VIGIL – More than 300 people share seven minutes of silence on Totem Square during a vigil for George Floyd, who died last week while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The large turnout for event made it difficult for participants to maintain the six-foot social distance that organizers had hoped for. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Old Bridge Eyed As New Dock for Park


Sentinel Staff Writer

A proposed design for a multipurpose dock at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park is over-sized and over-budget. Nevertheless, the Gary Paxton Industrial Park board of directors is optimistic about prospects for the dock.

The board reviewed a draft feasibility report on the project during its regular meeting Monday. Early design work by R&M Engineering of Ketchikan puts the project estimate at $7.6 million to $8.6 million, depending on alternatives.

In 2012 Sitka received $7.5 million from the state for a multipurpose dock, some of which has already been spent. R&M President Trevor Sande, speaking at the meeting, said the park could get the most dock for its money by purchasing a section of the Hood Canal floating bridge in northwest Washington. The section is one of a number offered for sale and reuse after they were replaced in renovation of the Hood Canal bridge. 

“No matter how you look at it, it’s a fairly inexpensive option for the amount of dock you’re going to get,” Sande said. 

The section of the floating bridge that is being considered is as long as a football field and is built in a Y-shape. As installed in Sitka, the first part of the dock – 50 feet wide and 360 feet long – would connect to the shore. The two branches of the Y, each 25 feet wide with 56 feet of water in between, would be connected by concrete beams that are 22 feet deep, the report said.

The structure dates back to the 1980s, when sections of the northwest Washington bridge were replaced, and is currently stored in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada.

Sande said his initial inspection of the structure was positive. 

“I was pretty happy with the overall condition,” Sande said.

If the city decides to buy it for the new dock, it would be refurbished by the company that owns it. Sande said they’ve done this four times already for other buyers. The additional work would primarily involve adding another eight inches of reinforced concrete to the deck to make it suitable as an all-purpose dock in Sitka. The bridge section would then be towed to Sitka. 

Park director Garry White said moving these pieces is a big undertaking but this would not be the longest trip a portion of this bridge has made. 

“One of the chunks of this bridge actually went to Australia, so it can be hauled a long ways,” White said. 

And it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in Sitka, either. In a privately-financed project, the Old Sitka Dock on Halibut Point Road was also built from a former section of the Hood Canal Bridge that was purchased from the same group.

 With the refurbishment, Sande said, it would be fair to expect the dock to have a 50-year life. The floating bridge section would cost $2.3 million to purchase, and with refurbishment the cost would rise to $3.6 million. 

“Essentially half of your budget would be purchasing and refurbishing, but then you’ve got a turnkey, ready-to- go piece,” Sande said. 

Concerned that the available bridge section is bigger than the industrial park needs for its dock, City Administrator Mark Gorman asked about the potential of only taking part of it. Board member Charles Horan also had questions.

“Is it overkill for what we need, and is it overkill for the market?” Horan asked. 

The other board members agreed that the bridge section is on the larger end of what they need, but the problem is finding an alternative that would cost less. Early studies of the area already ruled out any option besides a floating dock, but sections of other second-hand bridge sections are selling for more money. 

The entire board expressed optimism about the project and directed White to bring the plan back after a review with the City Public Works Department. If the board recommends the project to the Assembly, it would have to include a request for more money. 

Even at the most basic proposal, the cost would be over-budget. And board members were eager to pursue a suggested alternative from Sande, although it would increase the cost, by filling in the 100 feet of the open water between the separated pontoons. 

“That would create a nice wide area where you could easily turn a container truck around,” Sande said. 

That option would push the project to $8.6 million. Also, Sande said, they might want to bolster the contingency budget, which is now set at 5 percent of the total project cost.

The board talked about tapping the bulk raw water fund, which is where the payouts from Alaska Bulk Water Inc. have been kept. So far the company has paid the city over $1.3 million for rights to purchase Blue Lake water in bulk, and another deposit of $1 million is due by Dec. 8. 

Sande’s firm designed the floating pipeline for Alaska Bulk Water that’s being installed in Silver Bay for loading water aboard ships. Sande said he had spoken with Alaska Bulk Water CEO Terry Trapp about the possibility of running the bulk water line under the dock or using the anchors for the floating pipeline on the dock project. 

Speaking withe the Sentinel today, Gorman said there are a number of overlapping interests in the dock and  the long process of approval for the facility would ensure that the dock was built for the benefit of all users. 

“I think the public process is fairly robust,” Gorman said. 

Tapping the raw water fund would require Assembly approval. The board of directors plans to meet again in early December to move the project forward to the Assembly. 

Sawmill Creek Farm

The industrial park board also heard a pitch for leasing out a section  of the old APC landfill site for raising farm animals.

Bobbi Daniels made the proposal for leasing a 6.69-acre tract of the industrial park property for the farm project.

The board voted to approve the proposal in concept, but held off on approving a lease until more information is available. The landfill, containing hazardous materials, is still monitored by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The site was capped in 1999 and if the cap is damaged it could cost the city millions of dollars. 

“We have to monitor it till 2097 so we’ve still got a few more years left on that,” White said. 

The board was particularly concerned with having pigs on site, since pigs dig and the cap is only 8-10 inches below the surface. 

Daniels said the operation needs pigs to be profitable but she is willing to work out a solution. The board opted to direct Daniels to provide a site plan that will address those concerns. 

White said the idea is encouraging but faces the same challenges that every business has dealt with on the old landfill site. 

“The reward is we get this really cool business venture. The risk is we damage that cap with millions of dollars on the line,” White said. 

Green Lake Bulk Water

With all the Blue Lake water available for outside sale committed to Alaska Bulk Water Inc., the Gary Paxton Industrial Park board is going to look at securing export rights to Green Lake water. 

The state controls the water rights, but White said additional groups are interested in purchasing bulk water from Sitka. The request for rights to the water would have to go to the state Department of Natural Resources. 

The board unanimously approved the motion to direct White to pursue water rights. Whether or not the state will grant the request or if the water will be as desirable as Blue Lake given the fish-rearing operations in Green Lake is unknown. Board member Dan Jones said it “couldn’t hurt to ask.”

“I doubt that it’ll happen but you’ve gotta try it,” Jones said.


The city’s control of the Blue Lake water now under contract for sale dates from the demise of Alaska Pulp Corp., which had obtained the fresh water allocation for pulp manufacture. There has never been any industrial use of water from Green Lake, which, like Blue Lake, is used by the city to generate hydroelectric power.



Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 6-2-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:20 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 20

Total statewide – 487

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 47, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.



Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020



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