PUBLISHED: 4:59 PM on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Sawmill Cove Industrial Park on verge of being engine for Sitka's economy

  Andrea Keikkala
From 1940 to 1956 the land located at Sawmill Cove was used as a Dairy farm and supplied milk to Sitkans.

The area was able to sustain due to the vast water supply fed by glacier, snowmelt and rain precipitation.

Currently the total exportable water available per year is 9 billion gallons.

This water is so pure that it meets surface water treatment rules without filtration and as such, is an economic asset to Sitka

In 1956 Sawmill Cove was purchased by the Alaska Pulp Corporation. Three years later the Alaska Pulp Corporation began producing wood fiber from timber harvested from the Tongass National Forest.

The Alaska Pulp Corporation development of the site included damming Sawmill Creek to provide processed and domestic water and electrical energy.

The Alaska Pulp Corporation provided 450 Sitkans employment and operated from 1959 to 1993 when they announced the closure of the mill.

The Alaska Pulp Corporation, unable to sell the site, decided to demolish the mill and donated the site to the City of Sitka.

In 1998 demolition began and ownership was transferred to the City of Sitka in 1999.

The Sawmill Cove Industrial Park received over 11 million dollars in federal grant funds in order to replace the demolished utility infrastructure thanks to Alaska Senators Stevens and Murkowski and Congressman Don Young.

Upgrades have included potable water, sanitary sewer, electric power, roads and building improvements.

The city of Assembly overseas Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. The Assembly appointed a five member Board of Directors to manage interests of the City and the Industrial Park.

Different sites in the Industrial Park are for lease.

The current tenants include a fish processor, a Chocolate company, a water bottling company, a fish hatchery and others.

According to an April 2006 presentation by Hugh Bevan, Executive Director of the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park, the FY07 tenant revenues will exceed $350,000.

Sawmill Cove Industrial Park is also the future site of the NSRAA Sawmill Cove Coho Hatchery which is in the planning stages.

The goal of this facility is to release 2 million smolts which will generate approximately 200,000 returning adult Coho. This endeavor will benefit the commercial fishery and sports fishery of Sitka.

While Sitka has benefited from acquiring the Industrial Park the City can benefit immensely by a multi-purpose deep-water dock.

A deep water dock at Sawmill Cove represents an opportunity for business growth for Sitka and for existing business to expand.

The multi-purpose deep water dock has a myriad of prospective uses.

The dock will be capable of berthing one cruise ship and will be able to accommodate barges and cargo vessels such as bulk water ships to transport the pure water from Blue Lake to the global economy.

Currently the City of Sitka does not have a cruise ship dock.

An inadequate berthing facility is a loss of cruise visitor revenue for Sitka.

With the high price of fuel lightering passengers in and out of Sitka is costly. The major businesses at Sawmill Cove will also benefit from having a dock on site.

The water bottling company and the fish processor currently have to export their product by transporting it through downtown by truck to private docks.

Sawmill Cove Industrial Park is on the verge of becoming a tremendous engine for the Sitka economy.

The construction of a multi-purpose deep water dock will propel Sawmill Cove Industrial Park to a substantial economic force in Sitka.

Sitka suffered economic hardship when the Pulp Mill closed. Instead of crumbling in the wake of the shut down Sitka has built a thriving asset for the community, which will provide revenue and employment for future years.

Keikkala was raised in Juneau and recently moved to Sitka to become the executive director of The Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce.