Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly backs dredging feasibility study

 


Harbormaster Glo Wollen addressed the borough assembly at its meeting Monday about an issue South Harbor is facing and what options are available to help maintain a productive harbor.

“We’ve had an ongoing, kind of, an increasing issue with boats grounding in the South Harbor. Whether it’s

isostatic rebound, glacial rebound or siltation, we’ve realized over probably the last 10 years the bottom of the harbor is getting higher,” Wollen said. “And so, I’m having more and more of our boats going aground on certain stages of the tide.”

For Petersburg, a harbor where an overwhelming

percentage of its fleet is

commercial, this is becoming an issue. The increased shallow depths are impacting efficiency when it comes to some larger vessels that call South Harbor home.

“Fifty-eight foot boats is primarily what we’re bringing in and out of this area. Some of our bigger boats get up to 100 feet,” Wollen said. “These boats are drawing 10 to 12, 13 feet of boat underneath them at a zero tide and so they’re going aground especially at the entrances.”

Wollen was initially told South Harbor did not qualify for a federal project, but

lobbyists in Washington D.C. worked through the process and found out South Harbor did qualify for Section 107 funding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visited the site in June, and recently proposed entering into a cost sharing agreement for a feasibility study of a potential partnership between the Corps of Engineers and the borough concerning a dredging project. Historically, the Corps of Engineers takes responsibility for projects they put in, including North Harbor, which was built before statehood.

Wollen said the first step is a feasibility study, and the

initial cost of the study was thought to cost as much as $1 million, but information already available about the harbor will keep the estimated cost to $750,000. The Corps of Engineers would pay the first $100,000, and the remaining balance would be split, 50/50, so the borough’s cost would be $325,000.

“They came back with this proposal then on the 22nd that blew me away,” Wollen said. “I’m still on cloud nine. I cannot believe that, how decent, how super cool this proposal is that they’re offering us.”

Part of the offer is the permanent federal maintenance of the South Harbor floor of the main channels, and it would be checked every 20 or 30 years. The basin under the stalls would still be under the borough’s care. Wollen said should the dredge portion of the project be delayed for any reason the information gathered by the feasibility study would ultimately be beneficial to the future of South Harbor. The dredging is estimated to take place by 2019.

Assembly member Bob Lynn said the project sounded “absolutely excellent” but he admitted having concerns for the future of funding Petersburg’s harbors. Lynn mentioned financial measures taken by the assembly to fund the bulkhead construction, and the possibility of creating a five-year plan for estimating future revenue.

“I know we don’t have any idea on the fish tax and so forth, but we need to get a handle on what we’re going to do. And maybe it’s time to take a look at raising harbor rates,” Lynn said. “We cannot continue spending like we are without doing something to bring money in.”

Assembly member Cindi Lagoudakis was encouraged by the proposal and mentioned the positive impact of a trip taken by Wollen, the borough manager and herself to Washington D.C. about a year and a half ago, to speak with the Corps of Engineers about Section 107.

“Sometimes it looks like maybe we’re just going back there and having casual conversation, but this is going to be a real positive for Petersburg,” Lagoudakis said.

She also asked Wollen about dredge spoils, and the possibility of funding a containment area. Wollen said spoils of close to 50,000 cubic yards are anticipated, but the weight would become more clear as the feasibility study begins to take shape.

The borough assembly unanimously passed the ordinance adjusting the FY 2017 Budget, and approving $325,000 in funding.

The assembly also held a public hearing on the ordinance for the question of prohibiting marijuana retail establishments, cultivation, marijuana product manufacturing and testing. No testimony was given from the public, and later in the meeting the ordinance passed its second reading. The third reading will take place at the assembly’s next meeting on Aug. 15.

 

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