Juneau Assembly approves tourism policy objectives, including 5-ship limit

a cruise ship in Juneau
A view from the Goldbelt Tram of a Princess Cruises ship docked in Juneau on Aug. 31, 2021. (Photo by Jennifer Pemberton/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly approved a list of tourism industry policy objectives Tuesday night. They outline the city’s goals for negotiating with cruise ship companies and developing local tourism infrastructure.

The city hopes to curb issues like crowding and air pollution in the downtown area. Its objectives are to limit cruise ships to five per day in the downtown port, complete construction of the Seawalk, increase the city’s input in ship scheduling, electrify cruise-ship docks and develop goals for emissions and congestion mitigation.

Some Juneau residents, like Steve Krall, told the Assembly that a five-ship limit wasn’t enough. 

“We’ve got too many people in too small an area,” he said. “Downtown hasn’t gotten any bigger, the sidewalks aren’t bigger, the roads aren’t bigger. We’re at the point where capacity really is the issue.”

Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said they received several emails asking for a three or four-ship limit. She said the city would likely face legal opposition if it tried to enforce such a cap.

“We would be in litigation immediately,” she said. “It would take years and would cost a lot of money.”

Mayor Beth Weldon said negotiating with the tourism industry represents a new strategy for the city. Just a few years ago, it ended a contentious three-year lawsuit from the cruise industry over marine passenger fees.

“Some people will say it’s not a big enough step. I would say at least it’s a step,” she said. “We’re going to be the first Assembly that has actually tried to tackle some of these issues, so give us some time to ease into it.”

The Assembly appointed a Visitor Industry Task Force in October 2019. In March 2020, the task force presented 45 recommendations. Those recommendations inspired the five policy objectives approved Tuesday night.

Also on Tuesday, the Assembly voted against appropriating $300,000 for cruise ship dock planning at the downtown subport. Norwegian Cruise Line donated the land to the Huna Totem Corporation, which hopes to build a visitor center and cruise ship dock there by 2025.

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