By Leigh Armstrong 

Skagway has a lot to decide and a lot to do if it wants to take over control of the ore dock and adjoining upland property when its lease with White Pass & Yukon Route expires in 2023. 

Assemblymember Orion Hanson said Skagway needs to look at separation between industrial and tourism uses of Skagway’s port and do so quickly. 

“We don’t want to wait until the end of 2023. We want to take action soon and come up with a plan that really works,” Hanson said at a special borough assembly committee of the whole meeting Aug. 8 to discuss the future of the waterfront. 

In addition to the assembly, meeting attendees included representatives from Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, Temsco, Alaska Marine Mines, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, Holland America, White Pass & Yukon Route, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, and the Yukon Territory’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and Department of Economic Development. 

“This is evidence that this is a key first step, with everyone coming here,” Assemblymember Tim Cochran said. 

A draft timeline was handed out, stating the municipality’s goals in working toward ownership of the port. The municipality will refine the rough timeline with dates that can be used by the assembly going forward. 

“That way we understand it, we have limited number of months and number of things to deal with,” Mayor Andrew Cremata said. 

Items of the ranged from addressing removal of the ore loader at the dock, designating a port director and municipal port department, to drafting leases for TEMSCO, AML, Petro Marine, AIDEA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all of which lease space on the uplands of the ore dock.

Cochran said the waterfront needs the diversity between industry and tourism, while the Yukon government officials, noting the pending reopening of the Minto Mine, said the territory’s mining industry will increasingly rely on the port.

On the cruise ship side of a diversified port, Cremata said Skagway needs to look at increasing the town’s infrastructure to further support the growing number of people coming here each year aboard cruise ships. 

“We’re in kind of an unusual place in history because we’re seeing volumes that no one could have predicted years ago, and at the same time we’re being told those volumes are going to increase on the same exponential level over the next 10 to 20 years,” Cremata said. 

With those increased numbers, Cremata supported Hanson’s statement on separation of tourism and industry, noting that Bermello Ajamil and Partners, a Miami-based consulting firm hired to assess options for Skagway’s port, would be looking into that issue. 

Additionally, cleanup of the ore basin was raised at the Aug. 8 meeting as something that is key for the port. “Tourism doesn’t want to invest in the industrial sector and the industrial sector doesn’t want to invest in tourism if it doesn’t help,” Cochran said. “Right now, we’re using the ore dock for both.” 

The state, which owns the ore loader at the dock, and the municipality, which owns the dock, along with White Pass & Yukon Route, which leases the dock, have been discussing options for cleaning up the ore that spilled over the years at the loader.

Cremata said residents want industrial port partners but want the contamination cleaned up and the prevention of further spills.