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

Discussion begins on Chilkat access


April 12, 2018

Avid users of the Chilkat River expressed concerns Monday about access to the water when construction on Haines Highway begins.

Haines Borough Tourism Director Carolann Wooton said she wanted to bring user groups together to discuss opinions on the state Department of Transportation’s Haines Highway project before designs for the second phase are complete.

“It was evident we needed to have a conversation as the highway project goes forward,” Wooton said.

About 20 sport and subsistence fishermen, hunters and trappers, tour operators, and representatives for the Chilkoot Indian Association, the assembly, the borough, Division of State Parks and Alaska Department of Fish and Game attended and asked questions of DOT project environmental coordinator Jim Scholl.

Scholl said designs for the project’s second phase, which spans 12.2 Mile to about 25 Mile, are now 50 percent complete and will be finished next spring. He said DOT “tried to be sensitive” to the wants of the public and local Native tribes in designing the highway improvements.

Users were concerned that new guardrails might restrict vehicle and boat access, especially at 16 Mile which Haines Rafting Company owner Andy Hedden said is an important takeout spot for his company.

Scholl said DOT is committed to “maintaining existing access points” with DOT funds. He said if an access point would need to be blocked, DOT would create another nearby.

“It’s kind of on us to confirm these DOT commitments,” Hedden said.

Resident Ryan Cook said he was concerned about congestion at 14 Mile. Zack Ferrin said buses of tourists and picnic tables from tour operators often crowd the area in the summer and deter individuals from accessing the river.

Rainbow Glacier Adventures owner Joe Ordonez suggested separating commercial river access from noncommercial users by creating artificial eddys, or small pools made to slow down rafts or nonmotorized boats. “But how do you get from ‘that’s a good idea’ to ‘let’s make that happen’?” Ordonez said.

Wooton said some funding could be available through the highway’s designation as a National Scenic Byway.

George Campbell said if people wanted additional vehicle access points, a user group could pitch in to improve old, dirt roads for better boat put-in and take-out access. He added that the river can easily change and make some access points better than others.

“All it takes is one storm or one log in the wrong place and it could change how the river flows,” Campbell said.

Wooton said the next step is to get into the “nitty gritty” of identifying conflicts at each access point. Users at the meeting placed sticky notes with concerns on maps of the access points, which Wooton said she will begin to research. A representative from each major user group will meet with Wooton again at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 30 at the assembly chambers to continue discussions.

Scholl said people can email him at with comments and suggestions as DOT works on the second phase design.


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