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8/9/2019
Public comment period extended: Army Corps taking public input on Ward Cove dock project until Sept. 19

By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has extended the public comment period on a proposed cruise ship dock project in Ward Cove until Sept. 19 at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Aug. 5, the EPA requested more time to submit comments because it was not immediately aware of the project. Information regarding the permit from the Corps was sent to a defunct EPA email, according to EPA spokesperson Bill Dunbar.

Dunbar says that when complete, the EPA's review and comments on the Ward Cove project will be public.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Estrella Campellone said she's received about 50 comments since public comment opened July 19. Campellone has yet to hear from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough or the City of Ketchikan, but she said she expects to.

Earlier this summer, The Ward Cove Dock Group applied for a Corps permit to construct a 500-foot by 70-foot floating pontoon dock in Ward Cove. The group wants to be able to berth large cruise ships and turn some of the old Ketchikan Pulp Company mill site into a welcoming center and eventual tourist destination.  

A representative of the Ward Cove Group, Stephen Bradford, said he doesn't think the extension of the public comment period will affect construction timelines.

Bradford said in earlier interviews that construction would begin in late November or early December, with the dock and first phase of the welcoming center to completed by July 1.

Bradford said that the EPA has been very busy with other projects and the extension was not a surprise.

"They've issued documents (on the site) containing over 1,000 pages over the last 25 years," said Bradford. "They've got a lot of deep knowledge about the property and they have important input to provide."

The site of the proposed project is at the former Ketchikan Pulp Company pulp mill, and has been under EPA scrutiny for a period of years.  

Accoding to EPA information, the site has known soil contaminants such as lead, arsenic and petroleum hydrocarbons.

In 1980, the U.S. Congress established the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, abbreviated CERCLA and referred to as Superfund.

Superfund allows for EPA clean-up at sites contaminated by hazardous wastes that pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Although the Ketchikan Pup Company mill site technically is not classified as a Superfund site, the EPA treats it like one, according to EPA spokesperson Bill Dunbar.

"It's not a dog, but it barks and pants when it gets hot, and has four legs," said Dunbar.

As part of the CERCLA clean-up process, representatives from the EPA visited the site of the former Ketchikan Pulp Mill on July 25, as part of a five-year review. This is the EPA's fourth five-year review of the area, according to a public notice by the EPA.

Bradford says the Ward Cove Group doesn't anticipate any problems coming out of the five-year review.

"We also think it will be helpful," said Bradford, "And ultimately in our favor."

Bradford continued, "With oversight from the EPA the Ward Cove area is being transformed from a former industrial site to a clean, vibrant and productive part of the community."