It’s great to see that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration has submitted it plans for renovating the dock area at its Stedman Street site to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations is seeking the requisite permit from the Corps of Engineers, which issued the formal Public Notice of Application for Permit on Oct. 27. The public comment period concludes on Nov. 26.

In short, the NOAA project envisions removing the existing wooden-access trestle, utility trestle and supporting piles; three concrete-filled steel mooring dolphins; and the main pier structure and its supporting piles, according to the permit notice.

It would replace this with a 240-foot long by 50-foot wide floating pier, a 140-foot long by 17-foot wide steel transfer bridge, a 24-foot by 22-foot bridge support float, an 86-foot long by 14-foot wide small boat dock connected to the pier by a 30-foot long aluminum gangway, and a 200-foot long by 70-foot wide small boat launch ramp.

The 39-page public notice contains detailed drawings of the plan, developed by Ahtna Infrastructure and Technologies.

The goal of this $18.77 million project is to have Ketchikan serve as the home port for the NOAA research vessel Fairweather, as envisioned by the late Sen. Ted Stevens in 2002.

Unfortunately, the dock at the Stedman Street facility obtained by NOAA for the ship was condemned in 2008. It took more than a dozen years of extraordinary, constant effort by local government officials, Ketchikan’s representatives in the state Senate and House, and the Alaska congressional delegation to create the circumstances whereby a renovation project was funded and NOAA committed to relocating the Fairweather back to Ketchikan.

The Army Corps of Engineers permit process is the next major step. We’re not engineers, but the plans that were submitted in support of the project suggest a quality facility that can accommodate vessels for many years to come.

Continued progress on this project is good news for Ketchikan, and we’re excited to see it.