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By MATT ARMSTRONG
Daily News Staff Writer
The final unlock and raising of the gate that temporarily restricted passage between Hyder and Stewart, British Columbia, was at 8 a.m. Sunday, bringing to a close more than two months of limited access to services in Canada for Hyder residents.
The Canada Border Services Agency, from April 1 to Sunday, lowered a gate across the lone road between Hyder and Stewart from midnight to 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
The move, which was cited as a cost-cutting measure for the CBSA, restricted Alaskans’ access to emergency medical care — the region’s lone hospital is in Stewart — and had the potential to disrupt other aspects in the lives of both Alaskans and Canadians, according to officials in both countries.
Hyder is located approximately 75 miles northeast of Ketchikan on the mainland, and Stewart is about two miles from Hyder.
A decision to leave the gate open, which granted unrestricted access to the U.S. from the Canadian side and required those traveling into Canada to use a phone at the crossing to check in with the CBSA — a sort of honor system — was announced in late May, but a date for the opening was not specified.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in a phone interview Monday said she’s pleased that the situation has come to a positive resolution.
“I think this is a positive (thing), and this policy that has been established with minimal compromise to those moving across the border,” Murkowski said. “I think we’ve worked it out to a point where it’s a positive. We’re also continuing to monitor this and assessing this pilot (program) to see if this merits a different type of system that would be even less obtrusive but a little more costly. That analysis will go forward, but in the meantime it’s fair to say the border it opened and we have a good result.”
Murkowski added that a community like Hyder, which depends on revenue from tourists, would have been negatively affected by restricted early morning access since many tourists stay in Stewart and cross into Hyder early in the morning to go to a nearby U.S. Forest Service bear viewing area.
State Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, said in a phone interview Monday that he’s “very gratified” the situation has been resolved. Ortiz traveled to Hyder twice after the closing was announced to help find a solution.
Ortiz added that the citizens of Hyder were good advocates for their position and thanks Murkowski for her efforts to reopen the border crossing.
Hyder Community Association President Wes Loe could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.