SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


New terminals in Metlakatla, Part 2
By Steven G. Booth


April 05, 2010

I would hope that the M/V Lituya would be home ported in Ketchikan unless and until appropriate security infrastructure is available in Annette Bay with the scenario of dismantling the Chester Bay Terminal.

As Master of the M/V Lituya, but speaking on behalf of myself as a private citizen and not on behalf of the State or AMHS, I recommend that an asset such as the M/V Lituya should not be left unattended in Annette Bay.

If the M/V Lituya is left unattended at the end of the Walden Point Road, it will put the M/V Lituya in serious security and emergency risk. M/V Lituya will be a conservative 50 minutes away from fire or police services with a clear road, without ice or other weather constraints. This does not include time after the call out system has operated and notice has been given to key personnel to respond. The State must also consider that Metlakatla has a very small voluntary fire station. If this fire station was to respond to an emergency on the Lituya this would leave the community of Metlakatla at risk, and the fire response would be hours from the houses in the community when dispatched to the Lituya. I am sure home owners and insurance companies may not like that the only fire station is tasked with fire protection to the Vessel so far out of town. Conversely, if DOT-PF AMHS does not have assurances from MIC that this fire station can or would respond to a fire emergency on the Lituya, it would only add to the very precarious situation this would leave the Lituya in if home ported in Annette Bay.

Additionally, during the winter of 2009 the road leading to the terminal in Chester Bay became extremely icy. This caused two vehicles to slide off the road while they were attempting to reach the terminal to board the Lituya. One of these vehicles was carrying an infant. If the BIA for MIC is not able to maintain a few miles of clear road for travelers to reach the Lituya I have no reason to believe that they will maintain 18 miles of road and a hill that not only has a 15% grade, but also has a curve in the middle that may cause a head-on situation to traffic. What this means is that the Lituya traveler will have less access to the Lituya and, far more importantly, be less accessible by AMHS employees for the Lituya and during some of the winter months become inaccessible for AMHS employees working on the Lituya as well as emergency and fire fighting personnel. This will be leaving the Lituya in serious security and emergency risk.

At this time, infrastructure including communications and electricity is not available in Annette Bay and is not planned to be in place for years and depends greatly on funding and other issues. There are no plans for a fire hydrant for quick water availability to get the fire under control once fire responders arrive. I believe pump trucks would be needed to be permanently set up and stationed in Annette Bay. A pump truck filled with water would need regular maintenance to assure the tank remained un-vandalized, full, and unfrozen. It is unclear if the Metlakatla Indian Community (MIC) fire department pump truck can be used for fighting a fire at the end of the road when a fire hydrant is not available.

The security risk to M/V Lituya with theft and/or vandalism is serious. Without the proper authorized security in addition to the watchful eyes of the public, the M/V Lituya would be open to theft and/or vandalism. Even with security cameras and after the fact video recording cameras, AMHS would be stuck with serious liability damages. Over the years there have been a number of break-ins and vandalism done to cars parked at the Chester Bay terminal.

If the AMHS was to station a single care taker to live or sleep near the M/V Lituya, it would not resolve the issue of fire protection. A single person can not respond to a fire on board a vessel even if the person was a qualified responder. Pre-staging qualified fire fighting personnel at the Annette Bay terminal would not be practical. Getting to the point is that this person would still have to wait on proper fire fighting personnel from the town of Metlakatla. Adding a care taker gets away from the more efficient operation of DOT-PF AMHS and increases the cost to State and federal taxpayers.

Another potential threat is the night hunters that comb the island during all seasons of the year. These people can potentially pose a problem of vandalism due to gun fire for an unsecured vessel. There were problems with theft and vandalism to the equipment that the military had staged in the Annette Bay and Hemlock Bay areas during construction of the Walden Point Road. The cost to the military has been many thousands of dollars. There is legitimate reason to believe that the M/V Lituya would not be immune to such action by any people or hunters wandering into the Annette Bay area.

The best option for the M/V Lituya would be to homeport in Ketchikan where the vessel would have the very best in response to fire and security protection. There is fire station directly across the street from Berth 3 and this location is in the watchful eyes of the public, under terminal camera security and outside of any hunting area. If the vessel is not home ported in Ketchikan, I believe the Lituya needs to continue to be home ported at the Chester Bay Terminal in Metlakatla. With the second option, it would mean the State would be forced to maintain two terminals and or delay the Annette Bay terminal until the road is paved and power is brought into Annette Bay. Maintaining two terminals for a single community does not add to a more efficient operation for DOT-PF AMHS and this is one of the established goals, I believe, that they have been tasked to do. It therefore increases the cost to State and federal taxpayers.

The completion date that was given for the Walden Point Road in the late 1990 s was 2001. It is now 2010, and the project road is not yet completed. A nine-year discrepancy is a huge miscalculation. The State would be well advised not to commit to a project that still has many obstacles before completion of this road. Without the completion of this road an operational terminal will not be the end result without taking due diligence. The road still needs to be capped, paved, signs put up and adequate lighting for the length of this road. The problem with connecting the hill to the head of Chester Bay is, at the very best, described as dangerous and it is unknown if this road has been approved by the Federal Highways W. It is imperative that any plans by the DOT-PF AMHS to move the terminal to Annette Bay be contingent on the completion of improvements that including water, electricity and communication infrastructure. The worst case scenario without these assurances would be that DOT move ahead with their plans to put in an incomplete terminal and then be forced to abandon the terminal. With the difficulty SE Alaska has in obtaining funding for AMHS this could cause this yearly endeavor to be even more difficult.

In my opinion, DOT-PF AMHS would provide the very best service by keeping the terminal in Chester Bay and the run between to Berth three in Ketchikan. This would be no additional cost to the tax payer, alleviate the security and emergency risk to the Lituya, be a far less burden to the traveler, maintain far better access to the ferry by AMHS employees of the Lituya and the travelers, and maintain the more efficient operation AMHS is tasked to do. Make improvements to the Chester Bay terminal and with thirty-thousand (30,000) passengers traveled on the Lituya in 2009 they deserve 7 day service.

Thank you for taking the time to read such a lengthy letter.

Steven G. Booth
Ketchikan, AK

About: " My comments in this letter are submitted as a private citizen and not as Captain of the Lituya - I am not representing DOT-PF AMHS."

Received April 01, 2010 - Published April 05, 2010



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