by Walter Bolling
March 31, 2005
Well, it's North versus South again, and this time the South should win without violence or animosity. What in the world is that about? Well, it's about the best place to put a new cruise ship dock. My opinion: The logical place is south, on the outside of Thomas Basin breakwater. Why? It's as plain as the nose on Ben Franklin's image on the $100 bill! Think about it: a new dock wherever it goes will cost somewhere around sixty to eighty millions of dollars and the taxpayers must pledge their property to pay for this new dock. Now, the cruise industry says it will guarantee to raise cruise fees to pay off this debt if the Thomas Basin site is chosen. This was their recommended alternative and it is $15 million cheaper than the north alternative.
So why not just go ahead and build south? We are told that the Thomas Basin location will put a much-needed fish cannery out of business. But will it? No! Actually, the cannery is not threatened by a cruise ship dock at Thomas Basin. Most voters and taxpayers may not know why the cannery is opposed to the Thomas Basin site. To understand why, you must follow the money. In the old days, the canneries were required to barge their waste products all the way out to Clarence Strait. Not any more. For several years, the canneries have been dumping thousands of tons of fish waste in front of the canneries.
The floor of Tongass Narrows in front of the canneries is deep in rotting waste in the summer and when the gasses build up and a bloom goes to the surface, one can hardly breathe on the south end and downtown. The canneries do not want further attention drawn to this problem and do not want to face the obvious choice of having to hire a tug and barge every day (expensive) to again haul all that waste out of the area. So they have seized on the idea to threaten closure. The City has offered concessions to the cannery to assure no negative impacts to cannery operations, yet the cannery publicly proclaims disaster and closure because it sees the expense of barging waste away from town. And the proponents for a north end dock have used the cannery complaints to further their own agenda.
It seems to me that the town is better served (especially the long-suffering Old Town) by letting the cruise industry pay for the new south end berth, thus creating neighborhood renovation south of the bridge with new growth and a much-enhanced tax base. All of that and a much more attractive town! Alternatively, do we really want two more large cruise ship berths? Isn't our combined patience already overtaxed? Haven't we already lost control of our town? Consider another alternative---let's call it Option N. If we can't have a cruise ship berth at Thomas Basin, and paid for, let's adopt Option N, which means no new cruise ship docks in town.
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