While passenger demand makes adding a new cruise ship dock seem unavoidable to city officials, a new dock's location remains in question.
The Juneau Waterfront Development Committee on Monday directed the staff to identify ideal locations for a cruise ship dock within the "model" boundaries of the borough. Those include areas not yet incorporated within Juneau.
"We have always focused on the downtown," said Assembly member Johan Dybdahl. "It deserves some look outside downtown. Someone has suggested Shelter Island. Personally, I think it will be too expensive to build the infrastructure."
Juneau's model borough boundaries, set by a state commission, are expansive. They include the Mansfield Peninsula, Glass Peninsula and Seymour Canal areas of Admiralty Island. They extend south along Stephens Passage to Hobart Bay on the mainland.
"The current area of the borough is 3,248 square miles including land, water and ice cap," said Planning Supervisor Peter Freer. "The area outside the existing boundaries but within the model boundaries is 2,400 square miles of land and water."
The cruise ship industry still favors a new dock downtown at Gold Creek, although two community surveys indicated more than 55 percent of Juneau residents opposed it.
The Assembly hasn't ruled out the downtown option as long as a developer addresses such issues as traffic and pedestrian access and undergoes a public comment process similar to the Long-range Waterfront Plan.
John Hansen, president of the Northwest Cruiseship Association, reiterated why the industry doesn't want a dock outside the central area.
"Because the guests would still want to visit downtown, they would have to be bused, thus adding to the bus traffic congestion in the downtown as well as on the access roads from a proposed berth to downtown," Hansen said.
Meanwhile, a seawalk - another key component of the city's waterfront plan - remains a city priority. The seawalk would be a path stretching from the Douglas Bridge to South Franklin Street.
"The seawalk is the centerpiece of the plan," city planner Chris Beanes said. "The goal is to have a free and unobstructed walkway that accommodates various users, creates open space and incorporates access to the water."
To create a continuous walkway, the city will have to work closely with private or public owners along the waterfront.
For example, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game recently signed a use permit with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build a new small-vessel shop in the subport area, near Juneau's U.S. Coast Guard headquarters. The shop will be a metal building with large doors for boats and gear.
Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce said the seawalk might have to detour around the building.
"We expect that NOAA and the Coast Guard might want to limit public access to their property," Pierce said.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.