The Port MacKenzie Shoal isn't the only siltation problem involving the Port of Anchorage.
George Lowery, Alaska director of Totem Ocean Trailers Express Inc., told the Anchorage Assembly last week that a new area of the expanding port now juts into the inlet, interfering with what used to be a natural scouring from tides that cleared away some of the silt. TOTE's berth is next to that jetty, he said.
"What we've seen is the silting in of our berth. So in the last six weeks, we've had to get our ship off the dock four times for risk of being on muck. That's not a little thing," Lowery said. He was speaking at an Assembly work session on the port.
During critical low tides, the TOTE cargo ship must leave the berth hours earlier than normal then "loiter" in Knik Arm until the tide rises and it can head to sea, he said.
"That's a very risky maneuver to do with a ship that's 860 feet long," Lowery said. The ship is essentially dead in the water, and if it's windy, the maneuver can't be done at all, he said.
Assembly member Patrick Flynn, whose district includes the port, said he asked new Assembly Chairman Dick Traini to call a special work session on the port after seeing the very maneuver Lowery described.
"Last month I looked out my window and saw George's ship turning away in the middle of a channel at low tide and thought it was so odd," Flynn said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to dredge the silt using a crane and bucket, but couldn't keep up, Lowery said.
Port Director Bill Sheffield said that in the past there was no need to dredge deeply in the winter, only in warmer months.
The Corps recently agreed to use its "hopper dredge" -- a boat that sucks up the silt from underneath and dumps it in deep water -- when needed in the winter, he told the Assembly. It will park the dredging unit in ice-free Homer, and bring it to Anchorage when needed, Sheffield said.
Once the port expansion is complete and it has just one long dock face, natural scouring may prevent the winter silting, Lowery said.
Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.