An aerial view of Lutak Dock. (R&M Consulting)

An aerial view of Lutak Dock. (R&M Consulting)

The plan to shore up Haines’ entry point for freight and fuel is underway. The Borough hired R&M Consultants to look at options to renovate or replace Lutak Dock. Municipal leaders are trying to make public input a key part of the project.

Borough Manager Bill Seward says the municipality learned its lesson from the strife that’s ensnared the small boat harbor expansion.

“We want to get this right the first time,” Seward said. “We want to get it right the first time. We don’t want the controversy that’s come along with the harbor.”

One controversy-prevention measure: public meetings to give information and gather input. The first one took place Nov. 1. R&M Project Manager John Daley led the conversation.

“The Lutak Dock has been there since the 50s, it was designed by the Corps of Engineers,” Daley said. “Give them credit, it’s lasted a long time. Most marine facilities have a 50-year design life. A lot of them they try to squeeze more out of it.”

That’s pretty much what’s happening with Lutak. A structural assessment two years ago said the dock is surviving on ‘borrowed time.’ There has been a series of Band-Aid repairs in the past several years to keep it afloat, but a major renovation or replacement is needed.

“There’s corrosion issues, it’s still working, but it’s got a finite service life,” Daley said. “The good news is if you start this process now, you can do a planned replacement as opposed to an emergency replacement, which most people would think is beneficial.”

If Lutak Dock were to fail, Haines’ access to freight, including groceries and other necessities, and fuel, would be in jeopardy.

The Borough asked R&M to explore three main options. The first and cheapest option is to encapsulate the dock with new sheet pile walls, keeping the existing structure intact. The other two options involve tearing down the aging structure and replacing it with a new facility. The new facility could follow the current model, or it could be a pile-supported elevated dock.

Daley says the goal is to maintain the port for the services it currently supports. Although, he says, the mining industry has weighed in.

“I would say we’re gonna look at some of that. But our focus is on concepts to replace the dock,” Daley said. “You could do a whole study on economics and what the mining industry might do and on and on. But that’s not our project, so we’re not gonna try to solve that problem here. But we will look at it at least from a preliminary point of view. And whatever we do, we are going to leave the door open for future expansion.”

Some at the meeting seemed to be interested in having mining or future economic growth factored into the dock. But others thought going smaller would be better, especially because funding is uncertain.

“Is it a general obligation project that the taxpayers are gonna pay for, or is it gonna be paid for by the users?” asked Borough Finance Director Jila Stuart. “And if it’s gonna be paid for by the users we either need more users, the users need to  spend a whole lot more money, or we need to narrow the scope of the project. So I hope that we’re still talking about the reduced footprint.”

“Okay, so, money,” Daley responded. “We’re into money already. That didn’t take long. We’ll look at a wide range of options for you, we can add that to the list.”

R&M plans to present those design options at a second public meeting scheduled for Dec. 6. In the meantime, residents interested in adding their input can go to