Moorage rates in Sitka’s harbors are going up next week.
The Sitka assembly last night approved the rate hike on second reading, bumping the per-foot monthly charge for permanent berths from $2.64 to $2.80, an increase of a little over 6 percent effective New Year’s Day.
The increase was the result of a master plan completed in 2012 that proposes similar increases in each of the next three years.
There was no testimony from harbor users, although some expressed their concern two weeks ago when the issue was heard on first reading. The general sentiment was that some commercial fishermen might start to look for lower moorage in other communities.
Assembly member Mike Reif questioned that logic at the time. But since then, he has become the lone “no” vote. But it wasn’t because he was worried that the rates were too high.
“I think the rate needs to be a little bit higher. I’d rather enter this maybe being a little too high in the beginning, and then we can cut back.”
Reif was concerned about some of the possible scenarios described by the harbor department that involved abandoning some of the harbor system, or allowing parking lots to revert to gravel. He said, “We’re not just trying to take care of current harbor users — we want to take care of their children.”
There was no support on the rest of the assembly for increasing rates above those recommended in the master plan — but they didn’t rule it out in the future.
Matt Hunter wanted to take a look at how things were going in a year. So did Pete Esquiro. He called Sitka’s “one of the best harbor systems” in Alaska.
“To have something as good as we have is going to cost more money. There’s just no way around it. We have a very large industry here in the salmon and seafood industry that means a lot to us financially. And if we do begin to start closing down facilities, and consider that, it will have some detrimental effects to the overall economy of Sitka.”
Esquiro nonetheless voted with the majority in favor of the 6-percent hike
Assembly member Phyllis Hackett was absent.
The increase keeps Sitka in third place among Southeast’s most expensive harbors, behind the two in Juneau, and in Petersburg. Elsewhere in Alaska, Valdez, Kodiak, Seward, and Homer all have more expensive moorage.