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State, Alyeska developing plan to replace unsafe, heavily used boat launch in Big Delta


BIG DELTA -- State agencies are working on a plan to build a new boat launch in Big Delta to replace a poorly designed but heavily used boat ramp located just off the Richardson Highway on the Tanana River bank.
Some of the most-frequent users of the old ramp say they’re glad that the state is finally proposing to build a safer boat launch nearby. Alyeska Pipeline officials also support the plan, because of safety and, reportedly, security concerns.

Glenn Potts uses the old boat launch located just south of the Tanana River bridge in Big Delta when he comes down from Fairbanks to travel by boat to his property up the Goodpaster River.
Potts and many other boaters use the old ramp because it’s easy to get to, located right off the Richardson Highway bridge about eight miles northwest of Delta Junction. But it’s kind of tricky, because the ramp’s poor design requires users to back their pickups almost halfway into the river in order to launch off their boat trailers.
“The lower launch site doesn’t have a great deal of slope to it, which means you end up having to back out quite a distance,” he said.
Potts says it’s even trickier to use the upper launch site next to the ramp.
“The upper launch site is strictly just dropping it (boat) onto the gravel,” he said. “It is quite steep. If you’ve got a good-sized, heavy boat, it’s you’ve got the potential of having problems even with four-wheel drive, of getting it back out again.”
Once the boats are in the water, it can get even trickier still. Jack Detzel, another Goodpaster property owner, says boaters can quickly get into trouble if they’re having problems with their boat motor.


“You launch your boat in swift water. Instananouesly, you’re in swift water,” Detzel said. “Y’know, there was a boat sinking in the last couple of years up there, because if you have any trouble with your engine as you’re trying to get off, you’re down(river), and the bridge abutments are too close to the launch site, which makes it a dangerous location.
“And Alyeska doesn’t want people down there by the pipeline.”
Detzel says that’s why he doesn’t use the old ramp anymore; instead, he puts in at Clearwater Lake, then makes his way up the Tanana, and up the Goodpaster from there.
Detzel is president of the Goodpaster River Property Owners Association, but he speaks on behalf of all who use the old ramp when he says…
 “Everybody would just like a more safe place to launch their boat,” he said.
That includes Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Spokeswoman Lynda Sather says the company is glad that the state has finally begun work on a proposal to build a new boat launch nearby – and away from the big pipeline bridge that spans the Tanana.  
“The state is studying the issue, and Alyeska is waiting for a proposal from them,” Sather said. “We’re all concerned primarily with public safety and efficiency.”
Alyeska officials also reportedly are concerned about potential security problems arising from the use of the ramp, located a few hundred feet from the pipeline bridge. Sather declined to confirm that, saying Alyeska just doesn’t talk about security.
But Potts and Detzel both say Alyeska officials have raised security concerns when they’ve met to talk about the old boat ramp. Detzel says their concerns seem elevated during hunting season, when the parking lot adjacent to the ramp is filled with dozens of pickups toting hunters who launch boats that usually pass directly under the big pipeline bridge.
“And everybody’s got a gun in their boat,” he said, “y’know, so, how much would it take to (discharge) – poof?”
Detzel says the homeowners association and others have been talking with the state, and Alyeska, for maybe 20 years now in hopes of reaching a deal to build a new boat launch. He says all sides have finally come together on a proposal to build a new launch upriver, on the other side of the pipeline bridge, one near Rika’s Landing, the old ferry site located within Big Delta State Historical Park.
Brooks Ludwig is the superintendent of the state Parks Department’s northern area office. He says the agency is working with a consultant that’s studying two proposals to build a new boat launch in or near the park.
Ludwig says Fish & Game would pay for construction of the launch, and Parks would maintain the facility and collect fees.
Ludwig says if all goes well, the facility could be built as early as 2015.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.