The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is moving forward with plans to develop a new moorage facility to accommodate Alaska Marine Highway System vessels, as well as the NOAA research ship Fairweather.
Under federal mandate, Ketchikan is the home port of the Fairweather, an Arctic hydrographic survey vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But Ketchikan doesn’t have suitable moorage for such a vessel, so the community has lost out on hosting the crew of 48 for six months each year.
The Fairweather instead spends its winters in Oregon, where it undergoes repairs while the crew trains and prepares for the next season.
To bring the Fairweather here, and to improve facilities for state ferries, the Legislature and Gov. Sean Parnell approved a $7.5-million grant to the borough to help fund a predevelopment report for the project. The report will provide a conceptual design and a cost estimate for the entire project, and should be done by November.
The Borough Assembly is scheduled to accept the grant on Monday. A draft agreement with the state calls for any leftover grant funds to go toward construction.
Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst said a moorage facility could cost up to $30 million, but that number is speculative. He said the borough is working cooperatively with the state to get started on planning.
“The fact that is was appropriated as a grant to the borough is a reflection that the governor and the Legislature have confidence in the borough to move the project along,” he said. “It’s a very important project for the community in terms of bringing the NOAA Fairweather back to Ketchikan as its homeport, and expanding the capacity of the Alaska Marine Highway System here in Ketchikan.”
Bockhorst said that if the Fairweather returned to Ketchikan, it could make a big difference, economically.
“I cannot put a dollar figure to that, but while it’s in port, the ship undergoes repairs that could be accomplished here in Ketchikan, and training and outfitting and whatnot,” he said. “So the economic impact, I would say is fair to judge that it would be substantial.”
The new facility, which would be owned and operated by the state once complete, also would be used for layup and maintenance of state ferries.
Also on Monday, the Assembly will vote on accepting a $9.9 million state grant for Ketchikan International Airport operations and infrastructure. Projects include replacing the ferry terminal moorage facility, improving parking and lighting, and a new heating system at the airport.
POOL OPENING DELAY
In his report to the Assembly, Bockhorst writes that the June 30th grand opening for the new Ketchikan Aquatic Center has been postponed one month. The delay stems from a decision by the steering committee to add a cement-based water seal to the recreation pool before plastering.
Bockhorst writes that the pool could be open to the public by July 20th, with the formal ceremony on Saturday, July 28th.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Borough Assembly chambers. Public comment will be heard at the beginning of the meeting.