My Turn: A shock in the harbor

Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Proposed changes in Juneau harbor fees were discussed in I-Chun Che's recent article ("Board considers liveaboard hike," Juneau Empire, Jan. 7). However, the impact of changes on resident vessels that use the Don Statter Boat Harbor were not made clear. This is because the Docks and Harbors Board is considering Statter management changes separately from fee increases. I have analyzed the two actions, taken together. The results are shocking.

Statter fees are assessed differently for summer (May-September), and winter. During summer, wait-listed vessels in transient space at Statter have been paying $5.25 per foot per month, while permanent slip holders, and wait-listed vessels in transient space downtown have been paying about $1.75 per foot per month year-round. The justification has been that Statter is a high-demand facility in summer. Prior to this winter, waitlisted vessels at Statter have paid prorated annual moorage rates during winter and other vessels have paid seasonal rates. The prorated annual rate was equivalent to the rates paid, during winter, for downtown space so that equality between harbor patrons was maintained.

The proposed changes to Statter management include, among other things, a switch from monthly fees to daily fees in summer, a switch from prorated annual or seasonal fees to monthly fees in winter, revision of the three-day and 10-day docks, an open lottery system to assign space and power in the winter, and allowing the harbormaster to take reservations for breakwater space.

The switch to daily fees ($.35 per foot per day) this summer would change the $5.25 per foot per month fee charged last summer to about $10.50 per foot per month ($.35 times 30), or a 100 percent increase in a single year. If this change is adopted, the Statter summer rate will be more than double the current local "market rate" of $5 Fishermen's Bend charges. In contrast, the downtown rate will increase to about $2.57 per foot per month for my vessel.

The proposed 10-cent annual increases in the daily rate in each of the coming years will increase the summer per-foot per-month equivalent rate to approximately $13.70, $16.70, $19.70, and $22.80 by 2009. Downtown will increase to about $3.10. $3.70, $4.20 and to $4.80 by 2009. By 2009, I will be required to pay over $1,000 per month to moor my vessel at Statter in the summer, versus $211 per month downtown. Statter patrons will be paying nearly five times more in summer than downtown patrons.

In winter, Statter rates will become monthly, while downtown patrons continue to pay the same annual rates shown above. The annual increases in monthly per-foot rates, beginning July 1, are proposed at $6, $7.5, $9, $10.50, and $12 by 2009. These fee increases will make Statter the highest-cost facility in Southeast Alaska and even higher than Seattle's Shilshole Bay.

Many people will try to move downtown and further crowd the situation there. Ironically, visiting boaters have told me that they prefer downtown to Auke Bay so we may be making the situation worse for them. Those who can trailer their boats will probably do so, further crowding the launch ramps. Ultimately, these fee increases may prompt a contraction in the marine-based economy of Juneau simply because people will have far less money in their pockets to spend on bait, gear and fuel. And those of you with nice waterfront views may be seeing quite a few boats at anchor in front of your property.

Those of you with moorage at Fishermen's Bend can expect some hefty increases in your moorage fees if these Statter changes are adopted. Come to think of it, if I were negotiating for Deharts, I would double the asking price. Think about it. If the Docks and Harbors Board uses its monopoly power to push through an immediate doubling of rates, then so can the private sector.

If you feel that these changes for Statter are unfair and unjustified, I urge you to testify at the Public Hearing scheduled for 7 pm Thursday Jan. 27 in the Assembly Chambers. I will be there taking names of those who are interested in starting a Statter Harbor association.

• Scott Miller is a Juneau resource economist who moors his boat at Don Statter Harbor.

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