Banana Point dock project canceled
The Banana Point floating dock project has been canceled after conflicting interpretations within the U.S. Forest Service concerning the use of grant funds.
The Wrangell, Petersburg and Kake Resource Advisory Committee, or RAC organized the project that was two years in the making.
RACs fall under the authority of The Secure Rural Schools Act, which is meant to provide collaboration between local communities and federal land managers to create projects on federal land. Each U.S. Forest Service region in the country has a RAC.
The local RAC approved the Banana Point floating dock in 2011 in order to improve access at the boat ramp. Jason Anderson, Petersburg District Ranger, was also involved with the project’s approval process. A third party involved in approving RAC projects, a forest service grants administration department, nixed the deal at the last minute.
“The decision came at the 11th hour,” Anderson said.
The disagreement about the use of the funding resulted from a difference of interpretation of the rules regarding acceptable projects. According to the U.S. Forest Service website, funds may be used “for the purpose of making additional investments in…projects that improve the maintenance of existing infrastructure…”
Anderson disagrees with the grants administration department, which views the floating dock as new construction and not an improvement to an existing structure.
“To put in a floating dock at an existing boat ramp was very consistent with the provision that projects improvement to existing infrastructure,” Anderson said.
He said projects of a similar nature that have been approved, such as building a restroom at a campground or picnic area, aren’t different than the construction of a floating dock at a boat ramp.
Chris Cotta, Petersburg Borough Assistant Director of Public Works, advocated for the project but said if it were to move forward it would make the borough liable.
“If the federal auditors look at the grant agreement and see only two out of three parties signing it, that’s going to put the borough at a much higher risk for paying that funding back,” Cotta said.
The third party not signing off is the grant administration.
Cotta said the local RAC doesn’t have time to dispute the claim because the funding period deadline is nearly over.
Anderson said grant funds will be dispersed to other RAC projects including the improvement of the Raven’s Roost Trail near Petersburg and the Anan Wildlife Viewing Area near Wrangell.