The Lake and Peninsula Borough and city of Chignik hope to see the estimated $11 million public dock ready to accept ferry traffic by next fall.
Last week a major construction project in Chignik Bay went out to bid. As KDLG’s Dave Bendinger reports, the community hopes to have its own dock in place perhaps as soon as the last ferry runs next year.
The Trusty Tusty makes its first stop on a trip out the Aleutian Chain in Chignik Bay, about 19 hours after the ferry vessel leaves Kodiak. But the Tusty has had to tie up to the private dock owned by Trident Seafoods, which Lake and Peninsula Borough Manager Nathan Hill said was never the long-term vision for the communities that rely on the service.
“There’s never been a good public dock structure there,” Hill said. “Trident has worked with the communities in allowing access to their dock, and a couple of years ago we helped with some repair work and reinforcement of Trident’s dock, however, it was a band aid.”
There was a period of time that the Tustamena did not stop in Chignik on account of the docking facilities. The city of Chignik Bay ended up paying for costly insurance to cover the risks so the state marine highway system would allow the ferry to make its stop. That helped highlight the importance of finding funding for a permanent fix.
“We want to, of course, see the marine highway system continue into the area,” Hill said. “It’s been making that route for a couple of decades, and taking that service away would be taking a lifeline away from the communities.”
Just a few years ago the borough helped put in a 40 slip boat harbor for the area fleet, and might look at adding a public boat lift too. There’s a hope that the investments in infrastructure will see dividends paid by spurring some economic growth in the area.
“We could definitely see the possibility for industry support, more efficient shipping, and other processing capacity perhaps. The old adage, if you build it they will come. We are hopeful that this will pull in some other industry and or economy and stabilize some of the population fluctuations we’ve seen in the past.”
The total cost for the new Chignik dock is estimated to come in between $11 and $12 million. A few million dollars have already been invested by the city of Chignik and the borough, paying for the planning, design, and site prep work. The bulk of the funding was appropriated through the state’s transportation improvement program. It took some horse trading behind the scenes to get the project prioritized; essentially, it took dropping the locally unpopular and more expensive Nondalton bridge project from the list to secure the $7.5 million needed to fund the Chignik dock.
The borough started soliciting bids for the new dock in mid-November, and wants to see the Tusty tie-off to a newly-finished public dock by its last run next October.
“We’re hoping to get the project rolling as early in the spring as possible, whenever the contractor – whomever the contractor might be – decides to get going,” Hill said.