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My Turn: More public input, or maybe a vote, on Auke Bay uses

Posted: February 11, 2011 - 10:50am

The Docks and Harbors Board would like to make it seem a memo sent from the port director to the Docks and Harbors Board about decommissioning DeHart’s Marina was blown out of proportion. In reality, it was the first straightforward and honest information the public had seen about the why’s and where for’s of this project at the time. I invite you to read the memo at http://bit.ly/gMcMr8. It is a detailed and frank assessment of what needs to happen regarding DeHart’s Marina and recommends the board “notify stallholders that we are intending to close the facility on November of 2011.”

That the recommendation was not adopted by the board does not change the hard fact, made by the port director in the memo, that there is not two years worth of life left in DeHart’s Marina.

The board did adopt a motion unanimously to schedule a meeting with DeHart’s patrons to discuss “the rebuild of the marina and contingency plans in the event the marina is not (replaced) prior to the time it is shut down“. I think that is an indication of the validity of the memo.

The board has now rescinded that action and has committed to “trying” to keep DeHart’s Marina open beyond November 2011. We will see what maintenance the board is willing to undertake on DeHart’s Marina at the next meeting of the Operations Committee scheduled for Feb. 15.

Loss of moorage is just part of my concern with the current plan for Auke Bay. Yes, people are concerned with where we will moor our boats but the bigger concern is the whole nature of Auke Bay is poised to change. If the current plans go through, Auke Bay will be less a public harbor and more a tourist transportation center for private business. Is this really what is best for the people of Juneau? Is this really what we want? What alternatives have been considered? When presented with the opportunity to buy Fisherman’s Bend Marina for $4 million, the board asked the City Assembly to solicit public input. Shouldn’t the Auke Bay plan, estimated to cost $12 million, which will change forever public access to a major recreation area in the heart of the main population area of Juneau be put to a vote, or at least be open to public input?

If the public testimony provided at the December 2010 Docks and Harbors Board meeting is any indication, the public is dead set against putting a passenger loading dock in the center of Auke Bay. It is not cost effective and will not improve the two biggest problems in Auke Bay, boat congestion and lack of moorage. It will only make those problems worse by attracting more whale watching boats into an already overcrowded area.

The Docks and Harbors Board has a responsibility to provide information to the public and so far they have not done so to the satisfaction of many. Saying that we should just trust the board to “take care of DeHart’s patrons” is not good enough. There are many questions to be answered and they should be answered before a decision to proceed is made.

• Shea lives in the Mendenhall Valley and moors a boat in Auke Bay.

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