The Juneau Assembly took a wrong turn Monday evening by failing to approve a simple dredging project in our busy harbor. The North Steamship Wharf project has been on the map for a long time and is a small but important step toward improving the harbor. As an added bonus, the CBJ stands to save money by using the dredged material as in-fill for the Savikko Road improvements at the Douglas Harbor expansion project now underway.
Further delaying the project will only add to the eventual costs of doing the work and disposing of the materials. Placing the hydrocarbon-contaminated material in a contained and stable state at Douglas Harbor will be will be cheaper than "cooking" it at the United Soil Recycling site.
Bed-and-breakfast owner Judy Crondahl testified at the Assembly meeting and made the bizarre suggestion that the city use the $500,000 to fill in the wharf area to reduce the number of visiting cruise ships. This idea would set Juneau's economy back a giant step and sends a very poor message to the cruise industry, which is paying for the dredging.
Cruise critic Dennis Harris testified the city should wait for the results of its long-range tourism plan before dredging. This capital improvement project has nothing to do with long-range tourism planning and is in fact the result of long-range planning that started almost six years ago.
The dredging project does not provide room for more large ships to dock. It only provides more room for them to maneuver in a very close and busy harbor. Longer ships are becoming the norm and safety in our harbors is tantamount.
Also, by creating more room at the north end of the harbor, downtown businesses will receive some small benefit through staging of ships closer to the heart of downtown.
Hopefully this "do nothing" act by the Assembly will move forward with more discussion. We recommend quick approval for this much needed project to take advantage of the cost savings.
In another strange act at Monday's meeting the Assembly denied approval of two new recommended and highly qualified Harbor Board members. It has been considered proper etiquette in the past to debate the qualifications and character of individual candidates at closed committee meetings before announcing public approval.
It is hard enough to get qualified people to serve on boards and committees without subjecting them to the prospect of being summarily dismissed in a public forum such as they were at Monday's meeting. This is very poor form from our mayor and Assembly.