Valdez harbor expansion provides much needed room for fishing vessels.

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VALDEZ, Alaska (KTUU)- The city of Valdez has been out of room in its 500-slip harbor for decades. The result, according to Valdez Ports and Harbors Director Jeremy Talbott, was a crowded, dangerous cluster of commercial fishing vessels and recreational crafts fighting for space.

"You'd have kayaks, trying to thread the needle between tender operations boats and seine vessels," he said.

That all changed about a month ago when the city officially opened a long-awaited expansion on the south end of the port, making sorely needed room for larger crafts and commercial fishing vessels. The city's capital facilities director, Nathan Duval told KTUU that the new space cut a 5-7 year-long waiting list to get a slip at the harbor in half.

"It doubles our commercial capacity. It's 144 permanent slips so the wait list still exists but what it does is free up the commercial spaces and there's some rec boats down at the end for those who want a little more room," Duval said.

In all, the project took 5 years too complete, from the time ground was broken to the day the harbor began taking boats. Duval says that "depending on who you ask," the project really began back in the late 1990s.

The city put forward around $50 million for the construction of its new harbor. The total price to complete the project was about $80 million, but grants and funding from the Army Corps of Engineering paid for the remaining costs.

Other examples of waterfront projects in Valdez include the recent face-lift at a terminal which began receiving cruise ships this summer for the first time since 2001. In total, 13 cruise ships will have visited Valdez by the end of the summer, but more than double that amount are expected in the coming year.

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