September 13, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 16
Mount Harding’s hanging glacier has never been more exposed after this summer’s hot weather. With cruise ships installing stack scrubbers in the future, the view will be even better.
Photo by Jeff Brady
EPA agrees to let Carnival ships use ‘scrubbers’ to reduce carbon emissions
Other lines working toward approval
By KATIE EMMETS
Carnival Corporation & plc has received the support of the Environmental Protection Agency to implement a new technology to reduce emission instead of switching to costly, low-sulfur fuel.
According to a Carnival Corporation & plc September 5 release, Carnival has committed over $180 million for exhaust gas cleaning “scrubber” technology on 32 ships, which include vessels from Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises that sail within the area the EPA is trying to protect by controlling emissions.
“This is a significant accomplishment as well as an important milestone for our company," said Carnival Corporation & plc CEO Arnold Donald. "Working together with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada, we have developed a breakthrough solution for cleaner air that will set a new course in environmental protection for years to come."
This announcement comes about one year after the EPA announced the implementation of an Emissions Control Area rule, which was developed by the United States and Canada to protect human health and the environment by significantly reducing air pollution from ocean-going vessels.
In essence, the ECA would force cruise ships to switch to one percent sulfur oxide fuel which is about 2.5 percent sulfur. In 2015, that one percent will change to a 0.1 percent.
But Carnival will not have to switch fuels now.
According to the release, scrubber technology combines the removal of sulfur with the substantial reduction of particulate matter and black carbon.
“Carnival's design combines two established technologies, which have been successfully used in power plants, factories and vehicles to clean - or scrub - the exhaust from high-sulfur fuel,” stated the release.” For the first time this combination is being developed to accommodate restricted spaces on existing ships.”
Once the exhaust gas cleaning technology is installed and fully operational, the ships will exceed ECA standards.
This technology would also help lessen fuel costs.
Carnival vessels only have to burn low-sulfur fuel while in port and will be exempt from the ECA until the scrubbers are operational.
Skagway Port Commissioner Steve Hites said he is relieved to hear of the agreement between the cruise line and the EPA.
“It’s fabulous news,” said Hites, who is a long-time cruise tour operator. “This has been a concern and a cloud hanging over the next several years of Alaska cruise ship deployment, and I think this blows the concern away to a large extent.”
Hites said Carnival Corporation & plc, which includes Carnival, Princess and Holland America ships, has the biggest fleet of any cruise line in Alaska. The corporation owns 13 of 26 large vessels that called in Skagway during the 2013 season.
“Without making this agreement with the EPA, Carnival wouldn’t have been in a competitive position and wouldn’t be able to keep prices down in the future,” Hites said.
So far, Carnival, Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have all worked out agreements with the EPA.
On Wednesday, Cruise Line Agency Alaska’s John Binkley said Norwegian Cruise Line has also made an agreement with the EPA to install scrubber technology on some of their ships.
NCL was the last large cruise ship company that sails in Alaskan waters to reach an agreement with the EPA, as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which is a parent company to Celebrity Cruises, reached an agreement earlier this year.
“It means that ALL of the “big three” cruise lines that sail in Alaskan waters have been able to come to an accommodation with the EPA in regards to the tighter 2015 ECA fuel requirements,” Hites said. “This will help to keep tonnage from these cruise lines deployed in our region, and puts Alaska on a more equal footing with other parts of the world where ships do not operate in emission control areas.”
Hites said luxury ships that visit Skagway, like the Oceana Cruises Regatta and the Silver Sea’s Silver Shadow, could absorb the cost of the low-sulfur fuel into their ticket prices.
Not only would implementation of scrubber technology benefit the environment and cut back on fuel costs, it would also have a direct public health benefit.
“All of the ships that will have the scrubber technology installed will use either low-sulfur marine gas oil or shore power when in ports in the United States and Canada,” the release states. “Shops that use shore power turn off diesel engines and connect to local electric utility power.”
Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said he thinks less pollution in Skagway’s air is great news.
“Agreeing to hook up to shore power is a big step,” Selmer said.
Carnival and the EPA have come to the agreement at a perfect time, Selmer said, as Alaska Governor Sean Parnell and Yukon Premier Darrell Paslowski have been discussing the possibility of Southeast Alaska and Whitehorse working together to create and share energy.
Representatives from the Yukon have discussed the possibility of creating a liquefied natural gas plant in the next few years that could potentially send LNG to Skagway through a pipeline to power cruise ships.
Selmer said Parnell and Paslowski plan to sign a memorandum of understanding that has to do with energy sharing and other cross-border economics such as mineral resources. The memorandum is still in the language drafting stages and will be signed by both parties when completed.
Parnell released a statement on September 6 saying he was “heartened” the EPA is allowing Carnival to use other options to reduce emissions, rather than mandating the use of higher-cost, low-sulfur fuel.
“Alaska must remain a competitive cruise destination, so Alaska’s small and mid-sized businesses can flourish,” he said in the statement. “After reducing the cruise passenger tax in 2010, passenger traffic to Alaska is on track to top one million this year, the first time in many years. The ECA fuel requirement represented a real setback because it increased the cost of travel and freight to Alaska. It is, in essence, an unfair financial penalty to Alaskans who, because of our geography, already have a high cost of living.”
Though most cruise ticket prices will likely not increase as a direct result of the ECA, freight costs still remain a point of concern.
Recently, Lynden Transport announced that its fuel costs have increased by six percent since May.
“I remain concerned about cost increases for food and other ocean freight to Alaska, increases that will inevitably be passed on to Alaskans,” Governor Parnell added. “Whether cost increases result from the EPA forcing shippers to use much more expensive fuel or because companies are forced to purchase new equipment and facilities, Alaska’s families and businesses bear the brunt of this ill-conceived regulation. The state will keep the pressure on the EPA to be reasonable.”
The State of Alaska filed suit against the federal government in September to prevent the enforcement of the ECA, and the case is still pending.
Millennium departure causes a loss
of 10,000 cruise passengers for 2013
By KATIE EMMETS
Along with other Southeast port communities, Skagway has felt the hit of the Celebrity Millennium no longer bringing business to the town.
On August 21, the Millenium’s parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced that the ship was having persistent propeller problems and would not be sailing for the rest of the season.
Skagway Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue said Skagway would lose about 10,000 passengers without the last six calls the ship was scheduled to make.
Not only does this affect Southeast cruise ports, he said, but it also impacts tourism in the Yukon.
“It’s such a nice ship,” he said. “It’s a shame for it to not be in the water.”
In the past, Donahue said, a few cruise ships were forced to cancel the remainder of their season because of mechanical issues, but they were smaller ships with a maximum capacity of about 200 passengers. The worst incident took place in 1982 and involved the Majestic Explorer. The ship hit rocks in Fredrick Sound while the captain tried to position the vessel closer to a group of seals.
Though there will be 10,000 fewer cruise passengers in Skagway, Donahue said the town could still see more than 800,000 tourists traveling to Skagway by cruise ship when the 2013 summer season totals are compiled.
Though it usually docks every other week in Haines, Holland America’s MS Statendam will be calling on Skagway an extra time on Sept. 18, aiding in the deficit caused by the Millennium. The Haines dock is undergoing work.
Despite the Millenium’s absence, Donahue said Skagway is doing well.
“I’ve only heard one merchant saying they are having a bad year,” he said, adding that storeowners who are usually vocal about bad business haven’t said anything to him. “So things must be pretty gosh darn good.” Donahue said suspicions of a fruitful season would go unconfirmed until the first week in November when municipal sales tax is calculated and totaled.
Though he doesn’t think the loss of the Millennium has caused any layoffs, Donahue said it might have the potential to affect the sales tax total.
Sales tax revenue totaled about $1.2 million for Skagway’s 2012 cruise ship season, which saw about 866,000 total visitors . Donahue said 2012 was the best year since 2008, which saw 819,000 cruise ship passengers.
Numbers for the 2014 season, however, will not increase, Donahue said.
Skagway’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is expecting about 793,000 cruise ship passengers in 2014, which is a reduction of about 10,000 for this year’s projected numbers.
The Diamond Princess and the Sapphire Princess, which both have passenger capacities of 2,670, are being replaced with the Pacific Princess and Crown Princess.
While the Crown Princess has a capacity of 3,080, the Pacific Princess has a capacity of only 680. Between the two replacement Princess ships, there will be a 1,580-passenger deficit each call from the two each time they make port in Skagway.
Another replacement would be that of Holland America’s Amsterdam. Next year, the 1,848-passenger capacity Oosterdam will replace the 2,106-passenger capacity Amsterdam.
Donahue also noted that the 164-passenger capacity Bremen, which called on Skagway once in 2013, will not return next year.
“Other than that, it will be a familiar line up,” he said.
Because the ships are coming in at about 104 percent capacity this year (above normal double occupancy figures listed for ship capacities), Donahue doesn’t expect much of a change next year.
“We’re still going to come in at about 800,000 cruise ship passengers,” he said. “Nobody’s going to notice a single drop in the numbers.”
Sandy and Sean Parnell blend in with visitors walking by the Skagway Mercantile building on Second Avenue. Most did not know the first lady and governor, and had mixed reactions to the presence of the Skagway News paparazzi. Katie Emmets
Gov. Parnell visits Skagway; municipal officials update him on projects, negotiations
By KATIE EMMETS
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell visited Skagway on August 27 to become familiar with the goings on of the town.
Parnell met with Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer, Borough Assemblyman Mark Schaefer and Borough Manager Gorge Edes.
Selmer said the trio updated the governor on matters concerning the Alaska Marine Highway, the Klondike Highway, Skagway’s Ore Terminal, negotiations with Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, White Pass & Yukon Route lease negotiations, and Skagway School.
“It was mainly a courtesy call,” Selmer said of the 45-minute visit. “Governor Parnell wanted to get a feel of where Skagway is before heading into the budget process this fall.”
Selmer said they also discussed the possibility of a West Creek hydroelectricity project. Selmer told Parnell the municipality has requested funding for a study for the past six years, but has yet to receive any money.
“The governor said there is funding available, and that he would be talking to Gene Terriault of the Alaska Energy Authority to see how we could get some money for a study,” he said. “It was very positive.”
After meeting with municipal officials, Parnell spoke with businessmen Steve Hites and Dennis Corrington about the cruise ship industry.
"Governor Parnell wanted to hear about how the season was going here in Skagway," Hites said. "He has been a big supporter of the cruise tourism sector, because of the huge effect that it has on community economies, and he has personally met several times with the presidents of the international cruise lines that come to Alaska at the annual Seatrade conference to listen to their concerns and to promote our region."
Hites said Parnell is always open to talking about Skagway's future in tourism and understands that Alaska needs to remain competitive if it is going to attract investment for resource development industries such as mining, oil and gas.
"No other governor in Alaska's history has taken such a personal interest in the health of tourism," Hites said.
Parnell has been travelling throughout Southeast Alaska speaking with government representatives and was in Haines the morning of August 27 before coming to Skagway.
Apollo Medi Trans gets license back, hopes to get underwriter’s renewal soon
By KATIE EMMETS
After four months of being unable to sell insurance, Apollo Medi Trans renewed its license with the State of Alaska at the end of August and hopes to resume normal operations soon.
The medevac insurance company failed to renew its license with the state in February and has been unable to renew expired policies or sell new policies since May.
Apollo MediTrans Chief Financial Officer Robert Bonestroo said the medevac company’s license was reinstated about two weeks ago, but it is still waiting on its underwriter to give it the go ahead to renew and sell policies to those in Alaska who would need to be flown out of their town in the event of a medical emergency.
“We are an insurance brokerage,” Bonestroo said. “And we have to wait for our underwriter to appoint us again as a company that can sell the insurance.”
United Life Insurance Company is Apollo MT’s underwriter which backs its insurance product.
Apollo MT hopes to be reappointed by United Life and able to renew policies for former and existing customers and sell new policies by today, though Bonestroo said it could take a couple weeks.
According to the State of Alaska Division of Insurance website, Apollo MT’s license was originally issued in February 2009. Apollo will need to renew it again in February 2015. – KE
Chilkoot Trail, Dyea campground closed for a day after Taiya River flooding
By JEFF BRADY
DYEA – The Chilkoot Trail and the National Park Service’s Dyea campground were closed last Sunday after a night of heavy rains sent the Taiya River to near-record levels.
The gauge by the Taiya River bridge peaked at 19.06 feet at 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 8 - its highest level since the West Creek Glacier flood event in July 2002 when it hit 19.9 feet, according to the National Weather Service, which had issued a flood warning for the area at 5 a.m.
When the Taiya rises to more than 16.8 feet, portions of the lower Chilkoot will be knee-deep in water.
Tim Steidel, chief ranger for Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, said he closed the trail Sunday morning, as well as the campground.
“The trail got hit pretty hard,” he said, but added that damage was minor.
Some of the lower trail work that had been completed by crews this summer was washed away, but he said all the bridges held.
The park’s Dyea campground had about a foot of water in the trailhead parking lot right by the river, and in a couple of campsites.
The water started dropping by mid-day Sunday and was below flood stage by Monday morning.
Luckily, Steidel said, there were no cruise ships in town Sunday and no hike/float tours on the lower trail.
“It was a good time of year for this to happen,” he said. “No visitors were on that part of the trail, and it subsided rapidly.”
The trail and campground reopened at 8 a.m. Monday.
Steidel has seen the Taiya higher only one other time – during an October in the mid-1990s before the gauge was in place. He said water was waist-deep throughout the campground during that fall’s flood.
Steidel said the glacial event in 2002 – when a surge caused by a lateral moraine collapse came down West Creek on a sunny day – was more of a West Creek event that did more damage to homes closer to the creek.
West Creek was raging Sunday, covering sandbars that are normally exposed, but the new dikes put in place by the city after the 2002 event held off last Sunday’s high water.
Down the Taiya on a large bend near the McDermott home, the water got close to the top of the bank but did not jump it. Several large trees were seen floating in the lower river toward the inlet but most settled on sandbars at low tide.
It rained hard Saturday night in Skagway and Dyea, and Steidel speculated that it had been raining heavily throughout the day higher up the West Creek and Nourse River drainages which feed the Taiya. Further up the Taiya, where the park’s trail crew had been working, the river did not flood, he said.
This late in the season, Steidel said he was the only ranger on duty Sunday and attempted to contact KHNS to notify the public about the situation.
He also contacted the visitor centers and Skagway police, who did their own checking in Dyea and reported information to the NWS (see blotter).
ABOVE: The overnight and long-term parking lot for the Chilkoot Trail was full of water Sunday, Sept. 8 after the Taiya River crested a little over 19 feet, forcing the National Park Service to close the adjacent Dyea campground. The lower section of the Chilkoot also was closed for a day until water levels dropped. Jeff Brady
SKAGWAY LIBRARY GRAND REOPENING: Right, Librarian Julene Fairbanks and Library Board President Wendy Anderson raise their glasses to Mayor Stan Selmer’s toast to the library. Left, Newly elected library board member Sarah Phillips admires the Chickering Victorian Parlor Grand Piano that is on loan to the library from Helene Crouch. About 20 people attended the Skagway Public Library’s grand reopening on September 8. Construction on the building began in August 2012 and ended in May. After using the Skagway School Library for nearly 10 months, the library moved back into its renovated building in early June. The building now includes a small conference room, a south-facing reading room and a young adult room. Construction also allowed for a revamped children’s room and larger bathrooms. Though the library has been open since June, Librarian Julene Fairbanks said she wanted to wait to have the reopening until a representative of the Rasmuson Foundation could attend. The foundation gave the library a $100,000 grant for the renovation. — KE
School to get two new boilers
The Skagway Borough Assembly on Sept. 5 unanimously approved an amending of the fiscal year 2014 capital project and sales tax fund budgets to allocate funding for the emergency replacement of the boilers at Skagway School.
The two existing boilers are in poor condition and could fail at any time causing the heat to not function properly in the school. Because it takes about eight weeks to order the boilers, the school wanted to get started on the replacement right away.
The total replacement would cost $125,000 and was taken from the municipality’s sales tax reserves.
Assembly to use iPads at meetings
The assembly unanimously approved a new tablet policy for the mayor and assembly in an attempt to cut back on paper usage, which would be both environmentally and fiscally responsible.
In a June 20 meeting, the assembly approved funding in the FY14 budget for the purchase of eight Tablets for the mayor, assembly and borough clerk.
The assembly had discussed buying the latest model of Apple iPads with WiFi.
With no discussion, assembly members passed the resolution 6-0.
Gubala receives contract to continue Gateway work
The municipality has extended a contract to Chad Gubala and Boreal Engineering for work on the Gateway Project to continue to help it progress.
Work would be only as prescribed by the manager and assembly at a cost of $150 per hour. Manager George Edes said that is a typical engineering cost commensurate with other agencies the municipality uses.
“This is just to have a contract under which he could continue to provide us with services as we progress further along with the Gateway Project,” Edes said. “I think it’s a desirable contract to have for those services.”
Assemblyman Mike Korsmo said Gubala has been helping move the Gateway Project along.
Korsmo said his work in determining a clean up plan for the ore basin and how to reuse the contaminated materials has been “really helpful and really fruitful.”
“I would not only say we should extend it but give him the go-ahead to proceed with what he’s been doing,” he said. “He has been very helpful, not only in the boat harbor permitting work, but with what we’re trying to get done with the Gateway Project.”
Mayor Stan Selmer said he thinks the assembly should give Gubala an extension on his contract, and added that it would be helpful for the design phase of the Gateway Project.
The municipality was given access to the Ore Dock for project design in June.
“As far as I know we have done nothing to start that design process,” Selmer said. “We’re almost at the 90-day mark that we got the go ahead, so I would encourage the assembly to accept Dr. Gubala’s proposal.”
ALL TEN DONE – Jeremy Simmons, anchor man for the WP&YR Highballers, is cheered on as he crosses the finish line of the Klondike Road Relay. Simmons is now a member of the Senator’s Cup club, having run all 10 legs of the race over the years. See story in this issue's Sports & Rec. Katie Emmets
School receives high score on new scale
Skagway School has received a rating of four-stars from a newly implemented statewide achievement scale for the 2012-13 academic year.
The Alaska State Performance Index replaces Adequate Yearly Progress model that has been the measurement for student achievement since 2002.
An Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility waiver application to break away from the AYP model was submitted by the State of Alaska to the United States Department of Education in October, and it was approved in May.
Adequate Yearly Progress, also known as No Child Left Behind, would have required schools to have 100 percent student proficiency in math and language arts by 2014 or face monetary consequences.
But the ASPCI, which was approved in June by the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, gives schools a little more wiggle room.
According to a release from the Department of Education & Early Development, under the new accountability system students will continue to take state assessments in reading, writing and math; but other factors, such as attendance and school progress, will now be contributing to the overall equation.
Schools will be graded on a 100-point scale, and based on their placement, schools will receive a rating of one star to five stars.
Kindergarten through eighth grades will be graded on academic achievement, school progress and attendance rate. Ninth through 12th grades will be rated on academic achievement, school progress, graduation rate, college career readiness and WorkKeys participation.
For the 2012-13 academic year, Skagway School District received a four-star rating with a grade of 92.58.
Kindergarten through eighth grade received a 92.55 and the high school received a 92.7.
Skagway School Superintendent Josh Coughran said attendance and WorkKeys test participation is what hurt the school when it came to grading.
Because there was one junior who did not take the WorkKeys test last year, the high school received a 66.6 percent for test participation.
Grades kindergarten through 8 received an attendance rate of 91.80 percent and grades 9-12 received an attendance rate of 89.80 percent.
Each school will have its own annual goal for improvement in which the school will reduce its percentage of non-proficient students by half in six years.
Districts will be required to implement improvement plans in schools that receive one- and two-star ratings.
According to the DEED release, the state will recognize schools that have high performance and improvement rates; require the bottom five percent of schools that receive federal anti-poverty funds to implement a significant program of improvement; and require the next 10 percent of low-performing schools to implement interventions to address specific deficiencies.
Each year’s results and graduation rates will be reported to the DEED. – KE
School to get new safety window
At the August 27 school board meeting, board members contemplated the location of a security window that would help identify visitors upon entering the building.
The chosen spot is on the east wall of the office just outside the Arctic entryway. The window would act as a screening system.
Skagway School Superintendent Josh Coughran said the purpose of this window would be to promote a level of security against school visitors.
“Our biggest concern is the safety of our students and staff,” Coughran said.
In addition to this change, Coughran said he also wants to clarify the lockdown procedure used by the school.
The procedure to date begins with an announcement over the loud speaker: “There are no birthdays today.” Then, the teachers close and lock their doors, draw the blinds, and keep all students away from the windows.
The next meeting of the appointed School Safety Committee, including Coughran and several board members, will be held on September 17th at 6:00 p.m. in the school library and is open to the public. – ZW