Ground has broken on one of the most controversial projects in Haines in recent years. The small boat harbor expansion is entering its first phase of development. Over the next year, contractors will deepen the harbor basin, build a steel wave barrier, replace moorage pilings and add on to the uplands area.
“There’s gonna need to be a lot of patience exercised by everyone,” said Shawn Bell, interim public facilities director.
He says harbor patrons will have to get used to some noise and disruptions.
“There’s gonna be inconveniences, there’s gonna be delays and issues that aren’t gonna be the easiest to deal with,” Bell said. “But that’s just the reality of construction, and hopefully the payoff is worth all the trouble.”
The payoff is a harbor that can accommodate more vessels and better serve the Haines fishing fleet.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing to get here.
“Some may stand up here and say that those are obligations for the future. That’s an investment into my future,” said Haynes Tormey, one of dozens of fisherman who defended the harbor expansion at public meetings in the past couple years.
The project has polarized the community. Many say it’s necessary to support Haines’ fishing economy. But others say the design will turn a beautiful waterfront into an eyesore.
Evelyna Vignola has repeatedly voiced her concerns. She attended a port and harbor advisory committee meeting recently and urged them to work with harbor critics.
“We’re all on the same boat,” Vignola said. “Don’t make the other, like myself, the enemy. Because the boat’s gonna sink if we don’t take care of it.”
Despite the polarization, the assembly approved a $13 million contract with Pacific Pile & Marine for construction of the first phase of the harbor. That’s covered by about $20 million in state grant funding.
When Pacific Pile arrives in March, Bell says they’ll start dredging the inner harbor, which will mean moving boats around. He says the majority of that work should be finished before the start of the busy fishing season.
Bell is also trying to get last-minute approval for some additional dredging. He says dredging along the B and C floats would deepen areas where, during very low tides, boats touch the ground.
“I know [Interim Harbormaster Gabe Thomas] has been down on -4 tides and pushed on boats and seen that they’re touching the mud in some locations,” Bell said.
Bell says the areas will need to be deepened eventually, and it would be prudent to take advantage of the dredging equipment while it’s here. The $55,000 change order request goes before the assembly Tuesday.
Dredging and uplands development will be ongoing for about five months. Wave barrier construction will begin near the end of the summer and continue into the winter. The majority of phase one work should be done by the beginning of next year.
In the meantime, planning is in progress for phase two’s sport fishing ramp. The ramp will be paid for with federal money funneled through Alaska Fish and Game.
The timeline for phases three and four is uncertain. Phase three involves placing new floats in the expanded harbor. Phase four is a new drive-down ramp. It’s also uncertain how much state funding will be left over to pay for the last two phases.
Borough staff will post updates on the harbor construction at hainesalaska.gov.