By Gretchen Wehmhoff
As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Alaska is expecting over $267 million in federal infrastructure grants. Skagway will get a better sewer system out of it.
Currently, Skagway’s primary permit for wastewater allows a certain level of treated discharge into Taiya Inlet. While the system is fine for year-round management of waste, it is pushed to near capacity during heavy tourist days in the city.
The $10.2 million grant will allow Skagway Public Works to plan for improvements at the wastewater treatment plant that could handle more visitor traffic.
This year will be a test of the current system as cruise ships return to near normal frequency and capacity. More visitors are also expected via ferries and the Klondike Highway.
With plans for future extension of the Ore Dock, the city hopes to handle larger 1,100- foot vessels, bringing more passengers to the port. Without wastewater improvements, Skagway’s sewer infrastructure wouldn’t be able to handle the predicted increase of cruise visitors.
“This is good news,” Mayor Andrew Cremata said.
“Senator Murkowski really went to bat for Skagway,” Assemblymember Orion Hanson added.
Orion said the wastewater plant at 1st and Main is limited. Currently the municipality is working on odor control and maintenance. Skagway is limited in space compared to other sewer systems that might have room for tailing ponds.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, announced the funds in March.
“The funding I secured through this process will support local projects, create jobs and provide communities with a much-needed boost,” Murkowski said.
“These projects will have real, tangible impacts on the lives of Alaskans, but may not have been funded without explicit direction from Congress,” she said.
More Skagway funds, $3.9 illion, were also designated from the Environmental Protection Agency budgets to extend sanitary sewer to unserved areas in the borough.
“Someone should send Senator Murkowski a thank you note,” Hanson said after the funds were announced in March.