Gov. Tony Knowles signed
a bill that makes Alaska the first state to regulate water pollution from cruise ships. "For the first time we'll know what the huge and growing cruise ship industry is putting into our air and water, and we'll be able to hold its vessels accountable if they pollute," the governor said in a ceremony at Juneau harbor
. He said the bill, which he championed, had strong public backing. "Don't ever doubt it. Alaskans take environmental protection as seriously as they take salmon fishing and tourism."
The bill, which affects ships capable of carrying 50 or more overnight passengers, sets up a monitoring and sampling program for water and air emissions and solid waste. It targets treated sewage and gray water, or runoff from sinks, showers, kitchens, laundries and other non-sewage sources.
It establishes standards for allowable discharges in state waters and it sets up a $1-per-passenger fee to fund enforcement by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
More than 680,000 cruise ship passengers are expected to come through Alaska
's Inside Passage this summer, according to the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The executive director of the Vancouver-based North West Cruise Ship Association, which represents the nine major cruise companies doing business in Alaska, said the industry supported the bill. "This legislation culminates almost two years of voluntary initiatives and cooperative relationships with legislators and administration officials, state and federal regulators, environmentalists and the communities we call on," the association's executive director, John Hansen, said in a prepared statement. - (Reuters)