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Boat launch to be key part of Barrow infrastructure

April 21st 12:27 pm | By Cindy Shake Print this article   Email this article   Create a Shortlink for this article

Historically, boaters in Barrow have relied on two launch points.  For the Chukchi side and traveling south along the coast, the City of Barrow boat ramp near the community gas station has been the preferred launching site. 

A major challenge with this boat launch is that it must be placed into and/or removed from the ocean by heavy equipment depending on the ocean conditions. For eastern bound trips in the Beaufort Sea and shorter navigation than around Point Barrow, the Niksiuraq boat ramp has been another option. 

However, access to the Niksiuraq ramp is occasionally impeded whenever storm events make the road impassable.  With the increasing frequency of storm damage to the road, the North Slope Borough tasked LCMF (now merged with UMIAQ) to analyze the feasibility of relocating the Niksiuraq boat launch to a site with more reliable access. The preferred alternative in the 2004 Project Analysis Report (PAR) is located on North Salt Lagoon, which was another launch site used by the community.  The challenge to boaters for this site was the shallowness of the lagoon. These impediments will soon be a thing of the past when a new 16 feet wide concrete ramp and floating dock are installed and the existing channel to Elson Lagoon dredged to facilitate boat traffic.

When Bob Harcharek became mayor of the City of Barrow, the construction of the boat dock became one of his top priorities. He commented that "we need a functional boat dock in a location not subject to the vagaries of the ocean and its currents and accessible most days during our short boating season." In mid-2010, the City of Barrow was awarded a $2 million NPRA grant with which to build the boat launch that included a floating dock with two concrete ramps. However, the lowest responsive bid received at that time exceeded the available grant funding.

Consequently, the City of Barrow applied for additional NPRA grant funds and in late summer 2010 was awarded a supplemental grant award of $600,000. However, even the second round of competitive bids exceeded the $2.6 million funding, so through extensive user impact meetings and negotiations a design-build contract was finally awarded in late June 2013 to UIC Construction (UICC) for a dock with only one ramp. UICC utilized it sister company UMIAQ to initiate the design of the boat launch in 2013, which included field surveying, permitting, and design for a seasonal floating dock that will be held in place by piles. Completion of the project is anticipated for late summer of 2014, 10 years after the LCMF Project Analysis Report was completed and four years after the first grant was awarded. This structure will serve as the primary Elson Lagoon access point.  Sheltered in a natural harbor, this site will provide a more reliable launch point than the historic eastbound access point of Niksiuraq.

The dock sections will be removed each fall to protect the piles from natural forces due to ice.  The primary challenge for the project was environmental mitigation, but the US Army Corps of Engineers waived costly mitigation fees since the project was of significant benefit to the community. Dredging of the lagoon inlet is currently underway with pile driving and dock construction scheduled for spring/summer 2014.

Cindy Shake is the marketing and communication manager for UMIAQ is a member of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) family of companies. UMIAQ provides resource development services, design, consulting, logistics and science support while understanding the politics, culture, land use issues, regulations and environmental conditions related to industrial and community development in the Arctic and subarctic Alaska.

 

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