The regular meeting of the Port Commission was Monday. The Commission discussed boat insurance, dead cars, discharge pipes, and more.

You may have noticed the small skiff that’s been out in front of town for the past couple of weeks. It’s pretty much stayed in one place and doesn’t obviously appear to be doing anything.

But Harbor Master Greg Meissner says it’s doing an important job.

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“The dive crew in front of town has been installing a new discharge line for Trident Seafoods. The old flex hose type of material that was there in the past has been replaced with a brand new steel rigid pipe discharge. So, that’s what you’ve been seeing out there for about the last two and a half weeks,” says Meissner.

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA requires regular maintenance on discharge pipes. The crew has been replacing pipe and dealing with old discharge build-up.

“The end of these discharge pipes do get some build-up. That’s why you see a little seine skiff out there dragging a rake. He’s been tasked with trying to keep that fluffed up so it gets picked up by the currents and dispersed and not have any build-up. So that’s why you see that little skiff out there going nowhere—anywhere fast—he’s dragging a rake on bottom,” says Meissner.

The pipe replacement and clean-up is expected to take around two weeks to complete.

Work is also being done to clean up the dead cars left in the harbor parking lots.

“The Shoemaker area got cleaned up pretty good. I think everything for the most part got taken out of there. There were some real homesteaders out there—there are still a few around. I think Heritage has acquired a couple that need to get taken out of the parking out. So, I’ll get with the Police Chief and we’ll go for a little drive and identify these,” says Meissner.

Meissner says he hopes to have the parking lots cleared out soon. The police are working on an impound lot to store the vehicles once they’re removed.

“They have an area that’s not all the way complete yet, but I think it could be used to put up their fencing and make their impound yard. You know, they need a place to put them too. If they’re going to impound a car, they need a safe place to put these things that’s secure. So, I see their issue as well. Hopefully they can get their yard finished and we can get a place to put these,” says Meissner.

Also in the area of clean-ups, the Port Commission discussed the possibility of requiring boat owners to have insurance.

It’s a controversial issue that Meissner says he’s thought about a lot. He says in the lower 48, owning a boat is the same as a car- insurance is mandatory to drive and park.

“Alaska is a little different. It’s smaller; it’s more closely knit. It’s a little more difficult for most folks,” says Meissner.

More than one boat has sunk in Wrangell waters so far this year. Meissner says it’s situations like that when having a way to pay for the damage is important.

“If my boat sinks and I have no insurance, well, someone’s got to foot the bill for that clean-up process. Whether it’s the harbor or, in this case, it gets federalized, that money comes from somewhere,” says Meissner.

Right now, it’s federal money that pays, and that’s not guaranteed, or the harbor picks up the tab. That’s a problem when funds are finite and come from the public.

“The benefit is the harbor wouldn’t have to pay for the problem. If I go pay for it on harbor fees, it’s stall user fees that paid for it. Every dollar I make comes in from the users. So, if I go pay $10,000 for a clean-up project, I have to fight to try to get that back at times. Sometimes you don’t get it back. You end up writing it off. That’s really not fair to those who are just paying their fees and doing their business. That’s always the argument. It’s a tough one. You hear both sides really loud when you bring this up,” says Meissner.

Meissner he’s heard both sides of the argument and understands why people feel the way they do. But, despite the cost to the individual of having insurance, he says in helps when you need it.

“I see the argument of why you don’t want to do it. Some folks say they can’t afford it. Everything under the sun, we hear. There’s all sorts of issues in regards to that. Some folks say they can’t get insurance on old wooden boats; some folks say you can. I don’t know; insurance companies are a little different beast. But, in a perfect world, you’d all have it,” says Meissner.

The Port Commission plans to discuss boat insurance further in upcoming meetings.