The Bristol Bay Borough has a new manager at the helm, and a list of projects on the schedule for this year's construction season.
John Fulton is a former Dillingham City Manager, and most recently spent five-and-a-half years as Assistant Manager in Unalaska. Fulton commercial fishes in Bristol Bay, and tells KDLG News that he's been looking for the right opportunity to come back to the region full time.
Fulton is essentially switching places with Patrick Jordan, who took the Assistant Manager job in Unalaska. Jordan, who was Borough Manager for less than a year, says his move to Unalaska was for family and personal reasons.
On the job less than a month now, Fulton says he already has his attention focused on upcoming projects.
"We have a couple of major projects lined up for the summer, including another expansion of the dock facility, replacing the previous pile-supported platform dock with an additional, nearly exact-same footprint sheet-pile, earth-filled dock, quite similar to the one in Dillingham. In addition to that, we have a road project in King Salmon called "King Salmon Heights Road." We'll also be doing some major sewer upgrades over the coming year."
There are also several bridge-rehab projects that the Department of Transportation is aiming to see completed. Those, says Fulton, are likely to be completed in-house.
"There are three bridges between King Salmon and Naknek. They're in pretty poor shape right now; you could nearly rip a tire off if you don't pay attention. DOT was going to put work on those out to bid, but it looks like now it'll be an in-house project through Maintenance and Operations. It'll involve removing what little asphalt is left on the wood decking, replacing the wood decking in some fashion, and in a year or two we'll resurface it in conjunction with re-paving the Alaska Peninsula Highway between King Salmon and Naknek."
According to Fulton, the Borough has also given it's approval to the proposed Trident Fishmeal Plant, and is now waiting to hear back from Trident on an agreement. Construction could get underway this year.
"Both the Planning Commission and the Assembly put some stipulations on the plant. As you can imagine, there was some concern from local residents about odor, but with the stipulations that are in place, and modern design, it does not appear that folks will be available to tell that a fishmeal plant is running."
Last year, some community members and Borough officials toured a 20-year old fishmeal plant in Newport, Oregon, that uses the kind of modern technology that will be incorporated in a new plant. Those on the tour reportedly came away comfortable with the idea of plant in the Borough. Some permits were issued last year, and the Borough has now granted full approval. When built, a few jobs will be added to local economy, the Borough will have more product crossing its docks to tax, and Fulton say it should have a positive environmental effect.
"Instead of all of the ground-up waste going out into the river, for one thing it'll serve a better purpose in that fishmeal has a variety of good uses, and it'll reduce the loading of the water."
Trident agreed to build a fishmeal processing plant to settle a number of Clean Water Act violations with the EPA. Fulton thinks the EPA's increasingly tight restrictions on how other processors discharge fish waste will likely create a steady stream of material for the plant.
"I think in time the EPA is going to basically coerce or force some of the other processors to deliver their fish waste to the fishmeal plant to be rendered."
If construction on the plant gets underway this year, operations could begin by 2015.