Port and Harbor Commission Submits Capital Priorities

Shady Grove Oliver

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     The commission chose its top two projects to forward to the Homer City Council for the 2015 – 2020 Capital Improvement Plan. A barge mooring facility and a sheet pile loading dock made the cut.

     All of the projects considered are important but the two that were chosen will help both economically and functionally, says Commissioner Steve Zimmerman.

     “They’re both projects that enhance the infrastructure of the harbor and allow work to be done on larger vessels and bring more vessels in here," says Zimmerman. "So, it’s good economically. Plus, for the vessels that are here, it gives them more places to work on their boats.”

     Various city commissions, non-profits and organizations forward priority projects to the city council for the capital plan. The council reviews those recommendations, narrows them down to a top five list, and makes a legislative request. Then, legislators work to secure funding and support for those projects at the state level.

     This is the first year the barge mooring facility has made the commission’s list. The idea is to construct a moorage area to accommodate larger vessels. The idea has been in the works for about the past five years.

     “The barge mooring facility was a suggestion that was made by some of the vessel owners that have barges and tugs and some of the bigger companies," says Harbor Master Bryan Hawkins. "They’re looking for a place to winter over some of the vessels and barges they serve western Alaska with.”

     In the past, those vessels have been worked on in the Uplands over the winter. Hawkins says seeing that happen is what changed the idea from just a wintering spot to one where they could be hauled out and have maintenance done.

     “It creates jobs – jobs in the winter. It creates extra mooring, so it adds moorage to our harbor revenue picture," says Hawkins. "And, it’s a space that is not being utilized year-round now. So, we see that as a very beneficial project to the port and harbor enterprise.”

     The total project cost estimate is $1,850,000 with the initial construction of pilings and bollards happening in 2016 and the final construction at the uplands site in 2019.

     The second project is the sheet pile loading dock. It’s already been partially funded, but not enough to finish the job. Hawkins says it’s been a long-term goal of the commission. It would add another 200 feet of dock space in the harbor where vessels are protected from wave action. It would also be able to handle larger vessels and heavier cargo.

     “They could moor to the sheet pile dock and do heavy lifts with a crane where we wouldn’t have any weight restrictions like we do on our docks," says Hawkins. "So, that would allow us to move heavy freight. Also, some of our boats that are doing bigger projects, maybe an engine change-out or something where they need to get a big crane to do some work, they could set up there and be out of our way at the fish docks. [There’s] many, many advantages to building that facility.”

     Projects forwarded for the state capital improvement plan are not guaranteed funding. They are just put in the spotlight to gain attention and, hopefully, support.

     There are two other projects the commission is considering moving forward with in terms of seeking federal funding. They are the east boat harbor and a deep water dock. The focus of these ideas is to bring in a steady revenue stream to the port and harbor facility year-round and increase overall capacity and efficiency.

     The city council will review all of the submissions and finalize the capital improvement plan by October.


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