Feds ponder upping number of cruise ships in Glacier Bay

One plan would increase number of ships from 139 to 184

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003

The 139 cruise-ship entries currently allowed between June and August in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve could be raised incrementally to 184 starting in 2004, a National Park Service representative said Wednesday at a public hearing about motor vessels in the park.

Wednesday in Juneau, the park service presented a draft environmental impact statement on vessel quotas and operating requirements for visitors to Glacier Bay. The service completed the draft in March.

"We know the people who live in this area and who use the park have a lot of knowledge and they care about it," said Nancy Swanton, project manager for the environmental impact statement (EIS). "We're collecting all kinds of comments that correct errors in fact, that provide additional information, that might recommend adjustments to alternatives in the EIS or new alternatives for the EIS."

The environmental impact statement proposes five alternatives for motor vessel regulations in Glacier Bay beginning in 2004.

The first alternative is taking no action - allowing two cruise ships in the area per day with no more than 139 entries in the park per season; three smaller tour boats per day with 276 entries per season; six charter boats per day with 552 entries per season; and 25 private boats per day with 468 entries per season.

The second alternative would return daily quotas and seasonal entries to 1985 levels - slightly lower quotas for cruise ships, charter and private boats and the same quotas for tour boats.

The third alternative, the one favored by the National Park Service, keeps the same daily quotas and seasonal entries that are in place now, but allows for an eventual increase in cruise ship entries to 184 per season based on an annual review by the park superintendent.

"We're required by law to indicate an agency-preferred alternative and an environmentally preferred alternative," Swanton said.

The fourth alternative, the "environmentally preferred alternative," would decrease the number of cruise ship and tour boat entries allowed per season and increase the entries for charter and private boats. It also would revise operating requirements by eliminating seasonal-entry quotas, closing certain waters to cruise ships and tour vessels and decreasing vessel speed for larger vessels.

The fifth alternative would increase the private vessel quotas and revise operating requirements as the fourth alternative proposes.

The Park Service has presented the draft environmental impact statement in Hoonah, Gustavus, Pelican, Elfin Cove and Juneau. A presentation in Anchorage will be held tonight, and a final presentation in Seattle will be held next week.

Gordon Wrobel of Elfin Cove was the only person to testify at the public hearing in Juneau Wednesday. He requested the National Park Service consider addressing Dundas Bay, located southwest of Glacier Bay off Icy Strait. Wrobel said Dundas Bay could be an alternative to Glacier Bay.

"I think we have an opportunity there that is significantly different from what they can experience in Gustavus or at Glacier Bay," Wrobel said.

The draft environmental impact statement is available for public review on the National Park Service Web site, www.nps.gov/glba. Comments on the statement will be accepted through May 14.

A final EIS statement is scheduled to be released in October. The National Park Service will make a decision on vessel use in Glacier Bay by Jan. 1, 2004.

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