Southeast harbors targeted for upgrades

The Middle Pass is among the vessels docked at Aurora Basin, a Juneau harbor slated for repairs. The float it's tied up to is starting to sink. Ed Schoenfeld photo.

It looks like about 10 Southeast Alaska boat harbors will see repairs or construction soon. The capital budget moving through the Legislature provides millions for docks, ramps and associated facilities.

More than $33 million dollars is slated for harbors around the state, and more money covers cranes, ramps and other related work. About two-thirds of that amount is for work in Southeast.

Some of the harbors are just worn out.

“It’s to the point where the repairs aren’t really doing anything anymore. It just needs to be replaced,” says Juneau Port Engineer Gary Gillette.

He’s talking about Aurora Basin, a harbor not far from the capital city’s downtown.

Parts of it were built in the 1960s and part in the ‘70s.

A float lists at Aurora Basin harbor.

“We’re tried to maintain it as best as we can for safety reasons. But the wood and the float material has become so saturated that it’s slowly sinking. And there’s only so much you can do at some point,” he says.

It’s in the budget for $2 million, which the city will match. Gillette says that will fund phase one of an overall $20 million project.

Petersburg’s also due for some harbor improvements.

“It’s just wonderful. The whole waterfront will be alive. And I think it will benefit everybody in town,” says Harbormaster Glo Wollen.

She’s looking at $3.5 million toward replacement of North Harbor, near the center of town.

There’s also about $5 and a half million in the budget for a commercial drive-down dock. And $800,000 to upgrade the crane dock at South Harbor, closer to the town’s ferry terminal.

“We’re rocking and rolling on the design aspect of all of them. We really were looking for the funding to be able to get going on them,” Wollen says.

Haines, Hydaburg, Hoonah, Sitka and Skagway also have money in the budget for harbor replacement or repairs.

Saxman, next to Ketchikan, has a small amount of money that could lead to a major expansion. Officials say only a few slips are available elsewhere.

“It’s awfully congested in the Ketchikan area. So this is really an ideal location for another harbor,” says Leona Haffner, Saxman’s city administrator.

She says the planned new harbor could accommodate a couple hundred fishing, recreation and tour boats.

The $350,000 in the budget matches another grant supporting design work. She says the location, near the town’s city hall, is outside the area’s most crowded waterways.

“Right now, that small passage has tour ships going through on a daily basis during tour system. We have the Alaska Marine Highway vessels going through there, as well as the fishing fleet,” Haffner says.

Most of the harbor projects were proposed by the Parnell administration through a municipal grant program. Others were added in by legislators.

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