Brewing thoughts, thanks after a busy summer

As the season winds to a close, it’s time to throw together some of those thoughts that have been collecting all summer:

• It would be remiss of us not to comment on the pending (still) White Pass and AIDEA negotiations that have barely seen the light of day. We can’t help but believe that if these proceedings had been out in the open, then they would have been resolved long ago. The sticking points are probably unchanged. Maybe the new makeup of the borough assembly will see the light and let the public in. Any compromise proposal needs to be discussed out in the open if there is ever any hope of an agreement earning support from the community.

• The tourism business has been great this summer, thanks in large part to the weather which makes us shine as much as the visitors. It also helped sales, and it will be an easier winter for many of us. Skagway, as always, needs to remain active in drawing the new classes of ships coming to Alaska in any kind of weather. It sure was nice to have a few no-ship days mixed into this season’s cruise schedule. Take note, schedulers of the future.

• It also is satisfying to know that new and old vessels will conform to new air emission standards. Kudos to both the cruise industry and the EPA for reaching a workable solution that will keep ships coming here. For once, a landlubber idea (stack scrubbers) makes sense for the seafaring, and, most importantly, the air we breathe.

• Mayor Selmer appears to have his West Creek hydro study funded, but with the above news about cleaner air coming from the ship stacks, we must wonder again how much benefit Skagway would receive from a fourth hydro project in our borough. This proposed mega-project would benefit the Yukon perhaps, but at what cost to the local rate-payers, and at what expense to the Dyea and West Creek valleys? These questions will certainly come up during the feasibility study.

• With news that the Alaska Rail Study is going to take a look at Haines, local railroaders surely must be simmering even more about White Pass turning its back on the prospective Eagle mine haul last year. If the numbers pencil out for a Haines rail haul years from now, White Pass will be left wondering too. In the mean time, Skagway will have to be satisfied with a few trucking and port jobs.

• Which leads us to this question: If White Pass is steadfast in its stance to remain a tourist-only railroad (which it does very well), why is it still holding on to the Ore Dock? Why not let it go and build a new cruise berth south of the current Railroad Dock, and then make a deal with the borough on leasing the Broadway Dock, and leave the industrial side of the waterfront to the town, AIDEA and AML for the movement of ore, freight, pipe, etc. – and the year-round terminal and trucking jobs that will come with those industries? There, hopefully we just broke through the negotiations. Open them up and get it done, kids.

• Finally, thanks to everyone who has read and enjoyed our new book Skagway: City of the New Century. This collection of historical features from the Alaskan and the News is getting great reviews, and it has inspired us to get more books published over the next few years. – WJB