Skagway ferry dock sinks

SKAGWAY, Alaska— Ferry service has been suspended to the Southeast Alaska community of Skagway after the dock sank overnight.

“It’s a mystery to us right now,” Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jeremy Woodrow said Thursday.

People on their way to work saw the partially submerged floating dock about 6 a.m. Thursday, and the dock was completely under water within 90 minutes.

The 160-foot by 120-foot dock is comprised of 24 individual, airtight concrete chambers.

Woodrow said every individual chamber has been inspected by the state in the last two years.

There was “no visible sign of wear or indication that would lead to this submersion,” he said.

The 24 chambers are supposed to provide a redundancy backup, he said, meaning if one fails, the other airtight boxes keep the dock afloat. “To have the dock submerged like this, there has to be multiple failures or some other issue,” he said.

Two of the department’s marine engineers are en route to Skagway from Juneau to investigate the sinking. A diver was scheduled to investigate the dock to see if there is any visible sign of what caused it to sink.

The state has ferry service scheduled to Skagway about three times a week during the winter and almost daily during the summer.

The community about 15 miles from the Canadian border is not cut off, however.

It’s connected to the Yukon by the Klondike Highway, and is about a couple hours away from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. It’s also about a six-hour drive to Haines, Alaska, a distance that takes about 45 minutes on a ferry.

Besides finding out why the dock sank and if it’s salvageable, Woodrow said officials will also investigate if a temporary float can be used for ferry traffic in Skagway or if docks at other existing facilities could be used on an interim basis.

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