Blue and white barrels keep some of Meyers Chuck’s docks floating.
(Courtesy City and Borough of Wrangell)

In the 80-odd miles of rocky coastline between Ketchikan and Wrangell, there’s one safe harbor: Meyers Chuck. The City and Borough of Wrangell is supposed to upkeep the community’s docks, but in recent years, that’s fallen on the few residents that live at Meyers Chuck. Now, Wrangell’s government is working to get the ball rolling on a larger harbor repair project. 

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Eight years ago, the state of Alaska turned over management of the docks in the tiny Southeast hamlet of Meyers Chuck to the City and Borough of Wrangell. 

At that time, the 400 feet of docks were deteriorating, and not expected to last much longer. As a part of the agreement, the state’s Department of Transportation gave Wrangell $1.4 million, with the understanding that the borough would do maintenance and repairs on the docks. 

But little changed. With their almost 60-year-old docks sinking, Meyers Chuck’s 20-odd residents banded together to buy blue and white barrels to keep the structures afloat

That caught the attention of Wrangell officials.

“We have a responsibility to try to get them upgraded down there,” says Wrangell Harbormaster Steve Miller. “Their floats are probably – I would say they’re worse than anything that we have here in town right now. And providing them a safe place to moor their boats became a priority.”

In the last year, Wrangell’s government has taken steps to fulfill its responsibility to the people of Meyers Chuck. Last year, the borough assembly reimbursed the residents for materials used for temporary dock repairs and replaced the airplane float – a lifeline for supplies, mail, and an important contact point in the case of medical emergencies. 

Fully replacing Meyers Chuck’s docks, though, is estimated to cost over $2.3 million. 

Wrangell can’t swing that cost alone. A full dock repair isn’t in the budget this year, harbormaster Miller told Wrangell’s borough assembly at a meeting in early July. The entire Meyers Chuck Harbor budget is $5,000

“We need to get down there just for planking replacement, and just minor, minor repairs – I mean, it’s $1,000 to get down there,” Miller said, “So that $5,000 doesn’t go very far.”

There also isn’t much money coming in from moorage fees in Meyers Chuck. It’s on an honor system, and the borough only anticipates bringing in around $1,500 in the coming year.

To try and subsidize the cost of a dock, Wrangell’s assembly is placing its hopes on obtaining a 50-50 matching grant from the State Department of Transportation Municipal Harbor Facility Grant Program. In order to apply, Wrangell’s borough assembly has already committed over $1.1 million as its part of the match to update the docks.

Applications for next year’s grant cycle were due August 5, and Wrangell’s Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad says the borough likely won’t hear back until August of next year.

Al-Haddad says the borough hopes that the remote nature of Meyers Chuck’s location will be a boon to its application. 

“It’s the only protected harbor between Ketchikan and Wrangell, so it provides a safe harbor for fishermen,” Al-Haddad says, continuing: “I would say that that’s a critical piece for the Meyers Chuck dock. I believe what we were told was, in this next round of review for the DOT matching harbor grant fund program, safety is a big concern of theirs. So that it provides a safe harbor for commercial fishermen as well as just the importance of it to the Meyers Chuck community, I think will be something that we focus on.”

Even if the borough obtains the harbor grant, Wrangell officials expect it to be a phased project, and continue to look for additional sources of funding beyond the state harbor grant program. 

The borough assembly already approved over $250,000 for the dock replacement project design at a meeting early last winter (December 14). That’ll cover the engineering design as well as any necessary environmental work. 

Get in touch with KSTK at or (907) 874-2345.