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Murkowski spokesman: Plans for 24-hour crossings at Hyder

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Canadian government plans to allow for 24-hour border crossings between Hyder, Alaska, and Stewart, British Columbia, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said.

Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling said Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer told Murkowski of the plans Wednesday. Felling said details were being finalized.

“Starting in the near future, the gate will remain open, and the Canada Border Security Agency is currently finalizing plans to an alternative moving forward that would likely come in the form of a call box or automated system,” Felling said by email.

Local officials in Alaska and Canada said they heard about the plan from a Canada Border Services Agency official this week. The agency’s media relations office said by email that there was nothing specific to report at this time.

The crossing was closed to overnight access last month — from midnight to 8 a.m. local time — raising concerns about the potential impact to residents and tourists. Allowances were made in the case of medical emergencies. Local officials said they never got a clear answer as to why the closure decision was made.

Hyder is a tourist-reliant community of about 90 people in southeast Alaska, with close ties to Stewart. The only road into town runs through Stewart, and Hyder receives electric and telephone service from Canadian companies.

Nathan Cullen, a member of Parliament who represents the area, said the situation has been ridiculous, stemming from a “short-sighted” decision from Canada. A lot of government and diplomatic resources have been spent on this matter, and he said he’s happy a solution is being worked out.

Stewart Deputy Mayor Sylvia Goulet said there has been concern with the closure about access during a disaster or tsunami warning. She said she thinks a lot of people will be at ease with the new plan.

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