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Fraser Shipyard seeks state grant for upgrade

Fraser Shipyard is making plans for the third phase of its facility modernization plan, and the city of Superior is hoping to lend a hand.

The Superior City Council last week approved a resolution to apply for a grant through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Harbor Assistance Program. The $2.9 million grant would cover 80 percent of the proposed $3.6 million project to extend the existing sheet-pile dock wall at Fraser, which would allow ships to more readily access the berthing area.

"We have been asked on behalf of Fraser Shipyards to submit an application," said Jason Serck, planning, economic development and port director.

Serck said the city should find out in March if the project is awarded grant funding.

If successful, it would be the second grant awarded by the state. Phase 1, which consisted of repairing 856 feet of dock wall, installing a newly coated pit and filling in an existing dry, received $4.7 million in state funding.

The second phase of the project was awarded $2 million in federal funding through the offices of former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey and Sen. Herb Kohl.

The second phase should be completed shortly, Serck said.

The third phase is part of a $10 million, three-phase plan to expand the 123-year-old shipyard.

"We have to update in order to accommodate," said Tom Curelli of Fraser Shipyard.

Curelli said the shipyard was originally built to handle much smaller vessels than today's 700- to 800-foot average ship, and the project is needed to ensure the shipyard's viability into the future.

With 10 vessels in the port this year, Curelli said the berthing area for those ships is virtually exhausted. He said Phase Three will help establish 2,000 linear feet of dockage.

"If we squeeze it just right, we can get three vessels in there," Curelli said.

"Each vessel in there can be up to 15,000 to 20,000 man hours of work, and we use this to sustain us," Curelli said. "It's a lot of hours of employment and a lot of revenue comes in.

"The yard's been there for 123 years. We want it to stay there another 123 years."