TBPA working on permits for all-terrain use
During the Thomas Bay Power Authority Commission meeting on March 27, TBPA general manager Paul Southland’s report shed light on a number of issues, with special attention paid to on-going brush clearing efforts in the utility’s service area.
According to Southland, clearing operations are underway in the Borough, but a lack of proper US Forest Service permitting for use of all-terrain vehicles is making for trying times in the muskeg and brush where crews are working.
“Without a proper permit it is a complete waste of time and manpower,” Southland said. “Last year when we had an ARGO we could get from one end of a line to the other in 20 minutes. Now, it’s taking two hours in hiking and two hours out in the afternoon, so we’re only getting a half a day of productive time cutting.”
ARGO is the brand name of a land and amphibious all-terrain vehicle owned by the utility.
TBPA commissioner and Wrangell Light and Power superintendent Clay Hammer provided background on the loss of the vehicles and echoed that he is seeing hardship for crews dealing with clearing remote areas.
“We were doing some work out on the middle of the island, out near Earl West, and we were approached by Forest Service law enforcement and it was discovered that we didn’t have a permit for using the all-terrain vehicle,” Hammer said. “Basically, we were told to cease and desist until we can get a permit. Not having that permit really knocks the socks off our guys’ ability to access the backcountry and it leaves them having to pack their chainsaws and supplies back into the places they could normally get to.”
Hammer said that research revealed a permit is required to use the ARGO and that both TBPA and Southeast Alaska Power Agency staff are working to get the required documentation for using the vehicle.
“The permit has been applied for and I believe SEAPA is taking the lead on that,” Hammer said. “They are in the process of getting this taken care of.”
Permitting for use of vehicles like the ARGO is required, in part, due to the roadless rule in effect throughout National Forests across the nation.
According to Southland, TBPA will be operating with a two-man clearing crew on foot for the foreseeable future.