Alaska Power and Telephone will stop exploring the possibility of a hydroelectric project at Skagway’s West Creek. The Borough Assembly discussed that development Thursday. They also made a few decisions related to waterfront improvements.
AP&T sent a letter to Mayor Mark Schaefer last month. The permit they received from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to explore the viability of a hydro project in Skagway is set to expire at the end of May. In the letter, AP&T says the company will not apply for a new permit. Instead, they are “abandoning” development efforts at this time.
Darren Belisle is the Upper Lynn Canal Manager for AP&T. He spoke at the latest assembly meeting.
“It doesn’t’ look like the municipality wants it here, there’s really, doesn’t look like the market’s here. So why should we continue putting in money to get a permit and hold it,” said Belisle.
A few residents spoke up against the project at the meeting.
Schaefer said it is not viable.
“If somebody thinks its viable, like AP&T, they’re going to get a permit and try to pursue a project,” said Schaefer. “The municipality isn’t in that game. We’re not in the energy game.”
That means, unless another company applies for a permit to explore the hydro project, it will not go forward.
Another stalled development was raised at the meeting. Schaefer said he thinks it’s time to withdraw a permit application for the Gateway Project from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We don’t have a project – we don’t have a gateway project,” said Schaefer. “We don’t have a mitigation project. There’s none in sight and it’s time to stop this permit. We’re trying to propose a project that doesn’t exist.”
The Gateway Project includes cleaning up legacy contamination in the ore basin and dock replacement and enhancement. But that was put on hold after voters rejected a tidelands lease between the municipality and White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad in 2015.
That vote put work in areas currently under White Pass’s control in limbo.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran agreed the municipality shouldn’t continue to spend money on the stalled project.
“I’m concerned at spending any more money on this,” said Cochran. “Until we know what we’re going to do. I think it’s in the public’s best interest to have an enhanced harbor down there but until we know exactly what that enhancement is we should stop spending money on permits that are not coming.”
Spencer Morgan suggested seeing if any of the work that has been done on there could be useful to Moffat and Nichol, the firm hired to help move along stalled port renovations.
“I don’t want to spend any more money on something we may not use, and we’re almost pretty sure we wouldn’t,” said Morgan. “But we’ve hired a firm on to give us some options on things we can do with the port. I’d be interested to see if any of that could fall under that scope of work.”
Assembly member Angela Grieser suggested suspending it the permit, rather than withdrawing it.
“If it doesn’t cost us any money, why would we not suspend it?” asked Grieser.
That was something other assembly members were interested in looking into. They voted unanimously to cease all work toward obtaining the permit, while they decide whether to withdraw or suspend the application.
Since the Gateway Project is on hold, the borough turned to outside port consultants, Moffat and Nichol. The company’s original contract for waterfront planning was for nearly $200,000.
The assembly voted in favor of a contract amendment for an additional $265,000. That will allow the company to conduct an economic analysis, port governance study, and an environmental and regulatory compliance study. Here’s Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr.
“In any scenario we’re going to have to undertake this sort of study,” said Burnham. “Whether we do it now or later, before the municipality takes a bigger footprint down on the waterfront we’re going to have to have answers.”
Grieser pushed back on the added expense.
“I agree that we’re going to need this done, I just don’t think we need it done right now,” said Grieser. “I think it would be wise to see what their final product is before we spend another $264,000.”
The amendment passed 5-1 with Grieser opposed.
Finally, after speaking in executive session, the assembly voted against extending a city provided apartment to manager Scott Hahn until the end of his contract in 2018.
Hahn’s contract provides him with housing until June 30, 2017. Mayor Schaefer broke a tie vote, to deny the extension. Though, Schaefer said the atter will likely be revisited during a staff review in June.