The US Army Corps of Engineers will build a 2-berth cruise dock on Ward Cove, Ketchikan (Revillagigedo Island, Alaska). The permit was issued on January 21, 2020.
Fairbanks investor John Binkley of Ward Cove Dock Group said the hope was to get the berths in place for that season. He is part of the partnership with investors David and Andrew Spokely who own former Ketchikan Pulp Company mill site property. NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line) is also investing an undisclosed capital in exchange for preferential berthing.
The port city officials shared reservations about the project which is outside its jurisdiction. Ketchikan sent an 11-page letter to the Army Corps as it considers the permit application raising questions about the proposed impact of the dock on city revenue - some vessels that currently pay head taxes could move over to Ward Cove - as well as transportation to/from the site 7 miles north of downtown Ketchikan.
The City Council commissioned a study to determine the impacts of the dock in October, but it’s unclear when that study will be completed.
State and federal regulators along with some residents raised questions about the environment. Ward Cove has waste from decades of discharge from the pulp mill. There is also the potential to stir up legacy pollution at the cove's bottom. From the 1950s up to the late 1990s, the former Ketchikan Pulp Company was the region's major employer.
Binkley said regulators addressed some of the concerns and folded them in the federal permit. He added teams were surveying the bottom of the cove in order to determine the condition of the 6-to-12-inch sand cap before the building gets started. Since the closure of the pulp mill, the sand cap has allowed bottom-dwelling creatures to rebound.
The developers plan to push for an opening date in the summer months. Earlier projections were to have a permit by December 1 but the delay pushed things back. The uplands, the former mill site where passengers will disembark, is due to be ready around the same time.