Port to spend nearly $100,000 to upgrade dock, lure business
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is joining in the chase for federal economic stimulus funds. Commissioners unanimously authorized spending $98,500 to help shore up a dock that could one day be used to lure additional business to the port. The fu...
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority is joining in the chase for federal economic stimulus funds.
Commissioners unanimously authorized spending $98,500 to help shore up a dock that could one day be used to lure additional business to the port. The funds approved Thursday will be used to hire AMI Consulting Engineers, which will develop a plan to fix the port's eroding Garfield D Dock. The Duluth firm will draw up plans and bid specifications that could be used to procure federal dollars for the project.
"We will rule ourselves out if our plan is not shovel-ready," said Commissioner Tom Clure, stressing the need to have detailed plans in hand before seeking federal funding.
In order to make a successful run at available federal stimulus money, Robert Maki, the authority's legal counsel, advised commissioners that they must be prepared to accept bids and let a contract within 30 days of funds being allocated for the project.
Chad Scott, an engineer and principal partner of AMI, estimated the total project cost could be in the neighborhood of $7.5 million.
As is, Garfield D is not a viable dock, according to Adolph Ojard, executive director of the port authority. The dock face has crumbled and collapsed into the water in places. The project would involve installing new sheet piling and proper infill. It would also require extensive dredging to restore the slip to seaway depth.
Ojard said the port authority has had several discussions with Essar Steel, an Indian company that recently began construction on a facility to produce slab steel near Nashwauk. Duluth could one day be handling 1.5 million tons of slab steel in addition to the iron ore pellets it already handles, potentially doubling the port authority's annual revenues, Ojard said.
Duluth is out of dock capacity to accommodate any substantial new business at present, he said. Restoring Garfield to a usable state could also open the way for a terminal handling clays used to produce coated papers. Ojard said it may even prove a suitable site for shipping container traffic, should containerized cargo begin to move on the Great Lakes.
Not all port authority commissioners were immediately sold on the idea of hiring engineers to develop plans, however.
"It's not clear to me that this is something we should support," said Commissioner Lowell Hellervik, suggesting that the dock could sit around for years without a solid plan in place for its future use.
Ultimately, Hellervik voted in support of the engineering work at Garfield D, but only after receiving assurances that port authority staff would develop and present a detailed marketing plan shortly.