My Turn: A protest of the Juneau dock project

I was pleased to see the response to concerns about the Auke Bay/Dehart’s area highway improvements resulted in changes to the project.

The City listened and responded to the concerns of the citizens.

This makes me more puzzled as to why the City continues to go ahead with the downtown dock “improvement” project. Why does this not generate the same concern and action? This project is going to further overcrowd downtown during the summer and change the look and feel of Juneau’s crown jewel — its waterfront.

The two main commercial users of the Channel downtown are cruise ships and commercial fisheries. It appears that protests and questions from both industries and interested citizens have resulted in ignoring or minimizing concerns or just plain lying.

When this first project was first proposed, my husband, a commercial fisherman, specifically asked John Stone, the previous port director, who was going to pay for this. Twice Mr. Stone told him that the city wouldn’t have to pay for any of it — the cruise industry was going to pay for it. How many millions is the city committed to now?

Many fishermen pointed out that the tides and currents in front of Taku Fisheries create dangerous eddies and room to maneuver is a safety concern. This advice was pooh-poohed until floats were planted to delineate the location of the proposed new docks and boats attempted to tie up to Taku Fisheries — and this test failed. That test proved that fishermen know what they are talking about. The docks were redesigned at more expense to try to compensate. Fishermen are skeptical, and as soon as construction begins, several big boats will leave Juneau and will be selling their product in Hoonah or elsewhere. Besides losing the purchasing power and sales taxes from those boats, Juneau will also lose the fish tax to the city to assist in improving fishing infrastructure.

The cruise industry has repeatedly said that they do not want these new docks and have expressed specific difficulties, especially safety concerns. Jon Binkley, Alaska Cruise Association, has indicated that the industry does not need this project. Kirby Day says this isn’t the best design and there are other better options.

Why is this project going forward? Who is going to benefit other than the contractor? Won’t the city officials look like idiots if they spend this kind of money and the cruise industry contracts because they don’t like the docking situation? Or Taku Fisheries has to close because fishing boats feel it’s too difficult or dangerous to tie up there to offload?

What does it take for the city to realize its error and stop this project before more millions are spent? A percentage of this money could repair and maintain the present docks for a long time.

• Merrell wrote this column with the concurrence of husband Ted Merrell.


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