Judge denies motion to immediately stop work on Juneau cruise ship docks

Site plan for Juneau's proposed $54 million floating cruise ship berths. Image courtesy City and Borough of Juneau.

Site plan for Juneau’s proposed $54 million floating cruise ship berths. Image courtesy City and Borough of Juneau.

A judge has denied a motion to immediately stop work on the City and Borough of Juneau’s massive cruise ship dock expansion. But he’s agreed to hear arguments about a longer term injunction.

The Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial in Juneau wants to block the project from moving forward until the Alaska Department of Natural Resources completes the transfer of submerged tidelands to the city.

Even though construction on the first of two floating berths on the city’s downtown waterfront isn’t scheduled to start until after the 2015 cruise season, the Juneau Assembly last month approved a $54 million contract award to Seattle-based Manson Construction.

The nonprofit fishermen’s memorial has long been opposed to the docks, citing concerns over how they will impact the annual Blessing of the Fleet, as well as the view of Gastineau Channel from the memorial.

Judge Louis Menendez on Tuesday issued an order denying the group’s request for a temporary restraining order to keep the city from working on the project. Menendez said the nonprofit failed to show it would face “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage.” He also denied the memorial’s motion for expedited consideration of the case. Menendez set a February 24th hearing on the memorial’s request for a preliminary injunction, which could stop work on the project indefinitely.

City Attorney Amy Mead said the law department will respond in writing to the memorial’s motion for an injunction prior to the hearing. While she declined to discuss specifics, Mead believes the city has a good case.

“We’re fairly confident that the fishermen’s memorial is not going to meet its burden in order to obtain from the court a preliminary injunction,” said Mead.

Juneau Port Director Carl Uchytil says the city remains confident the state will approve the transfer of submerged tidelands to the city. The Department of Natural Resources last month issued a final decision approving the land conveyance. But the memorial appealed and the decision was put on hold while it’s under review by Commissioner Joe Balash.

Uchytil says the city considered options that would have appeased the fishermen’s memorial, but the Assembly ultimately decided to move forward with the docks.

“The Assembly pretty much made the decision not to engage in any other discussions, you know, put it to bed,” Uchytil said. “Once the Assembly made that decision, I don’t think it’s proper that another department undermine that decision.”

Attorney and fishermen’s memorial board president Bruce Weyhrauch did not respond to requests for comment in time for this story.

Recent headlines