HANGING ON

Annie Brady, using a rope for balance, fords a new stream on the Chilkoot Trail at Sheep Camp caused by a storm Aug. 12 that also washed out salmon raceways at Burro Creek (see related story, p. 5), kept two cruise ships from docking, and downed trees all over town. - Jeff Brady

Sheep Camp flooded by Aug. 12 storm
Shelter uplifted, Chilkoot hikers wade through river

By JEFF BRADY
The campground at Sheep Camp on the Chilkoot Trail lost approximately half its capacity after the Aug. 12 storm caused the Taiya River to jump its banks and create a new channel.
That channel sent water through the lower end of the campground – uplifting the lower shelter and picnic area – and right down the trail for about 500 feet.
Rangers scrambled to move campers out of the area the next day, as hikers waded through chest-deep water. Campers due into Sheep Camp that night were relocated to Pleasant Camp and Happy Camp. By Wednesday, only about 10 spaces were usable in the Sheep Camp, which normally can hold about 20 tents. Hikers scheduled that day were told to be prepared for a “short swim.” By Thursday, the water on the trail entering the area had lowered to thigh-deep level, and hikers were guided through the stream with ropes to prevent them from slipping in the fast, cold current.
That day, Reed McCluskey, chief ranger for the National Park Service, flew into the area by helicopter to assess the situation with the park’s new maintenance director, Mike Amiotte, natural resources specialist Meg Hahr, and Jerry Watson, the former trail crew supervisor who has been on retainer this summer as a landscape specialist for Dyea planning.
“We took a look at the damage and the potential to mitigate it,” McCluskey said.

The lower Sheep Camp shelter and picnic table sit in the new Taiya River channel that also washed out about 10 tent sites. - JB

Watson, after years on the trail, knows the quirks of the Taiya better than anyone and advised new trail crew supervisor Scott Worley on the best way to redirect the water, using some of the cottonwoods that had fallen during the storm.
“Scott Worley and crew over the weekend were able to winch four of those big trees to divert 70 percent of the water back into the old river channel,” McCluskey said.

The crew took apart the lower bear pole, which had been in mid-channel, and moved it to dry ground, and this week the crew was taking apart the shelter and moving it, he said.
All of this is viewed as remediation and a short-term fix, because “it may not hold” during the fall rains, McCluskey said.
It’s too early to add up the costs, he noted.

Jerry Watson and Scott Worley talk about the best approach for diverting the Taiya from its new channel back to its ld one, using downed cottonwoods . - JB

“We are looking at emergency funding and planning for next season,” he said. “In the long term we have to address the routing of the trail so it is safe and trafficable, and ways to restore the capacity of the Sheep Camp campground.”

TRAIL NOTES: There have been hardly any bear problems this year on the trail, however the fly-in by park officials after the storm gave Amiotte his first encounter. Hiking back from the campground to the ranger station at the end of the day, Amiotte and a black bear had a brief stand-off on the trail, McCluskey said. “They looked at each other briefly, and the bear ran off like it’s supposed to do,” McCluskey said.
About a week earlier, however, a bear foraged in the brush around the campground too long during one of the ranger talks and had to be driven off by a ranger with a warning shot of cracker shells from a shotgun.

Eggs saved from local hatchery

DIPAC flies in, grabs fish eggs, flies out after stormy Monday

After a heavy rainfall struck the area Aug. 12, Burro Creek Hatchery lost water to its fish tanks, according to Steve Schick, manager of the Macauley Fish Hatchery in Juneau. Macauley is one of the hatcheries overseen by the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Hatchery, and Schick was scheduled to come to Skagway Aug. 15 to harvest eggs.
But stormy Monday changed all that. With no water and therefore, no oxygen getting to the fish tanks, Schick had to drop everything and get here right away.
At 6:30 a.m. Aug. 13, Schick took off from Juneau in a Skagway Air plane, he credits with getting him, his crew and all their gear to and from Skagway on one of the busiest visitor days of the year.
Burro Creek owner Eugene Richards and his family set up pumps over night to keep the fish healthy, and had to keep an all-night watch to keep debris from clogging the filter, Schick said. Richards was not able to be reached for this story.
Once here, Schick said, the problem was trying to find a way across Taiya Inlet. After trying to find a boat, the group called Temsco Helicopters, and even though they were completely booked for the day, a chopper was made available to them.
Once they took the eggs at Burro Creek, the team returned by helicopter to Skagway, and Schick called Rex Kilburn, manager of the Jerry Myers Fish Hatchery, and he came and picked them up.
But another SNAFU arose, Schick said, when they needed oxygen in order to keep the fish sperm alive and put it into baggies.
“Kilburn called a couple of high school kids, who picked up a bottle of oxygen from Alaska Power and Telephone,” said Schick. “Then we had lunch at the Red Onion.”
The team was able to leave Skagway by 3:30 p.m. All in all, Schick said, the operation was a complete success with all the problems that arose solved within minutes.
Schick said more female kings were taken at Burro Creek, and more males at Pullen Creek, which he thought forecasts a great return for next year.
Burro Creek, a non-profit hatchery, the City of Skagway, Jerry Myers Fish Hatchery, and DIPAC are partners in a multi-year project to supply and sustain fish levels in Taiya Inlet. -DL

Dyea work ongoing

State assesses damages from West Creek flood, city bulldozers hard at it

By HOLLIE JOY BROWN
Last week Plans and Preparedness Manager Gary Brown from the State Division of Emergency Services was at West Creek with City Manager Bob Ward taking photos and notes of the West Creek and flood damaged area.
Brown’s observations of the damage at West Creek will be presented to the Disaster Policy Cabinet following the city’s disaster relief application submittal.
The DPC includes state committee members who will make recommendations to the governor on the disposition of the disaster and how much relief to offer, Brown said. The council may decide to fund some, all, or none of the $250,000 project, he said.
Brown also provided information about disaster relief applications, Ward said.
“What Bob and the community have done here is very commendable,” Brown said, referring to Skagway’s efficient use of resources and immediate action prior to asking for state funding. Most places wouldn’t have started work before they received the money from the state, he said.
Bulldozers and excavation began shortly after the City Council passed the second reading of an emergency ordinance Aug. 15 appropriating $250,000 for the removal of approximately 60,000 cubic yards of deposited material from the bed of West Creek. The Council approved the funding in a second reading at its Aug. 15 meeting (see city digest item below).

City Manager Bob Ward and Gary Brown, plans and preparedness manager from the State Division of Emergency Services assess the damage at West Creek Aug. 13 for possible emergency funding. DL

Failure to remove the material would result in additional flooding, Ward said.
“I’m going to think positively about the influence we might have on the (Disaster Policy) Cabinet,” Ward told the City Council last week, referring to the efficiency and amount of work already completed.
LaborDay is the target date for completion before fall rains begin, he said.
“That’s still what we’re shooting for,” he said.
All equipment is on site and local engineer Paul Taylor is in charge of overseeing the project.
According to a report written by Taylor, the West Creek project’s intent is to remove the flood debris that is now restricting and redirecting the flow of the West Creek and place the material along West Creek’s banks at locations where the river has washed away the old bank.
The work is under the control of the City of Skagway Public Works Department. Hunz and Hunz Enterprises has been contracted by the city for the use of equipment, operators and maintenance of the equipment, Ward said.
Hamilton Construction and Hunz and Hunz were both contacted for request for proposals of the project, but Hunz was the only applicant, Ward said.

A bulldozer operated by H&H works in West Creek. - DL

Emergency funds OK’d
After public testimony, during which Mavis Irene Henricksen questioned the project to contain West Creek in the Dyea Flood area, the council approved second reading of the ordinance to fund the emergency West Creek improvements.
Henricksen said the $250,000 expenditure would raise taxes, and that it would be better to wait and do the project when the creek freezes over.
“...Five hundred million cubic yards of material came down the valley,” responded Mayor Tim Bourcy at the council’s Aug. 15 meeting. “It’s caused the river to change its course. This is a tragic event, we just want to get the river back into its channel.”
Bourcy said he didn’t want to get into a debate with Henricksen, and that the project was not a deal to line someone’s pockets.
“There are taxpayers out there too,” Bourcy said.
“How many – two?” asked Henricksen.
Bourcy said he didn’t take the number of people into account.
Councilmember Stan Selmer pointed out that the Aug. 12 storm raised the Skagway River by two-and-a-half feet.
The second reading of the ordinance providing for $250,000 for emergency services for the project was approved by all six councilmembers.

Local Boundary Commission to meet here
Public testimony is sought on borough incorporation

The Local Boundary Commission will convene in the Skagway City Chambers Aug. 31 at 2 p.m. to hear public comment on the city’s borough petition.
Public testimony at this meeting weighs very heavily with the commission, said City Manager Bob Ward.
“It is very important,” said Ward. “It is an uphill battle to convince the Local Boundary Commission to rule against the Department of Community and Economic Development (staff recommendation). It’s going to require some very convincing argument with the testimony and support of the general public as well as the people we have designated as expert witnesses.”
The CED’s preliminary report recommended the Commission deny Skagway’s borough petition. Skagway is seeking borough status in an attempt to prevent annexation or merger with another borough.
The LBC must deliver a decision within 90 days of the August meeting. Eighteen days after the commission’s written statement, a request for reconsideration may be filed.
If the LBC approves the petition, the state Director of Division of Elections is notified and must then order an election on the borough incorporation and the initial municipal officials within 30 days of notification. The nominations for initial officials are made by petition. The election to approve borough status occurs 30-90 days after the election order.
The U.S. Department of Justice must approve the borough incorporation and city dissolution to make sure there are no violations of citizens rights. That review can take from 60-75 days.
If the borough is not approved, the decision may be appealed to the Superior Court. –DL

Corringtons reapply for hotel addition
P&Z approves proposal, will revisit after protests

By HOLLIE JOY BROWN
Nancy and Dennis Corrington may be able to erect a smaller covered patio in front of The Golden North Hotel that extends to the boardwalk on Broadway.
Having previously been denied by the Historic District Commission, Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council, the Corringtons decreased the size of the structure to 12 feet deep and 28 feet long, spanning from the restaurant door to the hotel entrance door with depth extending to the boardwalk, and resubmitted their application to the HDC. The original plan spanned along the entire Broadway-faced front of the building and was also 12 feet deep, reaching to the boardwalk.
The Corringtons re-applied to the HDC with the new proposal before the City Council denied the original proposal, however, it was denied again by the HDC. They again appealed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which approved the proposal last week.
However, the commission will meet Aug. 29 at 5:30 p.m. to revisit the decision after complaints were filed by HDC members and a P&Z member asked for reconsideration.
“It’s a travesty as far as the HDC is concerned,” HDC member Casey McBride said.
“I feel that a grievous error has been made by (the Planning and Zoning) Commission,” HDC vice-chair Virginia Long said to the City Council last Thursday. “The decision affects me as a resident of Skagway, a citizen, a business owner and vice-chair of the HDC.”
Long asked the council to review the commission’s decision and to ask them to reconsider.
“(The HDC) is very disheartened and we really feel like ‘why are we here?’ because we work hard to uphold your regulations,” she said.
“We denied that application because it went against the codes and guidelines,” HDC member Averill Harp told the council. “Either there are rules for everybody or rules for nobody at all. If we have laws, don’t we have to apply them to everybody?”
Planning and Zoning Commission member Paul Taylor said by phone last week, “The comments of the board were along the lines of the Corringtons having a better argument.”
The HDC had legitimate concerns, but the Corringtons had the better argument, he said. The inclusion of disability access was one of the deciding factors, he said.
The addition will not alter the buildings structure, which can be completely restored if the structure were to be taken down in the future, Nancy Corrington said. The HDC guidelines require that the hotel may be restored to the original exterior if the structure were to be added, she said.
The HDC may not appeal P&Z’s decision. In Skagway Municipal Code, an aggrieved party cannot be a municipal body and P&Z’s decisions may not be appealed. On Monday, P&Z member Dorothy Widener, who had voted for the addition, requested reconsideration, and next week’s special P&Z meeting was scheduled, said City Manager Bob Ward.
The commission will have to vote on whether to reconsider its action, and if that motion passes, then it can discuss the issue and vote again, Ward noted.
If they are able to build the entryway, the Corringtons have not decided if they will continue to pursue the sale of The Golden North Hotel.
Dennis Corrington previously stated because he was not allowed to use the taxed property in front of the hotel up to his property line to the boardwalk was a reason to sell the building.
“The chances are we probably will not sell it,” Nancy said after their proposal passed. However, she added that their businesses are always for sale if the price is right.
The “For Sale” signs have remained posted in their buildings since P&Z approved the entrance, but if there are no buyers with the right price by September, “We will proceed with the addition,” Nancy said.
The building, brewery, restaurant and e-mail cafe are on the market for $4.4 million.

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• Fish This! Advice for the lady anglers

• Obituary: James S. Plummer

• Elections: Few local candidates file, primary preview

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