An appeal to the Assembly to halt the construction of two offshore berths and moorage floats at the site of Juneau’s existing downtown cruise docks was taken into executive session at press time.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly heard an appeal by Linnea and Arthur Osborne, owners of the 58-foot fishing vessel Mongoose, to stop the dock’s construction. The Osbornes question the safety of the project for fishing vessels berthing at the Taku Dock. The fishers said they were concerned that the city’s Docks and Harbors officials did not offer the public proper opportunity for input.
The Docks and Harbors 16B project application was approved by the Planning Commission in June.
The proposed cruise dock would consist of a concrete floating structure, dolphins, gangways and small vessel floats to serve ships up to 1,000 feet long and 110 feet wide.
Linnea Osborne said the cruise ship dock was an unworkable design. She said Taku Dock has different currents than in Aurora Harbor. Also, vessels will have to deal with the wash from cruise ship bow thrusters at the new cruise dock, she said.
“When you add all this together it gets more challenging as a mariner,” Osborne said.
Osborne was also concerned that not enough stakeholders were involved in the design of the dock.
“There are only two parties that come out in favor of the project and neither one is running a boat. It raises questions of trust and credibility,” Osborne said. “The record is silent from a lot of different stake holders. I encourage the public to ask why.”
Alaska Fisherman’s memorial also signed onto the appeal. Bruce Weyhrauch testified that the cruise dock ignores Juneau’s waterfront plan, it would block the view from the memorial and staunch the flow of vessels during the yearly Blessing of the Fleet.
“It’s a well designed dock, it is just in the wrong spot,” Weyhrauch said.
Borough planner Greg Cheney said the Osbornes have helped improve the dock project through their testimony and appeal. However, Cheney said the project has already been adapted to meet the Osbornes’ concern over the safety of docking at the Taku Dock.
“This project is better from the process,” Cheney said. “It is an excellent example of the process at work.”
With help from the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corp of Engineers the applicant has done a “very good design” and the project was appropriate, Cheney said.
CBJ planner Beth McKibben said Docks and Harbors made substantial changes to the design — indicated by the designation of application 16B — to improve the safety of the dock for fishermen and mariners attempting to dock at the Taku Fisheries Dock.
McKibben responded to the appellant’s concern about the safety of docking at the Taku Dock in high winds or swift current by saying that mariners already avoid attempting to dock in inclement weather.
Docks and Harbors Port Director Carl Uchytil said the cruise dock has been a topic of public discussion for more than 10 years.
“This is one of the most publicly visible projects in recent years,” Uchytil said.
However, Uchytil said, time is running out to avoid a delay in construction.
“Given the nature of the project, timing is becoming more important, Uchytil said. Delaying the project at all likely results in the project being pushed back a year, he said. If the project stays on schedule, construction is expected to begin in 2014 with completion in 2016.
Docks and Harbors moved the dock in its designs 50 feet further out from the shore and swapped the two cruise ship berths to improve accessibility to the Taku Dock.
The cruise dock would have two berths, one around 300 feet and the other at over 400 feet, to accommodate larger Panamax cruise ships.
“Significant changes at considerable cost,” Uchytil said.
The designers also added a navigational boom to the cruise dock to address the concern that a boat in distress might drift under the cruise dock cat-walks. The boom would prevent this. Uchytil said.
Uchytil said the new cruise dock is more than twice as wide as Aurora Harbor for maneuvering.
In an interview after the hearing, Osborne said she has more to say about the appeal than she was able to discuss during the hearing due to time and allowable topics.
“With the time limitations we did the best we could,” she said. “All citizens should be looking at this project a little closer. Despite the fact that the project has been around for a long time there are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Osborne said that if the Assembly turns down her appeal, the future of Taku Dock and the Mongoose’s use of it will be in question.
“I don’t know what it will mean to us,” Osborne said. “We already know there will be times we won’t be able to [dock]. Will we want to take that chance to try? The bottom line is there will be an economic impact.”
The Assembly recessed the appeal hearing to an executive session Monday night. No decision was made by press time.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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