State of Alaska Updates Regulations Regarding Klawock Airport Plow Controversy - P.O.W. Report

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

State of Alaska Updates Regulations Regarding Klawock Airport Plow Controversy

We have written before [here] on the controversy regarding the State of Alaska DOT's plowing policy for rural airports and in particular for Klawock, Alaska. DOT has officially made an update and further comments on this issue are below:


Thank you for recently writing to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and/or Governor Bill Walker with your concerns about snow plowing and other winter operations at the Klawock Airport.

DOT&PF is committed to protecting the safety of the traveling public and supporting commerce.

Accordingly, the Department has worked with the Governor and an air carrier serving the Klawock Airport to develop a solution for providing after-hours winter operations for commercial carriers.

To be clear, negotiations about winter operations for commercial carriers do not affect medical evacuations. Emergency medical transportation flights are exempt from after-hours charges under 17 AAC 45.035. It has always been DOT&PF’s policy to provide immediate services for medevacs at no additional charge to the emergency transport carrier. DOT&PF will continue to offer support at the Klawock Airport for medical and lifesaving operations.

The agreed-upon solution for commercial air carriers is outlined in this excerpt of a letter from the Governor’s Office Chief of Staff to people who wrote him on the topic of the Klawock Airport:

By way of background, the state has been grappling with an historic fiscal deficit for several years;
requiring the administration to reduce the State’s operating budget by over 25 percent. These
reductions were keenly felt everywhere, including the Southcoast Region of DOT. Despite these
significant cuts, the Southcoast Region has continued to maintain its traditional service on POW,
including emergency operations, clearing 355 road miles in time for school buses in the morning,
and plowing the airport for scheduled flights.

Absorbing those budget cuts without reducing the traditional service on the island has stretched the
Department to the extreme. So when, this winter, they also had to contend with air carrier service
growing from a 7:00 am - 6:00 pm day, to a 6:00 am -8:00 pm day; something had to give.
The simplest solution would be to commit additional resources to the operation. However, as the
state is still running large deficits, this was not deemed a practical short-term solution. Instead, the
Department chose to do what it does in other locations and seek fees for after hour callouts. This is
where some confusion and miscommunication unfortunately arose.

When Department staff attempted to communicate their solution to air carriers, air carriers were left
with the impression the Department would be cutting back on its traditional hours of support,
including support for emergency operations, as well as requiring additional fees. This is not what the
Department intended to convey. For this reason, they issued a clarifying statement detailing their
intentions to continue providing traditional support to the Klawock airport, including support for
medevacs.

However, this still left unresolved the issue of how to cover the newly expanded flight schedule.
Initially, the callout fee proposed by the Department was $1,000 per hour, which created a financial
strain on the carriers. The Department then re-evaluated this charge and was able to reduce the rate
to $250 per hour. By combining an authorization for some overtime with a significant reduction to
the callout rate for after-hours, the Department was able to present a financially feasible solution,
which will enable air carriers to operate their expanded schedule this winter.

For a more detailed description of the solution for providing commercial air carriers with after-hours winter operations, please see the attached updated statement from DOT&PF.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions on the topic.

Warm Regards,

Aurah

Aurah Landau

Public Information Officer

UPDATED DOT&PF Statement on Klawock Airport Winter Operations

November 5, 2018

DOT&PF is committed to protecting the safety of the traveling public and supporting commerce.

DOT&PF is taking steps to address the recently expanded flight schedule for service to Prince of Wales (POW) Island at the Klawock Airport:

 DOT&PF will extend the Klawock Maintenance Station’s regular daily hours of operation from the Monday –Friday, 5:00 am – 1:00 pm, winter schedule that DOT&PF has used for the past five or more years.

    o Operating hours for the 2018‐2019 winter season will be Monday – Friday, 5:00 am – 2:30 pm.
    o DOT&PF will accomplish this change by moving one employee to a Monday – Friday, 6:00 am         – 2:30 pm shift.
    o The new hours are also possible due to a recent change to collective bargaining agreements                 covering staff at the Klawock station that increased the workday from 7.5 hours to 8.0 hours.

 DOT&PF will continue to provide limited after hours evening and weekend snow and ice control at the airport when workers are otherwise called out to work on POW highways, assuming overtime at a similar level as during recent winters. This includes up to one callout per weekend specifically for the airport.

 DOT&PF is reducing the after‐hours charge for snow and ice management at rural airports (authorized by 17 AAC 45.035) from $1,000 per hour to $250 per hour for each piece of equipment used. Typically, DOT&PF uses one piece of equipment at a time for snow and ice management at the Klawock airport. In the event expanded operating hours and commitment to limited overtime are insufficient to allow an air carrier to operate its desired schedule, the air carrier may request after hours service under the revised regulation.

Protecting safety and supporting commerce are essential functions for DOT&PF. The combination of limited overtime and afterhours charges will allow DOT&PF to provide these essential functions at Klawock Airport while still maintaining the extensive POW road system.

Emergency medical transportation flights have and will continue to receive full service

Emergency medical transportation flights are exempt from after hours charges under 17 AAC 45.035. It has always been DOT&PF’s policy to provide immediate services for medevacs at no additional charge to the emergency transport carrier. DOT&PF will continue to offer support at the Klawock Airport for medical and lifesaving operations.

Changes to airport operating hours may impact DOT&PF’s winter road maintenance during extreme snow events

DOT&PF classifies Klawock Airport as an unattended airport. However, DOT&PF does offer services at the airport during the Klawock Maintenance Station’s regular daily hours of operation.

The newly added commercial flights pose a logistical challenge for winter operations around POW on days with snowfall events. DOT&PF workers serving the airport are also plowing roads between the 8 communities and 355 lane miles of highway on POW. These winter operations are essential functions for safety, transporting children to school, the movement of goods and freight, and more.

Although DOT&PF workers started at 5:00 am in the past, the first flights did not depart from Klawock Airport until 7:00 am. Workers were able to concentrate early morning efforts on POW highways. The addition of a 6:00 am departure will necessarily divert some of this effort to the airport. Additionally, having one worker start an hour later to cover more flights in the afternoon will affect operations on the highways.

DOT&PF will continue working with air carriers to offer after‐hours operations in compliance with regulations that minimize costs to air carriers and DOT&PF.

(See facts below about DOT&PF’s service on Prince of Wales Island.)

DOT&PF accomplishes wide‐ranging responsibilities on Prince of Wales with limited resources.

      6 Employees
      355.8 lane miles of roadway responsibility
      19.3 lane miles of airport responsibility
      Regular operating hours at the Klawock Maintenance Station are from 5:00 am – 2:30 pm Monday through Friday
                                  o Allows DOT&PF to plow most highways prior to school buses departing, and then monitor roads for homeward‐bound buses.
                                  o Allows DOT&PF to have most highways cleared on the most days for the 8:00 am Interisland Ferry departure from Hollis.

DOT&PF provides service to eight communities on Prince of Wales Island. All of these communities have schools. The DOT&PF sets winter schedules for the Klawock Maintenance Station to best provide safe routes for school buses and parents transporting children to school.

      Klawock
      Craig
      Thorne Bay
      Whale Pass
      Naukati Bay
      Hydaburg
      Coffman Cove
      Hollis


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