June 28, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 11
Dyea in Bloom
Irises bloom on the Dyea Flats on Wednesday afternoon. The flowers can be found in the southern and interior parts of Alaska throughout the month of June.
Photo by Elise Giordano
Alaska Power and Telephone pulls Connelly Lake permit
AP&T: No other hydro locations in mind
By KATIE EMMETS
Alaska Power and Telephone announced on June 13 that it will no longer continue efforts to develop a Connelly Lake Hydroelectric project and will be surrendering its Federal Energy Regulation Commission permit.
“While we believe the design aspects of the project show hydro development is feasible, the economics are currently not aligned to support the project and the local support is not present to support project development in the near term,” wrote AP&T project manager Glen Martin in a short press release.
Martin wrote that AP&T is optimistic about the project continuing to completion in the future to serve Upper Lynn Canal’s electricity demands.
Connelly Lake is located in the Chilkoot River basin outside of Haines. It became a possibility for the location of a hydro project in 1993 when the electric company serving Haines at the time received a preliminary permit from the FERC.
Connelly Lake was one of two areas AP&T has considered for hydro in the last couple years. Schubee Lake, located on the east side of the Lynn Canal, was dropped from the running last year when a feasibility study came back with too high of a price tag.
Skagway AP&T Manager Darren Belisle said recent studies found that a Schubee Lake hydro project would cost nearly $75 million whereas a Connelly Lake hydro project would cost about $50 million.
Belisle said he attributes the surrender of the permit in part to the FERC permit conditions coupled with the lack of complete funding.
“With the preliminary permit, there is a timeline of things you have to hold up to, and without the funding we felt it wouldn’t be easy to keep up with them,” Belisle said.
AP&T has received about $400,000 in grant money from Alaska Energy Authority over the last couple years for hydro studies, but it isn’t enough to keep up with expenses.
“We applied for $1.7 million for studies and got turned down,” he said.
Belisle said he has been asked why AP&T doesn’t pick up the tab for the Connelly Lake studies since it isn’t getting the full amount in grants.
“We have an obligation to our rate payers,” he said, adding that residents of Skagway and Haines would incur the cost if AP&T footed the bill. “We’re not going to do that. That’s why we’re looking for all the outside funding we can get — we don’t want to raise the rates.”
Though the electric company surrendered its permit, it can still run tests and studies.
“At this point, giving up this permit doesn’t preclude us from doing any more studies,” he said. “We can still do them; we just don’t have to be held to a stringent timeline.”
Belisle said AP&T doesn’t have any other plans for hydroelectricity projects in the Upper Lynn Canal at this time, but he said finding a location on the west side of the canal would prove beneficial when the underwater transfer cable fails.
As of now hydropower is distributed to Skagway and Haines and is generated from Goat Lake, the Dewey Lakes system and Kasidaya Lake, which are all located on the opposite side of the canal from Haines, and in the Municipality of Skagway Borough. In order to transfer power to Haines, AP&T runs an underwater cable to the town.
“It’s not if it will fail, it’s when it will fail,” Belisle said. “It would be good to have a hydro project on the same side as Haines so they won’t have to be on 100 percent diesel when the sub cable goes out. A Connelly Lake project would be a good back up for that.”
Fiscal Year 2014 budget totals more than $34 million
About 4 mills moved from Sales Tax Fund to General Fund
By KATIE EMMETS
The Skagway Borough Assembly approved a Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $34,173,539 during its June 20 meeting.
After a unanimous vote to approve the movement of up to 4.5 mills from the Sales Tax Fund to the General Fund to cover a deficit, the General Fund was approved at $7,049,908. The Capital Projects Fund totals $9,260,321.
In the meeting, the assembly passed an ordinance that changed the allowable tax proceeds transferrable to the general fund to 4.5 mills from the allowable 1.5 mills already in municipal code.
Mayor Stan Selmer said he agrees with the increase and said the excise sales tax money could be better spent on municipal departments such as police and fire.
When the general fund was showing a deficit in earlier readings of the proposed budget, Assemblyman Mike Korsmo suggested the transferrable sales tax amount be amended to up to 4.5 mills to cover the shortage.
Borough officials decided to transfer 3.9 mills from the sales tax fund to the general fund for the FY2014 budget.
Throughout the course of the budget’s three readings at the assembly level there were about 15 amendments, which affected all aspects of municipal departments.
An amount of $150,000 was added to the Capital Projects Fund to purchase and apply a combination of rubber mats, sand, pea gravel or other material to the School Playground ground covering.
An amount of $5,000 was added to the Major Equipment Expense Discretionary fund to purchase eight iPads for Skagway Borough Assembly members.
“This should cut down significantly on our paper use and our ink use as far as the borough assembly goes,” said Assemblyman Steve Burnham, adding that each iPad would cost $500 and have a life span of 6-10 years.
Burham said one iPad would be purchased and tested out, and if they work well, commissions such as the Planning and Zoning Commission and Historic District Commission could use them as well.
A line item of $175,000 in the Skagway Public Works budget marked for a new hook arm truck for garbage collections was taken out after Public Works Director Grant Lawson said the department would not be getting the truck this year.
The 2014 operating budget of $7,049,908 is almost $1.3 million more than FY13’s, which was adopted at $5,757,274.
The adopted FY14 budget document can be viewed by going to Skagway.org, clicking on the Documents tab, and finding “Adopted Ord. No. 13-11.”
CBP issues vague statement about resorting to previous boating rules
By ELISE GIORDANO
U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement on June 19 alleviating concerns for Canadian boat owners.
The CBP’s public affairs liaison Frank Falcon issued the official statement saying that for the 2013 boating season, past methods and procedures will be implemented as it is in the best interest of the boat owners.
When asked to define the vague statement, Falcon said that no more details can be released at this time but more information will be given out shortly.
Falcon said they want things done clearly as there has been a lot of misunderstanding.
Canadian boat owner Bob Cameron scoffed at the statement, which said the procedures were meant as a convenience for the boat owners.
“It’s like driving a red hot iron through your head and saying it’s for your convenience,” Cameron said.
The issue arose in May when CBP Skagway Port Director Mary Nagy revealed new boating practices to be implemented for Canadian boat owners.
Nagy said Canadian boat owners would be required “formal entry” into the country, meaning larger boats unable to be towed by trailer would have to travel 800 nautical miles round trip to Prince Rupert.
Boat owners were confused and angry.
However, many of their concerns were alleviated when Assistant Area Port Director Jeffrey Lisius from Anchorage visited Skagway on May 22.
Lisius told boat owners that Nagy had been given wrong information. Lisius took the blame.
Though many of the issues were resolved, boat owners were still disgruntled and irritated.
After boat owners continued to ask questions and write letters to government officials, the CBP issued the following statement: “For the 2013 boating season, CBP introduced procedures with the intent of expediting the admission process for vessels of recreational boaters. While these procedures were meant to provide a convenience, CBP has reevaluated past methods and concluded that the reporting procedures should mirror previous practices as it’s in the best interest of the boat owners.”
No more details were given as to what was meant by “previous practices”, but Falcon said more details would be released shortly.
New king salmon limits lead to move of Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby
By KATIE EMMETS
A decline of king salmon returning to Pullen Creek has forced the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to lower the bag and annual king salmon fishing limits in the Taiya Inlet this summer.
While Alaska residents have no annual limit, the bagging limit has been lowered from three kings per day to one per day.
Right now, non-Alaska residents have an annual limit of three king salmon. On June 30, the annual limit will drop to two and beginning July 15 the annual limit will be only one.
The new limits reflect past year’s salmon run numbers, said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Richard Chapell.
As the Division of Sport Fish Haines/ Skagway area management biologist, Chapell spent the winter studying king salmon catch patterns in the Upper Lynn Canal to determine what the bag, possession and annual limits would be for the 2013 fishing season.
“We look at previous years catches from all different stocks of king salmon,” he said. “In years past, there have been so many coming back to this area that we had special liberal catch limits for king salmon in the Taiya Inlet, but this year we are sticking with the regional catch limits because there hasn’t been a super abundance of king salmon in the last two years.”
Because of last year’s lack of returning king salmon to Pullen Creek, Fish and Game was unable to take any eggs to the hatchery in Juneau for future release from Pullen Pond. The salmon eggs gathered in the Skagway creek are transferred to Juneau’s DIPAC hatchery where they mature into smolt and are released from Pullen Pond two years later.
“We didn’t get any in 2012, so there will be none released in 2014,” Chapell said. “That’s very disappointing because we released over 250,000 from Pullen Creek and we expected a good number to come back into the pond.”
Based on last year’s code wire tracking, Chapell said he doesn’t think an overabundance of fishing is what caused the lack of returning kings, but rather poor marine survival.
“It’s a trend that’s been happening to other stock in Southeast Alaska,” he said. “But this was an extreme case for the Pullen Creek area.”
Chapell said Department of Fish and Game officials only saw a few male king salmon in Pullen Creek and no females and added that the department is hoping for about 50 males and 50 females to make it back to Pullen Creek this year.
In hopes of helping to facilitate that, the Department of Fish and Game closed the area between the Railroad Dock and the Ore Dock to fishing.
“This will protect the king salmon milling around Pullen Creek waiting for a good tide to get up the fish ladder,” Chapell said.
According to an Alaska Department of Fish and Game release, the king salmon returning to Skagway waters wait in an area near the Broadway Dock until a sufficient high tide permits them to migrate through a culvert at the Pullen Creek Outlet. This makes the fish vulnerable to sport fisherman.
The release also states that all fresh water in Southeast, including Pullen Creek and Pullen Pond, is off limits to king salmon fishing, however, if broodstock quantity is met, Pullen Pond could be opened to harvest excess king salmon.
Chapell said there have been three salmon caught this year from the Pullen Pond.
“The number of code wire tags recovered from Pullen Creek fish seems to be a little better than last year,” he said of the preliminary results.
Chapell said the majority of king salmon released from Pullen Creek make their way back in throughout June and July.
“So far, fishing has been pretty good in Taiya Inlet, and we’re glad people are catching fish,” he said. “That’s why we do this hatchery release program — to have a marine boat based fishery in Taiya Inlet. But we have to balance that with getting enough broodstock up the creek to continue the program.”
The ninth annual Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby kicked off Thursday morning, and participants will be hoping that Chapell is right about the good fishing conditions.
The derby is sponsored by Taiya Inlet Watershed Council and runs through Sunday at noon.
TIWC Executive Director Rachel Ford said the derby, which is usually held the third week in July, was moved to June because a lot of Canadians participate in the derby and she wanted them to be able to catch as many king salmon as they legally could.
“If we get a good turn out this year for this time, and people are bringing in fish, we might think about moving it more permanently to June,” Ford said.
Ford also said the TIWC has to be flexible and ready to change the derby dates because limits can change every year.
The derby gives awards for both king salmon and pink salmon. Alaska residents can bring in 16 pink salmon annually at up to six per day, while non-residents can bring in three annually at one per day.
Veterans roll up their flags after a Flag Day ceremony was held on Broadway Street on June 14. The ceremony showcased the flags of the United States throughout the years. Elise Giordano
Municipality gains access to Ore Dock, closer to finalizing AIDEA 2023 lease
By KATIE EMMETS
The Municipality of Skagway and White Pass & Yukon Route railway have signed an agreement that will give the municipality access to the Skagway Ore Dock for design of its Gateway Project.
Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said a team of Skagway Borough Assemblymen Dan Henry, Steven Burnham Jr. and Gary Hanson would be meeting with White Pass officials in the coming weeks to discuss terms for a construction agreement, which will be needed when the planning stages are complete. There has been no agreement to the White Pass request for Broadway Dock and South Ore Dock cruise ship servicing post-2023, which was discussed at a June 6 meeting.
“We can’t let the design process begin without a heavy effort on trying to get construction access primarily because we have until June 30, 2016 to spend the money marked for the Gateway Project,” Selmer said.
Selmer compared the recently completed Skagway Small Boat Harbor renovation project, which took three years to complete at $10 million, to the Gateway Project, which has not yet started and would cost at least $16.5 million. Selmer said the municipality has about three years to spend the funds it already has marked for the project before June 30, 2016, or the unspent funds will no longer be available.
“What we need to do as an assembly is ask ourselves how much we want this project to cost because the design is going to be heavily reliant on how much money we have or how much money we can get,” he said.
Also in regard to Skagway Ore Dock matters, Selmer said he thinks the assembly is closer to completing negotiations with Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for a post 2023 lease of Skagway’s Ore Terminal. The lease was developed at AIDEA’s request and would allow the agency to lease the Skagway Ore Terminal property after its sublease with the WP&YR expires in 2023. Since 1968, White Pass has leased Skagway’s waterfront tidelands on the west side of the harbor. In 1990 AIDEA purchased the ore terminal and ship loader from the railroad and entered into a sublease with White Pass for the land the ore terminal occupies.The municipality has been in lease negotiations with AIDEA for almost a year and the assembly has set a July 31 deadline for itself.
“We are at a point in the review of our lease offer where we hope to have a final executive session in a July 5 meeting before sending the lease back to AIDEA for approval,” Selmer said.
Selmer said the assembly is ironing out a few issues within the lease that have not yet been agreed upon between both parties.
“This doesn’t mean we are in disagreement,” Selmer said. “We just haven’t found the final agreeing language.”
Skagway looking for postmaster
After hearing many complaints from Skagway residents and officials alike, United States Post Office Alaska district manager Ron Haberman and operations manager Edna Cockerham visited the Skagway Post office on June 20.
Though they were supposed to attend the Skagway Borough Assembly meeting the same evening, Mayor Stan Selmer told them not to come because they didn’t have a solution to the ongoing problems.
“Since they didn’t have an announcement of the next Skagway postmaster ready to be released to the community, I thought it would be more beneficial for Ron Haberman to address the assembly and residents when he has an answer.”
Ernie Swanson, the Postal Service’s Alaska District spokesperson, said Haberman has been closely monitoring the Skagway post office after his visit.
“Mr. Haberman said the post office is fully staffed and he thinks we have everything under control,” Swanson said.
Haberman is monitoring the post office and has no plans to return to Skagway as of now,
Lately the Postal Service has been sending experienced postmasters to Skagway on a revolving basis to help with high summer mail volumes, and they are staying in hotels. Swanson said they are looking for a permanent Skagway postmaster.
When Haberman was in Skagway on June 20, he told Selmer there was some interest in the available postmaster job, but the interested person was unable to move to Skagway due to lack of housing, Swanson said. Swanson added that Selmer promised Haberman he would help find housing.
Selmer said he has since informed Haberman of an available rental in Skagway but as of press time hasn’t heard anything from Haberman indicating that the job has been filled.
“We really needed to have a solution to the problem because we’ve been running out of patience,” Selmer said. – KE
ALL UPHILL FROM HERE – Teslyn Korsmo rides uphill on leg one for team Soft and Supple in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay on Saturday, June 15. Six Skagway teams competed in the 148.1-mile relay. See more in this issue's Sports & Rec. Elise Giordano
Tire mulch has no volatile matter
The rubber mulch in Mollie Walsh Park is not as dangerous as parents and teachers may have thought.
A sample of the rubber mulch was sent to Admiralty Environmental in Juneau on June 6 and was reviewed by the assembly on June 20.
The mulch was said to contain no volatile organic or semi-volatile organic compounds. The only trace metal found was lead and in an amount 500 times lower than the federal action level.
After the mulch was heated to 90 degrees, the presence of 18 separate organic contaminants were found, all of which were measured in low amounts in the parts per billion level.
Only benzene and trichloroethene listed on the EPA’s Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children’s Health database.
The compounds were well below the 8-hour exposure limit established by the EPA.
The rubber surface will still be installed at the Skagway City School playground.
At a Skagway Parks and Recreation meeting held on June 19, the color maroon was selected for the mat color.
The option of installing the rubber surface everywhere and not just in the fall zones is being looked into, however price would be a deciding factor. – EG
No raft take-out restrooms till right of way is settled
The Dyea Community Advisory Board met on June 5 to discuss restroom facilities and parking at the Dyea raft take-out.
But before any decisions can be made in regard to facilities, it must be determined whether raft companies can continue to use the raft take-out at all.
Though the raft takeout has been used since 1997, it is located on a state right of way.
Missy Tyson, Skagway DOT chief of maintenance and operations, said officials in Juneau have told her that commercial businesses cannot use the state right of way for profitable income.
Bart Henderson from Chilkat Guides and Cris Siegel of Skagway Float Tours were also in attendance.
“The state likes to help build ramps and stuff for the public, but once you’re a guide you’re not public anymore and you can’t use it,” Henderson said. “It’s a silly dichotomy that we have here and it doesn’t make any sense.”
Siegel said he felt threatened and uncomfortable.
“We are upstanding business owners and we want to fix it,” Siegel said.
Tyson assured them that she was not trying to threaten them but instead just present them with the information she was given.
“I’m not trying to be the bad guy,” Tyson said. “I’m just trying to do my job.”
The advisory board said they would speak with the municipality to see if there was land nearby that the raft companies could use.
DCAB member John McDermott raised the question of whether they could park across the street and pull the rafts up to the water.
Tyson said she wasn’t sure but said she would be in contact with officials in Juneau to see if that was a possibility.
After contacting Alaska State Government officials, Tyson said that the issue would be left alone for now and would be picked back up again next year.
For now, no further work will be done on the restroom facilities. —EG
New route for motor coaches chosen
The Public Safety Committee decided on a route for motor coaches during a meeting on June 18.
A loading zone will be placed on the south side of 5th Avenue with a time limit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Coaches will be required to go straight across Broadway, loop around and access State Street from 9th Avenue.
Coaches are also allowed to use 12th Avenue as an access to evacuation and fill stations. Only 11 buses are expected on 12th Avenue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Coaches can also access State Street from 5th Avenue and return from 2nd Avenue.
Drivers are encouraged to drive slowly and with caution. – EG
Parking to be enforced
The Skagway Police Department will be handing out more parking tickets after Stuart Brown voiced complaints during a Public Safety Committee meeting on June 18.
Brown produced photos of multiple motor coaches and tour companies parking and loading illegally throughout town.
Brown argued that buses are parking anywhere they want to because there is no enforcement.
Police Chief Ray Leggett said that they will be watching for parking violations and will be handing out tickets accordingly.
Leggett also said that a bicycle cop might be reintroduced. – EG