May 24, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 9
Happy Graduation Day
Polly Brown smiles at valedictorian Amanda Hoover (foreground) during her speech at the Skagway High School class of 2013 graduation with classmates Airk Cochran, Jake Grieser, and Nick Ackerman and Riley Westfall (not pictured). See photo spread in our print edition. See our Happy Grads 2013 gallery.
Photo by Elise Giordano
Canadian boaters get reprieve from strict reporting requirements
CBP official outlines exact regulations for foreign boaters in USA waters
By ELISE GIORDANO
After two weeks of confusion over newly enforced restrictions on foreign boats, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Area Port Director Jeffrey Lisius set the record straight.
Lisius flew to Skagway from Anchorage to meet with Canadian boat owners in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center auditorium on Wednesday.
He addressed concerns boaters had after attending an informational meeting held by U.S. CBP Skagway Port Director Mary Nagy in the park auditorium on May 13.
Lisius informed attendees that there was confusion on Nagy’s part, which he said had largely stemmed from his desk.
“Any time there is change, there’s always some friction,” he said in a phone interview.
A foreign vessel, or boat not owned by an American citizen, is required formal entry into the country.
Foreign boaters were mostly concerned with having to leave the U.S. in order to receive a CBP form 1300, a required entrance and clearance document for vessels.
In the meeting held by Nagy, boaters were informed that they are required formal entry into the country and need to take their boats outside of the U.S. and reenter, passing through customs.
Boats able to be pulled by trailer could travel the seven miles to the U.S. border station to check in with customs. But those with larger boats would have to travel 400 nautical miles to Prince Rupert in order to reach a border, at least a month long journey under ideal conditions.
But Lisius allayed these fears, telling boaters they didn’t actually have to leave the U.S., and instead could fill out the 1300 form in port and receive a user fee decal, which they would have to pay for annually, a cost of $27.50 per year. This alleviates boaters from paying the $19 entrance fee every time they reach a port.
Decals may be purchased online through the Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System. Until decals arrive, keeping a receipt of payment handy is sufficient.
Boaters are also required to announce their arrival to each port they enter and leave. They are only required to call the port, not physically check in, and must report the vessel’s length, tonnage, where it was built and in which year, as well as the information of everyone on board.
They were also given the option of obtaining a cruising license. The license is valid for only one year and can be renewed after it has been expired for 15 days or more.
It stops boaters from having to fill out the 1300 form, but it requires them to leave the U.S. and come back to renew it. However, according to Lisius, boaters are only required to leave U.S. waters and do not have to check in with a foreign port.
The license does not omit them from calling and announcing their arrival, but they do not have to perform entrance and clearance procedures.
HEATED DISCUSSION – Skagway CBP Port Director Mary Nagy engages Canadian boat owners and local residents at the May 13 meeting. Elise Giordano
Nagy attended the meeting held by Lisius and said she was making all cruising permits expire on April 1, 2014, so as not to conflict with the season.
Boaters are able to alleviate the requirement of waiting 15 days to renew the cruising license by importing the vessel.
How arduous the task of importing depends on where the boat is manufactured.
Lisius said that the easiest plan of action for boaters would probably be to fill out the 1300 form, which can be found at the Skagway Port of Entry and can also be printed from the CBP website. The form does not expire unless the vessel leaves the U.S.
Lisius stressed that if boats are in port and plan to “cruise to nowhere,” or dock at another port, they are not required to check in. However, if they do leave one port and go to another, they must announce their arrival and departure.
“My end goal, as it always has been, is to work with the folks around us,” Lisius said in a phone interview.
The issue reached Anchorage when boaters were left frustrated and confused after Nagy outlined regulations that foreign boat owners were required to comply with.
In the May 13 meeting, Nagy said boaters would not only be required to go foreign with their vessels and return to the U.S., but also fill out a 1300 form every time they enter and depart from a port if they did not obtain a cruising license.
Failure to report their vessel would result in a $5,000 fine the first time, and $10,000 every time after.
Donna Swales was one of the many Yukon boaters who attended the meeting held by Nagy.
“We feel as Canadians you are trying to get us out of here,” Swales said.
Swales and husband Murray have been coming to Skagway for more than 30 years.
She considers herself lucky because their boat can be towed by trailer but said the issue is making them question whether they want to continue coming to Skagway.
“We have never heard of this,” Swales said.
But Nagy explained this issue has been brought up before and has always died out.
Attendants of the meeting all chanted “no” in disagreement to her response.
However, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection implemented enhanced security protocols for small boat arrivals in January 2006.
At the meeting, Nagy repeatedly said, “it is the law,” when boat owners questioned the regulations.
The boat owners aren’t opposed to following the law.
“We want to be reasonable and we want to comply with the law,” said Luke Horrelt, who has been visiting Skagway for 32 years. “We want to keep coming back, but it’s a serious financial hardship.”
Not only would the issue be a financial hardship for Canadian boaters, it would be a loss for Skagway as well.
Horrelt spends around $300 per weekend in town, and $500 to $800 in fuel alone each year.
Matt O’Boyle, Skagway’s harbormaster, said 48 annual stallholders in Skagway’s harbor are Canadian. Forty-nine are American.
But seasonal boat owners visit Skagway, too.
“There are quite a few boat owners that come down in the summertime and travel around to fish in Skagway,” O’Boyle said.
Perry Savoie has been coming to Skagway since 1972.
He said these visitors don’t just do business in the summer, but in the winter months as well.
“We’ve spent more money on our boats here than we ever have back home,” Savoie said. “It could hurt this community.”
Multiple boat owners mentioned they had communicated with other CBP offices; among these was Bill Wilcox, a Whitehorse boat owner.
Wilcox emailed the CBP office in Washington and received conflicting information with what Nagy had said.
He received a response, which indicated that boats registered in the US are not required to have a cruising permit. The permit is required only for boats registered in Canada or other foreign countries. He also said that boats registered in Alaska don’t have to be removed from the state.
But according to Nagy and Lisius, whether or not a boat is registered in Alaska, it is considered a foreign vessel if someone other than an American owns it.
The issue was addressed again at a May 17 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting.
The Municipality of Skagway addressed a letter to the Honorable Ryan Leef, the Member of Canadian Parliament for the Yukon.
The letter requested assistance in clarifying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection requirements regarding the use of the harbor by Canadian citizens.
Harbormaster Matt O’Boyle also attended.
“We like to work really hard for our neighbors and our friends,” he said. “I’d like to see what we can do.”
Multiple Canadian boat owners attended both the assembly meeting and the meeting with Nagy. Bob Cameron was among them.
Cameron and other boat owners have been flooding the office of Anchorage Area Port Director Lance Robinson with letters and emails asking questions and expressing frustration over the issue.
Robinson had reportedly been very helpful, even answering his own phone.
But calls were soon transferred to Assistant Area Port Director Jeff Lisius, who is now dealing with the matter.
“In [the] past, regulations were not being applied properly,” Lisius said. “We’re applying the appropriate regulations in the appropriate fashion.”
Lisius wants to work together with boat owners to reach a common ground and understanding.
“Hopefully this calms down and everybody can take a deep breath,” Lisius said. “We can move on and people can enjoy fishing in the inlets.”
Remnants of the Skagway Fish Co. kitchen are wrapped in cautionary tape after a fire consumed half of the building Wednesday morning. Katie Emmets
Early morning fire destroys Fish Co. kitchen
By KATIE EMMETS
The Skagway Fish Co. suffered a fire early Wednesday morning that severely burned its kitchen, forcing this local staple to shut its doors for an undetermined amount of time.
According to Skagway Police Department dispatch records, a 9-1-1 call came from witnesses near the restaurant at 1:07 a.m.
Skagway Volunteer Firefighters arrived on the scene at 1:10 a.m. And the first engine followed five minutes later.
Fire Chief Jeremy Simmons said about 14 responders began extinguishment of the flames 12 minutes after the 9-1-1 call was received.
When firefighters arrived, the self-ventilating flames were coming out of the roof, Simmons said, and the fire was making its way out of the west kitchen wall. The fire was extinguished at 2:50 a.m., but an overhaul to see how far the flames spread and prevent it from starting up again lasted until 3:54 a.m. when firefighters left the scene.
As of Wednesday evening, Simmons did not know how the fire started, but preliminary investigations prove it likely for the flames to have originated in the kitchen.
The fire was confined to the kitchen area of the building, Simmons said, adding that steel fixtures found in most commercial kitchens, like the Fish Co., shield flames.
“Smoke and fire damage probably occurred in other areas of the restaurant, but the fire was only in the kitchen,” he said.
Fire department personnel are continuing investigations to determine the cause and the origin and will be in communication with the Alaska State Fire Marshall’s office.
Skagway Fish Co. owner Dan Henry, who does not know how the fire started, only had one thing to say when interviewed Wednesday: “There are 18 really good people that need a job.”
Airk Cochran champ of three SE distance runs
By KATIE EMMETS
Panther athlete Airk Cochran finished his senior year with a first place hat trick at regionals, and top 10 finishes at the state meet, amidst freezing, snowy weather.
During regionals on May 10-11 in Juneau, Cochran finished first in all three of the events he participated in. He ran the 800-meter race in 2:10.10, the 1,600-meter race in 4:49.03 and the 3,200-meter race in 10:21.97.
A week later, after flying to Fairbanks the morning after his graduation, Cochran placed fifth in state for small schools in the 3,200-meter race and seventh for small schools in the 800- and 1,600-meter races at the state track and field meet in Fairbanks May 17-18.
Cochran ran the 3,200-meter race in 10:43.34, the 1,600-meter race in 4:53.33 and the 800-meter race in 2:10.45.
Skagway Track and Field Coach Kent Fielding said Cochran ran a good state meet, and added that this was another competition in which he was confused by the weather.
Cochran ran the 3,200-meter race in snow on Friday afternoon, and Saturday’s temperatures were in the 20s when he ran the 800- and 1,600-meter races. Last year’s weather at the state track and field meet, Fielding said, was at the other end of the temperature spectrum with highs in the upper 70s.
Cochran’s placement in state earned Skagway enough points to beat Petersburg, the Southeast school Skagway had finished under at the regional meet.
Sitka placed first at the regional meet with Haines taking second place, Petersburg taking third place and Skagway fourth.
Though Skagway School has had some great runners in the recent past, Fielding said he has never coached anyone at Skagway School who won all three long-distance events.
Fielding said it has happened only once before, and it was in the 1970s.
Freshmen Trevor Cox and Al Weber also participated at the Southeast regional meet and qualified for state meet.
Cox finished fifth in regionals for small schools in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 2:19.98 and seventh in
Fielding said Cox performed especially well for a ninth grader.
“Some freshmen guys don’t even finish the race,” Fielding said. “Trevor is a little bit ahead of most freshmen.”
Weber finished fifth in regionals for small schools in the 3,200-meter run.
“Al’s strength is long distance, and she ran well,” he said.
Both Cochran and Cox played basketball in the winter, which kept them physically fit and ready for running. Fielding said he would be working with Weber next year to keep her running during the winter season when she participates in robotics club.
Airk Cochran runs the 3,200-meter race alongside of Alaska’s best long distance high school athletes in a short-sleeved shirt while it was snowing. Courtesy of Tim Cochran
State Rail Plan in the works for Alaska
By KATIE EMMETS
With the creation of a statewide rail plan, Alaska could see federal funding for future improvements and expansions of its railroads.
“If there is any hope for federal funding, we have to address the issue of a state rail plan,” said Bob Laurie, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities rail coordinator and transportation planner.
The 2008 Passenger Rail Investments and Improvements Act mandated that each state create a plan detailing the state’s railroad history, current rail operations, and future plans.
Laurie said the department is shooting for a December 2013 completion date for the plan, which will be incorporated into the Alaska Federal Lands Long Range Transportation Improvement Plan.
Laurie said the Federal Railroad Association has given the ADOTPF very specific criteria it must include in the plan such as an inventory of overall rail transportation services and facilities; an analysis of rails transportation, economic and environmental impacts; and a performance evaluation of passenger rail services operating in the state, including possible improvements and a description of strategies to achieve the improvements.
The plans will look about 20 years into the future and are required to be updated every five years.
After its completion, the plan will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration for final approval and then implemented into a nation-wide transportation plan.
Since the mandate of the plan in 2008, most Lower 48 states have completed one rail plan and are already on their second, Laurie said, but Alaska is just getting around to creating its first as it now has the time and the funding to do so.
Alaska has two working railroads: the Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks, and the White Pass and Yukon Route railway out of Skagway.
Laurie said the ADOTFP wrote a statewide rail plan when it purchased the Alaska Railroad from the United States federal government in 1985, but has not updated since 1990.
The Alaska Railroad is one of about six trains in the country that is owned by a state.
For the last 20 years, Laurie said, Lower 48 states have been looking for rail abatements because their railroads aren’t making money and some are even running deficits.
“That is what makes Alaska unique,” he said, “We’re not looking at abatements. We’re looking at extensions.”
Because the railroad has expanded and helped to form so many Alaska communities like Skagway, Alaska DOTPF is constantly looking for ways to enhance and expand its railways.
“Sixty-five percent of state population is along the rail belt,” he said. “The railroad was key to the development of that part of Alaska.”
Laurie said further development in the state could be possible if railroads are extended in the future.
Federal rail grants are made available to both state and privately owned railroads, which means both the Alaska Railroad and White Pass could receive funding from the government.
As its business model stands now, however, White Pass is a tourist excursion train and doesn’t meet the requirements for any federal grants, because it is neither a commuter railroad nor a freight railroad, Laurie explained.
Alaska Railroad offers full passenger, commuter, excursion and freight services and will qualify for federal grants.
Freight carrying, Laurie said, is the meat and potatoes of most rail operations.
As of now, the owner of the WP&YR, ClubLink Enterprises, is not interested in an ore haul for White Pass, but Laurie said he thinks there is always a possibility of that changing.
Former White Pass president Eugene Hretzay was part of the state rail plan steering committee, and Laurie said he would be asking new White Pass President John Finlayson to join.
The State of Alaska hired HDR Alaska, Inc. to consult on the planning. Laurie says HDR has helped with railroad plans in San Francisco and Portland, Ore.
Laurie, other DOTPF members and HDR consultants kicked off the public meeting tour in Skagway and will continue in the communities of Haines, Wasilla, Seward, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Nome — all communities that either have rail or are interested in it.
Haines is included, Laurie said, because there has been talk about the creation of a railroad in Haines for decades.
Alaska DOTPF put statewide rail plan information on its website in March, and Laurie said the department has received a lot of good feedback from Alaska residents already.
After this round of meetings, all public meetings will be held online.
Laurie said proposed plans will be updated to the website and someone from DOT will give a presentation, which will also be uploaded for viewing. Alaskans will then have 30 days to look over the information and respond with comments or suggestions.
Laurie said he expects there will be two more informational meetings: one later in the summer and one in the fall.
Those interested can get more information or submit comments at www.dot.alaska.gov/railplan.
Parnell signs budget bill
Signed into law on Tuesday by Alaska Governor Sean Parnell was the state Fiscal Year 2014 Budget, which has almost $1.1 billion less in state general funds than the previous year.
According to a release from the Office of the Governor, this year’s budget totals $13.2 billion, which incudes Permanent Fund dividends and federal dollars.
The general fund spending cap totals $6.8 billion and was set by Parnell during this year’s legislative session. The funds were appropriated to the Parnell administration’s key priorities, which include resources and energy, education, public safety, transportation and infrastructure, and military support.
There is a 14 percent decrease from the FY13 approved budget, the release stated.
“Alaska continues to maintain its position of fiscal strength and stability,” Parnell said. “We will continue to step down the levels of spending under our five-year fiscal plan and be wise stewards of the people’s money.”
Though there are multiple projects listed in the release, the only action that could directly affect Skagway has to do with education.
This year’s education budget includes $58 million for increases in the K-12 funding formula, pupil transportation, school energy costs, and safety and security upgrades for schools, the release stated.
Skagway retained what was passed in the capital budget approved by the Legislature last month.
It will receive $4.5 million for Alaska Marine Highway System terminal modifications and $1.5 million for the Gateway Project. – KE
STREET CAR CONDUCTORS – Arlo Viehe-Cline, 5, wears the hat of Doug Smith, portraying Martin Itjen, in front of one of an original Skagway Street Car that is part of the Rapuzzi Collection. The National Park Service paraded the car on the streets of Skagway last week during a move to a new location for restoration work. Elise Giordano
Emergency ordinance passes, would allow for more teleconferencing
The Skagway Borough Assembly created an emergency ordinance to accommodate Assemblyman Gary Hanson, as he will not be able to attend the next seven meetings because of a family medical emergency.
Municipal code allows for assemblymen to attend the meetings via teleconference up to four times per year and for only two consecutive meetings.
This emergency ordinance would be effective for 60 days and would allow a member of the assembly to attend the meetings via teleconference a maximum of eight times with no restrictions to consecutive meetings.
If an assembly member needed to miss more than the allotted eight meetings, the assembly would revisit the emergency ordinance and give him more time.
Hanson thanked everyone for their thoughts and said there must be a beam of light coming from Skagway to Seattle.
The emergency ordinance was put into effect immediately during their meeting on May 10. — EG
New citation procedures
The Borough Assembly voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that aligned Skagway’s parking citation procedures with that of the State of Alaska.
As of April 15, the Alaska Court System will process only citations issued directly to a person by a police officer.
A parking citation is now considered to be a civil penalty and those in violation now go directly to the Skagway Police Department to pay their fines instead of going through the Alaska Court System.
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett said those issued parking citations have been paying them at the police department since April 15, but the code change that comes more than a month after the switch is mostly housekeeping. — KE
Farmers’ Market getting defined in Skagway code
For the first time, the Skagway farmers’ market has been given a permanent place in the Skagway Municipal Code.
The Skagway Borough Assembly gave definition to the farmers’ market during their meeting on Friday, May 10.
Though the Garden City Market has been happening for the past couple of years, chapters within the code are just now being amended to make the market a permanent code fixture with parameters and guidelines.
“It provides the borough with a little bit of oversight to address complaints if there are any,” said assemblyman, Steve Burnham.
This summer’s first market occurred May 18 outside the Eagles’ social room. — EG