A fishing vessel is ready for work on the city grid. (KCAW/Rose)

When the Sitka Assembly meets on Tuesday (5-24-22), they’ll consider what next steps the city should take to develop a marine haulout at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park. 

Sitka is without a working boat haulout, following the closure of the facility that served most of  the fishing fleet at Halibut Point Marine. Last summer, the Sitka Assembly began working with the Sitka Community Boat Yard to develop a haulout at the Park. The group secured a lease with the city in July of 2021, but the plan has since fallen through.

At an assembly meeting in early May (5-10-22), Linda Behnken, who was leading the boat yard project with a coalition of local fishermen said they’d been ready for liftoff when the cost of construction jumped. 

“We did, before we responded to the RFP, have sufficient funds to build a boatyard at GPIP,” Behnken said. “Then cost increased, almost doubled, on us. And we weren’t able to raise that delta.”

The group relinquished their lease at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park in April. Behnken said they’d already finished a lot of pre-engineering and design work, which they put on hold when they relinquished their lease with the city. She said they supported the city’s efforts to find money for the haulout, but she hoped that work that the Sitka Community Boatyard had already done wouldn’t be duplicated.

Jeremy Serka said he’d hoped they could keep working with the city to make the boatyard happen. 

“We’d just hate to see that work lost at this point, we have money into it,” Serka said. “And so if there’s any way that we could work together with the city, we don’t really care who builds this, or even who operates this. The key is that we do not create something that can be lost.”

Serka said that right now, the closest haulout in Wrangell won’t be hauling out any more boats for at least a couple of months, and Hoonah’s haulout schedule is jam-packed. That leaves Sitkans with one option – putting their boats on the city grid to work on during low tide.

“And if you guys know anything about that, there’s a lot of liability there. So we’ve got to think about that, we’ve got to think about boats hitting rocks,” Serka said. “We’ve got to think about us willing to donate our time and money to see this happen with not really any profit to be made out there.” 

At  the meeting in May, the assembly unanimously approved an application for a $870,000 Denali Commission grant to fund a concept design and environmental assessment for a haulout at the park. On Tuesday (5-24-22), it will discuss its next steps in addressing the needs of more than 600 commercial fishing boats in Sitka.