More spending for shore power was plugged into the city’s prospective budget.
The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee decided Wednesday night to increase the amount of Marine Passenger Fee money set to be spent on expanding shore power for ships berthed in Juneau to $300,000 instead of $250,000.
The increased total also came with a revised title for the spending. Instead of large berth shore power feasibility/system impact analysis, the $300,000 will go toward large berth shore power preliminary design and cost estimate.
“I’m supportive of shore power, the sooner the better,” said Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski. “Whatever you call it, I could care less as long as you figure out how you would do it.”
Marine Passenger Fee funds are generated by a $5 per cruise ship passenger fee collected by the city, and shore power allows ships to be powered by city electricity while at a city dock. That allows the ship to turn of its engine and decreases emissions.
There is one electrified dock in Juneau. In 2001, it was the first of its kind in the world.
Mayor Beth Weldon and the Assembly were vocal in their support for shore power during discussion, and the motion that netted the cause a new name and an additional $50,000 passed without objection.
Increased spending on shore power was a popular cause during the public comment period for spending marine passenger fees.
Renewable Juneau, a local environmental advocacy group, circulated a petition that collected 800 signatures in favor of spending on shore power.
“The Renewable Juneau board is pleased with the direction provided by the Assembly and their addressing public concerns about the ‘feasibility’ study,” said Renewable Juneau board member Andy Romanoff when reached by email. “While we’re concerned that the funding isn’t enough to do full design work, we feel that it’s a good start.”
He said he looks forward to seeing the matter progress, and it was heartening the Assembly took notice of the petition.
Renewable Juneau was critical of conducting another feasibility study when one was done in 2016. Romanoff, who was not present at the committee meeting, previously questioned the accuracy of that study’s finding that electrifying a single dock would cost $12.9 million.
Some of that sentiment was echoed by Assembly members, including Wade Bryson, who questioned the necessity of a second study when it seemed the entire Assembly was in favor of pursuing shore power.
City Manager Rorie Watt said there are still some fundamental questions about how expanded shore power would affect Juneau — such as whether cruise lines would be interruptible customers — that will need to be answered as the city moves forward.
Watt said he and city employees will need answers to questions likely to come from the Assembly and public leading up to a decision, and that will take efforts similar to a study even if it’s not called that.
Assembly members including Carole Triem and Michelle Bonnet Hale, who introduced similar amendments that ultimately were combined into the passing motion, agreed that there are definitely unanswered questions about what expanded shore power will look like in Juneau but that cutting down on emissions from idling ships is an Assembly goal.
“I don’t want to continue to delay dock electrification, but there are some real issues that have been identified,” Hale said.
Other progress toward a budget
The finance committee made some strides toward setting a a budget for fiscal year 2020.
Next week, pending budget items will be discussed and testimony will be expected from people connected to the Southeast Conference, mental health and substance abuse, Glory Hall, a land purchase for senior housing and a healing totem intended to be erected on Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies property.
Additionally, three items totalling almost $300,000 related to child care were moved to the pending list.
Assembly members said testimony would not be needed at the May 15 meeting.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.