Winter maintenance at the Klawock Airport on Prince of Wales Island has been resolved with a compromise, at least for this winter.
According to an announcement from the Alaska Department of Transportation, DOT will extend its regular maintenance hours at the Klawock Airport by an extra 90 minutes, and will reduce the fee charged for any runway snow removal outside of those hours.
The regular maintenance hours were going to end at 1 p.m. weekdays. DOT now will offer that service between 5 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. weekdays. Outside of those hours and on weekends, the department will charge a fee of $250 per hour per piece of equipment used for any needed runway clearing. Previously, DOT was going to charge $1,000 per hour.
The primary airline that uses Klawock’s airport is Island Air Express. Co-owner Scott Van Valin said DOT’s compromise is fair as a short-term solution.
“But, I just don’t want it to be considered the fix-all for into the future. I still have the concern that the Klawock Airport is not receiving attendance, or DOT treatment or services like the other airports in the state that fit into the Klawock category. Which is non-part 139 airports that exceed 10,000 enplanements per year,” he said.
Among other definitions, non-part 139 airports are those that serve aircraft with less than 30 seats. Enplanements are passenger boardings.
“Long-story short, the Band-aid fix is acceptable, but the long-term solution has yet to be addressed as far as getting Klawock Airport listed as an attended airport with much more realistic hours of operation or hours of maintenance,” he said.
Van Valin said he will continue working with Sen. Bert Stedman and Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, who represent Prince of Wales Island in the Legislature. He said both lawmakers worked closely with POW residents and the governor’s office on this issue to help come up with the compromise.
But, Van Valin notes they will have to restart the effort after newly elected Gov. Mike Dunleavy assumes office.