Assembly OKs $115,000 to fix damaged barge ramp flotation tank

It will be spring before the city barge ramp is back in operation, with repairs taking several months longer than expected. Until then, the weekly Alaska Marine Lines freight barges will have to continue to side-tie at the former sawmill dock at The Marine Service Center.

The borough assembly at its Nov. 9 meeting authorized $115,000 for the project to fix the damaged barge ramp flotation tank.

Workers last month pulled the tank off the end of the barge ramp for repairs of a leak that had reduced its buoyancy.

A local contractor, Tim Heller, of Heller High Water, was doing piling work at the City Dock, and swung one end of the 140-foot-long ramp onto his barge so both tanks at the water end of the ramp could be removed. Port staff originally estimated the fix to the damaged tank and reinstallation could be completed before Heller had to leave the job site.

Port Director Steve Miller said Heller has finished his work at City Dock and has to leave, but can keep his barge there until close to January. After that, the ramp will be temporarily secured until the tanks can be reinstalled.

The assembly approved taking the $115,000 for repairs from the ports and harbors reserves.

Miller said it’s still cheaper than getting a new tank. After sandblasting it and coating it with zinc anode to keep the barnacles at bay, they’ll get a 30-year life expectancy out of the repaired tank, on par with a new one, he said.

Harbor workers noticed the barge ramp was not floating high enough in August and on further inspection found a hole in the bottom of one of two flotation tanks after sending a diver down to look at it.

By adding or removing air, the ramp, originally constructed in 1977, can be raised or lowered to meet the deck of a barge, the lifeline for supplies into Wrangell, to match the tides.

The flotation tank in need of repair was added in the 1980s to handle the additional weight when an extra layer of steel was placed on top of the barge ramp.


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