WEEKEND HANGOUT – Gina Lusher, foreground right, and other Sitka Cirque aerialists rehearse Thursday night for this weekend’s show, Cirque Noir, at the 207 Smith Street studio. The show includes cage dancers, live music and champagne. Kids from first grade through high school will have a separate fundraiser showcase event Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tickets for both shows are available online at sitkacirque.com. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Big Decisions Ahead On Haulout Planning


Sentinel Staff Writer

Perhaps the trickiest part of designing a new boat haulout is not just planning for today’s needs, but for the boats of the future, says Garry White, director of Sitka’s Gary Paxton Industrial Park.

“It’s having that crystal ball,” White said. “We want to make sure we’re building infrastructure that not only services our fleet, but what the future looks like. That’s going to take some analysis and investigation.”

The park board’s regular meeting last Thursday was attended by a number of commercial boat operators for the discussion of the agenda item on the haulout. In the last city election Sitka voters dedicated $8.18 million from the Sitka permanent fund for the haulout project, and advertising is underway for a project manager.

White said Thursday’s meeting was the first of many at which the haulout will be a topic at the GPIP board’s monthly meeting. 

“We had a robust discussion for about two hours,” White said. “I think the bottom line is that there’s a lot  more information that we need to obtain to make a really good decision to spend these taxpayer dollars and to make sure that we’re really building something that’s going to be successful in the future. And not ending up in any big cost adjustments that we didn’t foresee.”

The GPIP meetings are held at Harrigan Centennial Hall and are open to the public. White added that a town hall meeting will be scheduled once a project manager is hired, and more details are available. Board President Scott Wagner said he is expecting a joint work sessions will be scheduled as well with the Port and Harbors Commission.

The Thursday discussion points included consideration of the desired width and capacity of the marine haulout, upland improvements, pros and cons of possible locations, environmental concerns, existing infrastructure, and the number and location of the washdown pads needed.

“We’re going to have to help define what’s needed for infrastructure,” White said. “For instance, I think everyone’s settled that we’re going to build a 150-ton lift because it services the greatest part of the community, and that’s the goal.”

He said he’s received a number of opinions on specifications, but that in general many items, such as haulout width, will need to be investigated further.

“We don’t want to build something that the new boats coming on-line in the next 10-15 years are going to be too wide to be able to fit in the slip,” he said.

White said he has already heard about pitfalls at other operations, such as bottlenecks caused by a lack of washdown pads.

The $8.18 million in city funds for the project represent the proceeds from the city’s sale of the Sitka Community Hospital land and buildings to SEARHC.

In November the park board approved a “charter” for the project, outlining its goals and construction timeline. The city is advertising for a project manager with management, planning, design and environmental qualifications. Plans are to have a manager hired soon after the Jan. 19 deadline for applications.

“A portion of the conceptual plan will be based on the community’s wishes and needs on the capacity of the haulout infrastructure,” White said in a memo for Thursday’s GPIP board the meeting. “Information from the users of the facility will help form the basis of design for the project.”

White said the choice of the haulout location from among the available sites at the industrial park will be determined by analysis of water column depth, geotechnical investigation, ocean condition and proximity to the shipyard.

“There are a lot of environmental factors,” White said. “There’s going to be a cost associated with the different locations and costs associated with moving those boats from whatever the waterfront location is to the yard where the work will be done. What’s the distance, what are the upland improvements that are needed? Is that area going to accommodate multiple washdown pads?”

The timeline for the project calls for construction to begin in July 2024 and the haulout to be operational by February 2025.

The last marine haulout available to the public closed last year when the owner of the facility closed it to pursue tourism projects.


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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

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 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

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

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






December 2003

The Sawmill Cove Industrial Park board of directors endorsed a final contract tuesday for the city to sell a minimum of 40 million gallons of reservoir water per year to an export company based in New York City. ... under the contract Quest would have the right to purchase up to 1 billion gallons of water per year at 1 cent per gallon



December 1973

 The City and Borough of Sitka conducted a community public opinion poll evaluating municipal services and facilities. ... The overall results gave this priority order: 1. roads and highways; 2. water and sewer; 3. downtown parking; 4. garbage collection and disposal; 5. hospital and medical facilities; 6. planning and zoning; 7. boat harbors.


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