April 10, 2014 | Volume 44, Number 14

Assembly OKs 2 river tour permits

On 5-1 votes, the Haines Borough Assembly approved a new tour permit for Haines Rafting Co. and expanded tours for Rainbow Glacier Adventures at its March 11 meeting. Member Joanne Waterman voted against both permits.

The tours elicited concerns about impacts on fisheries, carrying capacity for recreational uses and intrusion of commercial tours in neighborhoods.

Rainbow Glacier Adventures planned to offer raft tours on the Chilkat River south of 21 Mile, and south of Kelsall Landing, on the Klehini River below 31 Mile and one the Tsirku River, with put-ins at the Chilkat Lake put-in or Devil’s Elbow.

Rainbow Glacier Adventures owner Joe Ordonez also sought a permit for a canoe tour on Mosquito Lake, but withdrew that after hitting opposition from neighbors. Mosquito Lake Dave Pahl resident said he was the second person to try a commercial canoe operation on the lake, only to encounter opposition from neighbors.

“People were afraid where it might go. Once you allow commercial activity on Mosquito Lake, what about somebody who wants to do jet-skis? I’m all about quality of life. That’s why I backed out of (canoe rentals on) Mosquito Lake. I love my neighbors and I love my neighborhood,” Pahl said.

Assembly member Diana Lapham said Ordonez met the requirements for a borough permit. “The public reception of it will define if he’s going to operate at Mosquito Lake or not. If he finds out his own neighborhood doesn’t want him to operate there, I doubt very seriously he’ll operate there,” Lapham said.

Ordonez said he sought the permit to be able to take photographer clients staying at his lakeside cabin out in a canoe. “I’m not talking about bringing people off a ship in Skagway, or groups of 40.” He said he’d continue to talk to his neighbors, but said he didn’t want them turning their back on him at potlucks.

Lapham and assembly member Debra Schnabel also asked if Ordonez’s plans to operate raft trips at Kelsall Landing would lead to conflicts with jet boat tours that are already there.

“I’m not going to complain about the jetboats,” Ordonez said, citing plans to offer his “quiet tours” at hours that jetboats weren’t operating.

In considering Andy Hedden’s application for a new tour offering raft trips on the Chilkat, the assembly heard testimony from Lani Hotch of Klukwan about rafting traffic passing by the village. “Is there a limit to how much traffic can go on the river?” She said she was concerned about the effects on salmon of rafts that are “bounced” to pass through shallow water.

“I’m concerned about the salmon that may be spawning in those channels… What are the impacts going to be on the salmon and the community of Klukwan?” Hotch asked.

Hedden said he’d be running only one raft and a van and when he seeks to double that number, he’d be required to renew his permit. His tour would not be different from ones historically operated on the river, he said.

Waterman said she wanted to see more discussion between the borough and the village in advance of considering permits.

Mayor Stephanie Scott said the borough has never said “no” to a tour on the Chilkoot River corridor. “That’s a problem. We’ve created congestion there that is a problem. I don’t want to repeat that.”

Schnabel said carrying capacity regarding recreation is a “huge” issue. Schnabel said she was highly critical of the state for refusing to address carrying capacity, but said, “we also need to recognize where we fit in the structure of government oversight.”