Lutak Dock design gets another go-ahead


February 16, 2023

The latest design for a renovated Lutak Dock got a thumbs up from the Haines Borough Planning Commission last week.

The borough’s port and harbor advisory committee approved the design—which was the second of three phases—two weeks ago.

The design is largely the same as earlier plans from the firm overseeing the project, Turnagain Marine Construction, but it includes more detail and some adjustments. One addition to the 700-foot multi-purpose bulkhead is a narrow notch in the dock face with a small roll-on/roll-off ramp to move goods like gravel and heavy equipment, said Jason Davis, president of Turnagain Marine.

“We’re trying not to make a solution tailored to any one user, but something that would add functionality,” Davis said at the Feb. 9 planning commission meeting.

Turnagain also presented rough maintenance cost estimates for the dock: between $6.8 million and $10.6 million over 50 years. Davis said the firm would give a more refined estimate later, including an analysis showing the borough how much money it needs to set aside for maintenance.

Borough officials have said user fees would cover maintenance costs. The dock has generated an average of $440,000 in annual revenue over the past five years, enough to pay for an average of $176,000 in annual expenses over the same time, according to financial records provided to the CVN by borough chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart.

Still, some residents have raised concerns about the borough’s commitment to a big infrastructure project that they say is unnecessary, could cost taxpayers in the long run and could be used to turn Haines into an industrial mine export town. Several residents submitted public comments to the planning commission opposing the project, and more than 50 people attended a town hall about the project last week, peppering Davis with questions about the project’s costs, design and potential port users.

“We see AML (Alaska Marine Lines), Delta Western, Southeast Roadbuilders and SECON as our users of the dock. I don’t see anything in the coming future that changes that,” said harbormaster Shawn Bell at the town hall.

Residents also asked if there was a way to ensure barges could safely use Alaska Marine Lines’ roll-on/roll-off ramp, which was built two years ago right next to the dock, without paying $25 million for the renovation project.

Currently AML barges tie up at the dock when they use the ramp. But, without renovating the dock, extending the ramp and adding a dolphin would let barges independently access the ramp, Davis said. Still, demolishing the dock would be necessary to prevent its failure—a potential safety and environmental risk—and would cost a significant amount, Davis said.

Borough officials initially opted for a $25 million plan that included demolishing the dock, but they shifted to the current plan—restoring the existing dock—when Turnagain proposed it over the summer for about the same price.

Several residents raised questions at the town hall about potentially contaminated soil near the dock from past shipping.

After the meeting, Thom Ely asked the Haines Borough Assembly to initiate a marine sediment analysis to look for contaminants and get baseline data before construction and use of the dock. Citing the pollution from ore concentrate shipped at Skagway’s port, Ely noted the benefits of having baseline soil data before the dock is used and he suspected there could be contamination at the dock from petroleum products or other toxins.

An oil slick, described as a “mystery sheen” the length of the dock, appeared in Lutak Inlet in 2010, but officials at the time said tests to discover its cause were inconclusive.

Turnagain plans to use a construction method that won’t stir up soil, Davis said, adding that disrupted soil would be sampled.

Turnagain will present a final dock design to the planning commission and port and harbor committee later this spring.

Davis has said construction could be done by as early as the end of next year.

Design has to be completed by then, and a $20 million federal grant awarded to the borough for the project needs to be used by the end of 2029, said borough manager Annette Kreitzer.


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