Ketchikan mayor, council concerned over Ward Cove project

The Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Taku in storage at Ketchikan’s Ward Cove. (Photo by Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

Ketchikan city officials say they have serious concerns over a proposed private cruise ship complex on Ward Cove. 

In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is reviewing a permit to build a two-berth dock for megaships, the city’s elected leaders questioned whether the project was in the community’s best interest.

The 11-page letter outlined concerns over steering cruise ship traffic seven miles outside of town. The city could incur heavy losses from publicly financed cruise docks it’s already borrowed heavily to build. The letter also raised concerns about limited emergency services in the area which is outside city limits and covered by volunteer firefighters, medics and Alaska State Troopers.

The city asks the Army Corps to hold a public hearing before issuing any permit.

Assistant City Manager Lacey Simpson told an economic development panel at Southeast Conference in Sitka that the city is taking a hard look at the project.

“A recent surprise roadblock constraint for the city of Ketchikan was the relatively recent announcement of the two-berth cruise ship facility in Ward Cove through a private partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line and a private entity out there,” Simpson said. “And it has really called into question the need for expansion at the port of Ketchikan and what exactly the capacity needs are for the community as a whole.”

The Army Corps had extended the public comment period by a month. It expires Thursday. State and federal agencies have also weighed in on potential challenges of redeveloping Ketchikan’s former pulp mill into a cruise destination.

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