The Scow Bay turnaround area (Photo from ShoreZone)

Petersburg’s assembly Monday voted to take some very preliminary steps toward developing a potential new harbor in Scow Bay about two miles south of downtown. Local elected officials are hoping to capitalize on federal funding and could combine several projects into one location.

A new harbor in Scow Bay isn’t going to happen overnight. But the votes by the assembly represent some of the first steps toward the potential there. Harbormaster Glorianne Wollen said there’s a lack of space to put larger boats in the existing harbors and chance for federal money.

“There’s opportunity out there coming from the Corps of Engineers, coming from our federal lobbyist that says be prepared, that there’ll be money for harbor development if they ever pass a congressional budget,” Wollen told the assembly. “So we’re looking for a tool to explore some of these, we kind of have three things going, moving parts going, out there in Scow Bay and if we can get them onto one piece of paper that you are able to use as a tool as we move forward asking for funding, I think it would be a real advantage.”

One of those parts that the borough’s already been seeking money for is an improved and expanded boat haul out and wash down facility. That’s already had design work completed by the Petersburg Economic Development Council. But Wollen is also hoping for a new dredged harbor with mooring floats and another drive down float. And the borough could incorporate new mooring space and upland facilities for the U.S. Coast Guard.

That was an attractive part of the plan for assembly member Dave Kensinger, who brought up the Coast Guard’s plans to replace aging buoy tenders, while reducing the numbers of those ships.

“Where a lot of this proposal comes in at is trying to figure out what we can show to the Coast Guard that we have the facilities here and the willingness as a community to support one of these new buoy tenders,” Kensinger said.

Kensinger said the steps do not commit Petersburg to developing the area but would show what’s possible there.

“If we want to have this community grow, if we want to be a place where people want to have large vessels, small vessels, we need to have a place for them to haul their vessels out, work on them and moor them,” he said. “Of anything that we can do in the community, this is the biggest economic development project that we can have.”

The vote was unanimous to pay PND Engineers up to $15,000 for a conceptual plan that would incorporate older designs for the boat haul out, a dredged mooring basin, break water, mooring floats, drive down float and Coast Guard facility. The engineers will bring that to the Coast Guard and modify it if needed. The borough would have to pay the engineering firm more for cost estimates and future public meetings on the conceptual plan.

Boat hauling business owner John Murgas leases land for his business at Scow Bay. He asked the assembly to involve the harbor board in defining the scope of any conceptual plan. Murgas noted the board approved a plan for Scow Bay five years ago but said things have changed since then.

“In the past five years alone there have been over 500 large vessel hauls with hydraulic trailers at Scow Bay and extreme knowledge gained,” Murgas said. “When I look at the topics PND proposes to address in its proposal, I see some big gaps that I know the harbor board members would also want to address.”

Local voters in 2017 approved spending half a million dollars to plan for a Scow Bay haul out but the funding’s yet to be secured for constructing that.

The assembly also voted 7-0 to allow the borough to seek help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for investigating the possibility of dredging a mooring basin and building a break water in Scow Bay. Harbormaster Wollen told the assembly the Corps is looking for projects it could help fund.

“If they’ll come in and put a basin in and a breakwater in, that’s a big piece to that Scow Bay puzzle that would really kick the can down the road of development out there,” Wollen said.

The local government is already partnering with the Corps on dredging planned for South Harbor. The federal agency took a cursory look at development of a new Scow Bay site in its review for the South Harbor work.