To get bigger vessels out of the water for repairs Petersburg fishermen rely on a trailer to pull their boats up a ramp or a marine railway at a private boat shop.
But that’s limited to just a few boats at a time. Other times, fishermen just take their boats to another town for repairs.
It’s an issue that has had the local non-profit, Petersburg Economic Development Council, working on a solution for years.
Casey Flint is the President of the council, which is partially funded by the borough.
“Hopefully get more boats up to where mechanics and welders and fiberglass contractors can come and do the work that these boats need and get it done in Petersburg rather than having to travel some place,” Flint said.
The PEDC has decided to improve the Scow Bay boat haul out a few miles south of Petersburg and voters agreed to put money towards that this fall.
Right now, a private business uses the Scow Bay area to haul out at high tides with a hydraulic trailer. But it can’t do really big boats.
“What we’re trying to do is add some more real estate there, improve the launch ramp,” Flint said. “There’s kind of an old dilapidated ramp that we’ve improved a little bit and we’ve improved a little bit and it’s working but we’d like a lot safer, larger ramp that would have access at more tide levels.”
It’s nearly a $7.2 million dollar project. A year ago, the PEDC signed a contract a year ago with PND Engineering to begin planning the design. The consultants came up with concepts with help from public input through a steering committee and two meetings.
There are three conceptual designs for the area. The preferred one includes a new haul out ramp and breakwater on the south side of the property. It also has an expanded work yard with a heated concrete wash down pad.
The engineering firm has broken the project down into possible phases in case grants don’t pay for the whole thing at once.
Flint, who owns a boat and outboard business, says a newer boat ramp wouldn’t affect what he does because he focuses on smaller recreational boats. But it would allow others to get many more boats out of the water more often.
“This is designed for a larger hydraulic trailer, I think up to a hundred ton capacity,” Flint said, “which will haul out probably a good portion of the fleet in Petersburg.”
Liz Cabrera is the Coordinator of the Petersburg Economic Development Council.
“We see that as one of the potential growth areas in our community,” she said. “We look at it and see about 400 boats just here in Petersburg that could use Scow Bay just based on their size and configuration. That’s a lot of customers for a marine service provider so to us that means the possibility of attracting more marine service providers, who, in turn, perhaps would hire people to provide repair and maintenance service to the fleet.”
She says getting approval from voters for a half million dollar local contribution was important because federal and state grants almost always require matching funds.
“The more you can provide as a local contribution usually the more attractive your grant application is considered,” Cabrera said.
And that’s extra important these days as federal and state dollars are drying up. Grants are more competitive than ever.
The PECD will keep applying for grants until funding is secure. Cabrera doesn’t know yet how long that will take.
Petersburg resident, John Murgas, operates a business that hauls at Scow Bay using an existing ramp. At the last borough assembly meeting, he begged the borough to come up with a temporary solution while waiting for project funding to come through. He wants a rock ramp built, which is estimated to cost $20,000-$60,000.
“It’s like someone up in the sky or maybe on the ground is teasing me, saying ‘Let’s make life difficult for John and his customers’,” Murgas said. “So, again, I’m imploring, even begging you to consider placing a rock ramp along the present spit. My primary concern is safety, safety of my personnel and equipment and most importantly, safety of the vessels I haul on a daily basis.”
The assembly directed the PECD to address the issue at their next meeting.
The local council has already applied to a competitive federal transportation infrastructure grant. They are also looking at grants through the Economic Development Administration but its being threatened with cuts.
The next step in the project is to finalize the design phase with PND Engineers. And then, Flint says, get the permitting ready and site analysis done.
“So that everything’s sort of lined up so that when we have money available we can get this project rolling,” he said.
Flint says that the worst case scenario would be working for a couple of years to get the grant funding in place. He says the voters approving the matching funds is a big step and will bring the project to be shovel ready.