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Statter Harbor project could start this fall

Posted: December 21, 2011 - 12:05am

Provided city permitting goes forward without a hitch, the first phase of the Don Statter Harbor master plan project will begin with construction in September.

“This is to demystify what we’re doing down at harbors,” Port Director Carl Uchytil said at an information meeting on the plan he, Port Engineer Gary Gillette and other harbor staff held yesterday at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Gillette said the department first got an Assembly-approved master plan in 2005, and has been working on the details since. It further developed in 2008 when the city was working with federal agencies regarding permitting and an environmental assessment. Gillette said because a portion of the project will be funded with federal dollars, some of those environmental processes had to come into play. The initial 2005 master plan showed a waterfront with park space and retail options.

“Basically we were told from day one, there is no way they were going to permit filling tidelands for retail space or park space, because there is plenty of space uplands,” Gillette explained. “We realized from day one we were just gonna lose that battle. So we worked with the agencies and scaled the project back.”

Without the park space, very little green space is left in the project — although there is some.

Phase one of the project includes repair work on the existing float system at Statter Harbor and repairs to the breakwater.

“That system is about 25 years old, that’s failing,” Gillette said. “We did emergency repairs on the breakwater a few years ago. We’re going to go through and redo all of that. We’ll be repairing those things that are just holding it together. Ultimately this system will probably have to be replaced in the future. The next step is to take DeHarts out completely. It’s in pretty bad shape. There’s nothing more to repair, it just needs to be replaced.”

Two new fingers will be placed on the Statter Harbor system, after a section of the main float is replaced so it can handle the load. There will be 66 slips, which will replace the DeHart’s portion. DeHart’s technically has capacity for about 90 boats, but it’s only been averaging 64 users.

Petro Marine will build a fuel station at the end of one of the new fingers.

“We’re going to increase the capacity quite dramatically,” Gillette said of boats being able to access fuel. “It should be a much more efficient operation.”

Gillette said they have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits for this phase of the project, and the conditional use/city project review is scheduled for Jan. 24. Bidding is expected in February to give contractors enough lead time to construct the floats and have them shipped and ready for the September construction. Construction should be complete by May 2013. The total cost for this phase is about $10 million for both the repairs and DeHarts work. Most of the funding comes from the state — either legislative allotment or Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, with a lesser amount coming from a special city sales tax.

Phase two of the project is the launch ramp. The city purchased a little more land around the area and will be significantly expanding and reworking the parking lot and moving and doubling the launch ramp. The idea is to make the site more safe and efficient so traffic flows better and boats can get in and out in a timely fashion. The parking lot will include about 100 spaces. Part of the reason for such a large on-site parking lot is because DOT will no longer allow parking on the nearby roads. The state plans to rework that intersection into a roundabout. A more permanent agreement with Auke Bay Elementary School also wasn’t an option in part because the school is going through a renovation itself. Gillette said the nearest option for adding more off-site space was about a mile and a half away. Gillette said that because of the issue where they couldn’t get permitting to fill tidelands for park space and retail space and the parking concerns, most of the launch-ramp project is paved.

Gillette said the project has yet to go through Army Corps of Engineer permitting, as they have yet to hear a date for when they can apply, so some of what’s planned in the second phase can still change.

Following that permit, it also will need a city conditional use permit and project review to go ahead. Gillette also outlined funding for this portion, which will cost $9.5 million.

“Assuming all the permits are received in a timely manner, our engineers are producing the documents with the intent to bid this in Nov. 2012, with construction start April 2013,” he said.

The project would be complete in July of 2014. There are a few more pieces left of the project that would be for “future phases.”

This includes a boat haul-out/kayak launch and a passenger for-hire facility. They are expected to cost $1.8 million and $4.8 million, respectively, and the department will seek temporary 1 percent sales tax funds (anticipated for this October’s ballot) for the boat haul-out and Marine Passenger Fee funds for the passenger facility.

There isn’t a projected date for those items, since permitting and funding are not yet in place. Since the passenger facility is at least a couple years out, Gillette said they anticipate reserving two-three slips on the new floats for those operations since quite a bit of the space they currently use will be gone. One harbor patron said that providing that kind of space was a good idea, but he was concerned with DeHart’s patrons not getting into the new slips because of the reservations. Gillette said there should be adequate space for both, since there will be 66 new slips and there are 64 regular DeHart’s users.

Two people commented on the lack of green space in the plan. One man, who identified himself as Drew, said he keeps thinking of the song with the line “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” He said he realizes they can’t put a park there because of permitting issues and the tidelands, but wanted more green space. Drew also suggested putting in covered areas for people to picnic, so they can buy a fresh salmon and have a barbecue.

Gillette said it really doesn’t show well on the site plan, but there is an area for that and they have planned alcoves along a mini seawalk. He said they will relocate the existing shelter and it will be in some green space.

Another woman said the drawings from 2005 show elaborate trees and brush that makes the site very green, and what the plans now show is a whole lot of grey.

“I understand you can’t put park space in there, but it’s just very ugly,” she said.

The woman asked for them to increase the buffer for the area.

Others were concerned with the timing — whether they’d be able to get fuel all year-round, if the new fingers will go up in the same season DeHart’s is torn down and those kinds of issues.

Gillette said they’ve been spending a lot of time working through those scenarios, and Petro has ensured it will have fuel operations in Fishermen’s Bend available.

He said DeHart’s must be torn down before the new fingers can be built, but with the project bidding out so early contractors are expected to have the materials for the new fingers built and ready for when construction begins.

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

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