$71 million in local docks and harbors improvements in works

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010

More than $71 million in improvements and reconstruction's are in the works for Juneau's docks and harbors in a race to rebuild the city's aging infrastructure before it sinks.

Port director John Stone gave updates on all current harbor projects at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.

Stone said Docks and Harbors is a department that is an enterprise fund, which means it operates self-sufficiently using whatever funds the department can bring in.

"The biggest challenge I have as port director, and as a community challenge, is the condition of our aging infrastructure," Stone said. "A lot of it was built several decades ago. We're trying to bring in as much outside money as possible."

Funds are currently being raised or spent on improvements for the Douglas Harbor Breakwater, Old Douglas Harbor, Auke Bay loading facility, Statter Harbor, Aurora Harbor rebuild and the port/customs/visitors center. Those projects cost a combined $71 million.

Stone didn't give estimates on the cruise ship docks project because they're reworking details. However, funding sources were identified as $9 million from the state passenger fee grants, $10.2 million from local port funding and more state passenger fee funds starting in 2011. Stone said additional revenue will be $5 per passenger or about $4.5 million a year. Other local funding options are also available.

Two construction options are being focused on for the cruise ship area. One is a direct rebuild of the aging infrastructure, the second includes floating berths that would open up dock walkways for residents and increase dock security. The second option also would allow for larger ships.

Stone said the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly will consider the cruise ship dock improvements on Sept. 20.

The $4.6 million Douglas Harbor Breakwater project was conceived in the late 1990s and is to be completed this fall. It includes a lone float that serves as a windbreak until a gangway is built. Boats will be able to tie to the float in the meantime.

The $6.5 million Old Douglas Harbor project is awaiting permits, which were applied for in 2007.

"We've got to replace it before it sinks," Stone said.

Larger stalls will be created that are more suited for boats that are currently in the harbor. The biggest issue with the project is mercury contamination. Stone said because of that, there is long deliberation with environmental agencies in how best to dispose of the dredged contaminated material once its taken out. Stone said they're looking at putting a clean cap on it to prevent the spread.

The Auke Bay loading facility is becoming so popular there is an issue with managing it properly. Many boaters who aren't registered are docking there. Stone said that issue is being worked on. As far as the project, the phase was completed in 2009. The second phase, including an access water gate and installing a higher capacity crane is expected to be completed this fall.

The $10 million Statter Harbor launch ramp project will add parking for cars, trailers and boats and works at dividing out the different users of the city's most popular harbor. Whale-watching boats will get their own bus loading/unloading area and launch zone. Similar divisions will be made throughout the harbor.

A moorage rebuild project, including DeHarts marina, will cost about $12.5 million more. Stone said the floats at DeHarts are at the end of their useful life.

The $8 million port/customs/visitors center project begins the contracting process in October.

As far as funding goes, some of the projects are still seeking funding while all have received a combination of state and local grants, typically from passenger fees.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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