City picks foam floats for Aurora Harbor rebuild

The City and Borough of Juneau has responded to public comments with wider docks, Wi-Fi and longer-lasting docks on updated designs for the Aurora Harbor rebuild.


Dick Somerville, vice president of PND Engineers spoke to the Docks and Harbors Planning Committee meeting on Thursday. The committee agreed to pass the new rebuild design on to the full Docks and Harbors board. PND Engineers is contracted for the project.

Somerville said the demand for slips is highest in the 32-foot to 60-foot class of vessel — larger than the 24-foot boats original harbor plans focused on. In the latest rebuild design the number of 24-foot slips have been reduced and moved to the northern end of the harbor. This leaves more room for more large vessel slips and frees space near the boat houses for larger vessels. The rebuild can accommodate up to three vessels of 110-feet along the outsides of the floats.

The redesign also increases the width of many of the floats from eight feet to 10 feet. Lighting is planned to be mounted on 10-foot poles on the floats in such a way as to prevent glare and Wi-Fi antennas may be installed on poles to provide wireless internet access to harbor patrons.

“The technology is there,” Haight said of the Wi-Fi. “We just need to find out how we are going to manage it.”

Large vessels will also have access to 100-amp electrical power when the project is complete.

Aurora’s redesign also features updated float construction. Instead of creosote-dipped timber floats, Docks and Harbors opted for polyethylene tubs filled with foam. The surface of the new docks will appear similar to regular wooden docks, PND’s Somerville said, but with a longer life span.

“It’s all designed to last a long time,” Somerville said. “We thought that was the best option to go.”

The floats are similar to ones used in other Southeast harbors, he said.

However, the extra longevity comes with a price. The plastic floats could increase the project cost by $1 million.

The city included in the price of the project a better system for connecting the finger docks to the main dock, Summerville said. He said piano hinges made with four-inch pipe are held together with a stainless steel rod through the whole hinge.

“There is no steel on steel and no twisting,” Summerville said, similar to the system used at Douglas Harbor.

The city has in hand about half of the total project cost of nearly $22 million. The city plans to split the rebuild into four phases at roughly $4 million to $6 million per phase. Since designs first came forward in 2009, the project has increased in price by $4 million.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at


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