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Homer Harbor Expansion Project Pitched to KPB Assembly

City of Homer
A conceptual design of what an expanded Homer Harbor might look like.

Plan calls for doubling space for large vessels.

The plans for the Homer Harbor Expansion Project were presented to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Tuesday night. Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins outlined the city’s plan to increase large boat moorage at the harbor and what it means for the larger Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Hawkins said the city began considering an expansion nearly 20 years ago, but shelved the project for a decade to better prepare for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cost-benefit analysis.

“Congestion in Homer Harbor is not a new problem. This has been going on for almost 20 years. We've been talking to the Corps of Engineers since 2004. In 2007, we actually started a general Investigation. And what we discovered was we weren't, we didn't have all the answers to the questions before they were asked. The preliminary results of that study showed that it was going to be a negative BCR and this BCR is how they measure the success of a study, its benefit to cost ratio. And so, the cost to construct was more than the benefits,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins was before the assembly looking for a resolution of support for the $3 million project study, which will be funded from three sources.

“So state of Alaska, city of Homer and federal government. Federal government will provide 50 percent of the funding, that's $1.5 million. And city of Homer has already put up $750,000 for their share, and we're asking the state of Alaska to do the same. This is important that the state joins the study they will be in the study eventually one way or the other because it, it is a Statewide project,” Hawkins said.

Mayor Charlie Pierce wondered about the capabilities of the new facility.

“I'm specifically interested in this expansion and whether you will incorporate the cranes that are necessary to offload the ships that commonly dock at Anchorage, and maybe look at that. Would that be an opportunity for Homer as well,” Pierce said.

“Yes, it could be an opportunity the focus of this study would be to create larger harbor for the large vessels that are in our current harbor, and it can't find moorage in the state. But the study certainly can look at the opportunity for increased transportation stability for goods and services coming into the state,” Hawkins said.

Homer Assemblyman Lane Chesley asked about what customers an expanded harbor would serve.

“Now there's vessels that aren't being served and these vessels are, for instance, the new,newer tugboats that are deeper draft and have special propulsion systems that cannot touch the bottom. They can't come into these small boat harbors. And so they're not being served and when they need long-term mortgage, they're going south. Vessels in the oil and gas industry that we can't fit into our Harbors when they need long-term moorage and maintenance they're heading south as well. So these are some of the customers that we look forward to being able to serve as well as our federal vessels. The Cutter Hickory is moored at our Pioneer Dock and we very much look forward to being able to bring that into the harbor and make space for other federal assets that are currently leaving the state. That's the real opportunity there,” Hawkins said.

The Homer Harbor currently moors 40 large vessels, and Hawkins says it needs space to hold at least twice that.

“The only mistake we've ever made when building a harbor in Homer is we didn't build it big enough. And so we're, we're going to push to build as big a basin as we possibly can, and we hope that the justification will come out in this study,” Hawkins said.

Funding from the state is likely, according to District P Senator Gary Stevens, who told the city council on Monday that the Homer Harbor Expansion project would be “an easy sell” to his fellow legislators because of its wide range of benefits.

Jay Barrett, KBBI's new News Director should be a familiar voice to our listeners. He's been contributing to Kenai Peninsula news for the last three years out of KDLL Kenai, and was the voice of The Alaska Fisheries Report from KMXT for 12 years. Jay worked for KBBI about 20 years ago as the Central Peninsula Reporter at KDLL.