My Turn: Manage harbor for residents

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Local boaters who actively utilize Statter Small Boat Harbor in Auke Bay are encouraged to take notice of potential regulation changes that are being proposed by the Juneau Docks and Harbors Board. Among other things, the present proposal includes the following changes to moorage activities at Statter Harbor: authority to designate moorage zones for specific uses; reservations for moorage at the floating breakwater; change the allowable moorage time from 10 days to 30 days in any 45-day period during the summer; allow assigned moorage stalls from Oct. 1 through April 30.

Designating specific moorage use zones could either be of benefit or hindrance depending on how this is implemented. The present language of this rule change is not entirely clear and it appears to encompass many uses. If the end result is more exclusive loading space for large tour boats, then the private boater will be shortchanged. All loading zones should be made available to all boats on a first come, first served basis.

Statter Harbor has operated since its inception under a transient policy. The current moorage rules are convenient for use by the general public for boat owners who do not have permanent moorage stalls. The present three- and 10-day areas allow continual movement of boats and thus opening of stalls for others. Allowing 30-day moorage during the summer without the vessel moving will greatly impact the "regular folks" who need short-term moorage. The extension of moorage time to 30 days will encourage long-term moorage and will result in less space for the short-term users.

Reservations for space on the outer breakwater should not be permitted. Reservations will be predominately utilized by large, nonresident yachts. During the summer months, much of the outer breakwater is already occupied by large vessels. These mega-yachts often sit idle for long periods of time until their owners decide to fly up for a short vacation. Often, the breakwater is the only remaining area to moor when coming in late or during busy weekends. Allowing reservations will result in significant moorage losses to local boaters.

The winter management portion of these rule changes is also cause for some concern. Under the proposed changes, permanent stalls will be assigned on lottery basis from Oct. 1 through April 30. The harbor experiences a fair amount of activity throughout the early king salmon season and the later crab and deer seasons. If winter stalls are approved, it should be modified to only encompass the time period from Jan. 1 through March 31. In lieu of assigning permanent stalls, the board might consider allowing longer moorage times during the winter season instead of assigning stalls. Furthermore, the proposed rule does not clearly state how much of the available harbor space will be allowed for designated stall use. Over time, the entire harbor might very well be taken up with permanent stalls during the winter months.

A complete copy of the proposed regulations changes can be found on the city Web site or at any of the harbor offices. Public comments are being accepted on this matter until Jan. 14. Please take the time to review the proposed changes and comment to the Docks and Harbors Board. Statter Harbor is a tremendous asset to the community in the respect that it allows a wide variety of boaters short-term moorage.

I urge the board to continue to operate Statter Harbor in a manner similar to what presently exists - maintain turnover of boats in order to allow as many boaters as possible to use the harbor. As a frequent user of the harbor, I can attest that it is not often when the harbor is underutilized or otherwise empty of boats. Perhaps changes to the existing moorage rules are in order to better manage the facility, but not to the extent that is presently proposed. The rule changes as presently outlined will not increase revenue and it would be a great disservice to the local recreational and commercial fishing fleet who have limited opportunities for transient boat moorage in this community. Let's operate the harbor to serve the residents of Juneau.

• Kirk Miller lives in Juneau and is a civil engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

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