Plans are moving ahead for a multi-purpose dock at Sawmill Cove Industrial Park, but the public can still play a large role in designing the final product.

The Sawmill Cove board convened a special meeting last night/Monday night (4-28-14) in Harrigan Centennial Hall to review possible scenarios for the dock, which — for the moment — is intended to handle barge traffic.

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"We're open for business," said Charles Horan of Sitka's industrial site. (SCIP photo)

“We’re open for business,” said Charles Horan of Sitka’s industrial site. (SCIP photo)

The funding for the project comes from a statewide general obligation bond issued in 2012. Sitka’s share is $7.5-million — about $6.25-million of which will be available to spend on actual construction, once design and administrative fees have been taken out.

The current plan is to build a sheet pile bulkhead about 300-feet long, and include sufficient power and water to accommodate just about any foreseeable use, says Garry White, the executive director at Sawmill Cove.

“Having as much dock as we can, that’s going to fit the most uses, but also be set up for future development. So we don’t go, Shoot, we should have put a conduit here, because we want to put this in. We want to have all that stuff in ahead of time so we can use this base infrastructure to build off of, if we do need to.”

The aerial plan of the site includes a diagram of a large ocean-going freighter moored against pilings connected to the dock by a catwalk. White noted that adding deepwater capabilities to the dock were not a part of this initial project.

On a related issue, Sawmill Cove received a federal transportation grant to prepare a feasibility study for a marine service center at the park. That study is now complete. View the study here.

The possibility of docking cruise ships at Sawmill Cove has been the subject of ongoing controversy — and even an Alaska Supreme Court case — but it was not a topic of this meeting.

One member of the public, however, Mary Ann Peterson, urged the board to be thoughtful in the development of Sitka’s waterfront.

“I see our tidelines going away, being bought up. And I’m thinking, way on down the road, how much land will Sitka actually own? That’s a resource for us. And we have a lot of bills coming due for our infrastructure, and if we sell off every last thing we have, are we shooting ourselves in the foot?”

Board member Charles Horan made it clear that, although other properties in the park were for sale, this dock was not.

“That’s why we have that attitude toward waterfront. Those tidelands — we don’t want to truncate our access. We want the public to have access over a long period of time for a large number of users. We don’t want someone to buy that access and then shut their doors. We’re keen to that.”

The meeting was also part visioning session. The Sawmill Cove board’s regular meetings aren’t typically well-attended by the public, so White and his board were eager to hear ideas — especially from the fishing industry — about future development compatible with the dock. He asked for input about a potential work float, and the location and size of a possible travel lift to haul out the largest seiners and tenders working in the region.

The city has retained the firm of Moffatt & Nichol to do the engineering and design for the dock. Project manager Shaun McFarlane outlined the scope and timetable for the work. He said a preliminary design will be ready for public review by mid-August, with additional planning complete in October and November.

Construction of the Sawmill Cove multi-purpose dock will begin in June of 2015.