YUKONG TAMERS

From left, Skagway snow carvers Bruck Schindler, Peter Lucchetti and Ken Graham bulk up after completing their “YUKONG” sculpture in Whitehorse. See BSC Race Preview Story and watch for a bearded human giant in snow at the main BSC aid station. Photo submitted by P. Lucchetti

Incinerator woes multiply

Burn chamber walls failing, $200,000 repair needed

By JEFF BRADY
Skagway’s solid waste incinerator will need another major repair, regardless of what direction the city takes with the prospect of Haines Sanitation moving its operation here.
“Our latest fix on the primary chamber of the incinerator is now failing,” reported City Manager Bob Ward to the Skagway City Council on March 16. “We have quite a lot of ground to cover before an agreement with Tom Hall (Haines Sanitation) comes to fruition, if at all. I don’t believe we can forgo additional repairs.”
Ward said the cost would be $200,000 for new liners.
The problem comes in raising and lowering the temperature inside the two fire boxes in a relatively short time frame, he said, from ambient to 1200 degrees and back to ambient in 24 hours.
“With that continuous slamming of heat into those boxes, we have not come up with a liner that can stand it,” Ward said.
Mayor Tim Bourcy visited the site last week and said public works employees were then going into the fire box and pushing bricks back into place.
Ward recommended a sole source contract with E.J. Bartells to install ceramic casting plates in the fire boxes. The city received a good deal on the experimental incinerator, but the original contractor has walked away from it. Since then, Bartells has been the low bidder on previous repair work, and the company was not at fault due to the experimental nature of the repairs, he said.
The city could save money by ordering the plates, and with labor the entire project could run about $220,000, Ward said. A budget amendment would be required to fund it.
Councilmember Dave Hunz said he had talked with Public Works Director Grant Lawson, who recommended E.J. Bartells return. “They are willing to come back to fix things,” he said.
Members voted unanimously to proceed with the sole source contract. Even though the incinerator has cost the city a lot, it has been a success “compared to our last dump,” the mayor said.

Dyea tour operators counter city requests
Advisory board sees more restrictions ahead

By JEFF BRADY
By ANDREW CREMATA
It is crunch time for tour operators who use the Dyea Flats and the lower Taiya River for their commercial endeavors. Letters from the City of Skagway to those operators that have cited the need for compliance in regards to permitting and environmental safeguards have, as of yet, not elicited a formal response. With the summer season approaching it is still unclear how and when these tour vendors will comply with city demands, but it is clear that if they do not their season may be a short one.
Concerned Dyea tour operators met with the Dyea Community Advisory Board on March 8, to discuss business activities in the area after receiving a letter from City Manager Bob Ward notifying them of the meeting.
Board member Wayne Greenstreet made reference to the previous advisory board meeting where land management issues concerning Dyea’s future development were discussed.
“We can steer the way Dyea develops, so it is an enjoyable place to go for everybody.” said Greenstreet.
Board member Denny Bousson added that with new land acquired from the state it presents an opportunity to revise the 2003 Dyea Land Management plan “in one swoop.”
“It’s up in the air,” said Bousson, pointing out to the tour vendors present that this was the time for discussion.
Robert Murphy, owner of Chilkoot Horseback Adventures and Alaska Excursions, is one of the affected tour operators. Murphy operates a horse back riding tour on city property on the flats and a dog sled operation on his own property in the area.
Murphy asked the board if his operation was “grandfathered in” from the previous plan. Greenstreet responded that if he were to operate this year without a permit it would be because the city was letting him, not because of any grandfather clause.
In a letter from the city, it was requested of Murphy that a bridge be built over Nelson Slough in coordination with the city, and that he contact the city in order to resolve the issue. At present, Murphy parks tour vehicles for his dog sled tours on city property and the city had raised concerns over negative impacts on the land because of this practice.
Murphy said he had made no formal response to the letter, but offered a short term alternative to the bridge idea. He suggested placing gravel in the area where his tour buses park, creating a natural parking area that could be used by his company as well as visitors to the flats. He said he could also shuttle in employees to minimize the need for parking. This would mean having four buses parked there at one time, maximum.
When asked if he had approached the city with this plan, he said he had discussed it with the mayor, but has not made any formal request.
“I have issues with a gravel (parking lot) plan,” said Bousson, citing the fact that the only reason the area would even be considered for parking is because the land has already been “manipulated” by the parking of tour buses.
Bousson said the dog tours were to be on private property but they were obviously “spilling out” onto recreational lands. He added that it was this very thing that made people mad.
“Why should the city subsidize bridges and parking lots for a private business,” he asked?
Bousson also raised the question of permitting for use of the parking area, saying that the Planning and Zoning Commission allows some things and restricts others.
“I don’t see these things coming across P&Z’s desk,” he said.
Murphy said he was not aware that a conditional use permit was necessary for the purpose of parking his vehicles on city land.
Greenstreet said that while there was little oversight from the city in the Dyea area in the past that was all “about to change” with the acquisition of new land from the state, and that there would be “big changes in the next year.”
Chilkat Guides and Skagway Float Tours also received a letter from the city requesting the construction of a waste facility at their put-in for their rafting operations on the Taiya River.
Bart Henderson of Chilkat Guides addressed the board concerning the issue.
“The guided public gets picked on a lot,” he said, saying it was unfair that they had to pay the fees when they put less impact on the resource than the non-guided public.
He said that everyone had the right to use municipal land, and that every user should be charged equally for using it.
“I’m surprised it hasn’t been taken to court,” he said.
Greenstreet responded by saying, “I don’t want to see an entry station in Dyea... You guys are the primary impactors on that area.”
City Councilmembers Dave Hunz and L.C. Cassidy echoed each other’s sentiment by pointing out that property owners paying property taxes should not be paying for tour operators doing business in the area.
Murphy said he did not think it was fair because the city pays for waste removal at the Gold Rush Cemetery.
The future zoning of the Dyea area will be determined in a series of meetings in the next few months. Bousson and Greenstreet agreed that they would like to see a halt to commercial expansion in the area.
In regard to current commercial use, Greenstreet said that it would be determined if they would allow tour operators to expand, keep tour operations at their current level, or eliminate them completely.
“The flats is an area for people to get away from commercial activity,” he said. “It’s an important quality of life issue, especially when new lands possibly get built on.”
As of March 20, none of the tour operators had contacted the city about permitting or other requested actions. Ward said that if no contact is made by the start of the season, he would have the authority to issue a cease-and-desist letter if they were to begin operations without a permit.

Sport shrimping closed by Fish & Game

In a press release dated March 16, the Department of Fish and Game announced the closure of all sport fishing for shrimp north of Seduction Point from March 17 through June 30, 2006. Taiya Inlet and Lutak Inlet will be closed to sport fishing for shrimp for the remainder of the year.
The closure applies to nonresident anglers only and will not affect Alaska residents who fish for shrimp under subsistence provisions.
The letter states that “data collected by the department indicate that shrimp stocks in northern Lynn Canal are declining.” It also acknowledges a steady decline in the commercial catch of shrimp over the last four years.
The commercial pot shrimp fishery closed on Feb. 28 and will remain closed for the rest of the season, which normally opens again on Oct. 1. The commercial fishing season could open again before that date, possibly in May, if their quotas are not met. A representative from F&G said that this is the exception not the rule.
The closure will have the biggest impact on shrimp fishermen from Canada who fish in waters in and around Skagway.
Last month, the city was unsuccessful in convincing the Board of Fish to curtail commercial shrimping in the area, but said temporary closures would be considered. It didn’t take them long. – AC

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

RACE READY KIDS

Skagway Ski Club members head out for a practice run on the Log Cabin ski trails. As of the Monday before the race, more than 209 skiers, including about 20 local kids, had registered for the 20th annual Buckwheat Ski Classic. Jeff Brady

SPECIAL: BUCKWHEAT SKI CLASSIC COVERAGE

Preview - Carving for the Buckwheat; race founder will 'snow up'

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Panthers end season with close battle against Klawock

• OBITUARIES: former Mayor Bob Messegee, Terry Mason, and Glenda J. Choate

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