By Dan Rudy 

Experts: Big Bites breakwater would not muddle Mill


The City and Borough Assembly was able to put its concerns to bed regarding a proposed mooring facility and breakwater.

At the April 12 meeting assembly members had opted to postpone their decision on a request by prospective recreational outfit Big Bites Fishing to construct a 580-foot breakwater from a 6-mile property adjacent to the Silver Bay Logging Company mill site.

At the time, Assembly members were uncertain whether to lend approval to the plan, which is currently being reviewed by the Army Corps of Engineers for site approval. There were several considerations discussed, from whether the extensive structure might interfere with future operations involving the mill site's deepwater access, to the fact that the site's tidelands had not been formally leased by company owner Mark Mitchell.

Mitchell, on the Assembly, sat in the audience as his fellows discussed the request. City manager Jeff Jabusch said the permit specifications had been forwarded to Maul Foster & Alongi, the firm currently contracted to put together a development plan for the mill site. They had responded that the breakwater would be in shallow waters and would not impact potential development at the site.

Economic development director Carol Rushmore had spoken with the Corps as well, and Jabusch recounted she learned that it did not particularly mind whether an applicant actually owned or leased the land for which they sought a permit.

Clerk Kim Lane pointed out the Assembly had approved to classify the tidelands back in 2014, initiating the sale process. But somewhere down the road, the Assembly will still have to set a price and agree to a lease. The motion before them was merely an opportunity to protest the Corps permit application if need be.

“It's kind of more of a rubber stamp thing,” Jabusch admitted. Its concerns allayed, the Assembly voted unanimously to approve.

The Assembly approved a request by Wrangell Cooperative Association for a contract zone allowing its transportation office to build a light industrial office and equipment storage facility on currently commercial- and residential-zoned lots at the Torgramsen-Prunella subdivision.

A tidelands lease modification was approved for Sea Level Seafoods, allowing it to formally lease the northernmost section of the parking lot at Heritage Harbor. The decision would not substantially change use of the lot, which is already being used to store totes and equipment.

Also approved was a request by Tony Massin to expand his lease lot at the boatyard's old mill dock, at the same rate of $0.08 per square foot. The existing lease is still set to expire in May 2018. Both Massin and Sea Level's requests had previously been recommended by the Port Commission.

The Assembly agreed to have mill owner Mike Allen Jr. harvest six acres of blown-down trees, damaged in a storm.

When asked, he said most of the timber would be shipped to Ketchikan for export in the round. Allen explained most of the valuable trees had already been harvested from the area prior to the storm.

Also approved was an ordinance reducing the number of board members for the Wrangell Medical Center from nine to seven. The change will take place in October, before new terms are to take effect.

In his bimonthly report, Jabusch said work on sewage pump replacement outside of Rayme's Bar has been completed. The next node in the system to be upgraded is located near the boat ramp opposite the diesel plant on Case Avenue, which he anticipated should be finished in a couple of weeks.

On May 2, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will present a proposal to store a portion of treated, formerly contaminated soil from the Byford junkyard site elsewhere on the island. Contractors undertaking the project have identified more than four times as much lead- and petroleum-contaminated soil as was anticipated, causing costs to overrun.

As a cost-saving measure, the remediation is being undertaken in stages, and while the most heavily contaminated soil is being transported elsewhere for treatment, DEC would like to treat most of the rest on site and move it to the rock pit up Spur Road.

Assembly member Stephen Prysunka wanted to know who would be liable for cleanup should the treatment prove not to be effective in the long-term.

“I think that's a crucial liability,” he said.

Jabusch said he would find out more about the process and would get them that information before the meeting date.

A budget workshop has been set for May 9, to which the public has been invited to attend. The following day, the Assembly's regularly scheduled meeting has been cancelled, allowing time instead for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to hold a memorial service. Being remembered are RCMP constables Spencer Heathcote and Norman Campbell, who in 1901 had drowned after their boat was swamped in a storm en route to Wrangell Island.

Heathcote's body was recovered and interred at the local cemetery, though the exact plot has since been forgotten. Campbell was never found. Both are the only members on the RCMP's Honour Roll to have not been memorialized. Between 14 and 17 people will fly down for the ceremony, including representatives of the RCMP, Yukon provincial government and relatives.

“We're assisting however we can,” Jabusch said.


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