Comment now: Lutak Dock deadline September 7

Written by Aaron Brakel

September 1, 2023

The public comment period for the Lutak Dock project in Haines has been extended to Thursday, September 7. It’s not too late to comment on this highly impactful project!

In 2021, the Haines Borough was selected to receive $20 million in federal funding for the Lutak Dock Rebuild Project. At face value, the proposal is for a new freight dock intended to replace an aging cargo dock the City of Haines inherited from the U.S. Army, but a closer look at the design reveals the dock is instead sized for global standard ore shipping vessels. 

On August 4, the public was notified of a permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers for work at Lutak Dock. According to the application, the purpose of the project is “to maintain existing freight and cargo capacities at Lutak Dock so the Haines area has reliable, safe, and economical barge service for the foreseeable future.” 

But the new dock has not been designed to serve existing users. Plans confirm the dock is being constructed to handle 625’ Handymax ships, used by the mining industry for the transshipment of mineral concentrates. Handymax ships are more than double the size and capacity of the barges currently using the dock.  

Request an EIS for the Lutak Dock Project

SEACC has put together this easy tool to help you draft your comment on the Army Corps of Engineers permit application for the Lutak Dock.

The implications of a dock in Lutak Inlet capable of shipping ore are profound. With the $100 million Haines Highway project underway, the Lutak Dock would be the critical link in transforming the small community of Haines into an industrial corridor serving the tidewater access needs of foreign mining interests. It could also mean hundreds or thousands of ore trucks each year on the Haines Highway, crossing through the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, home to the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world, and driving through the residential streets of Haines. This project would provide an ore terminal for the Palmer Project, a proposed copper and zinc sulfide mine located at the headwaters of the Chilkat River Complex, boosting that project significantly.

Top issues with the Lutak Dock Project proposal

Demand a full Environmental Impact Statement

Let the Army Corps know this is an extremely controversial project because of the Handymax-capable design and that it requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

An EIS would necessitate a hard look at the reasonable alternatives to the proposed project, including a dock sized to meet the actual needs of the community. For example, the demolition of the existing dock and installation of mooring dolphins to support current users could be a simple way “to maintain safe and reliable barge delivery into the foreseeable future.” There is a strong argument for an alternative design with a much smaller footprint, but without an EIS, those alternatives will not be analyzed or evaluated. 

An EIS would also require a hard look at cumulative impacts of Palmer Project and Yukon mine ore transport as part of evaluating the impacts of the proposed dock. The risks in the immediate area are significant  – the nearby ore loading facilities at Hawk Inlet and Skagway have both had serious spills and leave a legacy of toxic metals contamination in marine waters.

Request a new Benefit-Cost Analysis 

Consider asking the federal granting agency (MARAD) to require the Haines Borough to complete a new benefit-cost analysis before moving forward.

The grant application and accompanying benefit-cost analysis used to obtain funding for this project described a costly scenario where failure of the Lutak Dock would result in goods being trucked long distances via the Alaska Highway when, in fact,  Haines has not relied on the failing dock for freight delivery since 2020. Freight is delivered via a separate roll-on roll-off ramp (Ro Ro) attached to the tidelands parallel to the dock. The Haines Borough glossed over the existence of the RO RO in its grant application and omitted it from calculations in its benefit-cost analysis, resulting in an artificially high benefit-cost ratio. 

Request public hearings

Request that at least one public hearing be held in Haines and another in Klukwan. 

This project is extremely controversial and the people of Haines and Klukwan deserve an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns. For example, there is no long-term plan to fund the maintenance of an expensive new 700′ dock, which means taxpayers will be footing the bill for the long haul. 

More information

For more information on the Lutak Dock project, including a snapshot of the communications, reports and studies commissioned by the Haines Borough regarding the use of the Lutak Dock to ship ore, check out this link from our hard-working friends at Lynn Canal Conservation.

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this important project.

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