Gustavus residents fight vessel permits

Park wants to better regulate boat traffic in and out of Bartlett Cove

Posted: Friday, April 14, 2006

For years, Bartlett Cove has been a contentious spot.

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The protected cove pulls double duty as headquarters of Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve and the preferred anchorage for many Gustavus boats.

So it was alarming for Toshua Parker, a fourth-generation resident of Gustavus, to learn recently of a new national park proposal that would eliminate an exemption for local boats based in the cove.

Gustavus residents who keep their boats in the cove would need to apply for a limited number of permits to transit in and out of Bartlett Cove.

"For us here locally, Bartlett Cove is our home port," Parker said Thursday. "A lot of people are worried that on a given day, you'd be held hostage - you couldn't leave or go in," he said.

Blocked entry could also present a safety problem, Parker said, when boaters are trying to seek refuge during bad weather.

From the park's perspective, the local boat traffic in and out of the cove was poorly regulated.

"Without having a real control on vessel numbers, we're not filling our mandate to provide protection for whales and other marine mammals," said Chuck Young, the park's chief ranger.

bartlett cove proposal

to view the proposal, visit

to file a comment, use one of the following methods: send an e-mail to, using rin 1024-ad25 in the subject line; or send a letter to superintendent, proposed vessel management plan regulations comment, glacier bay national park and preserve, p.o. box 140, gustavus, ak 99826.

comments should list the regulatory information number (rin), 1024-ad25.

Collisions and underwater noise that hurts wildlife, as well as maintaining a positive experience for Glacier Bay visitors, are the top concerns, Young said.

Since 2002, the park has been reviewing vessel quotas and operating requirements for Glacier Bay waters. Boat collisions have killed two endangered humpback whales in the bay since 2001.

The park's proposed changes to its vessel entry rules are out for public comment until May 2 and would create a new permit system for private vessels.

As before, 25 boats per day would be allowed to transit Glacier Bay. The exemption for local boats would be lifted, though. Fifteen permits would require long-term, advance notice, and 10 would require 48 hours or less of notice.

It's possible that the change will make it more difficult for Gustavus residents to move in and out of the cove at a moment's notice, Young said.

Young agrees that Gustavus doesn't have adequate dock facilities of its own. "We've been working with the city pretty closely on that," Young said.

On the other hand, more and more people are using Bartlett Cove as an anchorage, and tighter controls are needed to protect the park's resources, Young added.

Those traveling to Bartlett Cove have to transit the lower bay, which is a known feeding area for humpback whales, Young said.

The Gustavus City Council is conducting a town hearing on the proposed changes at 7 p.m. Monday.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at

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