Don't price out boat life

Posted: Sunday, January 09, 2005

A proposal to crank up boater fees by 166 percent in Juneau's harbors is a fiscally responsible idea, but with a serious social side effect.

Raising the monthly fee for liveaboards docked in the harbors from $36.74 to $93.73 while also raising most small boat fees is necessary to help expand, refurbish and maintain the harbors, officials say. The goal is to increase fees 250 percent by 2010.

The tradeoff extends well beyond the gangway, though. In the priciest city of a pricey state, residents who can't afford a home and either don't want to or can't pay the going rents have found it cheaper to get a boat and make it a home. They, like everyone else in town, must be expected to pay a fair rate for services such as electricity and moorage, and to help keep harbors safe and functional. But with the acrimony among boat dwellers and city officials growing over the past year, it's natural to ponder whether there's an effort to marginalize or even evict those who live on their crafts. Anyone drawn to that thought should consider the unseen costs to the city. Housing costs already are too high in Juneau. Anyone salty enough to live on the sea lightens the load not only for themselves but for those competing in the rental market.

Fair is fair, and those who live in the harbors should pay their share. But the city should recognize that investments in the harbors, whether for liveaboards, pleasure boats or industry, are good for the community. The Juneau Docks and Harbors Board should be careful to ensure that any fee increases are fair in the broadest sense, and are incremental enough so as not to roust people from their homes.

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