The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Homer will kick off a preliminary study next week on the plausibility of constructing a large-vessel harbor. But this isn’t the first time the city and Corps investigated an expansion of the Homer Port. They initiated a study, along with the Alaska Department of Transportation, in 2004 but shelved the project five years later after determining the costs of expansion were too high.
Port director and Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins expects different results this time around.
“We've been working on many of the assumptions and the cost factors ever since ," he said. “We are now ready to relaunch the project because we think we can bring new facts to bear that will bring a lot better numbers to the project.”
Hawkins says it’s now possible that a harbor could be built with local sources of rock which would cut down drastically on shipping costs. The Corps is also developing a plan for disposing dredge material on the Homer Spit instead of trucking it elsewhere, which drives up costs.
Hawkins says the need for a large-vessel harbor has only grown since 2004. He says there’s a long waiting list of vessels looking for moorage and the city is losing business.
“There’s vessels that aren’t able to get moorage anywhere right now because the harbors aren’t built for them,” he said. “We've got 200 ft. class vessels that are traveling all the way to the Lower 48 for moorage in the wintertime. It's a huge cost to those vessel owners that they wouldn't have to spend if we had adequate facilities here. We have not kept up with the need of the fleet.”
He expects the preliminary study, which will cost roughly $100, 000, to finish by the spring of 2019. If the study yields positive results, the city, Corps and state will likely partner on a larger investigation into a potential port expansion.