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Homer Harbor expansion hits slowdown due amid budget issues

Boats are docked on Homer Harbor on September 23, 2023.
Jamie Diep
The city and Army Corps of Engineers are working on a feasibility study for expanding Homer Harbor.

The City of Homer has been in talks with the US Army Corps of Engineers about expanding Homer Harbor for nearly twenty years.

Earlier this year, the two entities signed a cost share agreement earlier this year to conduct a study to see if expanding Homer Harbor is feasible. HDR, the company contracted to work on the project, reported rising costs and the potential for a pause in the study during a city council work session earlier this month.

The three million dollar study is funded by the city, state and at the federal level. It will run for three years. However, the Corps of Engineers reported that federal funding would run out after the first year of the study. If funding cannot be found, the project will run on a restricted basis after the end of this calendar year. This slowdown could last for 6 months or longer depending on if and when the project receives funding.

Bruce Sexauer, US Army Corps of Engineers civil works branch chief, said that funding is decided by Congress and higher level administration within the corps, so they don’t know why the project didn’t receive funding beyond the first year.

Funding cycles are very complex,” he said, “and sometimes the decisions are made well above where we sit, and we just adjust as we need to.”

The corps also reported needing an additional $1.15 million to run the study. If the additional costs are approved, the city is facing more than half a million dollars in additional funding needed. Most of the funding would go towards collecting geophysical data. This data would provide information on what material a potential breakwater would be built on.

This new cost comes after determining geophysical data the city already had didn’t provide enough information. The data is needed before any construction begins to determine the cost and timing of building a breakwater in the area.

Bryan Hawkins is the port director for the city. He said the project members are still figuring out what the city can accomplish if federal funding doesn’t go through.

“What we're trying to do now is to identify key components that we want to keep running during the slowdown, and components of this study from the corps side, from their expense side, that we can wait on, so that we can work through this until the additional funding comes in,” he said.

So far, the corps received an additional fifty thousand dollars left over from a finished project elsewhere, but that only covers a bit more than two percent of their total contribution.

Despite the new setbacks, the project is continuing to move forward.

Last weekend, the project members held another meeting, updating the public on the project, presenting design proposals chosen from a previous public meeting and collecting input on things to consider when designing the harbor.

During the meeting, attendees broke out into groups to discuss aspects of the harbor expansion. They discussed uplands considerations and aesthetics, resiliency and sustainability, reduced environmental impact, balanced harbor design, logistics, and business and economic opportunities.

While the city figures out next steps, the corps will continue working on the study with an economic survey, data collection on the local species in the area, and gathering input.

Beyond the public meetings, the project welcomes comments from the community on all aspects of the study through

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at to send story ideas.