City gets $20M to fix harbor

Public will vote on $2M loan to replace toxic creosote pilings

Boats docked in Cordova Harbor.

The city of Cordova has been awarded a $20 million grant to improve harbor infrastructure. The funding will be provided through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, Discretionary Grant Program.

The project aims to rebuild Cordova’s entire South Harbor and create a drive-down dock and a sewage pump-out station, and to implement uplands improvements. According to city officials, a comprehensive South Harbor rebuild project would have a projected cost of $30 million, and would draw additional funding from a $5 million Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities grant and a $5 million voter-approved city bond. However, volatile commodity prices may already have affected the accuracy of this $30 million budget estimate, said city public relations manager Curtis Fincher.

The project may also be able to draw on a $2 million Alaska Clean Water Fund loan which will appear on ballots in the spring, Fincher said. This loan would support the replacement of the harbor’s environmentally hazardous creosote pilings with steel pilings. The harbor would be able to repay the loan, Fincher said.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Fincher said. “It’s this great big puzzle where you try to match the funding that’s available to the projects you need done.”

A timeframe has not yet been developed for the project, said Cordova Public Works Director Samantha Greenwood. However, environmental permitting will probably take the better part of a year and construction will probably take two years, Fincher said. Design work might take place simultaneously to the environmental permitting process.

Built in 1983, Cordova’s South Harbor has already exceeded its intended lifespan by a decade, Fincher said.

“The ultimate goal is to return the entire harbor to a state of good repair, including some work in the North Harbor, especially where Breakwater Avenue is sloughing into the harbor,” Fincher said. “Given how much it costs to mobilize a workforce here, we would really like to just whack out every dilapidated, in-need-of-care part of the harbor at once.”

In a release, city officials thanked Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for their support of Cordova’s application for the BUILD grant, and recognized the contributions of Greenwood, Fincher, Cordova Harbormaster Tony Schinella and others to the project.

The RAISE Discretionary Grant program, previously known as the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, Discretionary Grant Program, has assigned almost $9.9 billion to fund infrastructure products with local or regional impact. All in all, the U.S. Department of Transportation has received over 10,400 applications requesting over $185 billion for projects across the country, according to a department release.