Hyder Residents Concerned Over Nightly Border Closure

Residents of the small Southeast Alaska town of Hyder no longer have nighttime access to emergency medical care.

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Canadian officials began closing the road linking Hyder with nearby Stewart, British Columbia, on April 1. Hyder residents depend on Stewart for health care and mainland road access.

The cost-cutting measure locks the border gate from midnight to 8 a.m.

Ketchikan Representative Dan Ortiz, whose district includes Hyder, says it’s an unsafe situation.

“It’s the established emergency evacuation route,” Ortiz said. It’s the only evacuation route if you have a tsunami or a flood. And then, or course, in the middle of the night if you have an emergency medical issue you don’t have access to a hospital because the hospital they use is in Stewart.”

The Alaska city of fewer than 100 residents is about 75 miles northeast of Ketchikan. Stewart, a few miles away, has about 500 people.

The closure comes at the start of the area’s tourist season. Business-owners say it will scare away bear-viewers, photographers and anglers who head out in the early morning hours.

Ortiz protested the closure to the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“While I haven’t had any direct evidence of a commitment of change, I do think there’s room there for a solution that will meet the concerns of the folks in Stewart and in Hyder,” Ortiz said.

He says a remote-access system for unlocking the border gate could solve the problem.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski also contacted Canadian officials to argue against thee closure.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.