SITKA, ALASKA
Halibut Point Marine Services is building the private dock in front of its property out Halibut Point Road.

The company’s Chris McGraw says it includes a main concrete float that will have a vehicle access ramp connected to the shore. It will have additional smaller floats that extend beyond the main structure.

The overall length is about 1,000 feet, big enough to handle some large cruise ships.

View the Corps of Engineers permit  
Link to Halibut Point Marine Services  

McGraw declined to speak on tape. But in a written response to questions, he said the company does not have any commitments from cruise lines to use the dock. And he said he does not know if it will be handling the big ships.

Garry White of the Sitka Economic Development Association says it’s too early to know what the future will hold. But if big ships start docking there, it would have an impact.

“I would assume that will help increase our volumes. It would allow some of these bigger ships that don’t have lightering capabilities to be able to use that port. Some of the statistics I’ve seen show that when folks have a docking facility versus lightering they spend more on shore so that would help with the downtown retailers,” he says.

McGraw says the dock will expand Halibut Point Marine's existing operations. That includes fuel sales, commercial gear storage, and transient vessel moorage.

He says the company has handled vessels from 10 to 300 feet long, including fishing boats and passenger ships. It plans to continue servicing those vessels, though the dock could allow expansion into large cargo and cruise ships.

Halibut Point Marine is also reconstructing its travelift dock so it can accommodate wider vessels.

White of the development association says that’s important for Sitka.

“Some of the fear when we saw that big breakwater coming to town was that would be the end of the haul-out and that’s a very needed facility in our community. And so the conversations about him pursuing the money to put in that EPA-approved wash-down kind of gives me some certainty that that haul-out will be there in the future and will be able to support our commercial fishing fleet,” he says.

The company is not disclosing the project’s cost. McGraw says it’s received all of the necessary permits. He expects construction to be completed in the spring.

One of the permits, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was awarded a year ago and is good through August of 2014.

Linda Speerstra of the corps’ Sitka office says permit conditions are meant to protect marine line. That includes limiting pile-driving to low tide. It also prohibits work in the water between March 1st and June 15th to protect spawning herring and migrating salmon.

“Another protection measure we’ve put in here is to be cognizant to marine mammals in the area. So any marine mammals within 200 meters of the project would have the project stop work until the marine mammals have left the area,” she says.

She says she’s spotted no problems so far.

The corps collected comments from the public before approving the permit. Speerstra says notices were mailed to neighbors, put up at the post office and sent to local media.

“We received a diversity of comments for this project, for and against it or having concerns with it. So there were quite a few responses to the public notice,” she says.

The project was also reviewed by the state Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. Objections included noise, visual impacts and increased marine traffic.

 

                                          Image from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit files.

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