The Juneau Assembly, saying it has a chance to partner with industry, may spend nearly a tenth of its yearly passenger fee proceeds to help Princess Cruises reduce its smoke in port.
The Assembly's Finance Committee on Wednesday recommended the full Assembly approve $300,000 from cruise ship passenger fees toward the cost of shoreside electrical equipment near the privately owned Franklin Dock. Princess ships will turn off their smoke-producing engines and oil-fired boilers and hook up to city power for shipboard electric and hot water needs.
Juneau would be the first place in North America that such a ship-to-shore electric connection has been tried and the first to cruise ships anywhere, Princess has said.
"We think it addresses a common complaint by citizens in Juneau about visible smoke," Princess spokesman Tom Dow told the Finance Committee. "We think the best way to address it is to shut down those engines and boilers."
Assembly members said the funding allows the city to be a partner with the cruise ship industry in alleviating citizen concerns about visible plumes of smoke from cruise ships. Princess agreed to credit the city as a partner in any publicity it does for the project.
"I can't think of other things we can do that has that efficient
elimination of the problem, or partial elimination of the problem," Assembly member Jim Powell said. "This is one of those things we can do to say, yes, we're business-friendly and a very appropriate use of the passenger fee funds."
The cruise line will pay for its onboard equipment at a cost of $250,000 to $300,000 for each of four ships that will use the new system this summer, Dow said.
Shoreside equipment includes a specialized transformer, a distribution line to the dock, a specialized connection line to the ships, an electric boiler and a steam line connection. Princess will pay AEL&P to maintain the equipment, said AEL&P spokesman David Stone.
The city's proposed contribution this year represents about 13 percent of the cost of the shoreside equipment, Dow said. He told the Assembly he hoped the city would allocate passenger fee proceeds each year until the $2.3 million cost is paid off.
The new equipment will cut down on visible cruise ship smoke by a quarter to half, depending on the proportion of Princess ships to all of those in town on a given day, Dow said.
AEL&P and Princess recently signed an agreement, which awaits state approval, to sell Princess surplus hydroelectric power at a rate used by manufacturers such as breweries. The power is interruptable, meaning it can be shut off if AEL&P has a shortage elsewhere or has to use diesel generators.
Dow estimated Princess will pay AEL&P about $300,000 a year for power. That money will go into the utility's Power Cost Adjustment, a surcharge that all customers pay to cover fuel costs when AEL&P has to use diesel generators. The Princess fees will lower the surcharge for all the other customers, although it's too soon to say by how much, Stone said.
The Assembly hasn't decided yet what other project funding will be reduced to carve out $300,000 from passenger fee proceeds for the shoreside equipment. Some of the proceeds also are uncommitted so far.
Eric Fry can be reached at email@example.com.