The commercial fishing and tour boat industries could benefit economically if the city buys DeHarts Marina and upgrades Statter Harbor at Auke Bay, city and industry sources say.
Docks and harbors officials want the city to buy the three acres of marina property because it sits in the middle of city-owned land at Auke Bay, Port Engineer Mike Krieber said.
The purchase would enable the city to make improvements that would help commercial fishermen, tour operators, freight haulers, and recreational boaters better use the space, he said.
"Docks and harbors, as its No. 1 capital improvement project, is this project," Krieber said.
The problem, he said, is the Docks and Harbors Department does not have enough money to purchase the marina property and do the upgrades.
The department has $3.25 million from a general obligation bond passed in 2002 for a commercial loading facility at Auke Bay. Docks and Harbors could use that money to buy DeHarts but would have little money left to make upgrades, he said. Spending that money on the land would be ethically wrong because voters approved funding for a facility, he said.
Krieber is scheduled to address the Juneau Assembly's Lands Committee on Monday night and propose that the city buy DeHarts Marina. Marina owner Dick Deems is asking $3 million. Appraisals of the marina are under way, but the city has not negotiated with Deems, Krieber said.
Deems is prepared to sell to someone else after being in talks with city officials for about a year, he said. He'd still prefer to sell to the city, but will not forego an opportunity elsewhere.
Deems has owned the property since 1976 and wants to retire. If Deems sells the property, he wants it to remain a marina and not become a housing development, he said.
The city project, to be completed over several years, calls for a commercial fishing loading facility for $3.65 million; launch ramp parking and a park for $2.9 million; a tour loading float and ramp for sightseeing and charter operators for $2.15 million; and additional Statter Harbor parklands and boat slips for $6.15 million.
The project would cost $17.9 million. Docks and Harbors estimates it can garner about $10 million in current funds, future revenue bonds and projected state Department of Fish and Game funding. About $8 million would be needed to complete the project.
The plan would separate commercial fishermen from tour operators and recreational boaters, Krieber said. Now, oftentimes, fishermen, landing craft operators and recreational boaters jockey for the same boat launch.
"One message that came very clearly from the groups is the need to keep their customers separate," Krieber said.
Mike Erickson, co-owner of Alaska Glacier Seafoods, plans to open a processing plant between Auke Bay and the ferry terminal at the end of this year, but does not see the proposed upgrades as competition, he said. There is enough commercial fishing business to go around, he said.
Some commercial fishermen would use the new facilities at Statter Harbor to process and market their own fish, while others will be too tired and go to Erickson's instead, he said.
"Any facilities that lend support to the commercial fishing industry will enhance Juneau overall," Erickson said.
The upgrades likely will generate more commercial fishing landings and add to Juneau's fisheries tax base, said Greg Fisk, a docks and harbors board member.
The city collects $230,000 to $250,000 a year in fish tax - about eight times more than in the mid-1980s, Fisk said. The state collects the fish tax; half goes to the state and half to the municipality where the fish were landed.
Individual fishing quotas allotted for halibut may attract more fishermen to come to Juneau, Fisk said, because the city offers efficient barge and air services. Juneau is the fifth largest halibut port in the state.
Jim Preston, owner of Big Jim's Charters, said he would not switch to Statter Harbor because he already works from a private dock at Fisherman's Bend. But he did say the upgrades would make it easier for other boat charter companies to maneuver. Preston, also a docks and harbors board member, operates fishing and sightseeing charters.
Now charter operators offload passengers who walk down a ramp to the main dock, but space is an issue, Preston said. The tour loading float and ramp will ease the congestion, he said.
Lands Committee Chairman Merrill Sanford said several Assembly members like the master plan, but aren't sure if the city has the funds. The city's recent mill rate increase won't help fund the master plan, he said, because that money is earmarked for other purposes.
Tara Sidor can be reached at email@example.com.