Local News

Huna Totem may build own dock without city grant

Hoonah’s village Native corporation may build its own cruise-ship dock, bypassing a city effort funded by the Legislature.

Huna Totem Corp. executives say it won’t use a berthing facility planned by the city, because cruise lines don’t like the location.

It prefers a different spot, closer to its Icy Strait Point renovated cannery attraction, which brings the ships to town.

CEO Larry Gaffaney posted a letter to shareholders recently saying the corporation will pursue funding and construction of its own pier, without city involvement.

Gaffaney also wrote that the city’s preferred site, called Shaman Point, should be protected for its cultural values. He could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Johan Dybdahl, Icy Strait Point director of special projects, talks about the area's history as a cruise ship is anchored behind him. Huna Totem Corp. owns the attraction.

Johan Dybdahl, Icy Strait Point director of special projects, talks about the area’s history as a cruise ship is anchored behind him. Huna Totem Corp. owns the attraction.

The Legislature several years ago awarded the city a grant – now $15 million – to build a multipurpose dock. Lawmakers said cruise ships would be its main customers.

The state Division of Community and Regional Affairs recently suspended that grant, meaning none of it can be spent.

Director Scott Ruby says the state will take it away entirely, if the city proceeds with its plans.

“Regardless of what the state thinks about whether it’s a good location or a bad location, if the cruise-ship industry is saying ‘We will not use it,’ then there’s a problem there,” Ruby says.

He met with Hoonah officials Thursday. He says there was a good discussion, but no resolution.

Hoonah Interim City Administrator Bob Prunella says his delegation gave the state new research backing its dock location.

“The city feels like it’s (done) lots of study, geo-tech study and wind and waves on all three sites. And this one comes out looking like, by far, a preferred site for an operation like this,” Prunella says.

He says a site preferred by Huna Totem and the cruise lines would face rough winter weather. That could prevent other uses, such as commercial fishing boats or barges.

Prunella remains optimistic, even though there have been no recent meetings with the corporation or the cruise lines.

“We will move forward and see how this pans out. Give it another try, make some more effort. I’d like to see effort on both sides to come to something that everyone can live with,” he says.

Community and Regional Affairs Director Ruby also hopes the parties can come to an agreement. But that has to be soon.

His boss, Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell, recently gave the city of Hoonah notice that it would lose the dock grant if no compromise was reached. The deadline is in a week or so.

Hoonah is 40 air miles west of Juneau. It has around 800 residents, including many Huna Totem shareholders.

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