Petersburg Pilot -

Assembly authorizes payment for study


Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

The Petersburg Borough Assembly authorized payment to enter a feasibility study for dredging South Harbor earlier this week.

The Petersburg Borough Assembly unanimously voted to authorize borough manager Stephen Giesbrecht to enter into a cost share agreement for a dredging study of South Harbor at its meeting Monday night. The harbor is becoming increasingly difficult for some larger vessels to access.

The agreement allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to gather information on the project to determine the

feasibility of a long-term

partnership with the borough. The federal agency will pay the initial $100,000 for the study, and the remaining amount would be divided between the borough and the Corps of Engineers.

The agreement means each party will pay up to $325,000 to complete the study in addition to the agency's initial payment, making the estimated total for the study $750,000. The assembly approved the expenditure at its Aug. 1 meeting, but needed to authorize the funding.

"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," Harbormaster Glo Wollen told the assembly in August. "And so, I'm having more and more of our boats going aground on certain stages of the tide."

The Corps of Engineers wants to take a closer look and to gauge the agency's interest in maintaining access to the harbor. Wollen attended the meeting and said the borough could step away from the agreement at any point, and she explained the importance of completing the dredging study.

"We have to enter into this agreement, and once they take it on and realize that there is actually a federal responsibility here, then they kinda embrace the whole thing. They embrace the whole harbor," Wollen said. "So, in 20, 30 years down the line when we have to do the southern end, that was dredged 15 years ago, they're going to pick up their share of it."

Wollen told assembly members how the study led to the borough's harbor expanding and the financial benefits to the borough.

"They also realize that Petersburg is beginning to

max our capacity and they feel that what could come out of this study is probably rationale for another harbor basin

somewhere along the waterfront, that they would go and identify, put in on behalf of us similar to our situation in North Harbor," Wollen said. "Then they're on the hook for forever to take care of it. So, I think it's a wonderful opportunity that wasn't there very many years ago."

Wollen said the work done by delegates in Washington D.C. was a crucial step in moving this project along. She also mentioned how Petersburg is on the cutting-edge when it comes to its harbor facility and the work will deal with people fromAnchorage familiar with the harbor after completing recent work to North Harbor a couple years back.

"They're Alaskans that we're dealing with," she said. "They're very, very accommodating and really want to do this work on behalf of our community and on behalf of how it helps the federal interests. I'm thrilled with this opportunity."

The study will include options for disposal of spoils from the dredging process. Assembly members approved the request 5-0, and the dredging could be completed as early as 2019.


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