The Alaska Municipal League has joined many other organizations urging the State Legislature to let the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation establish permit requirements for cruise ships.

The Alaska Municipal League (AML) is asking the State Legislature to change a small portion of the cruise ship initiative and let the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) do its job by determining proper discharge standards for cruise ships.

In a resolution passed Nov. 14, the League notes that the standards imposed on cruise ships “are far in excess of those imposed on shore-based municipal wastewater facilities” because they are measured at the point of release. A search of permits has yet to find a similar requirement for any other discharger.

The “point-of-release standards could mean that beginning in 2010, cruise ships will have to defer all discharges until they are out of Alaska waters.” That will “likely shorten the time cruise ships are in port and result in fewer ports of call, which will negatively impact Alaska businesses.”

The “Alaska Municipal League urges the Alaska State Legislature in 2009 to modify, based on science, the standards governing the discharge of cruise ship wastewater such that those standards will continue to protect aquatic life and the environment.”

The AML resolution comes in response to the Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) released earlier this year, as required under the cruise ship initiative voters passed in 2006. The permit includes standards for four parameters – ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc – that are much more stringent than standards imposed on coastal communities that discharge much larger volumes into Alaska waters.

The ADEC recognized that the ships would have trouble meeting the standards and in a March 2008 press release stated:

“The majority of large cruise ships operating in Alaska have advanced wastewater treatment systems that produce a very high quality discharge – much higher, for example, than shore-based municipal sewage treatment systems. Even so, cruise ship discharges are expected to have trouble meeting water quality standards for … ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.”

ADEC postponed implementation of the stricter standards until the 2010 season but the ships had difficulty meeting the interim standards during the 2008 season.

AML joins a growing list of organizations and local governments opposed to the stricter standards.

AML is a voluntary, nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide organization of 140 cities, boroughs, and unified municipalities, representing over 97 percent of Alaska’s residents. Originally organized in 1950, the AML?s mission is to represent the unified voice of Alaska’s local governments to successfully influence state and federal decision making and build consensus and partnerships to address Alaska’s challenges.

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