Partial government shutdown complicates landslide response
KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — The partial government shutdown that lasted 35 days has complicated efforts to clear a key roadway following a landslide on southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island.
About 300 people have been affected by the closure, and an old logging road has been a cumbersome detour, the Ketchikan Daily News reported .
The city of Thorne Bay said the slide occurred on U.S. Forest Service land.
Sara Yockey is the tribal transportation director for the Organized Village of Kasaan, a community affected by the closure. She said that with Forest Service workers furloughed, finding anyone from the agency to speak with has been difficult.
There is a federal program that helps federal agencies with repairs to tribal transportation facilities. But Yockey said the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs plays an important role in that process and hadn’t been able to participate in a damage assessment amid the shutdown.
Yockey initially estimated the road would open as early as March but is no longer certain that will happen.
Thorne Bay officials have said the road is used by residents of Kasaan and South Thorne Bay for access to heating fuel, groceries, medical services and for transporting students to and from school.
A mostly single-lane logging road is being used as a detour. But in the first weeks after the Jan. 1 slide, the road was unsuitable for much travel.
Officials said improvements had to be made to the bypass road and confirmed that now fuel and essential services can use the detour.
Southeast Island School District Superintendent Lauren Burch said about 17 students attending Thorne Bay School are taken to and from school by boat every day. About 11 students who attend a Kasaan School have been affected.
Thorne Bay School has a charter boat contract that ends in February. Some parents are also using boats to transport their children, Burch said.
The half-mile (0.8 km) trip takes about 10 minutes. But Burch said it’s expensive. She said she had concerns with a bus on a slick, one-lane road and that using boats seemed a better option.
Yockey said pushing debris off the road isn’t a viable option because Thorne River estuary and salmon stream are below.
“The material will need to be hauled to a suitable waste site,” she said.
On Friday, President Donald Trump said he would sign legislation funding agencies shuttered by the shutdown until Feb. 15.
Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com