Skagway musher Hugh Neff talks to reporters while tending to his dogs across the river from Dawson City. See complete story on the abrupt end to Neff's 2006 Yukon Quest below. Photo by Vince Fedoroff. Whitehorse Star

Garbage for soil

Hall proposes moving Haines solid waste composting operation to old Skagway landfill

Tom Hall of Haines Sanitation made a presentation to City Council on the prospects for moving his company’s solid waste composting operation to Skagway.
He started by passing out baggies of composted soil from his operation, saying it’s the only operation of its kind in Alaska.
Despite its smaller population, Skagway generates two million pounds of garbage a year compared with 900,000 pounds a year in Haines, he said.
“In the long run, I’d like to be set up here because there is more volume,” he said, and he likes Skagway’s pro-active community.
He said the incinerator route was a bold move for the city to take, but since 1999 it has resulted in excessive fuel and power consumption, exceeding a cost of $400 per ton. His proposal calls for a cost of $250 per ton, but does not include collection, which the city would still handle. City Public Works Director Grant Lawson said the incinerator occupies 20 percent of his crew’s time.
Haines Sanitation would process garbage and mix it with biosolids (sludge) from the sewer treatment plant at a composting facility at the old landfill site on Dyea Road. Haines’ garbage and biosolids would be barged to Skagway and then inert materials would be back-hauled there to its landfill. Municipal solid waste takes about two weeks to digest before it can be used for fill cover but the premium soil in the baggies takes about 18 months, Hall said.
To cut down on volume, there would be separation of recyclables, he added. Hall proposed a 15-year contract, but one audience member suggested it be put out to bid.
Chris Schelb of Haines Friends of Recycling and the Chilkoot Indian Association said anything that changes the waste stream is a concern.
“If solid waste and sludge are moved between the two cities, we need to make sure there are not any accidents along the way,” Schelb said.
Hall said he had consulted with the Skagway Traditional Council, but STC president Amber Matthews said they had not taken a position on the proposal. STC presented a paper on how Nantucket, Mass. handles its garbage through composting. But it cautioned against signing a long-term agreement with Haines Sanitation without a probationary period. STC is in the process of constructing a battery storage building at the port staging area.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said garbage rates in Skagway will increase no matter what route the city takes. The city currently subsidizes solid waste “to the tune of $300,000 a year,” he said.
Councilmembers wanted to see more details and numbers. The proposal was referred to the Public Works Committee and Bourcy encouraged STC and the Haines groups to get involved.

Chenega subs during Fairweather crack fix

City resolution calls for consistent fast ferry service, two-year schedule plan

The Alaska Marine Highway System announced Feb. 17 that it reached an agreement with its three maritime unions to allow crew members assigned to the M/V Fairweather to operate the M/V Chenega on the Fairweather’s Lynn Canal and Sitka routes for the remainder of the winter schedule.
The Chenega and Fairweather have both been in the shipyard in Ketchikan for scheduled maintenance. However, the Fairweather will continue to be out of service through mid-April. All four of its German-made diesel engines must be repaired following the discovery of hairline cracks in their cylinder sleeves early this month. The Fairweather had been due back in service last week, but the Chenega filled its schedule gap starting Feb. 20.
“Chenega and Fairweather have been working together on a trial express run between Juneau, Petersburg, Wrangell and Ketchikan this winter,” said AMHS General Manager Captain John Falvey in a press release. “Obviously, with the Fairweather out of service, we cannot run the Chenega on the southern leg. It makes sense to put it on the Fairweather’s Sitka and Lynn Canal runs, but under the International High Speed Craft Code, our crews are trained for specific routes. The letter of agreement worked out with the labor unions allows the Fairweather crew to operate the Chenega for this period of time.”
Falvey said the Chenega will sail a revised Fairweather schedule. Check the system website, www.ferryalaska.com, for specific schedule times and dates. The Chenega will transit to Prince William Sound in mid April for route-training in advance of the busy summer season, and will commence carrying passengers on May 3, 2006. Fairweather is expected to return to its route in mid-April.
The news comes the day after the Skagway City Council passed Resolution 06-02R “urging the State of Alaska to maximize the utilization of the AMHS fast ferries by deploying them in the northern panhandle and Prince William Sound and by providing data to the local communities to enable them to conduct their own evaluations as to the feasibility of the fast ferries in their respective regions.”
The resolution requested a year-round commitment to placing the Fairweather in Lynn Canal and on the Sitka route, and the Chenega in Prince William Sound, and asked for a schedule starting next fall that remains unchanged for two years.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said there has been a lot of rhetoric from state officials questioning the viability of the fast ferries, but that the state’s shuffling of their schedules has been a “disservice” and has not allowed for a reliable test of their viability.
“We have not had any stable service,” Bourcy said.
Following a recent trip to Cordova and other Southeast communities, Rep. Bill Thomas said that while there has been praise for improved service this winter, there are concerns about summer space on the ferry for Alaskans, a hard-to-read schedule on the web, fuel and other major costs.
“Alaskans need to feel that the Marine Highway System is accessible and responsive to their needs,” Thomas said. “Otherwise, it would be easy for AMHS to get out of favor with the citizens of the state.”
Thomas also has questioned the practicality of the Legislature funding the state’s preferred Alternative 2B in the Juneau Access Final Environmental Impact Statement, a road up east Lynn Canal to a Katzehin ferry terminal, with shuttle ferries operating regularly to Haines and Skagway. According to the EIS, total construction cost is $258 million with an estimated $9.2 million annual maintenance cost. The no action alternative – the current combination of mainline ferries and the fast ferry Fairweather – costs $10.2 million a year to operate.
A detailed look at the final EIS will appear in the March 10 edition. A copy is available at the library, and on the web at http: dot.alaska.gov/juneau access. Written comments are due March 13 and may be sent to: Reuben Yost, Special Projects Manager, DOT&PF – Southeast Region, 6860 Glacier Highway, P.O. Box 112506, Juneau, AK 99811-2506. – JB

Dyea tour operators asked to get in ‘groove’ before summer

Several Dyea tour operators are facing some changes and expenses over concerns raised by the Dyea Community Advisory Board and the City of Skagway on the impact of their operations on both the residents and the landscape of the area.
The Dyea Flats Management Plan outlined restrictions to the growth and nature of tour operations in Dyea but the code, which was to be reviewed by the city in September 2004, has expired. The board is now facing not only determining the nature of allowed usage on property recently acquired from the state, but also updating the management plan to ensure that its goals concerning tour growth are met.
In a letter from City Manager Bob Ward to Robert Murphy, owner of Alaska Excursions, the issue of a need for a bridge over Nelson Slough was raised.
The city’s concern is that with the growth of Murphy’s sled dog and horseback business in the last few years, the number of vehicles using public land for parking has “created growing mud holes” where tour patrons and employees “seek dry places in the grass to get away from the mud,” according to the letter.
The city wants to work with Murphy in developing a bridge over the slough and “develop other options for handling (Murphy’s) business needs fully on (his) property.” The letter requests that Murphy arrange meetings with the Dyea board and the city to address the problem.
Murphy said that a visit by the Army Corps of Engineers was cancelled earlier this winter due to weather, thus postponing the bridge plan, and he was doubtful if it could be built by the upcoming summer season.
At the Dyea board’s Dec. 15 meeting, member Kathy Hosford expressed concern about the growing population of dogs at Murphy’s operation and asked, “What about the noise?”
Board Chair John McDermott responded, “It’s the sound of money being made.”
“You have a lot of issues going on there,” said Hosford.
Board member Dennis Bousson said that it was more of a City Council issue to which Hosford said that it is a 24 hour “problem.”
Board member Wayne Greenstreet agreed that the dogs created a lot of noise, but that he was used to it.
The Dyea Management Plan restricted growth of tour operations by restricting total passenger volume to 1999 levels, and by limiting the amount of tour groups in the area at any one time. The plan was to be reviewed in September 2004, but the review was forgotten and the plan has not been renewed.
At the Dyea Board’s Feb. 8 meeting, members decided to look into city sales tax records from 1999 to the present to determine how much growth has taken place. They could then determine how best to address the issue of growth.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said, “I would like to see the commercial (issue) taken care of.”
He suggested that the board set up a definitive plan and eliminate the five-year review from the last plan.
“The dates come and go,” he said, and suggested that the plan “create a scenario where (the board) allows for expansion.”
Bourcy believes this would help individuals who have issues with commercial use and the tour operators, as well as set up fines and penalties for violations that would “give teeth to what is going on out there.”
He said that the city attorney could assist them in putting together a draft, and that the handling of the new property acquired from the state could be addressed at the same time.
City Councilmember Lisa Cassidy suggested a joint meeting with Planning and Zoning to aid in the design of the plan. The city hopes to put land in the area for sale as early as the fall of 2006.
In another letter from the city to Taiya River commercial float tour operators, the issue of waste management was raised. The letter states that the Dyea board urged the city to deal with the lack of sanitation facilities at the put-in points upriver.
It also states,” The ad hoc use of bushes and trees for purposes of defecation and urination is not only unsightly, it is unhealthy...”
The city is requiring the tour operators to submit a plan early enough so that the proper facilities could be in place by the commencement of the 2006 summer season.
Travis Reid of Chilkat Guides, one of the two rafting companies using the area said, “We’re figuring out how to coordinate with the other company... It’s not too big of a deal.”
The other company is Skagway Float Tours whose owner, Cris Siegel, was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Reid said that Chilkat Guides takes the issue seriously and that they have always been professional about waste removal. He said they use a system called the “perma-groover,” so named because it is basically a container with a round top edge that “puts grooves in your butt when you’re pooping.”
Reid hopes to meet with Siegel when he returns to resolve the issue.
The Dyea board meets next on March 8.

Glenda Choate honored by city with proclamation before succumbing to cancer

Glenda Choate was honored at the Feb. 16 Skagway City Council meeting with a proclamation by Mayor Tim Bourcy for “her dedication in preserving the history of Skagway and Dyea.”
Her granddaughter, Kerry Cochran, accepted the proclamation on behalf of Choate and her family.
“If my grandmother could be here, she would tell everybody it means so much to her, and how nice everybody is,” Cochran said, “Thank you to everybody who was part of the decision to make it happen. I’m excited to go give it to her.”
Cochran was able to deliver the proclamation last weekend in Washington before Choate succumbed to cancer on Monday, Feb. 20.
Choate, a former director of the city museum, author and most recently an archivist for the White Pass & Yukon Route, had been battling cancer for a few years. The disease had progressed in recent weeks, and Bourcy extended his heartfelt feelings to the family, saying “we wanted to do something for Glenda prior to her passing.”
The proclamation noted Choate’s 25 years of dedication to preserving the history and culture of Skagway and Dyea; her staunch advocacy for preservation of the “jewels of Skagway’s historic buildings, the McCabe Building and Arctic Brotherhood Hall; her research which led to the development of the Historic District Guidelines; her passion for maintaining the beauty and historical record of Skagway such as her advocacy for Veterans Park and organization of the city’s records.
The proclamation notes that Choate will be further honored with a plaque in the Skagway Museum. A memorial service is being planned for Skagway in the spring or summer, and an obituary will appear in a future edition. – JB


JACKRABBIT JUNCTION – Members of the Skagway Ski Club Jackrabbits gather their skis for the Marsh Lake Loppet.
Stuart Brown

Yukon Quest Aftermath - Scratching & Clawing: Neff upset after "forced withdrawal" at Dawson City

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Four girls get wrestling gold; Two Skagway kids first at Marsha Lake; Skagway nets first league win.

To read all the stories in the News, including complete city and school digests, letters and commentary, police and court reports, and view our many advertisers for Skagway products and services, you must subscribe to the real thing. Out of town subscriptions cost $35 per year for second class mail, $45 for first class mail. Send a check to Skagway News, Box 498, Skagway, AK 99840 or call us at 907-983-2354 with a credit card number.