City looks over plans for new cruise ship docks downtown

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Pedestrians and traffic topped the list of concerns for Juneau Planning Commissioners who got their first look Tuesday at proposals for two cruise ship docks south of downtown.

The city's Community Development Department is reviewing a permit application for a new dock at the Thane Road rock dump that would accommodate 950-foot cruise ships. The Jacobsen Trust and Southeast Stevedoring are partners in the proposal, which would to allow cruise ships that anchor in Gastineau Channel to tie up in town instead, they said. The project would include a bus staging area, 380-foot floating dock and dolphin piles connected by a catwalk for mooring.

The department also is expecting to receive a separate application for a dock next to the privately owned Franklin Dock. The 400-foot floating dock would serve vessels that shuttle, or lighter, cruise passengers from ships at anchor in the channel into town. It also would serve small cruise ships, catamarans and yachts, according to Reed Stoops of Franklin Dock Enterprises, which is preparing the permit application.

The Community Development Department called the informal meeting to see what additional research might be needed before the requests went to the Planning Commission for a public hearing, department Director Dale Pernula said.

Most of the discussion focused on the new dock at the rock dump, which would be west of the existing Taku Oil dock. Once disembarked, cruise ship passengers either would board a shuttle bus headed to the Mount Roberts Tramway parking lot, or board a tour bus.

The developers expect very few people to walk one mile from the dock to the nearest shops downtown, said Chris Gianotti of Peratrovich, Nottingham and Drage, the firm handling permitting for the developers.

Similar cruise ship shuttles have worked successfully in places such as Valdez, he said. A traffic study commissioned by the developers didn't estimate how many people might walk back and forth to the ship, but it expected pedestrian traffic would be light. At peak, 130 people walk to and from the Franklin Dock in a 15-minute interval, the study said.

Tim Maguire, a city planner, advocated for a seawalk, or separate pedestrian walkway, to be built from the dock to downtown. City and state officials are concerned cruise ship passengers will walk through the industrial area, he said.

But Bob Jacobsen, a family member with the Jacobsen Trust, said extending a seawalk through or close to the tank farms at the rock dump would put cruise ship passengers near hazardous substances.

"An overhead seawalk over the top of a tank farm seems rather ridiculous to me," he said.

Planning Commissioner Mike Bavard suggested the city explore other options for the seawalk.

"I use the (existing) seawalk and I think the seawalk is the greatest thing we have downtown," he said. "It might be something to explore - to shorten it and not make it go through the fuel loading facilities."

New Planning Commissioner Jacqueline Fowler expressed concern about the lack of a comprehensive plan for the area. Pernula said the city is preparing to hire a consultant for a long-range waterfront plan, but it probably won't be finished until next summer.

Don Habeger, who works for Royal Caribbean Cruises, said cruise lines prefer to dock a ship than lighter passengers by small boat into town. Juneau is facing competition from new cruise ports at Point Sophia near Hoonah and Hobart Bay south of Juneau, he said.

"I think the community has a very good position of maintaining itself as a prime cruise destination," he said. "But we may begin to lose (that)."

In addition to the city permit, the Jacobsen Trust's plan will need to be certified for consistency with the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program. It also will need a state tidelands lease from the Department of Natural Resources. Jacobsen said an existing mining claim in the lease area shouldn't be a problem.

A construction time line for the Jacobsen dock will depend on permitting, Gianotti said. A public hearing on the city permit could be scheduled in the next couple of months, Maguire said.

The new Franklin dock won't need a state tidelands lease, and the earliest construction could start would be next year, said Stoops of Franklin Dock Enterprises. Under that time frame, the dock could be put to use in 2004, he said.

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