By Melinda Munson

On Feb. 2, with the assembly chambers full of an unusual amount of suit jackets worn by visitors from the north, the Skagway Borough Assembly voted to approve “general terms for an export cooperation agreement with the Yukon Government for construction of a Marine Services Platform (MSP).”

Resolution 23-08R states that the muni would provide three to four acres of land adjacent to the MSP, with a total of six acres of land within the borough, “for designated export users.” The use is preferential, but not exclusive, meaning the municipality could use the acreage for other purposes when not needed by export users. In exchange, the Yukon Government would fund a marine services platform as part of the Ore Dock redevelopment at the approximate cost of $17 million. The municipality “will at all times own, operate and manage the MSP,” according to the resolution.

“The Marine Services Platform will ensure Skagway broadens the scope of its year-round economy while modernizing the way we export mineral concentrates,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata. “In my opinion, this project signals to the Yukon mining industry that Skagway wants their business as long as we maintain robust environmental standards that protect the health of our residents.” 

“This is also an opportunity to build a positive working relationship with our neighbors to the North that will last for generations and ensure the Klondike Highway remains open and well-maintained,” Cremata continued.

Yukon Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Justin Ferbey, traveled down the Klondike Highway to attend the assembly meeting. 

“We find it an incredible opportunity now to have a government to government relationship,” Ferbey said. He noted that his great-great uncle started out in Skagway.

With the 55-year port lease ending this month, the borough is free to negotiate new contracts. Assemblymember Sam Bass didn’t appear keen on the length of the agreement.

“I’d like to think this would be discussed much more than we are able to do tonight,” Bass said. “We’re going to tie 35 years – 2058. My kids will be my age by the time we can read, talk about this issue. This is a major part of our waterfront.” He also suggested the borough fund its own marine service platform. Bass’ appeals received little support from other assembly members.

“Thirty five years is a long time and we’re coming out of a lease – it was 55 years – and we’re all reeling from it for sure,” Borough Manager Brad Ryan responded. “But this one, I feel, we have a better understanding as we’re going forward. We’re getting access and can utilize that property and the revenue. And by no means does it tie up the T-dock [MSP].” 

Assemblymember Orion Hanson was satisfied with the terms, preferring the mines to pay for the infrastructure and the municipality to collect fees.

“With this agreement, it would be $15 per ton with an escalator … And that’s $15 a ton that goes to the municipality,” he said. “And how much have we gotten in the past per ton? Zero.”

The official contract has not been signed as the borough manager and the Yukon Government continue to finalize details. No one addressed the resolution during citizens present.