Tara Fontaine drops some change into a Katrina relief donation can held by Courtney Wilson at the beginning of their shift at the Skagway Fish Co. Both women had friends and family displaced by the storm in the New Orleans area and are urging everyone to help the many in need. See story in headlines below. Jeff Brady

NHL was the factor

Anatomy of FHWA’s decision to advise State DOT to back off potential 4(f) lands in Skagway at end of proposed Juneau road

When the state Department of Transportation announced last month that it had changed its preferred alternative for the Juneau Access project, it cited National Park Service concerns about effects on the Skagway-White Pass National Historic Landmark as the reason for its decision to end the proposed road at Katzehin instead of Skagway.
The announcement came as a surprise to many on both sides of the road issue.
The Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) had no choice, according to a statement from DOT Commissioner Mike Barton, but to “consider lands surrounding Skagway as Section 4(f) lands.” No federal funds for highway projects can be used to build highway projects in such areas “when there is a feasible and prudent alternative.”
But to date, there has been no written record that FHWA has determined that the lands are 4(f). The communication was verbal between David Miller, Alaska director of FHWA and Commissioner Barton, acknowledged Juneau Access Project Manager Reuben Yost.
A call to FHWA confirmed that a decision on the land status has not been made, but will be included in the final Environmental Impact Statement.
Tim Haugh, program manager for environment and right-of-way for the federal agency, said that while no formal ruling has occurred, “we have guided the DOT and worked with DOT in the evaluation of the National Historic Landmark.”
In communications with the National Park Service, mostly through its Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage, FHWA found that the Park Service’s concerns about effects on the landmark “were significant, and we gave the state our take that it would probably be 4(f),” Haugh said.
While much of public focus during hearings in Skagway was on the status of the Dewey Lakes Recreation Area and its potential to be classed as 4(f), that debate had already been settled by the agency.
“Dewey Lakes had nothing to do with the decision,” Haugh said. “We made the determination in the draft EIS (that Dewey Lakes was not 4(f)) and it is unchanged.”
The background of the decision regarding the landmark goes deep into the relationship between federal agencies in dealing with highway projects near historic parks or within NHLs. A review of the letters between the National Park Service and the FHWA at the end of the supplemental draft EIS reveals a brewing conflict.
In that document’s preferred alternative, the road from Juneau would have come into Skagway on an angle down the hillside from the Dewey Lakes area, crossing the boundary of the NHL, and ending with a 500-foot overpass above the railroad at the north end of town.
A decision to reduce the boundaries of the NHL in 1999 led the Park Service to focus on effected areas of the landmark in and around Skagway. From 1962 to 1999, the NHL boundary had been from the Dewey Peaks all the way across to Face Mountain, but in 1999, with public input, the NHL was reduced to an area between the Lower Dewey Lake bench and a line north from Yakutania Point.
“The road cut dipped into the National Historic Landmark fairly quickly,” said Jim Corless, superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
He said it was his staff’s responsibility to come up with a list of not only historic resources that might be affected, but natural resources.
Corless cited language in the NHL: “The described boundary includes the concentration of historic resources lying within the town of Skagway and the routes leading to the Alaska-Canada border. The boundaries were chosen so as to incorporate the area’s major gold rush-era historic resources; in addition, sufficient natural areas have been included so as to provide an understanding of the physical setting and cultural landscape that defined the historic corridor through the Skagway River Valley.”
Yost said the state argued that between the historic period of 1897-1910, the hillside being affected was logged off, and that a road cut would not be an intrusion to the historic landscape. But the Park Service disagreed, claiming that even a logged area is natural, and that it had returned to its pre-gold rush condition.
The state also contended in the SDEIS that cruise ships have compromised the landmark by being “a permanent fixture on the skyline,” but the Park Service answered this way:
“A new highway and bridges, in a new location, would be instantly recognizable as modern intrusions by both local residents and visitors,” according to an Oct. 29, 2004 NPS review of the SDEIS. “Unlike ships, highways and bridges are permanent, fixed fixtures on the landscape. This is why we recommend that any proposed projects in this area of the NHL remain as minimally intrusive as possible. It is important to continue to preserve as much of the historic natural setting as possible in view of the fact that this setting is a key element of the landmark.”
The report also cited potential auditory impacts from not only short-term construction, but long-term post-construction traffic noise to the NHL and Lower Dewey Lake.
In a Dec. 6, 2004 letter to DOT with the report, NPS Alaska Director Marcia Blaszak wrote that her agency found it difficult to concur with FHWA’s initial finding that it did not believe the effect on the park and landmark would be adverse. She suggested DOT provide better mapping in relation to historic sites, updated digitally enhanced photos showing views of the proposed highway cut in vegetated summer and un-vegetated winter conditions, and more detail on bridge designs, traffic estimates, blasting techniques, and future developments such as waysides.
A March 25, 2005 letter from Willie Taylor, director of environmental policy and compliance with the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., reiterated many of the specific NPS concerns, saying it looked forward to a complete 4(f) evaluation from DOT. Preliminary concerns included limited auditory analysis, a need for specific and detailed measures to mitigate visual and noise impacts on the NHL from the road cut and railroad crossing, and that the state and FHWA had used existing developments and impacts as justification for allowing additional impacts.
“However, each new development’s effect on historic value of the NHL needs to be considered separately,” Taylor wrote.
At some point, it became apparent to FHWA that the scope of work to address a potential 4(f) situation may have been too much for the state to overcome in the final EIS.
“I don’t know what all they took into consideration but the question of 4(f) and a highway coming through a historic landmark was fairly clear,” Corless said.
And that no matter what the state did to mitigate the issues of concern expressed by the Park Service, the likelihood of 4(f) was probable in the final EIS. That message was communicated verbally by FHWA to DOT.
Yost compared the situation to putting up a development across from Gettysburg.
“Ultimately, it became too big of an issue,” Yost said. “Not just a Skagway issue, but a landmark issue nationwide.”

Skagway responds to calls for aid from Katrina victims

As the summer winds down in Skagway, the people here have been glued to their TV sets or the Internet between shifts to view updates on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
No one has probably watched more closely than Courtney Wilson, a member of the wait staff at the Skagway Fish Co. She’s from the New Orleans area, and members of her family were evacuated as the hurricane approached. Katrina hit, the levees broke, and flooded the area, and now they can’t go back. Their lives have been changed forever.
Like thousands others, they need help, and Skagway is doing all it can.
Wilson now calls Skagway home. A seasonal employee here for the past three summers, she usually returns to New Orleans every fall. She said that she felt helpless watching the drama unfold on TV. Her dad and step-mom live in the city, and her sister’s family lives on the outskirts in Slidell, Louisiana.
When the hurricane approached, her folks were in the process of getting ready for a trip to Peru, and instead packed up for Baton Rouge. Her sister, brother-in-law and their two children were evacuated a couple days before the storm to nearby New Roads. They have been given a cabin there to stay in, and they may be there a while.
The Westmark here gave Wilson a private room with a TV and direct phone line so she could keep up with the situation in Louisiana and Mississippi.
“It’s kind of unknown,” she said Tuesday. “You just assume. You see pictures and satellite views of the area and just assume everything’s gone.”
But on Wednesday morning she received some good news. Someone had been able to inspect her sister’s house on Tuesday, and only a foot of water got inside.
“It was not as much as expected,” Wilson said. “They can go in and remove things this weekend and put it in storage. There’s lots of mildew but it’s not as bad as foreseen. A lot can be saved.”
However, her husband’s restaurant, Cafe Marigny near the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans, is gone, and he is looking for work.
“All the five-star chefs are looking for jobs in that (New Roads-Baton Rouge) area,” she said. “My sister is trying to find something. Their lives as they knew it are over. My niece just started in a new school today.”
Like many, they have to start over, and they’ll need help.
Wilson, along with her employer Eileen Henry at the Fish Co., got an idea to organize a fund drive for hurricane victims, asking everyone to empty their pockets of spare change.
With the support of the Skagway Emblem Club, they put up some signs and sat in the Elks last Saturday afternoon. While the response wasn’t great on short notice, a few Skagway youths delivered their piggy banks, and some wait staff from restaurants dropped off all the Canadian change they had collected all summer.
Then they took all the cans that are normally used for the Breast Cancer Awareness drive every spring, slapped on new labels, and distributed about 30 of them to businesses around town.
“People were very supportive,” Henry said on Tuesday. “From what I can tell with the Fish Co. cans, they are doing well.”
And that’s not all. The City of Skagway organized a community benefit barbecue Thursday night, the WP&YR and its employees have set up a fund, and the Red Onion is planning a benefit dinner show.
In announcing the community benefit at last week’s City Council meeting, Mayor Tim Bourcy said communities nationwide have a duty to do something for the victims. Jewell Gardens offered to host the event, councilmembers donated their time to flip burgers, various restaurants contributed food, and a local band played music. Proceeds from the $10 per person donations at the door will likely go to the Salvation Army so it “hits the ground” in New Orleans, Bourcy said.
WP&YR President Gary Danielson and his wife Margo made a donation last weekend, and also felt “we should do something as a company and give the employees a venue,” he said.
The railroad seeded the fund with $5,000 which will be split between the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, Danielson said, but the employees can designate who they want to receive their donations, he said.
“I just felt we should do something, everybody should do something around the country,” he concluded.
The Red Onion also is organizing a “From Broadway to Bourbon Street” dinner and show for Sept. 18, with all proceeds going to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund set up by the two former presidents. And there may be more events spread throughout the month of September. Wilson wants to put on a red beans and rice feed – Anything that can raise money to help the victims.
“Money is what they need right now, not clothes, not yet.” Wilson said. “I’m just asking for everyone to open their hearts, open their wallets in this time of need, send prayers and thoughts because they need it a lot down there.”

POSTSCRIPT – Skagway City School students have set up boxes for donations of school supplies for displaced children, and took cash donations for a family of another summer worker.
The News also has learned that Sister Judy Gomila, who served Skagway and the Juneau Diocese for many years, was evacuated to Baton Rouge with about 70 nuns from the Holy Angels Convent of New Orleans. We hope to have her story in the Sept. 23 issue.

UPDATE – The Sept. 8 community fund-raiser raised more than $12,000. Details in Sept. 23 issue.

Peeling back history

Eileen Clancy and Deb Sanders prepare old papers in the cabin for safe storage.

Dave Curl photo, courtesy KGRNHP

Vintage newspapers from Moore Cabin removed for restoration

There’s something missing from the log cabin at the Capt. William Moore homestead.
This summer, a paper expert teamed up with National Parks Service staff to remove the newspaper that had enshrouded the walls for nearly 120 years and ready it for preservation.
Up until last month the newspaper had covered every inch of the cabin’s walls and ceiling as a makeshift wallpaper used by the Moore family as a layer of protection against Skagway’s north wind.
“They needed something to block up the cracks and things,” says Debbie Sanders, museum curator for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. “It was available.”
But the years, the squirrels and the dust had caused the paper to start deteriorating rapidly, so the Park Service set aside $21,000 to bring in archival expert, Eileen Clancy from Denver, Colo., to remove the paper.
The process revealed the newspaper articles were applied to the walls in deliberate themes, Sanders said.
Stories concerning the Spanish-American war and presidential races were grouped into the politics section; stories about “baby beauty contests” and toys were in the children’s section; stories about women’s fashion were in the women’s section, and stories about horse shoes and dog shows were in the pets section.
“Originally, we thought they were plastering up newspapers just for a functional reason,” Sanders said. “They were taking an effort to group things; it tells us much more about the Moore family.”
Capt. Moore’s son, J. Bernard “Ben” Moore lived in the cabin with his Tlingit wife Minnie when the family moved in the late 1880s to Skagway — which they referred to as Mooresville — to ready the homestead for the hoards of stampeders they predicted would eventually come through the area seeking gold.
While some Natives and some prospectors aboard steam ships trickled through the area, Moore and his wife lived in relative solitude for the decade before the Klondike Gold Rush of ‘98, Sanders said.
For the Moores, who had no children at the time, the newspapers, which date from 1888 to 1896, were quite literally the drawings on their cave.
The newspapers would have been brought in by the steamers that brought irregular mail and people bound for the interior, Sanders said. Along with them they would have brought news of the activities in the outside world.
In some areas of the cabin, cartoons or diagrams covered “boring sections of newsprint,” and in other areas there were actually duplicate sections of the papers, Sanders said.
For the most part the newspapers were layered onto the wall in complete sheets backed by cotton muslin, she said. During that era, the material was frequently nailed to walls as a primary layer before wallpaper was pasted up on top.
But in other places in the cabin, the newspaper was applied directly to the wall.
“I think that the Moore family ran out of fabric,” Sanders said. “So there were parts where there was fabric on the cracks, but the paper was right on the wall.”
The workers applied Japanese kozo paper with a thin adhesive to the outside of the newspapers to add strength to the paper and aid in its removal.
The fabric-backed newspaper came off in sheets. Removing the paper pasted directly to the wall slowed the project to an inch-by-inch crawl, said Deb Boettcher, a museum tech, who assisted in the project.
The paper had to be steamed off the walls in painstaking 6-inch squares, she said.
Underneath the wall paper, curators have found several signatures and pieces of record-keeping on the walls, Sanders said. Moore marked the cabin with his name and the names of two Tlingit men who had assisted him in building it. In one section, Ben Moore apparently was trying to quit smoking, and he recorded the days without cigarettes. In the kitchen, a tally was kept of goose and chicken eggs, Sanders said.
The papers are now being kept in Park Service storage in Skagway, Klondike park spokeswoman Sandy Snell-Dobert said. The park is awaiting additional funding before it can fully catalog and complete the preservation and addition of the papers to the local NPS archive, she said.
“Because newspaper is so brittle, we probably wouldn’t put it permanently on display,” Snell-Dobert said.
Up until now, visitors have only been able to peer in the windows of the Moore cabin. The low ceilings cause a safety concern, she said.
However, if money becomes available, NPS may add replicas of the newspapers to the cabin walls and allow visitors to look inside the cabin from the door, Snell-Dobert said.
The Moore family — long considered Skagway’s Nostradamus — speculated about the future of their home in its historical importance. In the early 1900s, Ben Moore noted that he wished to preserve the log cabin as a tourist site.
And one piece of newsprint may have foreshadowed even Moore’s prediction. On the ceiling a large advertisement for the Chicago Worlds Fair touting Yellowstone National Park, the first land set aside as a park in the United States, caught Sander’s eye. Could the Yellowstone advertisement be yet another peek into the Moores’ ability to predict Skagway’s future as a national park?
It is difficult to say, but Sanders said the newspapers provide yet another glimpse into the minds of Skagway’s eccentric founding family.


FJORD FEST FRETS – Lahna Deering belts out vocals as Rev. Neil Down lays down a lick during Deering & Down’s return performance at the inaugural Fjord Fest in Skagway on Aug. 27. JB

• FJORDFEST PHOTOS: Inauguralmusic festival to raises money for KHNS, Buckwheat's big walk

• EDITORIAL: History on our side

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP - Klondike Relay and Cross-Country race previews, Doland girls win more ribbons

HEARD ON THE WIND: In search of donut chains, golden leaves of fall, and more...

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