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New boat lift arrives in Wrangell


Brian O'Connor/ Wrangell Sentinel

Harbor employees work to fasten rivets next to a boat lift cross beam Monday in Wrangell. The new lift could bring jobs and the opportunity for jobs to the borough.

It stands 48 feet, seven inches tall, instantly placing it among the tallest man-made structures in Wrangell.

From strap-to-strap, it measures 65 feet, nine inches long, with a slight overhang from the metal side-beam. It can be controlled via radio remote. From wheel well to wheel well, it measures 45 feet, seven inches wide. It has wheels which can rotate 60 degrees. Most importantly, it can lift 300 tons, doubling the capacity of the current equipment.

The new boat lift also cost $1.3 million, took a little more than one year to arrive, and has the potential to increase not only the amount of steel, wood, diesel, glass, and people lifted out of the water, but also the number of jobs available in Wrangell.

Work assembling the new lift began May 7, after the five shipping containers full of lift parts arrived in Wrangell late on the night of May 6. Assembly work will continue through this weekend as harbor personnel work to connect miles of hydraulic tubing, cable, and put every last ratchet in place, according to harbormaster Greg Meissner.

"It's like building a house," he said. "The frame goes up right away and then it seems to sit there for months. It seems like nothing's going on for a while, but people are inside hooking all the stuff up."

Meissner, out of town on a personal matter, will return May 16, hopefully to find that the boat lift, too tall to fit inside any of the maintenance sheds at the Marine Services Center, is working, he said.

The new lift represents an expansion long in the works, Meissner said.

"The reason why we're so excited is this was part of our original plan to expand and get bigger some day," he said. "There are lots of big boats that can't get out of the water in the area. We're really excited."

At present, all that lift capacity is still somewhat limited. Using a 110-foot boat as an example, Meissner estimates the current real estate of the Marine Services Center can hold at most, four or five larger boats, though the answer might be more or less, depending on how the lift performs once it starts operations.

"We're guessing a little bit," he said. "It's no different than the first (boat lift). It turned out to be for the most part like we had thought."

Brian O'Connor

Wrangell harbor employees take a break next to the stacked tires of the new 300-ton capacity boat lift Wednesday afternoon. The boat lift cost $1.3 million, took a year to arrive from Italy, and is instantly one of the tallest structures in Wrangell.

Despite the challenges ahead, harbor officials are optimistic about the future, particularly if – as has been idly speculated and in some quarters hoped – the borough obtains the Silver Bay mill site to house the new lift.

"That's challenging in itself," he said. "That's a lot of money and a lot of time down the road."

Meissner managed expectations for a potential economic upswing in the wake of the lift's arrival.

"Will it mean more jobs in the harbor tomorrow?" he said. "I doubt it."

However, the scale of the boats could mean more of,

well, everything that goes into keeping them afloat, Meissner said. That includes not only direct boat services, but hotels, meals, and other ship auxiliary services.

"It's going to mean boats that are bigger, heavier," he said. "That's going to mean more paint, more zinc. In the long run, that's going to turn into more jobs and more opportunities for jobs."

"We're excited," he added. "It's a move in the right direction."


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