March 21, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 11

Bad news for beavers?

The recent hike in land valuations by the Haines Borough may be bad news for a family of beavers living by the Klehini River at 27 Mile.

About six years ago, the beavers moved onto a 3.85-acre lot owned by resident Dave Pahl, turning it into a pond. Pahl wasn’t too concerned, as he’d about given up on the property. He bought the lot in the early 1990s, when he wanted to invest in land but didn’t have much money.

“I told the realtor to let me know if they had any ‘problem’ properties. That was probably the biggest mistake I could have made. Now I’m paying for it, and it’s escalating,” Pahl said this week.

The lot Pahl bought was from the ill-fated North Klehini Subdivision, where the State of Alaska in the late 1970s planned to create five lots, each at about four acres. According to Pahl, three of the lots were claimed by the river before the subdivision went to market. The fourth is about two-thirds underwater. He bought the fifth.

His lot was too close to the river for a permanent home, but Pahl thought he’d build a small, walk-in cabin on pilings. Things got worse with the Haines Highway expansion, which created a steep embankment, complicating access, and eliminated a roadside parking spot, he said.

Pahl paid $9,000 for the lot and the borough’s assessment of it went as high as $17,000 before he challenged it, showing borough officials two years ago that the lot was under up to six feet of water. His assessment was reduced to $2,500. But under the most recent valuations, it’s up to $38,600.

If he’s taxed at that value, Pahl said, he’ll have to develop the property. “I was going to live with the (embankment) and the beavers, too, but now I can’t afford it. You’ll see me driving around in a new beaver hat, probably.”