"Fast ferries have a Coast Guard requirement for a maintenance facility," said Soc Kreuzenstein, project manager with the Department of Transportation (DOT). "A very similar facility has already been built for the (fast ferry) Chenega in Cordova."
Katie Spielberger photo Construction on a fast ferry maintenance facility in Auke Bay began in March and is expected to be completed by spring of 2009, says DOT officials.
"The original plan was the put the support building over in Sitka," said Jim Potdevin, DOT marine transportation planner.
When the decision was made to base the Fairweather in Juneau, a temporary building was put in on short notice to meet the Coast Guard requirements, he said.
In January 2008, the project to build a permanent maintenance facility was awarded to Miller Construction at a construction cost of $3.46 million, according to DOT spokesman Roger Wetherell.
Construction began in March and is expected to be complete by next spring.
One of the chief benefits of the new facility is the 10,000-gallon sewage holding tank.
The M/V Fairweather uses a saltwater sewage system on board the vessel, holding the sewage in tanks on board until docking. The City and Borough of Juneau does not permit saltwater sewage to go into the city sewage system, so all saltwater sewage must be pumped off the Fairweather and treated.
"Right now (when the ferry docks in Juneau) local septic pumpers go in and pump ... the tanks," Kreuzenstein said. "Then they haul it to a private treatment plant downtown."
The problem with the current method, Kreuzeznstein said, is the trucks pumping septic tanks can't always be available at every fast ferry arrival.
With the new holding tank, the septic pumps will not need to be present every time the Fairweather docks in Juneau.
Wetherell added that one additional benefit to the new facility is allowing the Fairweather crew to store non-vital equipment, thus providing better ship stability.
DOT expects the project will be completed on time. Potdevin hasn't seen any delays in the planning or construction process.
"Everything is going according to plan," he said.
Katie Spielberger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.