Savannah Ames slips past two Unalakleet defenders for an underhand lay-up during the Lady Panthers’ overtime win over the Wolfpack at the State 2A Tourney in Anchorage. The Panthers finished in fourth place in the state after claiming their second straight Southeast 2A title. See stories and more photos in Tourney Roundup below. Jeff Brady

Legislature backs road alternative

Thomas, Kookesh on opposite sides of debate

Both houses of the Alaska Legislature supported resolutions in favor of the Juneau-Skagway road alternative on March 21, the final day of the comment period for the Juneau Access Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
House Resolution 7 “supporting development of the East Lynn Canal Highway” with a Katzehin ferry terminal passed 26-14. A similar resolution, SR 2, passed the Senate on a 12-8 vote.
Skagway’s representative and senator were on opposite sides of the road debate.
Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Haines) voted for the resolution and clarified his position on Wednesday.
“What I said (on the floor) was I do not support it going all the way to Skagway, stop it at Katzehin.” Thomas said. “That way it will provide equal access to Haines and Skagway and have shuttle ferries serve those communities in the north.”
Thomas said he did not want to see “a big scar up Taiya Inlet” and stopping the Juneau road at Katzehin would prevent destruction of the Haines economy. Calling it a “road to resources,” he said Haines and Skagway people can ride the ferry down to Katzehin and drive to jobs at the Kensington mine.
Regarding the wishes of his constituency, Thomas said he was in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” position. While he recognizes that the majority of Haines and Skagway residents oppose the road, more than half of his constituency from Metlakatla to Cordova want improved ferry service.
“The road loosens up ferries for other communities in Southeast which I represent,” he said.
Thomas added that the profitability of the current ferry routes up Lynn Canal “just tells you that people want out of Juneau,” and a road would free up more money in people’s pockets to make the trip to Haines and Skagway.
“I’m sure everyone is not going to be happy, but when you represent mass numbers of other people you have to look around,” Thomas concluded. “But if they build it in my lifetime, there are probably better things to spend our money on.”
The senator representing northern Southeast communities, Albert Kookesh (D-Angoon) voted against the resolution when it came up on the Senate floor. Kookesh, who has been consistent in his support for better ferries over a road, could not be reached for comment before our Wednesday deadline.
Sen. Kim Elton (D-Juneau) also voted against the resolution, and the vote among the Juneau delegation in the House was split.
The resolution was authored and backed by Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R-Juneau) but opposed by Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). She offered up some amendments to the resolution, most of which went down to defeat. Thomas voted for one of the amendments which said other Southeast communities have opposed the road alternative, “preferring continuation of mainline Alaska Marine Highway System service in Lynn Canal,” but it failed to pass.
The final version supporting the road cited Juneau’s lack of highway access, increased flexibility and opportunity to travel, lowest out-of-pocket cost for the traveler, elimination of 200 miles from the AMHS route, access to the Kensington mine, opening up of an emergency evacuation route, and increased economic development from opening up the entire region to recreation and tourism.
The resolution mentioned that the original draft EIS of 2000 announced by former Gov. Tony Knowles supported the same project alternative, but it did not mention the fact that he shelved the study, based in part on the wishes of Southeast residents, and went forward with construction of fast ferries.
Shortly after current Gov. Frank Murkowski was elected, he restarted the EIS process. On Tuesday, the governor praised the Legislature’s “strong stand for Juneau Access” in a press release.
“A road into Juneau will make the capital more accessible for a greater number of Alaskans and help in keeping the Alaska Marine Highway System on more stable fiscal footing,” Murkowski said. “The Lynn Canal Road is an important component of my vision for improved transportation in Southeast Alaska.”
A road between Juneau and Skagway with a short ferry connection to Haines will save more than 5,000 hours of vessel time annually and save the ferry system more than $8 million each year, the release noted. Over 50 years, constructing a road between the two communities would also match the current capital and maintenance costs for one mainline ferry, but operating costs are much less for the road.
The governor’s statement also said the road would result in a more economical alternative for Alaskans and visitors – a family of four spends about $500 for round-trip passage – to Southeast Alaska. In addition, the AMHS now carries only about 30,000 vehicles per year on its Juneau-Skagway run while the demand is 180,000 vehicles per year, he noted.
“There is ample justification for building a road between Juneau and Skagway and I am glad that the Legislature has taken the leadership necessary to deliver this very clear message,” Murkowski said. “Southeast Alaska will have a better transportation system when our vision of putting in roads where practical and ferries where necessary is achieved.”

Skagway residents Reed and Marlene McCluskey read about the 10 different Juneau Access alternatives at the Feb. 24 public meeting in Skagway.

DOT rejects request for comment extension

City rushes huge packet on deadline day

Mayor Tim Bourcy wanted more time to prepare the city’s response to the Juneau Access Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement, but state and federal transportation planners were not willing to give it.
The March 11 request followed a special Skagway City Council meeting the previous evening, and the state’s official response was faxed on March 21, the deadline day for comments. Reuben Yost, the Alaska Department of Transportation’s Juneau Access Project Director, wrote that the comment period of 52 days – a week longer than the 45 days required by law – would not be extended by 30 days for the city. He said the Federal Highways Administration agreed, and that the mayor had been told this by phone on March 17.
The state’s letter said the agencies would accept the city’s letter – objecting to their ruling, without city consultation, regarding the 4(f) status of the Dewey Lakes Recreation Area – as a comment that would be addressed in the final EIS.
Later on March 21, the city sent more than 100 pages of supporting documents to DOT in Juneau, including a detailed history of recreational use of the Dewey Lakes area presented by long-time resident Barbara Kalen and Dennis Bousson, chair of the Dewey Lakes Special Management Committee.
Before taking testimony at the March 10 meeting, Bourcy recommended a request for an extension, citing “serious issues” with the SDEIS and a need to voice all concerns.
“The state should consult with the community so the project is the best it can be,” he said. “Remember, we want the best thing for the community.”
Bousson said the state “underestimated the significance of Dewey Lakes” by limiting federal 4(f) protection to the trails. “The city could take a stronger position,” he said, adding that in researching the history of the area, he came across a 2003 DOT summary which used “Dewey Lakes recreation area - their words.”
The National Park Service has documentation of trail use back to the gold rush of 1897-98, and Kalen has family photos dating back to the 1930s. The most recent documentation is Alaska Power and Telephone’s Feb. 2005 application for renewal of its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for the Dewey Lakes Hydroelectric Project, citing the power company’s co-existence with and support of recreation in the area.
Kalen said the area draws 100-200 hikers a day in the summer and she has enjoyed camping, snowshoeing, picnicking, fishing, and ice skating in the Lower Dewey Lake area since she was a child.
Three other residents testified in support of the road, but not necessarily the preferred alternative. To save ferry jobs in Skagway, Doug Hulk and Kathy Hosford said they preferred Alternative 2C with a shuttle ferry between Haines and Skagway. If the preferred alternative with a Katzehin ferry terminal is selected, then those terminal jobs should go to Skagway residents, Hulk said.
Hosford and Jesse Downey were concerned about Skagway’s image around the state.
“I’m ashamed to be a citizen of Skagway,” Downey said, supporting the preferred alternative. “We look selfish.”
Hosford urged the Council to be sensitive in its correspondence and respond in a non-negative tone. “Change is hard, but inevitable,” she said. “We want to be players.”
Bourcy said there were a number of issues that the city needed to address, including Dewey Lakes, the ramp coming into town, and its future as a transshipment port, and the road’s impact on the city’s cost and delivery of emergency services.
Council members also wanted an extension. Dave Hunz, a road supporter, said he had concerns about the viewshed at the north end of town, port issues and Dewey Lakes. Mike Korsmo, a road opponent, said the EIS was also missing air quality, floodplain and landslide data, as well as updated information on Dewey Lakes and the October vote in Skagway.
Monica Carlson spoke about hydrology, increased human waste, wetlands and wildlife impacts to the recreation area. She wanted a mitigation plan for Lower Dewey Lake, including recognition of the goshawks that live in the area. But Carlson noted that the traffic projections indicate a positive impact from the road on city sales and bed tax revenues.
The following day, a letter went out from the mayor requesting a 30-day extension. It focused on two major concerns.
Bourcy wrote that any of the road alternatives through the Dewey Lakes Recreation Area, according to National Environmental Policy Act regulations, require coordination with the “agency owning or administering the land” prior to a Section 4(f) evaluation.
“The oversight that precluded the City’s participation in the initial 4(f) evaluation and determination does, in our view, result in a document that does not adequately reflect the recreational significance of the Dewey Lakes Recreational Area to the residents and visitors of our community.
“NEPA regulations require coordination and documentation,” the letter continues. “The need for complete documentation is fundamental to the municipality’s ability to comment. Otherwise, the City is left commenting about conclusions, rather than reasoning. Absence of complete documentation would be grounds for extension of the comment period.”
The letter also requested more information on the alignment of the road as it enters Skagway on State Street, specifically ramp height over the railroad, side view elevations, traffic projections onto Main Street, and road width requirements for Main, 21st and 22nd avenues.
Yost responded in his letter that the request for more alignment information would be taken as a comment on the draft EIS. “If review of your comments and others indicates that additional drawings and/or information are appropriate, this material will be included in the Final EIS.”
As for the city’s comment about an “oversight” regarding the Section 4(f) Evaluation, Yost said it was important to note that an evaluation document is developed only if the FHWA determines that a 4(f) property will be used for a transpiration project.
“Since the FHWA has determined that the project will not result in a Section 4(f) use of the Dewey Lakes Parcel, there is no requirement for a Section 4(f) Evaluation.
“FHWA does agree that an oversight precluded the City’s participation in the initial Section 4(f) applicability determination with regard to the City’s land,” Yost’s letter continued. “Section 4(f) regulations do not require consultation with the landowner when determining if a parcel is managed for multiple use. As Mr. Tim Haugh (FHWA) explained during our meeting of Feb. 24, 2005, determinations of this type are routinely made by FHWA based on land use plans, land management plans, and actual management practices. DOT&PF notified the city of FHWA’s applicability determination on Jan. 5, 2004, and included a copy of the applicability determination dated Nov. 25, 2003. The Jan. 5 letter requested a January 2004 meeting to consult with the city regarding potentially significant recreation facilities within the Dewey Lake parcel. This meeting as well as subsequent meetings and correspondence throughout 2004 were conducted on FHWA’s behalf. DOT&PF kept FHWA apprised of these consultations. It should be noted that the city did request a direct meeting with FHWA on Oct. 19, 2004, however, the city canceled the meeting.”
The city’s first face-to-face meeting with Haugh did not occur until Feb. 24, and Yost said the mayor, as late as March 18, told him the city could supply additional comments by the March 21 deadline. “FHWA and DOT&PF will carefully consider your comments and respond to them in the Final EIS,” Yost’s letter concluded.
The packet that went to DOT on Monday included city, federal and state correspondence on the Dewey Lakes issue dating back to 2003 – including the tussle over transfer of the small boat harbor in exchange for a city signature on a Dewey Lakes Joint Planning Agreement (which the city never signed), copies of the city’s resolution in support of better ferry service and ordinance designating Dewey Lakes as a Special Management Area, a series of state and local news articles, and Bousson and Kalen’s history of Dewey Lakes Recreation, 1898-2005.
The mayor was volunteering on the Buckwheat Ski Classic trail crew this week and could not be reached for comment before deadline for this issue.

Denied Again

Canvas code leaves 7th Ave. incubator business plan sterile

“I’m very frustrated,” said Dennis Corrington addressing the Skagway City Council at its March 17 meeting. His frustration stems from the Historic District Commission’s denial of his application for using his property on 7th Avenue and Broadway as a temporary business incubator. The council, acting as the Board of Appeals would have to weigh the testimony from Corrington and Historic District Chairman Casey McBride.
“I thought I was doing something very positive for the community,” Corrington continued.
Corrington’s idea called for a fence being built around his property that would be staggered with false fronts. Behind the fence, temporary structures would be erected where start-up businesses that normally can’t afford the high cost of rent on Broadway could do business at a more reasonable rate. Corrington believes the high cost of rent is the “lament of small businesses” here in Skagway.
The temporary structures are essential to keeping the rental costs down. “The key is how to do something like this inexpensively, and stay within the rules set by the city,” Corrington said,
The HDC’s problems with the proposal included the height of the fence, the historical validity of stand-alone false fronts, and “canvas tents” being erected behind false fronts. McBride offered an alternative to the proposal – the HDC would be willing to accept a fence height of 6 feet instead of the 8 to 12 foot fence that Corrington proposed, he said.
However, Mayor Tim Bourcy asked McBride if the 7-foot high tents would then be allowed behind the fence.
McBride answered, “If (the tent) is visible, it’s definitely prohibited.”
This prompted Corrington to point out that the “six-foot fence would also be unacceptable because you would still see the temporary structure.”
Skagway City Code prohibits the use of “canvas tents.” However, the HDC has allowed two such structures to be built in the last two years.
“They do have fences that you can see,” said Corrington about the structures, which are located behind the Golden North Hotel and The Klondike Experience. “They have allowed it in the historic district behind a fence that can be seen.”
McBride jumped in to claim that the tents are not visible, to which Corrington replied, “Do you want to ask Leslie Dodd (across the alley from Klondike Experience) if she can see them?”
This was followed by a quick outburst between the two men who quickly apologized to one another.
About the tent behind the Golden North, McBride said, “You can see a little bit of the top.”
Mayor Bourcy said, “We have to look at the code, and the code specifically says canvas tents are not allowable.”
Corrington believes that during the process there has been an “error of communication.” He cited that while the City Code does not allow “canvas tents” that his structures would be built with “fire-resistant awning material.”
Corrington hoped that by making this distinction the council would have some leeway to reconsider the HDC’s decision as well as the code’s verbiage. “Here we are wrestling with the reality, the ordinance and the interpretation of the ordinance,” said Corrington.
Sticking to the letter of the code Bourcy said, “Unfortunately, canvas tent is a violation of the law.”
The council upheld the HDC’s decision unanimously. All members were present except Mike Catsi, who was on vacation.
It is still unclear why canvas tents were approved by the HDC when the code is so specific. This prompted Bourcy to say, “Whether (tents) have been allowed is the source of another issue.”
Corrington believes some in the city have stonewalled his efforts in the past, and in his opinion, this was just another example.
“I just want a level playing field,” he said. “I’m disappointed that everything we try to do meets resistance. I promise if it were someone else it would have been a five minute discussion. Whether tents are allowed or not has not been enforced consistently. They have turned a blind eye to experience... It wears you down.”
Corrington would have liked the council to weigh the “risks versus benefits.” He believes that the risk to the city would have been minimal while the benefits to small upstart local businesses could have been huge.
Many voices on the HDC and the City Council expressed agreement that the incubator business idea was a good one, but felt compelled to follow the ordinance as written.
With the incubator business idea off the table, what does Corrington plan for his Broadway property?
“I can’t continue to pay property taxes on an empty piece of property,” he said.
Corrington plans to go with his original idea of a 3-story retail space. He said, “I’ll lease it to the first six Caribbean businesses that come into town, probably multiple jewelry stores... That’s what we’re getting in Skagway. That was not the vision I had. I try to come up with Alaskan ideas, this was an Alaskan idea.”

Welcome Buckwheaters!
Here is the schedule for this weekend’s activities for the 19th annual Buckwheat Ski Classic. Watch for complete results on our website Monday and coverage in the April 8 News.

(all times Alaska Standard Time)
4:00pm - 6:00pm - Bib pick-up and information at the Riverview Hotel in Whitehorse, Y.T.
5:00pm - 7:00pm - Bib pick-up and information at the Skagway Eagles Hall, 6th & Broadway

6:00am - 8:00am - Breakfast at Presbyterian Church Rec. Hall, Corner of 5th & Main - Skagway
9:30 am - 50 K race starts at Log Cabin, followed by:
9:45 - 25K race start
10:00 am - 10K race start
10:30 am - 5K Snowshoe
12:00 pm - 5K Kids race
5:00pm -7:00pm - Dinner at Eagles Hall followed by:
7:00pm - Awards Ceremony
8:00pm - Dance to Live Music


CELEBRATION – From left, Savannah Ames (32), Crystal Ketterman, Candi Ketterman (15) and Teslyn Korsmo celebrate after beating Yakutat 40-37 to win the Southeast-Class 2A girls basketball title in Sitka. See story in Sports. Andrew Krueger, Juneau Empire

• 2A TOURNEY ROUNDUP: Lady Panthers take fourth in State after winning second straight region title; Boys fall in two at Sitka; Awards, photos and more!

EDITORIAL - Another silly bet on our future?

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