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Assembly OKs plan to curb tour impacts

Resolution of flightseeing issues temporarily delayed

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2001

The Juneau Assembly unanimously accepted most of an agreement with tourism operators Wednesday, postponing work on flightseeing issues until Monday.

The voluntary compliance program is intended to minimize the impacts of tourism by establishing tour operator guidelines, according to the draft agreement. Assembly members agreed to the bulk of the document - also called best management practices - suggesting discussions about bus engine idling and marine discharges continue.

Assembly Planning and Policy Committee Chairman Jim Powell said the agreement is not the silver bullet to managing tourism in Juneau, but one part of a solution that includes alternative heliports, a long-range tourism plan and a legal opinion about flightseeing options. He said Assembly members will discuss flightseeing routes in detail at Monday's meeting.

"Can we do more? Yes. Are we doing more? Yes," he said.

Mayor Sally Smith said a discussion Monday won't solve flightseeing problems, but will be an attempt to outline progress to date. Any day now, the city expects to receive a legal opinion about what it can and can not do to regulate flightseeing, Smith said. When the city gets the report, flightseeing issues might be addressed further, she said.

"The operators have come toward people who are affected by noise to some degree. It's been gradual and is not always apparent," she said.

Meanwhile, Smith said flightseeing noise is clearly a real issue and a number of people don't think the voluntary compliance program does enough.

Ray Preston of the Peace and Quiet Coalition, which backed a noise-limit ballot initiative last fall, said the flightseeing section this year is virtually the same as last year.

"There's nothing in there that the operators wouldn't be doing anyway," he said. "It's patronizing and an exercise that people are supposed to accept as government in action while they're really doing nothing. That's why people are upset."

According to the draft document, operators agree not to schedule glacier tour flight departures before 8 a.m. or after 7 p.m. and to complete all tour flights by 9 p.m. Operators also will provide information about flight routes, factors influencing route choice and distinguishing characteristics to help people identify aircraft and operators, according to the document.

The program also includes agreements about city docks, harbors, cruise ships, walking, hiking, bicycling, transportation and vehicles. Information about the city's commercial passenger vehicle code, marine vessel emission standards and when ships use whistles and signals at port is attached.

Once the agreement is finalized, Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said the city will distribute information about the program and ask for the public's help in monitoring compliance.

The special meeting Monday starts at 5 p.m. in Assembly chambers. The flightseeing discussion will take place after a public hearing on the budget, Smith said. Next month, assembly members plan to discuss possible cruise ship schedule changes to lessen the impact of flightseeing, Powell said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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