Skagway sign

The Skagway port commission and assembly members had a first look at design options and cost estimates for the Gateway Project to expand the port.

It’s a big step in the ongoing project aimed at modernizing the ore dock and ship loader and provide more space with the port for more cruise and industrial traffic.

Project manager Dr. Chad Gubala and engineers presented the designs along with project engineers. There are four options ranging from basic modifications to what Gubala called the “Cadillac version” with a new ore dock.


The options range from about $10 million to $60 million dollars. The municipality has about $16 million in hand for the project from a combination of state funding and bonds. Planning commissioner John Tronrud said after the presentation that amount will probably only be enough to cover cleanup of the port.

Before dock construction or other Gateway work can begin, the municipality must remove contaminated soil at the port to meet state and federal environmental standards.

Tronrud says the goal for the municipality isn’t to pick one of the four designs but to decide what components of the designs are most important. And the first priority, he says, is the cleanup.

“So that’s the first and foremost thing that people in the community need to understand that we first need to decontaminate before anything can be built,” Tronrud said.

After that, he says the community can decide what renovations can be done with the amount of money available.

“Then from there the wish list goes, ‘Well, gee, everybody wants to use this dock. How do we best design it so there is no conflicts, there is multiuse and who has priority how, when and where.’”

Tronrud says the municipality plans on holding a stakeholder meeting in the next couple weeks. The port commission is going to gather input from Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, cruise line agencies and Alaska Marine Lines, among others. Tronrud says he wants to hear what components those agencies want to see included in the project and whether they might be able to offer funding.

The next day, the Skagway Assembly met and voted down changes to the current trapping ordinances.

The trapping debate has gone on for more than year. The proposed changes on Thursday would have revised the setbacks from trails and roads.

But some on the assembly said the group has done all they can. Assemblyman Steve Burnham said he had written an amendment to make the current ordinance more readable and understandable.

“I’m not going to bring that to a motion because I don’t feel that compromise exists anymore,” Burnham said.

Besides proposed trapping regulations going to a vote, state fish and game could also help the municipality develop local laws that would then go before the board of game. That’s the route Tim Chochran and Angela Grieser suggested.

“They are the experts,” Grieser said. “They know what they are doing. This is their job. The trappers are the experts but no one wants to listen to them. You can see from their history of safety from no dog problems that they are doing it correctly. They are setting back far enough from the trails. Otherwise they would have been catching dogs for all these years with no regulation besides the state. So, it shows they know what they’re talking about.”

The group also discussed a plan by Alaska Power and Telephone to run a fiber optic cable north of Juneau to Haines and Skagway.

The company wants to bring the cable ashore at Smuggler’s Cove in Skagway and needs an easement from the city to do so. Assembly members Gary Hanson and Spencer Morgan say that is concerning because Smugglers Cove is a park and they didn’t want to see any utility infrastructure there. But Burnham says the municipality should try to facilitate better internet service.

“I think that more than anything else in our borough to increase our economic value it’s things like this that are going to do that, more than the Gateway Project or just about anything else I can think of,” Burnham said. “I think we should support AP&T’s plan to put this through Smuggler’s Cove and in that put restrictions on them so that it’s done the way we want it done and an agreement we’re all happy with.”

Morgan and Hanson supported that move.

The assembly also received an update on the recreation center expansion. The committee working on those plans suggested terminating the contract with the current architect in order to focus on a different type of expansion.

The committee wants to look at expanding the building, or building a new structure  north of the current one. That would be big enough to include an aquatic wellness center and space for physical therapy, massage and chiropractic offices. It would also allow the current center to remain open during the process. But the assembly noted any expansion or building is likely a few years off until the city can complete other capital projects already in the works and find funding.