The multi-year renovation to Berths 1 and 2 are pretty ,much done, for the moment. (Photo by Leila Kheiry)

 Berths 1 and 2. (File photo by Leila Kheiry)

The Ketchikan City Council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to talk about plans to improve the city’s downtown port.

The total cost of those improvements is estimated at up to $73 million over the course of the multi-phase, long-term project.

The city has been working with advisory firm Moffatt and Nichol on those plans, and the firm compiled a report with recommendations for the Council to consider. (See link to a PDF of the report at the bottom of this story.)

Some of the recommendations stem from the expectation that larger cruise ships will start arriving in Alaska in greater numbers over the next few years. Ketchikan’s port right now can’t dock multiple mega ships at the same time.

According to a memo from Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon, among the News Tilerecommendations is removal of a rock pinnacle about 700 feet off Berth 3; lengthening the Berth 4 barge to accommodate larger cruise ships; and eventually expanding Berths 1 and 2.

The report also recommends an overhaul of the Berth 3 barge, which can be lengthened later to fit bigger ships; as well as corrosion maintenance on Berths 1, 2 and 3.

During earlier public meetings to gather input on plans for the port, there was opposition to expanding Berths 1, 2 and 4. In a memo to the Council, City Manager Karl Amylon writes that Council members will have to weigh that opposition against the need to accommodate larger cruise vessels.

Amylon also writes that the city likely should fund removal of the rock pinnacle without waiting to apply for state or federal funding, because it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The pinnacle can impede navigation of large ships.

Amylon adds that the proposed improvements likely will require bonds, which would add to the city’s overall debt. Any bond debt would have to be approved by voters, and Amylon writes that the city would have to make sure before taking it to voters that the new debt would be covered by port fees and head taxes, and would not result in additional taxes for residents.

Amylon writes in his memo that the report is a starting point for the city to plan port improvements.

A representative from Moffatt and Nichol is scheduled to attend Thursday’s special Council meeting to present the report and answer questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

Port expansion report