The Assembly of the City and Borough of Juneau passed an amendment allowing for the possibility of a fifth cruise ship pier in the city’s Long Range Waterfront Plan on March 15, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Assembly of the City and Borough of Juneau passed an amendment allowing for the possibility of a fifth cruise ship pier in the city’s Long Range Waterfront Plan on March 15, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

City OKs ordinance allowing for fifth pier in long-term plan

It’s not that it will be built, but that it can be built under the plan.

An amendment allowing, but not ordering, a fifth cruise pier under the city’s long term-plan for the waterfront passed Monday evening.

The amendment to the city’s Long Range Waterfront Plan passed the Assembly of the City and Borough of Juneau on Monday evening as the body voted 7-1 to in favor of a clarification to the plan for the city’s cruise ship piers.

“This is not saying a cruise ship dock will be built, but that a cruise ship dock could be built,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale during the meeting.

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The amendment comes more than year after Norwegian Cruise Lines purchased land near the Coast Guard station, as it seeks to move the process of building a fifth pier there forward.

A number of residents spoke out against increasing cruise ship traffic in Juneau.

“I’ve been watching what goes on in Key West and Bar Harbor, Maine and both communities have citizens that very much wish to limit the size and number of cruise ships coming into their community. Their ability to do so has been hampered by private cruise ship docks,” said Karla Hart, who has led several efforts to curb cruise traffic. “We don’t need to put another private cruise ship dock in Juneau until we resolve what we’re doing with capacity in Juneau.”

The clarification does not direct the Planning Commission to issue a permit for the fifth pier capable of mooring a single large cruise vessel as well as docking facilities for government vessels, but allows for it.

Many residents objected to further cruise traffic, saying it would affect traffic and congestion downtown, as well as overall quality of life. Susan Schrader, a longtime Juneau resident and frequent critic of the cruise industry who testified, said that quality of life meant more than the economic benefits of hundreds of thousands or even millions of tourists bringing business to Juneau.

Others, including Kim Metcalfe, pointed toward the loss of light from occlusion by the large-deck cruise ships, which in many cases are taller than buildings downtown.

“We need to limit the number of ships, not build more docks,” Metcalfe said. “Think about the viewpoints and blockage of sunlight that vessel will have an impact on.”

The proposed amendment passed 7-1, with only Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs objecting, saying that the memo was perhaps not an accurate representation of community feeling.

“I very much appreciate Ms. Woll’s amendments and Ms. Hale’s amendments to those,” Hughes-Skandijs said. “What gives me pause and what causes me to object this evening is this is a cart before the horse once more.”

Hart made clear her feeling that allowing for the possibility of a cruise ship dock was taking control away from the city.

“We have the chance to steer it or let it steer us. If you pass this tonight, you are going to ensure that the cruise industry has control over what happens in our community, completely, for a long time,” Hart said. “Right now you’re playing a big game and you don’t have all the facts.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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