ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A federal judge's order means it's likely that nine cruise ships carrying approximately 13,500 passengers won't be allowed to enter Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska this summer, a Parks Service spokesman said.
The cutback, which is to start this week, is less drastic than the barring of 32 ships that some people had anticipated after Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge James K. Singleton.
Singleton's order caught many people in the tourism industry off-guard because they expected the cuts to begin next year, not in the middle of the tourist season.
The Park Service expects to submit the proposal for Singleton's approval Tuesday or early Wednesday, said spokesman John Quinley.
Singleton on Friday told the Park Service to slash the number of cruise ships allowed into Glacier Bay immediately in response to a federal appeals court ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Park Service erred in allowing a 72 percent increase in cruise ship entries in 1997 without having done a major environment review. While the court ordered ship visits cut, it left it to Singleton to implement the order.
The suit was brought by the National Parks Conservation Association.
Confusion exists as to whether ship numbers should be cut from the current 139 to 107, the old limit, or whether the Park Service can prorate the reduction over the remainder of the season. Under the first scenario, no more ships could enter the park after Wednesday because that's when the season's 107th cruise will visit the park, said Tom Dow, a Seattle-based executive for Princess Cruises. That would mean 32 canceled voyages.
Under the second scenario, the ship reduction would be prorated and only nine or 10 ships would be barred from Glacier Bay.
Princess and Holland America, the companies with the largest number of ship entries, said they will divert ships to other glacier-laden spots in Southeast, such as Tracy Arm south of Juneau and the Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat.
''It's disruptive to people, it's disruptive to the company,'' said Al Parrish, Holland America's vice president in Anchorage.
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