Wrangell’s former mill site could serve as an expansion of the downtown boatyard along with many other commercial uses. The environmental firm in charge of evaluating the site six miles south of town presented some of those potential uses and the property’s condition to borough officials June8.
Maul Foster & Alongi found the property to be in surprisingly good condition.
Michael Stringer is a Senior Project Planner for the firm and said the 98-acre site could support commercial activity.
“What we found is relatively positive. The physical condition of the property seems to be in good shape, especially for a property that was built on mostly fill material,” said Stringer. “A lot of that is hard rock fill so it should be suitable for redevelopment.”
There is a possibility that some areas are not filled with hard rock and would need to be refilled. Assembly member David Powel said he doesn’t think that would put a stop to the project.
“As they said, 80 percent of it is hard. You’re looking at 50 acres of land. So 80 percent is all hard fill and 20 percent is filled with sawdust and caped. That’s huge just to have that much land,” said Powell.
Stringer said the site could support multiple commercial operations, but one of the most probable uses on the site would be an expansion of the downtown boatyard. Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch said the expansion would complement the downtown operation.
“I still think we could still have a thriving operation downtown here with the smaller boats and then out there, try create another little niche with some of these larger boats,” said Jabusch.
Stringer said there’s also a possibility to build a vocational educational facility geared towards the growing maritime industry.
“The idea of having some kind of educational component serves a broader community interest and creates a lot of opportunity for synergy between existing businesses that can be working down there and people who can be learning those trades and helping support them,” he said.
Stringer said another upside to the project is the site has a clean bill of environmental health. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation deemed the site clean in 2014. But, he said there is a possibility of finding additional contamination.
“So they’ve reviewed those records and put their seal of approval on it. That certification of completion allows there to be reopeners. That if new things are discovered, there may be more action needed,” said Stringer. “ When you’re dealing with an old property like this, if you’re going to go out digging trenches for utilities or grading, doing foundation work, there’s also potential you’re going to find something on the site that wasn’t found before.”
Borough Manager Jabusch said if the city moves forward, development wouldn’t happen overnight.
“It’s going to be a long process. We will certainly work with our federal and state granting folks to get as much help as we can. We’ll move along as we have money and get help to do so,” said Jabusch.
Maul Foster & Alongi will give a final report regarding costs for development later this month.