Gov. Sean Parnell has included $4.5 million for Haines harbor improvement in the coming year’s budget, work that will go toward reducing wave action in the current basin by building a new structure at the south end of the existing breakwater.
Parnell’s budget also shows $1 million for Haines Highway reconstruction between 3.5 Mile and 21 Mile, $700,000 for replacing the Barnett Drive water tank, $1.6 million for a Department of Transportation snow removal equipment storage building and $320,000 for deferred maintenance on the Haines armory.
The Haines Borough replaced aging, cement floats in the harbor with lighter, wooden ones in 2009, but the new ones are more susceptible to wave action. They bang against each other and against pilings and boats tied up to them, fishermen say.
State Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, said this week he had consulted with Parnell about the project, which may be the single biggest allocation for Haines. Thomas said the project is warranted, as it will protect boats he described as the borough’s single biggest asset.
"I’ve been down there enough. If we don’t fix it, the borough is going to have to fix it all again for a couple million dollars. We might as well protect it while we can and nibble away at (other improvements)," Thomas said.
Protecting the harbor entrance will come either as a rubble mound breakwater extension or a wave-permeable metal barrier. The less expensive breakwater extension hinges on finding solid sea floor through core drilling.
A 2009 engineer’s study estimated entrance protection would cost $2.9 million, but Thomas said this week he expected the work would eat up most of the $4.5 million, with any surplus to go toward dredging the west-side shoreline, an effort aimed at expanding the basin.
Harbor committee chair Norm Hughes said core drilling has been estimated to cost $600,000 and the borough will seek U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding to cover three fourths of that cost.
"A lot of the cost is to bring the equipment up here to do it. The (drilling) project was scheduled for spring but the Corps ran out of money," Hughes said.
Hughes said he hoped that money from the governor’s budget might be used as a matching to leverage other sources of funds. The borough has identified $9 million in improvements to the basin, work that would include adding space for 70 slips, a new boat ramp and other improvements.
"The idea is to have flushing in the harbor but also a bigger basin that allows us to do more things. But we need money first for the breakwater," Hughes said, adding that the project may require borough hire of a consultant.
Thomas said he’d also seek to get the project included in a statewide ports bond, an avenue to potentially more money. He said Parnell wants to limit the bond to $350 million, including $20 million for Southeast.
Thomas said he believes the region deserves a bigger chunk of money, particularly considering that $10 million would be for a state ferry storage facility at Ketchikan, the funds for which could come from other sources, he said.
As much as $25 million could be spent at the existing harbor basin under scenarios drawn up last year by PND Engineers. Under the most extensive plan, reconfiguration of the harbor would involve near-shore dredging that would create space for additional floats and docking of larger vessels, moving the current fuel float and ice machine, adding a new sportboat ramp on the basin’s south side and possible addition of a drive-down float.
A drive-down float, which would allow boat owners to unload vehicles directly into their vessels, has been touted as a significant, time-saving improvement, particularly for commercial fishermen.
Parnell submitted a $1.8 billion capital budget, allotting $600 million for legislators’ capital requests. He proposed a $12.1 billion overall budget for the coming year, with an operating budget 4.5 percent larger than last year’s.