My turn: Puff goes the magic on Measure 2

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006

In trying to decipher the logic of this "all-or-nothing-at-all" bill - it's important so I repeat, "all-or-nothing-at-all" bill - Jerry Lee Lewis leaps to mind with a whole lot more going on here than protecting the environment. What logic does suggest is voters should know it does nothing for water quality.

Sound off on the important issues at

First let's deal with the items in the proposed bill: Of the $50 per head tax, $5 will be given to each (of three or four) ports of call (Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, etc.), $4 will support an Ocean Ranger program which puts observers onboard every ship.

The balance is to "pass go" right into Alaska's general fund to sit comfortably with their budget surpluses, along with 33 percent tax on gambling receipts realized while vessels are in state waters, and corporate income tax on the Alaska portion of the cruise fare.

Under the category of "hilarious if it weren't so draconian," the ballot also will require cruise lines to disclose orally and in writing, in contrasting colour, and 14-point type, the margins, markups, commissions of services and excursions sold and purchased on board. Are you kidding?

Currently, all cruise lines and their 27 ships operate advanced wastewater treatment systems that meet and exceed standards set by the state of Alaska.

Samples from these systems are tested both onboard and by independent labs, including Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation. Results are noted in ship logs, which are available to the U.S. Coast Guard at all times, and posted on the Department of Environmental Conservation Web site.

If double standards get your attention, here's the cherry on the cake:

Standards for wastewater discharged from cruise ships under the Alaska Legislation require that fecal coliform counts do not exceed 20 units per 100 ml. (Standards being met and exceeded with technology developed by the cruise industry, by the way).

Information on the DEC Web site compares this count of 20 units per 100 ml with several Alaska cities operating under the Clean Water Act, whose allowable limits are, ready for this, 10 to 50,000 times greater per ml.

Ballot Measure 2 is not changing the standard. It's changing the reporting of the standard. This ballot is not proposing any change to the already strictest environmental laws on the planet.

I've saved my personal favorite for last, and that is the ridiculous, demented notion that cruise lines need to be made to pay their way.

Forget the cruise industry is a major employer in Alaska with all the services they provide, forget the cruise industry own hotels, trains and buses, and while we're at it let's also forget that the industry is an overwhelmingly generous citizen by funding community projects.

This year the cruise industry will bring approximately 970,000 visitors to Alaska. In 2005, cruise-ship tourism contributed $1.07 billion to the Alaskan economy in direct, indirect and induced spending.

Since 1995, cruise lines have spent over $28 million on developing facilities and support to communities services (docks, parks, seawalks, police, medical (source: The Economic Impacts of the Cruise Industry in Alaska 2005 Update, McDowell Group, April 2006).

This ballot is a smokescreen, is intrusive, and once passed people, it's too late. Thud, kaput, done deal.

What happens if the bill is passed? Oh, life will mosey along and ships will continue to call in Alaska. The burning question is: How many ships?

• Lorol Nielsen is the publisher of CruiseNewsFirst.

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