Port projects in Seward and Bristol Bay will receive $20 million if voters approve the general obligation bond on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Seward, Naknek and Togiak efforts are three of more than 30 projects, including several port upgrades and expansions, which will receive $453.5 million if approved.
The Seward Marine Industrial Center is slated for $10 million toward an estimated $63.5 million upgrade. Combined, the Bristol Bay projects are slatted for $10.3 million. Port upgrades in Naknek would receive most of that money, $7 million, while a dock in Togiak would receive the rest, $3.3 million.
In Naknek, the money will go toward replacing a dock built in 1982. The Bristol Bay Borough has finished earlier phases of its port work, adding an entirely new dock that has seen increased container traffic at the port and buying a crane that can lift heavy vessels out of the water for storage.
The impetus for the Seward work is to develop a feasible homeport for the Coastal Villages Region Fund fishing fleet. Seward Assistant City Manager Ron Long said the city is also working to find other customers for the expanded port.
The Togiak project would build a multi-purpose dock, the first in that coastal community, eliminating the need for freight to be offloaded onto the beach.
Each project would help the fishing industry as well as other businesses and community needs.
Long and other local officials in the port communities said the multi-faceted projects offer communities more economic stability.
The work needed at the Seward center includes dredging to make the port deep enough for large catcher processors, a float system to add moorage space, a 600-foot rock breakwater for swell protection, and other additions.
Over the years, Seward has lost port customers in part because it didn’t have the breakwater protections, Long said.
The Seward project also includes on-shore work like site grading, pacing, and the addition of shorepower and lighting. The cost estimate does not include some other potential work, such as infrastructure or services for the adjacent industrial area.
Coastal Villages, or CVRF, has is one of Community Development Quota groups for several Bering Sea fisheries, and fishes on behalf of 20 communities. Currently, the fleet is ported in Seattle.
CVRF Project Manager Dawson Hoover said the group would like to bring the boats – and the associated jobs – home. But that requires a deepwater port with certain services.
The $10 million from the general obligation bond would get work going on the project, like doing design and engineering work, but further funding would be needed to finish it out, Long said. The exact timeline for completion would depend on when funding comes through.
The city is also looking for other funding sources for the project, including using its own bonding authority, a legislative appropriation, and private sector investment, Long said.
Seward is also working on an agreement with the Alaska Industrial and Export Authority, or AIDEA, for project oversight and management, Long said. That could include some help coordinating with the private sector, support industries, and other involved parties.
Any private investment would likely be for uplands development only, not the dock, which will be public infrastructure, Long said.
The city is also looking for other tenants at the expanded dock. Although Costal Villages would be an anchor tenant, Long said the fleet’s goal is to be away from the port, maximizing fishing time. The city’s goal is to have every berth filled as often as possible, so it’s earning revenue.
“We want to have a mix of customers whose schedules coincide enough,” Long said.
Long said the project doesn’t have any other confirmed tenants yet, but is working on a mix of them. In the past, the Seward port has had more customers than it does now.
“We’ve lost some freight companies, some tug companies,” Long said.
The city would like to regain those customers, as well as find some completely new ones: arctic oil and gas exploration could fill that niche.
None of those customers are committed yet, but Long said meetings this fall have been positive. There’s “enough interest to be encouraging to me,” Long said.
Seward received $400,000 from the State of Alaska in the 2012 capital budget for a study on moving the CDQ fleet in 2011. That study was done by Northern Economics, and released in June.
Ultimately, the report found that moorage fees would likely be higher in Seward than they are in Seattle. But it also detailed economic benefits to the city and the state if the port is expanded and the fleet moved.
Hoover said the fleet would also save money by not having to travel to Seattle and back every year.
The economic benefits outlined in the study include 710 temporary jobs, and a majority of the project spending taking place in Alaska. In the long-term, the fleet would pay for more Alaska goods and services. Of $26 million spent in Washington on vendors, employees and other ancillary costs, at least $6 million would be transferred to Alaska, based on 2010 numbers.
About 132 sectors or business types service the fleet in Seward, according to the study. Of those, about 50 can be found in Seward itself, while 118 are available elsewhere in Southcentral: the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and the Municipality of Anchorage.
The expansion fits with Seward’s overall effort to diversify its marine economy. Long said the city wants to have some fisheries traffic, some science, some oil and gas, some tug and freight, “so we’re not a one sector economy.”
Another vessel will soon be calling Seward home, although like the fishing fleet, it’ll be out on the sea much of the year. Sikuliaq, the new University of Alaska Fairbanks research vessel, will live in Seward, although not at the marine industrial center. Instead, it will be at the university’s mooring facilities.
Having another big ship in port adds to the need for support services, and plays into the city’s goal to have both industrial port traffic and a science component, fitting in with UAF’s Seward Marine Center and the Alaska SeaLife Center.
Long said the research vessel will share some needed support services with the fishing fleet, but will also have some research-specific needs that are very different.
The Naknek funds would cover most, but not all, of a dock replacement project that addresses the needs stemming from increased use of Bristol Bay ports.
Bristol Bay Borough Manager Patrick Jordan said $7 million would let the borough get started with work in the spring, but they’re still talking to the engineers about what components would be done first. The borough would also likely make another request to the legislature for the balance of the project. The exact remainder is still being determined, as some additional land may also be needed. Originally, the borough asked for $10 million.
The need for the project makes it difficult to gauge the exact timeline for replacement. If the funding is approved, the borough has to find a way to accommodate the current level of use.
“We can’t tear down the old dock and rebuild it,” he said.
The work already completed in Naknek has led to a significant increase in use of the port. Jordan said that from 2002 to 2009, the number of containers moved across the docks at Naknek has more than tripled, going from 3,000 to 11,000. Jordan said the borough expects the increase to continue.
“This is a regional hub,” he said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Naknek-King Salmon port has the fourth highest value for commercial fisheries in America, and the third highest in Alaska, at $100.9 million.
In addition to the containers, the port has seen more use in recent years due to the purchase of a heavy-lifting crane. Now, ships can be hauled out of the water and stored in Bristol Bay, rather than traveling all the way back around the Alaska Peninsula to a port elsewhere in the state. The possible land acquisition would add space for more boat storage, Jordan said.
If the dock isn’t replaced, the borough will continue to repair the current dock every year. Jordan said he was underneath the dock about two weeks ago, and saw the pilings that need to be replaced. Maintenance has to be done yearly, to the tune of about $200,000. Further decay could increase that cost.
The replacement dock will use the same open cell technology as the borough’s new dock at that port, which requires virtually no maintenance, Jordan said.
According to the state’s Total Project Snapshot, or TPS, report for the Togiak dock, the facility would serve the local processing plant as well as other community needs.
The dock would be a 160-foot wide sheet pile dock, with a 30-foot concrete boat launch ramp.
According to the TPS, having the dock in town would mean fishermen could offload fish and reload supplies, sea freight companies could more easily and safely deliver goods to the community, and gravel could be loaded onto vessels to transport it to other communities. The dock could also house a new fuel header for a tank farm upgrade.
Freight is currently is loaded and unloaded at the beach, according to a permit filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The project is about 95 percent shovel ready, according to the TPS, with some permitting work remaining.
The dock could be finished by 2013, according to the timeline in the TPS.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding was used for design work, and Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bristol Bay Economic Develop Corp. funding has covered the costs of some purchases and site work.
The local processing plant, which would use the dock, is a joint venture between the Traditional Council of Togiak and Copper River Seafoods.