City considers ways to raise fund, cut costs for South Harbor rebuild

Boats docked in Cordova Harbor.

Cordova City Council discussed future funding from the state of Alaska and movement on the South Harbor Project at its Feb. 16 meeting.

City manager Helen Howarth gave an update on capital projects, including the rebuild Cordova’s entire South Harbor and create a drive-down dock and a sewage pump-out station, and to implement uplands improvements.

“We have put together some capital projects based on anticipated funding that will be coming in from the state, and entered them into the state CAPSIS system, which is where they identify capital projects for each community,” city manager Helen Howarth said. “At the March 2 meeting we will have a full capital projects list that is building on what Council has approved in the past, and add more projects based on available funding.”

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has appointed a representative to reach out to leadership in Alaskan communities to understand their needs and projects they anticipated pulling from the state, Howarth said. The South Harbor Project is “high on the list” for Cordova and it had been difficult to get funding for it, citing “significant change in the cost of the project due to covid inflation.” Howarth expressed that the powers that be are “excited to help out,” a promising sign.

Mark Keller, the city’s project manager for the South Harbor Project, gave an update on the endeavor and proposed cutting some costs if they could as the project is now over the initial funds allocated for completion.

“That would help avoid a lot of gaps,” said Keller.

However, volatile commodity prices may already have affected the accuracy of this $30 million budget estimate, said city public relations manager Curtis Fincher in November.

Replacing the floats, building the drive down ramp and the bulkhead build is still the intention for MARAD, Keller said.

“We are reevaluating how we look at the project,” Keller said, trying to match the funds available by scaling down. Ideas included reducing the tonnage of steel used, potentially reducing the size of the service floats, and reducing the square footage of some of the features of the project.

They are also “pursuing all various environmental submittals,” so that the project may move forward, including an Endangered Species Assessment, Keller said.

The project cost has seen a 40% increase, Howarth said, and they are looking down all available avenues for funding.

The city of Cordova has a $20 million grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, Discretionary Grant Program.

According to city officials, the project would draw additional funding from a $5 million Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities grant and another $5 million city bond approved by voters in 2019.

Cordova voters will also vote March 1 on Proposition 1 for a $2 million 30-year loan from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to go toward the drive-down dock into the rebuild part of the project. The loan would be repaid through harbor revenue.

“We submitted to raise a $30 million dollar project, and the projects costs now are at $42 million,” she said. “We are being asked to do the project at $30 million, because that is the resources we have and that is not possible … it’s all hands-on deck looking for resources.”

“We will find a path forward,” Keller said.

Council member Shaeffer reminded all Cordovans to “get out and vote, in person this week, next week and March 1.”

During the meeting, no conflicts of interests were disclosed, no incident management team report, and no audience comments on agenda items were taken. One individual was in the crowd, Harbormaster Tony Schinella.