The City of Astoria will see more river cruise ships in coming years, thanks to a new agreement just approved for the 17th Street Dock. Joanne Rideout has the story.
Script below, scroll down to Listen [run time: 2:37]
The Astoria City Council this week approved a lease with cruise company American Cruise Lines that will allow the company continue to dock its river cruise ships at the 17th Street Dock by the Columbia River Maritime Museum. ACL will manage the dock for the city, which will free up city staff from these duties. The cruise company will pay the city $80,000 annually for three years. After that the city will receive an additional $500 for each vessel that docks there above a threshold of 110 vessels.
The agreement will allow faster repairs of dock infrastructure, and ACL will cover improvements to the facility. The plan is to eventually allow two river cruise ships to dock at the 17th street dock at the same time.
During the public comment period, Astoria resident Fred White complained that noise from the cruise ships already causes problems at his home on the hill above the dock. He asked the city to consider shoreside power options, in which ships dock and then shut off their engines and plug into power on the dock. The USCG already uses shore power when their cutters are at the dock. This allows ships to shut off their engines and generators and still have electrical power. Here’s Fred White:
Fred White: “I object to a lease that does not address the air and noise pollution that occurs when two cruise ships are docked at the same time at the 17th Street Dock.”
White said since river cruise ships currently idle at the dock continuously while they are in port, the noise continues around the clock and is loud enough to disrupt sleep for him and his wife.
Councilor Tom Brownson said he investigated White’s complaint, and when a river cruise ship was docked there, he also went up on the Astoria hillside near White’s home to listen.
Tom Brownson: “And I went up to Irving, near Fred’s home. And, uh, sure enough, I heard the same rumble, clear as day.”
The council ultimately agreed to include shore power in expansion plans for the dock when cruise ship volume increases to the point that there are regularly two river cruise ships docked by the museum. Any expansion plans for the dock would be modified to include shoreside power for cruise ships.
The council voted unanimously to approve the new lease. Another cruise line, American Queen Steamboat Company, a competitor of ACL, also competed for the lease, but the city ultimately chose ACL. The lease includes provisions to protect American Queen from being negatively affected by the current lease.
American Cruise Lines is headquartered in Connecticut. The line operates twelve small cruise ships along the Eastern Seaboard and Western Seaboard as well as the Mississippi-Ohio and Columbia-Snake river systems.
I’m Joanne Rideout reporting.