A large crowd listens to public testimony at Monday night's Assembly meeting about a resolution on whether the Assembly should formally adopt the 2020 Visitor Industry Task Force's cruise ship tourism policy recommendations. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

City adopts tourism task force recommendations

Assembly commits to five-ship limit, dock electrification and Seawalk construction.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday committed to a series of goals addressing hot-button cruise ship tourism concerns originally recommended by a special task force in 2020.

The goals include placing a limit on cruise ships berthed in Juneau to five ships per day downtown, finishing construction of the Seawalk, allowing for more CBJ input and transparency on scheduling, electrifying cruise ship docks and creating a strategy to mitigate emissions and congestion along with more proactive industry management.

The adoption comes two years after the Visitor Industry Task Force was originally created in 2019 to evaluate and recommend policies for the city’s approach to managing the visitor industry, consider CBJ’s long-range waterfront plan and weigh pros and cons of possible management strategies.

Though the Assembly accepted the VITF final report of tourism management priorities back in 2020 — which included more than 50 recommendations — the Assembly never formally implemented its policy recommendations until Monday night, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic halting efforts.

In 2019 when the task force met to develop the report, an estimated 1.3 million cruise ship passengers came to Juneau during the cruise ship season. However, the following 2020 and 2021 seasons saw a significant lack of cruise ships and tourism in the capital city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2022 the season’s average capacity level across cruise lines bounced back to around 74% over its multiple-month span, and with the upcoming 2023 cruise ship season slated to start April 17 with the arrival of the Norwegian Bliss, cruise lines are projecting their ships to run at 90% full in the first quarter of the year, and it’s estimated that the number of cruise tourism could be as high as 1.6 million in 2o23.

During Monday night’s meeting, eight people commented on the matter, mainly over concerns about the cruise industry as a whole in Juneau and its impact on residents’ lives and well-being.

Though many expressed gratitude toward the task force and city for tackling the topics, many of the speakers asked the city to better address issues included in the task force’s recommendations. They cited concerns about the five-ship limit being too large, along with concerns over pollution, overcrowding and possible health risks associated with the industry.

Karla Hart, a longtime Juneau resident and critic of mass cruise tourism, urged the Assembly to change the resolution to make the ship limit four instead of five and urged the Assembly to take further action via studies to understand the health impacts of cruise ships.

“I think it’s critical you know, and the public knows you know, of the serious cost of the cruise ship industry and that should compel you to impose a four-ship limit for 2023 or greater,” she said.

Juneau resident Elaine Schroeder agreed, and said the cruise ship limit should be “well below four” and said the growth of the tourism industry has negatively affected residents beyond what should be tolerated.

“The daily stress of over-capacity industrial level tourism in Juneau significantly decreases our quality of life,” she said. “Our lovely precious town is well over cruise ship capacity — greed and poor planning should not overcome the common good.”

Assembly member Wade Bryson said the recommendations from the task force — which he was a member of — were discussed extensively and are ultimately compromises between members on all spectrums for or against the cruise ship industry in Juneau. He said cruise tourism is important and necessary for local businesses and for the city.

“I’ve always viewed cruise ships as big giant dump trucks that drive up to the city and dump big piles of cash into our front yard,” he said. “To disregard the cruise industry as just a burden on Juneau is just a fallacy, it’s incorrect.”

Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said she understands much of the concerns outlined by the testimonies but emphasized that the resolution should be seen as a step forward for the city’s involvement in cruise ship tourism management.

“We are doing something, we are actually saying yes to those five recommendations from the Visitor Industry Task Force and asking our administration to actually implement those,” she said. I believe the Assembly is taking a big step forward in actually taking formal action.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

Students dance their way toward exiting the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé gymnasium near the end of a performance held before a Gold Medal Basketball Tournament game between Juneau and Hydaburg. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Over $2,500 raised for Tlingit language and culture program during Gold Medal performance

A flurry of regionwide generosity generated the funds in a matter of minutes.

Legislative fiscal analysts Alexei Painter, right, and Conor Bell explain the state’s financial outlook during the next decade to the Senate Finance Committee on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Legislators eye oil and sales taxes due to fiscal woes

Bills to collect more from North Slope producers, enact new sales taxes get hearings next week.

The FBI Anchorage Field Office is seeking information about this man in relation to a Wednesday bank robbery in Anchorage, the agency announced Thursday afternoon. Anyone with information regarding the bank robbery can contact the FBI Anchorage Field Office at 907-276-4441 or tips.fbi.gov. Tips can be submitted anonymously.  (FBI)
FBI seeks info in Anchorage bank robbery

The robbery took place at 1:24 p.m. on Wednesday.

Kevin Maier
Sustainable Alaska: Climate stories, climate futures

The UAS Sustainability Committee is hosting a series of public events in April…

Reps. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, offering competing amendments to a bill increasing the per-student funding formula for public schools by $1,250 during a House Education Committee meeting Wednesday morning. McKay’s proposal to lower the increase to $150 was defeated. Story’s proposal to implement an increase during the next two years was approved, after her proposed amounts totalling about $1,500 were reduced to $800.
Battle lines for education funding boost get clearer

$800 increase over two years OKd by House committee, Senate proposing $1,348 two-year increase

A call for a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature to cast a vote that would reject recently-approved salary increases for legislators and top executive branch officials is made by State House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, during a press conference Tuesday. Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, rejected the joint session in a letter to Tilton on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
House efforts to nix legislative pay raises hit Senate roadblock

Call for a joint session rejected by upper chamber, bills to overturn pay hikes may lack support

A simulated photo shows the tailings stack and other features of Hecla Greens Creek Mine under the most aggressive of four alternatives for expanding the mine in an environmental impact assessment published Thursday by the U.S Forest Service. The tailings stack is modestly to drastically smaller in the other alternatives. The public comment period for the study is from March 24 to May 8. (U.S. Forest Service)
New study digs into alternatives for Greens Creek Mine expansion

Public comment starts Friday on four options that could extend mine’s life up to 40 years

This image shows the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament's logo. The club is looking for submissions of logos for the historic tournament's 75th anniversary. The winning artist will receive a $250 prize. (Screenshot)
Take your shot at a Gold Medal logo

Upcoming milestone prompts call for art.

Most Read