Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/30/2004 03:30 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 522-SMALL CRUISE SHIP DISCHARGES CHAIR SCOTT OGAN called the Senate Resources Standing Committee meeting to order at 3:30 p.m. Present were Senators Thomas Wagoner, Ben Stevens, Fred Dyson, Kim Elton and Chair Scott Ogan. The first order of business to come before the committee was HB 522 am. MS. LINDA SYLVESTER, staff to Representative Bruce Weyhrauch, sponsor, related that in 2001 the Alaska Legislature enacted the Commercial Vessel Environmental Complaints Program to solve concerns over cruise ship and state ferry discharges into Alaskan waters. Since then, most cruise ships discharging into Alaskan waters have installed advanced wastewater treatment systems, which has dramatically improved water quality samplings. Small cruise vessels are required to comply with the same standards for the larger vessels, even though they contribute approximately only 3 percent of the wastewater discharge. The assumption was made that the environmental technologies invented by the large cruise ships would filter down to the small vessels, which were given a period of time to comply; and that has now expired. Technology that was invented for the large vessels doesn't work with the smaller vessels. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the small vessel organization worked together to come up with an alternative so that small vessels would not be forced to retrofit with large holding wastewater tanks. The plan is flexible enough for the department and vessels to check back with each other every three years to come up with a new plan to utilize new technology that doesn't require massive retrofitting. MR. DAN EASTON, Director, Division of Water, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), related that it's clear that this legislation refers to just small vessels carrying between 50 to 250 passengers. It was hoped in 2001 that some of the larger treatment technologies could be scaled down and made to work on the smaller vessels, which hasn't happened. Small vessels are now required to add technology that doesn't exist or add tankage. The problem arises only at anchor, because vessels can either hold their discharge until they are under way or add tankage. This bill would add another option limiting discharges either to volume, time, or to certain locations. CHAIR OGAN asked if any ships were built after the last law was passed in reference to January 1, 2004 in section 6. MR. EASTON replied that he didn't know the answer. SENATOR BEN STEVENS asked if the owner providing evidence of a change in its treatment system would trigger a stability test - in reference to lines 21 - 24. MR. EASTON replied that the department didn't envision this situation happening very much. We were really going to focus on management practices and non-structural changes.... There was a belief on the part of the drafters that there would be some sort of firm guideline. SENATOR STEVENS asked when the guidelines would be adopted. MR. EASTON replied that the bill has no time frame, but he intends to start immediately. SENATOR STEVENS asked him to explain the year 2016 timeframe in sections 3, 5, 8, 10, 12 and 13. MR. EASTON replied that those sections eliminate the wording that hasn't worked and adds the new provision on best management practices for small vessels until 2016. MS. SYLVESTER explained that the plan for best management practices is reviewed every three years, but goes away in 2015. The date mirrors what the industry felt is the useful life of the vessels. It is also an estimate of when the better technology will be readily available and when new boats will be replacing the older ones. MR. BRYCE BROCKWAY, Vice President, Marine Hotel and Technical Operations, Cruise West, said they operate six of the smaller vessels ranging in size from 74 passengers up to 114. CHAIR OGAN asked if any keels had been laid between the time the last bill had been passed and now. He wanted to know who was exempt from the language. MR. BROCKWAY replied that Cruise West hadn't laid any more new keels; but America West had laid one and plans to operate in Alaska. He also informed the committee that some municipalities don't want to introduce seawater into their systems and seawater is used as a flushing mechanism in their systems. MR. DAVID BERG, President, Viking Travel Agency, said that the small ships are important to the economy of Petersburg and urged passage of HB 522. CAPTAIN MICHAEL JONES, Director, Marine Operations, Linblad Expeditions, said it belongs to the Small Cruise Vessel Association that is representing Cruise West and has been operating in Alaska since 1982. In 1989 it purchased two vessels that are 152 ft. long and carry 70 passengers and 24 crew. He supported the best management practices in HB 522. MR. JOHN WATERHOUSE, Elliot Bay Design Group, Seattle, said he would answer questions on wastewater design issues, but there were none. SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER moved to pass HB 522 am from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.