Eggs Go Flying For World Record

Skagway unofficially set the world record for the most people in an egg toss on the 4th of July with 1,422 participants tossing 711 eggs. Now the signatures and photo and video (helicopter) evidence go to the Guiness World Record office for confirmation. The Skagway line-up spanned four blocks, smashing Wrangell’s 336 participants from 2007. See more egg shots and other 4th favorites on our 2008 4th of July photos page.

Photo by Andrew Cremata (with special thanks to AP&T’s boom truck)

Borough approves White Pass estoppel certificate

Assembly, WP&YR compromise

The Skagway Borough Assembly met July 1 to resolve the estoppel certificate on White Pass’s lease of borough waterfront property.
The agreement allows White Pass & Yukon Route subsidiary Pacific and Arctic Railway and Navigation Co. (PARN) to use property built on city tidelands as collateral for a loan from Wells Fargo, said company President Gary Danielson. If White Pass defaults on the loan, Wells Fargo will take over the lease until it expires in 2023, according to the new agreement.
The land under lease includes all of the tidelands from the edge of the ferry terminal to Temsco helicopters, said Borough Manager Alan Sorum.
Danielson would not say why White Pass needed the loan.
“I think that’s our business,” he said, and added, “It’s for the development of our company.”
The assembly voted 5-1 to approve an amended version of the estoppel, with Assembly member Colette Hisman voting against it.
Assembly member Mark Schaefer voted for it after he said he had discussed his position as a manager at White Pass with borough clerk Marj Harris, and they felt it was not a conflict of interest because he had no extra knowledge about the situation or ownership in the company.
Hisman said she appreciated White Pass’s cooperation on changing the agreement to better meet the borough’s needs, but didn’t support the short process and lack of community input.
“I do think we’ve received some good things through this document, but I think this has been a faulty process,” she said.
Others had hesitations, too, although they voted yes in the end.
L.C. Cassidy said she was hesitant to put her faith in the state regulating the environmental side, but didn’t want to hurt the borough’s relationship with White Pass.
“I would like things to move along, and I want this relationship to continue,” she said.
In a June 17 letter from the borough attorney’s office to Sorum, attorney Paul Hoffman said that he and Robert Blasco didn’t support the borough signing the original estoppel certificate, but that an amended one might be reasonable.
Assembly member Dave Hunz said he thought the new version met what the attorneys outlined as needing to be changed.
According to their letter, Hoffman and Blasco objected to the agreement because it did not protect the borough’s rights. Among their major concerns were that it gave Wells Fargo more rights than White Pass currently has with the land. Hoffman said that a negotiated version that protected the boroughís interests might be worth signing.
After hearing those objections, the assembly asked Sorum to negotiate the agreement with White Pass’s attorneys at its June 26 regular meeting.
Sorum said the negotiated estoppel didnít subordinate the boroughís interests to the bank’s. A paragraph that directly asserted Wells Fargo’s rights as being ahead of the borough’s was struck, and it was clarified that Wells Faro would be expected to use the land if it took over the lease, just as White Pass is subject to a non-monetary default clause, he said.
The amended estoppel was not accepted at the first designated special session because of concerns about environmental and development issues, said Sorum.
White Pass responded by outlining what they had done in environmental cleanups so far and agreeing to put aside $50,000 for future studies on environmental issues in a written statement. Danielson also made a commitment to work with the borough on future development at the July 1 meeting.
White Pass also agreed to pay all reasonable attorney’s fees for the estoppel and negotiations, after assembly members raised concerns that something benefiting White Pass was costing them extra money.
Borough Manager Sorum said the original lease didn’t talk about leaving the land in the same condition it was found in or make any provisions regarding the environment at all, but the assembly wanted it addressed because it is a regular part of modern leases.
Danielson said the Department of Environmental Conservation regulates environmental issues on the land, and White Pass had no current issues.
“We report to the state on that, and there currently are no issues, as of the date of that letter,” he said.
He also said they would continue to cooperate with the DEC on any mandated cleanups, and work with them (and past operators of the ore terminal) to produce a full report on all the environmental reports, studies, and cleanups.
Cochran said he supported the amended estoppel, and the work White Pass had put into meeting the assemblyís requests.
“This shows a little bit of concession on the part of White Pass, and a willingness to meet us part way,” he said.

SEEN ON THE WIND: Two movies stars kissing on the Skagway runway and other sensational outtakes...

Derby days are here
The fourth annual Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby kicked off on Thursday, July 10 and will run through this Sunday. The event, sponsored by the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council, boasts over $12,000 in cash and prizes.
Tickets for the event are available at the Petro Marine float in the small boat harbor and cost $15 per day, or $30 for all four days.
All proceeds are awarded to charitable causes. Three scholarships were awarded to Skagway High School students last year.
Please support Skagway’s biggest prize event by enjoying a day of fishing with the family or simply buying a ticket. Many fantastic prizes are awarded to contestants who fail to find luck on the water. Call 983-2426 for more information.

Empress of the North sailing away early
When the Empress of the North sails away from Skagway in early August, it might be for good. The ship’s season was recently shortened, and the Majestic America cruise line is being sold.
The Empress will miss seven of its 21 calls in Skagway, or one-third of the season.
In a statement provided July 2, Majestic America said the Empress’ summer season was shortened because not enough people had signed on to cruise this summer.
Spokesperson Vanessa Bloy would not say if the problem was ongoing, or just with advance bookings for the latter part of the summer. The supplement released by the Skagway Convention and Visitorís Bureau said the shipís capacity was 231, but Bloy said she could not release any numbers on the summer bookings.
White Pass representative Cynthia Tronrud had the numbers on how many passengers have come to Skagway on the Empress.
So far this season, there have been 630 passengers, she said. Thatís an average of 70 passengers onboard for each of the nine visits the ship has made to Skagway, a drop from 2007.
In 2007, the Empress made 11 calls to Skagway, with about 199 passengers on each voyage. The season total was 2589 passengers; 387 of them traveled on the two voyages completed by this time last year, said Tronrud.
If full, it would have carried 4,851 passengers on 21 voyages this season.
Displaced passengers were given the option of switching to a voyage earlier in the season at a 50 percent discount, or getting a full refund. The Empress has five voyages left in its shortened season.
Fares published online for the Empress’ seven-night roundtrip voyage out of Juneau start at $2,199 regularly, and are on sale for $1,999.
The Empress will not continue on its regular fall schedule on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The American Queen is also ending its season early on the Mississippi. Other Majestic ships will operate through the end of the 2008 season.
As for 2009, Bloy said Ambassadors International was in the process of selling the Majestic America company and assets.
“Ambassadors International has announced its plan to sell Majestic,” she said. “At this time we are carrying out the 2008 season.”
Bloy could not release the names of any potential buyers, but said Ambassador had several credible parties interested in some or all of the company’s assests. – MD

Janise Lerum and Andy Reimer stand by the mismatched buses. JB

New name, old buses as D.A.T. absorbs Gray Line, Princess

The buses haven’t changed, but the land tour companies for Princess and Holland America cruise ships merged into one joint company ñ Discover Alaska Tours – to be more efficient.
Princess and Gray Line land tours, both under the umbrella of the Carnival Corporation, merged their operations in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway this season, said Ketchikan-based general manager Kari Erickson.
What is offered to customers hasnít changed, Erickson said. The same tours are available, and there hasn’t been a decrease in service, she said.
The shift is going smoothly so far, said Skagway operations manager Steve Funk, but it’s still a work in progress.
For one, the buses have a mix of paint jobs.
Discover Alaska does have its own colors and logos, said Funk, but the buses won’t sport those immediately.
Funk said they will gradually phase in buses with the new design, but aren’t going to paint them all immediately. He said one reason was that they didnít want to paint buses that are going to be sold.
The old bus barns and offices are still in use as well, Erickson said. Buses are placed in a barn depending on where the tour goes, she said, and are no longer separated by brand name.
Drivers are told which barn each bus belongs at, said Funk.
“The long-term goal is to come to one [bus barn],” he said.
The offices are separated based on job duties. Some employees are located in one building, some in the other, Erickson said.
Office location isn’t the only change for returning managers, she said.
She said the new tour company is much larger, and returning employees have been meshing old practices with the new model.
“We’re learning different parts of business,” she said. “It’s exciting, and it keeps the interest level up.”
Funk said a lot of that change was just incorporating two different styles.
“Any time you put two companies together, there’s always two styles,” he said. “With Discover Alaska Tours coming together, we’re pushing for the best style.”

Sen. Ted Stevens visits Skagway

U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens visited with Skagwegians July 5 as part of his re-election campaign.
Stevens didn’t deliver any prepared remarks, but spent his time posing for pictures and talking to the 30 or so constituents that met him at AB Hall.
Stevens met briefly with a select group of supporters before the hour-long public session began.
Energy was a concern for many in Skagway.
Stevens said he will be talking to the state legislature about the proposed gasline, and will hold his opinions until then.
Timing was the only part he wanted to talk about Saturday.
“I think all of us must be concerned about the timing,” he said, adding that the federal government will have to review the plans, which will delay the project.
Stevens said he didn’t think energy issues were going to hurt the budget for the National Park Service. He said the budget has been in flux with the energy issues, but he thought the Klondike Park’s budget would go untouched.
“The last time I looked, the Park Service budget was not changed....” he said.

Sen. Stevens talks with residents Eve Rauscher and Susan Deramo. MD

Cruise ships were another hot issue.
Stevens said he helped stop a proposed rule that would have required foreign ships to spend more time in foreign ports, giving them less time to visit ports in Southeast Alaska.
“We stopped that,” Stevens said.
Chief of communications Aaron Saunders said Stevens had spoken to the head of Homeland Security and other senators and was working on the issue. The rule was designed around Hawaii, and the Hawaiian senators had agreed it should only affect their ports, he said.
Saunders said he didn’t know when the issue would be dealt with, but that it might take a while.
“We’re on standby,” he said.
Stevens was aware of another major issue in Southeast, the Juneau Access road, but said he wasnít making any decisions about it.
As part of the federal government, Stevens said he didn’t want to interfere with the stateís ability to manage itself. As far as funding, he said he worked to get funding for the state, and the state would choose where to spend its transportation money.
“We support the funding, and the state decides how to use it. Itís not a federal issue,” he said.
Not everyone who showed up was from Skagway. New Hampshire residents John and Donna Cassidy, who were visiting on a cruise ship, stopped to meet the senator.
Stevens also visited Haines and Klukwan on Saturday. Saunders said the travel schedule was necessary for Stevens to stay in-touch with his constituents.
“He’s 84, but you wouldnít know it the way he travels,” Saunders said. “He tires us out.”


FIVER FINGER SPLASHER – Eric Nelson and Bob Funk get splashed as Team 79 Kookas Kanootts paddles through Five Finger Rapids during the 10th annual Yukon River Quest. The Alaska-Washington team included two Skagway paddlers, Mike Hardy and reporter Molly Dischner. See Molly's River Quest Journal in features below. Photo by Jeff Brady

• SCIENCE FEATURE: Lichen central in Skagway air quality studies

• YUKON RIVER QUEST: Reporter's journal from Whitehorse to Dawson

• FIELD NOTES: Two Skagway teams share 4th Tourney winners circle

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