Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Owen Retires as Kodiak Harbormaster

Kodiak’s busy harbor underwent a changing of the guard in early May, with the retirement of long time harbormaster Marty Owen, and the promotion of deputy harbormaster Lon White to Owen’s post.

Owen has been with the harbormaster’s office for 32 years. He had been deputy harbormaster since 1995, when Owen, recently retired from the US Army Corps of Engineers, was selected to replace retiring harbormaster George “Corky” McCorkle.

Owen acknowledged during an interview at the harbormaster’s office shortly before his retirement that he had mixed emotions about leaving. “But," he said “what I don’t want to happen is for somebody to say ‘that old codger should have retired five years ago’.”

Not that Owen and his wife, Marion, have any plans to depart from Alaska’s Emerald Isle. The couple own and operate a 42-foot yacht that offers everything from whale watching to dinner cruises and weddings on board, plus a bed and breakfast business in this busy seaport community.

During his tenure as harbormaster, Owen has been involved in major changes at the port, and there’s more to come still, including replacement of the cargo terminal, Pier 3, where container ships dock.

The old dock, built in the 1970s, will be replaced, and Horizon Lines will be bringing their town crane, one twice the size of the one there now, Owen said. “It will be more efficient and they will be able to stack the loads higher on cargo ships.”

When Owen became harbormaster in 1995, the port facilities at Kodiak were owned by the state of Alaska and maintained by the city.

Owen got involved in negotiating with the Alaska Department of Transportation to take over the port facilities in Kodiak, a deal that included the state providing funds to start replacing the downtown St. Paul Harbor completely, in the late 1990s, and then adding on to the St. Herman’s Harbor on Near Island.

By 2005, after a decade of work and planning, Kodiak also got its shipyard, an open yard facility where boat owners can hire whomever they want to for maintenance and repair of their vessels. Since a lot of boat owners spend from $100,000 to $500,00 on this work, those dollars were now staying in Kodiak, rather than being spent in Puget Sound, Ketchikan or Seward.

Another big project during Owen’s tenure was the breakwater for St. Herman Harbor in 1997. The project had been on the US Army Corps of Engineers waiting list for 30 years. Last summer, the corps also did a lot of dredging for St. Herman Harbor. “You just have to stick with it and persevere to get your fair share,” he said.

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