QUAINT QUAIL

Have you seen this bird?It is the Northern Bobwhite, a member of the quail family, and it is indigenous to the southeastern part of the U.S. Some of the birds were released in Skagway a few years ago and their numbers have been steadily increasing since that time. See more in our Christmas Bird Count report in features. Andrew Cremata

Hatchery answers?

Not yet, meeting set for Jan. 20

By ANDREW CREMATA
A proposed Skagway hatchery plan has seen even more twists and turns in its ongoing plot in recent weeks. The independent consultant that was to work with the City of Skagway backed out of that role due to a potential conflict of interest with his consulting duties with the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (NSRAA).
In the meantime, the Skagway City School has felt a little left out of the process and has concerns about the stability of the school hatchery program and the Jerry Myers Hatchery, which is in serious need of attention.
The hatchery proposal, spawned by Skagway resident Meredith Marchioni last summer, cited the possibility of the city receiving $150,000 a year for 10 years from NSRAA. The money would be used for future hatchery operation expenses. This would have been in addition to the $1.5 million being offered by the state for the construction of the facility.
It turns out that the money being offered by NSRAA is far from being earmarked for Skagway.
“That money was designed by legislature for a fish program in Haines,” said Steve Reifenstuhl of NSRAA.
The program would raise and release salmon brood stock in the Lutak Inlet, and, noted Reifenstuhl, any change to that plan would have to come directly from NSRAA and the Department of Fish and Game.
“It is NSRAA’s intention to run that program,” he said.
As for Fish and Game, Regional Supervisor Rocky Holmes said, “From my perspective it’s up in the air. We don’t care how it gets done; we just want to do what makes the most sense.”
Reifenstuhl agrees that any decision would have to make biological sense.
Skagway School Board Member Darren Belisle is concerned that the school has been left out of the process.
“We haven’t been invited to anything,” he said in reference to the fact that the city has not informed them of the meetings that have taken place in the last few months concerning the hatchery.
“We don’t want to be left out in the cold,” he added.
Belisle is concerned that the Jerry Myers Hatchery has been neglected. “(The hatchery) needs to be refurbished and re-plumbed,” said Belisle. “The buildings are falling apart.”
The hatchery received national attention soon after it was built in the mid-1980s and offers Skagway students a unique opportunity to be involved in the handling and rearing of salmon as well as learn the skills to run a hatchery.
Belisle believes in the program and said that if a production hatchery was built in Skagway, that one of the many students who were involved in the program could run the new facility.
A meeting is scheduled for Jan. 20 that will include Reifenstuhl, Holmes, and representatives from the City of Skagway.
When asked whether interested parties at the school would receive an invitation to the meeting, City Manager Bob Ward said, “It’s not something that I considered, but I guess we should.”
Ward also said that the city was considering the potential for using the money from the state for additional raceways at Douglas Island Pink and Chum in Juneau instead of building a brand new facility in Skagway.
The city currently pays $160,000 annually for DIPAC to raise the salmon fry at its Juneau hatchery, and the fish are returned and eventually released in Pullen Pond. Because of space limitations at the Juneau facility, two new raceways could be a workable solution to answer multiple problems.
Whether or not the city will attempt to find another independent consultant to aid in the process is still undecided.

Land swap hearing Jan. 18 on Klondike parcels for Gustavus hydro

By JEFF BRADY
A proposed land swap between the state and National Park Service will be the focus of public hearings in Skagway and Gustavus next week.
The Skagway hearing will be on Wednesday, Jan. 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at City Hall.
Under the proposal, 1,034 acres of federal land in Glacier Bay National Park would be exchanged for 1,040 acres of state land in Dyea and at various sites on the Chilkoot Trail within Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The land swap is being proposed so Gustavus Electric Company can build a hydroelectric facility for area residents. Gustavus has one of the highest diesel-generated electric power rates in the state. The site is just inside the park boundary on Falls Creek. According to a letter with the proposal, federal legislation in 1998 authorized a boundary adjustment and land exchange with another park unit in Alaska. The state has only a few inholdings within national parks in the state, and the Dyea-Chilkoot lands were proposed as an equal value exchange.
“This land is preferred by the State and the NPS because most of it is already managed by the NPS under an agreement with the Department (of Natural Resources) and the area receives high public use,” wrote Richard Mylius, acting director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water. “The parcels are also located in the same geographic area of Southeast Alaska and the Chilkoot Trail parcels are more similar to the Gustavus area lands than those initially considered in the McCarthy area (withing Wrangell-St. Elias National Park).”
Here’s a breakdown of the Dyea-Chilkoot lands proposed for exchange (detailed maps will be available at the meeting):
Unit A - Approximately 69 acres from the Dyea Road, east of the bridge, including the Chilkoot trailhead area and a mile up the trail.
Unit B - Approximately 5 acres, a triangular parcel along the Dyea Road and Taiya River, across from the trailhead area and south of the bridge.
Unit C - Approximately 40 acres, along the Dyea Road including the ranger station and campground.
Unit D – Approximately 10 acres, about 5 miles up the trail in the Finegan’s Point shelter area.
Unit E - Approximately 200 acres, about 8 miles up the trail in the Canyon City area, includes the campground, shelter and historic sites on both sides of the river.
Unit F - Approximately 605.5 acres, about 10 miles up the trail in the Pleasant Camp area, including the campground and shelter area, as well as the Sheep Camp campground up the trail (due to be moved),
Unit G – Approximately 110 acres, about 13 miles up the trail in the historic Sheep Camp area, including ranger station and historic shelter.
The City of Skagway is still on record opposing the swap. During an initial review of the proposal in December 2004, the City Council urged the parties to come back with a proposal that avoided exchanging land on the lower part of the trail that is also used by private inholders in the area. Mayor Tim Bourcy also suggested using lands from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park instead of just Dyea-Chilkoot lands.
City officials, who have been negotiating a separate transfer of entitlement state lands to the city in the Dyea area, have acknowledged recently that a “quid pro quo” situation exists.
Now it’s time for the official public hearing on the matter. The state also will be taking public comment on the proposal until 5 p.m. on Feb. 2. They can be sent to: bruce_talbot@dnr.state.ak.us or to his attention at DNR Div. of Mining, Land and Water, 550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1050, Anchorage, AK 99501-3579.

Click here to view a Map of the Dyea-Chilkoot Land Selections.

Governor includes Skagway in disaster declaration for Nov. storm

JUNEAU – Just before Christmas, Governor Frank H. Murkowski issued a State disaster declaration for the Cities and Boroughs of Juneau, Haines, and Sitka, the Cities of Skagway, Hoonah, and Pelican in response to a fall storm that caused widespread damage in November.
“We are working very closely with the communities affected by the storm,” said Gov. Murkowski. “By declaring a State disaster, we are providing meaningful relief assistance to those communities most affected by this terrible storm.”
Communities in Southeast Alaska experienced coastal flooding, landslides, and wind damage when a powerful fall storm system stalled over the region from Nov. 18 through 26, bringing high winds and record rainfall. Public infrastructure, commercial property, and personal property were hit hard during the storm.
During the disaster declarion period, AP&T recorded 9.07 inches of rain here. A small section of the Dyea Road had to be rebuilt after rain water overflowed a ditch and cut into the road. The Skagway and Taiya rivers and creeks never reached flood stage, but some basements were flooded in Skagway and Dyea. Skagway fared better than other communities in the region. Nearby Haines had more than $2 million in damage from massive landslides up its highway and flooding that cut off residents from Mud Bay.
The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management continues to work with the affected communities who are still collecting detailed damage information. Governor Murkowski plans to request Small Business Administration loan assistance to aid the commercial businesses and individuals and families who sustained damage during the storm. He has also requested a 30-day extension on the Dec. 26, 2005 filing deadline for requesting Federal disaster assistance for the affected areas. This extension would give additional time for joint Federal-State Preliminary Damage Assessment teams to gather needed information for a Federal disaster request.

$45 million in budget for Juneau Access
In other news from the capital, Gov. Murkowski has penned in $45 million in his proposed budget for the administration’s preferred Juneau Access alternative, construction of a road from Juneau to Katzehin flats, with a shuttle ferry operating from there to Haines and Skagway.
The Legislature opened Jan. 9 and the House Transportation Committee was taking up the budget in a hearing this week. The funding push begins as the state prepares to release its Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement later this month.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

EYEING VICTORY – Tiffanie Potter dribbles against an Anderson defender during the Panthers' first win of the season at the Don Hather Tourney. See more in sports below. Jeff Brady

• CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT: Skagway count is for the birds

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Panther boys notch first victory on court in two years & more Don Hather Tourney Results

• OBITUARY: Barbara Fairbanks, 1935-2005

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