By Dan Rudy 

Borough okays improvements along the water


Wrangell’s waterfront is continuing to take shape, as the City and Borough Assembly approved a pair of project contracts and gave plat approval to Sea Level and Trident Seafoods for continued development and those companies’ lots.

This follows on the heels of a set of waterfront planning sessions held last month, which will eventually develop the fill area along Campbell Drive into a mixed-use property for businesses, locals and visitors to enjoy. A team of architects and civic planners were brought on board to begin drafting a master plan for the city’s future waterfront development, and later this month plan to showcase designs based on the input it received at the hearings.

At its Jan. 27 meeting, the Assembly approved awarding PND Engineers the contract for design services for the Shoemaker Bay float project.

“They’ve done I would say 95 percent of our harbors and docks,” Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said of the architectural firm. “We’ve been really pleased with their work over the years.”

PND put forward one of two proposals for the project, which will not only replace the existing float structure at Shoemaker, but also improve its layout and eventually develop its uplands area.

At a December meeting of the Port Commission, Harbormaster Greg Meissner explained Shoemaker Bay would be looking at again porting four main fingers, with additional berths added for accommodating 54- and 60-foot vessels.

The materials used would consist of polyethylene tubs, doing away with wood or iron in the water and adding to the dock’s longevity. The harbor’s north end could also see dredging, allowing the addition of another dock.

Uplands and all, the project is expected to run at around $12 million. Funding is hoped to come through an Alaska Department of Transportation grant, an application for which Meissner is preparing before this year’s Aug. 1 deadline.

After the August deadline for the application, DOT then examines submitted projects, choosing which to submit to the state for further consideration. Wrangell could possibly hear back by April 2016, with money by July if the project is approved. After that follows the bidding process, the start of construction in the autumn, with the floats finished by 2017.

“The financing always is a struggle,” said Jabusch. “It’s a long process. We might have to do it in phases.”

Already a difficult process, looking for money from the state this year will be particularly challenging as the Legislature deals with a $3.5 billion budget deficit.

Other improvements to Wrangell’s waterfront are already on the way.

At its Jan. 27 meeting, the Assembly entered into a contract with Western Dock & Bridge LLC of Ketchikan to construct a fender pile for City Dock. The work entails mobilization, pile installation, blocking and the hardware necessary to finish the pile, which buffers vessels from the concrete dock.

$327,000 approved for the work comes from an Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development grant.

“We had a grant to do some improvements on the dock,” said Jabusch. The DCCED grant contributed $3.2 million for the several-phase project, and additional money from Denali brought the total fund to $4.2 million.

Work began last year with the replacement of zinc anodes, work on the waterline, and the coating of pilings to extend their life. Materials were acquired for the fender pile, with the intention of having local businesses conduct the work.

“We were trying to reduce the size of it some,” Jabusch said, making the project more accessible to local contractors. Despite this, Western Dock & Bridge was the only bidder.

The remaining funds left in the grant will go toward tertiary improvements to the dock, such as replacing lights and updating its electrical systems.

“After this we’ll be closer to the end of the money,” he said.

Jabusch said there should be several hundred thousand dollars left after the fender pile is completed this spring.

The Assembly also approved plats for the big seafood processors in town. Trident Seafoods was cleared to expand its bunkhouse to accommodate more workers, and Sea Level Seafoods was able to modify its existing tidelands lease to include a subdivision for its new storehouse.

“It gives us a spot for packaging,” Sea Level manager Vern Phillips explained. Before, the company used an assortment of shipping containers and available spaces, which Phillips explained made inventory difficult.

The company acquired a lot adjacent to its facility, gaining permission to have it concreted and the building put up in last May.

“We weren’t really using it,” Jabusch said of the lot, adding it would be put to better use by Sea Level, which employs about 60 people. “I think the Assembly has certainly been encouraging businesses when we can,” he said.


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