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Harbor to nowhere: Stimulus-funded Alaska harbor project without road access

Samantha Schroeder
Contributor

In what seems like a reprisal of the “Bridge to Nowhere” fiasco, Alaska’s federally funded small-boat harbor in the village of Akutan is completed — but there is no road to get there.

As reported by the KUCB, Akutan — an Aleutians community with a new but unused airport on another island — now has a harbor without direct road access to the town two miles away. Construction of a connecting road is still a few years away from beginning, KUCB reported.

The harbor is “just a big hole in the ground,” the community television station wrote. The harbor construction began under the Army Corps of Engineers with $29 million in federal stimulus money, in full light of the fact that the connecting road was not on the near horizon.

Despite its inaccessibility, Akutan boasts a “very beautiful harbor,” Mayor Joe Bereskin told The Daily Caller.

“We’ve been talking about this harbor for over 20 years,” he said. Bereskin revealed that there are a couple of other harbors in Alaska that are not yet complete.

As for the mismatched harbor completion and accessibility, Bereskin explained that it is just a “timing thing.”

One of the major hold-ups on construction? Sea otters. Before construction could begin, the Akutan Corporation had to assess the wildlife and ecology of the land, taking into consideration how the construction would affect animal species, including sea otters and sea lions.

In spite of the relative uselessness of the harbor, Mayor Bereskin remains optimistic on the construction timeline.

“I don’t think there will be such a big impact because its such a new harbor,” Bereskin said. The construction of an Alaskan harbor in virtual isolation from a town is “not uncommon.”

However, Steve Boardman — head of the Army Corps of Engineers’ civil projects division — said that the transportation situation is “not normal.”

“It has prevented the construction of harbors in the past, when that supporting infrastructure is not there,” Boardman told KUCB.

Boardman says the Corps made an exception in this case because of the harbor’s strategic importance.

“Akutan is one of the major ports,” Boardman said, “and I use the word port kind of liberally, because there was no port structure there until now — and Trident Seafoods is the largest seafood processor in the Aleutians. So you have this very large fleet, handling very large fisheries, and there was no facilities for them.”

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