Lutak Dock. (R&M Consultants)

Lutak Dock. (R&M Consultants)

Engineers hired by the Haines Borough recommend a $31 million renovation to keep Lutak Dock standing. The dock is Haines’ lifeline to freight and fuel, and there is no question it needs a major overhaul. The question is how to pay for it.

Lutak Dock is nearing the end of its life and is in serious need of repair or replacement. The borough contracted with R&M Consultants to explore three project possibilities. R&M presented those alternatives Wednesday night. They range in cost from $20 to $60 million.

Lutak Dock was built in the 1950s. It’s made up of circular sheet pile cells filled with earth that hold up a concrete dock.  Of the three alternatives presented, R&M Engineer John Daley recommended the one that involves encapsulating the existing sheet pile cells with new ones.

“It’s pretty efficient, it maintains your uplands,” Daley said. “It will continue to support multi-purpose use, your existing users can continue operation and other users can come in and use the dock.”

Daley said there is some risk to driving new sheets between cells. That is one reason he factored in a 25 percent contingency to the estimated price of $31 million.

“I’m not gonna tell you it’s easy or there isn’t any risk, because there is,” he said.

Option 1’s $30 million cost is middle-of-the-road compared to the other two alternatives.

Option 2, the most expensive, is to demolish the existing dock and replace it with a new facility.

“That would give you a real high level of performance, everything would be brand new,” Daley said.

But it’s not cheap. The price tag for a brand new platform dock is about $60 million.

As for Option 3, the least expensive. This design mimics what the Alaska Department of Transportation did to their side of Lutak Dock, which is where marine highway ferries tie up.

It would entail removing the existing dock and constructing berthing dolphins with catwalks.

“So you wouldn’t have an edge of the dock like you tie up to now,” Daley said. “It would be just like the ferry berth that you have, with a series of dolphins, and you would have to access everything with a catwalk.”

This option is about $20 million. But is has some downsides. The borough would lose about two of its four acres of uplands. Daley said current operations with Alaska Marine Lines and Delta Western would be able to continue, but future business might be limited by this structure.

Daley said even though a new dock is the best option, it is cost prohibitive. So, he said, the choice is between Option 1 and 3. Daley recommended 1, because it maintains the uplands and accommodates more multi-purpose use.

Comparison of alternatives. (R&M Consultants)

Comparison of alternatives. (R&M Consultants)

The discussion now goes to the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee and Planning Commission.

The port and harbor committee weighed in Thursday morning, and they differed slightly from Daley. Daley recommended design 1B, which would encapsulate most of the cells, but leave out the two closest to the ferry dock.

Jeremy Stephens warned that leaving cells six and seven alone might cause a liability for the borough. Stephens is familiar with the dock because he worked as an engineer for DOT when the department was renovating its section of Lutak.

“[The] only issue I have with 1B is that is excludes cells six and seven, which means there might a liability when the environment eventually takes those cells and the material spills out into the ocean and the borough has to clean it up,” Stephens said.

On that advice, the port commission voted to endorse option 1A, not 1B. 1A encapsulates cells six and seven. It also costs about $5 million more. Port commissioner Fred Gray voted against the recommendation. He wanted the group to confer with the planning commission, and get on the same page, before voting.

As borough groups work to come to a consensus on a design, Interim Public Facilities Director Shawn Bell said funding will also factor into what model gets built.

“The funding is the battle,” Bell said. “And that will kind of tell us which way we’re gonna go here.”

The borough has so far applied for one federal grant, that if approved, would contribute $5 million to the project. But with a possible $30 million cost, that’s just a drop in the bucket.

More detailed information about Lutak Dock options can be seen here: