City tackles harbor upkeep

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2004

The long waiting lists for larger boat stalls in Juneau will be reduced thanks to a new $9.5 million deferred-maintenance program the city Docks and Harbors Department is undertaking.

The city planned the work after Alaska voters approved in November 2002 a measure that allows cities and boroughs to assume ownership of state harbors and take over the maintenance. Before, the state owned the harbors and did the major maintenance. Municipalities handled the day-to-day work of running the harbors.

Under the new law, the state allocated $7 million to Juneau to maintain Douglas, Harris, Aurora and Statter harbors. City voters also approved $2.5 million in October 2002 for moorage work at Aurora and Harris harbors.

The city, after assessing the harbors' conditions in the summer and fall of 2003, found it faces $20 million to $25 million in deferred maintenance during the next 10 years.

Transferring harbor ownership to municipalities was practical and cost-effective because cities were collecting the user fees and doing daily repairs, said state Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner John MacKinnon. He is a former Juneau Assembly member and interim city manager.

Transferring ownership of state assets to municipalities has been policy for some time, MacKinnon said. The state owns 73 harbors and has 51 operating agreements with municipalities. It is trying to transfer ownership as quickly as possible, he said.

In the November 2002 statewide ballot, 10 municipalities voted to take over ownership. Five of them, including Juneau, have signed formal agreements, MacKinnon said.

The state allocated maintenance funds when it transferred ownership, to help cities complete some of the work.

"No local government is going to buy a dilapidated facility (without state funding)," MacKinnon said.

The city has a surplus of 26-foot boat stalls, so it's going to replace some of that space with larger stalls. There's an increased demand for larger boats, Port Director John Stone said.

Ninety boaters are on a 15-year waiting list for 42-foot boat stalls. Thirty-eight people are on a 10-year waiting list for 62-foot stalls, and 108 people are expected to wait two years to secure a 32-foot stall.

In about a month, the city plans to bid repair work for Aurora Harbor. That works includes installing gangways at floats "C" and "N", and replacing the electrical system with 30 power pedestals along the main float. The pedestals, which are outdoor electrical outlets, now provide 20 amps. The new system will offer 30 or 50 amps, Stone said.

The entire electrical system throughout the harbor needs upgrading. It is expected to take the lion's share of the total costs of deferred maintenance, at $10 million to $15 million, he said.

Smaller liveaboard boats that stay put in the harbor system would be moved to Aurora and be hooked up to the new power pedestals, Stone said. That would create more space for larger boats that travel in and out of the harbors more often, he said.

A new sewer pump-out system would be installed along the main float at Aurora for boats to dispose of sanitary waste in a holding tank. Now they dump the waste in the harbor, Stone said. The work is estimated at $1.6 million and slated for completion in fall of 2004.

In a few months, the city will bid phase I of work on Harris Harbor. Float 1 will be replaced because it's sinking, Stone said. The new float will be built with 27 42-foot stalls, instead of the current 17 32-foot stalls, to allow more space for larger vessels.

At the end of floats 1 and 2, the city will build two "T's" that create a 96-foot stall and 74-foot stall for large boats. That work is slated to begin in the winter of 2004-05 and cost $2 million.

Boat owners parked in 32-foot stalls at Harris would be moved to stalls throughout the harbor system, Stone said. Some likely will end up at Aurora Harbor, docked against the main float and hooked up to the new electrical pedestals. Boat owners who are moved will be able to retain a permanent stall somewhere in the system, he said.

Phase II of the Harris Harbor project calls for replacing floats 4, 5 and 6 with new floats in the space where 4 and 5 are located. Float 6 would be eliminated because the city needs the space to create larger stalls. That work would begin in the 2004-05 winter and cost $2.6 million.

In the winter of 2005-06, the city plans to do $1.45 million of work at Aurora and Harris harbors. The plan calls for removing and retrofitting "J" and "K" floats at Aurora and installing them at Harris to replace floats 2 and 3, which are old. A large float would be constructed at Aurora to replace floats "J" and "K."

During that same winter, the city will spend $1.3 million to construct a new float at Statter Harbor for displaced small boats at Aurora. A need for 24-foot moorage exists in the summer, Stone said, so some boat owners would be displaced from Aurora to Statter.

The city estimates another $500,000 would be used to make miscellaneous repairs to replace anchor chains at Statter and other deficiencies in the harbor system, Stone said. Another $150,000 has been spent on planning the maintenance projects.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at

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