Vessels moored in Cordova’s North Harbor in August 2023. Photo by Kinsey Brown for The Cordova Times

Reconstruction of the Cordova Harbor has been pushed back. 

That’s according to a City of Cordova public notice on Aug. 17 regarding the scheduled timeline of the South Harbor reconstruction project, which said restoration efforts will now begin on Oct. 6 after this summer’s preparation. The project was originally slated to begin in mid-September.  

The city says the reasoning behind the adjustment in schedule is to account for the complexity of moving vessels between the South and North harbors.  

The Cordova Harbor has a capacity to accommodate roughly 727 individual vessels, making it one of the largest harbors in the state. While many of the smaller bowpickers may be removed and stored on trailers over the winter, larger vessels will need in-water accommodations.  

Colin Bronson, special projects manager for the City of Cordova, said that determining vessel accommodations during construction has been a multi-layered challenge for the project.  

“We have a relatively small harbor basin in Cordova,” he said. “It’s potentially displacing roughly 500 boats so it’s obvious we can’t just slide everybody over. Hard decisions have to be made.”  


The South Harbor reconstruction plan has been discussed frequently at City Council and Harbor Commission meetings in recent months, as the original date of groundbreaking approaches. Back in June, the Cordova City Council voted against entering a lease with the U.S. Forest Service — which is a harbor-adjacent property. But at a later meeting in July, the council voted to renew the lease with the Forest Service.   

In order for the reconstruction project to begin, all vessels on those floats located in the South Harbor must be moved. For vessel owners this means either renting a stall in another harbor within the region, such as Valdez or Homer, or getting their vessel removed from the water during the construction period.  

In July, the city created a lottery-style drawing for vessels allowed to remain in the water — provided they move to the other side of the harbor during the winter construction. In the North Harbor, A float and the east side of B float will be reconfigured to accommodate the needed space.  

The eligibility for vessels to be drawn in the lottery was based on a variety of factors, including frequency of commercial activity, Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS) contract commitments and the vessel’s ability to be easily moved. Live aboard vessels and those that exceed shipyard lifting capacity were also prioritized. Applicants for available spaces who had outstanding harbor moorage fees were not eligible to participate.  

According to a list on the city’s website, there were 29 vessels that received the coveted slips made available in the North Harbor. For the other 40 vessels that were not drawn in the lottery, the city has made space available in the shipyard, waiving the trailer parking fee during the construction period.  

The shipyard went through major organizational efforts to prepare for the large amount of vessel haul outs, such as dismantling and disposing of dilapidated boats in the yard to make space. The F/V Hana Cove and F/V Wanderer were among the vessels scrapped. The shipyard’s boat lift had mechanical issues causing a disruption in service this past week and as of Aug. 29 the lift was still being repaired.  

In addition to the logistics of moving vessels, the city also states its final decision to delay the start date is a recognition that September is still a busy time of year for the largely commercial fleet moored within the South Harbor. Copper River coho salmon season typically remains open for gillnetting well into September and SERVS has yet to complete scheduled fall drills. A number of SERVS vessels are required to remain in the water at all times in order to respond to potential oil spills. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, which oversees the SERVS program, participated in several conversations with local officials. According to the city, these considerations prompted a renegotiation of the contract with builders to reflect a timeframe that it says is reflective of community needs.  

Bronson said that, despite the change in the construction’s original start date, he is still confident that the project will be completed on time. Because construction crews and materials are being shipped in to complete the new harbor, taking a phased approach would be cost prohibitive, according to Bronson.  

“Part of the challenge of this project is that we have an aggressive timeline in between fishing seasons,” he said. “The winter season is also a challenge for construction because you have only six hours of daylight on work.”  

Fabrication of the new docks for the South Harbor is being completed in Washington state and will be shipped to Cordova via barge. Demolition is scheduled to start a week after boats are removed from the South Harbor on Oct. 6, and officials say pile driving and construction will take place November through mid-winter. During the construction process residents should expect Nicholoff Way to be closed to traffic and no parking signage to be posted in that area.  

Bronson said he hopes that the community can be patient and understanding of the work the city and others are undertaking.  

“We’re trying to do a lot and in the end, this will be a much better harbor because of all the work and sacrifices everybody makes to make this a reality,” he said. 

Construction of the Cordova Harbor is slated to wrap up by April 30, 2024.