A fisherman approaches the boat launch with its current fish cleaning station at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A fisherman approaches the boat launch with its current fish cleaning station at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Public Works Committee nixes Amalga Harbor dock extension

Residents say fish cleaning station dirties harbor, attracts bears

Juneau’s Public Works and Facilities Committee voted down a motion 3-1 to extend the Amalga Harbor pier and remove the fish cleaning station during a Public Works and Facilities committee meeting on Monday.

The proposal was originally created due a perceived issue with traffic on the dock and organic waste from the fish cleaning station attracting bears. Local residents of the area argued that the harbor would be better served with maintenance of existing facilities than extending the pier.

“At low tide, there’s limited dock space, hence support for dock extension,” said Carl Uchytil, head of the City and Borough of Juneau Docks and Harbors.

The city-owned boat launch at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The city-owned boat launch at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The proposed extension would lengthen the single existing pier by roughly 75 feet, Uchytil said, allowing more pier frontage for boats to moor when the low tide limited functional dock space.

“We don’t have a study that says there’s congestion, apart from hearing from the public,” Uchytil said. “We think that a modest extension would improve the situation.”

Members of the public dissented, with more than half a dozen Amalga Harbor residents turning up to protest the possible extension.

“We live in Amalga Harbor. It’s our home, and no one knows it better than us. We consider ourselves stewards of the harbor,” said Rick Driscoll, a resident of the harbor. “Amalga needs maintenance more than it needs more facilities,” Driscoll said.

Maintenance issues with the harbor included sharp grades in the parking lot that led to bottoming out boat trailers and boulders that had rolled into the harbor. Vandalism was also an issue, Driscoll said.

Fish waste from the fish cleaning station thrown into the water was also a growing concern for many.

“We worry a lot about how fish waste attracts bears to the harbor,” Amalga Harbor resident John Taber said.

Taber talked about how a neighbor’s dog had been killed last year by a bear that had become used to foraging in the neighborhood for food.

A Christmas tree decorates an anchored platform at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A Christmas tree decorates an anchored platform at Amalga Harbor on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“We don’t get enough tidal flush to get rid of the fish waste,” said Taber

An informal but regular inspection instituted in early June by Matt Creswell, deputy harbormaster for Docks and Harbors, recorded time, number of vehicles in the parking lot, the tide level, and number of fish carcasses in the harbor. The record shows that though some days there may be as few as three fish carcasses floating in the harbor, there usually aren’t any. The records also show that the parking lot approached capacity on some weekends.

“We’re missing analysis. We’re missing numbers. We’re missing data. We have anecdotal evidence from residents, but we don’t have numbers,” said Assembly member Michelle Hale on her vote to fail the motion.

The Public Works and Facilities Committee recommended that Uchytil find another use for the grant funding for the project.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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