SKAGWAY'S SPIRIT BEAR

A “Spirit Bear” scopes out a strawberry patch in John and Barb Broderson’s back yard on the Dyea Road. The rare genetic anomaly is thought to be a leftover from the end of the last ice age. The animal is actually a white-phased black bear also called the Kermode bear or ghost bear. It has been seen around Skagway since last summer. The Muncipality is in the process of petitioning the State to protect the bear from hunting.

Photo by Andrew Cremata

Ore trucks unload copper at terminal

First shipments from Yukon in nearly 10 years

By JEFF BRADY
For the first time since early 1998, a truck laden with minerals from a Yukon mine rolled into Skagway, dropping off its load at the ore terminal on Tuesday.
Two Lynden trucks carrying bags of ore from the Sherwood Copper Mine near Minto, Yukon made the run to Skagway. Two truckers rode with each “test load” as part of a training run, but they all have experience as long-haulers, some dating back to the 1970s.
Whitehorse truckers Bill Priestly, Dewey Mulvahill, Lloyd Bjork and “Honest” Al McBride all have worked for either White Pass, Yukon Alaska Transport or North of 60, hauling ore, freight or fuel on the Klondike Highway.
Bill Dunn, manager of the Minto Mine, was at the terminal plopping down pallets for each load.
Between the two trucks, about 75 metric tons were delivered.

A crane operator lifts a bag of Sherwood Copper ore from a truck at the Skagway Ore Terminal on Tuesday morning after the first shipment from Minto arrived at the port. The steel skeleton of the new ore terminal rises in the background. Jeff Brady

“It’s a pretty auspicious occasion,” Dunn said. “We’ll have two trucks a day over the next 10 days, then go to three times a day.”
John Wood, project manager for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), said the state-owned facility is now “open for business.”
A crane lifted a bag off the truck and onto each pallet, and then carried the pallet into the terminal area. The bags are being stored outside for the time being until the new building is completed.
The steel skeleton of the building has been up for a few weeks, and the new brown panels will start going up this week, said Jeff Hamilton of Hamilton Construction, who has 15 people working on the terminal. He said all the work will be finished in September.
“The ship loader is repaired and done,” Hamilton said. “We’ve started on the truck unloading and wash area. It will all be enclosed.”
“It will be a zero release (facility) with the trucks being washed inside before they go back out,” Dunn added, “And it will be open year-round, which is nice for Skagway, especially in January.”

Bill Dunn throws down a pallet for the next bag of copper ore, as Jeff Hamilton discusses the staging of the bags with AIDEA’s John Wood. A loader moves a bag onto a concrete pad outside the main teminal, which is still under construction. Jeff Brady

New ore trucks will then bring down the ore in 50-tonne loads. Using two drivers, the trucks will be based in Whitehorse, make the trip in the morning to Minto, pick up the ore, and then drive down to Skagway, arriving in the late afternoon. After dropping its load, the trucks will return to Whitehorse. All part of a 20-hour day.
Hamilton’s company is under contract to load the first two or three ore ships as part of a cost analysis study. The first ship is expected around the end of August, Dunn said.
Then Sherwood/AIDEA will bid the ore servicing contract to operate the terminal.
Sherwood will be using about 25 percent of the old pad for the copper shipments, Wood said.
Wood was here nine years ago for the arrival of the first ore shipment from Anvil Range, but that final version of the Faro lead-zinc mine went bankrupt shortly after it opened.
Wood has a much better feeling about mining in the Yukon this time around and an expanded use of the ore terminal.
“There are no negotiations at this time, but that could change,” Wood said. “There are several prospective mines.”

‘Municipality of Skagway’ reorganizes as a borough

By CASEY DEAN
The Skagway Borough Assembly convened for the first time July 5 and swore in members, designated terms of office and incorporated Skagway as a borough.
Assembly Clerk Marj Harris swore in new Mayor Tom Cochran and Assembly Members L.C. Cassidy, Dave Hunz, Colette Hisman, Mike Korsmo, Mark Schaefer and Dan Henry. Each assembly member then drew a slip of paper from a basket to determine the length of his or her term of office.
Schaefer and Cassidy drew one-year terms, which will be up for election this October. Henry and Hisman will serve two-year terms, which expire October of 2008, and Hunz and Korsmo drew three-year terms, which end October of 2009.
Korsmo moved that “the Municipality of Skagway adopt and assume all the rights, powers, duties, assets and liabilities including ordinances, codes and laws of the City of Skagway and its service areas;” the motion passed with five yeses and an “absolutely” from Henry.

New Mayor Tom Cochran, and the new Skagway Borough Assembly are sworn in and get down to business. Casey Dean

The first thing Cochran did was thank outgoing mayor Tim Bourcy for his efforts in achieving borough status for Skagway.
“He deserves thank yous from everyone in the community,” Cochran said of Bourcy.
Cochran then named Hisman vice mayor and appointed assembly members to committees. Schaefer will be the School Board liaison. Cassidy will chair the Civic Affairs Committee, and Korsmo and Henry will also serve on the committee. The Public Works Committee will be chaired by Hunz; he will be joined by Schaefer and Korsmo. Cochran appointed Henry to chair the Finance Committee, joined by Hisman and Hunz. Schaefer, Cassidy and Henry will serve on the Public Safety Committee, which Schaefer will chair. Hunz and Cassidy will be on the Health Education and Welfare Committee, chaired by Hisman. The Clinic Board members will remain the same until October, Cochran said, in order to keep up momentum on the new Dahl Memorial Clinic project.
Cochran said the Port Development Steering Committee members, which will include Yukon representatives as well as Assembly members, will be appointed at the assembly’s next regular meeting July 19.

SPD, Borough try to address complaints about bike tours on highway

By CASEY DEAN
The Skagway Police Department and Borough Assembly have been in contact with the Alaska Department of Public Safety in response to concerns regarding bike tours along the Klondike Highway.
At its June 21 meeting, the Skagway City Council heard from Chance Robinson, who said he had a scare when a cyclist fell on the shoulder of the road, making him swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid hitting her.
“I came very close to being involved in a tragedy,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
City Manager Alan Sorum said that commentary resonated with councilmembers, and he anticipates some action to be taken either by the state or the borough assembly for the next summer season. Mayor Tom Cochran said he hopes to get some feedback from the state before proceeding.
Police Chief Ray Leggett, who has initiated communications with the Department of Public Safety on the issue, said he isn’t sure what the state may do. He said a bike route has been suggested to the state in the past; however, he said the state has not pursued that avenue and it is not likely to. Sorum said the borough may be able to implement a limit on tour size.
Though he said he is unsure what action will be taken, Leggett said it is imperative that changes be made.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I’ve got a bad feeling on it and I hope I’m wrong.”
Both Gray Line of Alaska and Sockeye Cycle provide bike tours that start at the summit of White Pass and cruise down the Klondike Highway to Skagway.
“It’s a well-run tour and we’re extremely safe in what we do,” said Steve Funk, division manager for Gray Line. The two companies employ radios, hand signals, first aid kits, helmets, brightly colored jackets for guides and instruction on safety and bike use at the top of the pass.
Gray Line and Sockeye have age limits of 16 and 12, respectively; Sockeye also requires riders to be four feet, six inches tall. One tour guide bikes at either end of each group, which is also followed by a guide in a van. Gray Line limits its tours to 17 riders and Sockeye to 12.
Two Gray Line tours coast down the pass each day. Yoni Morse, local manager for Sockeye Cycle, said the business sends over 100 people along the pass daily. Both Morse and Funk said their tour numbers have been consistent over the past few years.
Gray Line drivers have been trained to approach tours on the highway slowly, and the company hosts meetings each year to discuss issues, Funk said. Each year Sockeye extends an invitation to bus drivers to take a cycle tour to familiarize them with what cyclists experience, Morse said, though he said none participated this year.
“If everybody works together, it’s a good season,” he said.
There are signs posted along the highway warning motorists of bikers on the road; Cochran said he is not sure who erected them.
“I’ve never had an incident with a bus or car,” Morse said.
There have been 13 bike accidents requiring an ambulance since 2000, according to police records. Police Clerk Sheryl Gladden said complaints are “in the mega-numbers.” She said the department receives at least one, and sometimes two to four, complaints about the tours each month May through September.
Leggett said both companies are aware of citizens’ concerns by now and he has stopped passing the complaints on to Gray Line and Sockeye. “It’s to the point we don’t even write them down,” he said of the calls.

Flooding closes Chilkoot for a day

Visitors to Skagway in the past week saw a lot of rain, but they didn’t get the chance to see the Chilkoot Trail Monday, July 16.
The National Park Service closed the trail Monday due to dangerous conditions caused by the rain. No hikers were permitted to embark on the trail and no new permits were issued. Tim Steidel, Chief Ranger for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, said the river gauge, located next to the Tiya River Bridge in Dyea, read 17.3 inches Monday morning. KRGNHP starts monitoring flood impacts to the Dyea campground and Chilkoot Trail at 17.0 inches.
Steidel said flooding on the lower portions of the trail was knee to thigh deep with currents Monday morning. It was waist deep on the average hiker by mid-afternoon.
Conditions were more hazardous at higher elevations, Steidel said. Fast-flowing waters were knee to waist deep and 2-30 feet wide in places above Sheep Camp. The addition of wind and exposure above the tree line made conditions potentially hazardous for hiking, he said.
A new camp on higher ground at Sheep Camp had just been completed and was made available to hikers still on the trail.
“Rangers and staff are still on the trail making sure folks are safely back to the campgrounds,” Steidel said. The Dyea campground remained open Monday with an advisory for five camps at lower elevations and closer to the water.
Anticipating Tuesday’s improved weather, the National Park Service only closed the trail for one day. Hikers were allowed back on the wet, but safe, trail again at about 11:30 Tuesday morning. Ranger Jacquie Ashwell said the river level falls quickly, but one section of the trail was still thigh-deep Tuesday morning. Upon hearing this, several hikers who had reserved permits opted against making the trek. Only a couple new permits were issued that day.
“It is safe to hike on the Chilkoot, but hikers probably will be getting wet for a while now,” Ashwell said.
The river breached the trail in several locations and damaged at least two bridges and one stretch of boardwalk. A number of rocks and boulders were lodged under one of the bridges above Sheep Camp. Ashwell said as the water subsides, staff will be able to make repairs to the trail and remove the boulders. – CD

School Board secretary Debbie Knorr holds out cards, each with a number noted upside down, for members of the board to choose their term limits. Jeff Brady

SCHOOL: Belisle takes helm of new board

Darren Belisle may have drawn the shortest term, but he was given the biggest responsibility at the reorganization of the new Skagway School Board.
In special session on July 9, the new board – Belisle, Christine Ellis, Joanne Korsmo, Chris Maggio and Robert Murphy – was sworn in and then drew cards with term lengths.
Belisle drew first, grabbing the only one-year term. Actually, it’s just for three months until the next regular election on Oct. 2.
The other members drew longer stints: Ellis and Murphy will be on three years, and Korsmo and Maggio drew two-year terms.
“See ya!” Belisle exclaimed, but his joke landed right back on him when Maggio nominated him for president.
Ellis, who has been president for her past two terms, said she was glad to pass it on to Belisle, who has served as her vice president for many of those years.
“I have no problem with it at all,” she said. “Everyone should sit in the president’s chair.... It’s good to mix it up.”
“I can do it for three months,” Belisle replied.
Although Korsmo said she didn’t like change, she voted with the others to approve Belisle’s election in an unanimous vote.
Ellis will be the new vice president, Maggio moves to treasurer and Murphy will be the clerk.
The new board also approved these committee assignments:
• Policy - Korsmo and Murphy
• Evaluation - whole board
• Negotiations - Maggio and Belisle
• Curriculum - Murphy and Maggio
• Voc. Ed / Technology Advisory - Murphy and Maggio
• Legislative liaison - Korsmo
• Child / youth advocate - Belisle
• Staff relations - Maggio and Ellis
For the time being, the board decided not to place municipality or borough in its name until it received direction from the borough. It had previously been the Skagway City School Board.
In other business, the board voted for some final purchase orders to close out some grants and approved its final budget revision for the 2006-07 school year.
The district wound up with a final outlay of $1,850,294 from its operating fund, with a excess of just $6 on the books. – JB

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

KAYAK CAMPER – Alexandra Weber takes her first trip in a kayak on Long Bay during a course as part of the Skagway Summer Camp. See story and more photos of active kids in Features below.

Photo by Jenn Haugh

• SUMMER CAMP FEATURE: Community members add to Skagway camp experience

• FISH THIS!: Jinxed at the Tagish Bridge

• SPORTS & REC: Skagway golfers take second straight Whisky Cup; Chico's takes the B at Dust Ball, WP women fall in tough finale

• OBITUARY: Anita Brena

HEARD ON THE WIND: Just what are the ships telling visitors about our northern lights, and more questions... (July 20, 2007)

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