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Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works

 

Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works programs span a wide range of water resource development activities, including navigation, recreation, infrastructure and environmental stewardship, flood risk management, and emergency response.

One recent project addition to that impressive portfolio is Alaska District’s Craig Harbor project. As outlined by Jason Norris, a plan formulator in the Civil Works Branch, the city of Craig is the largest community on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska. Lacking external road connections, the community relies on its harbors as its highways. Unfortunately, Craig’s existing harbors are completely full and lack adequate space for regional fishing fleets.

He said unique project challenges range from the simple logistics of a four-flight requirement each way to minimize environmental and lifestyle impacts to the surrounding Tongass National Forest and local Alaska Native tribes.

Norris said he grew up in Morgan City, Louisiana, “where you hear ‘the Corps’ a lot,” eventually joining the Alaska District as a program economist in the Student Temporary Employment Program, or STEP, before migrating into civil works planning.

“I’m still in planning today and really enjoying it,” he said.

Norris explained the Craig Harbor project began with a request from the city of Craig to conduct a feasibility study for expanded moorage and harbor capacity. The resulting study findings recommended constructing 1,900 feet of rock breakwater, which will create a 10-acre mooring basin capable of housing 145 additional vessels – the majority being commercial fishing vessels.

He said unique project challenges range from the simple logistics of a four-flight requirement each way to minimize environmental and lifestyle impacts to the surrounding Tongass National Forest and local Alaska Native tribes.

“We also have five species of Pacific salmon and lots of marine mammals, including multiple species of whales,” he added. “We have 222 acres of eelgrass in the area that has been mapped, which is obviously a high-value subaquatic vegetation. At the site, we also have a historical district with a cannery that has been there since the early 1900s. So there are many, many unique challenges to deal with.”

jason norris

Jason Norris stands on the docks at Craig Harbor in Craig, Alaska. Norris is a plan formulator in the Alaska District’s Civil Works Branch and is
working on the Craig Harbor expansion project. Findings from USACE’s feasibility study recommend constructing 1,900 feet of rock breakwater, which will create a 10-acre mooring basin capable of housing 145 additional vessels – the majority being commercial fishing vessels. Courtesy photo by USACE Alaska District

“The area is also a migration corridor for all of those salmon species,” added Kim Townsend, project manager in Alaska District’s Civil Works Branch. “So the team ended up designing a fish passage opening, which allowed there to be no significant impact to that migration.”

Townsend, who has been with USACE for five years, started as a U.S. Army intern, then worked in the Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch of the Galveston District before coming to Alaska District as a project manager in October 2015.

Both emphasized that the Craig Harbor breakwater design, which balances fish passage with safe mooring inside the harbor, reflects extensive cooperation between USACE, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...