Hundreds expected in Whittier for shrimp opener

Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 1:38 AM AKDT
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Hundreds of fishermen are expected in Whittier Wednesday for the shrimp opener, leaving some residents with uneasy feelings.

According to Jim Hunt, the city manager, about 85 percent of the current residents live in Begich Towers.

The management of the building has implemented safety measures for residents to take, including limiting the amount of people in elevators and shared spaces like laundry rooms.

However, residents have expressed concerns with people coming through the tunnel when most of the population lives so close to one another.

“It is everyone under one roof,” said Begich Towers resident Krystal Sobrino. “The catch is, we all share the same elevator, we share the same hallways, the share the same airspace.”

“The majority of questions are regarding who comes through the tunnel, who's allowed to come through the tunnel and what is the city doing to protect them?” said the city manager, Jim Hunt.”My response is, again, we have to rely on people to have common sense to follow the governor's mandate.”

Hunt said that, at this time, there are no enforced restrictions for people coming in to the tunnel, but there are guidelines boaters must follow.

“We have a handout that will be given to everybody coming in at the tollbooth for the tunnel,” Hunt said. “And the instructions are clear. Drop your boat and go fishing, have a great time, bring your boat back in, and then head directly out of town.”

Hunt said that the city is trying to keep visitors on the other side of the railroad tracks, away from Begich Towers, the grocery store and other businesses.

“The community is clearly concerned for the safety of its citizens, which is rightfully so,” said Nick Olzenak, the general manager of Alaska Mining and Diving Supply. “There is commerce that has to go on. There's people that will be launching boats. Not only for subsistence use, which is folks that need that boost to get their freezers filled. They don't have the income now, especially now.”

There are currently no facilities open for boaters by the harbor to reduce the spread of germs.