A local committee is reviving discussion of building a boatyard in Haines.
The Haines Borough’s Port Development Steering Committee expressed support for a boatyard, which could serve as a place for recreational and commercial boat owners to maintain, repair and store their vessels.
During its March 6 meeting, the committee forwarded the boatyard discussion to the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee, asking the latter to generate a business plan that would recommend specifics for the project, including size, potential locations and required equipment.
Harbormaster Phil Benner estimated 100 boats come in and out of Haines each year, and owners need a place to haul up their vessels for cleaning, painting and fiberglass work.
“This is reality here; this is something that could happen in the next few years – it could happen within five years – that we could do something like this and make it available, and it would be an economic boost to the community not only in the summer, but in the winter,” Benner said.
Benner said he envisions a steel-covered, six-stall structure, with one ventilated stall devoted to painting and fiberglass work. “That would be about what we would need,” Benner said.
Many local fishermen take their boats to Skagway, because it has a haul-out service. Cynthia Adams, a commercial fisherman who owns the 36-foot gillnetter Ladyhawke, said so many fishermen live here, it only makes sense to maintain and store boats here, as well.
“It’s not as easy now, having to drag your boat to Skagway and haul out there. Skagway doesn’t have much as far as services that a boat repair person might need. Haines has a lot more of that infrastructure,” Adams said.
That infrastructure includes several hardware stores that carry the right equipment, Adams said. Haines also has skilled laborers in wiring, refrigeration, steelwork, fiberglass work, and welding, she said.
With a boatyard, many of those workers would remain employed over the winter and stay in town, creating benefits that go beyond the vessel owners, said borough manager Mark Earnest.
“You create secondary benefits to companies around town that carry parts and supplies; they have more sales. You keep somebody employed here during the winter; they’re buying groceries at the grocery store,” Earnest said.
Earnest said there are two basic designs for hauling a boat out of the water that are most applicable to Haines: a hydraulic lift, which is basically a large, padded boat trailer, and a wet slip, which uses straps to lift the boat out of the water in a sort of sling. The hydraulic lift trailer probably makes more sense for Haines, he said.
Choosing a boatyard site would take into account land and development costs.
Sites mentioned during the committee meeting included the Klukwan, Inc.-owned property south of Port Chilkoot Dock, the state-owned uplands in the Lutak Dock area, and the vacant building at 1 Mile Haines Highway, owned by John Floreske.
Earnest said borough involvement in this endeavor will likely be limited, and that the entire project, ideally, would be handled by the private sector. However, the borough might need to step in to help out with the high capital costs, he said.
“With the hydraulic lift, I’ve heard numbers as high as $800,000. Well, it’s going to take a lot of boat hauls to pay that, plus the cost of upkeep and everything. So that might be something that the borough would become involved in,” Earnest said.
Previous harbormaster Ed Barrett compiled a plan for a Haines boatyard years ago, Earnest said. The committee will likely revisit that document, he said.
The Port and Harbor Committee meets 10:30 a.m. March 21.