The future of the Lutak Dock is still adrift after a summer of Band-Aid repairs. At the Haines Borough Assembly meeting last week, a concerned resident pleaded with the assembly to make repairs before someone gets hurt, or worse. Harbormaster Shawn Bell says there’s no doubt the dock needs to be rebuilt. But the question of where the money will come from remains.

The Lutak Dock continues to survive on borrowed time. That’s according to an inspection and assessment report completed by PND Engineers in the spring of 2014, a year and a half ago. The $90,000 report states that “the structure has reached the end of credible 60‐year service life…” and “It is prudent to begin the process to replace the structure.”

This summer, some much-needed maintenance was done. But it’s not a long term solution for the industrial port that supports supply and fuel barges for the borough.

According to Bell, two valves and several sections of pipe were replaced on the barge ramp. The work was done by Western Marine who accepted a trade of storage space in lieu of money. Bell says there’s no question the dock needs to be rebuilt but he’s encouraged that no additional sinkholes were discovered over the past several months. Alaska Marine Lines and Delta Western are the primary users of the dock. Bell said over the past year, AML has averaged about 1,500 tons of freight a month while Delta Western has averaged over a million gallons of fuel a month.

The fact that more than a year has gone by since the report stated that the dock needs to be replaced is a concern for some residents. Here’s Joe Parnell at a recent assembly meeting.

“Our Lutak harbor is out there and each day that goes by, it gets closer to catastrophically failing.”

Borough manager Dave Sosa said recently that yes, a catastrophic event is possible if one of the cells, or large support structures, collapses. It’s happened before, about a decade ago.

“The fact that it happened to one, means it could happen to any of them. They’re all the same age, they were designed the same way and cells like that have ruptured in other parts of the country.”

The cells are metal cylinders 60 feet high and 40 feet wide, filled with rock and exposed to the elements. The dock is owned partly by the borough and partly by the state. Over the summer, the state paid for the demolition of two and a half cells on the borough side, to help secure the integrity of the entire structure and make ferry operations safer.

Later in the most recent assembly meeting, assembly member George Campbell brought up the issue again, asking what the plan is.

Sosa responded: “Where we stand with Lutak Dock is where we were. The group stood up but we haven’t met in some time, we did produce an RFQ, but we had to call that back and now we’re in the process of revaluating the information that’s going into that.”

A Lutak Dock working group was formed after the results of the inspection and assessment came out. Sosa said they haven’t met in some time and he is working at getting the group reenergized on the undertaking. A Request for Qualifications, or RFQ, went out to engineering firms earlier this year, but was withdrawn because they weren’t drafted appropriately.

“Where we stand is we want to identify firms that have the expertise to potentially work with us in the future,” Sosa said. “The money right now is not available. So, there will not be money from the state so we have to identify funding sources whether those are the federal government or whether we can engage with business partners to support activity at Lutak Dock.”

The dock is used to offload fuel, food and other essentials used by Haines residents daily. Sosa told the assembly on Tuesday that if the dock could be used for the transshipment of bulk cargo, like heavy equipment, more funding sources might be available. But, he added, that hinges somewhat on the Haines Highway Improvement Project.

“If the Haines Highway project does not go, the likelihood of being able to do that is very low because the road will not support those type of loads,” Sosa said. “So there are other things that we’re looking at that will help us determine what we’re able to do based on the other infrastructure in the area.”

So, as it stands, the borough is working to revive the Lutak working group and identify funding sources to replace or reinforce it substantially.