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6/11/2019
Cruise dock at Ward Cove

By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer

Amidst Ketchikan City Council discussions to expand the downtown berths, the Ward Cove Dock Group on Monday evening announced a plan to build a t-shaped dock with Norwegian Cruise Line at the former pulp mill site in Ward Cove.

The two-berth dock would be built to accommodate the largest sizes of cruise ships — including NCL's Breakaway Plus Class ships, the Norwegian Joy and Bliss, according to Ward Cove Dock Group information. Construction would begin in late fall, depending on the permitting process. NCL wants to bring its first cruise ship passengers to the dock by summer 2020.

The Ward Cove Dock Group was formed on June 5, according to state information. Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, owned by Andrew and Dave Spokely, has a 50% ownership stake in the Ward Cove Dock Group.

The other half of the new company is owned by Godspeed Inc. which is owned by Skip, James and John Binkley. Ryan Binkley serves as president. John Binkley — who is the president of Cruise Line International Association Alaska — is vice president of Godspeed, according to state information.

Trevor Shaw, administrative manager and director of government affairs for Power Systems & Supplies of Alaska, said Monday evening that phase one of the project would be $50 million. This includes a welcoming center and passenger terminal. Shaw said he did not have cost estimates for the rest of the project.

Shaw said that Ward Cove Dock Group would own the dock, and NCL would contribute to some of construction costs in exchange for "preferential berthing rights to be able to use the dock in a long-term scenario."

He said currently NCL is the only cruise line they've had conversations with, "but certainly it will expand from there," after phases of the project are completed.

The Spokleys purchased the site from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough in 2011, according to the announcement.

Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska would retain ownership of all of the land and the tidelands, Shaw said.

“The land use is done through a lease to Ward Cove Dock Group from Power Systems and Supplies,” he said.

In Monday's prepared statment, Dave Spokely said "A cruise ship dock at Ward Cove represents the best opportunity to grow the tourism economy of Ketchikan, while not overcrowding the downtown area. If we want the entire community of Ketchikan to grow, we need to spread out our visitors."

Shaw said that there is no intention to tear down the existing mill. According to the announcement, the new company hopes to have local vendors on the site and local tours leaving from Ward Cove.

"By creating 'The Mill at Ward Cove,' we will be highlighting and preserving an important part of Ketchikan's history," Dave Spokely said. "This is an important first step in fulfilling the intent to repurpose and revitalize the former industrial site for the benefit of our community."

Shaw said some of the permits for this process have already been filed. He said conversations about this project started around the turn of the new year.

Godspeed President ryan Binkly said the company is excited to partner with the Spokley family.

“They have a great vision for the potential at Ward Cove and a deep belief in growing Ketchikan's economy,” Binkley said in the prepared statement.

At about 1:50 p.m. Monday, the city announced that it had canceled a special Ketchikan City Council meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday evening.

The purpose of that meeting was to hear from its port configuration representatives, Bermello Ajamil & Partners, about the next step in the expansion process. This would have included the steps to solicit proposals from the cruise ship industry for port expansion and upland improvements.

While Assistant City Manager Lacey Simpson could not say why the meeting was canceled, she did say that it was due to "factors beyond the city's control at this point."

City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen said he couldn't comment on the meeting cancelation until a meeting with city and KPU Manager Karly Amylon on Tuesday. But Sivertsen did say, "I think there are some issues that have come up that (Amylon) felt was premature to go there."

Sivertsen said another meeting would be rescheduled.

"We still have work to do, there's no doubt about that,"  he said.

Shaw said Ward Group Dock Grup representatives would meet with Sivertsen and Amylon on Tuesday to further discuss the project. Shaw said initial conversations and feedback from the city have been positive.

"They do seem supportive in initial conversations,” Shaw said. “Especially with all the various parities coming from the standpoint of we all live in this community together, this is our home, this is where we work live and play and how do we make things better for everyone while being able to capitalize on the growth of tourism and investment that is in our local economy."

He brought up the issue of congestion at the berths downtown.

 "This seems like a relief to the problems as they currently exist," he said.

The next step is planning construction for the uplands. Shaw said Power Systems and Supplies of Alaska will meet with some potential contractors regarding the first phase of construction later this week.

"No matter where passengers get off," said Shaw, "whether it's downtown or in Ward Cove, downtown is still a destination as a whole."