Ketchikan Locals Fight New Cruise Pier

Ketchikan Locals Fight New Cruise Pier

The new docking facilities Norwegian Cruise Line hopes to open in 2020 in Ketchikan, Alaska, has hit a roadblock.

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska.

An 11-page letter from Ketchikan’s city officials to the organization in charge of reviewing and approving the complex outlines a number of concerns, including economic and environmental issues they say could be harmful to the area.

Why Ketchikan Is Worried About The New Project

In a letter sent to the Army Corps of Engineers, who would have to sign off on permits regarding Norwegian’s proposed two-berth dock large enough to handle their newest, biggest ship, Ketchikan mayor Robert Sivertsen outlined the city’s concerns.

And at several points, the tone of the letter left no doubt as to just how troubled his community is.

Taking umbrage with the initial public notice’s comments on Ketchikan’s ability to handle incoming passengers, the mayor’s note pointedly said the city was “more than capable of speaking for itself” with regard to the issues.

He also questioned both the credibility and forthrightness of The Ward Cove Dock Group’s statements with regard to the proposed project.

The mayor’s letter listed numerous issues with Norwegian’s proposed dock, which would be located about eight miles outside of Ketchikan. Chief among there were the financial hit Ketchikan would take — both from the loss of docking fees and money spent by disembarking passengers — as well as the increased traffic congestion which would result from having to bus passengers back and forth.

“The addition of the Ward Cove Dock Group buses,” read the letter, “will significantly increase vehicle and pedestrian congestion in downtown Ketchikan, which is already overly congested.”

It added that currently, the city does not have the facilities to handle the increased bus traffic such a move would create.

Public Safety Could Be An Issue

Un-Cruise Adventures

A view from the pier in Ketchikan.

While the Ward Cove Dock Group did put forth a Transportation Plan in August regarding how to handle the influx of passengers and buses, the Mayor said that the city believed “this so-called plan was quickly pieced together in response to the concerns that were raised” in an earlier meeting.

He added that the submitted plan “lacks specificity, grossly underestimates the number of cruise ship passengers that will want or need to travel to downtown and unreasonably relies on” the local public transportation system.

Another issue raised regarded public safety at the proposed facilities, given that they would fall outside the city limits. While Ketchikan has a paid, professional police and fire force at its disposal, the Ward Cove facilities would have to rely on a volunteer fire department, Alaska State Troopers “and possibly the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.”

As such, the mayor questioned, “whether these entities are appropriately equipped to handle increased law enforcement and emergency medical responses of this magnitude.”

On the environmental front, the mayor pointed out that since Ketchikan began receiving visits from mega-ships such as the Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss, they’ve experienced increased “wash” from the thrusters.

“The azipod was is of such increased force,” he wrote, “that it has broken numerous wooden fender piles,” which had not happened in the past. As a result, the mayor suggested it would be important to study the impact of the ships on “what could be the environmentally sensitive areas of Ward Cove.”

After laying out the case against issuing the permits, the letter ended by suggesting that the Army Corps of Engineers should take a closer look at the Ward Cove project before issuing the permits which would allow it to become a reality.

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