Homer harbor expansion delays expected in 2024

The Homer Harbor Expansion project will face delays again with the start of 2024.

The City of Homer and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in February signed a $3 million cost-sharing agreement for a three-year feasibility study. The study’s goal is to determine whether it is technically feasible and financially viable to expand the harbor, according to the city’s harbor expansion information webpage.

The feasibility study was designed to be funded 50% by city and state and 50% at the federal level through the Corps of Engineers, according to a report presented in September to the city by Ron McPherson, coastal engineer with the consulting company HDR.

The $1.5 million 50% federal match was intended to be paid through congressionally directed spending, however, the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget included only $300,000 in funding.

That total amount was confirmed by Joe Plesha, communications director to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The lack of funds from the Army Corps will put Homer’s feasibility study on hold at least six to 18 months, beginning in January. The study will continue to advance at a restricted rate to preserve funds, according to McPherson’s report.

Despite the missing funding component, a general public meeting regarding updates on harbor expansion options was held at the Kachemak Bay Campus on Sept. 23. At that meeting, Curtis Lee, project manager with the Army Corps, said that although the federal component of funding for the initial three-year scoping project is not available at this time, he is confident that stakeholders in Washington, D.C., will find a way to fund the remaining phases of the project.

Currently, the project is in the general investigation phase and defining and developing alternatives.

The Sept. 23 meeting was attended by members of the HDR team, representatives from the City of Homer, the Army Corps representative and members of the public.

Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins presented a general overview of events that have taken place, shared the current design alternatives under consideration, mentioned the funding shortage and that the project will experience at least some delay in the first part of 2024. He then directed participants to take part in breakout discussions on various parts of the expansion project.

After discussion sessions, participants reconvened to share key points of what was considered in the groups.

Hawkins told the Homer News on Monday that as it stands the Corps is funded through the end of this year, possibly a month or so longer.

“I know the Corps of Engineers leadership is working to hopefully get some more money in the work plan so that they can continue efforts until the 2025 budget year. So, our delegation and officials Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and their staff in Washington, D.C., are trying to work out the details. Federal financial support is required and we need it to move forward,” Hawkins said.

New and additional information can be found on the project website at www.homerharborexpansion.com.