Officials concerned budget cuts will take away Ocean Rangers

    Juneau, Alaska (AP) - The state official overseeing Alaska's cruise ship monitoring program is concerned about losing independent environmental inspectors on cruise ships.

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed eliminating the inspectors, known as Ocean Rangers, as part of his budget plan, CoastAlaska reported Wednesday. The Republican's budget, which contains sweeping cuts, is being reviewed by state lawmakers.

    The state Department of Environmental Conservation's top budget official, Jeff Rogers, laid out the Dunleavy administration's case for removing inspectors from cruise ships.

    "We get a lot of reporting from cruise ships, where they discharge, how much it is, those logs are now publicly available," Rogers said. "And all of that inspection and reporting activity will continue even without those 24/7 onsite observers, the Ocean Rangers."

    But those who work in Alaska's cruise ship program say that without onboard inspectors, the state's authority to monitor pollution from ships would be limited.

    The head of the DEC's cruise ship monitoring program, Ed White, said the Ocean Rangers have been a critical part in the permitting process.

    The program doesn't cost Alaska residents money. It's funded by the state's cruise ship passenger fee, approved by voters in 2006. Any change to the Ocean Rangers program would require an act of the Legislature.

    No bill has been filed and White said he and his staff haven't seen any draft language.

    The program's $3.8 million has been removed from Dunleavy's proposed budget. But without an act of the legislature, that money can't be redirected, and the program's mandate remains on the books.

    The state is also constrained by the courts over how it can spend funds from cruise ship passenger fees.

    More from News of the North

    Current Conditions

    Crude Oil Price