Skagway’s limited waste disposal options could be expanded with a developing project. At a public meeting next week, residents will have a chance to take part in a discussion about the design for a 15-acre solid waste, recycling, public works and RV park facility.
Juneau-based Corvus Design has drawn up a master plan for the multi-use facility.
“I’m just excited that we are moving forward with making our community just that much more sustainable and doing our part to help everybody,” says Cory Thole, chair of Skagway’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
“The only things that are available to recycle in town currently are aluminum cans, glass, and cardboard,” says Thole. “So there is no plastic recycling, there is no paper recycling, there is no tin recycling. And those of us that want to do that are driving our trash to Whitehorse or bringing it to Juneau when we make those trips.”
Support for better recycling options has been around for a while. A 2008 community opinion survey found 90 percent of respondents supported a more comprehensive recycling program. The 2020 Comprehensive Plan calls for that as well. It also says the municipality should periodically reassess the best long-term plan for solid waste disposal.
Thole’s committee has been working with Corvus to come up with the designs for the waste and recycling part of the facility. Fifteen acres of land were purchased near the Dyea turnoff on the Klondike Highway.
There are a few major components in the works. One of them is the trash, recycling, and compost facility that would also include biofuel processing and storage. A neighboring building would serve as a public works facility.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. says the push for this kind of project began around 2011 and early 2012. That’s when the municipality formed what eventually became the Solid Waste Advisory Committee. In 2013, SCS Engineers published a study about Skagway’s waste.
“The waste audit, showed that one third of our solid waste was recyclable, one third of our waste was compostable, and the rest was actual garbage,” says Burnham. “So essentially we were looking at two thirds of our waste stream in Skagway as being potentially reusable or recyclable.”
It also found it was costing more to incinerate waste then it would to ship it out. Thole says they offered alternatives to the incinerator and even though it wasn’t the cheapest option, recycling won.
“After some public meetings it was decided that the community would like to go with the recycling center because that is the responsible and sustainable way to be a consumer,” says Thole.
The plan also includes an RV park that would open for the summer and close during the winter. Five acres of land is set aside for that, with 77 RV spaces and 5-10 tent spaces.
The design contract with Corvus costs about $163,000, but there’s no cost estimate yet for the entire project. There is also no plan yet for how the municipality will pay for it. Burnham says it’s been on the assembly’s priority list for the last couple of years. He says some of the cost could likely be covered by the cruise ship head tax.
“I don’t think that it would be entirely cruise ship head tax,” says Burnham. “But we certainly see quite an increase in solid waste during the summer months when the cruise ships are docking.”
According to Burnham, this isn’t somethings that would happen all at once. The RFP and the contract with Corvus call for phasing.
“The idea is not to build this grandiose project all at one time,” says Burnham. “It would be more to stage it in. Whether that be build the recycling, compost, solid waste building and required infrastructure around it, and then get equipment for it, build the public works building as a separate stage. Build the unheated storage and other things as add-ons.”
He says it’s important the public be included early in the process.
“Not only does the public have the opportunity to meet with the designer, meet with the committee, they can ask questions and they can help influence the project as it moves forward,” says Burnham.
Thole says it’s also an opportunity for the public to provide input on things the committee may have missed.