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Skagway enters agreement with the state for design of new dock

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 9:14 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Southeast Alaska community of Skagway wants a new multi-purpose dock to handle the variety of ships that sail in and out.

The Borough of Skagway entered into an agreement with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, announced on Nov. 5, to begin the process to get one built. Skagway’s existing infrastructure is aging and needs maintenance or complete replacement, according to a press release from the department.

“This is a result of over 2 1/2 years of work,” said Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata. “When I was first elected we made it a priority to try to work out some kind of memorandum of understanding with DOT so that we could work on a partnership to potentially build out some infrastructure on this, you know, significant portion of our waterfront, which in Skagway is quite limited.”

Cremata said it’s very encouraging to have reached this point.

The current dock needs to be replaced as it has outgrown its usefulness. The tourism industry website SeatradeCruiseGlobal lists Skagway as the world’s 18th most visited cruise destination.

Starting in 2023, Cremata said Skagway will be taking over a significant amount of waterfront from the current leaseholder.

“And so what we’re looking at is not only the possibility of diversifying our economy, but in Skagway we’ve been working on developing an electric or electric-hybrid ferry that would require more modernized infrastructure at the ferry terminal.”

Cremata wants a multi-use facility that would include more room for cruise ships — especially the smaller ones. Those ships completed a full season this summer despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Cremata’s concerned about what could happen to them when more large cruise ships travel to town.

“Especially what I’m afraid of is that we get into the following years, or the coming years, and they get kind of pushed out,” Cremata said. “And so these smaller vendors don’t have the space to be able to bring their vessels.”

Space would also be set aside for Alaska Marine Highway System ferries in order to fulfill the memorandum of understanding with the state.

“What that could potentially do as well, if we ever did create a larger dock on the Broadway Peninsula, it could open up the possibility of our current multi-use dock ... to become solely dedicated to industrial use,” Cremata said.

The new dock, according to Cremata, could help diversify Skagway’s economy, “which is something we desperately need in Skagway,” he said. Since 2007, according to Skagway’s website, the town has seen a steady growth of rare earth minerals from the Yukon and shipped out of the port.

Meanwhile, Cremata said work on the project could start in about two years, and that it’s too early to say how much everything will cost. But, Skagway’s looking for partnerships with the private sector to help pay for it.

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