City moving forward with permitting for St. Herman Harbor replacement


The city of Kodiak is moving forward with the permitting phase of a replacement for St. Herman Harbor. City council members discussed the details at a work session Tuesday night, but not everyone was on board with what comes next. 

Kodiak Harbormaster Dave Johnson asked council members at Tuesday’s work session to greenlight a contract with Anchorage-based PND Engineers to proceed with permitting for a replacement of St. Herman Harbor.

“It’s really just general layout and environmental permits, is what I’m asking for tonight,” Johnson said.

Kodiak’s St. Herman Harbor; the city has outlined a replacement for the harbor’s aging infrastructure as a top priority. {Brian Venua/KMXT)

St. Herman – also known as Dog Bay – is the largest of Kodiak’s two boat harbors. The harbor has been plagued with infrastructure issues as it’s aged. There’s also a capacity issue – currently, 113 vessels are on the waitlist for a slip, according to Johnson.

The city has made replacing the harbor a top priority for the next fiscal year. The project comes with a price tag of about $56 million.

Permitting – including federal environmental permits – is a necessary prerequisite for the project. And that process alone costs $257,705, according to the engineering company’s proposal to the city.

Johnson told council members that contracting PND for permits still allows the city to field proposals for the final design from other companies. 

“I would in no way endorse a single source contract for the design of St. Herman Harbor,” said Johnson. “And I think that’s critical to state because that’s not what I’m trying to do. That’s not my intent with this; it’s really to get the environmental permitting.”

Everyone in the room agreed on one thing: replacing St. Herman Harbor is crucially important for Kodiak’s economy. But not everyone agreed with the next step.

PND’s permitting contract requires some specifics about the harbor replacement’s layout. Councilmember Bob Stanford said some of those details need more clarity and should be put out for public comment first. 

“This is a major project,” said Stanford. “I think these steps are out of order.”

Stanford and council member Rich Walker ultimately said they did not support moving to permitting at this stage.

But other council members said permitting was a preliminary phase of the harbor replacement that needs to be done – regardless of the plans, or which company will ultimately draw up the design for the new boat harbor. 

Council member Charlie Davidson likened the harbor replacement to rebuilding an old house that ends up needing to be torn down.

“And that’s exactly where we are in this harbor project right now,” he said. “And the longer we delay this, and the longer we put off getting these permits … we’re going to lose out.” 

Council members Terry Haines, John Whiddon, Charlie Davidson and Randall Bishop voiced their support of moving forward with permitting through PND. For transparency, Haines is a member of KMXT’s staff.

Harbormaster Johnson said the geography of the harbor doesn’t allow for many changes to the current layout – even if it’s replaced. He’s been working with different harbor users including the Kodiak Crab Alliance Cooperative, Kodiak Seiners Association and the Port and Harbors Advisory Board to review the preliminary plans. Copies of any draft plans are also available at the harbormaster’s office for anyone to look over and solicit feedback.

Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson agreed the next logical step was to tighten up the agreement with PND for permits and preliminary design work – anything beyond that would go out for bid and require public comment before moving forward. 

Tuesday’s meeting was a work session, and council members cannot vote on action items. A final contract with PND for permitting and other preliminary work will need to be authorized by the city council at a future regular meeting.

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