JUNEAU -- Princess Tours President Charlie Ball threw a switch aboard the Dawn Princess that lit up light bulbs on a board, ringing in the cruise lines new shore-side power transformer.
It was meant to be a symbolic gesture. But the company hopes the $4.5 million power system will have a tangible effect on clearing the air in Juneau Harbor.
Princess uses the shore-side system to power its cruise ships while they are in dock, allowing them for the first time to shut down their diesel engines that belch smoke into the air and raise the ire of some local residents. Because Juneau sits in a channel with mountains on both sides, the haze from cruise ship smoke dissipates slowly.
''We hope this project clearly demonstrates that we listen to and we respect the concerns of the Juneau community,'' said Ball, during a ceremony aboard the cruise liner in port Tuesday.
Princess Cruises has outfitted four ships to be able to connect to the electrical system and by 2002 will have a fleet of five ships able to use the system, the company said.
The company anticipates its shore-based power system will reduce the total visible emissions by a third to a fourth.
David Rogers, of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and co-chairman of a working group that deals with cruise ship emissions, said he is hopeful the plan works.
''I don't know if it totally fixes the problem, but fewer emissions is good. I'm crossing my fingers that it works as well as everyone thinks it is going to work,'' said Rogers, who was on board for the ceremony.
Princess Cruises will buy about 20 megawatts of power from Alaska Electric Light & Power for the ship, at an estimated cost of between $4,000 and $5,000 per day, the company said.
That compares to the estimated $3,500 per-day cost of running the diesel engines while in port, the company said.
Under a deal with AEL&P, revenues paid for the power will then be set aside to reduce the state-imposed Cost of Power Adjustment paid by Juneau residents, said Corry Hildenbrand, vice president of energy resources development for AEL&P.
Hildenbrand said it is expected to raise about $300,000 for the fund. Juneau has given $300,000 from a Cruise Passenger Fees tax toward the project.
Bell said his company would like the city to extend that contribution on a long-term basis.
But Juneau Mayor Sally Smith said Tuesday the city can only commit to the one-time contribution.
''Obviously with anything, we see what our cash flow is, what we have for the passenger fee. No one assembly can bind the next one, so each year it has to be a case-by-case basis,'' Smith said.
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