PERUSING POLLYWOGS

TADPOLES MEET TADPOLE – Little Dippers recently took a tour of the toad ponds in Dyea with National Park Service biologist Kevin Payne. Left to right, Marcus Klupar, Sahara Kilic and Brad Eagan take a close look at a boreal toad tadpole that was scooped up from a pond and later returned to its home. The toads are at risk all over Southeast Alaska.

Dimitra Lavrakas photo

Zuiderdam throws black smoke, soot on departure
Carries 3 blocks after generator malfunctions

By JEFF BRADY
Black soot from a cruise ship carried into Skagway Tuesday night as the ship started its diesel generators prior to departure.
While Skagway firefighters were checking on a false alarm at a downtown business about 9 p.m., they noticed a great deal of black smoke coming from the cruise ship Zuiderdam, which was getting ready to depart the Broadway Dock.
Longshoreman/firefighter Wayne Greenstreet heard the call while manning the lines and stepped back to see the smokestack, as Fire Chief Mark Kirko drove quickly to the scene.
Kirko said soot had been reported from the top of the port side of the ship to the bottom, and people were on the balconies with rags over their faces.
Soon after Kirko arrived, the ships’ agent, who had talked to the ship, relayed a message to the fire chief that the problem was with an engine, but it had been shut down.
The smoke dissipated, but a black sheen was also observed on the water. Greeenstreet radioed for the police to come down to the scene with a camera. After he cast off the boat, he went down to the water’s edge near the Alaska Marine Lines yard with a plastic bag to get a sample. He also used sorbent pads.

Above, black smoke and soot pours from the Zuiderdam on Tuesday evening. The plume drifted in a northwesterly direction and soot fell on homes around Second and Alaska. Jeff Brady

“It was mostly soot, you could see it suspended in the water,” Greenstreet said later. “It’s pretty obvious it was soot” which had bubbled up from the water by the bow thruster on the port side of the vessel, he said.
Kirko said it was not clear if the soot came from under the ship or if it had fallen from above and was churned up by the bow thruster.
The fire chief said his car was full of soot, and that it had carried all the way to his home at 2nd and Alaska. “It came into town at least three blocks,” he said.
The Coast Guard was contacted, as was the Department of Environmental Conservation.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Holland America Line, the owner of the ship, said: “As the Zuiderdam prepared for departure from Skagway... there was a technical malfunction of one of the ships five diesel generators which resulted in an extraordinarily abnormal emission of heavy black smoke and some soot from its stacks. The emission was exclusively from the ship’s stacks and lasted approximately five minutes. Local authorities were notified and the ship sailed as scheduled.
“Based on our preliminary review, the unexpected smoke was generated when the diesel generator was restarted following routine maintenance. The ship’s engineers promptly took action to shut down the diesel generator. After some adjustments, the diesel generator was tested later that evening and is operating normally. The company is reviewing this incident carefully to ensure this does not happen again.”
The 935-foot Zuiderdam is new to Skagway this year and stops every Tuesday. Completed in 2002, it is the largest HAL vessel calling here, carrying 2,200 passengers.

Skagway’s ‘Park Place’ planning progresses

By EMILY A. PALM
Dyea’s municipal entitlement lands could be sold as early as March 2007 if there are no hurdles.
The Planning and Zoning Commission began working with surveyors to draft an ordinance and make an aero map of the land at hand. “It is coming to fruition,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy at the first brainstorming session with R&M Engineering on July 17.
Bourcy opened the informal meeting by congratulating R&M for being selected as the surveyor. The firm was selected by the council at a July 6 meeting. “It’s going to be a fun project,” said Mark Johnson, R&M lead designer.
Preserving the natural beauty of the area serves as the underlying vision of the development, said Debbie Steidel, chairperson for the Planning and Zoning Commision. “Keep Dyea looking like Dyea,” she said.
With its views and sun, Bourcy said Dyea is Skagway’s “Park Place.”
“I would hate to see Dyea Point look like Douglas Island,” he said of the Juneau neighborhood of row houses.
“We have all this beautiful land,” Steidel said, “We want to do it right.” She added that the city will preserve space for future trails, even if they aren’t built for 50 years.
There was a general conscientiousness toward long term planning. “Decisions made today will be looked back on in 100 years,” said Bourcy, who noted the importance of parks, adequate roads, emergency access and fire suppression in Dyea.
Its scenic cachet and the high demand for local housing makes affordability a hot topic. “People keep asking, ‘can we afford it?’” Councilmember Lisa Cassidy said. Having different size tracts for sale would lead to different socioeconomic levels, she said. The mayor noted that the land will not be conducive to starter homes.
“We don’t want to create a snob nob,” said Planning and Zoning Commissioner Gary Brummett.
City Manager Bob Ward asked if December is a realistic goal for a land sale. As long as the course stays the same, Steidel said there shouldn’t be a problem.
While ideally they will follow the current timeline, all agreed that no part of the planning should be rushed. “We don’t want to shorten the public process,” said Bourcy, who hoped that a draft document will stimulate some comment from the public.
Many ideas about water accessibility and lot size were exchanged, but ultimately it depends on the topography of the area. “We definitely have some extreme slopes to deal with,” said Johnson, who added that some portions of the land are not cost effective to develop.
Everyone agreed the sections that can’t be developed would enhance beauty of the area.
There will be a public meeting the week of Aug. 7 in which the Planning and Zoning committee will present a general conceptual layout of the parcels. The final plat should be ready in December in advance of a March sale.

Fire Chief Mark Kirko watches as SFD support technician Wayne Greensteet and maintenance technician Colin Aikman apply decals to “SERV-U,” the new Skagway Public Safety boat purchased with a Homeland Security grant. Jeff Brady

Federal grants buy Skagway boat load of security

By EMILY A. PALM
Over the past three years Skagway has received $1,243,840.45 in Homeland Security Grants from the federal government.
In a town where the local police blotter typically consists of 911 phone hang-ups, reunions of wandering dogs with their owners, and perhaps a noisy party or two (or eight), some have begged the question, what business would an international jihadist have in Alaska?
The answer is oil and tourism. “This is a prime area for terrorism to start,” said Fire Chief Mark Kirko recently. On a big day about 10,000 people from across the globe stroll the streets of Skagway.
By land or by sea, there are two ports of entry. “We are considered a high targeted area,” said Emergency Responder/Coordinator Tori Clyde, who noted Skagway as a unique port because people can easily enter via waterways and Canada.
Beyond the scope of terrorist emergencies, other vulnerabilities include freeze-ups, flooding, airborne illnesses (from the thousands of international tourists) and fires. A couple of years ago a nothern Alaska community was frozen in, rendering the residents without water and power, said Clyde and Kirko. Fuel and generators were flown in.
In the post 9/11 and Katrina world, nationwide emergency planning has extended to a more preparedness level.
Three years ago the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created a State Homeland Security Assessment and Strategy Program (SHSASP). The 2003 through 2005 grants falling under the SHSASP are geared to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters, focusing on weapons of mass destruction.
“We jumped on it,” said Clyde of the opportunity the national project afforded. Former Police Chief Dennis Spurrier and Clyde wrote the 2003 grant of $173,746. Clyde wrote the 2004 and 2005 grants of $310,821 and $759,273.45 respectively.
The 2004 grant included purchase of a 32-foot Packcat Munson Landing Vessel of $168,000 for patrol rescue (see complete list in sidebar). The vessel recently completed sea trials and was mustered for a water medevac to Haines. Recently it was pulled out for decal application before being placed back in the water on Wednesday. Its name is SERV-U, which stands for Skagway Emergency Response Vessel.. “It needed something else,” Kirko said of the “U.”
The fire department currently handles the grant-writing because they are typically the first responder to an emergency.
To be eligible for the funds, Clyde said they had to demonstrate a need for the projects. Furthermore, the city must be compliant with FEMA’s National Incident Management System (NIMS) by Sept. 23.
Writing the grants and receiving the money entailed a paper trail of invoices, financial and narrative reports and further documentation.
Clyde writes grants for the City of Skagway and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), which handles oil and hazardous material. LEPC falls under the state’s division of homeland security emergency management.
“We’re working hard,” said Clyde of the legwork required for the meticulous process. She said she has to be careful not to take her work home at night lest the piles of paperwork sap the youth right out her.
As a result of equipment and training funded by the grants, Skagway has a level “A” response group. “We have more resources now,” said Clyde.
The 2005 grant funded the latest push in updating emergency response resources is an upgrade to a new communication system.
Currently responders use a pre-1980s analog communication system, said Kirko. They are working towards interoperability with the Alaska Land Mobile Radio System (ALMRS). That would allow any other agency to come to Skagway and use the portable radio coverage already set up.
“We could do coordinated efforts to respond to a disaster,” said Kirko. For example, if a ferry en route to Juneau from Skagway needed help, any local responders would be on the same communication system. Alaska State Troopers, the Coast Guard, and city first responders could more easily work together.
Larger canals and waterways are not yet covered by the ALMRS.
All communications should be replaced by December of 2007, said Kirko and Clyde. They have already replaced portable radio units.
The next three-year grant program will focus on natural disasters. Emphasis will be placed on completing the communication project and on the local medical clinic.

Visitor with health problems dies following climb on tour

By EMILY A. PALM
A 20-year-old visitor from Maine collapsed while on a climbing tour north of Skagway on July 12 and was declared dead at the local clinic after efforts were made by guides and EMTs to save his life.
The man, Craig “Buddy” Winchenbach, Jr., of Waldoboro, ME suffered from an unidentified medical condition, according to a statement from Alaska Mountain Guides Adventures, Inc., which operates the climbing site just off the Klondike Highway.
Winchenbach was traveling with his girl friend and her family. He was off the rock at the climbing site when he collapsed about 9:40 a.m.
AMG guides responded to the situation, and Skagway EMS was immediately contacted. CPR and oxygen were administered by the guides as they attempted to stabilize the guest until further support arrived. EMTs and SAR personnel arrived quickly and took over care and transportation of the guest to the clinic, but he did not recover, according to the statement.
The police report on the incident listed that “the man was pronounced dead at the clinic from apparent natural causes.”

Skagway EMTs and AMG guides bring down Winchenbach after he collapsed. He was later pronounced dead at the clinic. - Tony Dannan, SPD

The guides’ professionalism and well-trained response impressed local Police Officer Tony Dannan. “They’re heroes,” said Dannan who assisted at the scene.
Guides regularly review skills on “safety days,” said Sean Winters, AMG operations manager in Skagway. The fire department has been instrumental in the training, he said. “It’s been a community effort.”
AMG Director Sean Gaffney said it has been a pleasure to work with professionals of such experience. “The interface between the two teams went very well,” he said of the AMG guides and EMS.

CITY: Murphy allowed to park north of bridge on flats
Council made a decision to allow Robert Murphy to park his Alaska Excursions tour vehicles on the north side of the Nelson Slough Bridge just outside the Dyea Flats after debating whether to allow him to continue parking south of the footbridge on the flats at its July 20 meeting.
Murphy said that he would fund the construction of a vehicle bridge, if the city handled the permitting, and implored the council to allow him to continue parking just south of the bridge.
“If we had to change our operation right now it would be quite onerous,” Murphy said at the podium.
Council had given Murphy temporary permission to park the vehicles on the Flats at the July 6 meeting but wanted an opinion from the city attorney by the July 20 meeting.
City Attorney Robert Blasco recommended the council have Murphy remove his vehicles immediately, as it ran counter to a prohibition in city code against commercial vehicles on the flats..
Councilmember Mike Catsi expressed reservations about going against the attorney’s advice.
“I find myself in a bit of a quandary,” said Councilmember Dan Henry, “These vehicles parked here is not new to me.”
“We have an obligation to uphold the laws that we have passed,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy, “You cannot do this spot piecemeal approach.” The mayor urged the council to either order Murphy to remove his vehicles or allow all commercial operators to park on the flats.
“I’m not putting this community at risk,” said Bourcy on the legal ramifications that could occur from inconsistently applying laws. He added that it would be foolish not to take the attorney’s advice.
The issue is not necessarily the parking, Bourcy added, but that the code clearly mandates against commercial parking on the flats..
“I was not aware there were no motorized commercial vehicles,” said Murphy of the code.
Eventually Catsi moved to allow up to four vehicles on the flats. Henry added the caveat that Murphy’s case is unique and seconded the motion. The motion failed with Henry being the lone “yes.”
“We may not agree with it,” said Hunz about the code’s application in Murphy’s case.
Catsi encouraged helping Murphy get permits fast-tracked to build a bridge.
After denying Murphy parking on the south side of the bridge, members voted unanimously to allow parking on the north side of the bridge.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

A LONG CAST ON A YUKON LAKE

See where Skagway folks seek solitude from the busy summer season in Fish This!

Andrew Cremata

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• JULY OBITUARIES: Inez Soldin Knorr, Ruth Margaret Kasko, Stanley A. Kowalke

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