Paying tribute

A management plan for the Nahku Bay beach area has been approved by the Borough Assembly following a naming discussion at the group’s April 6 meeting.

Originally presented to the assembly as the Matthews Creek Conservation Area, the plan detailing the management of the area was approved on April 6, with an amendment that changed the name to the Nahku Bay Conservation Area.

The Matthews Creek name was questioned first in a letter by Skagway Traditional Council Travel Administrator Sara Kinjo-Hischer, who expressed concerns about replacing traditional Tlingit names.

“I would like to see support from the assembly regarding the name of the Matthews Creek Conservation Area to keep the Tlingit name,” Kinjo-Hischer said to the assembly on April 6. “Currently there’s about 500 speakers of Tlingit in the entire United States, of them, it ranges from just beginning to somebody who can speak fluent – and that’s rare.

“In this town, there’s not one person who can speak fluently in Tlingit. Over the last hundred years, all the names that have been here traditionally have been replaced by a western name.”

Within the management plan is a list of recommendations that encompass the beach area of the Nahku Bay Conservation Area. The idea is to preserve the area for public enjoyment and historically allowed uses, while maintaining the spirit of the land in honor of Bud Matthews, the former owner of the property. The property was purchased from Matthews’ estate in 2016. The Nahku Bay Property Oversight Ad Hoc Committee had previously said the area would be split into two sections: the beach area and an upland portion.

The assembly approved a motion to re-title the management plan, with a contingent amendment that the upland area be appropriately titled to honor Matthews when the time comes.

Hydroelectric project abandoned

The Alaska Power & Telephone Company has announced it will not apply for a new Federal Energy Regulator Commission permit, and will cease the development of a hydroelectric project at West Creek.

In a letter to Mayor Mark Schaefer and the Borough Assembly, AP&T said that three years ago it applied for the permit to conduct an analysis of the viability of developing the hydroelectric project. That permit will expire on May 31, 2017.

“Because there has been little interest by Skagway for this project we will not apply for a new FERC permit and are abandoning efforts for development at this time,” the letter reads.

At the April 6 assembly meeting, Schaefer said the project wasn’t viable.

“Even if you could get the cruise ships to sign on to this, which apparently doesn’t look like that’s really likely,” Schaefer said.

Consultant gets updated marching orders

Skagway’s port consultant Moffatt & Nichol has had its scope of work expanded.

The consultant was already working for the municipality to investigate several topics and conduct community outreach as part of short and long-term planning efforts for Skagway’s port.

At its April 6 meeting, the Borough Assembly moved to add additional tasks to this scope of work – an addition which will cost the borough $264,991.

The three new tasks are a preliminary economic analysis, a port governance study and an environmental and regulatory compliance study.

For the economic analysis, Moffatt & Nichol will explore the capital and operation/maintenance costs of the port facilities and balance expenditures against revenue potential and investment risk.

The current lease with White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is set to expire in 2023.

Related to this, the scope of work states that the municipality desires to explore various strategies for future governance, which would allow Skagway to increase the economic boons of the port while “allowing greater visibility of the activities in which the Port is engaged.” The Scope of Work notes that there are various models of port governance, each with their pros and cons, and as such it is “important to have a better understanding of what model(s) would be best suited for Skagway.”

“I think what we’ve got in front of us is a good step to undertake,” Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said at the April 6 meeting, adding that the scope of work would help in getting information that the public has been asking for. The port governance and economic analysis sections are tied together, Burnham said, because the latter informs the former. Knowing the potential the waterfront has would tell the municipality what level of oversight it should have.

The last addition is the environmental and regulatory compliance portion, which will explore existing and potential risks that exist between current operations and industry best management practices for regulatory compliance and environmental safeguarding of Skagway’s waterfront. Moffatt & Nichol will prepare a report that will recommend improvements and best practices for port operations.

The environmental, regulatory and compliance study should give Skagway answers as to what sort of strings are attached environmentally on the waterfront currently, according to Burnham, and that would help the municipality set a baseline on where it needs to go.

“I think in any scenario we are going to have to undertake this sort of study, so whether we do it now or later, before the municipality gets a bigger footprint on the waterfront, we’re going to have to have answers,” Burnham said. Assembly Member Angela Grieser objected to giving Moffatt & Nichol more money before seeing the results of what the firm has already been contracted to do.

“In my opinion, I would like to see the finished product before I engage them in another $264,000,” Grieser said.

The assembly approved a motion by Assembly Member Tim Cochran to move forward with the expanded scope of work for Moffatt & Nichol 5-1, with Grieser against (Grieser attended the meeting via telephone).

Dyea Flats road construction to bring nighttime closures

Construction on the Dyea Flats road is scheduled to resume starting April 17, with nightly closures forecasted through June 1.

Project improvements include elevating the road surface, increasing drainage, replacing culverts and adding widened turnouts for safe passing lanes.
Full details for the roadwork are as follows:

April 17-30

• Day work hours of 6 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Flagger controlled one-way traffic with 15-minute delays possible

• No road closures during day work

• Night work hours of 6 p.m.-6 a.m.

• Flagger controlled one-way traffic with 15-minute delays possible from 6 p.m.-11 p.m., and 4 a.m.-6 a.m.

• Road closure from 11 p.m.-4 a.m.

• Slide Cemetery and Lost Lake Roads closed 6 p.m.-6 a.m.

May 1-June 1

• Day work will cease.

• Night work hours of 7 p.m.-6 a.m.

• Flagger controlled one-way traffic with 15-minute delays possible from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. and 4 a.m.-6 a.m.

• Road closure from 11 p.m.-4 a.m.

•Slide Cemetery and Lost Lake Roads closed 7 p.m.-6 a.m.

According to a press release, work to improve the Dyea Flats road began on May 9, 2016 as part of a project administered by the Federal Highway Administration to improve the National Park Service-owned portion of the road and the public access between the Slide Cemetery and the Lost Lake Trailhead.

Local contractor Hunz & Hunz Enterprises, whose bid offer was accepted to perform the work, will continue work on the project. Weather temporarily halted the project in December.

“Thank you for your patience and understanding during this project,” the press release states. “Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park strives to maintain exceptional visitor and public services, including safe public access to the trails and resources of Dyea. Please feel free to contact the park with any comments or questions regarding this project.”

– NPS