Ketchikan considers cold storage facility

Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Local fishing industry and government representatives are honing a plan for community-owned cold storage in Ketchikan.

Under the plan, a cold storage building could provide at least two functions: holding fish for processors during the non-fishing season months, and holding fish for fishermen who want to market them.

Community cold storage has been a topic for a fisheries group since it formed in April during a University of Alaska workshop for strategic planning. In August, NorQuest Seafoods Vice President John Sund presented the concept to the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce.

Proponents say a cold storage could lower transportation costs, allow for more offseason processing jobs in Ketchikan and provide for cooperative and entrepreneurial businesses not possible now.

''Without that cold storage, you shut down so many opportunities,'' said Leigh Gerber of NorQuest Seafoods. ''Without a cold storage, you can't store (fish) here or bring it here. You have to send it south. You keep it here and you have a way for the entrepreneurs and businessmen to make it happen.''

Early estimates of optimal cold storage capacity for Ketchikan are in the range of 8 million to 10 million pounds, which would require a structure of about 55,000 square feet. Gerber said the cost of such a facility would be about $6.6 million.

Funding might be possible through federal or other sources, said Bill Taylor of UA Southeast.

The group's goal over the next month or so is to develop the framework of a cold storage plan that can be used for presentations to potential funding sources and by consultants who will work on a Ketchikan maritime industry study expected to be completed this summer.

At a meeting Tuesday, Mike Round of Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association gave information about the operations of existing community-owned cold storages in Sitka and Kodiak. The Sitka cold storage has a capacity of 4 million and 5 million pounds and is operated under contract by the Seafood Producers Cooperative, Round said.

The Kodiak facility has coolers that accommodate fish needing to be kept at different temperatures.

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