Prince of Wales Island communities and others are signing on to an effort to ensure winter maintenance at the Klawock Airport.

The primary airline that uses that airport is Island Air Express. In a letter sent to Gov. Bill Walker, Island Air co-owner Scott Van Valin expresses concern over a Department of Transportation decision to enforce its maintenance hours. That means no snow clearing at the airport’s runway after 1 p.m. or on weekends.

While DOT says this always has been the policy, Van Valin told KRBD that state crews previously cleared the runway for flights after 1 p.m. In his letter to Walker, Van Valin writes that while snow removal is needed only five to eight times a year after 1 p.m. in Klawock, without a guarantee that the runway will be cleared, Island Air can’t safely schedule winter flights after 1 p.m..

He suggests a short-term solution of a temporary winter employee for the Prince of Wales DOT crew. A long-term solution, he writes, would be to change the Klawock Airport’s status from “unattended” to “attended.” That would increase the state’s maintenance obligations.

Van Valin argues in the letter that the Klawock Airport is the only airport serving eight communities, and it logs more than 10,000 passenger boardings a year.

The Island Air letter was co-signed by the mayors of Coffman Cove, Craig, Hydaburg, Klawock, Thorne Bay and Whale Pass; local and regional tribes; the POW Community Advisory Committee and Chamber of Commerce; Southeast Conference; and Alaska Power and Telephone.

Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, who represents much of Prince of Wales, wrote his own letter to the governor in support of additional maintenance at the Klawock Airport. He writes that Klawock’s state-owned airport has more traffic than several Alaska airports that receive 737 jet service. It’s used for freight in and out of POW, he writes, and compromising the airport’s ability to provide service in the wintertime is “untenable.”

Here is an earlier story about Klawock Airport’s winter maintenance.

This report has been edited to make a correction.