Construction on Pier I has come to a complete halt, and isn’t expected to continue for a year. During last night’s City Council regular meeting, City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski shared news from the State Department of Transportation, which is leading the pier replacement project.
“They had to halt it while they seek a permit modification. With the presence of sea lions – who are endangered sea mammals – they can’t be within 350 meters of the construction site and they literally are always there. They measured one period of time when it was four hours in the middle of the night when there were no detectable sea lions there.”
Kniaziowski said the delay will definitely increase costs for the project, but the DOT has said the city will not be responsible for those overruns. She said a new permit, or even a revised permit, could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months before it’s issued from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Kniaziowski said DOT couldn’t answer why this oversight occurred, but said they will work to return the dock to operating condition so it can be utilized by the State Ferry Tustumena and fishing vessels, as needed.
“We won’t have water or fuel, of course, there, but the Tustumena is aware of that – they’ll fuel up and water up in Homer and be able to go back to Pier I. So we’re real disappointed about that.”
City Mayor Pat Branson said she hoped the DOT would get information about the situation out to the public in good fashion, and make sure Kodiak residents aren’t pointing their fingers at the city.
“DOT takes full responsibility for this, in fact, I feel kind of obligated to call Commissioner Kemp about this, or at least write a letter of concern.”
Councilman John Whiddon said he wasn’t sure how the presence of sea lions was overlooked by the DOT in its permitting process.
“I mean you only have to spend five minutes at that dock to realize there’s sea lions 20 yards away at Trident. I can’t imagine how they overlooked this. It’s inconceivable.”
Branson said maybe at this point the city should just be supportive of the DOT and encourage them to move forward, while stressing the importance of the Pier I project to the community.