Assembly approves $29 million for new docks

Another piece of financing for Juneau’s controversial new cruise ship docks on the downtown waterfront is in place.

The Juneau Assembly last night (Monday) approved selling up to $29 million dollars in bonds for two floating Panamax berths.

The bonds would be issued for a term of 19 years, according to Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle.

“Terms required CBJ to pledge the Port Development Fee known as the PDF revenue, to fund the debt service.  The debt service will be paid from FY 14 to FY 33 revenues,” Steedle said.

At an average interest rate of 4.37 percent, Steedle says debt service on the bonds is estimated at $42.37 million dollars. The total project is estimated at $88.1 million dollars. To date, the Assembly has appropriated about $42.6 million for the project. Other funding sources include grants and state marine passenger fees.

CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said the CBJ Port Development Fee is assessed only on the companies that use Juneau’s major public docks in the port — generally the cruise ship companies.

“If there anybody outside the cruise ship industry that uses the large public docks in the port, they would be subject to the fee,” Bartholomew said.

The fee is not assessed on commercial fishing vessel and private boat owners who use Juneau’s Aurora, Harris, Douglas or Auke Bay harbors.

Two members of the public testified on the bond issue. Larry Spencer, President of the Juneau Downtown Business Association, told the Assembly it’s time to get the project finished.

The project is controversial among the Fishermen’s Memorial board and some fishermen, concerned that it could block approach to the Taku Fisheries fisheries dock. Linnea Osborn represented those interests and complained the floating berths would obstruct the view of the water from the seawalk and destroy the annual blessing of the fleet.

Three Assembly members voted against the bond ordinance: Ruth Danner, Johann Dybdahl and Randy Wanamaker.

They cited four reasons for the no vote including the high cost of the project, the lack of support for the project by industry and the public in general and concern about the uncertainty of the funding mechanisms over the long term.

The proposed project has been under discussion for several years.  Some cruise industry representatives have said the large floating berths that will accommodate thousand-foot long ships are not necessary.

Proposed changes to the Juneau docks. Drawing courtesy of CBJ.

Proposed changes to the Juneau docks. Drawing courtesy of CBJ.