The Skagway waterfront emerges under layers of fog on a recent winter day . Andrew Cremata

Little public comment on land swap

Parcel choices, values questioned

The Jan. 18 hearing on the proposed land exchange between the State of Alaska Department of Resources and the National Park Service was short on participation and comments.
With the hearing officers Bruce Talbot of DNR and Charles Gilbert of NPS stuck in Juneau, Mayor Tim Bourcy ran the teleconference with just six in the audience, and three of those from the local NPS office.
Talbot outlined the history of the exchange – 1,034 acres of federal land in Glacier Bay National Park for 1,040 acres of state land within the Dyea-Chilkoot units of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park – to allow Gustavus access to Falls Creek for a hydroelectric power. Congress has authorized an exchange, but the choices came down to just Wrangell-St. Elias and Klondike parks, and the Dyea-Chilkoot land was picked because it is closer and has greater public use.
The seven parcels that encompass the Dyea campground, Chilkoot trailhead area, and camping areas up the trail are valued at $1.2 million, about $60,000 short of the Falls Creek parcel’s value, but Talbot said NPS was willing to make up the difference in a payment to the state.
Talbot said the parties had listened to the city’s earlier concerns about keeping most of the lower trail in state hands, and that NPS focused mainly on parcels that contained existing facilities such as shelters erected in accordance with their long-standing joint agreement with the state to manage the historic trail.
Bourcy said the city remains opposed to the exchange until it is given title to about 900 acres of municipal entitlement lands near Dyea. That transfer is in the final phase, Talbot noted, and in fact a plat approval was on the agenda of this week’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
Bourcy raised a question forwarded by Councilmember Dave Hunz as to why NPS selected the Dyea campground area and the first mile up the trail (114 acres) versus the more historic Scales and its wealth of artifacts at Chilkoot Pass (1,075 acres).
The latter’s value, according to an appraisal by NPS and city assessor Horan and Co., was $270,000, whereas the Dyea campground and trailhead values came in at $547,000. However, if just the 69-acre, $207,000 trailhead portion replaced the Scales portion, the total value of the Dyea-Chilkoot parcels would come close to meeting the value of the Falls Creek lands, without the need for a $60,000 NPS payment.
Klondike Park superintendent Jim Corless and Chief Ranger Reed McCluskey explained that the park chose the Dyea and trailhead parcels because of their “intense public use” and the park’s investment in facilities. The trailhead area sees 10,000 visitors a year, most hiking the first mile to a put-in point for raft tours down the Taiya River. About 2,000 people hike the entire trail, using the designated campsites and shelters in the selected Finnegan’s Point, Canyon City and Sheep Camp parcels on the trail.
“It’s an easier concept if all the facilities are federally owned and the trail is state-owned,” McCluskey said.
The state and NPS would continue to jointly manage the trail, but the new federal portions would likely be posted. By federal law, no hunting or trapping would be allowed on the federal park lands, however game could continue to be moved down the trail from state lands where hunting is allowed off the trail, McCluskey said.
The exchange remains open for public comment until Feb. 2. Submit comments via e-mail to: or

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

List of selections and their appraised values:

Unit A - Approximately 69 acres from the Dyea Road, east of the bridge, including the Chilkoot trailhead area and a mile up the trail. ($207,000).
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. ($100,000).
Unit C - Approximately 40 acres, along the Dyea Road including the ranger station and campground ($240,000).
Unit D – Approximately 10 acres, about 5 miles up the trail in the Finegan’s Point shelter area. ($45,000).
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 ($240,000).
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 that is due to be moved ($242,000),
Unit G – Approximately 110 acres, about 13 miles up the trail in the historic Sheep Camp area, including ranger station and historic shelter ($132,000).

Compare with a Map of all Dyea-Chilkoot Land Selections that were originally under consideration

These lands were not included in the NPS selection:

Unit H – Approximately 1,075 acres, historic Chilkoot Pass/Scales area ($270,000).

Unit I - Approximtely 1,425 acres, historic Long Hill area north of Sheep Camp ($285,000).

Unit J - Appriximately 932 acres, Southeast mountain area above Pleasant Camp ($210,000).

No hatchery for Skagway

New ‘hybrid plan’ taking shape

It is unlikely that a hatchery for chinook salmon production is going to be built in Skagway. Instead, the City will use the $1.5 million being offered by the state to continue its partnership with Douglas Island Pink and Chum (DIPAC) to rear and raise kings at its Juneau facility for release in Pullen Pond.
That partnership may well include the construction of two new raceways in Juneau that would be used exclusively for Skagway fish. Leftover money could then be used to upgrade holding pens and cages in Skagway, revamp the Jerry Myers’ Hatchery or anything else that might benefit the program.
Representatives from Fish & Game, DIPAC and the City of Skagway met at a special work session on Jan. 20 at City Hall to discuss the future of the hatchery project and how best to use the $1.5 million being offered by the state for maintaining the chinook brood stock in the Upper Lynn Canal.
Mayor Tim Bourcy opened the meeting by presenting three options for maintaining “the long-term viability of a fishing program in Skagway.”
The options Bourcy outlined include building a hatchery in Skagway, continuing to use DIPAC in the same capacity, and a “hybrid plan” of building two raceways in Juneau dedicated to the Skagway brood stock and paying DIPAC for their continued production.
“All three options are fine with us,” said Rocky Holmes, the Regional Supervisor for F&G.
Eric Prestegard, the representative from DIPAC agreed as did Representative Bill Thomas who said, “We can live with any decision you make.”
The first option of building a hatchery in Skagway was addressed by Bourcy who expressed concern about water quality in Pullen.
Prestegard pointed out that the Jerry Myers Hatchery successfully raised salmon in the Pullen system, but seemed less optimistic about the economics of a Skagway hatchery.
“I worry about a small hatchery and how that will work economically,” he said, adding that it would be a 24 hour, 365 days a year type of operation, which means that even though the facility would be small, employee payroll to staff the facility would make operational costs exorbitant.
Councilman Mike Catsi reaffirmed concerns that the city expressed when discussing the Skagway hatchery option in the past. He said that even if the construction was paid for by the state, operational costs for the city could exceed $200,000 per year. The city would be on the hook for those expenses every year the hatchery remained open.
Bourcy agreed and cited the seawalk and clinic projects, currently being undertaken by the city, as leaving little revenue for this type of annual financial burden.
Catsi asked Prestegard, “How agreeable is DIPAC to raceways being built?”
Prestegard outlined three options for construction of new raceways in Juneau. The first would be to build the raceways at DIPAC’s main location, but space was a major concern and that option would probably not be cost effective.
The second option would be to build the raceways at their satellite facility in Sheep Creek, which is currently a chum salmon incubation site. Prestegard was concerned about the reliability of the water system in that location, but said improvements could be made.
The third option would be to use a new and untested technology called “sea bags.” Sea bags are made with waterproof canvas material suspended from a frame in salt water. Fresh water is pumped into the bags making a suitable environment for the rearing of fish. This idea would be the least expensive, but problems include getting water to the pens, the potential setbacks associated with new technology, and the short life span of the bags, which must be replaced in five to seven years.
Prestegard said the cost of the latter two options would be “reasonably inexpensive,” but he suggested the city could use some of the state money to hire an engineer in Juneau to establish accurate assessments for the price tag of either option.
Thomas agreed that the DIPAC option would be acceptable as the money from the state only necessitates brood stock development, not a specific plan.
Thomas added, “If you have extra money you could divert it to the Jerry Myers Hatchery.”
The Jerry Myers Hatchery is run by the Skagway City School, and has worked with DIPAC in the past to collect mature salmon for their eggs and keep watch over the delicate salmon fry that are held in the black pen frame in Pullen Pond.
The school was invited to the work session, but any representative from the school was noticeably absent from the meeting. Prestegard affirmed the need for a reliable person in Skagway to ensure the collection and rearing of salmon in Pullen. Currently the city pays the school to fill this role in conjunction with the educational hatchery program. Bourcy said that it might be time for the city to revaluate the current agreement with the school and Prestegard confirmed that the state money could be used to hire someone to fill that role.
Prestegard said the city should spend some money to upgrade its holding cages, which have been the victim of vandalism in the past, and that it would be necessary to have a second salmon fry holding pen in Pullen Pond to house the increase in salmon fry.
He said these pens could be made to collapse for storage purposes, thus freeing up the limited space in Pullen for recreational activities.
What is the next step?
Bourcy will encourage City Council to write a letter to DIPAC to free up some of the $160,000 from the state to pursue the engineering for the hybrid idea, and purchase new holding cages and rearing pens here in Skagway.
Prestegard will then take that letter to his Board of Directors for the go-ahead. If approved, the best idea could be singled out with firm cost estimates in one to three months. Upgrades at DIPAC could be made next year, with everything in place by 2008. The yearly cost for the city would then be substantially less than the $160,000 per year the city currently pays DIPAC due to Skagway having its own dedicated raceways. The additional money could then be used as the city sees fit as long as it benefits the sport fishing industry.

Fund-raising takes teachers’ time away from advising SHS students

One message was clear coming out of the annual Community Forum at Skagway City School: Teacher advisors are spending too much time fund-raising for various activities when that time could be better spent helping students with college preparation and career goals.
And if parents or the kids themselves don’t start helping out more, then parents could be faced with shelling out money so their kids can go on a senior trip or sleep in a bed at a tournament.
“We as a staff got together to tell Dr. Dickens that it was too much of a burden on the staff to be advisers and fund-raisers,” said teacher Gary Trozzo.
The senior trip was the focus of much of the discussion at Tuesday’s forum, attended by about 20 parents, teachers and students. The senior trip dominates most fund-raising at the school. Depending on class size, senior trips in recent years to places like Cancun have cost between $17,000 and $28,000. The classes spend their entire four years of high school raising money for the week-long trip at the end of their senior year, but often it is the class advisor who does most of the work.
Recently, for the Don Hather Tournament, senior class advisor Mary McCaffrey, an elementary teacher, logged in many hours running the food concession. Each of her five seniors spent five hours over the three-day tourney helping out, but she was there most of the time serving and cleaning up.
“When someone spills or throws up, we have to take care of all that too,” she said.
Many in the audience questioned why parents of those kids did not help out. But parent Niki Hahn, whose younger high school kids want to have a senior trip, said given the option of paying versus volunteering, “it might be easier (for parents) to pay rather than fund-raise.”
Other parents said the kids should earn the money to better appreciate the trip, and were concerned more with freeing up time for the class advisors to do more advising.
“She’s spending 80 hours in the student store rather than with the kids,” said Teresa Brown.
Skagway has no full-time career counselor, and “college readiness” was another hot topic of the forum. Counseling has been left up to a designated teacher which varies from year to year.
When it comes to applying for colleges or seeking financial aid and scholarships, “these kids are like deer in the headlights,” said science teacher Ryan Prnka. “They don’t know where to start and how to get down the road.”
McCaffrey said she would much prefer taking her time spent on fund-raising to help the kids with their college or career choices. Prnka, who was part of a career portfolio team at another high school, said counseling works best if incorporated into the school day.
During the course of the three-hour meeting, some possible solutions to the dilemma were discussed:
• Starting with the freshman year, get the parents and students together to set their goals for a senior trip, and how much time they can devote to fund-raising, which in the future may have to be done outside of the school. Since the senior trip is not a recognized school activity, and fund-raising is needed for other ongoing activities, the senior trip may have to bow out of the in-school fund-raising loop.
• Likewise, advisors of the various recognized activities would partner with parents at the beginning of the year or start of their seasons to set fund-raising goals. The district pays for most trips, but not housing kids in motels on most trips. If a hotel is preferred to classroom floors in a place like Tok, then the kids and parents will have to fund-raise for that amenity.
• High school class advisors would then be freed to develop career portfolios with their students. It was suggested that the student store be closed during the 15-minute snack time since it doesn’t make money and few kids use it. Kids could bring their own snacks and that 15 minutes could be stored up through the week, allowing an extra period on Friday for career counseling by the class advisors.
Time was running out when the final discussion topic, nutrition, was raised. The federal wellness program in schools is forcing districts nationwide to assess what they have in their student stores and pop machines, and replace high sugar and fat items with healthier choices. Superintendent Michael Dickens said the PEP grant already has the school heading in this direction. One recent big change in eating habits at the school resulted from a simple move: placing the salad bar at the head of the lunch line instead of the end.
The board and forum guests, however, were free to munch on pizza and pop on Tuesday night in the library.

City submits LBC brief, comments due Jan. 31
The City of Skagway submitted a supplemental brief Dec. 29 on its court-ordered reopened petition for a Skagway Borough before the Local Boundary Commission.
The 34-page brief can be found at:
In brief, the city challenges the LBC’s previous assertion that Skagway wasn’t large enough to be a borough, that Dyea could not be regarded as a second community, and that the new borough would not be in the best interest of the state.
Backing up the city’s case is a letter from retired Judge Thomas Stewart, secretary of the Alaska Constitutional Convention 50 years ago, who said there is nothing in the Constitution relating to size, and that Skagway meets the requirements for a borough. He noted that in Skagway’s case, situated between the Haines Borough and the Canadian border, “geography is determinative. There isn’t any question.”
Written comments on the city’s brief are being accepted until Jan. 31 via e-mail to, fax 907-269-4539, or to LBC staff, 550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1770, Anchorage, AK 99501-3510. The LBC then has 30 days to respond, and a site visit and hearing are due to be scheduled here in March.
Rep. Bill Thomas and Sen. Albert Kookesh have weighed in (see letters) against the LBC’s legal interpretations.
is week. The funding push begins as the state prepares to release its Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement later this month. – JB

Two Skagway area cabins on list to be decommissioned

As part of a plan to decrease costs within the Tongass National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service will be decommissioning the Denver Caboose and the Katzehin cabin in the Skagway area.
All the facilities in the Tongass area are being evaluated, from picnic areas to campgrounds, and of course, cabins and shelters. Tongass National Forest Recreation Planner Bill Tremblay says it’s a matter of funds. Of the nearly 300 facilities in the Tongass, the Denver Caboose and the Katzehin cabin were among those with low reported usage and generated revenue.
“There is only so much to go around,” Tremblay says. “It was a matter of priority.”
The plan is for the entire Tongass National Forest, from Prince of Wales to Yakutat, says Mike Dilger, a trails and cabin manager for Admiralty Island. And the plan is far from finished.
“This is a working document,” Dilger says, “a five year plan. We’re not looking to simply close facilities, we’re looking for alternative ways to keep them available to the public. But we need public input for that.”
The rising costs of – well, everything – are to blame.
“The costs of materials and transportation are through the roof. We’re looking at about $3,000 a year for upkeep of two cabins that only get about five to 10 nights of reported usage a year, and generate maybe $300,” Tremblay says.
The words “reported usage” are key here, as Tremblay admits that it is possible the cabins are being used by those who don’t register or pay a fee. “If we’re not generating the funds necessary to maintain the cabins, should the general public be subsidizing someone else’s vacation? Probably not.”
Both are fairly remote. The Denver Caboose is at the Denver Glacier trailhead up the White Pass & Yukon Route. It was donated to the Forest Service by the railroad as part of a fuel spill settlement in the mid-1990s. The Katzehin cabin is on the river flats opposite Haines and was donated by local resident Scott Logan, a pilot who used to fly into the site.
Dilger says that Forest Service looked at 13 criteria; including use levels, site conditions, and the deferred maintenance cost beyond regular maintenance cycle. But the plan also looks at what Dilger calls “conformance to niche.”
“We looked at what we can offer the visitors that is unique to the Tongass: ice field, mountains, the inside passage, the outer coastal areas,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we represent those areas, and keep them available and in good condition.”
The cabins were identified for decommissioning after the Forest Service began looking at the usage reports and revenue. Katzehin was taken off the reservation system last year, Tremblay says, because it already was in desperate need of repair. Both cabins are identified for decommissioning within one year.
“We’re not rushing into anything,” Tremblay says. “This is not a five minute reaction. It’s a public process. We’re looking to Skagway and Haines for feedback.”
The Forest Service hasn’t done any restructuring since the consolidation of Tongass in 1999. Most of the cabins in Tongass were built in the 1960s and 70s and replacement of the facilities runs in the $100,000 range; not just for the necessary upgrades to the cabins themselves, but also for replacing woodsheds, toilets, access, etc.
“We want to keep the cabins available for public use. We’d love to take on a partnership with a volunteer organization, who would be interested in helping up maintain the cabins,” Tremblay said, adding that the Forest Service would even consider partnering with an outfitter or guiding company, as long as their usage didn’t displace the general public.
“If we can’t keep the cabins available,” says Dilger, “we will have to take them down and physically remove them,” due to liability. “But we’re also keeping in mind that some of these structures have been in lifesaving areas, and as we have town meetings over the next few years, we’ll make sure we address that.”
He also adds that if the Katzehin and Caboose cabins are determined for permanent removal, there will be a two year window before such action is taken.
For questions or comments, contact the Tongass National Forest office in Juneau at 586-8800.


AWAY FROM THE ROOKERY – This sea lion takes a look back before getting back to his snack. Andrew Cremata

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Not so memorable senior night

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