Advocates for harbor improvements now have lots of options to consider.

Completing a study for the Haines Borough, PND Engineers of Juneau recently submitted five alternatives for expanding the existing basin to the south, with pricetags ranging from $32 million to $49 million, for options with all the trimmings.

Those prices are still favorable to estimates for harbor expansion northward, where soft soils pushed the cost of a breakwater alone to $35 million.

Assemblywoman Joanne Waterman, who serves as liaison to the boat harbor committee, characterized the PND study as a step forward. “I think they’ve given us lots to chew on, and that’s what’s going to be happening this winter.”

But before they start weighing options, committee members want a critical question answered: Can a rubble mound breakwater be built at the south end of the existing one?

That’s a $3 million question, the difference in cost between a cheaper, traditional breakwater made with a pile of rocks, or a steel wall that’s used in soils too soft to support the rock pile. PND’s five options all include the steel wall because, to date, only one, shallow test drill has been made in the sea floor there and it was inconclusive.

The harbor committee will be asking the borough to fund those tests, likely to cost tens of thousands of dollars, but still cheaper than defaulting to the steel wall.

“We’d be comfortable getting one last piece of this puzzle before deciding which way to go,” said borough facilities director Brad Maynard. “If it could save us three or four million, it’s worth $150,000 to do the test drilling.”

The drilling – which requires mobilization of a barge – would likely be done next year.

In the meantime, harbor committee members will be poring over charts PND assembled showing costs of individual harbor elements the committee brainstormed during recent meetings, as applied to the five options. A drive-down float: $4.1 million. A sheet pile bulkhead and upland improvements: $5 million to $8.3 million, depending on extras. Dredging: $2.9 million to $4.9 million, depending on extent of basin expansion. Moorage floats: $1.5 million to $2.3 million. The steel pile wave barrier: $4.1 million to $9 million.

“Our request to PND was to identify each component so we can mix and match as much as possible, and pick and choose the options we want,” Maynard said.

Each of the options would increase moorage by eliminating the float extending from the fueling dock and extending the main floats that run on a north-south axis. Each of the options also includes the drive-down work float the fishermen have described as critical for saving them time and money.

Each option also would create a gangway to a new work float located at the end of the jetty extending east from the Lighthouse Restaurant. Two floats currently at the site are delapitated and can be reached only by boat. Each plan also would include dredging in the area.

Each of the options also would considerably increase parking, particularly near a two-lane boat launch ramp with a boarding float that would be located just south of the fueling dock.

Addressing the formidable cost of the work, some harbor committee members have expressed interest in pursuing the project in increments, with the breakwater extension or steel wall heading up the list.

Additional protection at the south entrance of the harbor is sought in part because recent harbor improvements weren’t aimed at reducing wave action in the basin, which does damage to boats and floats.

Some committee members say they’re not ready to abandon their hopes for a northward expansion, but others say they can’t imagine such a project, which also includes the cost of acquiring uplands. “I don’t want to dash anyone’s hopes, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon,” assemblywoman Waterman said this week.