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It’s a big week for Ketchikan.
For one, the week started with 1.12 inches of precipitation recorded Sunday at the Ketchikan International Airport — the most rainfall in one day since April 22.
Although 1.12 inches isn’t a soaking deluge, every bit helps to alleviate the drought conditions that Ketchikan has been experiencing.
The precipitation has been accompanied by a steady southeast wind that helped propel the top finishers of Race to Alaska to the finish line Monday afternoon. Our congratulations go to Team Angry Beaver-Skiff Sailing Foundation, which beat Team Pear Shape Racing to Ketchikan’s Thomas Basin after 710 miles of racing. We continue to wish the remaining vessels a swift and safe completion of their voyages.
The first and second place R2AK finishers were 34 feet and 40 feet in length, respectively. That’s obviously a lot smaller than the cruise ships filling our downtown berths of late. Cruise lines are building bigger ships these days, which has raised City of Ketchikan interest in building more berth space to help accommodate these vessels. It would a significant endeavor, and the Ketchikan City Council has hired a consultant to help with the decision-making process. That consultant, Bermello Ajamil and Partners, was scheduled to make a presentation on Tuesday regarding a potential request for proposals from entities that have an interest in partnering with the city on berth and upland improvements. However, the special City Council meeting that had been set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center was canceled by the city early Monday afternoon.
On Monday evening, it was announced that a new cruise dock was going to be built at the former Ketchikan Pulp Co. mill site at Ward Cove.
A new company, Ward Cove Dock Group, created by entities owned by David Spokely and Andrew Spokely of Ketchikan (50%) and the Binkley family of Fairbanks (50%) said it is partnering with Norwegian Cruise Line for “The Mill at Ward Cove” development. According to Monday’s announcement, NCL anticipates having visitors at the new dock next year.
Increasing numbers of visitors — about 1.2 million cruise ship passengers are expected to arrive in Ketchikan during the 2019 season — continues to boost the local visitor-based economic sector. The expansion in numbers has prompted interest in expanding visitor-related businesses into new areas.
On Tuesday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Planning Commission will be considering a rezone request near the Clam Cove area of southeast Gravina Island related to visitor-industry use. The five-acre parcel is now designated as rural residential with a cottage industry overlay, and the owner has requested that it be rezoned as general commercial to accommodate an existing tour business that now operates from a site on Revillagigedo Island.
The Borough Planning Department is recommending against the proposed rezone, but has developed a larger “planned unit development” rezone encompassing 240 acres in the Clam Cove area. According to agenda materials, much of the PUD would allow for commercial use than does the existing zonings in the area — in addition to appearing to “satisfy the needs of the property owner for tourism.”
This is indeed a big, interesting week for Ketchikan, a week with effects that could be far-reaching and long-lasting.