A permanent fix for the harbor ramp, which was damaged by severe weather in early January, could cost in the ballpark of $200,000, according to Haines Borough Ports and Harbors Advisory Committee members.

Harbormaster Shawn Bell said the borough is actively pursuing insurance but doesn’t know yet if the damage will be covered.

The ramp came loose from its guide tracks and was pinned behind them during a minus four tide and heavy winds, forcing the ramp and its float to sink when the tide came up. The problem was fixed temporarily by a volunteer crew of residents and Chilkat Custom Contractors, but the float will need a permanent replacement this spring or summer, according to borough staff.

​​“It’s going to take some money, and it’s going to take some coordination,” Bell said at a Jan. 27 meeting, adding that at least $90,000 would go towards manufacturing a new float, which then would need to be shipped to Haines and installed by a contractor.

The $200,000 total cost estimate was similar to a rough guess given by an engineer at PND Engineers in an interview two weeks ago with the CVN.

Harbors committee member Fred Gray questioned whether the float failed due to a design flaw, saying the float temporarily came off the guide tracks two or three years ago. (Other committee members said they didn’t remember such an event.) The float and gangway were designed by PND Engineers.

“W​e kind of dig a hole, play ostrich and write checks to these engineering companies, and they’re not (held) accountable,” Gray said. “Are we going to use PND to design the (new) float and put that in?”

Bell said PND is involved in the process to replace the float. A PND engineer visited in January to assess damage to the ramp.

Committee member Don Turner Jr. said he thought the main culprit was the combination of severe weather conditions. “We had a minus four-foot tide. We had a 50 knot north wind that held the tide out further. And we had snow conditions. Things happen, as far as I’m concerned. At this point, I would not blame the engineers for that much,” Turner Jr. said.

PND engineer Brandon Ivanowicz told the CVN two weeks ago that the issue was caused by weather, not a shortcoming in design.

Bell said the guide track will be extended with the new float to ensure the same problem doesn’t happen again.

In other harbor news, Bell told the committee the borough planned to allow long-term commercial vessel storage at Letnikof Cove but not in the small boat harbor parking lot. Only short-term storage for quick repair work would be allowed in the downtown harbor lot.

Some committee members have expressed concern that allowing storage in the harbor parking lot would risk violating the parameters of the sport-fish money that funded construction of the lot. Bell said he didn’t think allowing temporary storage for quick fixes would be an issue.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game fisheries biologist Matt Catterson told the CVN that commercial vessel storage—short-term or long-term—would be permissible in the harbor lot as long as it didn’t interfere with use of the lot by sport fishermen.

Committee member Terry Pardee said he favored giving the harbormaster flexibility to allow quick fixes in the harbor parking lot because commercial fishermen often need space for a repair near the water to minimize lost fishing time.

In public comment, commercial fisherman Bill Thomas said he was disappointed in the plan not to allow long-term commercial vessel storage at the harbor lot. “To put fishermen’s boats at Letnikof is absurd,” Thomas said, explaining that fishermen wouldn’t want to store commercial boats, which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, far from the small boat harbor and where there’s no police protection.