The Haines harbormaster is recommending the borough close down the Letnikof Dock due to damage to the steel floats until it can be replaced.

Shawn Bell told members of the Ports and Harbors Advisory Committee the news at a meeting on Nov. 16. The dock, which went into use in 1979, is popular with subsistence and commercial users, and sits just across the bay from Haines Packing Company, the area’s only fish processor.

“It sucks, for a lack of a better way to put it,” said Norm Hughes, a longtime fisherman who sits on the harbors committee.

Bell said that although the dock has undergone different repairs over the years, discovery of the extent of the damage this summer led him to the recommendation.

“Given the age and overall condition, I think repairing the dock would be throwing good money after bad,” he wrote in emailed responses to CVN’s questions.

Replacing the dock would cost around $3 million, based on preliminary estimates.

The assembly will have to vote to officially close the dock, or to put up signs to say “use at your own risk.”

“It’s gonna be bad news,” said Mayor Tom Morphet.

The biggest risk to the public if the dock stays in use is that if one of the floats – a steel cylinder filled with foam – breaks, it would cause the dock to keel over and ultimately could flip.

“If this occurs when boats are tied to it, the boats could sink,” Bell said.

Bell said the dock has sustained damage over the decades from corrosion, waves and weather.

“I think it’s reasonable to assume that the cracks have developed due to a combination of corrosion, environmental conditions and design,” Bell said. “Because of the constant abuse this float receives, I believe that the steel has gotten fatigued in these locations.”

Bell said in retrospect, there might have been ways to prevent the damage. The borough could have beached the floats and applied protective coating, added collars to beef up its strength, or installed a breakwater, Bell said.

“For whatever reason, these ideas must not have been deemed practical in years past,” he said.

The state owned the dock until 2002, when the borough took it over, Morphet said. He said the borough will have to look into ways to fund the project, even as the borough faces a tight budget. He said he hoped higher-than-predicted oil prices could lead to a small state surplus that might allow funding for the dock replacement, or the borough could turn to the federal government.

Morphet said he planned to introduce the issue at the next borough assembly meeting.