Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nome Airport Daily Hour Closure Until June 1 So Adjacent Gold Mine Corp Can Blast Away

I get press releases from the Alaska Department of Transportation  (DOT) frequently, but usually read them and delete them.  But this one raised an eyebrow:
The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) will be closing the Nome Airport daily, Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m.-7 a.m., from Nov. 15, 2014, until June 1, 2015.The weekday, hour-long closure will enable Nome Gold Alaska Corporation, which is located adjacent to the airport, to conduct daily blasting operations. ADOT&PF will be monitoring the blasting activity and has coordinated extensively with Nome Gold Alaska Corporation to keep the airport safe and to minimize impacts to the traveling public.
And who keeps saying that government doesn't accommodate private business?  Sounds like the government has gone out of it's way to work things out.  I don't really know if this will cause any problems with pilots and passengers. There aren't that many large commercial passenger flights into Nome each day.   I can think of a number of questions I'd ask if I had time to pursue this more than briefly:
  • How many private and small carriers will be effected?
  • How many emergency medivac flights could be affected? [See update below]
  • Will they really be blasting every day for an hour?  
  • Or do they just want to be able to? 
  • What will happen if someone discovers gold next to the Anchorage international airport?

DOT's press release also said they were delaying their recent change in policy about unaccompanied minors.  The old policy let kids travel if they had a note with their parents' permission.  The new policy was going to not allow unaccompanied minors, period.  It seemed pretty Draconian.    I can certainly understand that they've had some rowdy kids onboard, but banning them all because a few were a problem is not an enlightened solution.  They would never do this if they had some trouble with individuals belonging to other categories - like hunters or skiers, or white folks or men.  If airlines can deal with unaccompanied minors, surely the ferry should be able to figure that out as well.

Apparently a lot of people complained. 
"In reaction to the policy announcement, numerous Alaskans contacted ADOT&PF expressing their concerns of the difficulties that the policy would create for families that have already scheduled travel, particularly for the Thanksgiving and winter break school holidays."
One wonders at the mentality of people who make this kind of decision.  They couldn't anticipate that people had already bought tickets for unaccompanied minors?  Why should an adult have to pay a fare for an unnecessary trip just so their totally competent kid can go from Juneau to Haines to visit family or friends?  If they have kids that cause problems, deal with them the same way they deal with adults who cause problems or develop a system to deal with minors, but don't punish all kids and their families. If they had trouble with kids faking notes, then require a cell phone confirmation from the parent.

It would be interesting to see that statistics for unaccompanied minors on the ferries for the last five years, how many problem incidents they had, and what percent of the kids were a problem.  I must say, if all the problems in the world were this minor and this easy to solve, we'd have nothing to do but enjoy life.  (I really didn't even see the pun until I reread the sentence.  Sorry.)

[UPDATE Nov. 22, 2014:  A new press release from DOT says closure will be lifted for medevac flights.  Here's the new release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 21, 2014Contact: Meadow Bailey, (907) 451-2240, meadow.bailey@alaska.govUpdate: Nome Airport will be closed daily, seven days a week, from 6 a.m.-7 a.m. Nome Gold Alaska Corporation will begin blasting operations on Tuesday, Nov. 26.The closure will be lifted for medevac flights. For questions about the blasting operation contact Nome Gold Alaska Corporation:Randy Powelson, (907) 347-9091Cecil Connor, (541) 251-0465 ] 

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