Get Involved in the Port Expansion Public Process
This is not a Done Deal
What’s happening? The Army Corps of Engineers is working with the City of Homer to investigate the costs and benefits of expanding the Homer Harbor to accommodate more large vessels. The analysis will look at 3-5 “alternatives,” one of those being No Action.
The investigation will take 3 years, and when the analysis is complete, the Corps and the City will (independently) decide if they want to build an expansion.
This is far from a done deal, and your voice matters!! The Corps and City are looking for public input on what kind of expansion (or not) people want to see and what financial, environmental, and social factors should be considered in the cost-benefit analysis on Saturday, September 20 10-12 at the Kenai Peninsula College. Be there or be square. You can also email comments any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some talking points developed by Kachemak Bay Conservation Society. While you may not agree with everything, we hope our summary of the issues will help you think through some of the big questions and voice your hopes and concerns.
We want to better position Homer’s harbor – the good jobs and culture it supports – for a future that is desirable to the residents of Greater Homer, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. It is essential that we do this study right if we want to achieve those goals.
The analysis should estimate costs to the City for the project, associated infrastructure, and maintenance for the lifetime of the project, calculating for inflation, interest rates, etc. (consider that cost of repairing our existing facilities is estimated at $72.6 million.)
One of the most significant potential impacts of a harbor expansion is the alteration of the currents in Kachemak Bay. The circulation of nutrients, oxygen, larvae of species including muscles, crab, shrimp, clams, and other fishes, phytoplankton, and zooplankton are the bedrock of all life in Kachemak Bay. Alteration in currents will also likely lead to significant sediment deposit in the rich and important habitat of Mud Bay. How specifically will the Environmental Assessment measure these impacts and the effects to the biodiversity and abundance of Kachemak Bay and the communities who love and depend on it?
Bringing 160 additional large vessels into our town--as proposed by City staff--would likely have undesirable impacts on housing, schools, tourism, environment, and quality of life. Please assess losses to environment, local businesses and quality of life.
We do not want to build anything that would require road expansion or man-made islands.
Provide clear evidence that vessels we are designing for would be highly likely to 1) come to Homer, 2) stay here, 3) create good jobs for residents, 4) pay for the cost of expansion, associated infrastructure, and maintenance. A rational person expects declines in both AK fisheries (due to warming and acidifying oceans) and oil and gas (due to easily extractable supply running out) over the next 50 years; there is no indication that villages in Western Alaska need more cargo shipped to them. What is the plan then?
We do not want a cruise ship economy.
Climate adaptation and mitigation need to be a focus of planning of this major project.
Large-scale industry in the harbor would likely have significant impacts on the ecosystem health of Kachemak Bay and greater Homer. Please account for the environmental costs–and resulting losses to our businesses and culture– in the analysis.
**Read on if you'd like to dig into these issues a bit more.**
We want to better position Homer’s harbor – the good jobs and culture it supports – for a future that is desirable to the residents of Greater Homer, economically viable and environmentally sustainable. We support a cost benefit analysis of that includes following:
- Investment into the $72.6 million in repairs for our current harbor.
- “Greening” our port by modernizing and decarbonizing its infrastructure and operations.
- Water and electricity for some transient moorage,
- Public transportation in the summer months.
- Marine trades education in Homer.
- Affordable housing, transportation, and childcare for tradespeople.
- Improvement of marine industry infrastructure--including roads, racks to store smaller vessels, spit erosion mitigation (see here, here, here), covers for large vessels being worked on on the Spit, travel lift.
Estimate costs to the City for the project, associated infrastructure, and maintenance over a 50 year timeframe.
- Project construction is generally shared across partners: 50% Federal, 25% each state and local. For the $300 million dollar project that City staff are promoting, we can expect to need a $75 million bond, assuming we can convince Juneau to pony up $75 million, just for the basin and breakwater.
- Consider Nome, “the Nation’s Arctic Port” where Feds have offered $250 million for a deep water port. Nome needs to come up with $83 million in local sponsor matching funds and $93 million to pay for associated infrastructure. Suddenly, the project doesn't seem like such a winner.
- As a rule, the feds do not give money for construction of infrastructure associated with a project. What will be the cost to the City of building the following to support the project?
- Travel lift
- Storage for goods
- Fuel storage
- Boat storage
- Maintenance of port and infrastructure
- What will be the impact on local taxes?
- What will be the impact on rates and fees for harbor users?
- Homer Electric Association has said that the power lines that run out to the harbor cannot accommodate an expansion. What will be the cost to ratepayers of running new lines?
- The proposal to dispose of dredge spoils on beaches or in the water instead of dewatering them on the uplands helps make the expansion feasible. What is the cost of moving dredged material away from the spit and outside the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area?
- Inflation must be priced in.
- The importance of good price estimates is underlined by the fact that the price of steel doubled in the past few years.
Life in Kachemak Bay
- We need models of how any harbor expansion would alter currents in Kachemak Bay
- We must assess impacts to zooplankton, phytoplankton, oxygen, and all larvae that are distributed by these currents
- “KBRR would recommend that once a final construction option has been selected, that a detailed circulation and sedimentation study be developed. A model of circulation and sedimentation patterns with the proposed option in place would help inform users of potential effects on subtidal organisms.”
- Impacts to Nick Dudiak Fishing Lagoon and tourism, especially the Heritage Park RV site.
- Impacts to Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network
- the deposition of sediment and reduction of dissolved oxygen in the Kachemak Bay Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site, especially Mud Bay must be assessed..
- Soundscape impacts to nesting birds and marine mammals.
- Large-scale industry in the harbor would likely have significant impacts on the ecosystem health of Kachemak Bay and greater Homer. Please account for the following environmental costs–and resulting losses to our businesses and culture– in your analysis:
- Invasive species from ballast water
- Noise pollution
- Pollution and carbon emissions from barges, tankers, cruise ships.
- If boat work is occurring on the spit, how will that impact water quality of Kachemak Bay?
- To what extent does this plan involve filling of the Beluga Wetlands or other wetlands to accommodate storage of smaller vessels or to dispose of dredge spoils cheaply?
- Impacts to Marine Mammals due to strikes, noise pollution, and other impacts.
- What will new industries–and related pollution and noise pollution–do to key species, their habitats, and food sources?
- Black and Yelloweye Rockfish
- Sea ducks.
- King salmon.
- Recovery of Kachemak Bay crab, shrimp, clams, and herring.
- How will industrial activity and its impact affect tourism businesses?
- Steller’s Eiders are listed as Threatened and are often found in Mud Bay.
- There is a requirement to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service per their “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Determination of Critical Habitat for the Alaska-Breeding Population of the Steller's Eider”
- Kittlitz’s Murrelet are listed as Threatened, and surveys in 1993 indicated that a sizable portion of the world population of Kittlitz’s Murrelet was found in LCI (Kendall & Agler 1998). More recently (July 2005–2007), the population in Kachemak Bay alone was ~2050 birds, or ~4–7% of the estimated global population of Kittlitz’s Murrelet.
Bringing 160 large vessels and 250 smaller vessels into our town would likely have undesirable impacts on housing, schools, tourism, environment, and quality of life.
- The feasibility study should be clear about the number of people an expansion would add to our community.
- We need community buy-in on significant population growth to move forward. Please make sure that the General Investigation includes a public survey for the greater Homer area that asks people if they want to increase the population and traffic - and boat traffic - of our area.
- At what point would we need to expand the Spit road and other roads through town?
- What are the implications of expanding the harbor to tsunami evacuation?
- How much additional parking would be needed and where would it go?
- Where would boats be hauled out and what would be the impacts of constructing those pads?
- For all the associated infrastructure, what is the plan for stormwater management? Green spaces? Habitat projection?
- Where would people learn the trades to work on these boats?
- Where would people live?
- We do not want a cruise ship economy, because they hurt small businesses and are really bad for the environment.
Provide clear evidence that vessels we are designing for would be highly likely to 1) come to Homer, 2) stay here, 3) create good jobs for residents, 4) pay for the cost of expansion, associated infrastructure, and maintenance.
- Only two large vessels out of about 1,000 said they would move to Homer in the City’s 2017 survey. This is a staggeringly poor result.
- Why does the Corps of Engineers doubt the validity of this survey?
- What other data can you show us?
- What assumptions are included in the analysis?
- The harbormaster has proposed using gps trackers that are already on large vessels to determine what boats are in the area. But it is not enough to show us that boats are passing by, that they are swinging in, or that they are registered here.
- Why would they stay here?
- Provide evidence of interest in signing contracts from companies running freight, moving fish, etc.
- What jobs would they create?
- How will the new fleet pay for the harbor expansion, associated infrastructure, and the maintenance of facilities? How long will it take to pay off?
A rational person expects declines in both AK fisheries (due to warming and acidifying oceans) and oil and gas (due to easily extractable supply running out) over the next 50 years. What is the plan then?
Climate Change gives our fisheries a poor outlook.
- Com Fish Report
- State of Salmon
- Bering Crab
- Bering Crab
- Area M
- Bering Sea Stock Vulnerability
- Bering Sea Climate
Oil and Gas
- Cook Inlet Oil and Gas is Declining
- Outlook is not good for Oil and Gas Exploration in Lower Cook Inlet
- Projections of future economic demand should account for the fact that Alaskan oil and gas keeps our economies afloat, and we are running out. How do models of future fleet demands account for the impact to our economy from declines in Alaskan oil?
- While there is a possibility that a natural gas pipeline will be built from Prudhoe Bay to Nikiski, there are many reasons that won’t happen, and it would be unwise for Homer to build an enormously expensive expansion based on this unlikely possibility.
Distribution of goods to South Central and Western Alaska
- See below.
We do not want a cruise ship economy
- Cruise ships hurt local businesses.
- Cruise ships generate 2,800 tons of CO2 a week. That’s the equivalent of 600 gasoline-powered cars driving for an entire year.
- Cruise ships dump 800,000 liters of treated sewage and 6.3 million liters of gray water per week.
- Cruise ship noise interferes with whales.
- Scrubber washwater kills fish.
Climate adaptation and mitigation need to be addressed during the planning of this major project. We support investigation of how our port operations can be greener.
- Adaptation actions included in the City of Homer's 2009 Climate Action Plan include:
- Developing management plans specific to Port & Harbor facilities on the Homer Spit (construction, maintenance, dredging, etc.) that take into account climate change impacts.
- Taking climate change into consideration in all long-range planning efforts (e.g., transportation, land use, Homer Spit, emergency management, economic development).
- To date, efforts to reduce emissions from Harbor and Port operations have been the conversion to LED lights and to gas heating.
- Examine how the City might lead in the “greening” of American ports by upgrading, modernizing, and decarbonizing its port infrastructure and operations, as outlined in the White House’s Ocean Climate Action Plan.
- Like it or not, Climate Change gives our fisheries a poor outlook, and we must adapt.
- Com Fish Report
- State of Salmon
- Bering Crab
- Bering Crab
- Area M
- Bering Sea Stock Vulnerability
- Bering Climate
- The 6 th IPCC Report states if global warming is to be kept below 1.5 degrees C. before 2050, we must achieve carbon neutrality - any new emissions of greenhouse gasses must be offset by equivalent removals from the atmosphere.
- “Port & Harbor facilities produced…35 percent of total [City] emissions,” 2009 City of Homer Climate Action Plan.
- How can the emissions from expanding the harbor during construction and maintenance and supporting an expanded energy-intensive maritime industry and recreation be offset.
- What evidence supports the claim of the 2019 Homer Planning Assistance to States (PAS) Section 22 Navigation Improvements Technical Report” that will be fewer emissions from boats whose owners will choose to home-port in Homer instead of in other ports in Alaska or the Pacific Northwest?
Identify where the fleet that would come to Homer is currently being served; identify the reasons they would come here over that other place.
- How would construction of a larger large-vessel port in Homer take away from other communities’ economies; how will this conflict affect the effort to access state or federal dollars?
Seattle, Anchorage, Dutch Harbor and Nome serve as the ‘regional service hubs’ that Homer says it wants to provide to Western Alaska and/or South Central Alaska.
- Dutch Harbor - #1 Fishing Port in the United States
- Vessels carrying goods to Western Alaska pass through Dutch Harbor.
- The Unalaska Marine Center (UMC) and the USCG Dock consists of approximately 2,051 linear feet of dock face. The UMC offers cargo, passenger, and other port services. Horizon Lines operates both a 30-ton and a 40-ton crane and rail system for containerized cargo, and North Pacific Fuel operates fueling facilities. Potable water, warehouse space, sewage pump-out and upland storage areas are available. Depth at mean lower low water (MLLW) alongside the berthing area is 40 feet.
- Nome- Selected as “the Nation’s Arctic Port”, serves as a “regional hub” for North-West Alaska.
- Seattle - Lower Cost of Goods and Services are available in Seattle than Alaska. Nearly all the goods in Alaska come from Seattle.
- Anchorage - More than half (54%) of the state’s population is within an hour’s drive of the Port of Alaska.
- “5,167, 935 tons of fuel and freight moved across Port of Alaska docks in 2022. This business increase continues a five-year trend that is driven by shippers taking advantage of supply chain efficiencies available in Anchorage and nowhere else in Alaska. Port of Alaska is the state’s primary inbound cargo facility that handles half of all inbound freight and fuel that is delivered to final destinations statewide.”
- "If PoA were to gradually or suddenly become inoperable, Seward and other ports would likely be used to fill the gap, though all at substantially increased cost. Relying on other ports would also require major investment in highway improvements. Moving more than 100,000 vans and containers each year would add heavy traffic to an already busy Seward Highway, impacting public safety and convenience (PoA truck traffic totals more than 300,000 trips annually)."
- “Other Southcentral ports cannot individually or together replace PoA’s ability to reliably and economically meet Alaska’s inbound freight needs.”
Shipyard services are already provided by Kodiak, Seward and Ketchikan and Seattle.
- Where is the evidence that more shipyard services are needed? At what scale?
- Seward has a train and Shipyard. JAG Alaska, who does shipyard services in Seward says they are not turning boats away.
- Ketchikan - Vigor operates the Ketchikan shipyard, which includes a brand new 70,000 square foot assembly hall along with an adjacent indoor fabrication shop.The yard is one of the most modern in the United States and provides an excellent year-round location for new builds, repair, and refit to support nearly any vessel working Alaska's waters.
- Kodiak- Shipyard and #2 Fishing port in the US. Highmark Marine, who does shipyard services in Kodiak, says that they are not turning boats away.
- Highmark Marine says that you need a lot of vessels to make a shipyard profitable. Even with the 70 ships they haul out every year, they are just making a profit.
- Seattle - 44% of all gross earnings from the North Pacific Fisheries are from boats based in Seattle.