At least two cruise companies have started revising their Southeast itineraries as they wait for the National Park Service to announce restrictions on entry into Glacier Bay.
But spokesmen for Princess Cruises and Holland America Line said that while there is the potential for reduced port hours in Juneau, there probably won't be any dockings canceled here.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge James K. Singleton of Anchorage ordered an immediate rollback in cruise ships visiting the bay, about 60 miles northwest of Juneau.
In February, a federal appeals court ruled that the Park Service had violated the law by increasing cruise ship entries into Glacier Bay from 107 to 139 during June, July and August each year.
The agency should have done a full-blown environmental impact statement before increasing the limit, not the less rigorous environmental assessment it used in its 1997 decision, according to the court. The National Parks Conservation Association, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group, had sued the agency.
Singleton's ruling didn't specify whether voyages already completed this year must count toward the limit of 107 or whether sailings for the remainder of August could be pro-rated.
"Singleton was not clear in his decision," said Al Parrish, an Anchorage-based vice president for Holland America. "Attorneys are trying to grapple with what really was Singleton's decision."
Tom Dow, a Seattle-based vice president for Princess Cruises, said that entry into Glacier Bay will be terminated later this week if previous voyages are counted toward the limit. The Sea Princess was in the bay this morning.
The Park Service is expected to come up with a plan for complying with Singleton's order by Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.
"We're hopeful that we can do the pro-rated method," said John Quinley, spokesman for the Park Service in Anchorage. "That would take it down to as small a reduction as nine" voyages.
Princess and Holland America now are looking for alternative sites to make up for the loss of Glacier Bay. Ships may go to Hubbard Glacier or Tracy Arm instead, which means calculating new routes and docking times, said Dow and Parrish. That could mean less time in port in Juneau and elsewhere, with a potential loss to local tour operators and other vendors.
Parrish said Holland America probably will be faced with making some partial refunds.
Glacier Bay is "a strong selling point" for Princess, Dow said. "It's featured in the brochure. It's featured in the itinerary."
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska has been working on a rider to the Interior Department appropriations bill that would keep the cruise ship limit at 139 for the three peak months each year until an environmental impact statement is done, overruling the appeals court. Although approved by the Senate, it was awaiting action in a House-Senate conference committee when Congress took its August recess, Dow said.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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