By DUSTIN STONE
The assembly has opted to wait until its next regular meeting before approving comments on a Pacific and Arctic Railway and Navigation Co. application, to the Army Corps of Engineers, requesting a permit to “discharge 15,000 cubic yards of gravel and 3,000 cubic yards of riprap fill material into 0.75 acres below the ordinary high water mark of the Skagway River.”
PARN (the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad in Alaska) is seeking the permit in order to facilitate widening of a 3,200-foot section of the existing railroad embankment between mile 3.7 and mile 5.1 of the main track to make room for the construction of a new siding track.
The project, according to the application, is necessary in the implementation of PARN’s new passenger train operating plan which seeks to “increase the safety to excursion train passengers, its train operating employees, reduce locomotive fuel consumption and improve passenger train movement efficiency.”
Borough Manager Scott Hahn told the assembly Thursday, that his biggest concern with the proposed project is the uncertain effect of adding material below the high water line in the event of a rare catastrophic flood.
“There has to be an effect if they fill. Maybe there’s a way they can do it without having displaced water move into our town during a 100-year-flood… It’s a flood channel and you don’t fill a flood channel without creating another outlet,” he said.
Mayor Mark Schaeffer, who works for WP&YR and is familiar with the project, said he didn’t believe adding material in the proposed area would result in any major changes to the river.
“The choke point is in a relatively wide flood plain,” he said, explaining that in the case of a flood, he believes any water would have plenty of room to disperse without causing any significant increase in the high water mark
“It is appropriate to ask [the Army Corps of Engineers] if they’ve taken flooding into consideration,” he added.
Assembly members agreed to continue researching the proposal and return with comments at the February 2 meeting.
The municipality has until February 7 to submit comments to the Army Corps of Engineers.