My turn: Reasons to vote 'Yes' on 22

Posted: Friday, July 21, 2006

The Douglas Indian Association would like respond to Mr. Lew Williams' article "Devils in the details regarding Measure 2" of July 16. The Douglas Indian Association is not a sponsor of the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative. The DIA, however, encourages its members and residents of Southeast Alaska to vote "Yes" on the measure during the upcoming ballot vote and statewide primary election to be held on Aug. 22. The Douglas Indian Association's reasons for supporting the initiative, also known as Measure 2, are as follows:

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The initiative only applies to large commercial passenger vessels with 250 or more berths. The initiative would require that each large passenger vessel operating in Alaska marine waters obtain a state discharge permit from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to comply with Alaska's water quality standards. Currently, passenger vessels operating in Alaska's marine waters are required to submit a sewage and gray-water sampling and analysis plan to DEC for review and approval. Nevertheless, no state or federal discharge permit is required of any large passenger vessel for discharges to state marine waters. Therefore, there is no public review and comment process to help ensure protection of Alaska's waters and biota.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues all National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for discharges to state waters for the oil and gas, seafood processing and timber industries and for all municipalities. At the present time, DEC's application for primacy of the pollutant-elimination program is under review by the EPA.

If DEC's application for primacy is approved by EPA, the permitting responsibility for all discharges to Alaska's waters would be transferred to DEC over the next one to five years. This seems like an opportune time to bring in the cruise ship industry under a state controlled permitting system which includes a public review and comment process. A streamlined permitting process is also a priority of the governor.

Having each large passenger vessel apply for a state discharge permit seems prudent since every large passenger vessel (approximately 3,000 passengers and crew) generates between 15,000 to 30,000 gallons of back-water or sewage per day and between 90,000 and 255,000 gallons of gray-water per day). The estimated 16,000 pounds (8 tons) of solid waste generated weekly by each large cruise ship is either incinerated onboard or ground and discharged to Alaska waters. This is essentially the same amount of waste discharged by a small Alaskan town the size of Petersburg multiplied by the number of cruise ships docked at any given time in your harbor. What are the potential health and environmental effects of multiple incinerators and outfalls discharging potential carcinogens into Alaska's air and water? What are the potential ecological effects due to vessels discharging bilge and ballast water that may contain toxic compounds and/or invasive species? A public permitting process may help to answer and resolve these questions. State issued permits could also be required for solid waste discharges to state waters and discharges to the air.

Having each large passenger vessel apply for an NPDES permit also seems equitable since every industry and municipality discharging to Alaskan waters is required to have a pollutant-elimination permit. Why should the cruise ship industry be treated any different?

The initiative would also require that a certified marine engineer be placed onboard each large passenger vessel. Under the "Ocean Ranger" program, a $4 per passenger tax would be charged to support the marine engineer who would be responsible for observing ship waste treatment practices and compliance with state and federal pollution regulations, verifying logbooks and sampling ship discharges. Having a certified marine engineer onboard to observe ship disposal practices also seems prudent since virtually every major cruise line has been convicted in the past decade on multiple counts and on multiple occasions for purposefully dumping toxic wastes into U.S. waters and falsifying pollution control documents to our government . The initiative also allows citizens to file suit against any cruise ship line and/or the state for violating any portion of the initiative pertaining to pollution regulations.

There are many aspects to the initiative. Section 11 of the initiative reads that "It is the intention of the people of Alaska that any portion of this legislation that is declared unlawful shall be stricken in a manner that preserves the remaining portion of the legislation to the maximum extent possible." In the event that the courts rule that portions of the initiative are unconstitutional, the remaining portions will become law. After reading the initiative, even if you don't agree with the initiative in its entirety, there are some portions which may be worth your consideration and support. The Douglas Indian Association believes that the above mentioned portions of the initiative provide a mechanism for accountability in a time when accountability seems lost. Please read the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative and consider voting "Yes" on Aug. 22. A full description of the proposed Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative can be found at on Responsible Cruising's Web site,

• Scott Sloane is the environmental planner for the Douglas Indian Association.

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