December 19, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 50

Committee endorses harbor 'wave barrier'

The Haines Borough Port and Harbor Advisory Committee is recommending the assembly endorse a wave barrier breakwater – instead of a rubble mound – so the harbor expansion project can move forward.

The committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend the wave barrier option, as all rubble mound options presented by PND Engineers were too expensive for the project’s $19.5 million budget to bear.

Dick Somerville, vice president of PND, presented several rubble mound options after the borough paid an additional $20,000 to have the company explore the rubble mound breakwater further. Initial reports from PND about the sea floor’s consistency indicated a rubble mound breakwater would be expensive and “a challenging engineering endeavor.”

“We had to work through it,” said committee chair Norm Hughes about the additional research. “There was strong support in the community for a rubble mound due to its durability, wave absorption and low maintenance over a 50-year lifetime.”

Mayor Stephanie Scott said though she knew the rubble mound was the ideal option, she is glad a decision has been made and plans can move forward. “I think it has been a very hard decision to make because everyone in their heart of hearts wanted to see a rubble mound. It’s an intersection of wants and needs,” Scott said.

Committee member Bart Henderson put it simply: “Personally, I think we’re done with rocks.”

To maintain project momentum, a decision on the breakwater needs to be officially made by the assembly, Somerville said. The amount of area to be dredged also needs to be decided, he said.

Since there is no design yet, there aren’t firm costs, though Hughes said based on initial rough estimates offered by PND, the wave barrier will cost about $8 million and the dredging $6 million, and those are conservative numbers.

Realistically, Hughes said the dredging and breakwater will likely cost $16-$17 million. That leaves about $2 million for everything to go inside the harbor, plus parking and other amenities.

“There’s not a whole lot left for the inside of the harbor,” Henderson said during Monday’s meeting.

When asked where additional funds would come from for the harbor’s inside features, like a drive-down dock, Hughes said he is confident something will turn up in the future. “We’ll eventually find money, whether we bond for it or not,” he said.

“In the meantime, at least we’ll have a breakwater,” he added.

The committee has $160,000 left from a $180,000 appropriation by the assembly – $20,000 was spent on the additional research into a rubble mound breakwater – to spend on driving test piles for the breakwater.

The original plan was to use the pile driver already in Haines for the Port Chilkoot Dock project, but Hughes said it turned out that machine would be ineffective for the data needed now to move forward with the wave barrier.

“We did do some testing before, but as our design options narrow we find that we need more specific data,” he said.

Instead, a drilling rig will be needed to reach the depth of the core samples needed by PND, Somerville said.

Somerville recommended the borough combine the test drilling with the required environmental sampling, which determines if there is contaminated soil on the site and whether it needs to be cleaned up before the project can move forward. Both of these processes need to be completed before dredging can begin, Somerville said.

A Sampling and Analysis Plan should be available by mid-February, Somerville said, which means drilling could begin in spring.

Somerville said he doesn’t expect to find contamination at the site. “Contaminants don’t typically penetrate that material when it’s that dense,” he said.

If no contaminants are found, dredging and construction of the breakwater could be started by spring of 2015.

In the meantime, Hughes said the port and harbor committee needs to get the ball rolling on finding out what residents and boat owners want – and don’t want – to see in the expansion project.

For example, as planned, the project will eliminate 500 feet of beach to make room for a larger parking lot. Hughes said he plans to contact the tourism department, planning commission and parks and recreation department for insight on the development.

“I think people are going to have concerns, and by next spring we’ll have the concept more nailed down and we’re going to have to have more public outreach,” Hughes said.

The $19.5 million currently secured by the borough for the harbor expansion came from a statewide bond for harbor improvements – $15 million – and from the Alaska Legislature – $4.5 million.