Despite users' protests, the Juneau Docks and Harbors Board unanimously voted for increasing small-boat harbor fees by 250 percent over five years.
The new fees will take effect July 1. Port Director John Stone said the city needs $25 million to reconstruct Harris Harbor, refurbish Don Statter Boat Harbor in Auke Bay and replace the primary gangways and shore power feeds at Aurora Harbor.
Since the board announced the increase in January, board members have received many letters from concerned users. The board has adopted some suggestions. Instead of paying $93.73 July 1, live-aboards will have a phased-in increase. They will pay $45 from July of 2005 to June 30 of 2006. The surcharge will eventually climb to $93.73 by July 1, 2009.
The board hasn't decided on some minor items about the new fee structure and will discuss them further.
Many boat owners were upset with the board's decision.
Thomas Satre, who represented the Juneau Yacht Club, said the increase is too sizable and the implementation time too quick.
"The harbors of Juneau and the boating and fishing community represents a vital economic engine to the citizens of Juneau," Satre said. "We urge the harbor board to go to the Assembly and ask that a portion of the sales tax revenues be dedicated to supporting the long-term improvement needs of the harbor department."
Kathy Hansen, executive director of Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance, said the harbors will be less full because some fishermen say the fee increase is the final straw that will push them out of Juneau.
"The commercial fishing fleet generates funds for the harbor board through the municipal revenue sharing of fish taxes," said Hansen, whose group has about 150 members. "The income will be reduced if the harbor rates are raised to the level that commercial fishing boats no longer use the harbor."
But some people said the increase is necessary.
Jim Rogers, who has worked on fixing Juneau harbors, said if the board doesn't put money aside to repair the harbors, they will sink.
"You will be left with floating boats," Rogers said. "I support the board."
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.