ANB harbor is usually packed with commercial fishing vessels, but this week, it’s empty. Its regular occupants have moved to other harbors around Sitka, as the city prepares to demolish all of the existing structures and replace the harbor entirely. Construction is scheduled to start in early November.
ANB harbor was first built in 1956, and though it has been renovated over the years, it’s showing its age.
“We’ve got timber elements that are rotting,” says city engineer Dan Tadic. “We go to replace deck boards, and there’s nothing to nail the deck boards to, everything’s mush.”
Tadic points to a laundry list of problems. There’s grass growing out of the wood decking. The ramps are slippery, and ice over in the winter. The floats are slowly sinking into the water.
So this winter, Sitka will completely replace ANB harbor. Plans call for larger slips and wider entrances to accommodate today’s longer and wider boats. It will have galvanized steel pilings instead of creosote-soaked wood. The new floats will sit higher up out of the water. A new gangway will be longer, better lit, and handicap accessible. And the contractor will also excavate rocks that currently obstruct parts of the harbor.
“You’re not just getting a harbor,” says Deputy Harbormaster Chuck Hackett. “You’re getting, in a sense, a new facility downtown.”
The full project is expected to cost $7.7 million. The city won a grant from the state, which will cover half of construction costs, up to $4 and a quarter million dollars. Hackett says the investment is more than worth it.
“Sitka’s the largest small boat harbor system on the west coast,” Hacket says. “We just have a huge fishing fleet and they bring a lot of money time, we’ve got to take care of them. That’s what holds Sitka together, that’s the glue, the fishing industry. If we don’t look to take care of them now, with the docks, we’ll never have anything in the future.”
Contractors will have until mid-March to complete the project. The city wants the new harbor ready in time for the spring herring run.