Taiya wreaks havoc again
Remediation has begun near Dyea homestead undercut by rising river

The McDermotts' pigeon hutch floats away. Dimitra Lavrakas

Heavy rains in the mountains above Dyea have caused the Taiya River to heavily erode its banks. The high water washed out several structures and temporarily closed the Chilkoot Trail.
Land owned by John and Lorna McDermott experienced most of the damage, with about a total of three acres being washed out this summer.
“It started Friday (Aug. 15), and by Saturday everything was gone,” said Lorna at their home.
The McDermotts had previously moved their greenhouse and Gold Rush era cabin away from the glacial-fed river, but the pigeon hutch succumbed to the icy water.
“We let all the pigeons and chickens out, but the coyotes got all the chickens,” she said.
The homing pigeons are apparently confused by the loss of their home, as they often fly over the former site of the structure. The hutch now floats half-submerged approximately one mile down river, along the Dyea flats.

Rock weirs hold back the river.

The eroding river bank attempted to claim more than the McDermott’s structures. Their 18-year-old dog, Charlie, was also swept away by the torrent. He was found downstream clinging to rocks by a friend, who assisted the canine up the bank and took him home.
The Chilkoot Trail experienced high water also. Chief Ranger Reed McCluskey said that the National Park Service was aware of the flood potential which followed 24 hours of continuous rain.
The water at the Taiya River bridge exceeded 17 feet, and was approaching 18 feet when water began encroaching onto the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park’s Dyea Campground. Several campsites were then closed.
Park rangers were then dispatched to known flooding zones on the Chilkoot to assess the situation.
McCluskey said Sheep Camp Ranger Kip Wheeler hiked south on the trail from Mile 13.5, and came across three women who had just had an interesting wildlife experience on the wilderness trail.
The hikers told Wheeler, “We saw salmon on the Chilkoot Trail! Did you know there were salmon on the trail?”
Ranger Jim Wessel, who was hiking in from the trailhead side, reported flooding up the trail several miles, with the water level cresting at about waist-deep two miles in – right across the river from the McDermott property.
A complicating factor in the trail flooding is the amount of fine glacial silt suspended in the water. The cloudy water, even ankle-deep, hides the actual trail. Navigation in the valley is difficult without an obvious trail.
“It’s really a precautionary move on our part to prevent folks from getting chilled and lost,” said McCluskey of the closure.
The trail was closed for two days, and re-opened on Aug. 17. According to the Park Service Trail Center, 64 hikers were affected by the flooding. A total of 34 people opted to take the train to Bennett and hike the trail backwards to Dyea, while 30 decided to cancel for a full refund of the permit fee.
It appears the McDermotts received the majority of the damage. Approximately 10 feet of the bank eroded from the historic Dyea townsite, which is far less than the 50 feet of land John and Lorna had washed away.
The old Native Cemetery of Dyea is also losing ground. There are two unmarked graves that are threatening to fall in, but McCluskey said they are solid as of now. All of the marked graves in the cemetery were moved in 1978.
The recent erosion problem on the McDermott property first became serious when a large section of moraine collapsed near the West Creek Glacier on July 23, 2002. The landslide sent a large amount of water and debris into the Taiya River valley, stripping the river bank of vegetation. The McDermotts had previously shored up the bank by anchoring trees that were beginning to fall into the river with standing trees. They lost their sauna to the river several years ago.
Due to the severity of the situation, the McDermotts have sought out assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Services to prevent further erosion.
The project allows temporary rock weirs to be placed on the damaged property. The construction of an engineered log jam up river will divert the flow away from the threatened bank, as well as the positioning of rip rap. An aggressive revegitation plan will complete the plan.
City sponsorship of the project was up for approval at the Aug. 28 City Council meeting, after this paper went to press.
Glacial rivers are notorious for changing their courses. It is possible that debris will eventually accumulate on the bank where it is now being taken away.
Considering all that’s happened to the McDermott property, Lorna seems to be taking it in stride.
“What we’ve lost, we’ve lost. If the river gives it back, then we get it back,” she said philosophically.

Passengers with Norwalk-like symptons removed from ship, overnight at Skagway hotel; clinic not contacted

Skagway residents are putting a little extra scrub into their hand washing routine these days.
According to the Skagway office of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, several passengers displaying symptoms of the dreaded Norwalk virus were escorted off a ship along with their families on Aug. 26.
Wings of Alaska representative Joanne Korsmo confirmed that the passengers disembarked from “one of the Holland America ships,” and flew to Juneau on the airline. The ship in question was the Zaandam.
Keri Cooper of Gray Line of Alaska was the driver of the ill passengers. She said that 14 people disembarked, but not all of them were sick with the gastrointestinal disease.
“A passenger has to get off if they’re sharing a cabin with a sick person,” Cooper said, “But the rest of the family has the choice to continue or get off.”
The passengers all stayed at The Westmark Inn, which is owned by Holland America Line.
Westmark General Manager Jim Sager formally addressed the ill and their families with a letter.
“I don’t quarantine guests. I gave them all rooms in an unoccupied wing and wrote them a letter concerning the small size of our community, and the impact it could have if they mingled,” said Sager.
Skagway Medical Clinic administrator Shawn Keef said the clinic was not notified the afflicted individuals were in town.
“The ships have pretty strict guidelines as to the policies and procedures of how to deal with these patients,” said Keef.
Holland America has dealt with outbreaks before. Last year it had to sanitize two of its vessels when the virus spread to hundreds of passengers.
As of Wednesday evening’s deadline for this issue, Holland America representatives at the Seattle headquarters had not gotten back to the News with specifics aobut the cases.
Sager said that 12 of the passengers flew out on Aug. 27 aboard a Wings flight, but that “two people were too sick to travel.”
They were planning to fly out on Aug. 28.
Hopefully the virus wasn’t spread to the residents of Skagway.
“I offered them in-room service to encourage them not to go out,” said Sager.

AP&T out of the woods; court OK’s plan

Judge Thomas T. Glover of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Washington confirmed AP&T’s Plan of Reorganization on Aug. 1. Confirmation was made without a single objection, according to a press release. On Aug. 18, AP&T closed on a restructured loan agreement with its primary lender, CoBank of Denver, Colo.
That means it made it out of bankruptcy.
AP&T is now able to operate on a business-as-usual basis in its power and telephone utilities in the rural areas of Alaska it has served for 47 years. After filing Chapter 11 on Dec. 18, 2002, company officials said AP&T concentrated on maintaining service to its communities and continued to pay all post-petition trade obligations to its suppliers.
Having fulfilled the goals it laid out for itself last year, and thanks to a better operating year, AP&T is in the black. The company will now be able to pay its obligations to its suppliers as those bills become due.
Executive Vice President Stan Selmer, who will join the board of directors in several weeks and return to his position as human resources manager, said he’d be in Skagway 90 percent of the time now that the company is stable. He had spent much of the past year at company headquarters in Port Townsend, Wash.
“Now that we’re emerging from bankruptcy, the biggest challenge is to make sure the company stays on track, and there’s nothing we see that won’t keep it that way,” said Selmer.
President and CEO Robert Grimm sent a letter to all the businesses it works with thanking them for “your faith, trust and support. We sincerely appreciate your willingness to work together with us during these past months of financial challenge, to enable us to continue to serve our customers and move forward as a utility service provider.”
The total amount of debt restructured in AP&T’s Plan of Reorganization was approximately $95 million. The approved plan also allowed the shareholders of the company to retain 100 percent interest in the company.
“The legal team [Bush Strout & Kornfeld of Seattle] did an exemplary job, however only through the loyal support of AP&T’s dedicated employees / owners, customers, vendors, and the communities we serve, were we able take the actions necessary to enable AP&T Co. to emerge a stronger company,” said Grimm in a press release.
Grimm added in his letter to businesses: “...although the bankruptcy was a terrible jolt, we recognize that in light of recent economic events all over the world, to emerge as a newly reorganized company in only eight months is quite an accomplishment; and accomplishment achieved with dedication from our employees, our customers, and our business partners such as yourselves...”

Violet "Connie" Conard

AARP Alaska recognizes Connie Conard of Skagway with its most prestigious award
Violet “Connie” Conard of Skagway has been selected by American Association of Retired Persons, the nonprofit membership organization for people 50 and over, to receive Alaska’s 2003 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service.
The Andrus Award is AARP’s most prestigious volunteer award, according to a press release. This award symbolizes that individuals have the power and ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
AARP Alaska selected Conard for her remarkable service and for the impact she has had on the lives of others in Skagway.
Her nominator, Jan Marie Tronrud, president of Skagway’s Chamber of Commerce, said Connie has been an active volunteer in virtually every capacity in Skagway. Connie has been the driving force behind the Women’s Bowling League, which has improved the quality of life for people of all ages.
Tronrud maintains that leading by example is the best mechanism for impacting or inspiring others, and Conard has set a stellar example when it comes to community service. A former teacher, Conard continues to be a strong role model for the residents of Skagway. She is a shining example of what it means to be an active community member and she continues to demonstrate the potential of living a full life.
“Connie never ceases to amaze me,” Tronrud said. “Her generous ways inspire and energize Skagway residents of all ages. Connie Conard embodies the AARP motto ‘To Serve, Not To Be Served’ every day in every way.”
The award will be formally presented to Conard at a Chamber of Commerce ceremony in Skagway this fall.

Danielson named WP&YR president
Donald Turple, vice president and chief financial officer of Tri-White Corp., parent company of the White Pass & Yukon Route, on Aug. 21, announced the appointment of Gary C. Danielson as president of the White Pass Group of Companies in the U.S. and Canada.
Danielson was formerly the executive vice president of WP&YR. The appointment was made at a recent board of directors meeting held in Toronto.
“This appointment recognizes the strong performance of our company’s operations this season and the confidence the board places in the present management team at White Pass,” Turple said in a company press release.
Danielson said he also felt the promotion was a nod to the way the company has been running and recognition of the team that has contributed to White Pass’ success.
Danielson began his career at White Pass as Manager of Passenger Operations in the 1970s. He returned to White Pass in 1999 to subsequently serve as vice president of Marketing and Corporate Development, vice president, and executive vice president.
Danielson is located at the White Pass headquarters in Skagway. Danielson also serves as a corporate officer for Tri-White Corporation. Tri-White is based in Toronto, Ontario Canada and is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange trading under the symbol TWH.

Conductor Jeff Ruff and brakeman Elizabeth Ruff are the first father-daughter crew on the White Pass & Rukon Route railroad, shown here in front of Engine 73 on the final steam excursion of the season to Bennett on Aug. 23. DL


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