Larry Persily
Riprap for the new Haines harbor boat launch ramp arrived by barge from Skagway, with Hamilton Construction at work Wednesday to move the rock to the side for when it’s needed at the construction site.

Work is underway on the $5.4 million project to build a two-lane boat-launch ramp at Haines Small Boat Harbor, with completion scheduled for Oct. 31.

“The boating community is very anxious to get it done,” Ed Coffland, director of public facilities at the borough, said Wednesday. Plans for a new launch ramp have been under discussion for several years, he said.

The existing ramp at the other end of the harbor doesn’t extend into deep enough water to allow its full use at low tides. The new ramp will extend out farther, so that “even at the lowest tide, you’ll still have a couple of feet of draft,” Coffland said.

The new ramp will include two lanes with a boarding float in the middle, a paved parking lot with a sidewalk and overhead lighting. In addition, water, storm sewer and electrical lines are being laid in place to serve future moorage facilities.

Hamilton Construction has the contract for the project, funded mostly by an Alaska Department of Fish and Game program that supports access for sport fishing, with some borough match included, Coffland said.

The work also will include a kiosk and picnic table in the corner by the ramp, nearest to the cruise ship dock.

Parking will definitely be a big plus, said Gabe Thomas, borough assembly member. Especially for Canadian boaters, he said. “There are a lot of Canadians who come down” to launch their boats in Lynn Canal, and the new ramp should help draw more of them to the harbor.

It’s unfortunate that the new ramp will not be ready this summer, Thomas said, but visitor activity will be slow anyway with the deep hit to tourism this year due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Haines should be in a good position next year to welcome more boaters, he said.