Kodiak’s St. Herman Harbor Prepares for $60M Upgrade

An aerial view of piling that fell over in winter 2023 at the Port of Kodiak’s St. Herman Harbor.

Extensive plans to renovate St. Herman Harbor in Kodiak, Alaska are in the works, with construction on the estimated $60 million project tentatively set to begin in the summer of 2027.

“St. Herman Harbor will not see this type of renovation again in my lifetime, so we want to do everything possible to get it right,” said Dave Johnson, a veteran U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilot who took on the post of harbormaster at Kodiak in 2002.

“Spending the money up front to make sure we get the harbor we need is critical,” Johnson said, in responses to questions following his update on the project at the ComFish Alaska 2024 trade show held in Kodiak in April.

For example, he explained, it would cost an additional $100,000 to add a few inches of width to the floats so a skid steer can perform snow removal. If the harbor saved three labor hours of snow removal per snow event, he said, spending for the additional width would pay for itself in 14 years. In addition, the harbor would see savings of $384,000 over the next 40 years.

With Kodiak fishing vessels participating in fisheries year-round, the harbor needs to provide year-round services to those users, Johnson said.

“Smart pedestals will eliminate the stray current issues plaguing the harbor and save 5% to 15% in electric bills for our customers,” he remarked. “These are all examples of upfront costs that will decrease the lifecycle cost of the project.”

The overall project itself faces no shortage of challenges, Johnson said.

“Outside of raising the funds for the project, the environmental challenges will be there as well. Our intent is to work with whoever gets the contract to construct the floats off-site and then barged in. This will allow us to make maximum use of the weather windows we get to construct the harbor and hopefully get the project completed over the course of two to three summers.”

Climate Concerns

Changing ocean conditions and other climate concerns are figuring heavily in the project.

“Everything is connected,” Johnson said. “We know the fisheries are changing before our eyes and we know that we don’t know what the fleet of the future is going to look like. Coincidentally St. Herman Harbor was originally constructed at a time Kodiak was going through a major transition in our fisheries, so I have relied heavily on the lessons learned in the original effort to shape our strategy this time around.”

Should the fleet of the future be larger and wider, the port will have to adapt, perhaps converting floats to linear moorage in the future, he said. One change port officials are already looking at is a full float of 32 feet Baymax slips.

“These vessels have gotten so wide they are difficult to accommodate in our existing sips for vessels of that length, so designing space specifically for their added beam will help with finding them all homes in the harbor,” he explained.

As of late April, the port had selected Anchorage-based Turnagain Marine for the environmental phase of the project, and has subcontracted with several companies, including Solstice Consulting and Transpac Marinas, to help with that effort.

Hopes are to use local and state money to raise the 20% match required against federal funds to see the project through, but Johnson said they may have to look at different bond solutions to ensure the upfront capital exists to keep the project moving.

The current vessel capacity of St. Herman Harbor is 408 slips, with about 24 of them out of service due to broken components.

“Because we haven’t settled on a design there isn’t an exact number of slips in the projected re-design, but we estimate at least three new floats with 20-36 vessel capacity will be included in the final design,” he said.

Current amenities include power at all berths above 24 feet, and water available, although not year-round. Blackwater (sewage) pump out is not available on the floats.

Johnson said it is too early to say what new amenities will be added. The Kodiak City Council has approved a change of policy to allow for live-aboard vessels in a limited fashion, which will drive the requirement for some additional amenities. 

“We are currently exploring myriad options to generate additional revenue for the harbor that does not take the form of additional fees for our users, he said.

Options under consideration include a passenger head tax and upland development.