New cutters mean increased housing need in Kodiak

An example of a fast response cutter, the Cutter Gerczak. (Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir / U.S. Coast Guard)

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

U.S. Coast Guard base Kodiak is getting two new cutters for search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, and security. And with the new cutters comes an extra demand on housing.

The new fast response cutters, or FRCs, are replacing five aging patrol boats in Juneau, Petersburg, Valdez, Homer, and Seward, but it’s not a one for one replacement.


Capt. Darran McLenon in Juneau says Seward will be getting a FRC, one will go to Sitka, and two have already docked in Ketchikan. And these are the first FRCs that Kodiak will get.

McLenon says the new FRCs are smaller and faster than the three cutters currently homeported in Kodiak.

“Primarily, they can navigate into shallower water than the bigger cutters, and they can get into a lot of places that the bigger cutters just can’t get to.”

He says Kodiak is a good launching point for access to where they need to go in the western part of the state.

The FRCs are larger than the five patrol boats they’ll replace – 154 feet as opposed to 110. And they’ll be able to fit nine more crewmembers – 24 instead of 15.

McLenon says that means 48 active duty coastguardsmen will move to Kodiak.

“But with that also is the shoreside infrastructure and maintenance and personnel that comes with it, so you’re getting almost 80 people that’ll be assigned to Kodiak because of the acquisition and movement of these cutters to Kodiak.”

McLenon says the Coast Guard appropriated 51 and a half million dollars to go to the Kodiak-portion of the project, and a little more than $32 million of that will go to housing.

Capt. Jeff Goode oversees mission support at base Kodiak and says the Coast Guard is trying to avoid putting extra stress on Kodiak’s already competitive housing market.

He says a planning study a few years ago identified a shortage in Coast Guard housing, and they’ll do another assessment to determine the need for the 80 new people coming in.

“Y’know, in the calculations, they take a look how many of that percentage will be families and need family housing, how many can fit in our barracks.”

He says the Coast Guard will look at land they can develop, like property they own by Lake Louise out in the direction of the base.

Goode says they’ll also have to take into consideration new tsunami inundation zones there.

“We may have to elevate some of the properties to go above it or potentially look at how we build the new housing, and then there’s also some behind as well that’s above the tsunami zone as well that we could potentially look at.”

He says they’re on a five-year funding cycle, and they’ll start planning next year, with construction to begin over the next three to four years if they decide to build.

Capt. Darran McLenon says the arrival of the two cutters depends on the decommissioning of the older patrol boats and when they can move forward on infrastructure.

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