Planning commission briefs
November 16, 2023
Brown, Poinsette elected chair, vice chair
The newly elected members of the Haines planning commission made their debut Thursday night at the committee’s first regular meeting to elect a chair and vice chair.
The seven members were elected by residents during the recent October local election — a first for the borough. Previous commissioners were appointed by the Mayor, but a citizens’ initiative was passed this year for a referendum instead following public dissatisfaction with decisions made by the previous commission.
Commissioners unanimously elected Patty Brown and Derek Poinsette as chair and vice chair, respectively.
Haines Highway Project update
The project manager of the Haines Highway reconstruction project spoke to the planning commission about the slated overhaul between Mile 20 to Mile 25 of the highway and the replacement of the Chilkat River Bridge that is poised to begin this summer.
The upcoming reconstruction will be the third phase of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ Haines Highway project, which will bring the last portion of the Haines Highway up to a 55 mph design standard by realigning, widening and straightening portions of the roadway, according to DOT. The project’s first phase of construction — between Mile 3.5 to Mile 12 — began in the spring of 2018.
According to the project manager Greg Lockwood, the DOT plans to advertise a request for proposal for a construction company around March, with the hope that the work can start during the 2024 summer.
Lockwood said the roadwork and construction of the new bridge will likely take two construction seasons, depending on the lead time of materials and the starting date of the project. During that time, a temporary bridge will be put in place downstream of the existing bridge, which will be demolished to allow for its replacement.
Lockwood said the phase also includes other minor realignments of the roadway like putting in shoulders for safety and adding two large culverts to improve debris flow at Mile 23. Lockwood said the new replacement bridge will be at the same location, but will be constructed to be wider and higher than the current bridge.
Commission to discuss borough’s landslide risk
The planning commission voted Thursday evening to schedule a conversation at its next meeting agenda about how the borough currently responds to geological risks like landslides, rockfall, debris flows and earthquakes.
The planned discussion during the Dec.14 meeting will be open for public participation. The topic was first raised by Travis Eckhoff, a resident who urged the members to consider establishing a geotechnical advisory committee that would provide professional advice when the board is faced with issues relating to geologic hazards.
Eckhoff pointed to the issues that have persisted in the City and Borough of Juneau, which has faced a multi-year dilemma on whether to adopt or reject new maps that show updated landslide and avalanche risk in its downtown area.
Since the maps were released in 2018, Juneau property owners in the affected areas have expressed concern about adopting the maps, arguing that a new hazard designation could affect property values, resale options and insurance costs. Juneau’s current assembly still has yet to make a decision despite numerous attempts.
Eckhoff said the committee would aid the borough in understanding the hazards in the community and give advice for addressing them. He said the board should consist of members who have professional experience or residents with backgrounds in hazard identification and mitigation.