Cordova City Council considers harbor changes

The Cordova City Council discussed and voted on several agenda items related to harbor infrastructure at the body’s regular meeting on June 7, including voting against an ordinance to enter a lease with the United States Forest Service (USFS) for property in the Tidewater Development Park, and passing a resolution to allow Camtu’s Alaska Wild Seafoods to excavate tidelands for a new dock facility.

An ordinance that would authorize the city manager to enter into a 20-year lease with the USFS for a portion of property in the Tidewater Development Park failed by a close vote of 3-2. This roughly 4,500-square foot area is commonly known as the Forest Service dock in the North Harbor. The dock has a private gated entrance below a USFS shop building.

The renewal of the lease comes at a time when the harbor is undergoing redesign as part of a larger comprehensive plan.

Steve Nimitz, district ranger for the USFS, spoke in support of the renewal.

“It’s valuable to have a diverse group in the harbor,” he told council members during public testimony.

Discussion amongst the council included arguments that the city is in need of the lease money for the many projects they have planned in the harbor. Council member Kristen Carpenter spoke to the timeliness and importance of partnerships while raising funds.


Council member Ken Jones, who is also a member of the Cordova Harbor Commission, pushed back on the lease renewal citing the complications he felt might come about as a result of a 20-year lease being renewed while so much else in the harbor is changing.

“This is blocking future development,” Jones told the council.

As this was the second reading of the ordinance, four votes were needed to pass. Council members Jones and Kasey Kinsman were in opposition. Council member Anne Shafer and council member Melina Myer were absent. The council stated they would like to see the issue come up for discussion again in the near future.

The other hot-button issue takes place on the other side of the harbor near the breakwater trail, for which Camtu’s Alaska Wild Seafoods submitted a proposal that will change the infrastructure around the South Fill lot.

Camtu’s currently does not have an oceanfront dock to take fish deliveries. The company has been using the public loading dock located in the North Harbor for its offloading activities.

The proposed dock in the South Fill area would provide a place for tender vessels and fishermen to tie up and unload directly to the processing facility. In order to build the dock, part of the tideland will need to be dredged to allow for a navigable channel.

Camtu’s plans to begin the permitting process for the project through the Army Corps of Engineers requires a letter of support from the local government. 

Local businessman John Harvill spoke in support of the resolution. Harvill argued that an accessible dock will reduce operating costs for Camtu’s, and that this value will be passed onto fishermen and therefore the community overall.

Several members of the Cordova Audubon Society spoke against the resolution and raised issues over the degradation of wetland habitat. Of primary concern for those who spoke against it was the need for habitat for migrating bird species who visit the region, some of which are worldwide species of concern.

The resolution carried 4-1, with council member Carpenter voting against it.