The National Marine Fisheries Service is sharing some of its land downtown in exchange for some space on an Alaska Department of Fish and Game research vessel.
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Fish and Game has agreed to a long-term lease of NMFS land on the downtown waterfront across from Centennial Hall, where it is constructing a new vessel maintenance workshop. The state has been leasing space in the Juneau Subport Building from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, but the lease expires on June 30 and Fish and Game needed to find a new workshop.
"Part of the lease involves access to a Fish and Game vessel by (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)," said Steve Ignell, deputy director of NMFS' Auke Bay Laboratory. "Basically, we're sharing our property and they're sharing their vessel."
Ignell said the agreement had been in the works for several years but didn't go into effect until last year, when NMFS used Fish and Game's 110-foot research vessel the Medea for a survey in the eastern Gulf of Alaska.
Ignell said partnerships between different agencies are important in this age of unpredictable funding.
"We're really working together more, and cutting across institutional boundaries - finding areas where we have common interest where we can leverage one another's strengths," he said. "I think that's a good thing."
The new Juneau Vessel Maintenance Shop will be nearly 5,000 square feet with a price tag of just less than $1 million, Fish and Game procurement officer John White said.
Wade Loofbourrow, a senior vessel skipper on the Medea, said the shop will be used to maintain vessels and equipment from a number of the different Fish and Game divisions.
"The use will be for maintaining vessels and fabricating equipment for them, which saves us a huge amount of money," he said.
Loofbourrow said the new shop will be a downgrade in space but an upgrade in facility quality.
"This is much, much smaller than what we have now," he said. "On the other hand it should be a good deal more efficient as far as a shop goes."
There will be less space for storage in the new facility so the department will liquidate some of its old and underused gear being stored at the subport, Loofbourrow said.
The new building will also get some new equipment - including a new forklift, drill press, small lathe, and a milling machine used for metal fabrication.
Loofbourrow said Fish and Game hopes to begin moving into the new shop on May 1, although it is not a set date. He said the move-in process is at a busy time for the maintenance workers who are doing everything from prefabricating tent platforms to designing water sampling equipment, which may cause some delays in the workload.
"It will be extremely difficult," Loofbourrow said. "There's just no good way. We have to get things moved and what will happen is some jobs just won't get done this year. There's no way to avoid that."
Alison Smith, a senior resource manager for the Mental Trust Land Office, said there are no immediate plans for the subport building after the lease expires.
"We are looking into options for the building currently," she said. "We have some options of possibly leasing it for storage space ... or we have a potential of possibly tearing it down."
The trust has been communicating with the city on its long-term waterfront plan. She said the area may have some commercial and retail space, and possibly some condos in the future.
"The eventual goal is for mixed use," Smith said.
Juneau Lands and Resources Manager Heather Marlow said the city is focused right now on acquiring the old armory, which is also owned by the trust. She said the city does not want to monopolize all of the waterfront land.
"We want to be a partner, but we don't want to necessarily be the primary landowner," Marlow said. "Everyone needs to have a spot there too."
Ignell said the partnership between NMFS and Fish and Game is a key partnership.
"We have species that we have joint interest for research and management," he said.