More cruise ships in Glacier Bay considered

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) The National Park Service may boost the number of cruise ships allowed to visit Glacier Bay National Park to 184 from the current 139, according to an agency project manager, who said the visits could be ramped up gradually starting next year.

The park service presented a draft environmental impact statement on vessel quotas and operating requirements for Glacier Bay at a public hearing here Wednesday. The draft was completed last month.

We know the people who live in this area and who use the park have a lot of knowledge and they care about it,'' said Nancy Swanton, project manager for the environmental impact statement. The park service could amend or adjust the EIS depending on public comments, she said.

The environmental impact statement provides five alternatives for Glacier Bay beginning next season.

The first alternative is the current situation, allowing two cruise ships per day with no more than 139 entries in the park during the summer season. Also allowed are three smaller tour boats per day with 276 entries per season; six charter boats per day with 552 entries per season; and 25 private boats per day with 468 entries per season.

The second alternative would return daily quotas and seasonal entries to 1985 levels slightly lower quotas for most categories.

The third alternative, the one favored by the National Park Service, keeps the same daily quotas and seasonal entries that are in place now, but allows for an eventual increase in cruise ship entries to 184 per season based on an annual review by the park superintendent.

We're required by law to indicate an agency-preferred alternative and an environmentally preferred alternative,'' Swanton said.

The environmentally preferred alternative,'' the fourth one, would cut the cruise ship and tour boat entries allowed per season and increase the entries for charter and private boats. It would also close certain waters to cruise ships and tour vessels and lower the speed limit for larger vessels.

The fifth alternative would increase the private vessel quotas and revise operating requirements as in the fourth alternative.

Gordon Wrobel of Elfin Cove was the only person to testify at the public hearing in Juneau Wednesday. He asked the National Park Service to consider addressing Dundas Bay, southwest of Glacier Bay off Icy Strait. Wrobel said Dundas Bay could be an alternative to Glacier Bay.

I think we have an opportunity there that is significantly different from what they can experience in Gustavus or at Glacier Bay,'' Wrobel said.

The draft environmental impact statement is available for public review at Comments will be accepted through May 14.

A final EIS is scheduled to be released in October. The National Park Service will make a decision on vessel use in Glacier Bay by Jan. 1.

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