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A Proposal
By Patrick Jirschele


December 04, 2005

To enhance access to Pennock Island and Gravina Island to promote the development of private and Borough lands.
The Rant
The Gravina Bridge was supposed to enhance access to the airport and make it easier to develop property. National ridicule of the project has forced Congress to remove earmarked bridge monies. This money has been left in the general transportation bill. It is not likely that the powerful Anchorage area districts will appropriate $300 to $350 million for our bridge. We need to be realistic and capture part of the money meant for the bridge to build alternatives to do what the bridge was meant to do. The attitude of "bridge or nothing" will leave the community with nothing.
Property on Pennock and Gravina is difficult to develop because of the cost of getting building materials to a beach site. Loading a boat and unloading is usually by hand. Heavy machinery must be moved by barge. The DNR will no longer allow building a dock out of treated wood. Steel pilling and metal piers has raised the cost of dock construction to $50,000 to $100,000. The estimate for a power pole is $10,000 because it must be set with a helicopter. This is cost prohibitive for most property owners.
The difficulties of building on the islands are not insurmountable, but have proved too much for most.
 The Solution
By utilizing and enhancing existing infrastructure, we can actually provide more and better access and more local jobs.
1) Add two more ferry terminals to the already funded two for the FV Lituya, then we can access four islands instead of two. By utilizing the ferry to access Saxman, Gravina, Metlacatla, and Pennock; we can expect more runs at lower cost over time as the run grows and usage increases.
2) Construct approximately nine miles of road on Pennock and approximately six miles on Gravina. This will open lands for development and recreation.
The Gravina road should be of two lane 25mph asphalt construction. It will connect Black Sand Cove parking lot with the Gravina Point Ferry Terminal and make its way to the newly constructed road at the south end of the airport. This will provide road from Black Sands to Peninsula Point.
The Pennock road will be of two lane 25mph asphalt construction. It will follow upland of privately owned property (with a few exceptions) from the Pennock Island Ferry Terminal up the east channel to the Snows Cove area. Then it will head down the west channel till it hits the Sandy Beach Recreation Site at the south end.
3) Build four new small boat harbors with twenty to thirty slips each for sixteen to twenty-six foot boats. They should be located at each end of the road system on Pennock and Gravina.

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 The Conclusion
The private development of lands on Pennock and Gravina Islands will provide an additional tax base for the needs of local government. But more than that, with proper marketing of island homes, construction and the influx of population will help provide a healthy economy for the area.
A few miles of road and some small marinas will bring an influx of people recreating and building homes. An entrepreneur will see a need for fuel and a few other necessities. Soon a gas station and maybe a mom and pop grocery store. A golf course in the middle of Pennock marketed right could bring the fifty year old plus second home demographic. The possibilities are real.
With the exception of designing a golf course, all the work in this proposal can be done with local craftsmen. Surveyors, pilebucks, machinery operators, linemen, carpenters, the list of jobs goes on.
It is the mix of transportation options that will make this plan work. Two ferries with walk on and drive on to Gravina, a ferry to Pennock, marinas for private boats and water taxies, and roads for when you get there. Leave one part out and you may as well forget the whole thing.
If you like this proposal and would like to see it or something similar  implemented, contact the Borough Assembly Members, the City Council Members, Bert Steadman, Jim Elkins and Governor Murkowski. Time is short to get it into the State Transportation Bill. I have been told (second or third hand) that proposals have to be submitted by the ninth of December. If it is true, act now. It doesn't need to be all or nothing.

Patrick Jirschele
Pennock Island, Alaska - USA


Note: As a member of the USCG Pat Jirschele was transferred to Ketchikan in the summer of 1980 and never left. Now retired from the IBEW, he is building a home on Pennock Island.



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