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Cruise dock appeals deadline looms

Posted: September 6, 2012 - 7:07am

Linnea and Arthur Osborne, owners of the fishing vessel Mongoose, appealed the City and Borough of Juneau Planning Commission decision to approve two offshore berths and moorage floats at the site of Juneau’s existing downtown cruise docks. 

The Osbornes submitted the appeal on July 19. The public can join the appeal through Friday. 

The Planning Commission approved the Conditional Use Permit USE2011-0030 version 16B on June 26. The dock project is often referred to as just 16B.

Linnea Osborne testified to the Planning Commission in June that the berths and moorage floats would make docking at the Taku Fisheries Dock overly difficult for fishing vessels. 

The Osbornes wrote in their appeal that they believed CBJ staff did not adequately notify fisherman and stakeholders of the permit hearing, did not assess weather affects to vessel navigation around the dock during winter months and has not presented plans to address potential damage caused by hard contact between private vessels and the dock. 

“We are in the appeal process because critical stakeholders were either omitted from the process or disregarded,” Linnea Osborne said in an email interview.

Mrs. Osborne expressed that the dock project should concern residents of Juneau as safety issues have been raised by both the Cruise ship and the commercial fishing Industry.  

“Both Industries are important to the economic health of our community,” she explained, “and both deserve due consideration when deciding how to improve Juneau’s downtown waterfront.”

The Alaska Cruise Association and the Northwest Cruise Association has submitted letters to the CBJ in opposition to the 16B dock project dating back to 2012. ACA has said it is concerned about navigational safety, cost increases and the expectation that cruise traffic could start to decrease by 2015 due to increased cost the Association has said is a result of recent Environmental Protection Agency diesel fuel requirements.

“We do believe that the current dock needs some significant repair/upgrade and we are supportive of those,” John Binkley president of the Alaska Cruise Association said in an email interview.

Mrs. Osborne said she also prefers the “viable, safe, less expensive” remodel of CBJ’s existing downtown docks. 

At the June 26 Planning Commission meeting CBJ Docks and Harbors Port Engineer Gary Gillette said staff redesigned the docks to allow 200 feet of clearance for fishing vessels to maneuver as they access Taku’s dock, among other changes.

Though CBJ Docks and Harbors did the groundwork revising and submitting the dock permit, the appeal is directed at the planning commission’s decision to approve the permit. 

“It is basically out of our hands at this point,” Gillette said. “If [the commission] direct us to do something, then we will respond.”

If built, the proposed dock would service small vessels and cruise ships up to 1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide. 

CBJ Docks and Harbors Port Engineer Gary Gillette said the changes could add $8 million to $10 million to the project’s total cost.

“We realize that it has to cater to all users in a safe and adequate manner. We resolved a number of issues and have a better project for it,” Gillette said at the June meeting.

CBJ also agreed to install a safety barrier to prevent small fishing vessels waiting at Taku from drifting into the dock’s catwalks. CBJ would conduct cruise ship docking simulations at a simulator located in Seward, Gillette said.

A hearing for the appeal has been set for Nov. 26, at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall Chambers, CBJ Municipal Clerk Laurie Sica said in a recent interview.

“Between now and then, the parties to the appeal …  they’ll be preparing written briefs,” Sica said. 

The Osbornes file their first brief by Oct. 12 with the commission responding by Oct. 26. The Osbornes must reply by Nov. 2.

“All those documents get collated with the record into a big document, given to the Assembly to read and think about before the hearing itself,” Sica said.

Interveners can submit written briefs and “possibly participate in the hearing themselves. It’s just kind of at the call of the presiding officer,” Sica said.

The CBJ Assembly appointed Johan Dybdahl is the presiding officer. 

Currently, the Osbornes are the only names on the appeal. Those interested in joining the Osborne’s appeal can do so through Friday.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com. 

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