Cordova’s South Harbor Photo courtesy of Cordova Port and Harbor

Long overdue renovation of Cordova’s south harbor begins this fall, with a schedule that sets completion of the $40 million project in the spring of 2024.

The project is under contract with Turnagain Marine Construction, an Anchorage firm that specializes in heavy civil marine construction, said Tony Schinella, who has served as harbormaster at Cordova for about a decade.

“We are definitely excited,” said Schinella. “We’re well overdue for a facelift. The existing docks have been there about 40 years.”

The revamp, initially expected to cost about $30 million, is now projected at $40 million — what with increasing costs that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. The project is being funded through a $20 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant, a $1 million federal Clean Water loan, $5 million from the state, several million dollars from the City of Cordova, a legislative grant, and $1.8 million from the harbor’s savings account, Schinella said. He didn’t specify the amount of the funding received from the city or the legislative grant.

Once work gets underway on Sept. 15, it will continue through the winter, with a completion target date of April 15, 2024, he said.

The project agreement calls for use of all freshly treated lumber instead of the existing concrete, which will go to the city landfill.


Some of the floats for 30- to 40-foot boats, used mostly for commercial fishing, are to be lengthened, and there will be all brand new electrical and potable water systems, plus lighting that is compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The current light fixtures on the south harbor are deteriorating fast, Schinella said.

The hardest part, he said, will be the weather and how to accommodate all the vessels at the current south harbor during the construction phase.

“Quite a few will have to be hauled out,” said Schinella.

Cathy Renfeldt, the executive director of the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, said the overall economic benefit of the facelift will depend in part on the number of people hired locally to work on the project.

“Everyone agrees that our harbor is important to the economic viability and life in Cordova,” she said.

Every time contractors come to Cordova to work, Renfeldt said local leaders encourage them to collaborate to find ways to contract with local companies — because there is a lot of local knowledge that can be valuable.

“For example, if people are going to be digging some trenches, we always recommend that they get in touch with folks in town who do that sort of work,” she said. “They would know where other such work is being done, so they can co-locate.”

Renfeldt said there are various options to include more employment for locals on the project.

“We also have welders and fabricators, so we can possibly help them fabricate parts they need, rather than order out of town. We have a robust commercial fishing industry, so it stands to reason that those skills go beyond maritime (uses),” she said. “And if they are coming in from out of town, they will be looking for housing and food, and that will have an economic impact.”

Renfeldt noted the facelift for the south harbor will mean improvements in the safety of just walking around that area. There are no established sidewalks there now, and new ones to be built will offer more pedestrian safety, she said.

With the amount of mooring space increasing, more boats will be able to homeport, and that will hopefully increase the number of deliveries of seafood to Cordova rather than Valdez, she said. There will also be more space for transient boats — including charter and subsistence and leisure boats — whose operators want to spend more time in town or simply come to Cordova for vacation or subsistence fishing, she said. The city is putting in grant applications for that right now, she said.

That second project will address storm water flow — where on roadways gas, oil and antifreeze can be spilled from vehicles, washed from roadbeds into storm drains, and end up in the watershed.

Renfeldt said she is also excited about expansion of commercial fisheries.

“We have a great commercial fishing industry here, but there is also a shoulder season for fishing for tanner crab and spotted prawns and there is mariculture like kelp and oysters,” she said. “Expanding the harbor will provide more opportunities for these as well.”