Sad state of harbors and launch facilities

My turn

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

A while back my friend called me up to go fishing. En route to the launch at North Douglas, we discussed the fact that it would be a minus-three-foot tide soon. When we arrived it was blowing northwest with a stiff breeze and swell. The short, temporary plastic float was high and dry, which, with the wind and swell, we decided it was not a good idea to launch the boat at that time. Turns out the regular wooden float is being used during construction at Auke Bay, so no telling when it will be in place.

We decided to go back to Auke Bay to launch the boat. After spending 20 minutes looking for the much-needed second crossing off the Island, we ended up in downtown Douglas. With the tide so low, we figured we could launch the boat, but would never get the truck or trailer back.

Then reality set in. With the tide so low, the launch ramps at Harris, Auke Bay and Amalga Harbors were also out of the question for launching the boat that day. This brings me to the point of this letter: the sad state of our harbors and launch facilities.

On a minus tide, the launch ramps are useless. A little dredging would take care of this problem. Also, the foot ramps leading to the city floats are extremely dangerous. They are so steep, someone is bound to be seriously injured or killed falling down them; throw a little snow and ice on them, well, you get the picture.

All of these ramps need to be extended by 30 or 40 feet, widened and covered. A few years back tourists arriving in Juneau complained they had nowhere to moor their yachts - no problem - the city rushed out and built them a beautiful wide float with a covered, carpeted ramp.

Also, a few years ago the tourist companies complained to the city that they couldn't get their tour buses down to the parking lot at Auke Bay to unload customers for the charter boats - no problem - as seen in the current construction at Auke Bay. Locals, well we won't mind walking a half-mile or so back to the harbor after we find someplace, more than likely, to illegally park our vehicles and boat trailers.

Now onto the one thing that really chaps my butt. The so-called commercial fishing work float currently being built north of the yacht club: is this some sort of joke? A plastic, unstable interlocking dock with tiedowns suitable for a 16-foot skiff, bought from - correct me if I'm wrong - a local businessman-Harbor Board member at the time. I wouldn't want to walk on it carrying a bag of groceries, let alone do boat or gear work upon it. After contributing millions upon millions of dollars over the years to our local economy, this is what commercial fishermen get?

No, we need a float for commercial fisherman like they have in Sitka. You can drive your truck down onto the float next to your boat, and unload gear and supplies without having to use the unsafe ramps like we have here in Juneau. Sitka has less than one-third the population of Juneau, but 10 times the user-friendly public harbor facilities we do. I have worked as a deckhand off and on for over 30 years on commercial fishing boats in the powertroll, longline, gillnet and seine fleets, so I am well aware of the needs of our commercial fishermen here in Juneau.

So my suggestion is, next time there is a minus-three or four-foot tide in Juneau, let's load our Assembly and Harbor Board members on a tour bus, and take them on a tour of our harbor and launch facilities. Maybe then something will get done to correct these serious problems. By the way, anyone planning on fishing in the Golden North Salmon Derby on Aug. 17, 18 and 19, don't plan on launching your boat on the morning of these dates, as there are minus two-, three-, and four-foot tides coinciding with the starting times of the derby each morning. Be careful and good luck!

Bruce Mielke was born and raised in Juneau, and has been a harbor user for 45 years.

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