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Most harbor improvement projects gaining ground

Posted: September 11, 2011 - 12:07am

Docks and Harbors managers have several large projects and harbor rebuilds that have been in the works for years, and since last year the department has gained ground in most of the projects.

It has a total of about $150 million in projects to complete, most of which have funding.

“We really have the interest of the entire maritime community in our projects,” said Port Director Carl Uchytil. “We have projects for the harbors, projects for the cruise ships, projects for the commercial fishermen.”

Douglas Harbor

The Douglas Breakwater is the project closest to completion. It will wrap up construction in about two weeks.

The floating log breakwater was removed and in its place is a 230-foot floating concrete breakwater. Uchytil said between the new breakwater and the improvements completed a couple years ago, it will vastly improve the habitability of Douglas Harbor.

The breakwater portion of the project cost $6 million and was designed and funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the city.

Douglas Harbor rebuild remains in limbo due to mercury, but Uchytil and Docks and Harbors Engineer Gary Gillette believe they’re closer to getting permitting to resolve the issue. Gillette is hopeful it will be resolved by the end of the year, but he also cautions that they have believed that before.

Uchytil said some believe the mercury is due to the tailings of the Treadwell Mine. Gillette said that some of it is actually natural, and their scientists say that the areas with the highest concentration of it occurred naturally.

“We’re finding out the higher concentration is from areas that had never been dredged before,” Gillette said. “Our scientists are telling us at this point its not at a level that’s going to cause a problem for people who consume fish in the Channel.”

Douglas Harbor’s revamp will cost $5.4 million, of which the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has $2 million slated for. Uchytil said the entire project has funding, they’re just waiting on resolution for how they may handle the mercury.

Don Statter Harbor/DeHart’s Marina

Statter Harbor will have its existing moorage repaired, which was built in the 1980s. DeHart’s Marina, which had serious band-aid patches made to it prior to the summer season just to keep it together, will be demolished and patrons will be moved to two new finger floats on Statter Harbor.

Both will be done as part of one construction package. The department recently received $5 million in a state grant for DeHart’s. The total cost for both pieces of construction is $9 million.

Statter Harbor’s master plan shows further improvements, in which only pieces are funded.

A new launch ramp and parking area is one that is close to being completely funded. The project will cost about $10 million. The department has $7 million, $3 million of which is a promised grant from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The other piece of the rebuild is a commercial loading facility, which would cost about $5 million. It does not have funding, but Uchytil hopes to look for Marine Passenger Fees for it, since it is intended specifically to benefit cruise ship passengers.

Cruise ship docks

The cruise ship dock expansion project 16-B has developed significantly more than it had been this time last year. It will cost $62 million for the replacement of the two docks and construction of two larger floating berths. This also will include shoreline and parking lot improvements.

Gillette said the entire area will be transforming over the next four years. The U.S. Customs building recently finished construction. Beginning this October, the visitor’s center will see a huge revamp and upgrade, making it a desirable place for tourists to be.

That project was funded separately from the cruise ship dock improvements.

On the land-side the parking lot will be reorganized and redone. The transfer dock will be taken out in part to make way for the seawalk, and also in part to redirect passenger foot-traffic.

In October of 2013 the south dock will go down and construction will continue through the winter and be ready for operation May 1, 2014. In October of 2014, the same will occur with the north dock.

Gillette said City Engineering is working on seawalks and will likely implement construction around 2014 or 2015 in the downtown area.

This project will likely be mostly funded by bonds, but it got a shot in the arm recently with $7.5 million allotted from the Legislature.

Auke Bay loading facility

The loading facility is getting closer to completion, with the first phase done two years ago. The department received a TIGER grant from the federal government to complete it, so it is paved the parking lot and will put concrete planks on the loading ramp and put in a loading float.

“We’re going to have some landscaping up at the north end to screen some visual aspects for the residents,” Gillette said. “We put in a water line down to the float. We’re going to have a gate, going to have some control over the access of it. We’ve found some people have been dumping and having bonfires down there. The general public wont be able to go down there in the evening.”

Uchytil said they have commercial fishermen in mind with this project, and plan for space for fishermen to load and unload crab pots and would like to have an area for nets.

It also is planning to use grant funding to purchase a lift to be able to haul out boats up to 45 tons. It will be operated by CBJ staff.

The first phase cost $10 million (part of which was spent in Statter Harbor since the facility was initially looked at being placed there). The remaining work is about $3.6 million.

Aurora Harbor

Aurora Harbor is currently the weakest leg of the departments projects. Parts of the harbor are severely deteriorated and the project lacks funding. A total rebuild of the harbor — which the department says is needed — will cost $20 million.

“That is something we’ll continue to work for,” Uchytil said. “Harbor patrons and making their opinions known to their elected officials doesn’t hurt.”

The harbor was built in sections and the oldest portions are literally falling apart, Gillette said.

“It’s getting so old it really can’t be repaired anymore, it just needs replacement,” he said. “We’re using it, we’re patching it together like we always do. We can’t afford not to. We don’t have places for people to go. It isn’t dangerous yet, but its getting to the point where we have to do something.”

Uchytil said one part of the problem is glacial rebound, which is contributing to many of the dredging issues the department has.

He said there are floats that are grounded.

Gillette said the city has have applied for a grant for Aurora — for $2 million. He said the city could only apply for that amount because it is a matching grant and that’s all the department could scrape up at this time.

If funded, that would give the department enough money to replace floats A and B (there are about a dozen floats), which are in the worst condition.

“We have roughly $150 million worth of work we’d like to see accomplished,” Uchytil said. “We’re very optimistic the ones that are funded will get done. We’re saying that when John Stone returns he’s not going to recognize the waterfront here, for the better.”

Stone recently resigned as port director to take a 2-to-3-year sailing trip with his wife.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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