Purse seiners work the waters for salmon near Amalga Harbor in Favorite Channel during an opening in July 2012. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Purse seiners work the waters for salmon near Amalga Harbor in Favorite Channel during an opening in July 2012. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

They don’t want hungry bears and fish guts in their back yards

Residents object to new fish cleaning float at Amalga Harbor, board delays action

A public hearing that easily cleared the two-hour mark resulted in no official decision by the City and Borough of Juneau Docks & Harbors Board regarding a proposed fish cleaning float at Amalga Harbor.

The preferred project discussed at length Thursday night is a a 12-foot-by-75-foot float that would be intended to reduce congestion at Amalga Harbor that’s created when people cleaning fish and people launching boats converge on the same spot.

“I would caution us not to prolong this indefinitely,” said Docks & Harbors Board member Weston Eiler. ‘The use of that dock is increasing. The use there is maxed out. We do need to modernize it.”

The cost of the project is estimated at $378,000, said Brandon Ivanowicz, civil engineer for PND Engineers, who presented the proposed project prior to public meeting. A paton — a post-mounted sign — that would worn of a rock outcropping would cost another $48,000.

[University of Alaska officials consider impact of proposed cuts]

Public comment from residents who live near the harbor made up the bulk of the public hearing. They were resolutely against the idea of a project that could potentially increase the amount of fish waste in or near the small but busy harbor near a residential area.

Amalga Harbor Road resident Kaye Sullivan said she and her neighbors are wary of bear activity in their neighborhood that they attribute to decreased salmon runs and the easy meal provided by fish waste at the harbor.

“We know there are bears here, we have lived with them for decades. …We don’t feed them, CBJ does,” Sullivan said during her comment.

Civil engineer Brandon Ivanowicz points at a slide displaying a proposal for a fish cleaning float during a meeting, Thursday May 30, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Civil engineer Brandon Ivanowicz points at a slide displaying a proposal for a fish cleaning float during a meeting, Thursday May 30, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

She and her neighbors said they would prefer there to be no fish cleaning at the harbor.

Docks & Harbors Board member Bob Janes asked if removing a fish cleaning station might just result in people cleaning their fish at the dock or on shore and creating a worse nuisance.

It was suggested that bags similar to pet waste pick-up bags could be provided at the harbor to cut down on the amount of fish carcasses making their way to the water.

“We could also provide signage and carcass bags,” Ivanowicz said. “Users could be encouraged to clean their fish, put the carcass in the bag, and then dispose of that at home.”

However, Sullivan would prefer signs outright banning fish cleaning and told the Juneau Empire during a short break in the meeting that through signage and communication, it could be possible to at least come close to eliminating fish cleaning at the harbor.

[Cousin Curtiss comes to town for first time in three years, find out what he’s been up to]

“Convenience isn’t a good enough reason to put other people at risk,” Sullivan said.

Aside from odor and bear activity, other public comments predicted a new float would actually worsen the traffic problem at the harbor and fish guts would still float to shore.

Not all public comment was against the idea and a handful of Mendenhall Valley area residents said the project sounded like something that would be convenient and would move fish waste further from shore.

However, ultimately the board opted to further consider the matter.

“It is a complex issue and it is a small space,” Janes said. “No way am I ready to make a decision yes or no in terms of a cleaning station at Amalga Harbor.”

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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