Update: Hyder Border Closure Keeps Emergency Access

Canadian officials say the small Southeast Alaska town of Hyder will continue to have 24-hour-a-day access to emergency health care.

The Canada Border Services Agency began closing the road to nearby Stewart, British Columbia, on April 1. The cost-cutting measure locks the border gate from midnight to 8 a.m.

Hyder residents depend on Stewart for health care and mainland road access. They demonstrated against the closure last week, saying it would hurt business, as well as emergency services.

Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Bourque says ambulance, fire and police agencies have been given gate keys to continue all-day access. Residents can also call the agency.

“The protocol is only for emergencies,” she says.

Ketchikan State Rep. Dan Ortiz, whose district includes Hyder, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski contacted Canadian officials to argue against the closure.

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.

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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.