Efforts to clean up the waters and the surrounding areas in town are paying off. The City and Borough Docks &Harbors recently announced it was awarded an Alaska Clean Harbor certification.
The award makes Juneau the fifth harbor in the state to earn the distinction, joining Homer, Seward, Haines and Sitka.
Matthew Creswell, Deputy Harbormaster at Docks &Harbors, explained that earning this award in Juneau meant tackling a different obstacle than the other four areas had to deal with.
“This is by far the most complex harbor (in Alaska) to earn this certification,” Creswell said. “Most are just one harbor, but we have 20 miles to cover over four harbors (Douglas, Harris, Aurora and Statter).”
The certification is done by Alaska Clean Harbors, which is a voluntary, non-regulatory program that works directly with the harbormasters. Creswell said it acts as a way to be proactive in taking care of areas so that the state does not have to waste money on policing them.
“It gives us the ability to take care of ourselves,” Creswell said.
Creswell admitted Juneau had a lot of work to do in getting certified, but it was helped by Alaska Clean Harbors.
“Alaska Clean Harbors has a lot funding through grants and they helped with the signage we needed,” he said. “We did not have spend out own money.”
Certification comes after the harbors reach certain standards on a checklist. There is a 14-page checklist of which 11 criteria are mandatory and the rest must be met with at least a rating of 80 percent. Creswell said Juneau was able to reach 90 percent. An advisory committee, made up of representatives from Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Marine Exchange of Alaska, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Restoration Center, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators, decide on certification.
One of the main issues was raw sewage dumping into the harbor.
“We had to put signs up to let people know this was happening,” Creswell said.
In an effort to stop raw sewage dumping, the harbor now requires, with a grace period, that boats have a marine sanitary system installed with their toilets.
The impact on Juneau, Creswell said, is significant.
“People are used to having top-notch facilities in harbors,” he said. “This shows Juneau doing the right thing.”
Every three years, harbors are visited for re-certification and Creswell said being certified is really just the beginning.
“This is step one of the process,” Creswell said. “Juneau is a beautiful place and we are very optimistic of where things will go.”
For more information about Alaska Clean Harbors, visit www.alaskacleanharbors.org.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.