Total of heli-ski violations is unknown


The CVN headline May 2 implied there were only six heli-skiing violations in 2013. The actual number of violations is unknown because the borough manager only required GPS spot checks on two days per business. Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) was in violation of its permit on one of those two days, as well as the day of its fatal accident. One would think that a violation rate of 66 percent would trigger further spot checks by the manager. It has not. Assuming 60 to 90 days of heli-skiing per season, one could predict that SEABA had 40 to 60 violations in 2013.

In most legal systems, repeat offenders usually pay higher penalties to dissuade them from continuing bad behavior. But the borough manager only charged SEABA $200 per violation, the same as in 2012. Such paltry fines simply become a minor business expense that creates a repeating pattern of non-compliance.

In 2001, Haines residents voted to allow a limited, managed heli-skiing industry. Thirteen years later, we are still waiting for meaningful management. The tools are in place: GPS data collection and a map with clearly delineated boundaries and flight paths. What is lacking is the will to manage the industry through reasonable enforcement. The borough assembly should do their job and require the manager to do his.

   Eric Holle


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