” stenciled on the side now sit on the shore beside the lake they’ve been collecting data on since August of 2011. These weather buoys were also measuring water quality and temperature, among other things.

The buoys were taken in to calibrate the instruments and replace the batteries.

Katrin Frye

A Habitat for Humanity home in Columbia Falls took great strides toward completion over the past two months with the help of young volunteers. A National Service group with volunteers aged 18 to 24 came on the scene two months ago, and this month a steady stream of college students are spending spring break in hard hats and tool bags building a home for strangers.

For three weeks in March Habitat for Humanity of the Flathead hosts three different college groups. The week of the 17th it was a group of spring breakers from the University of Wisconsin – Stout.

Department of the Interior

Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh recently hosted Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on a tour of Montana, stopping at Glacier Park to talk about protection of the trans-boundary North Fork Flathead River.

Jewell said grassroots efforts hold a lot of sway with policy makers as chances for them to hear people’s voices on issues they find important.

She said securing protection of the North Fork of the Flathead is a great example of people from all over the spectrum coming together for a common goal.

Whitefish Lake. 75% of the municipal water supply for Whitefish comes from Haskill Basin. In the summer, when that supply runs low, the city pumps and treats water from Whitefish Lake.
Katrin Frye

The U-S Forest Service ranks a Whitefish project involving drinking water, recreation, and logging as a number one priority in the nation. The Haskill Basin project encompasses about 3-thousand-acres of the F.H. Stoltze Lumber Company’s land.

Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld said it’s a popular recreation area, and it also supplies 75% of the city’s water.

There are a number of groups in the Flathead working to help children in crisis. The problem is that they don’t all know each other, and gaps and overlap in services can form among these agencies.

Katrin Frye

Out of town travelers make up the vast majority of visitors to national parks and they dump a whole lot of money into local economies.

Nationwide that number is $13.9-billion for 2012. These are the findings released by the National Park Service in a report that details the economic impact of national parks.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell hosted a conference call with reporters Monday. She said the report helps her make the case for funding parks.

Flathead County Solid Waste

The Flathead County Landfill currently has a gas-to-energy project where methane gas is collected to power a generator instead of being burned off.

Waste management officials recently learned more about how to use the waste from septic tanks to make trash decompose faster, and produce more energy.

St.Clair County in Michigan has about 50,000-septic tanks- residences or businesses not hooked up to a sewer system and therefore using septic tanks to collect their waste.

Those tanks need to periodically be pumped.

Brian Schott/ Whitefish Visitors Bureau

An injury may have kept 15-year-old Maggie Voisin from competing in Sochi, but it did nothing to damper the enthusiasm of her hometown crowd.


ople of all ages line the street in Whitefish as Maggie Voisin and her family cruised through town on the top of a fire truck.

Among the onlookers was 12-year-old Libby Goldhirsch.

Katrin Frye

Most businesses in the Flathead count on winter as the slow season for tourism and visitation. Business and economic development leaders are hoping hockey will help take the sting out of the slow season. Rob Brisendine with the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau says they’re hosting the first annual Pond Hockey Classic on Foys Lake this weekend.

Mike Kofford / Kalispell School District 5

Teachers of a second grade class in Kalispell found a fairly old-school way to get kids excited about writing.

Pen pals.

Shelly Kennedy and Suzanne Elliott’s class at Edgerton Elementary School started exchanging letters with residents at the Buffalo Hill Terrace retirement home at the beginning of the school year.

Katrin Frye

Pepin is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois trained to identify about 19 different scents.

In a demonstration at the Flathead National Forest office he’s finding wolverine scat Megan Parker placed out there earlier in the day. Parker is the Director for Research, and also a co-founder of Working Dogs for Conservation. The Missoula-based group is in the Flathead to talk with the Flathead Basin Commission about how dogs like Pepin could help in the effort to stop aquatic invasive mussels and weeds from getting into the area.

Karen Weyer Photography

Kalispell’s Conrad Mansion Museum is an east side institution, built by a city founder. School children take field trips there, brides have their pictures taken in the summertime gardens, and visitors from around the world take the tour. This year marks 40 years since the city took possession of the Mansion.

But, Conrad Mansion Museum Director Gennifer Sauter says Kalispell was not eager to take on the mansion at first.

Sauter described a picture of the home when the city first took charge of it.

Kids with chaotic family situations, with behavior and mental health issues, as young as you can imagine, end up needing emergency housing. The need for foster families trained to help these kids is ever present.

Youth Dynamics is a non-profit organization operating across Montana. Katie Gerten works out of the Kalispell office licensing people to be foster parents. She said in the past six months she’s has about 20 children referred to her office to be placed in foster care that she had to turn down. She said it’s hard to find people up for becoming foster parents.

Katrin Frye

Anti-Keystone X-L Pipeline protests popped up across the state and the country on Monday in response to a recent State Department report. The report came out last week and stated that the Pipeline itself would pose no significant increase to greenhouse gas emissions.         At a protest in Whitefish Steve Thompson with Glacier Climate Action said they wanted to send a clear message against building the Keystone X-L Pipeline.

N. Fork Flathead River
Katrin Frye

A major element for protection of the North Fork Flathead River Valley moved forward this week. Representative Steve Daines announced a bill that retires many oil and gas leases in the area unanimously passed the House Natural Resources Committee. The North Fork Watershed Protection Act of 2013 would restrict new mineral development in the North Fork of the Flathead.

This House bill mirrors one introduced by Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus.

Glacier Park International Airport

Competition is fierce to get airlines flying in and out of smaller communities. It’s especially tough to get direct flights from places like Kalispell to big cities like Chicago or Los Angeles. In the Flathead a non-profit group called Airline Enhancement and Retention Outreach, or AERO, is following in the footsteps of several other small communities to raise funds to bring in new routes. Chairman of AERO says it’s called a Minimum Revenue Guarantee or MRG.

Katrin Frye

Beautiful scenery, hospitality, and beer are among the things that bicycle tourists like, and Montana has. The Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research recently came out with a study looking at the potential for the bicycle niche of the tourism industry. Wider highway shoulders and better rumble strip placement are what Executive Director Jim Sayer of Adventure Cycling called critical elements for the cyclo-tourists.

Adventure Cycling is a Missoula-based non-profit that’s worked over the last several decades to develop bike routes and encourage people to get out and peddle.


Last year the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, or FLIC showed more than thirty films from new and emerging filmmakers. 2014 marks FLICs second year, and the number of films has more than doubled to seventy-nine.

Love Lives Here Flathead

Civil Rights, slavery in U-S history, and modern day slavery are being looked at during a Martin Luther King Junior Day event in the Flathead.

The event which features a combined Flathead and Glacier High School choir, members of the Alpine Theater Project, as well as the Saint Charles Women’s Choir.

“Love Lives Here” is affiliated with the Montana Human Rights Network and it’s sponsoring a this program titled: “Let Freedom Sing: Songs that Changed America.”

“We’re trying to cover the songs that really effected America,” said organizer Ina Albert.

Katrin Frye

Walking into Flathead County Library’s main branch in Kalispell there’s the smell of fresh, buttery popcorn, and Alex Hogle and Jeremy Morrone play bluegrass music as people check out books, browse, and snack.

There’s also a big signs saying “Imagine If”. Flathead County Libraries recently unveiled itself as a new brand with “Imagine If.”

Mike Kofford / Kalispell School District 5

Overcrowded classrooms, outdated technology, new construction, old buildings, new curriculum, and online venue for the enduring issue of bullying are among the issues facing many school districts in 2014.

Growth and change at the Kalispell School District Five has been visible over the past 10-years with the creation and construction of a second high school.

The woman at the reins during these changes is District Five Superintendent Darlene Schottle who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Flickr / lemonkey

Inventors, practical science buffs, and “makers” of all kinds are invited to demonstrate their projects at an event called the Kalispell Mini Maker Faire.

The first Makers Faire happened in San Mateo, California in 2005. Now, it has featured more than 800-makers with nearly 110,000 attendees.

The World Maker Faire in New York has grown in three years to more than 500 makers with 55,000 attendees. 

Public Services Librarian April Szuch said the one planned for Kalispell will be much smaller, a Mini Maker Faire. She says it’s the first of its kind in Montana.

Katrin Frye

Reid Merley has been playing the oboe since he was 11 years old.

“Except for two years when I didn’t play, I’ve been playing for 46 years,” Merley said.

To save you the math, that makes him 57 years old. The two years he didn’t really play was 2007 through 2009.

Merley first noticed a tremor in 2005. His arms would just shake, but only when he picked up his instrument to play.

He was able to hide it for a while.