SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Bill Tatsuda


March 04, 2008
Tuesday PM

Tom Fisher's viewpoint in Sitnews on February 27, 2008 touched on some important issues concerning Ketchikan's small boat harbors. Now that the State of Alaska is no longer responsible for small boat harbors, what are we doing to develop and preserve our harbors? After the State's deferred harbor maintenance funds have been spent, how are we going to perform effective routine maintenance and put aside funds for major repairs and future improvements? We are facing a new paradigm, because we are now supposed to be responsible for our harbors. It can no longer be business as usual at the Harbor Department.

Our small boat harbors have the potential to become much more powerful economic engines for Ketchikan. We are located in one of the best boating areas along the West Coast of the United States. Our deep protected inside waters, pristine wilderness, and abundance of fish and water related activities, make us an ideal location for both recreational and commercial boating. Already we have one of largest charter fishing fleets in the State, and as Tom points out we could have more commercial boats here if we provided the services and available moorage. More boats mean more business servicing boats and the people that come with them.

Our new Harbormaster, to his credit, has hit the ground running. He has his hands full with doing temporary repairs to our wooden cruise ship docks and developing plans for improving them. He has another cruise ship dock coming on line, and projects underway to improve tourist facilities on the big docks. All he and his small staff can do is keep the harbor department office open regular hours and try to put out fires (like fixing Tom's finger float) around the various harbors. At this point things have not changed; the small boat harbors are basically just treading water trying to keep afloat.

We need to commit our time, energy, funds, and passion to our small boat harbors. We need short term and long term plans that provide more boat moorage. We need to make the harbors more self-sustaining and dynamic.

Short term, we need to replace the derelict, subsidized vessels occupying prime boating real estate with active full paying customers. We need to create a business plan that builds up our harbors to their economic potential, and get the moorage rates up to support that plan. Why is it that we have the best boating on the West Coast, but our rates are only 20% of just about every harbor in Washington State? I bet we would see a lot more activity in our harbors and more new boats, and more visiting boats if all the derelicts occupying valuable spaces were eliminated. The State has stopped subsidizing the boat harbors, and so should we for the most part. When it becomes more expensive to keep a boat that is never used moored in a harbor than pulling it out of the water, then we will get more available moorage spaces without spending a dime.

Long term, we need to provide for future major maintenance and get the rates up high enough to put money away for those projects. If we do not do this soon, then in 15 or 20 years, we will be trying to sell our harbors to private enterprise, like the State tried to do with Knudsen Cove and Hole In The Wall. Can you imagine what the rate increases will be like if the harbors are privately owned? If we do not wisely manage the harbors we have now, how are we going to get grants to build more harbors or expand existing harbors later? We have to take responsibility, and we have to start now.

Bill Tatsuda
Still On The Waiting List
Ketchikan, AK

Received March 04, 2008 - Published March 04, 2008


Related Viewpoint:

letter When will rate hikes be enough to improve infrastucture? By Tom Fisher

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