City cruise ship docks to be on floating berths

Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly approved a cruise ship dock replacement plan that would move the city cruise ship docks back from the existing ones to floating berths in a 7-1 vote Monday.

Assemblymembers Jonathan Anderson, Jeff Bush, Ruth Danner, Johan Dybdahl, Merrill Sanford and Mayor Bruce Botelho voted in favor. Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker was opposed and Assemblyman David Stone recused himself due to conflict of interest.

There were two favored plans available for the assembly to pick on Monday. One was a rebuild of the existing docks in the existing location. The second offset the cruise ships off the seawalk onto floating berth docks.

The floating docks will cost about $41 million, $22 million more than the plan to replace existing berths.

Resident Dixie Hood raised concerns with the project.

"I feel this resolution flies in the face of overwhelming public objection," she said, adding she had worked on the waterfront usage plan.

Hood said informal and scientific surveys revealed the community is 60 percent unsupportive or very unsupportive of long-term development of the cruise ship docks and construction of additional berths. She noted there is cruise ship opposition to floating berths as well.

Doll said there are no additional docks being considered for the harbor, the same number are proposed, however the floating berths allow for docking larger ships.

Jack Cadigan, who is retired from the Coast Guard and Navy, said he has experience with large ships and marinas and background for challenges of maneuvering ships in harbors around the world. He said Juneau's harbors can be a challenge for docking large ships, however, he felt the floating docks did not represent significant docking challenges.

Attorney Joe Geldhof urged the assembly to move forward with the floating docks, saying the funding is there. The approved plan also addresses security issues, he said. Geldhof said all it will take is one serious or goofball incident to have the area shut down to anyone who doesn't work there.

Alaska Hotel and Bar owner Bettye Adams said she walks her dog downtown and would like to utilize more dock area. As a business owner, she also sees benefit to having larger docks. She noted she also lives in Maui sometimes and said a lot of people there want to go back to the "good old days" and vote all new infrastructure down.

"They figured if they don't build it they won't come," Adams said. However they were wrong, she said, and now it's a large city on a small island with failing infrastructure.

Chip Thoma, president of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, supported the improved version as well. He supports it because it's fully financed through state and local passenger taxes, the docks will accommodate two PANAMAX ships, will allow use of the entire wooden dock as a seawalk open to the public, and objections to navigation and tugs have been addressed.

Reed Stoops with Franklin Dock Enterprises was still opposed because of concerns with navigation. He said he spoke with captains of these ships and they felt there will be a reduced margin of error and will need tugs in some conditions. He said who deals with the costs for tug assists hasn't been addressed.

Doll said the issue with the tugs is out of place, calling the lack of a need for tugs a luxury around global harbors.

He said it's in the city's best interest to move forward with the docks to host as many cruise ship passengers as is tolerable to the community because tourists are important to city revenues. He also favored floating docks because of the seawalk.

Wanamaker said he was in support of a reconstruction of existing docks, but nothing further. He wanted to see the passenger fees go further and noted lack of community and industry support and need for floating structures.

Dybdahl said he had issues with the upgraded version because he still had questions about congestion and lack of a staging plan and potential costs for the private docks.

Sanford was concerned about land locking the Fisherman's Memorial and hampering the blessing of fleets.

Two amendments were made. Anderson amended the motion to require the city Docks and Harbors board to work with owners of local private docks for a recommendation to the assembly for mitigation of additional navigation costs caused by the new docks, so long as the city collects passenger fees.

Danner also added an amendment requiring the city to work closely with the Alaska Commercial Fisherman's Memorial and the commercial fishing community for a recommendation to the assembly, including relocation if necessary, along the downtown waterfront in a mutually acceptable location.

Assembly discussion and decisions on the smoking ordinance in commercial places, including commercial vehicles, a docks and harbors shorepower rate increase and other action will be in Wednesday's Empire.

• Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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