Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Millions of Dollars in Upgrades Planned for Alaska Fishing Ports

By Margaret Bauman 

Fishing ports and harbors from Kodiak to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and Bristol Bay to Sitka will see millions of dollars in upgrades over the next few years, from ramps, floats and docks to an entire new cargo terminal.

Geotechnical exploration has already begun for that cargo terminal, a $36 million project for the Port of Kodiak, which ranks among the top 10 ports in the nation for commercial fish landings and value.
It will be built in 2015, as an addition to the existing structure, and will be able to accommodate a much bigger crane for loading cargo ships, said Kodiak Harbor Master Marty Owen, who has been with the port ( for 19 years.

The port’s full range of dockage, boat yard and marine services for commercial fishing, cargo, passenger and recreation vessels are owned by the city of Kodiak and operated by the city’s harbor department.

Kodiak’s shipyard ( offers a wide variety of services and capabilities, from haulout with Marine Travelift’s newest 660-ton lift to electrical utilities, and 27 authorized vendors who offer a full complement of services in everything from marine supplies to refrigeration.

At the International Port of Dutch Harbor (, the nation’s number one port for seafood landings, and second in the nation for value, Port Director Peggy McLaughlin said a state grant of $1.75 million in matching funds would help replace the floats at the Robert Storrs International Small Boat Harbor. The entire project came in above $3.5 million, so it probably will be done in phases. “We hope to be able to put the first phase out to bid this spring or summer, so it will probably be about a year to complete the first phase,” she said. Along with floats being replaced, there will be some new amenities, like year-round availability of water and an upgrade in fire suppression services.

The city of Unalaska’s Department of Ports and Harbors manages, maintains and operates six city owned marine facilities: the US Coast Guard Dock, the Unalaska Marine Center, the Spit Dock, the Light Cargo and Pot Dock, the Robert Storrs International Small Boat Harbor, and the Carl E. Moses Boat Harbor. The department also performs marine search and rescue services and marine assist.

In 2009, the city of Unalaska contracted with Northern Economics, of Anchorage and Bellingham, Washington, to develop a 10-year development plan for the port, which is available at the city’s website.

Among the extensive report’s recommendations is one that the port should focus resources on maintaining existing facilities and reconfiguring them to accommodate actual and anticipated changes in the local fleet.

The Aleutian port of Akutan is also one of the busiest in the nation, and like Kodiak and Dutch Harbor ranks among the nation’s top ports for fishery landings and value.

Located on a deep, protected bay, Akutan is 40 miles closer to the fishing grounds than Dutch Harbor, and Trident Seafoods, one of the largest fish processers in Alaska, has facilities about a quarter mile down the beach from the village.

The harbor is owned by the Aleutians East Borough (

“Our goal is to put the floats out to bid this summer or fall and have them completed by the summer of 2014,” said Rick Gifford, borough administrator. The basin and breakwater for Akutan’s harbor was the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gifford noted.

At the port of Bristol Bay, at Naknek, which ranks among the nation’s top 20 fishing ports for both landings and value, work is in progress on the city dock, owned by the borough, the place where all the fishing supplies come in and all the product goes out.

“We are currently rebuilding the dock we built in 1982,” said Robert “Herk” McDermott, port foreman/harbormaster since 2009. He has been working at the port for 14 years.

User fees fund operations at the Port of Bristol Bay (, but the borough has obtained $14 million in state funds, plus $1 million in federal funds for the current project, McDermott said. Another dock was built in order to rebuild the first dock, financed by $3 million in borough funds, plus contributions from Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp ., and the Denali Commission. “Now that the new dock is completed, we’re operating on both, he said.

Bids on rebuilding the old dock were out in April and the borough was expected to award the project in May, and break ground on the project in August.

The contract should come in at around $10 million, so the rest of the money can be used for additional infrastructure, McDermott said.

The old dock was 300 feet into the river, with 200 feet of dock face. When completed, there will be 400 feet of dock face.

“This will enable us to do more vessels within the very small window of opportunity, to be more efficient for the fishing processors and other port users,” McDermott said. “We will be performing more work because we will be able to.”

On the Kenai Peninsula, Harbor Master Matt Funck, said the city of Seward 
( plans to build a new vessel wash-down facility at the Seward Marine Industrial Center this summer and have it ready to go for boats hauling out late this summer. The $549,000 project is being funded through the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. Until then boat owners must continue to use their own pressure washers in the yard and capture the runoff, he said.

The city of Seward is also working on the voter approved $10 million in a statewide bond package last year to enclose and expand the harbor at the industrial center, and was seeking an additional $17.9 million to extend the breakwater, which protects only one side of the harbor. Ultimately, if the breakwater is done, the city also hopes to build more docks. The port of Seward is ranked among the nation’s top 20 ports for value of seafood landed.

At Homer, officials have applied for a grant of $4.2 million through the state’s municipal harbors grant program to replace one of the gangways into the harbor with a modern, covered ramp, said Bryan Hawkins, port director/harbormaster.

Also on the upgrade list for the Homer port ( is about 1,700 linear feet of boat slips and floats and a new electrical service that will more than double current service.
“We’ve done the design on the electric system and other items using the Denali Fund grant we got two years ago, with 25 percent local funding,”” said Hawkins.

The port currently offers ice delivery service, a fish dock with eight cranes, cold storage and short-term bait storage to fish harvesters.

In Southeast Alaska, the port of Ketchikan plans to begin work this fall on a 50- to 120-foot drive down ramp; “a float they can get up besides and drive a vehicle down to their boat,” said Senior Harbor Master Les Zetterberg. The $5 million project, which is expected to be completed by mid-May 2014, will be able to accommodate large trucks, he said.

The port ( has a couple of cranes, but they are not easy to get to, Zetterberg said. Those needing this service currently have the option of hiring boom trucks for lifting gear.

Ketchikan’s Ports and Harbors Department operates and maintains six boat harbors: Bar Harbor South, Bar Harbor North, Thomas Basin, Casey Moran, Knudson cover and Hole-In-The-Wall; the Port of Ketchikan, and three launch ramps.

There are also three fuel docks, two south of town, near the Coast Guard base, and one to the north end of town, across from the airport.

At the port of Sitka (, plans are underway for complete replacement of everything in the ANB Harbor, a project estimated at more than $8 million, said Harbor Master Stan Eliason.

The city and borough of Sitka has obtained grant funding to assist with the harbor replacement project, with detailed information available on the city’s website.

Plans are to start ramping up in November and have the project finished by March 2014, Eliason said.
Also on the agenda for Sitka are some modifications to the Rubble Mound breakwater north of Eliason Harbor, which honors the memory of Stan Eliason’s father, former Alaska State Sen. Dick Eliason, who served 22 years in the Alaska Legislature.

The city of Sitka also operates and maintains the Crescent Harbor, Sealing Cove Harbor and Thomsen Harbor, and like several other Alaska ports moors a lot of commercial fishing vessels, plus recreation and charter vessels.

Both the ports of Ketchikan and Sitka also rank among the nation’s top 20 ports for commercial seafood landings and seafood values.

For additional information of facilities, services, harbor regulations and rates, contact these port directors, harbormasters and other officials at the above websites.

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