Local News

Sawmill Cove board backs marine services study

The Sawmill Cove board of directors wants to spend some unused transportation funding on a feasibility study for a marine services center.

Garry White, Sawmill Cove executive director, says the city has about $460,000 in federal transportation money available to spend at the park, but a shortage of qualified projects — like sidewalks — to spend it on.

White says a marine services center feasibility study is eligible for funding. And he says both Wrangell and Cordova procured major studies before building their facilities.

“We’re following two successful models, and we’re trying to walk down that same path and see what will work for us. One of the kickers that we put in there is that we already have an operational boat haul out here. How do we work with them, what are the synergies, and what are the synergies around the region, so we’re not all competing for that same finite number of vessels. Can we differentiate ourselves, what’s our niche here, how can we be successful?”

Northern Economics, the Anchorage-based consulting firm which prepared the studies for Wrangell and Cordova, has drafted a 37-page scoping document which outlines the extent of the proposed Sitka Study. White says his board is asking the Assembly to allocate $172,000 to begin work on the first phase of the study, which will examine the feasibility of a large-vessel haul-out, commercial vessel moorage, and how a deepwater dock might mesh with other uses in the park.

Several years ago Sawmill Cove issued a Request for Proposals from private developers for a similar project. Only one company responded, and their idea proved to be too costly for the city. But White says the basic need to expand services in Sitka has not changed.

“Through this process we had also talked to Stan Eliason, the harbormaster, and he was telling us that these tender boats that are coming up for herring and salmon are wondering why they’re traveling back to Seattle all the time when they’re doing the majority of their work here. The reason was that they had no place to get work done in Sitka. Our existing haul out isn’t large enough to take anything over 88 tons.”

The previous plan for a marine services center at Sawmill Cove called for a haul-out with a capacity of 600 tons.

The Sitka Assembly is scheduled to look at the Sawmill Cove marine services feasibility study at it’s next regular meeting on Tuesday June 25.

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