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by Philip Doherty


September 06, 2004

The State of Alaska has relinquished all responsibilities for ports and harbors within our state. What this means to us is that the City of Ketchikan will now be responsible for all routine and long term maintenance of our local harbors. Unfortunately this has meant the City does not want to accept Knudson Cove and Hole-in-the-Wall harbors due to inadequate funding by the State. When the State of Alaska turned over the day-to-day operations of the harbors to the municipalities several years ago, the State agreed to continue to own the harbors, and to finance large maintenance projects. In the end the State paid for few, if any, projects and now has handed total ownership of the boat harbors, which are deeply in need of repair, to the local municipalities throughout the State.

So now we find ourselves on the edge of losing two highly used and sorely needed boat harbors because the last two State Administrations cut corners by ignoring the State's harbors. However, in the end all of the other municipalities accepted the harbors, except Ketchikan. Now we have to convince the City Council to help us save our harbors, or see the only publicly owned harbors north and south of town get sold by the State to those that can afford to buy them. Plus we will see our larger in-town harbors deteriorate even further since the State has not adequately funded them in the transfer.

While the harbor users may not like it, one of the most realistic means of keeping our harbors in the public domain is to have the users pay for a large portion of the needed maintenance through a bond package to be paid through harbor fees. On average we pay 1/2 of the cost of private moorage in Ketchikan. While this pricing structure has been very acceptable to us, in the long run it has gotten us two harbors the City Council wants to be rid of and three harbors in town truly in need of repair. While the immediate needs are the out-of-town harbors, we, the users of Bar Harbor, Knudson Cove, Thomas Basin, Hole-in-the-Wall, and City Float are all in the same situation. We must look at the real cost of keeping our harbors and agree to a pricing structure that will get us there. Users of the small harbors can not do it alone, it must be a community effort of all harbor users.

We can only agree to a restructuring of the moorage fees if we know that the money will go directly to the repairs and upkeep, not administrative costs or new harbor buildings.

While we are pursuing this form of funding we must also continue to seek State funding at various levels, especially in light of broken promises over the past years. There may also be federal funding available from a variety of sources, which we also must look into.

In the end though, we the harbor users, will end up shouldering the majority of the load. So we should get started as soon as possible with working with the City Council to look at the best way to keep and maintain all of our harbors.

Phil Doherty
Ketchikan, Alaska



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