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.