Juneau’s quest to add additional electrified cruise ship docks took a step forward on Monday.
In a special meeting, City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members voted to authorize a 20% local match — about $4.9 million — to a federal grant city officials are pursuing as part of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainably and Equity Grant program.
If approved, the grant would pay for about 80% of the cost to design, purchase, install and maintain shore tie power connections to both municipally-owned cruise ship berths and docks owned by the City and Borough of Juneau. City officials estimate the total project cost for the required municipal infrastructure and power transformation is approximately $21 million, according to a memo shared with assembly members.
Juneau Docks and Harbors port director Carl Uchytil told assembly members that he’s optimistic about Juneau’s prospects of winning the grant.
“We know there will be a lot of competition with the rural category. We are optimistic because of Biden’s focus on climate change. We feel like we have a strong opportunity to be successful,” he said.
Plugging into the opportunity
In mid-June, assembly members passed a resolution supporting the project. A rapidly approaching grant deadline meant that city officials needed to set a non-binding dollar contribution quickly.
“I move that we offer to fund 20% of the project,” said Maria Gladziszewski, assembly member. “I’m certainly willing to put in 20%. We’d be hard-pressed to get the full amount otherwise.”
Under the federal rules, Juneau is considered a rural community and is not required to pledge local dollars when bidding for federal grants. However, Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove told assembly members that a local match does enhance the application’s scoring when federal officials review the request.
Other assembly members agreed with Gladziszewski’s sentiment but questioned the dollar amount.
“The community has spoken that they want it. I’m just not sure they want us to dedicate $5 million today,” said Mayor Beth Weldon.
However, an amendment to reduce the local match to $3.5 million failed.
“The number I want is the smallest number that will get us the grant,” Gladziszewski said. “But, we are a community with the ability to provide this match. I’m super confident that this is something the people of Juneau really want. We have the capability to do it.”
Assembly member Wade Bryson agreed.
“Our community has overwhelmingly asked for dock electrification,” Bryson said. For years people have asked for this. We have plenty of opportunities to pay this back. This is an excellent return on investment to get a 4-1 federal match on our project. Lots of positives for the community with very few drawbacks. I’d like to put out every advantage we possibly can. It’s irresponsible not to.”
Assembly member Loren Jones noted his objection to pledging local funds to the project as he explained his no vote.
“Future assemblies may have to come up with whatever match this assembly comes up with. I have real concerns about obligating this kind of future issue and problem on future assemblies,” Jones said.
Weldon joined Jones in voting no on the measure. But, the motion did pass with five members voting yes. Assembly members Carole Triem and Alicia Hughes-Skandijs were absent.
Other electrified docks
Currently, there is one electrified dock in Juneau, the privately owned South Franklin dock. In 2001, it was the first of its kind in the world.
In addition to electrifying city-owned docks, more electric docks may be on the horizon for Juneau.
Representatives for Norwegian Cruise Lines, the company seeking to build a new cruise ship dock on its waterfront property on Egan Drive, have said that dock electrification is a priority for the project.
Proponents of dock electrification point out that electric docks reduce pollution from cruise ships and other marine vessels by replacing diesel fuel with clean, renewable energy.
Additionally, according to the resolution passed by the city, CBJ consistently receives public comments concerning emissions caused by cruise ships, and the Visitor Industry Task Force recommended that CBJ prioritize electrification of all cruise ship docks.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.