FREEDOM FISHER

A bald eagle at Conrad awaits its catch on a beautiful fall day in the Yukon. He wasn’t alone. See the final Fish This! column of the season in sports below. Photo by Andrew Cremata

Dewey Lakes SMA passes first hurdle
Council okays ‘working group’ with state, feds

By JEFF BRADY
So far, the Skagway City Council hasn’t blinked when it comes to the state telling it how to word an ordinance creating a Dewey Lakes Special Management Area.
The recently completed Dewey Lakes Recreation Area Management Plan was plugged right into Ordinance 04-18 and passed first reading on a 5-0 vote at the Sept. 16 meeting.
Two state officials warned the city that language in the draft would constitute a costly 4(f) situation for Juneau Access road planners, but public testimony at the meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of the ordinance as written, or at least getting it to a second reading and public hearing on Oct. 7.
After the Department of Transportation’s Pat Kemp and the Department of Law’s Peter Putzier on Sept. 2 failed to sway the Dewey Lakes Special Management Area Committee to change language away from a “recreation area,” the state sent a letter to the city the next day saying it would commence a right-of-way easement appraisal for a 300-foot-wide road corridor through the area on the eastern hillside above Skagway. The road link between Juneau and Skagway is the expected preferred alternative in the Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement, due to be released next month.
The state’s move prompted an angry response from Mayor Tim Bourcy, who then went to Juneau on Monday, Sept. 13 to meet with DOT Commissioner Mike Barton. At the opening of the Sept. 16 council meeting, Bourcy said they had a “productive meeting” in which he explained the impetus behind retaining the Dewey Lakes area’s recreation value, and the commissioner explained what Section 4(f) of the federal transportation code means. Basically, if there is a park, recreation area or wildlife refuge identified in a transportation project, planners must explore “feasible and prudent” alternatives and use all possible planning to minimize harm to the property.
The mayor said the commissioner and he talked about “a situation where we can protect our land” by setting up a working group of city, state and federal officials that would deal with mitigation issues. And Bourcy said he would take the idea back to the City Council.
Before dealing with the Dewey Lakes Working Group idea under new business, the Council had the ordinance before them.
Putzier was back and led off the testimony.
“I’d like to emphasize that DOT will provide mitigation with or without 4(f),” he said, and then criticized the mayor for holding up DOT’s proposed Joint Planning Agreement since April, and recent quotes tying it to a harbor transfer agreement.
Putzier then advised the city to send the ordinance to its Planning and Zoning Commission for review, or assess the possible impacts by seeking advice from DOT or from the city’s legal counsel.
But former mayor Stan Selmer then advised the Council (with just five members present, Mike Korsmo was absent) to either table the ordinance or pass it on first reading, and not defeat it. He said he had been involved with councils that stood up to DOT on the airport plan and to the U.S. government on where to locate the border station, and persuaded those agencies to follow the wishes of local residents.
“I don’t view it as a road-no road issue, but doing due diligence that may be late, but necessary,” Selmer said, adding that he applauded the city for moving ahead with land use restrictions.
Dennis Bousson, chair of the Dewey Lakes Special Management Committee, said the group worked all summer on the plan, basing it on the Dyea Flats management agreement, but making it a “more substantive document.” He said discussions purposely stayed away from the politics of the road issue, until the DOT officials showed up at their last meeting.
Bousson added he had studied 4(f). “All it is, is a guidance tool for DOT that requires special planning,” he said.
One member of the committee, Thor Henricksen, was unhappy with the final language and voted against it. Henricksen was at Upper Dewey Lake getting a goat during the council meeting, but his mother, Mavis Irene Henricksen, read a statement from him to his fellow committee members.
Henricksen said the title with the inclusion of “recreation area,” implies 4(f) restrictions, “just like the word ‘park,’ which most of you know I was opposed to from the beginning.”
He said the mayor at the outset had counseled the committee that the development of the plan was not intended to be a road block but said most of the people on the committee are opposed to the road.
“With no prior agreement with the State for a road through this area, all this plan is, with the 4(f) wording, is a road block,” he added, saying they had no right to pass it the way it was worded.
Henricksen then suggested passing the plan with the title, “Skagway’s Dewey Lakes Traditional Use Management Area.”
But 15 others in attendance suggested keeping the recreation area language. Ken Russo and Dave Vogel said it would strengthen the city’s bargaining position, longtime resident Barbara Kalen said the trail system has been used for 100 years, and gift shop manager Sherry Corrington said that “without that place, I’d go nuts in the summertime.”
Jan Wrentmore said it was DOT that was playing politics as a way to avoid more paperwork. “It would behoove the council not to fall into the trap DOT is laying here,” she added.
Kemp then spoke for DOT and said the agency recognizes Dewey Lakes as a “treasure trove to the community.” But he added, “4(f) is a very high bar to get over.”
Finding “feasible and prudent alternatives” could cost another $70 million (the estimated cost of a tunnel), he said. “It seemed like a simple issue to take care of in our April letter.”
The mayor clarified his position on the harbor transfer, saying it was DOT that initiated tying the two issues together and he had kept the Joint Planning agreement off the table “because of inappropriate behavior from DOT.”
But since his meeting with the commissioner, those conflicts appear to be resolved and money for the harbor transfer is coming. “We do have an opportunity to move forward for what’s best for the city, state and region,” Bourcy said.
Council members said they were ready to take the ordinance to second reading and hear more public input.
They also supported the idea of the Dewey Lakes Working Group. Bourcy said the commissioner wants the group to get togetehr and talk about mitigation – things the state could do for the area if the road is built.
“Go ahead with it,” said Jay Frey. “It won’t hurt to do it. There might be some points they have that are beneficial to both parties.”
Bourcy said a tentative meeting is being set up for Oct. 16 with DOT and representatives of the Federal Highway Administration.

Link to Ordinance 04-18 (pdf file)

Wind pushes Fairweather into Broadway Dock south dolphin
‘Chafes’ lines of Zaandam before sailing free
Skagway News/Juneau Empire
The fast ferry Fairweather, running on just three of its four engines, was grabbed by a 25-30 knot gust of wind while departing Skagway Tuesday and swung into the nearby Broadway Dock, chafing three stern lines of the Zaandam cruise ship docked there.
No injuries were reported, and damage to the ferry was considered minor. After an inspection by the Coast Guard Wednesday, temporary repairs were made in Juneau and it was allowed to resume its schedule on Thursday.
Bill Murray, a security officer working the Broadway Dock, witnessed the incident.
“I saw the last line (for the ferry) get thrown, and it started drifting in the wind and hit the piling at the end of the Broadway Dock,” Murray said. “It scratched the wooden piling and bent the steel a bit.”
The port bow of the Fairweather hit and then “it went right into the (Zaandam) lines and frayed them pretty well,” he said.
Murray said the ferry then cleared the area, backed over toward the Ore Dock, found a clear channel, and sailed south to Haines. He said he called his boss at Cruise Line Agencies, “and the Coasties were right there.”
Two Skagway-based Coast Guard officers filed a report on the incident and referred all questions to LTjg Dan Buchsbaum with the Marine Safety Office in Juneau.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Buchsbaum said Coast Guard inspected the vessel in Juneau and pronounced it seaworthy. He said the only damage to the cruise ship was to three of the five stern mooring lines. Late Wednesday, AMH issued a press release that said the ferry would return to service on its Sitka run on Thursday.
The new fast ferry sustained a small crack in a seam of its aluminum plating at the gunwale above the weather deck, about 15-20 feet above the water line, said an Alaska Marine Highway press release.
“We are thankful this accident did not result in any injuries,” said Deputy Commissioner for Marine Transportation Tom Briggs in a statement. “We will investigate to determine how it happened, and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
DOT&PF Commissioner Mike Barton has called for a complete review of the circumstances surrounding the incident, and an inspection of the vessel.
Buchsbaum said winds at the time, 11:56 a.m. on Tuesday, were blowing 25-30 knots.
“We don’t know exactly what happened,” said Alaska Marine Highway spokesman John Manly . “We’ll have to have some interviews with people onboard and on the bridge.”
He said the ship is scheduled for overhaul in October, when the state has tentative plans to replace a malfunctioning engine that broke down earlier this month.
AMH announced Sept. 2 that one of four engines failed due to faulty construction of the ship. The vessel has operated on three engines since, which has caused problems in running it through Sergius Narrows near Sitka. The failed engine has resulted in some canceled trips to Sitka.
It also had been sailing on a revised Lynn Canal schedule this month, making one trip on days it sails with stops in Haines and Skagway instead of two trips between Juneau and each Upper Lynn Canal port.
But an earlier notice from AMH cautioned that the Fairweather may not dock in Skagway in situations with high winds over 25 knots.
Although there was minor damage to the ferry, it did leave some metal behind, said Gary Danielson, president of the White Pass and Yukon Route, which owns the Broadway Dock.
“There is some damage (to the mooring dolphin) but we don’t know how much yet,” Danielson said Wednesday. “It’s too windy, we have to wait until low tide and have advised the Marine Highway director of ports we’d be doing that.”
Danielson said the incident did not affect the cruise ship at all.
“We were fortunate it just chafed the stern line ropes and didn’t sever them,” he said.
There was no contact between the vessels and longshoremen were able to run new lines.

Seawall bids come in high
Council takes deducted Trucano bid: $2.853 mil.
The city opened two bids for the seawall project on Sept. 9, both about a million dollars over what had been budgeted for the project. Base bids from Swalling Construction of Anchorage and Trucano Construction of Juneau were $3.589 and $3.235 million respectively, but the bidding packet also requested three deductive alternates for seawall railing, additional dredging, and a lower grade seawall coating.
After these deductions, Trucano remained the low bidder at $2,853,400 compared with Swalling’s $2,926,500.
City Manager Bob Ward noted that Council had budgeted $2.5 million for the project, but said that during the recent city audit an extra $1 million in unexpended funds had turned up and some of that could be re-appropriated to the seawall project. In addition to the amount over budget, the city also will need funds to pay a construction manager, he added.
Ward said the Department of Natural Resources’ consistency review of the project wasn’t due until the end of the month, held up in part due to a National Park Service request for viewshed information. But he said Council could issue an “intent to award” the contract and follow it up with a “notice to proceed” later.
The vote was 4-0 with Dave Hunz abstaining. Hunz said his company, H&H, had been asked to submit subcontract prices to both bidders.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Train agent Lisa Cabak takes her turn at the mike on a ride up the rail line. Check out her railroad feature. Elizabeth Ruff

OTHER ONLINE NEWS THIS ISSUE:

• 2004 Skagway Municipal Candidate Forum

• HEARD ON THE WIND: Last blow of the season

• KLONDIKE ROAD RELAY: Rituals run afar - notes and photos from the field

• SPORTS ROUNDUP: Reflections on Fish This!, Cross-country runners shoot for top 10 at regionals

• RAILROAD FEATURE: Riding up the WP&YR line with a train agent

• EDITORIALS: Just vote; Dewey Lakes management

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