ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Residents in a small southeast Alaska community are worried that overnight closure of the Canada border will hurt safety and the local economy.
The Canada Border Services Agency said Friday the new hours would be 8 a.m. to midnight daily for the border between Alaska's Hyder and the British Columbia town of Stewart. The decision was made because the station was "underutilized outside of primary operating hours," said agency spokeswoman Stefanie Wudel.
Hyder is home to less than 90 people on the southeastern tip of Alaska's panhandle. Stewart is about 2 miles northeast, with a population of about 400.
Hyder relies on Canada for its area code, electrical services and medical facilities, Alaska Dispatch News (http://ow.ly/JLQ5c) reported. Residents use both U.S. and Canadian currency.
Hyder Community Association President Wes Loe likened the overnight closure to "putting a chain across your own driveway."
"We consider ourselves one community," said Angela Brand Danuser, former mayor of Stewart. "We do everything together, and everything that Stewart does, we promote it as Stewart and Hyder."
Emergency vehicles will continue to have 24-hour access to the roads, and the border agency remains "committed to the free flow of legitimate goods and people across the border," Wudel said.
But Brand Danuser said residents often choose to drive themselves to the clinic because waiting for an ambulance can take longer and costs money.
"I can't believe that the Canadian government would be willing to turn their backs on a community that relies on Canada for their emergency services," she said.
Hyder City Clerk Carol Denton noted that the road to Stewart is Hyder's disaster evacuation route.
There are also concerns about what the closure will mean for the economy. The reduced hours would begin April 1, right before the summer business season starts, Loe said.
Hyder's bear-viewing platform is a tourist draw and visitors tend to spend an extra night in Stewart to get there early, Brand Danuser said.
She goes to bars in Hyder during the summer, but the overnight closure will be tantamount to a curfew, she said.
Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com