Skagway’s Borough Assembly has agreed to send a fourth letter to the White Pass and Yukon Route railway in an effort to clean up the ore basin and ensure the future of the harbor.
Past letters sent to WP&YR have been vague and unclear, simply asking for the company’s willingness to work on the project. WP&YR President John Finlayson said they were agreeable to working together, but would need more of a direct goal before proceeding.
The assembly and Finlayson held a three-hour meeting in executive session on Feb. 15 to discuss the future of the port, at the end of which Mayor Mark Schaefer said the assembly will continue a conversation with the company in a public realm.
A special meeting was held on Feb. 22 to review the letter and future possibilities for the mitigation and infrastructure of the port.
The letter states the municipality’s paramount goal is the cleanup of the ore basin, a project they would consider pledging money toward along with White Pass and their tenant at the Ore Terminal, which is currently the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
The municipality requests that White Pass consider and agree on the following: regulatory approved remediation plan for the ore basin; mutually agreed to project cost share between the municipality, White Pass and AIDEA; subtenant partnership participation; a scope and scale agreement for May 2016 and construction to begin in fall 2016.
“The municipality feels that this is a public health and safety issue that inhibits the port’s ability to develop economic opportunities in Skagway,” the letter states.
Project manager Chad Gubala compiled three different remediation plans. The first focused solely on remediation of the basin, which requires the removal of infrastructure like the ship loader at the Ore Terminal and dolphins for tying up ships. The plan comes with the lowest cost at $6,829,600 but does not address reinstallation of infrastructure.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran said as manager of Petro Marine Services, he didn’t know if he could get behind the first option, as it would remove critical parts of the port.
“There would be no ore facility loading and no fuel. I don’t see how we could go with option one without having something in place to have fuel supplied into town,” he said.
A second option addresses both the mitigation and infrastructure replacement at the Ore Terminal for $12,029,600.
Assemblyman Spencer Morgan agreed with Cochran on option one, saying he wouldn’t be on board with something that would be adverse to operations. He added that neither of the plans address the “glaring need” for a floating dock.
The third option comes with the highest cost at approximately $23 million and includes mitigation, infrastructure replacement and the installation of a 50×400’ floating dock, which alone costs $11 million. However, the floating dock was originally developed as part of the Gateway Project, which included widening and deepening of the harbor. Installation of the floating dock now would provide access for a breakaway class cruise vessel, but would not accommodate multiple ships until harbor improvements are completed.
Assembly members agreed to provide all three draft options to White Pass along with the letter in the hopes of moving the process along, and gave a response deadline of March 15.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. suggested the assembly compile somewhat of a negotiation team, though they are not negotiating a lease as before.
“If we get a positive response from the railroad, we need to be ready to respond in an appropriate way. It shouldn’t be all seven of us sitting in a room with them. It’s already convoluted enough,” he said.
Until then, assembly members have agreed to continue researching alternative options. Borough Manager Scott Hahn will continue reaching out to the state in regard to a joint floating dock facility at the ferry terminal.