Park Service plans for $2 million criticized

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Some fishermen and environmentalists are concerned the National Park Service isn't spending $2 million in pollution fines from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line to monitor cruise ships or water quality in Glacier Bay.

Instead, the government plans to use the money to inventory coastal resources in Alaska's national parks and study the impact of commercial fishing closures on Tanner crabs.

Those are laudable projects, said Amy Crook with the Center for Science in Public Participation in Juneau. But none of them ''have anything to do with resolving pollution issues associated with cruise ships.''

She'd like to see some of the money spent on measuring and preventing cruise ship pollution.

But federal officials say they've already got cruise ship pollution under control in Glacier Bay.

The 200 cruise ships that tour the bay are prohibited from discharging waste water and smokestack emissions are monitored, said Dave Nemeth, chief of concessions.

''We're already at a point that the rest of Southeast is getting to,'' he said.

Royal Caribbean also paid $3.5 million to the state in a civil settlement. The state is spending that money on oil spill response equipment, smokestack monitoring and other pollution-related work.

The fines stem from Royal Caribbean's admission that it dumped oily bilge water in Lynn Canal and toxic chemicals in Gastineau Channel, as well as polluting other coastal waters. As part of its plea agreement, the company agreed to pay $2 million to the National Park Foundation.

The foundation recently agreed to a Park Service plan to spend the fine:

-- $1 million for an endowment for future research.

-- $270,000 to complete coastal resource inventories in Glacier Bay National Park and three other Alaska national parks.

-- $520,000 to begin such inventories in seven Alaska national parks.

-- $210,000 to study the impact on Tanner crabs of recent commercial fishing closures in parts of Glacier Bay.

The Park Service wanted to address a broad spectrum of needs in Alaska, said Mary Beth Moss, chief of resource management at Glacier Bay National Park.

The inventories produce computerized maps showing details of soil, streams and wildlife. That would allow quick responses to protect vital coastline in the event of a spill, she said.

Fishermen also worry that the crab study will result in further fishing restrictions, in addition to the closures already ordered in Glacier Bay.

Scientists will mark Tanner crabs and track their movement in and out of areas closed to commercial fishing. The state is cooperating on the research, which officials said would be useful in determining sustainable harvest levels.

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