By DAN FOX
Engineers from the Municipality of Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad are collaborating over the loose rock hanging above the Railroad Dock.
At approximately 3 a.m. on Sept. 5, a rockslide occurred at the north end of the Railroad Dock, resulting in a rock breaking a piece of the dock’s railing off and spilling rubble across the dock itself.
White Pass Executive Director of Human Resources and Strategic Planning Tyler Rose said a water main was also damaged, and the city was contacted to shut the water off.
No structural damage was done to the dock, Rose said.
White Pass had closed the dock for the remainder of the day, with two of the expected cruise ships being re-routed.
A rockslide also occurred at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, causing minor damage to a railing and knocking a hole in the side of a covered waiting area. The cruise ships in harbor on Aug. 26 were shifted to the Ore and Broadway docks. No one was injured in either slide.
As a result of the consecutive slides, White Pass has closed the dock down to restricted access for the remainder of the season. Only one ship will be allowed to berth at the Railroad Dock per day, with passengers being tendered in small boats to the Small Boat Harbor from the ship.
Passengers will not be allowed on the dock.
“We are working on a plan to take care of the situation through phased [rock] scaling, digging out the catchment at the bottom and increased, enhanced infrastructure,” Rose said.
During the Sept. 7 Borough Assembly meeting, Borough Manager Scott Hahn gave a report on the situation.
Hahn said the lower part of the hillside seems to be cleaned out, but in the areas above, there are some spots that are concerning.
Hahn said the engineers believe rocks may continue to come down the slide chutes.
A large, prominent rock – photos of which made the rounds on social media following the Sept. 5 slide – is not a concern, according to Hahn.
“What I’ve heard, is on the social media, there’s a big concern about the big rock up there, because you can see that from down below, and it looks very ominous,” Hahn said. Historical data suggests that rock has been that way for a long time, at least 100 years, according to Hahn.
“There is a problem to the south, in this gully that has rock that’s going to come down,” Hahn told the assembly.
Skagway’s and White Pass’s engineers are going to be conferring on possible mitigation, Hahn said.
Rocks have been rolling down that mountain for many years.
At the assembly meeting, resident Wayne Selmer recalled a time in 1975 where a rock had come down the mountain and damaged fuel tanks – which were on that side of the port at the time.
The accident spilled fuel into the Small Boat Harbor, Selmer said.
Selmer said in the years since, rocks have kept coming down over there.
“I think it’s been very fortunate there’s been no great loss of structures, ships and of course life,” Selmer said.