Alaska Marine Lines, a shipping company owned by Lynden Incorporated, is proposing to build a dock in Womens Bay just southwest of the Lash Dock. The Army Corps of Engineers is now soliciting public comment on the project, which would involve the construction of a “barge docking and landing craft docking facility.” All comments are due by July 10.
According to an ACE document, the project is being proposed by Don Reid of Alaska Marine Lines. Reid did not respond to a request for comment.
The applicant is proposing to use up to 87,000 cubic yards of shot rock and 1,000 cubic yards of armor rock for “the construction of a 4.3-acre two open-cell steel sheet pile walls for docking, a 190-foot x 20-foot landing craft docking ramp, an upland abutment for the cargo transfer ramp, and commercial cargo staging and operating area, all below the high tide line (11.5 feet above the 0 foot contour) in Women’s Bay, a navigable water of the U.S.”
In addition to the placement of the fill material, the project would also involve the installation of 18 steel pipes pilings and two 60 foot open-cell steel sheet pile walls. The project would also include one 96 x 23 foot steel transfer bridge for cargo loading and unloading, and a “berthing barge.” The document states that a 300 x 90 foot transient barge would be moored to the two sheet pile cells in order to provide cargo barge docking in deeper water without the need for additional filling or dredging of navigable waters or the driving of additional piling.
The project site is adjacent to Rezanof Drive West, on tideland between Lash Dock and Shannon Point, just south of US Coast Guard Base Kodiak.
The land in question was the subject of a much debated land-swap, which was authorized as part of The Coast Guard Authorization Act 2018. The bill included a provision which authorized the trade of the roughly three acres of submerged lands in Womens Bay with Ayakulik Island, which is just to the south of Kodiak Island.
The land exchange left Lynden Inc. with complete ownership of a roughly 11-acre stretch of land from Lash Dock to Shannon Point; the island now belongs to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 2018, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a co-author of the bill, stated that the exchange would both assist in the protection of a number of important seabirds and marine mammals on Ayakulik Island, while simultaneously providing a potential economic benefit for Kodiak if the land in Womens Bay is developed.
“I look forward to enactment of this legislation that will turn a trafficked bay into an economic driver for Kodiak, while giving the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] some property they value for conservation purposes,” Sullivan wrote in an April 2, 2018 letter expressing his support for the bill.
A representative from Lynden Inc. has not responded to multiple requests for comment. The campaign finance tracking website OpenSecrets.org lists the firm as the eighth largest contributor to Sullivan’s campaigns. The website, which tracks fundraising efforts by U.S. politicians, states that Lynden have contributed a little over $33,000 to Sullivan throughout his political career.
While Sullivan lauded the land-swap as a win-win, some locals have concerns over the development of the tideland in Womens Bay. In April 2018, the Kodiak Daily Mirror spoke to Tom Lance, natural resources director at the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, about the land-swap. Lance explained that while Ayakulik Island is a valuable habitat, so is Womens Bay, for fish and migratory waterfowl.
“Our question right now is: Is it more important to save 11 acres of tideland from being developed, versus Ayakulik Island?” he said. “It (the island) is fairly remote.”
Lance also noted that the area in Womens Bay is used by subsistence fishermen.
“The Sun’aq Tribe has been very protective of anything that goes on in Womens Bay,” he said. “That’s where people subsist. They practice fishing.”
ACE documents include details of proposed mitigation measures “to avoid, minimize, and compensate for impacts to waters of the U.S. from activities involving discharges of dredged or fill material.” These include things like constructing on a “minimal footprint.”
“Project activities will not affect wetlands as defined by the USACE,” the document states. “The area of fill has been further minimized by extending the cargo transfer span to reach deeper water and with the use of a berthing barge in order to meet cargo barge draft requirements, and doing so without the need to expand the footprint of the proposed fill area. This will decrease the potential environmental impact of the project to fish and other wildlife as well as decrease the amount of affected navigable waters.”
The document goes on to state that no dredging is proposed for the project and that, of the 1.9 acres of eelgrass bed currently on the property, “only 0.5 acres would be impacted by this project.”
While the document states that there are no cultural resources within the vicinity of the area, nor any historic properties that stand to be affected, it does note that the area is designated as critical habitat for sea otters and Steller sea lions. As such, consultation procedures will be initiative with US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“Any comments they may have concerning endangered or threatened wildlife or plants or their critical habitat will be considered in our final assessment of the described work,” the document states.
The document also mentions that the area is within the range of all five of Kodiak’s salmon species, but states “We have determined the described activity would not adversely affect EFH (essential fish habitat) in the project area.”
The possibility of development also left one Kodiak City Council member concerned over a potential dock appearing outside of City limits. At a regular council meeting on October 25, council member Charlie Davidson brought the issue up, saying that a dock in Womens Bay could economically hurt the City of Kodiak.
Davidson has raised the issue a number of times at council work sessions and regular meetings over the past several months. He noted that the area is “a winter home to the emperor geese” and “a place for subsistence fishing,” before expressing his concern over a possible loss of revenue for the city.
“Because this individual ( already owns Shannon Point, presumably they’re building this dock along there,” he said at the time. “The problem is it will also enhance a much costlier ability for the city to repay, I think, our bill regarding Pier III, down the road.”
Pier III, which was rebuilt between 2014-2015, cost a total of roughly $35 million. While much of this was covered by government grants, the City of Kodiak partially funded its construction using at least $15 million in State of Alaska bond financing.
“If that land is developed into a dock … and we lose the wages and the tariffs that generally come over our dock, you can be sure that we’ll have difficulty paying for our new dock,” Davidson said. “I hope it doesn’t happen like that, because it is going to definitely hinder us to pay our bill in a timely matter.”
As part of the ACE public comment process, any person may request that a public hearing be held to consider this application. Requests for public hearings must be in writing and should state specific reasons for holding a public hearing.
ACE’s decision whether to issue a permit or not will be based on an evaluation of the “probable impacts,” which includes cumulative impacts of the proposed activity. Among the factors considered are: conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, cultural values, fish and wildlife values, water quality, and “in general, the needs and welfare of the people.”
“Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this decision, comments are used to assess impacts on endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors,” the ACE document states.
A full copy of the public notice can be found at: https://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Public-Notices/
All comments should be sent to the following address: Kenai Field Office, Regulatory Division (1145) CEPOA-RD 44669 Sterling Highway, Suite B Soldotna, Alaska 99669-7915. Comments can also be submitted by email to the Project Manager’s at email@example.com.
All comments should include the following PN reference number: POA-2019-00277, Women’s Bay. All comments must be sent by July 10 to be considered in the decision. For further information, the public can contact Andy Mitzel at (907) 753-2689, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org