Renewable Juneau wants to see cruise ship passenger fees go toward cutting down the number of idling ships at Juneau’s docks.
That’s why ahead of a May 2 deadline for public comment on use of the $5 per cruise ship passenger tax City and Borough of Juneau collects, Renewable Juneau is circulating a petition online and in person asking money be used for expanding shore power.
Shore power allows cruise ships to plug in to the city’s electrical grid while they’re docked in Juneau, which allows operators to turn off a ship’s engine and reduce emissions.
Princess Cruises has been able to connect to shore power at a dock since 2001, which made Juneau the first place in the world to offer the option. However, that’s the only dock in Juneau that offers shore power.
“Juneau was the first back in 2001, and that was 18-plus years ago,” said Andy Romanoff, board member for Renewable Juneau in a phone interview with the Juneau Empire. “Since then, other cities up and down the coast have done the same, and we should continue the process.”
Romanoff said the petition is not meant to be binding or to bring the matter to ballots.
“It’s to demonstrate the level of public interest,” Romanoff said. “It’s just an awareness-generating tool for the city Assembly to get a more accurate sense of the level of concern out there in town.”
He said the petition had collected about 120 signatures as of Monday afternoon and the effort had started in earnest Saturday.
The city manager’s recommended use of marine passenger fees for fiscal year 2020 does include some spending on shore power — $250,000 for a feasibility study. Marine passenger fee revenue is anticipated to be $6 million in fiscal year 2020, according to a memo from the city manager’s office.
“The whole purpose would be to make sure the public understands the consequences,” said City Manager Rorie Watt in a phone interview with the Juneau Empire. “What would it cost and what are the consequences pro and con.”
Romanoff said Renewable Juneau would prefer the city forego the study, which he characterized as a waste of time and money.
Instead, Romanoff said he would prefer to see that money used to complete design work for increased shore power.
He said cities — including Juneau, which had shore power feasibility study done in 2016 — have already done studies.
Juneau’s 2016 study found the cost of providing shore power to one more dock would cost $12.9 million. Romanoff said Montreal was recently able to power four berths for about $2 million each.
Watt said Montreal handles ships that are a different size from the ones that come to Juneau and is part of the North American grid, which changes the nature of its electricity needs.
Watt maintained a study is a good idea to determine what sort of demands shore power would create for Juneau, what could be done to meet those demands and what impact the decision to increase shore power berths could have on the average Juneau resident.
“It’s a complicated thing,” Watt said. “When you bring that much of a load on, I think there are technical issues. There’s also the ultimate source of the power. That’s a tricky question. If it’s raining like cats and dogs, they might have the capacity. It’s not a yes-no question.”
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