Alaska governor takes aim at cruise ship monitoring program

Monitoring program for Alaska's cruise ships could be restructured by governor's administration

JUNEAU, Alaska -- A program that monitors Alaska's cruise ships could be restructured by the governor's administration, officials said.

The future remains uncertain for the Ocean Rangers program, CoastAlaska reported Thursday.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed line items equaling $444 million in reductions to Alaska's operating budget in June. The cuts included the Ocean Rangers budget.

The state Legislature restored the program's $3.4 million in passenger fee funding, but another veto is possible, officials said.

Ed White, who led the program, resigned effective Thursday and declined to be interviewed.

The program is unnecessary and burdensome to the industry, said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Jason Brune.

Rather than replace the top official, Brune said the agency may divide its cruise ship program staff between its air and water divisions. The agency will not renew the program's contract for next season, he said.

"We're committed to working with the Legislature to create a new and improved program that works for everyone," Brune said.

Brune has proposed an automated monitoring system that does not rely on inspectors.

Proponents of the Ocean Rangers program said it has been largely successful in protecting the state from cruise ship pollution.

"I think a big reason for the fact that the industry hasn't been dumping in Alaska, the way they have been already caught dumping in other places, is because the ranger program has been in place," said Gershon Cohen, one of the authors of the ballot initiative that created the program.