An 8.1% increase to all docks and harbors fees starting in July along with an additional 9% increase on top of that to be implemented in the next few years was considered by the City and Borough of Juneau’s Docks and Harbors Board at its Thursday night meeting.
The fees affected by the increase include moorage rates, resident surcharge rates, launch rates, parking rates and daily shore power fees. The increase of 8.1% is in accordance with city regulation to keep pace with the annual consumer price index and will automatically commence July 1, unless voted otherwise by the board. All fees are also subject to the 5% CBJ sales tax in addition to the docks and harbor fees.
Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil said that if it goes through, it would be the largest increase in 40 years.
According to board chair Don Etheridge, the increases are necessary to address the recent inflation and rise in the cost of living.
“The 8.1 is to cover the increase in costs we are having with this year’s rapid growth in the cost of everything — our labor rates went up, electricity went up and we’ve been staying stagnant for the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “The rate hasn’t kept up with inflation at all.”
A recent harbor rate study found that even with the 8.1% increase, CBJ Docks and Harbors rates still have not kept pace with economic influences and found that an addition of a 9% increase would fund necessary maintenance, such as float replacement and maintenance of floats and future projects.
The board voted to move forward with the recommendations of the study, however, the proposed addition of 9% is still tentative and will go through a public process in the coming months before a decision is made.
“I expect a lot of people to be screaming, I think you’ll see a lot of people opposed to it,” Etheridge told the Empire.
Assembly member and board liaison Wade Bryson said in an interview he supports the increases.
“It would be irresponsible for docks and harbors to not raise their fees,” he said. “If we don’t increase it, what we will be doing is subsidizing it with other taxpayer money.”
Also discussed at the meeting was the viability of requiring boaters to have insurance at city facilities in the coming years. Currently, Juneau residents can choose to not insure their boat, however, the city still requires a monthly payment surcharge of 25 cents per foot of the uninsured boat. According to Uchytil, no ports in Southeast Alaska currently require boat insurance, however, Anchorage harbors like Seward and Whittier do.
Etheridge told the Empire that he opposes the idea to require insurance, arguing some boats are uninsurable, which he said was the case for the Tagish, a privately owned tugboat that recently sank, along with his 40-foot yacht.
He said increasing the monthly payment surcharge is a more attainable idea.
Others were more supportive of the idea.
Tim Mosher, a former board member, said during the meeting that he supports the idea to require insurance.
“I think the harbors are crazy to not have people insure their boats,” he said. “Requiring people to have insurance or a bond or something to at least cover picking up their boat from the bottom is not asking much of anyone whatsoever — that’s just a responsibility of a citizen.”
Bryson agreed and said he thinks it will create a more responsible boating community.
He pointed to recent uninsured boating disasters that have impacted the city and docks and harbors financially as a reason for the move and compared the necessity for required boat insurance as similar to car or home insurance.
That includes the multi-year saga of the Lumberman tugboat, which according to previous reporting, cost the docks and harbors department around $160,000, along with the recent sinking of Etheridge’s, which damaged a CBJ dock and cost at least $650,000 to recover. Ehtheridge is liable for that total.
“I would need a lot of convincing on why we wouldn’t want to work toward people having insurance,” Bryson said. “If you’re going to own a boat in a harbor in Juneau, you have a level of responsibility.”
Bryson said he intends to discuss the idea with the Assembly in the coming weeks.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.