Passport requirement affects sports community

Public comment period for new federal regulation opens

Posted: Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A proposed federal regulation requiring Americans to carry passports when crossing from Canada back into the United States has Canadians worried about popular sporting events they host in Whitehorse.

The Yukon town is home to the Dustball softball tournament, road and bicycle races, plus golf, swimming and snowmobiling for others.

Alaskans make up half of the teams participating in the Dustball tournament, Softball Yukon president Rob Andison said.

If Alaskans are discouraged or unprepared and cannot participate, Andison said, the tournaments "would be not nearly as much fun, and not nearly as competitive."

Andison estimates about 25 percent to 30 percent of Alaskans may drop out if the regulation goes into effect.

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Trevor Twardochleb, executive director of Sport Yukon, said the rule would also complicate a summer relay race in which runners are allowed to run through the border station without stopping. Some 80 Alaska teams participate in the Klondike Road Relay, which begins in Skagway, follows the Yukon River and ends in Whitehorse.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced in April it would no longer accept driver's licenses and birth certificates at the Canadian and Mexican borders for re-entry, but would require all transients to show passports for proof of citizenship by Jan. 1, 2008.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative would require passports for aircraft and boat passengers beginning Jan. 1, 2007.

Jarrod Agen, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said other documents may be acceptable but the department has not decided what those would be; Agen said driver's licenses and birth certificates are not as credible as passports.

A public comment period opened this month.

Many Alaskans travel to Canada regularly for sports and recreation and local sports groups hope athletes and families plan ahead to apply for passports.

"Whether we like it or not doesn't matter," said Traci Gilmour, who sits on the executive board of the Juneau Sports Association.

"It's going to be our job at JSA to make sure people get the information," she added.

A first-time adult passport costs $97, and for children 16 and younger passports are $82. Rush service costs either half or twice as much, depending on the requested turnaround. It normally takes about six weeks to process and mail the passport to its owner.

Gilmour said some 200 to 300 Juneau athletes and family members go to Whitehorse every year for the tournament and about half of them bring vehicles.

The regulation is aimed at discouraging terrorists from entering the United States.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is asking Alaskans to comment on the proposal.

"While we recognize the need for increased border security, I remain apprehensive about the burden that will be placed on Alaskans without passports and on Alaska commerce," Murkowski said in a written statement.

David Summers, president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, wants the department to come up with ways to make passports affordable and easier to get.

Summers added that the regulation could hinder impromptu travel and Haines and Skagway residents who rush to Whitehorse for medical services.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at

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