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New public dock open for business in Chignik Bay

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Lake and Peninsula Borough
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Lake and Peninsula Borough staff and assembly cut ribbon on long-awaited waterfront improvement as M/V Tustumena makes landing Thursday during its overdue first run of the season.

A few months later than expected, Lake and Peninsula staff and assembly gathered with community members in Chignik Bay on Thursday, Aug. 24, to cut a ribbon on the new multi-community public dock.

To get there, many came overnight on the M/V Tustumena from Kodiak, pulling in as the ferry made its first stop at the new dock on its first run of the summer.

“It seems like the captain of the ferry was happy with the dock facility, and the energy of the folks on and off the dock, and on and off the Tustumena, was high,” said borough manager Nathan Hill a little after the ceremony. “People seemed pretty happy to have the ferry back in action, the landing went smoothly, and we had a pretty good reception here in Chignik.”

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Credit City of Chignik Bay
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The M/V Tustumena docked in Chignik on August 24, its first time to tie up to the newly christened dock. The $11 million project was finished this spring, which proved more than enough time for the ferry that ran three months late.

Several years ago the state said it would end its marine highway service to Chignik Bay, which serves the three Chigniks, Perryville and other nearby communities, if the dock did not get repaired or replaced. The Tusty had been tying up to an old Trident Seafoods dock that was badly in need of repairs. The borough made building a new one its top capital improvement investment priority, rather than funding the ongoing repairs and costly insurance needed for the ferry to use Trident’s dock.

Construction went out to bid last fall and work was carried out through the winter. Hill said the dock is complete, but is pretty “bare bones” at the moment.

“It accommodates the ferry, and that was the goal for the State of Alaska,” he said.

Hill anticipates seeing container van storage built on the uplands, adding a crane that can handle freight, and more work done on the water, electric, and fuel lines to the dock.

“Right now we have a great piece of infrastructure, but there is definitely room to expand.”

The Tustumena, which itself is scheduled to be replaced, was at least three months late running its route this year. It was held up in a Ketchikan shipyard for repairs, what residents say was a costly but all-too-common delay.

“Around, I think it was 2013, we started seeing more and more delays. What used to be a May travel to the Chigniks has now turned in to June or July,” then-mayor Alana Anderson said in April. “It’s really put a hardship on all the families that are coming back into the remote areas here in Chignik and along the Chain.”

The Lake and Peninsula Borough had originally planned their ferry trip and ribbon cutting for late May then early June as the delays mounted.

Aside from transportation, the Chigniks and the Lake and Peninsula Borough are hopeful the new dock will spur additional economic activity in the remote area, likely around the year-round fisheries or extracting resources like gravel or maybe even coal again.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.

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Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough
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Arriving at the new Chignik dock on the M/V Tustumena on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017.

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Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough
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The Tusty at the dock, viewed from a distance.

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Credit City of Chignik Bay
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It was a drizzly day as folks gathered to cut the ribbon the Chignik Dock.

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Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough
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Nathan Hill, from Kokhanok, looking no worse for the wear after an overnight trip on the ferry Tustamena. Hill is the Lake and Pen Borough manager, and traveled in for the ribbon cutting on Aug. 24.

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Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough
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Lake and Pen Mayor Glen Alsworth, Sr. presented awards to Dick Sharpe, JJ Orloff, and Aloys Kopun in Chigik Bay on Aug. 24.

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Credit City of Chignik Bay
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A potluck get together after the ribbon cutting in Chignik Bay. Aug. 24, 2017.