The Malaspina glides into its new home port of Skagway during its nightly arrival time of 11 p.m. The ship will be on this schedule all summer, leaving at 7 a.m. See story below.
Future heli-landings on Meade Glacier in question
Temsco wants off West Creek in 09; Haines may challenge landings, tax status
By KELLY ROBERTS
After a decade of tour operations on Meade Glacier, Temsco Helicopters Inc. is encountering some oppositon in Haines to a proposal for future increased landings at the site southeast of Skagway.
Deterioration of West Creek Glacier within the Skagway Borough prompted Temsco administrators to apply for a permit from the U.S. Forest Service in July 2007 to transfer 2,800 landings per year to the Meade, which is within Tongass National Forest.
The permit request has caused commotion in Haines, as the Meade also lies within the Haines Borough boundary.
USFS held a public forum about Temscos proposed change at Skagway City Hall on Tuesday, May 13. Skagwegians were invited to discuss issues regarding the proposed increase, yet only Temsco administrators, a Forest Service representative, and an environmental analyst contracted by Temsco showed up.
The change is scheduled to take place at the beginning of the 2009 tour season. Temscos current landing site at West Creek Glacier is experiencing a large amount of abolition, meaning the current trends in melting and erosion may soon render the site unsafe for tour operations.
(Meade Glacier) is a larger glacier, its much more suitable for landings, and much safer for passengers to explore, said Temscos Skagway Base Manager Dave Herbig.
Temscos current Special Use Permit allows for 1,100 tour landings yearly on Meade. The proposed permit would increase that number, but Temscos total operations would not expand.
It is not increasing the total numbers, but its increasing the total number (of landings) on Forest Service land and decreasing the total number on Bureau of Land Management land, explained Jeff Boyce of Meridian Environmental, a consulting company hired by Temsco to evaluate the impact of the proposed landing change.
The prospective increase has met with opposition in the Haines Borough. A meeting there on May 12 drew about 20 people. Concerns include increased noise disturbance and disturbance to wildlife, as well as worry that future tours will establish operations within Haines.
Some people (in Haines) seem to feel like if we move these landings to Meade Glacier, we are going to begin operating out of the city of Haines, said Paul Reichert, Temscos tour manager. That is not the intention whatsoever.
The measure does garnish support from some Haines citizens, however.
If they are complying with rules and regulations, more power to them, said Haines Tourism Director Lori Stepansky in a phone interview.
The most contended point surrounding the proposed move is that of revenue for Skagway and Haines. The current tax structure dates back to the late 1980s, when then-City Managers Bob Ward of Skagway and Tom Healy of Haines consented to a gentlemens agreement that the taxes of any tour extending into both towns jurisdictions would go to the town from which the tour started and ended. Temsco has paid taxes to Skagway since 1985, yet the parameters of this loose agreement have caused confusion in recent years.
All of Temscos Skagway-based tours leave from Skagway, and two of the tours land on glaciers within Haines Borough: Ferebee and Meade. The company has had landings in the Haines Borough for the past 15 years. Only its West Creek landing site is exclusively in the Skagway Borough.
Right now the two tax codes dont match, said Skagway Borough Manager Alan Sorum in a phone interview. Skagway tax code looks at where the activity begins and ends.... Haines tax code focuses on where the activity occurs.
Temsco (or any other company) can not be taxed twice, Sorum said.
In April, Temsco suggested a Haines Borough fee of $1 for each person who steps on to a Haines Borough glacier by way of a Temsco tour. Temsco later re-thought the offer after acquiring a letter, dated February of 2002, from the Forest Services Juneau Ranger District to the Haines Commercial Helicopter Flight Seeing Service Area Board, stating it is the Forest Services position that the Haines service area board has no authority to regulate commercial helicopter landings occurring within the Tongass National Forest.
In other words, Temsco need only obtain landing permission from the Forest Service and therefore does not need to obtain a permit from Haines Borough.
Yet not everyone is convinced.
Where the letter applied in 2002, it doesnt anymore, said Haines Mayor Fred Shields in a phone interview. In 2003, Haines upgraded from a 3rd-class borough to a home-rule charter, giving the borough the authority to govern decisions regarding land and glaciers within its boundaries. Shields maintained that Temsco must be issued a permit from both the Forest Service and Haines Borough in order to land on Meade, and would thus owe a fee to both.
Skagway Mayor Tom Cochran and Borough Manager Alan Sorum recently met with Shields and former Borough Manager Robert Venables to try to figure out a fair resolution to the two boroughs tax codes. Both sides are optimistic about working out an agreeable solution.
The future is bright, said Shields.
In a move unrelated to this issue, Venables was terminated from the borough manager position on May 13. Bob Ward, Skagways former city manager who had been living in Washington over the winter, was hired as interim manager in Haines last week.
Meridian Environmental Inc. is scheduled to complete analysis by March of 2009, at which time the Forest Service will review their findings and either accept or reject Temscos permit application.
The public is asked to submit comments to the Forest Service/Juneau Ranger Division on the proposed change no later than June 12, 2008. Comments may be sent to Pete Griffin, District Ranger, Juneau Ranger District, Tongass National Forest, 8510 Mendenhall Loop Rd., Juneau, AK 99801. Or call (907) 586-8800.
Capt. Mark Sundt powers up the bow thrusters as the Malaspina leaves Juneau for Haines and Skagway. Molly Dischner
Malaspina back as day boat
Overnights here, but no shore time for crew
By MOLLY DISCHNER
ABOARD THE MALASPINA Summer changes on the M/V Malaspina are good news for Skagway residents. Changes for the ferry system overall might not be.
The ship, the oldest in the Alaska Marine Highway systems fleet, now runs a daily route between Juneau, Haines, and Skagway the Northern Lynn Canal (NLC) route. The Malaspina leaves Skagway at 7 a.m., and returns at 11p.m., with a stop in Haines in each direction, and a longer break in Juneau.
The new schedule has the crew overnighting in Skagway.
Chief Mate Nick Kollars explained that means the crew has no time to get off the boat and see Skagway.
Kollars has been on the Malaspina for about five years. Last years route was to Bellingham, but he has been on the ship when it has come to Skagway before. It last ran the NLC daily route in 2000.
We used to get in in the afternoon, go shopping, but those days are long gone, Kollars said.
A ferry system intern on the ship wasnt sure if hed ever actually see Skagway, despite spending 90 nights docked here. Unlike regular crew members, he doesnt work for a week or two at a time. He works his entire shift 90-days straight.
Captain Mark Sundt said he liked the Bellingham route more, but that the final decision isnt about what the crew likes, but what the people of Alaska need.
Sundt has been on the Malaspina for 30 years. He and Kollars didnt plan to switch ships due to the new route, although Sundt said Kollars was likely to become a captain and move to his own ship soon.
In the end, most said they accepted the changes as a service to the communities.
Its great for the community to have the chance to catch the ferry (to Juneau), do some shopping, and come back the same day, said Chief Purser Lavena Sargent, a rare who fills in for other pursers as needed all over the ferry system.
For Haines residents riding home Sunday night, the best part of the new route was the daily service.
The speed and frequency are important to the people, if for nothing else than to see a movie and go to a buffet, said Haines resident Tim Walter.
Itll be nice if it lasts, added Maribeth Walters.
Sargent said the Malaspina will run that route only for the summer, and then spend the winter in layup, with spring runs to Bellingham. The frequency of the NLC route will drop down to four times per week for most of the winter.
Just over 100 passengers were on board Sunday, May 25, but the crew said they had more than twice as many on sailings the week before, mostly people going into Haines for the brew festival weekend. And the ship had more scheduled to board for Mondays Memorial Day run back to Juneau.
The Malaspina can hold up to 701 passengers. Sargent expected the ship would be more full later in the season, when Juneau schools were out and people were doing more summer traveling.
The new route isnt the only change on the Malaspina. Chief Engineer Frank Czuba has started using the sun to heat the ship.
Instead of using the boiler to make steam to heat the ship, Czuba leaves the steam off and lets the sun slowly warm the ship in the morning. By afternoon, the crew opens doors to regulate the heat. With steam, the doors cant be opened because the thermostats register the cooler air, and reheat the ship, Czuba said. Add sun beaming onto the ship, and the engineers wind up fighting the sun, trying to stop it from heating the ship, he said. Instead, Czuba wants to use its energy.
The change helps the ship conserve fuel, and also lengthens the lifetime of the boiler. Czuba hasnt figured out the exact change in fuel use, but thinks the cost differential is about $100 per day right now.
Czuba said he hoped the state would eventually put in a system to circulate water outside and heat water on sunny days.
Foot passengers file off the fery in Haines. Molly Dischner
The Malaspina is the first ship not to fight the sun, Czuba said. He didnt know whether the change would trickle onto other ships, or even if his counterpart (the Chief Engineer on his weeks off) would follow suit. But he hopes itll be the first step for the ferry system to be green.
If I start making use of the solar energy instead of fighting it, maybe itll start making other people think and change little things, Czuba said.
But not all of the ferry changes are going to help Skagway.
Sargent referenced Gov. Sarah Palins recent ferry cuts, and questioned whether the ferry system was really going to continue to serve the communities in Alaska.
The cuts totaled $30 million, Sargent said.
A story in the Juneau Empire reported the cuts were in two places. One was the vessel replacement fund, the other the contingency fund that provides money when the ships have unexpected costs maintenance, fuel, and the likes, Sargent said.
Kollars said the Malaspina rarely needed maintenance. Built in the 1960s, its parts lasted longer than many of the newer ships, he said. But if other ships were breaking down or not replaced, the Malaspinas route might get thrown off trying to fill in for other ships.
Czuba was surprised when handed an article announcing the cuts during his dinner.
Im surprised on how much is being cut back, thats a lot of money being cut down, said Czuba.
Palin approves $2.6 million for projects in Skagway
By MOLLY DISCHNER
Like most of House District 5, Skagway fared well after the governor vetoed parts of the budget last week.
Skagway received $2.6 million in the states 2009 budget, said Kaci-Schroeder Hotch, a legislative aide for Rep. Bill Thomas.
The money will come as part of three major projects: the Skagway Seawalk Intermodal Cruise Ship access, the Skagway Booster Station, and the West Creek Bridge.
The seawalk was Skagways biggest project at $2 million. The capital request asked for $2 million to fund the final phases of the project.
The final phases include widening the sidewalk, burying utilities, trash cans, landscaping and other components of a tourist-friendly walkway from the ships to downtown Skagway, according to the request.
Mayor Tom Cochran said it was nice to have the state pay for it rather than the municipality.
Im glad to see that we can get this seawalk behind us, he added.
The Booster Station project has been on the projects list for quite a while, Cochran said. The engineering is already done; just the money was needed to get the project in motion. According to a Borough priority statement, the $450,000 appropriation is needed to provide stable water pressure throughout the city, and to have adequate water for fighting fires.
The West Creek Pedestrian Bridge landed Skagway its final $150,000. The money will be used to repair the old state ferry bridge and relocate it to West Creek, according to borough documents requesting the funding.
Cochran said it too is already engineered, but he felt it was a bit pre-mature, because there is no plan for the other side of the bridge. He said he planned to ask the assembly when they were going to define uses for the other side.
Schroeder-Hotch said Skagways results were typical for District 5, but not the state.
District 5 did very well, she said.
About six percent of Thomas projects were cut, versus as much as 60 percent in past years, and an average of 30-35 percent in other districts across the state, she added.
In an interview via phone from his fishing boat, Thomas said he didnt know if there would be a vote to override Gov. Sarah Palins vetos. He said it would depend on the amount people had lost, and whether the votes were there to support the override.
One bill that didnt make it through the House Thomas energy assistance plan may emerge in an upcoming special session. He wants to provide his people with immediate relief from the rising energy costs.
Thomas proposed a bill similar to Palins energy plan that instigated debate in the House Finance Committee, but didnt make it beyond that discussion.
Palin has come back with something very similar, but Thomas said he preferred his own plan. Both plans try to provide relief to the people. But Palins adds bureaucracy that Thomas said is unnecessary.
I like mine better. Its more direct, and to the people, he said.
He wanted to tack on an additional $500 to each permanent fund check, using money from the general fund. Palins plan gives debit cards, reloaded monthly, that can be used with specific, energy-related, vendors, Schroeder-Hotch said. The cards are what Thomas thinks will be inefficient. But, he said, hes interested in seeing the details.
Thomas also hoped to change the governors plans for two special sessions this summer.
Im hoping they roll [that session] into the first one, he said. He added that he is working with other members of the House to make that change happen.
Having only one session would use legislators time more efficiently, and allow them to work for more of the summer, Thomas said.
In the AGIA session which opens next week, Thomas said he had some questions to raise about the TransCanada gas pipeline proposal that Palin is favoring. He said he didnt think that TransCanada had actually secured the right of way for some of the stations in the Yukon, and wanted that to be guaranteed before Alaska agreed to go ahead with the proposal.
Thomas also said he wasnt comfortable giving $500 million to the project. He said if it was a good one, it would be financially viable without the state paying for it. The companies would make enough off the tariffs, he added.
Steam engine spews oily soot on yard neighbor
Railroad crew quick to clean up, Carcross service back on track
By JEFF BRADY
WP&YR Steam Engine 69 made a mess of the back of Zack and Chris Elliss outbuildings, four-wheeler and some plants on the afternoon of May 23. But crews were quick to respond to clean up the mess.
Otherwise, it has been a pretty smooth beginning to the season for the WP&YR, though summer was off to a slow start. Visitors on May 14 even got to see the engines plow snow.
Engine 69 has been the main steam locomotive with Engine 73 in the shops for an early-season overhaul. No. 69 had already operated one weekend to Fraser, and had been in the yard on the afternoon of May 23 getting ready for its weekend steam service.
WP&YR President Gary Danielson said that the engines stack was apparently clogged and some moisture got in it. The engine was started and rolled back to the coach yard. After it hooked up to the cars and headed north back to the main yard, the engineer applied full power and it blew out the clog of soot and oil, he said.
Mr. Ellis came down to my office and advised me of what happened. I immediately got our coach cleaners to go over to his property to clean up the problem, he said. After they were done, I stopped by and asked him if it had been done to his satisfaction and he said yes and thanked me. I apologized for the problem.
Danielson said they would not use track 9, the one closest to the Ellis house, again. He said the engine crew tested No. 69 over the next two days, and it operated fine.
We will not have the engine down in that area anymore except to go to and from the dock and feel that we have the problem solved to the best of our ability, he added.
Danielson said No. 73 should be out of the rail shops in about three weeks. It will then alternate steam service with No. 69.
The railroad was able to start up its Carcross service on time with a deadhead train to the Yukon on May 22, and then full service on May 23 with the first Holland America passengers of the season.
Danielson said the problem areas along Lake Bennett where tracks were in danger of washing out due to the high water last summer are in good shape. The Carcross depot, government visitor center and WP&YR gift shop should be back open this weekend. The old depot sustained some water and mold damage last summer and YTG crews have been doing the clean-up this spring.
Danielson said the season started off slow with the reduction of ships calling on Skagway in May, but it has picked up over the past two weeks.
He said the railroad recently welcomed back diesel Engine 103 to service for the first time in 26 years. This was the last of the engines that were sold to Colombia after the 1982 rail shutdown, and then bought back about a decade ago to serve the thriving Skagway shore excursion market. It has had a complete rebuild and shed its ugly orange Colombian paint job for the familiar green and yellow.
Finally, on everyones minds is the upcoming final report of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada on the Sept. 2006 work train accident between Log Cabin and Bennett that killed a Carcross equipment operator and injured three others.
Danielson said the railroad had received the draft report and recently sent in its response. The final report should be made public sometime this summer.
Commander named new STC president
Skagway Traditional Councils new president is Delia Commander. Commander has experience working with tribes and is familiar with tribally run programs.
Commander replaces Amber Mathews, who resigned recently to move to Anchorage.
Amber contributed greatly to STC and its membership as well as those she worked with in the community, STC said in a statement. The council looks forward to Mathews returning to Skagway to participate in upcoming events.
Commander says she owes her strength to her parents. Without them she never would have pushed herself into accomplishing what she has.
Delias father was Judson Cranston; he was born in Haines, Alaska and was Eagle-Thunderbird (Shun guí keidi). Her mother, Daisy J. Johnson-Cranston, was born in Lituaya Bay and is Raven-Coho (Líuknax.adi). Daisy later moved to Yakutat where she was raised and now resides in Sitka. The Cranston family grew to 13, Delia being the ninth, and they all lived a subsistence lifestyle while growing up.
Delia received her formal education while living in Anchorage and holds an AAS & BHS degree and is currently working on her masters degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.
Delias parents came to Skagway in 1938. Her dad worked for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. Her family has close ties to the community and she says she looks forward to getting acquainted with Skagway Traditional Council members.
Delia raised four daughters. Her daughter Jessika is teaching sixth grade in Milwaukie, Oregon. Terra, who just recently married, is living with her husband in El Paso, Texas; her husband is stationed at Fort Bliss and she is working at an Aveda Salon, as a stylist-esthetician. They plan to take a belated honeymoon on a Princess Cruise next September. Tiffany is living in Tigard, Oregon and is working as a stylist for Bishops Barbershop in SW Portland. Tiffany and her boyfriend Charlie will be visiting the last week in September. Her youngest, Elana, is living in Juneau and working for the State of Alaska. Elana looks forward to visiting Skagway soon.
June 6 town meeting will focus on survey results
A second town meeting on the Skagway Comprehensive Plan will be held on Friday, June 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at A.B. Hall to review the results of the recent community survey.
In a teaser e-mail to comp plan watchers, planner Barb Sheinberg released some highlights that jump out at first glimpse:
78 percent say there is a great need for more affordable housing in Skagway.
71 percent are very supportive or supportive of Skagway offering land below assessed value to support construction of affordable housing; 28 percent opposed to this idea.
31 respondents are very interested and 47 are somewhat interested in someone in their family renting a unit in a Skagway senior facility within the next five years.
41 percent agree that Skagway can support more summer cruise visitors; 53 percent disagree.
76 percent want to limit the number of jewelry stores in downtown; 21 percent do not.
85 percent are very supportive or supportive of promoting non-cruise ship related port use.
85 percent are very supportive or supportive of a cooperative effort to revive the Jerry Myers fish hatchery program.
90 percent are very supportive or supportive of improving the recycling program to include paper and plastics
40 percent support and 48 percent do not support the borough building a covered amphitheatre at Dyea or Yakutania Point.
51 percent support and 34 percent do not support (with 9 percent neutral) the borough creating a new freight transfer facility near the ore terminal
80 percent are very supportive or supportive of extending water and sewer north of the 23rd Ave. bridge to support development
61 percent of adults rate their Quality of Life in Skagway as very good (an 8 to 10); 48 percent of Skagways teenagers rate their Quality of Life in Skagway as very good.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
HAPPY GRADS From left Nate Herbig, Jake Henricksen, Lachlan Dennis, Ali Doland, and Josh Cotton share a moment before greeting well-wishers at the end of the 2008 commencement. See more pictures on our Grad Page. Andrew Cremata
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