Juneau residents remember the chilling effect of capital move initiatives. Business investment froze. Home sales languished. Our social fabric and conversation became dominated by the initiatives and the uncertainties they created. Now, if 3,000 signatures are obtained by June 3, any one or all of the Cruise Ship limitation initiatives will be on the Fall ballot for Juneau Sadly, these initiatives set Juneau up for economic, legal, and social problems. They miss the mark with over simplistic “chopping block” solutions and counter productivity.
Before COVID-19 hit Juneau, the Mayor and Assembly established the Visitor Industry Task Force, a panel of resident experts and citizens who were asked to develop recommendations on how to better manage the impacts of cruise ship tourism. The recommendations are well thought out and represent community and industry interests. These recommendations should soon be adopted by the Juneau Assembly.
The Alaska Ocean Center is an Alaska nonprofit corporation recognized by the IRS as a 501 (c)(3) charitable entity. It recently formalized a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian Cruise Lines Holding to operate an independent facility on their downtown waterfront land. Now, however, with the looming presence of any one of these initiatives, our ability to present a prudent business plan and to raise funds to build the Ocean Center will be stymied. If all are passed, Juneau will lose 75% of its 2019 Cruise passengers. We will lose out on the tremendous opportunity to have a well planned Ocean Center on the Juneau waterfront. This center will inform the public about the North Pacific Ocean, its life and its connection to humans through culture, food, beauty, commerce, and livelihood.
If the ballot initiatives are adopted, Juneau’s visitation will plummet. We will lose an Ocean Center venue that provides year-round space for school education, civic activities, and for special events.
Juneau has essentially reached the capacity to accommodate cruise ships. The Visitor Industry Task Force, just prior to the Covid outbreak, recommended no more than five cruise ships in the harbor at one time. If the Norwegian Cruise Line pier materializes, it simply replaces the current anchoring option with a dock, while providing shoreline access, a park and upland development, including the Ocean Center. Instead of boats transporting passengers from anchored vessels to waiting buses on congested Franklin Street, they will walk off the vessels to an underground staging facility to board their buses. This will be a benefit to our visitors and to our community.
Juneau is a special place. We all work to protect it. We will continue to do this through ongoing, transparent planning efforts such as those of the Visitor Industry Task Force. We will help lead the charge on Clean Energy, and will be a conduit to practical electric vessel research and development. We will be in the for-front of communicating North Pacific Ocean concerns and opportunities to people from all over the globe.
Please join the members of the Alaska Ocean Center Board of Directors Bob Janes, Ed Page, Jim Powell, Dawn Wolfe and Bruce Weyhrauch by not signing these initiatives in May.
• The Alaska Ocean Center is an Alaska nonprofit corporation seeking to create a waterfront building where people can appreciate Alaska’s marine environment and maritime operations. Bob Janes is president of Gastineau Guiding Company, Ed Page is executive director of the Marine Exchange of Alaska and a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain, Jim Powell is an assistant professor at University of Alaska Southeast, Bruce Weyhrauch is a Juneau attorney and Dawn Wolfe is co-owner and CFO of Gastineau Guiding Company.