The state-owned dock on Kupreanof Island was built in 1961. (KFSK file photo)

Besides fluoridation and ATV use on local streets, voters in the Petersburg borough next month will be making decisions on two waterfront issues. One could mean a step forward for a vessel haul out and boat yard in Scow Bay while the other could help the city of Kupreanof take over and repair the dock there.

If voters approve proposition one, it would be the first change to the charter for the Petersburg borough. That founding document spells out powers and limitations of the municipal government. It specifies the services that the borough is responsible for on an area wide basis, including the power to provide port and harbor facilities and services. That language doesn’t allow Kupreanof, the only city in the borough to own or operate a dock.

“If you go back to when the borough wrote the charter, I don’t think anybody anticipated the challenges we might be facing today,” said Kupreanof mayor Tom Reinarts. “It probably made a lot of sense back then that all of the dock and moorage facilities within the Petersburg borough should be operated and maintained by the Petersburg borough. But now with the financial challenges that we have, you know that’s kindof a different story.”

A study done by the borough determined the float at Kupreanof, built in 1961, needs to be replaced. Cost of replacement was estimated at one point four million dollars. Kupreanof would like to take the dock over from the state and fix it up. Reinarts explains that it needs work.

“Well in the short term the first order of business is the T-end of the float is coming apart,” he said. “If you look at it carefully you’ll see that we’ve got it all tied together with ropes so that the foam billets don’t come out from underneath it. The structure underneath has failed and so we’ve got that, like I say, tied together with ropes.”

Reinarts said the trestle needs repairs as well and other work to make the float accessible by water even during the lowest tides. Kupreanof already has secured a 40,000 dollar grant from the Department of Agriculture through the Secure Rural Schools funding for projects in communities near national forest land. The city is hoping that and future grants will pay for the repairs.

Last year the state offered the dock to the borough along with some money and two other aging remote floats The assembly countered by agreeing to take two of those three docks and more money but the state rejected that offer. Prior to that, the state had offered the Kupreanof dock to that city in 2010 pending legislative approval but that approval never happened.

Reinarts points out the dock is used by residents of Petersburg and Kupreanof along with visitors on cruise ships who use the trail system on that island.

Kupreanof has already changed its city ordinances to allow the transfer to happen. A yes vote on proposition one would add language to the borough charter to specify that Kupreanof is authorized to own and operate that dock.

A spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation, which owns the dock, says the agency is awaiting the outcome of the election. After that the transfer depends on funding available and specific terms between the state and municipality.

Another waterfront vote could provide some design funding for a vessel work yard in Scow Bay.

Petersburg’s economic fund was created in 1997 after Congress appropriated 110 million dollars to help Southeast Alaska communities with a decline in the timber industry. Petersburg’s share was about six and a half million dollars. The city spent some of that money but invested the bulk of it. These days there’s around four million in that pool of money.

A yes vote on proposition four would allow the borough to spend up to half a million dollars of that for a small vessel haul out and work yard at the Scow Bay turnaround more than two miles south of town.

Petersburg Economic Development Council president Casey Flint said the hope is that this money can be the majority of local funding needed for this project.

“This gets the project fully designed, engineered and all that, which makes it basically a shovel-ready project,” Flint explained. “Petersburg’s had a lot of luck with shovel ready projects in the past. Having that design phase paid for already works as a local match to either grant funding or federal match funds. So we’re able to leverage this small amount into you know larger funding sources from either the federal or state government.”

He said initial design work is expected to cost around $350,000, so it might not take the full half million dollars. However more local funding could be needed for the construction of the project. If that’s a future bond issue it would come back before voters at a later date. The price tag to construct the vessel work yard is just under 7.2 million dollars.
The PEDC has been looking into options for a marine services work yard for well over a decade. The latest plan would include a new boat ramp, float, expanded breakwater and new boat wash down area. The new ramp could be used by private companies with a haul out trailer like the one currently using an older ramp at the site.

Flint thinks it’s important to highlight this project could help foster more private industry.

“Our idea is obviously economic development not borough job development,” Flint said. “The idea is that this needs to be a good work space for some body that owns a large trailer, whether it’s the current operation or somebody else wants to come in and make that investment and then get the boats out of the water to where welders, mechanics, fiberglass tradesman can come and work on a boat in Petersburg and develop the service economy around that.”

Flint also notes the amount of public input in the planning for the vessel work space over the years. If voters say no on spending the money, the PEDC could table the project or look for some other funding source for the design work. The economic fund also pays for the annual operations of the PEDC and an annual subsidy of 165,000 dollars to the water department for a reservoir and pipeline at Cabin Creek and extension of the water system to Scow Bay. That bond debt for the Cabin Creek project is off the books after 2020 and Scow Bay in 2024.