Floats in the Wrangell Harbor.
(Sage Smiley / KSTK)

The harbor closest to Wrangell’s downtown is also the harbor that’s in the worst shape. That was only made worse this winter after a boat sank on Christmas Day, causing major damage to a float used by the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. 

Wrangell’s government is hoping to use the poor condition of the harbor to leverage tens of millions of dollars in federal funding – and as part of the application, they’re hoping to hear from year-round and transient harbor users about safety issues at the harbor

Borough Manager Jeff Good explained to assembly members at a January meeting that Wrangell would be on the hook for any costs over what they’re granted. The borough is applying for $25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“The estimate right now [for the project] is $26 million, but I think we would try to do the design to come in at $25 million,” Good said, “But […] if there are any cost overruns we as a borough – we agree as a community that we would make up the difference in any cost overruns.”

The funding would replace floats including the Reliance float, which is connected to the pier at the harbor office; the Standard Oil float; Inner Harbor; and the Airplane Float. 

With the understanding that Wrangell might not get all – or even most – of the money it’s applying for, Good told the assembly he hopes the borough can build in some flexibility. 

“I’d actually like to have kind of: here’s the primary that are like $15 million-worth, and then if we could do kind of an Option A, Option B, Option C. Then depending on what the total cost comes in at, then we can kind of make the cut where we want to,” Good explained. “But I’ve got to make sure we can do that within the grant requirements. If not, then we just kind of need to keep it within the scope. So we may not be able to do one of the float areas.”

Borough documents show the administration hopes to apply for the federal funding by the end of this month. 

Good says the harbor project needs to get done – right now, staff are doing their best to patch what’s there. 

“Those floats are by far our worst floats,” Good told the assembly. “They need a ton of maintenance, and we’re continually doing maintenance on those right now. So it would be neat – it’s really our last harbor to do here on Wrangell proper.”

That’s because Wrangell’s other two major harbors – Heritage Harbor and Shoemaker Harbor – have each been upgraded in the last 20 years. 

Off of Wrangell Island, though, the borough does have another major harbor project: it’s working to fund dock replacements estimated to cost over $2.3 million at Meyers Chuck, a remote community also within the borough’s boundaries

Find the survey about Wrangell Harbor safety here.

Get in touch with KSTK at news@kstk.org or (907) 874-2345.