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Residents want vote on limiting cruise ship access in Juneau

JUNEAU, Alaska — Some Juneau-area residents have filed paperwork seeking to qualify for the local ballot proposed limits on cruise ships in Alaska’s capital city.

The proposed measures submitted Monday would ban large cruise ships at certain times and over a specific size from Juneau.

Filing paperwork is the first step in the ballot process. The city clerk has until May 3 to certify or deny the paperwork.

If supporters are allowed to go forward, they would need to collect signatures from nearly 3,000 registered Juneau voters for each of the three measures to qualify the questions for the Oct. 5 municipal election.

The effort comes as state and local officials, including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and tourism leaders, are pushing to bring cruise ships back to the state after COVID-19 restrictions last year kept the large boats away and hit hard the economy of southeast Alaska, which relies heavily on tourism.

One ongoing hurdle has been a federal law that requires cruise ships entering Alaska to stop in Canada, which is not allowing the stops this year as a result of the pandemic.

Some local residents have sought limits on the number of cruise ship visitors, citing in part quality of life issues.

One of the proposed measures seeks to prohibit cruise ships that carry more than 250 passengers from docking or anchoring in Juneau between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and another would ban them from docking or anchoring on Saturdays.

The third proposal seeks to bar cruise ships larger than 100,000 gross tonnage from being at dock or anchor after Jan. 1, 2026.

Karla Hart, a Juneau resident and co-founder of the Global Cruise Activist Network, filed the proposals, which were also signed onto by other Juneau and Douglas residents.

Hart has been outspoken about what she calls negative impacts of tourism and said she is concerned about overcrowding caused by the cruise ship industry.

"I'm a big believer in direct democracy, and this is a chance for us to say if we think that there are too many people coming on cruise ships to Juneau," Hart said.

The Global Cruise Activist Network describes itself as a group of cruise port residents and others who came together during the pandemic "to demand 'no return to business-as-usual' for cruising."

A spokesperson from the industry group Cruise Lines International Association Alaska, Lanie Downs, said in a statement that the economic effects from the coronavirus pandemic have hurt Juneau and that Hart’s proposals "would devastate Juneau even more."

The Associated Press