By Rick Smeriglio for SCN – In a meeting rescheduled to June 18, Seward’s Port and Commerce Advisory Board gave consensus support to a City Administration proposal to replace B-, C- and S-floats in the small boat harbor. The project comes with an estimated cost of $5.6 million. City Manager Jim Hunt plans to sponsor a resolution before the City Council authorizing the city to apply for a State transportation grant of $2.5 million. The city would borrow about $1.7 from the Motor Pool and Passenger Vessel Tax funds. City of Seward would appropriate the balance from its Major Repair and Replacement Fund, thereby giving it the required 50 percent match for the grant. According to Assistant City Manager Ron Long, replacement of aging floats remains the highest priority for capital expenditures in the small boat harbor.
Although he joined the consensus to support the proposed project, Board member Bob Linville expressed dissatisfaction with plans for S-float and with lack of a low-tide grid in the harbor. He said he went along with the Board to avoid delaying the city’s application for the grant. Mainly, Linville descried lack of what he termed “working infrastructure” in Seward’s small boat harbor. He roughly defined working infrastructure as “anything to do with maintaining, supplying and outfitting boats, not stuff for just walking on and walking off boats”. Linville cited lack of a public crane, lack of a grid and lack of a drive-on/drive-off floating work-dock. He said that he wanted Seward’s harbor to have what other Alaskan small boat harbors have.
The southwest portion of the harbor has the only substantially undeveloped uplands around the harbor. Fill from harbor dredging created these approximately 8 acres of uplands in former open water just south of the harbor. Access to S-float as well as M-, N-, O-, P- and Q-floats starts on these uplands. City administration plans to replace S-float essentially as a side-tie-up, moorage float. S-float currently has some side-tie moorage and some fingers for 18- to 21-foot boats that often have trailers. S-float gets little use, especially in winter. Linville believes that the area occupied by S-float could better serve as a drive-on float used for maintenance and loading.
Current plans for the harbor do not call for a low-tide grid, i.e., a structure upon which boats can safely go dry at low tide to enable inspection or maintenance. The 1986 flood destroyed the previous grid and the city has not replaced it. Objections to grids center on potential water pollution. Seward has certification as a clean harbor under the Alaska Clean Harbor Program. Competing harbors such as Kodiak and Homer have grids. Homer also has certification as a clean harbor. Linville thinks that the vicinity of existing S-float could and should host a grid. He calls a grid “essential” to attracting boats and the dollars they homeport.
PACAB supported the proposal as presented by city administration, but left open the issue of a grid and of a different use for S-float. Long allowed for the possibility of modifying a grant proposal somewhat, even after receiving the grant. The original proposal has already changed somewhat in that it now calls for removal of the north-side fingers of A-float to allow a wider fairway between A- and upgraded B-float. Linville said that he plans to raise the “working infrastructure” issue again in September. PACAB advises City Council on port and commerce matters.