Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Construction Efforts in Progress for Alaska's Fishing Ports

Major fishing ports and harbors critical to Alaska's economy are in the midst of designing, construction and fund sourcing in the spring of 2014, to meet needs ranging from float replacements to strengthening breakwaters.

With steady fishing vessel traffic from the Kenai Peninsula to Homer, Seward, Dutch Harbor, Sitka and Wrangell, planning, bidding and finding construction funds is an ongoing process, harbormasters said.

At Homer, on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Harbormaster Brian Hawkins said there are a lot of projects going on, from float replacement and electric upgrades to a new harbor office.

A contract on the float replacement project has already been awarded for the $8 million project to Harris Sand and Gravel, of Valdez, with construction to begin after Labor Day and hopefully be completed by December, said Hawkins, who was honored late last year as the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Directors; Harbormaster of the Year.

The float replacement will include electrical upgrades to the System 5 float system, which essentially triples service for the larger crab tender fleet, and will bring in year-round potable water to that system, Hawkins said.

The project also includes replacing one of the 50-year-old steep gangways with a 100-foot covered gangway being built by Bay Weld in Homer, he said.

A $6 million cruise ship head-tax grant has already been used for dock fender upgrades to the deep-water dock. Improvements for cruise ship passengers coming ashore to visit Homer, and an improved trail system with interpretive signage and overviews is under construction and is to be completed by June, he said.

Meanwhile, said Hawkins, the port is moving toward 95 percent design on a new harbor office, intends to put the project out to bid soon, and begin construction in August. The old 2,000-square-foot harbor office, now about 50 years old, survived the Good Friday earthquake in March 1964, but is now out of code, and has actually been on the city's list of buildings to replace for more than 20 years, he said.

Given the congestion around the current office, the new 4,700 square foot office is to be built across the harbor on the east side, he said. It will be financed with funds from the city and state, plus harbor reserves.

Homer is also nearing completion on design for a $3.5 million project to replace concrete and floats in an area used mainly by sport and recreational boaters, with 75 percent in federal monies allocated to the state, and 25 percent city money. The original floats there are probably 40 years old and patched together, Hawkins said. That project is likely to begin late this year or in early 2015.

At the port of Seward, also on the Kenai Peninsula a new pressure wash-down pad for boats hauled out for work in the boat yard was completed last fall, with a process that sends the water through a recycling system. Also recently completed is replacement of one of the harbor's main docks, with several dozen slips, which was built right after the 1964 earthquake.

Big plans for this year include going out to bid on an extension of the breakwater at the Seward Marine Industrial Center, to extend protection against waves. The Alaska Legislature last spring approved $10 million for the project and voters in the 2012 general election approved another $10 million for the project in the statewide transportation ballot. City sources said they are hopeful the project will be under construction in 2015.

At the International Port of Dutch Harbor, with year-round seafood deliveries of everything from red king crab to pollock, Pacific cod and halibut, replacement and reconfiguration of the Robert Storrs Harbor floats is a priority, in a long term project that will include the addition of year-round access to water and fire suppression equipment, upgrades of the electrical facilities and increased mooring space.

Port director Peggy McLaughlin said the C float project, a $3.5 million project to be funded through a matching grant from the state of Alaska, is in the design phase for reconfiguration and hopefully will go out to bid this summer, with construction a year from now. For the A and B float sections, the concepts are still to be laid out and funding secured, McLaughlin said.

At Kodiak, a new $33 million cargo dock will get under way this summer, with construction by Pacific Pile and Marine, of Anchorage and Seattle, said Harbormaster Marty Owen, who is retiring in May after 19 years at the harbor.

The bulk of the money for the dock, which will be used by cargo ships calling on Kodiak, came from a legislative appropriation.

Cargo vessels move about 150,000 tons a year at this harbor and the project includes a new 100-gauge crane that can lift 50 tons.

Kodiak's city-owned ferry dock, which is about 50 years old, also is being replaced.

Design is complete and the $15 million project is out for bid. Construction is expected to begin in September and be completed by June 2015, Owen said.

The city operates the St. Paul Harbor in downtown Kodiak and another marina on Near Island, St. Herman Harbor. Most slips already have access to water and electricity. Slip assignments are based on availability and vessel size, and waiting times vary depending on the length of the vessel, Owen said.

In Southeast Alaska, Sitka Harbormaster Stan Eliason said the ANB Harbor replacement project was completed in mid-March, at a cost of about $7.5 million, using a 50-50-match grant of state and local funds. The project included a flotation system, electric system, water system and piling system.

Next on tap for Sitka's harbor will be a transient dock, about two years from now, said Eliason.
Wrangell's port facilities, meanwhile, are in the midst of long-term improvements involving the boatyard, five acres of uplands and the addition of harbor space.

Back in 2006, a 150-ton Marine Travelift was purchased from the producers in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and now the port is awaiting the arrival of a 300-ton boat-lift, an ASCOM from Italy. "We hope to have it running by May," said Harbormaster Greg Meissner, anticipating a lot of fish tender traffic.

"When we started this project in 2006, we got a federal Economic Development Agency grant of $1.85 million, and $1 million local match." The new harbor went in starting in 2005. Facility improvements included the purchase of the 150-ton Travelift, a pier to drive out and pull boats in, and an environmentally friendly wash down pad with a pressure washer.

To transition the area from an old logging mill site to a boat yard, harbor staff had to install storm drains to filter water before it goes into the sound, new lighting and electrical plug-ins and more, using money from state appropriations.

In 2005, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed a new breakwater, and floats for the 15-acre basin inside the breakwater were added in phases, first in 2007 and then in 2010.

"In the second phase, we added some large transient floats, for commercial fish transients and a lot of large yacht transients, and big fish tenders coming in the fall and leaving in the spring," he said.

"We wanted the big new boat lift so they don't have to go to Seattle" (for maintenance and repairs), he said. They can moor here and get the work done by seven vendors who lease space inside the boat yard from the city of Wrangell.

Still to complete in the boat yard upgrade is the rest of the concrete, and then, said Meissner, will come rebuilding of the 1977-vintage boat harbor at Shoemaker Bay, about five miles south of the town.

That boat harbor has outlived its useful life, said Meissner. "Major repairs don't make sense.
"We want to put in brand new floats and go into the parking lot and redo the asphalt parking lot and breakwater. The breakwater needs to be modified to keep rough waves out of the harbor."

Wrangell hopes to finance this project with money from user fees and state 50-50 matching grants. Project cost is estimated at about $14 million.

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