Wharf dredging wins OK

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2001

A proposal to dredge the North Steamship Wharf received unanimous approval from Juneau's Assembly on Monday after it was defeated in a tie vote two weeks ago.

The project appropriates $500,000 from the city's port fund to dredge about 2,700 cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the north end of the wharf near Marine Park downtown. The material will be used to upgrade Savikko Road as part of the Douglas Harbor expansion project, according to the city.

After the tie vote, Assembly member Don Etheridge asked for reconsideration. By moving the dredged material to Douglas, the project kills two birds with one stone, he said today.

"It's something necessary for the ships that tie up there," he said.

Earlier concerns centered on whether new, larger cruise ships would be able to use the wharf if dredging occurs. City Port Director Joe Graham has said the project will not allow the next generation of cruise ships - reaching 960 feet - to moor. Dredging could occur this winter and Graham said the city would like to complete the project by April 15.

Don Habeger, port manager for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska's Juneau office, said dredging will give cruise ship pilots and captains a better comfort level as they maneuver in and out of port.

"From our perspective, it's always been a hazard on that end of the dock," he said. "There's always been potential for grounding."

Jack Cadigan, president of the tourism business group Destination Juneau, said the dredging project will benefit Juneau as a deep water port and will provide less expensive fill for the Douglas improvements.

"I think that the environmental impact of getting all that sludge and crud is a positive thing, as well as using it for fill in Savikko Park," he said.

Cruise industry critic Dennis Harris said the city should wait for the results of a long-range tourism plan before dredging.

Representatives from the Douglas Indian Association asked the Assembly to oppose the dredging, citing concerns with the marine environment and historical issues related to Douglas Harbor.

Such issues should be addressed by the city's Docks and Harbors Board, Assembly member Marc Wheeler said. He said he voted against the project earlier this month because of insufficient information.

"It's a good project and allows more safety at the dock," he said.

Assembly member Jim Powell, who excused himself from the last discussion because of a conflict with his job at the Department of Environmental Conservation, voted Monday. Powell said he discussed the issue with the city attorney and they agreed his vote on the project wasn't a conflict of interest.

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

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