Garry White (center, with binder) explains the strategic vision for a boat yard and haul out at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park in Sitka. With two years until Sitka’s lone commercial operator closes, White is hoping that private enterprise will participate with government to build the $6.8 million project in phases. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

With the impending closure of Sitka’s only boat yard, there’s motivation to build a large boat haul out at the community’s industrial park, but not enough money to do anything about it.

New and returning board members at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park took a walking tour of the site this week (Monday 9-16-19), and spent much of their time on the site of a proposed marine haul-out and boat yard.

Sitka’s lone commercial boat yard has given notice that it will close in around two years. Gary Paxton Industrial Park executive director Garry White would like to make headway toward a publicly-owned yard, and he’s got everything pinpointed but the cash.

Here’s an excerpt of his remarks during the board’s tour.

To do this whole deal — to put in this ramp, to put concrete in it, to put a water treatment facility and a washdown pad, and to put all the utilities across the street (water and sewer), and then put a float out there to help the boats get lined up to come in, and to buy a piece of equipment to haul out the boats — was about $6.8 million bucks. Which we don’t have any. So the board pivoted to look at it in a phased development. Phase 1, the biggest liability to the city is treating the water; Phase 2, how to capture the water; Phase 3 is to get cement down here, so we don’t get people stuck; Phase 4 is to put the utilities up there; Phase 5 is the float; and Phase 6 is the piece of equipment. Once we start moving through these phases — if we can find the capital to do so — we’re hoping that private industry would like to come in and help us participate here to get this thing up and running because I’m sure the board has heard that the existing haul-out has given us a date of about two years before they potentially will no longer be in public operation. 

The existing gravel ramp was constructed by Northline Seafoods to haul out its processing barge on huge, inflated rollers. White said that if Sitka moved ahead with the plans, it would be one of very few locations where someone could haul out a barge and work on it — and meet modern environmental standards for washdown water. There’s also land set aside for working on many other vessels of all sizes in the boat yard.

KCAW confirmed with Halibut Point Marine owner Chris McGraw that he does plan only another two years or so of operation — but he’s set no drop dead date. McGraw also runs Sitka’s only private cruise dock at the same location. He said that closure of his marine service business will be tied to future cruise scheduling.

Halibut Point Marine uses an 88-ton travelift, capable of hauling all but the largest of Sitka’s commercial and recreational fleet. When business ends there, the next-closest haul-out in that range is in Wrangell, which operates travelifts of 300 and 150 tons, as well as a 40-ton trailer.