City of Seward, Economics, Harbor News

New D-float Almost Ready

By Rick Smeriglio for SCN –

After laboring all fall and winter, Orion Marine Contractors Inc. has nearly completed a spanking-new floating dock in Seward’s small boat harbor. Workers didn’t even take a break for St. Patrick’s Day. With a scheduled completion date April 15 bearing down hard, they couldn’t afford to. Orion finished the heavy lifting a while ago, but final details remain.

D-float awaits final details before boats can return
D-float awaits final details before boats can return

The City of Seward engaged Orion to replace tired, 50-year old, wooden D-float. After building a new float and barging it here from Puget Sound, Orion began tearing out old D-float in September of 2013. R & M Consultants of Anchorage became project manager.

According to Seward Harbormaster Mack Funk, “The old dock became the property of the contractor.” Some lengths of old float had private buyers, some burned on land. Massive, galvanized-steel pilings replaced creosoted timbers. Creosote readily leaches into water: zinc galvanizing does not. Instead of exposed foam flotation of old that degraded into tiny, floating bits and polluted Resurrection Bay, the new design encapsulates its flotation in long-lived plastic. A modern, inert, walking surface replaces an old, treated-timber surface.

Good environmental engineering costs money. For D-float, it amounts to about 2 million dollars. Harbormaster Funk says that about half the financing came from a state of Alaska grant while another half came from harbor user-fees. User fees include moorage, passenger, and capital replacement fees levied on all boats in harbor.

Boat owners complain about fees and taxes.


“We want to remain competitive,” said Funk referring to fees relative to competing harbors such as Whittier, Alaska. “Seward wants to continue making improvements while holding down fees,” said Harbormaster Funk.

As of mid March, some work remains, particularly electrical and water hookups. Project manager R & M Consultants has not yet made final inspections. City of Seward electrical department has yet to make final connection of new float to city power. On Monday, March 17, Service Electric of Seward workers busily worked on electrical conduits for lighting.

Al Dykstra of Service Electric works on D-float gangway
Al Dykstra of Service Electric works on D-float gangway

Harbor workers typically wait until threat of freezing has passed before opening water lines to individual floats in the small boat harbor. When asked about how confident she felt that Orion would meet the April 15 completion date, Kim Nielsen, Waterfront Group Manager for R & M Consultants said “…yeah pretty confident, hopefully sooner, but I don’t want to get anybody too excited.”

Nielsen mentioned lack of level in the floating of the fingers as an unexpected difficulty with this project. Weights at one end or the other solved that problem. Current slip holders may notice some interesting features on new D-float compared to old D. Digital power meters have replaced analog ones. Electrical power-pedestals stand forward and center of each dual berth rather than forward of each single slip. The D-float gangway ramp down to tidewater meets the American with Disabilities Act standards for adverse slope, even at low tide. New rescue ladders out of the water will not accumulate slippery slime because they will stow up on the float rather than in the water as they used to.

Boats that had to vacate D-float during its refurbishment now want to return for opening season on Resurrection Bay. Harbormaster Funk cautions that first, the contractor must fully complete the project and City of Seward must accept the work. When appropriate, harbor staff will send out notice of availability to holders of D-float slips. Second, said Funk, “Spring is our busy time. Don’t miss an opportunity to schedule the travel lift.”


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