Fisheries service looks for builder

City works on subdivision plans for Lena Point project

Posted: Monday, March 04, 2002

Construction on a long-planned federal fisheries research center at Lena Point should start within months.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials met with contractors from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest last week about the fisheries center. Engineering director Ken Bircher said technical proposals are due March 14.

"We'll evaluate them and issue an invitation for bids around March 29," he said. "They'll then have 21 days to submit them. At that point it will be the low bidder. The advantage is we're requesting bids from those we've already determined are qualified."

Work on the fisheries center started in 1992, but the final piece of federal funding for the $50 million project came through last year. The 69,000-square-foot National Marine Fisheries Service research center will be built at a former rock quarry at Lena Point, just west of mile 17 Glacier Highway. The agency expects to break ground in May or early June, project manager John Gorman said.

Construction is scheduled to take two summer seasons and the center is scheduled to open in 2004, Bircher said. When finished, the facility will house 107 employees, most from the agency's Auke Bay lab.

The project includes a bioengineered waste treatment plant that will treat sewage from the new NMFS lab and a University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries center that is planned nearby. The system will feature a series of environmentally friendly treatment tanks and will be the first of its kind in Alaska, Bircher said.

"The stuff coming out is potable water," he said. "Some of the final tanks will have fish living in them, but it's mostly plants. It's become a real popular attraction at the other installations that have it."

City Manager Dave Palmer said the research center is important to Juneau, which is why the Juneau Assembly decided to purchase land for the project and turn it over to the federal government.

"It strengthens Juneau's position as a fisheries and research center for the state," he said. "Without this facility, we were faced with the possibility of having jobs move away from Juneau to the Lower 48 or other locations."

After a number of contentious neighborhood meetings about traffic last year, the city decided to build a direct access road to the new fisheries center. The road won't include a bridge over Point Lena Loop Road residents wanted. Construction on the road project should begin early this summer, according to Rorie Watt of the city's engineering department.

The city also is exploring options for a new 40- to 50-lot subdivision at Lena Point. The plan is to offer the parcels for sale in phases, starting with 10 lots along Lena Loop, city Lands Manager Steve Gilbertson told Assembly members last week. Proceeds from the sale could be used to help develop the remaining lots along the new fisheries center road, he said.

Assembly member and Lands Committee Chairman Marc Wheeler said the subdivision project is in the early stages of development.

"We want to hear as much local input as we can on the proposal," he said.

The city is planning meetings with the neighborhood and the Juneau Planning Commission about the subdivision project, Gilbertson said.

Some Lena Point residents have concerns about sewer treatment and where a marine outfall may be placed for the new subdivision, homeowner Kirk Miller said.

"It's a sad situation. I think the whole thing could have been done much better," he said. "We always knew they had land, but we never imagined a day later they'd be trying to build a huge subdivision and try to develop it right away."

Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch said the city has tried to take the neighborhood concerns to heart. The subdivision has been planned for years, and building it with the road makes sense, he said.

"We were trying to react to their concerns with a solution, and the solution was the road," he said. "It wasn't the perfect solution but very definitely working toward it."

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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