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Southeast Alaska Construction Holds Steady

Dec 1, 2018Construction

By Vanessa Orr

Despite the downturn in Alaska’s economy, construction in Southeast Alaska has held steady.

Completed, ongoing, and upcoming projects

And according to John MacKinnon, executive director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska, that looks to hold true in 2019 as well.

“It’s interesting when you’re looking at the overall Alaska economy how construction in Southeast has remained steady, in part due to the seafood and visitor industries,” he explains. “In the past year, there have been a number of good-sized projects completed, including expansion projects at Kensington Mine and Greens Creek Mine. Right now it looks like 2019 will remain steady, and there might even be some bigger projects put out to bid.”

MacKinnon made mention of the Katlian Bay Road project in Sitka, which was proposed in late September. This project, which engineers estimate will run between $10 million and $20 million, would include construction of approximately nine miles of a new, single-lane gravel road, beginning at the end of Halibut Point Road in Sitka and continuing north to its termination within Katlian Bay at the eastern property boundary of Shee Atiká, an ANSCA urban corporation. Work would include the installation of approximately 300 culverts and the construction of two bridges over the South Katlian River and Katlian River.

“I believe this is a segment of a future road connection across the island so that someday the ferry run can be significantly shortened, thus reducing costs and potentially increasing service,” says MacKinnon, noting the success of the day ferry that currently services Metlakatla from Ketchikan and includes a 14.5-mile road route.

MacKinnon also notes that increased investment in Southeast’s downtown areas—particularly in Juneau—is not only adding to the construction budget but to the community’s economy as a whole.

“A lot of cities suffer from what’s called ‘center rot,’ which happens when businesses move to the suburbs,” he says. “While Juneau’s influx of tourism is good in the summer, in the winter most of the shops used to close and the downtown area was dead.

“Now, people are reinvesting in downtown, and businesses are attracting residents in the evenings,” he says. “It was tough at first, but now that the area has reached critical mass, things are taking off. Juneau has a brewpub and is planning another, and there’s a distillery in the old AEL&P building on Second and Franklin Streets. Investors are also putting money into mixed-use development: putting tourism businesses on the first floor and apartments for industry workers above. It gives people a reason to visit—and live—downtown again.”

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Recently Completed and Upcoming Projects

Construction projects are taking place all over Southeast from city-funded facilities to Department of Transportation (DOT) improvements to clean-up projects led by the US Army Corps of Engineers—Alaska District. Following is a list of some of the more recently finished projects, as well as current builds and plans for the future in amounts totaling $1 million or more.


The Department of Transportation, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, is continuing work on the Haines Highway project, upgrading it to current standards from Milepost (MP) 3.9 to 25, which includes realigning, widening, and straightening portions of the roadway. The roughly $40 million project is expected to last until 2024. SECON is currently widening the roadway between MP 3.9 and 12.2, which is expected to be completed by July 2019.

“In the past year, there have been a number of good-sized projects completed, including expansion projects at Kensington Mine and Greens Creek Mine. Right now it looks like 2019 will remain steady, and there might even be some bigger projects put out to bid.”

—John MacKinnon, Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska

Another large project, the $12.8 million Portage Cove Harbor Expansion, was completed in June 2018 by contractor Pacific Pile & Marine. PND Engineers was the engineering firm. The project included harbor basin dredging works, a steel pile supported wave barrier, moorage pile replacement, and upland parking area works. During the dredging portion of the project, approximately 130,000 cubic yards of marine sediment was removed from seven acres below the Mean High Water mark to provide sufficient water depth at all tidal ranges.


A number of projects were recently completed in Juneau, including the $1 million Eagles Edge Subdivision water and street improvements with Enco Alaska as the general contractor; the third phase of the Seawalk from the Juneau-Douglas Bridge to Gold Creek ($11.8 million) by Admiralty Construction; the $1.5 million downtown street improvements Phase 1 project by Arete Construction Corporation; Aspen Avenue reconstruction ($1.5 million) by SECON; and West Douglas Pioneer Road ($1.7 million) by Enco Alaska.

“A new Snow Removal Equipment Building was also completed this past year at the airport, courtesy of the FAA,” says MacKinnon, “and the airport recently got a grant to build a sand storage building.” The FAA picked up roughly 93 percent of the cost of the Snow Removal Equipment Building, with state and local funds paying the rest. F&W Construction was the contractor.

Projects currently underway include a $16.5 million biosolids dryer, with Dawson Construction overseeing the demolition of the existing Activated Bio-filter building and construction of a new, 18,734-gross-square-foot, metal-clad building on top of the existing foundation.

Coogan Construction will be continuing work on the $3.9 million Pederson Hill Subdivision construction, a new residential subdivision in the Mendenhall Valley, and CBC Contractors will be completing Phase 2 of the $1.8 million downtown street improvement project, which includes replacing storm drains, sanitary sewers, and domestic water systems.

Also on the agenda is the $1.2 million Birch Lane street construction project, awarded to Admiralty Construction, which will include pavement and drainage improvements. Phase III of the Aurora Harbor project will also begin this spring and is budgeted at $7 million.

According to Michael Vigue, director of Engineering and Public Works for the City and Borough of Juneau, a few projects will be advertised for bids and under construction in the 2019 season: the $2.5 million Columbia and Poplar Street reconstruction; the $2.5 million Douglas Highway water system replacement; and $2.5 million of infrastructure improvements at the Juneau Douglas Treatment Plant. The City and Borough is also planning a $2 million equipment de-muck and wash facility.


Ongoing DOT projects in Ketchikan include the $20 million Shelter Cove Road construction project, which includes the construction of 7.26 miles of new 14-foot wide, single lane gravel road along the northern end of George Inlet. The project includes the installation of more than 200 culverts, of which seven are for fish passage, and placing a gravel surface course. The $13 million Front Mill & Steadman reconstruction is also continuing, as is the $23 million Water Street Bridge #1 replacement.

City-funded projects include a $1.5 million HVAC and fire sprinkler remodel at the Tongass Heritage Museum; $1.5 million HVAC remodel at City Hall; and construction of a $1.4 million solid waste equipment facility.

Upcoming projects include the $9 million Waterfall bridge project, which would include replacing the first and second Waterfall Creek bridges to meet current design standards. According to Kara Jurczak, PE, senior project engineer for the city of Ketchikan, work is also underway to secure loans for Phase 1 of the Schoenbar Road reconstruction, which is budgeted at $6.5 million, and the $2.7 million Ketchikan Lake Road reconstruction.


In July 2017, Petersburg dedicated its newly-remodeled municipal building and police station. MCG Constructors/DCI Joint Ventures was the contractor on the project, which was completed in two phases. The construction cost around $6.6 million, with the overall project price tag hovering around $10 million. The work was funded by a combination of state grants, proceeds from land sales, and the municipality. The renovated building houses the Borough’s administration and finance offices along with an expanded police station.

Prince of Wales Island

In July 2018, Southeast Road Builders finished the $1.4 million expansion of a parking lot for the inter-island ferry in Hollis.

“We share the parking lot with the Alaska state floatplane dock, and it was already undersized for the [Inter-Island Ferry Authority] alone,” explains Dennis Watson, general manager of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority. “The project entailed clearing a wooded area, excavating, refilling, and paving, and also included new lighting and re-striping of the lot. There were also modifications made to the ramp to get on to the ferry.”

An excavator filling a nine-cubic-yard bulk bag with diesel-contaminated soil, part of the Yakutat Formally Used Defense Site, near Yakutat. The Ankau Slough Bridge is visible in the background.

©Jake Sweet | USACE

Haida Energy is continuing its construction of the $22 million hydroelectric project on Reynolds Creek, located 10 miles east of Hydaburg. The system includes a diversion structure, a 3,200-foot penstock with a drop of 750 vertical feet, a powerhouse, and 12 miles of 34 kilovolt transmission line. The Reynolds Creek project will be connected to the existing grid to serve the communities of Craig, Klawock, Hollis, Hydaburg, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, and Coffman Cove, with a future intertie connection to Naukati Bay.

Premium Aquatics has plans for a multi-phase project, which would begin operations in 2019. “The first phase is a 100-acre kelp farm and the first two years are projected at $2 million, which includes capital and operating costs,” says Markos Scheer, CEO and general counsel. “I should add that there isn’t a ‘facility,’ per se, being constructed yet. These are farming assets, such as boats and anchoring systems.”

The second phase of the project will be a shellfish operation, with a $6 million capitalization, which also includes capital and operating expenditures. The plan is to bring that online in 2020.


In Sitka, the US Army Corps of Engineers—Alaska District is working on a $4 million Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) environmental cleanup project at Fort Rousseau. According to Lisa Geist, chief of environmental engineering, removal action was completed during the 2018 field season, which included removal of contaminated soil and an eroding landfill on Virublennoi Island. The project is now in the reporting stage.

A project at Fort Babcock on Kruzof Island (west of Sitka Sound) is now in the feasibility study phase, with the Corps evaluating alternatives to address PCB-contaminated soils. The plan is expected to be put into place in 2020 with contracting taking place in 2021. Fort Pierce on Biorka Island is also in line for a future site inspection and remedial investigation to determine what Department of Defense contamination needs to be addressed.


In late October, construction of an almost $1.3 million redwood water tank was completed in Skagway. According to Heather Rodig, Borough treasurer for the Municipality, the construction of the new 200,000 gallon tank will increase storage capacity to meet periods of high demand.

Skagway will also be starting a $1.8 million sewer upgrade project, which will take place in two phases. The State Street sanitary sewer upgrades project will replace existing sewer mains and manholes and install new sanitary sewer services to reduce inflow and infiltration due to aging infrastructure. The first phase of the project is estimated to be completed in summer 2019; Phase II will be done in conjunction with an Alaska DOT project and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020.


Each year, the City and Borough of Wrangell develops a long-term Capital Improvements Priority list. This year’s list, approved by the Borough assembly, includes the following top priority projects: $13 million in water treatment plant improvements; $2 million in pool facility improvements; $2.6 million water main distribution system replacement, Phase II (Zimovia Highway); $1 million Ash/Lemiux water main replacement; $2.7 million Community Center life and safety upgrades, Phase II; $4.2 million in Wrangell boat yard improvements; and a $2.7 million backup diesel generation project.

“Juneau has a brewpub and is planning another, and there’s a distillery in the old AEL&P building on Second and Franklin Streets. Investors are also putting money into mixed-use development; putting tourism businesses on the first floor and apartments for industry workers above. It gives people a reason to visit—and live—downtown again.”

—John MacKinnon, Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Alaska


The Corps is addressing multiple sites in Yakutat and in 2017 awarded a $4 million contract to Bristol Environmental Remediation Services to remove petroleum-contaminated soil in the area. That project is now in the reporting phase. A debris removal project valued at $1.5 million over two years is also taking place in Yakutat as part of the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP).

“NALEMP, which operates out of the office of the Secretary of Defense, provides funding for tribes to clean up [Department of Defense] impacts,” says Andrea Elconin, Alaska NALEMP program manager. “We have entered into a cooperative agreement with the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe to remove debris at several different sites using their equipment. It’s similar to the FUDS program, but has a smaller funding pot with the money going directly to tribes.”

NALEMP also has a cooperative agreement with the Metlakatla Indian Community for contaminated soil removal on Annette Island.

Alaska Business magazine October 2023 cover
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