Andria Bellon and Joe Bishop of Whitehorse, Rick Unrau of Penticton, B.C., Sebastien Racine of Granby, Quebec, and Dave Delnea of Hope, B.C. take a look at some of the 3,000 pounds of goods theyll have to carry over the Chilkoot in order for each of them to earn $10,000 (Cdn.). See story below. Dimitra Lavrakas
Gold quest for reality TV kicks off from Dyea
Blisters plague modern argonauts
By ROB WARREN
The Quest for Gold is on for the five Canadian reality television show participants, and like the stampeders over a century ago, the task is turning out to be far more difficult than anticipated. Ill-fitting footwear and rainy weather have hampered their efforts to stay on schedule, putting them two days behind within the first week.
Spirits remain high, however, despite the toil reminiscent of their gold-seeking counterparts.
Theyre still laughing and joking and having a good time, though, because theres no point in complaining said Andria Bellon of Whitehorse, who is the only woman on the adventure.
Bellon has assumed what she calls the womans role, remaining in the Dyea camp most days organizing the 3,000 pounds of gear that is required of the group to be carried over the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail to Lake Bennett, navigable headwaters of the Yukon River, where the stampeders are told they will have to build a boat and float the more than 500 miles to Dawson City and the Klondike gold fields.
The quest started June 5 in Dyea. The 100-day production for History Television is scheduled to air in Canada during January of 2003.
Bellons fellow gold-seekers are: Joe Bishop, also of Whitehorse; Sebastien Racine, Granby, Que.; Dave Delnea, Hope, B.C.; and Rick Unrau, Penticton, B.C. Of the five, only Bellon and Bishop have hiked the entire trail. Three Tlingit packers are assisting them to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 16.5 miles up the trail. After the summit, the packers go home, and the five are on their own.
The 3,000 pounds of goods have been divided into approximately 70 loads by the team, said the shows director Don Young. They hope to be on top of the pass by the first week of July, and would like to be in Dawson by the end of August for the citys centennial celebration, where they are to be met by the 600 to 700 residents of Dawson City, all in their historic period costume, said Young.
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Young stresses the emphasis on this production is historical accuracy and not Outdoors Adventure Television. His last series focused on the fur trappers of Hudson Bay. That historical re-enactment achieved triple the ratings of any other Canadian history show, said Young.
The period-appropriate gear issued to the modern argonauts has its own special set of challenges. Each person was assigned two pairs of footwear: gum boots and hobnail boots. Although each type of boot has its own specific advantages and disadvantages, the one thing they both seem to have in common is their ability to produce blisters. With two loads a day being the norm for their first cache at Finnegans Point, nearly five miles up the trail, alternating boots between loads seems to work best.
With over a week of the journey under their belts, routines are taking shape and the task at hand is becoming more obvious. It has also been over a week since the participants have spoken with their family and friends, so naturally the longing for home is increasing. Hairbrushes and dental floss are also missed, but when asked what was missed the most, Bellon said, I miss my husband, but what I miss the most is my dog, Big Red Boy.
DOT&PF lays off two locals
Road crew will try to keep up
By HOLLIE JOY BROWN
Due to departmental budget cuts, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced June 6 that 70 positions would be eliminated, with more than 40 employees losing their jobs. Most are maintenance positions, including two Skagway snow plow operators one full-time and one part-time.
In addition, three maintenance stations will be closed and maintenance will be discontinued on more than 70 rural roads and 18 airports.
It will impact a lot of people, Keith Knorr, DOT&PF Skagway foreman, said. (Now) theres not enough workers to even maintain a seven-day work week.
Currently, five snow plow operators run a seven-day work week in 10 hour shifts. Beginning July 1, only three men will be working a five-day work week in 10 hour shifts, he said. He added its difficult to maintain normal hours without paying overtime.
If there is a snowstorm that covers the Klondike Highway, he said, it will take all five workers 5-7 days to open it again. With only three workers, the Klondike will be shut down, impacting restaurants and local businesses by losing the traffic.
Wayne Perry and Ray Hosford were the two Skagway employees who lost their jobs. Layoffs were conducted by seniority.
Perry, who has worked for DOT&PF since 1991, said he wasnt aware of the cutbacks and was surprised when he learned his job had been cut. He said he has yet to decide what he will do after July.
Agreeing with Knorr, he said the highway and roads wont be able to be cleared with only three workers.
When a bad storm hits, he said, Its all you can do to keep up. Sometimes you cant.
However, Maintenance Director Gary Hayden for DOT&PF in Juneau said seven days of operation is possible.
Were trying to do the best job we can with the resources weve got, he said.
Hayden said the state operates the airport, the Klondike Highway, Dyea Road and Sanitarium Road. As a result of the cutbacks, Sanitarium Road will be cut off from maintenance, there will be limited snow removal on Dyea Road, so the main focus will be on the airport and Klondike Highway.
He said the goals for Skagway are to keep the airport and Klondike Highway open seven days a week throughout the winter. Three plowers and one mechanic will be on staff, he said. The three snow plowers will work 7.5 hour-days with two operators working six days a week, and all three working the same day, one day per week, resulting in seven days of operation, he said.
Depending on the frequency, duration and severity of winter storms, there may be periods when roads will be closed and it will take longer than last year to re-open them, Hayden said.
Drivers should plan on using more caution and plan on allowing more travel time during winter storm events, he said. The highway maintenance crew will endeavor, within the constraints of regular hours, to provide the highest degree of service possible.
The longest closure this past winter was for four days in February.
Knorr said he was worried that Dyea Roads maintenance, liability and equipment would be made the city of Skagways responsibility instead of the states, which would make the city liable if an accident were to happen.
Because of the two layoffs, he said, the city would no longer be able to manage Dyea Road.
The city wont be in charge of Dyea Road, said City Manager Bob Ward at the city council meeting Monday. The road will receive reduced maintenance.
Three Haines employees also were among the 40 those laid off two equipment operators and one office administrator.
Mahle heirs to wait until fall
Judges decision to come after briefs are filed
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
There were five lawyers, four different maps on the wall, and at least six witnesses who testified and were cross-examined. For the first two days of the Mahle land claim hearing in Skagway, the testimony ran past 5 p.m.; the final day, late afternoon.
Its not over yet.
The hearing transcript will be available June 27, and 30 days later opening briefs are due in to the judge with opinions on how the judge should rule. On Sept. 30 30 days after the lawyers have had a chance to read each others opening briefs the reply briefs rebutting the opening briefs are due. The judge will read them all, then make a decision.
He said he didnt know when that might be.
All of the parties in Unites State of America vs. the heirs of Harlan Mahle had their say May 29-31 before Administrative Law Judge Harvey Sweitzer from the United States Department of the Interiors Office of Hearings and Appeals in Salt Lake City.
Harlan Mahles heirs had two attorneys, private lawyer Vance Sanders and Carol Yeatman, Native Allotment Staff Attorney for the Alaska Legal Services Corp. The City of Skagway, represented by Julia Bockmon, the state by John Baker of the Attorney Generals Office, and the Department of the Interior by Regina Sleater, weighed in as intervenors to protect their interests.
At issue is where and how many acres Harlan Mahle actually intended to file for in his claim under the Native Allotment Act of 1906. Mahle, of Aleut heritage and from Kodiak, went to Pius X Mission School in Skagway and worked here before his death in 1977.
The act allowed adult Alaska Natives to gain title to the land they could prove they used. The deadline for filing was Aug. 18, 1971, when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 was enacted giving Alaska Natives 44 million acres, appropriating $962.5 million to them and establishing 13 regional and village Native corporations. The act was intended to compensate Alaska Natives for loss of lands historically used and occupied by them before Alaska became a state.
Jerry Lewis, land surveyor special sections chief with the Bureau of Land Management, pointed to one of the maps that showed the plotting of Mahles hand-written description and drawing of his 80-acre claim submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As drawn, it ran part way into Long Bay and also claimed a small, northern section of the citys Yakutania Point Park. The park land was donated to the city in 1923 by the Alpine Club.
Members of the Harlan Mahle family listen to testimony. Dimitra Lavrakas
But when the Harlan Mahle allotment was filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, it became typewritten and the acreage shrunk from 80 to about 40 acres, with part of it still in the water.
Lewis could not explain how the BIA translated Mahles request into what was typed up by the agency.
Yeatman suggested to Lewis if north and south on the written directions were reversed then a configuration would happen similar to the area the Mahle heirs are claiming. That 40-acre parcel would sit on the northern boundary line of the park, go across Dyea Road and some ways up the Skyline Trail on AB Mountain.
Sleater objected to this line of questioning, but Judge Sweitzer allowed it. Lewis said that it didnt make sense for Mahle to do that, and although Mahle probably couldnt figure true north, since many laymen cannot, and maybe he didnt have a compass, still he would have an approximate idea of the direction.
As far as using the cabins Mahle mentioned in the application, Lewis said he discounted the cabins because they were too confusing.
I can only work with things I have a real hard grasp on, said Lewis. I just didnt know, so I discarded the cabins.
Patricia LaFramboise, land law examiner for the Bureau of Land Management, testified that the BLM made a decision on the Mahle claim on March 25, 1974.
The 14.3-acre parcel in the park was rejected in 1988, and 8.60-acres was conveyed to the Mahle heirs in 1989. In 1988, two 4.02-acre parcels also were conveyed, and three parcels totaling 5.07 acres are still contested. All in all thats a little bit over 36 additional acres being claimed.
There was a field exam before Mahel died in 1977. A field examiner couldnt find the marked corners of the property, but did talk with Harlan. LaFramboise said the records indicated that Mahle didnt recall use of a cabin on the additional land, said it was abandoned, and that he neither owned nor used it.
LaFramboises said that in 1987, an additional claim was sent to BLM with evidence of additional use and occupancy. LaFramboise said she would reject this claim because it was for additional lands and were not what Mahle intended when he first applied.
In fact, Sleater pointed out, the Interior Board Land Appeals returned the case file and stated there was not only insufficient evidence of use and occupancy of the contested acreage, there was no evidence.
The IBLA is the appeals body that rules on appeals coming from the BLM, which is a bureau under the Interior Department.
Yeatman said since the IBLA ruling, more evidence has been found to support use and occupancy, and she referred to affidavits from Mahles contemporaries. She began to call witnesses.
George Logan testified by phone from Anchor Point that he hunted and trapped with Mahle, as did several others from Juneau.
Skagway resident Ed Fairbanks said he never heard Mahle claim ownersip of the land, and that it was used by everyone.
The shack claimed to be used as storage for Mahles trapping equipment was never used, said resident Barbara Kalen. She said she climbed all over the woods near the Skyline Trail to look for spruce cones.
Desiree Welch, realty specialist and Native lands reserves manager with the Tlingit-Haida Central Council, said there was no record of relinquishment of the claim or for amending the size of the claim.
Welch read a 1988 letter from Jerry Mahle that said his father intended to stake only 15 acres.
Bockman asked Welch: Eighty acres or 40? And Welch replied that it wasnt mentioned.
In 1994, a letter from Jerry Mahle asked the BIA and the BLM to adjudicate (legally judge) a claim for 80 acres. Welch acknowledged the two agencies had not communicated about the claim for 23 years.
By phone from Anchorage, Prunella Edmiston, a retired Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act specialist with the Central Council of Indian Tribes of Alaska, said she remembered the case. In 1987, she remembered seeing the stakes on the land that delineated Mahles claim.
Edmiston also dealt with the claims of Harlans brothers, Andrew and Fred Mahle, and they were for 80 acres each. She said she didnt think Harlan intended to claim any land in the park. At the time of the claim, Harlan was working for the citys Department of Public Works, and would have known about the park.
Witness Larry Jacquot, a local resident, said Andrew claimed 160 acres, and that Harlans was two, 80-acre parcels. Jacquot bought land from the Mahle heirs in the mid-1980s.
He also said he blazed claim marks with Harlan.
Jacquot said they had many conversations with him asking Mahle if he took enough land.
Jerry Mahle testified that he saw his father use the land, and that he did see hash or blaze marks on trees.
If my dad wasnt working on the weekends, he was always out(side), said Jerry.
In 1997, he and a friend tracked the marked trees north and tried to figure the plots location. A distinctive marked post was gone when he went to find it before the hearing.
After the hearing, Jerry said he was glad the family finally was heard.
If we have an honest judge, were getting Dads property back, said Jerry. A lot of emotion went into this, a lot of years.
He said he thanked the older people of Skagway who stood up and testified for his father.
The outcome will have an effect on the citys ability to gain patent to the 7,000 acres the state conveyed to the city along Dyea Road in 1997. The city has been waiting for the claim to be settled in order to survey and parcel the land for a closed bid sale.
Its a significant concern for us, said City Manager Bob Ward testifying for the city. We have a housing problem here, especially seasonally. People here are waiting on disposal of these entitlement lands.
Because part of the heirs claim includes the citys closed land fill, the city would have to buy that parcel back from the heirs.
Potentially, we could be faced with purchasing that area from the Mahles or possibly reclaiming that property for the Mahles, said Skagway Mayor Tim Bourcy this week.
Bourcy was not willing to speculate which alternative would be costlier.
The state may offer them other lands that dont have property issues, said Bourcy. What the city, state and the federal government are saying is the hand-written description and hand-drawn map stay below the road and into Yakutania Point Park...
I guess the good news with this is whole issue is if the Mahles are entitled to the property, theyre entitled to it, and we can move forward with the land conveyance.
Flood control project goes forward
Parties agree to put ownership issues on hold
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Its been a long, slow dance with all parties holding on tight to their stakes in the flood control project. Theres still no startup date.
In a joint meeting June 3, the parties agreed to disagree. Again. It was a decision theyd already arrived at when they signed off on an agreement December 2001.
Signed by the city, land owners Pamela and Dave Hunz, and Bob Loeffler, director of Department of Natural Resources Division of Land, Mining and Water, it recognized they disagreed on whether the Skagway River is navigable, but agreed that by signing, the City of Skagway or the Hunzs rights to current title or to assert title to any land in the area of the river were not jeopardized.
In the joint meeting, all three parties met face-to-face and it seemed little progress had been made on the issues that tore them apart in the first place.
Since 1991, when the Skagway Coastal Management Program identified the need for flood planning, city administrations have moved for implementation. In 1996, the draft flood control master plan was presented, and by 1998, the project should have been put out to bid. Construction was planned for June 1998-September 1999. That obviously didnt happen.
The state Department of Natural Resources revised the right-of-way through USS 1805 a right-of-way requested by the City of Skagway from the Hunzs in 1998.
In 2000, DNR sent a letter to City Manager Bob Ward revising the right-of-way permit from the entire length of the Skagway River to less than 100 feet, and claiming the dikes on USS 1805 were most likely state land.
January 2000, DNR requested an ordinary high water mark survey at the citys expense $14,700. But by February 2002, DNR decided to use a 1982 photo for the ordinary high water mark information.
How to proceed?
At the city councils June 6 meeting, Mayor Tim Bourcy tried to simplify things by placing alternatives on the table, and asked Councilmember Dave Hunz to step away from it because of conflict-of-interest issues.
Bourcy said the city could proceed with the project as it was originally submitted, see if its denied, and then launch an appeal. Or it could realign the dike to the 2001 ordinary high water mark, although it isnt clear what effect that would have on the flood control project. That would mean hiring Montgomery Watson, the citys flood control project managers, to study the effects, and that could entail spending an additional $200,000.
Or have Montgomery Watson do a hydrology study, and if the citys application is denied and flood control is compromised, then the city would have proof that the original application could work.
Or go with the Department of Natural Resources and change the dike alignment and follow the ordinary high water mark to a point.
Or just bag it, Bourcy said.
If we leave DNR out of it all together, we can go ahead with the plan, said Hunz.
Councilmember Colette Hisman said shed go for submitting the application as is and see what happens. Councilmemeber J. Frey seconded Hisman.
Ill vote no because, I think weve given MW enough on this project, said Councilmember Stan Selmer.
He suggested another option: to just do flood control on the east side of the river. That would avoid the ownership issues on the west side, save money and get the project moving.
That worries me, said Hisman.
Experts said it may create problems, Councilmember Mike Korsmo said.
Im not in favor of doing the east side, but it is another option, said Selmer.
The motion to do just the east side failed 1-3, with one abstention.
All five councilmembers then voted yes, with Hunz abstaining, to move ahead with the original plan and see what happens.
At the councils special meeting Monday night, under council and mayor discussion, Bourcy said he had a talk with Loeffler that day.
I conveyed to him that the project almost died Thursday night, Bourcy said. He said theyll be putting out recommendations soon, possibly approving the east side and sending the west side to appeals.
Council votes to support Railroad Dock extension
With two 950-foot cruise ships docking at the same time next summer, White Pass & Yukon Route President Fred McCorriston told the city council the company plans to extend the dock 300 feet.
The downside to not doing it, said McCorriston, is with the two ships docking twice a week throughout the summer, there would be a loss of 83,000 visitors. It will be an in-water project, he said, and will begin this September.
The council unanimously agreed to send a letter to the state supporting the construction.
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