Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Sundberg renews push for heliport


Helicopter ski tour operator Scott Sundberg has resumed his eight-year campaign to establish a heli-port near a residential subdivision at 26 Mile Haines Highway.

Sundberg last week filed an application for a required conditional use permit with the Haines Borough. A public hearing in front of the borough’s Planning Commission is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13.

The commission has twice in the past three years rejected the heliport plan, but Sundberg wrote that his companies Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) and Big Salmon Ventures “have prepared a better, fact-based application this time.”

The Haines Borough Assembly in March 2014 overturned the commission’s second rejection, granting a one-year conditional use permit so the borough could conduct a series of landings and take-offs at the site “and have them monitored and have us present to make a value judgment of whether a heliport can be supported.”

Then-assembly member Debra Schnabel, who changed her vote to create the one-year allowance said: “I see this as the only way we can test what we need to know.” Schnabel also said her support was conditional on Big Salmon Ventures’ stated plan to build a $5.5 million “eco-lodge” at the site.

That decision led the borough to conduct a $41,300 noise study of take-offs and landings at and around the heli-port site in March. Some residents of the 26 Mile subdivision contest the findings and methodologies of the study, which was issued as a draft in mid-June.

In his application last week to the commission, Sundberg said the borough study “identified that while there is noise, it is no greater than what has been and is accepted throughout communities through the US, including ours, especially noting examples (like a Fourth Avenue gravel pit operated by Turner Construction.)”

Sundberg is proposing to operate from Feb. 1 to May 3 with “hours of operation to follow FAA flight rules.” The size and scale of the operation would be similar to that of heliports at 18 Mile and 33 Mile, he said, with an average of 10-16 take-offs and landings per day.

The proposal also says helicopters would use a “specific and identified GPS flight path that will create the least amount of noise and impact to nearby residents.”

The borough’s one-year allowance limited flights to certain makes of helicopters and an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. flight schedule.


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