Borough to solicit Lutak Dock development proposal from AIDEA
December 17, 2020
The Haines Borough Assembly asked interim manager Alekka Fullerton to reach out to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) regarding proposals for the repair and development of Lutak Dock.
AIDEA is a state-funded entity with a stated mission of diversifying the Alaska economy and creating jobs “by facilitating the financing of industrial, manufacturing and energy facilities, infrastructure, commercial real estate and equipment within the state.” AIDEA is commonly associated with mining projects, although the organization has supported a range of projects over the years.
Assembly members approved the motion unanimously at a meeting Tuesday night. During discussion, they were careful to clarify that authorizing the manager to reach out to AIDEA in no way commits the borough to moving forward with any proposed plan. They said any proposal will be brought to the community for input prior to approval.
“We need to go ahead and listen to (AIDEA) and see what they have, and if it’s something that doesn’t fit, we’ll just not let it fit,” assembly member Gabe Thomas said, adding, “We need to have the information so that we can have a town hall.”
Conversations with AIDEA regarding the Lutak Dock have been ongoing as the borough has sought a funding source for the crumbling piece of infrastructure. In 2014, PND Engineers, Inc. conducted a structural assessment of the facility, and determined the dock had “reached the end of its credible 60-year service life” and was operating “on borrowed time.”
Over the years, the borough has applied for several grants to renovate the dock, as well as submitting funding requests to the Alaska Legislature. So far nothing has come through for the dock-face repair needs, which could cost somewhere in the vicinity of $30 million.
Earlier this year, the borough successfully negotiated a lease agreement with Alaska Marine Lines (AML) for construction of a new freight ramp at the dock. Construction was completed earlier this month. The new AML roll-on/roll-off facility will help keep Haines’ supply chain intact, lessening the urgency of the dock repair needs, but the dock face still needs to be rebuilt, Fullerton told the CVN in September.
At the Tuesday meeting, Fullerton informed assembly members that the borough has officially closed the dock face in light of completion of the new freight ramp and concerns about a sinkhole that opened up in the wake of heavy rainfall on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2.
The topic of a partnership with AIDEA to rebuild the dock face generated controversy in September after Fullerton referenced an Aug. 27 meeting with the organization in a report to the assembly. At the time, community members raised concerns about a lack of public engagement.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several community members affiliated with local conservation organizations raised similar concerns about public input, as well as concerns about landslide potential at the dock. Lutak Road was impassable for several days after the heavy rains in early December due to landslides.
“(Prior to moving forward, the borough needs to) make sure the public wants the ore terminal, if they do, make sure it’s a safe location for toxic substances, and three, make sure it would actually be used for the intended purpose,” Lynn Canal Conservation board president Eric Holle said during public comment.
The assembly approved two other Lutak Dock development items at Tuesday’s meeting, authorizing a letter of interest to hear a proposal related to a Yukon biofuel project in its very early stages and support for a project to create an energy transmission grid between communities in Southeast including Haines. The energy grid project would include electrification of Lutak Dock. Both projects are tentative proposals at this time.