July 15, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV, No. 12
Grand Old Uncles
From left, Dirk Geabe, Millie Bass and Dean Anderson show off their costumes for the Uncle Sam look-alike contest during Skagway’s Fourth of July celebration. See many more Independence Day photos in our print edition and on our 4th of July 2001 page.
Photo by Katie Emmets
Selwyn offers second ore terminal plan; White Pass negotiations 'progressing'
By MARK ABADI and JEFF BRADY
After receiving negative feedback on the new ore terminal plan it presented to the municipality last month, Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. recently proposed an alternative facility that would build off Skagway’s already-standing ore terminal.
Compared to the dock in its original plan, known as the Pacific Dock, Selwyn’s proposed extensions would have a reduced impact on the Skagway River and neighboring Temsco Helicopters.
Paul Taylor, the local project manager Selwyn Chihong, presented the new plan to Skagway Mayor Tom Cochran and Port Commission Chair John Tronrud during a meeting June 29. Dr. Harlan Meade, the president of Selwyn Chihong, and a representative from AIDEA also were present. The meeting was not advertised.
The first Pacific Dock plan called for the construction of a facility at the mouth of the Skagway River. It would likely interfere with Temsco’s flight path, which some port commissioners viewed as a flaw at a prior meeting of the commission on June 24.
“One of the things we talked about was that the other plan was not going to be acceptable to the community, more than likely,” Tronrud said. “We told them the plan they presented probably wasn’t going to work, so they were hastily trying to draft a new plan.”
A rough drawing of the new proposal shows expansion off the existing terminal, with a conveyor south to a ship loader at a new dock built at an angle past the south end of the current Temsco heliport. It is just outside the mouth of the river.
Selwyn’s proposals represent another option for Skagway officials, who are already contemplating an expansion of the ore terminal funded by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
AIDEA has the authority to bond up to $65 million in its expansion project. Selwyn would presumably be one of its major clients. The municipality also has access to $10 million from the state capital budget recently signed by Gov. Sean Parnell.
But Selwyn has taken issue with the wharfage fees imposed by White Pass and Yukon Route — the company that holds the tidelands lease for the site — among other concerns.
Negotiations between the municipality and White Pass president Eugene Hretzay on a tidelands lease extension have thus far been private, leading Selwyn to propose what has been painted as a drastic alternative.
Taylor said he did not expect to meet with the municipality and AIDEA again before early August.
At the June 24 Port Commission meeting, Tronrud reported the tidelands lease negotiations were progressing to a point where the two sides should have written proposals for review by the assembly and the board of ClubLink, owner of White Pass, by early August. To date, those have not been made public, and after a July 8 negotiation session, neither side had any comment.
The municipality and AIDEA, owners of the terminal building, are pushing for a renegotiated lease that would give them site control. Under the lease White Pass has with the municipality until 2023, the railroad company controls all movement over the ore dock.
Skagway officials and Taylor have both maintained the current ore terminal site is their preferred option for expansion, but they would like the site control issue resolved in any future lease.
OUR OPINION: Read related editorial: Enough Already
The timber wolf returned to the Bradys’ drive in Dyea about 4:30 a.m. on June 26, the morning after it killed a relative’s dog. Jeff Brady
Wolf killed after attacking six pets
Tested negative for rabies during necropsy, official says
By MARK ABADI
The wolf responsible for a string of domestic pet attacks in the Skagway area tested negative for rabies this week, leaving officials unclear as to what sparked the attacks.
The wolf, which had attacked five dogs and a cat between June 25 and June 30, killing at least one dog, was shot by Officer Hank Vance of the Skagway Police Department at the end of Liarsville Road on July 1.
In the subsequent necropsy in Fairbanks, a state wildlife veterinarian determined the wolf did not have rabies, and it did have some fat lining its stomach, suggesting it wasn’t as starved as previously imagined.
“It wasn’t severely emaciated,” said Ryan Scott, one of two state Department of Fish and Game biologists who helped find the wolf. “It was pretty thin when I looked at it and handled it, but it still had energy reserved internally.”
The wolf was 8 years old and weighed about 110 pounds, Scott said. The veterinarian who performed the necropsy did discover a severe tapeworm parasite in the wolf, although that doesn’t explain its behavior.
“There’s not a smoking gun in there,” Scott said. “Everything suggested it was kind of an older animal who figured out along the lines that domestic pets were a fairly easy prey item.”
Distemper test results are still pending, he said.
The attacks ranged in location from Dyea to Liarsville, a distance the Department of Fish and Game said is easily traveled by wolves.
In reports to police and the biologists, residents described the wolf as unresponsive to cars and barking dogs, prompting officials to question the wolf’s health.
“This animal wasn’t afraid of people and attempted to get pets with people present. That’s odd. That’s not OK,” Scott said. “When it loses its fear of people, that’s a public safety concern.”
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett dismissed a rumor that multiple wolves were committing the attacks.
“We haven’t had any wolf problems that have been reported to us since,” he said. “Everyone who called described this wolf.”
Wolf predation on domestic pets has been observed multiple times in Juneau in recent years, Scott said, although never involving a wolf that attacked pets in the presence of people. Leggett said it was the first attacks of their kind he had seen in his seven years in Skagway.
The first reported attack occurred June 25 on the property of Jeff and Dorothy Brady, publisher of The Skagway News, along West Creek in Dyea.
Jeff Brady said he was grilling hamburgers, the scent of which could have attracted the wolf to the property.
At around 8:30 p.m., Brady’s two dogs and a third — Raymond, who belonged to a niece — began barking wildly, and ran to the outskirts of the property. A fight ensued, Brady said, and ended with a pained yelp. After his wife and he made sure the kids were inside, Brady said he got in his truck to scare off what he thought was a bear.
“Fifty feet past the property line there was this wolf with Raymond in his mouth,” Brady said. “The dog was dead. It was very upsetting.”
The wolf trotted off into the woods with the dog, but it returned.
Dorothy Brady said she saw the wolf lurking on the property several times the following morning. At one point it was within 10 feet of her, and did not move away until she yelled at it and banged on a cart.
The incident at the Bradys was the only attack that resulted in a confirmed death, Scott said, although he said he presumed at least one of the dogs that went missing during a later attack died.
Scott Logan, who lives on Liarsville Road near where the animal was shot, said he saw the wolf walking with a noticeable limp on July 1, an injury he suspects it sustained in its front legs during a skirmish with neighbor Katherine Moseley’s dogs the night before. He said the wolf moved only about 10 feet from when he called police until they arrived.
On July 10, a cat that fled after a suspected attack returned to Mike Hosford’s property in Dyea. Hosford’s small dog, however, is still missing.
Rep. Don Young speaks in Dyea
By MARK ABADI
Alaska’s lone U.S. representative made a rare Skagway appearance when he spoke at the Chilkoot Trail Outpost in Dyea last month.
Don Young stressed the importance of developing Alaska’s resources and creating more jobs during the fundraiser hosted by the District 5 Republican Party.
The appearance marked Young’s first visit to the Skagway area in about 30 years, and his first to Dyea.
A handful of the 50 or so attendees traveled from Haines to introduce themselves to Young.
During a short speech, Young argued the federal government was preventing Alaska from using its resources by designating public land.
“Let’s tell the federal government ‘no more.’ We want to be able to develop resources,” Young said.
Young has represented Alaska in Congress since 1973, and will seek his 21st consecutive term in 2012.
Kathy Hosford, owner of the Outpost and vice chairwoman of the District 5 Republican Party, said she suggested Young visit Dyea when the two met at a lunch in Haines this past spring.
“He has not been here for a very, very long time,” Hosford said. “And we really needed him to visit our area because we have a lot of needs.”
Hosford said the local Republican Party will stress long-term job creation as next year’s election approaches.
Don Young adresses a crowd in Dyea. Katie Emmets
Malaspina ferry saves injured hiker
By MARK ABADI
Passengers and crew aboard a state ferry rescued an injured Skagway hiker in late June, but not everyone agrees on who deserves the credit.
The M/V Malaspina was a mile outside of Skagway the night of June 23 when people on board heard cries for help coming from the beach.
Joey Nowicki, a 33-year-old Bonanza Bar and Grill employee, had strayed from the Sturgill’s Landing trail and fallen off a steep cliff on the eastern shoreline of the Taiya Inlet, landing in the frigid water and swimming to the rocky shore.
According to the post-rescue reports of Capt. Nick Kollars and Second Mate Neil Short-Forrer, bridge lookout Roger Sperber heard Nowicki’s cries for help at 10:40 p.m. Over the intercom, Kollars solicited the help of passengers in scanning the shores for the hiker with a spotlight. At 10:58 p.m., two crew members set off in a fast-rescue boat and reached Nowicki three minutes later, delivering him immediately to emergency medical technicians in Skagway’s small boat harbor.
Nowicki was bleeding from his head, arms and legs, but refused to sit down, Short-Forrer said in his report.
“He was pretty coherent talking and answering questions for the second mate,” said Clark Posey, the boatswain who drove the rescue boat. “But by the time he got back to the dock he was getting really disoriented.”
Kollars said Nowicki had no memory of what happened, but he did remember the Malaspina spotlight shining on him.
Nowicki was treated at Dahl Memorial Clinic and released with non-life-threatening injuries.
According to Short-Forrer’s report, Nowicki told him he was considering attempting to swim to the ship had the spotlight not shone on him. High tide would have forced him back into the water soon, Short-Forrer said.
“He was desperate for help, called for his life at the top of his lungs and thankfully was heard,” he said.
Nowicki would not comment for this story.
Following the rescue, crew members and media reports attributed Sperber, the lookout, with first hearing the calls for help.
But Alan Walsh, a passenger from Calgary who was on the deck, said he first heard and spotted the hiker.
“It sounds like somebody’s yelling for help,” Walsh said he remembered thinking. “So I listen for a couple more, and sure enough they sounded like they were coming from the shore.”
He said it wasn’t until he alerted crew members on the bow that the search began.
“I just started to yell at these guys. It took me about three or four good yells to finally get these guys’ attention,” he said.
Another passenger, Lin Lloyd, from California, said the announcement over the ferry’s P.A. system indicated it was a passenger who brought the issue to the crew’s attention.
Michael Neussl of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said although he has heard “mixed” accounts of the rescue, he will send a letter of thanks to Walsh for his assistance anyway.
“The captain told me he doesn’t really know who spotted him first. He got multiple reports of a lot of things happening at the same time,” Neussl said. “If a passenger claims he saw him first and reported it, good for him.”
Walsh said he was “a little bit ticked off” for not getting credit, but ultimately he only cared about Nowicki’s safety.
“The most important thing is the person,” Walsh said. “It’s really immaterial who in turn gets the reward, the merit.”
F&G supports work by TIWC
Reduced fish due to regional issues
With the Fish Derby taking place this week, the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council held a phone conference with Alaska Fish and Game Biologist Richard Chapell in order to dispel rumors that the council’s restorations to Pullen Creek have impaired the fish run.
In the past couple of years, the council has replaced two culverts, metal pipes through which fish use to swim to the pond, and replaced and added plants in the same area.
In the Monday evening meeting, council President Mark Larson told Chapell that some Skagway residents have expressed thoughts in the form of newspaper editorials or public comments at meetings that the council is directly responsible for the fact that there were no pink salmon and hardly any king salmon running in 2010.
Chapell said there was a region-wide drop of pink salmon in Southeast last year.
This year, however, they have seen an increase of the fish in the Chilkat and Chilkoot lakes in Haines, which he said might be a good sign for this year’s fish run in Skagway.
Although there has been a good amount of king salmon spawning in the past years, Chapell said he attributes the drop in numbers to a failure of marine survival rather than Pullen Creek restorations.
“I don’t see how the restoration work would affect the fish coming back,” he said. “They are just not surviving at the rate we would assume.”
Chapell added that there is no native run of king salmon into Pullen Creek.
In regards to pink Salmon, Chapell said it is more of a cyclical thing than anything else and that they are on a pretty strict two-year cycles.
Chapell also dismissed the rumors that the restoration work changed the scent of the water which some have said would prevent fish from returning.
“Replacing culverts is pretty routine work,” he said. “I’ve never heard of that changing the scent of a stream.” - KE
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
New 20-minute parking on 5th Avenue
As of a decision during the July 7 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting, there will now be 20-minute parking only on the north side of 5th Avenue.
At a June 23 Borough Assembly meeting, Deb Potter, owner of Sugar Mama’s, presented the assembly with three photos of oversized trucks and campers parked in front of businesses on the north side of 5th Avenue. Potter also mentioned that the south side of 5th Avenue, which is where Broadway Video, Bombay Curry and Sockeye Cycle are located, has either no parking/loading zones or 20-minute parking.
Jean Etue, owner of Lemon Rose Bakery said she has recently had a problem with the two-story camper that is owned by the people who live above her shop. Etue said the camper is parked there for several days at a time.
“When I walk to Broadway Video, I get to a point where you can’t even see my store,” she said.
Etue said that when the camper is parked in front of Lemon Rose Bakery, she sometimes doesn’t open her shop.
“What’s the point?” she said.
Kristine Clayton, owner of Gold Digger Mine and Dine, said tourists tell her that her business looks unwelcoming when they see it from the street.
“They tell me it doesn’t look the same as shops on Broadway because of all the cars that are parked down that street,” Clayton said.
When she stands outside the door to try to grab tourists’ attention, she said she notices people trying to peer over parked cars to look at her shop but can’t really see the store and lose interest.
“I’m not saying no parking at all, but this is something we could work on together,” she said.
At the beginning of the Thursday meeting, Steve Jaklitsch, owner of Back Alley Rock Shop, was set against limiting parking on 5th Avenue, saying that it would cause a lot of controversy for residents and business owners, but after hearing the testimonies of those who own businesses on the north side of the street, he said he could see how limiting the parking of larger vehicles only would be beneficial.
“When I had my shop on 5th, big motor vehicles would park in front of my store and we wouldn’t even get light in there,” he said.
Mayor Tom Cochran brought up the idea of a parking lot, which has been presented as an option to alleviate parking matters in the past.
“I’m willing to bring the parking lot up again,” he said. “But for some reason it’s an emotional issue for the town.”
Each time it’s discussed, Skagway residents take issue with having a parking lot “in their back yards,” said Assemblyman Mark Schaefer, and it is quickly shot down.
Schaefer added that he could not support this resolution as it is written because it will prevent those who live above businesses on 5th Avenue from parking their cars on the street.
Assemblyman Dan Henry suggested they might speak to White Pass & Yukon Route about using one of its lots that is unoccupied and charging $50 for a season-long parking pass.
Resolution No. 11-12R passed its first reading with a 5-1 vote, with Schaefer voting against it.
It is now in effect, butBorough Clerk Emily Deach said it will be hard to enforce until 20-minute parking only signs are ordered and put up on the north side of 5th Avenue. – KE
SCHOOL REPORT (complete digest in print edition)
Thielbar off to DC
In a June 28 Skagway School Board meeting, the board unanimously approved travel for Superintendent Jeff Thielbar to go to Washington D.C. where he recently presented on the No Child Left Behind Act.
As the legislation stands, schools who adopted this act — Title I schools in the U.S. and all schools in Alaska — must work towards being proficient in language arts, mathematics and sciences and also have a 100 percent graduation rate by the 2013-2014- school year. If schools do not meet this goal, Thielbar said there would be monetary penalties, and after five years, there is a possibility that the state could take control of the school.
Thielbar, along with school administrators nationwide, will be talking with U.S. representatives in an attempt to convince them that this goal is a little too lofty.
“It’s a good goal and something worth working toward,” he said. “But it’s not going to succeed.”
Thielbar compared asking teachers to accomplish these goals to asking those who run the U.S. government to fix the federal deficit.
“Could you imagine if we said ‘You guys get it down to zero, or we’re going to take it out of your paycheck,’” he said. “It doesn’t work like that. It needs a lot of planning.”
The graduation rate is calculated by averaging the graduation statistics of the current year and four years prior.
Skagway School, which Thielbar attributes to being one of the best schools in the state, has an 82 percent graduation rate, which he attributes to two students dropping out within the last four years.
Music teacher, boys hoops coach to change
As of July 6, Skagway School has three positions that need to be filled: varsity boys basketball coach, part-time music instructor and special education aide.
Thielbar said that after a resignation from former basketball coach Chris Wassman, the school is looking for a change in the boys basketball program.
“I really admire Chris,” Thielbar said. “The basketball team on paper hasn’t been very successful, but he is a very talented man, and I know he is going to miss the kids and miss working for the school.”
Wassman said the resignation was requested, but he did not want to comment further.
The school is looking for someone in the community, Thielbar said, and applications will be accepted through July 29.
Thielbar said after purchasing the company that performs the Days of 98 Show, Jonathan Baldwin will no longer be able to be the part-time music teacher at Skagway School, but that he is willing to help out.
Also, Thielbar said Billi Clem would not be returning as the special education aide because she is running her two businesses, Klondike Tours and Alaskan Fairytales. Thielbar added that if the enrollment for the upcoming school year calls for more presence from a special education aide, the position might become full-time.
Applications for all three positions will be accepted through July 29. – KE
Editor's note: Clem has written a letter to the editor explaining her reasons for not seeking the special ed. aide job. It will run in the July 29 issue.