- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

HOONAH, Alaska (AP) - They have the same goal but different ideas about how to get there.

In Hoonah, the debate over a cruise ship dock has turned family members against each other in an argument about who will benefit from the millions of dollars spent by cruise tourists each year.

Huna Totem Corporation and some Hoonah residents want a cruise ship dock at Point Sophia, where Huna Totem has a complex of shops, restaurants, and a base for activities called Icy Strait Point.

Other residents want it at Shaman Point, which is on city property closer to town and businesses unaffiliated with Huna Totem.

Earlier this year, Mayor Seferino “Nino” Villareal vetoed a proposal to withdraw city support of the Shaman Point site. The city council successfully pushed to override that veto.

City councilman Bob Starbard, who led the push in favor of Icy Strait Point, said he preferred not to look at the issue as “one versus the other.”

“The issue for us - myself and others - was that the dock be built,” he said. “Each of the sites has its deficits. Each of the sites has its benefits … the actions I proposed, the ultimately the city council agreed to, was to build it where the cruise lines said they would dock. That’s about as simple as I can lay it out.”

Vice mayor Mary Erickson, who voted against the veto override, said she feels a location at Icy Strait Point takes something away from Hoonah residents. The winter weather at the exposed point means the dock will either have to be moved after every tourist season, or residents won’t be able to use it then, she said.

“I’m all for tourism,” she said. “We’re all Huna Totem shareholders. But for them to try to take something away from the community to benefit them is wrong. This was meant for the whole community, not a couple hundred people.”

Icy Strait or Shaman Point?

Hoonah residents have been waiting a long time for their new dock.

A state grant for the project has been frozen twice; the debates have taken so long that the state has already taken $2 million from the project in order to spend it elsewhere.

The state “multi-use deep water marine berthing facility project” grant, to be administered through the city of Hoonah, was first granted years ago. Then-Mayor Alf R. “Windy” Skaflestad set the city’s goals in a 2011 letter: “The City of Hoonah will provide a public dock, specifically a deep water berthing facility, in Hoonah, which will allow for a variety of uses on a year-round basis, where such uses will provide economic benefits to the residents of Hoonah and the region.”

That letter didn’t name a site; Skaflestad asked the city council to “keep focused on our goals and objectives” while making a decision on location.

Mary Erickson said she’s been “singing the same song” for years.

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