Broken ramp removed from harbor after failing in low tide

Contractors and city workers last week removed Ramp 7 from the harbor. Ramp 7 is the ramp that connects JJ float and the Seldovia Bay Ferry mooring to the Homer Harbor uplands. Seldovia Village Tribe built the ramp and improvements to JJ float for its ferry operation between Homer and Seldovia. The tribe’s boat, the Kachemak Voyager, offers daily service in the summer.

Ramp 7 failed sometime between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 after an extreme minus tide. The forecasted tide was minus 5.2 feet, but National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tidal gauges recorded a tide of minus 6.6 feet, said deputy harbormaster Matt Clarke. The broken ramp was discovered Feb. 1. The 110-foot long ramp had pushed up the float at the landing and then fell underneath it. Workers had to remove part of the float and landing to take the ramp out with a crane. Clarke said the ramp itself appears to be undamaged. JJ float at the landing has been blocked off, but mariners can still access the rest of the ramp.

SVT will be responsible for the cost of removing and repairing the ramp. SVT’s insurance company and adjusters are working with the city, said Ian McGaughey, SVT public relations and marketing director.

“Ultimately the goal is to get it back into place, ideally before the Seldovia Bay Ferry starts,” he said.

Clarke said the ramp appears to have failed at the ramp landing supporting the skids, where the ramp slides up and down during changes in the tide. As the tide gets lower, the angle of the ramp becomes steeper, pushing down with more force on the ramp landing.

“In effect, it’s shifting its load, and created a fulcrum or weak point at the joint where the new ramp landing float sistered into the old float system,” Clarke said.

The changes in tides over the years, particularly on extreme low and high tides, fatigued the joint between JJ float and the ramp landing. 

In 2010, SVT built Ramp 7, a freight loading ramp next to it and JJ float improvements using $475,000 in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Another ramp connects JJ float to the uplands, but Ramp 7 provides more convenient access to the Seldovia Bay Ferry terminal at a parking area leased by SVT from the city.

Clarke said at the time harbormaster Bryan Hawkins thought that the connection between a ramp landing and JJ float should have been built further back into the system, but that wasn’t done. Clarke said this was the first private ramp built in the harbor.

McGaughey said the ramp and landing will be repaired.

“We’re working with the city to re-engineer those support beams and connect our ramp to their dock,” he said.

Under its lease with the city, the city will take ownership of the ramp when the lease expires, City Manager Walt Wrede said in a report to the Homer City Council about the ramp’s failure. 

Michael Armstrong can be reached at