Gold Creek back on table for new cruise dock

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2008

Looking to move forward with repairs to the downtown cruise ship docks, the Docks and Harbors Board on Wednesday asked the Juneau Assembly for advice on which way to go: repair or rebuild?

"We're getting frustrated," said Don Etheridge, president of the Docks and Harbors Board. "We feel like our hands are tied."

The current city-owned docks, which serve one million visitors annually, need $15 million in repairs, Etheridge said.

Mayor Bruce Botelho proposed the Assembly, harbors board and cruise industry leaders form an ad hoc committee to find some solution and then propose it later in the year. Assembly member Sara Chambers agreed and said more industry people needed to be involved.

Beyond repairing the current facility, or building anew at Gold Creek, another option is to build floating docks capable of handling the expected Panamax traffic.

Much of the Gold Creek site sits on state Mental Health Trust land.

Though the city has been collecting a per passenger tax, only one million dollars were appropriated for any work, said Port Director John Stone.

Etheridge expressed some concern that a dock system at the Gold Creek Site was back on the table. He said the location was left out of Downtown Waterfront Improvement Plan and recommended a study be conducted on the possible effects on existing businesses near the current docks.

Botelho said Gold Creek was not precluded in the waterfront plan. There was a process to seek permits for it, he said.

Regarding a Gold Creek dock facility, Assembly member Randy Wanamaker said he expected to hear from the State Mental Health Land Trust about concepts for docks on its land.

Assembly member Bob Doll said if Gold Creek was a private project, the city's two docks currently hosting cruise traffic would be used less and cost both the city and merchants.

"Juneau has an investment which it needs to protect," he said.

Docks and Harbors Board member Dick Knapp said the industry has requested moorage for four Panamax ships as in Skagway and Ketchikan. Juneau has moorage for two Panamax ships currently, one at the dock and one anchored out in Gastineau Channel.

Whether or not to cater to Panamax ships became a side question for the ad hoc committee when formed. Botelho said the city was once told the larger ships would be coming to Juneau by 2009 and now the industry has said 2011.

"It's a moving deadline," he said.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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