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KETCHIKAN (KDN) — A bill reinstating a wastewater discharge waiver for passenger vessels and exempting the Alaska Class Ferry project from art spending cleared the Alaska Senate on Friday.
Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, passed in a 16-2 vote on Friday, with Anchorage Sens. Tom Begich and Wielechowski dissenting. It’s now on its way to the House.
The bill reinstates a waiver for small cruise ships and the Alaska Marine Highway System to discharge treated wastewater as allowed by their permits from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
The permits lapsed, unbeknownst to state regulators, in the past few months — prompting the legislation from Stedman, who said in a Friday announcement that without the waivers the state ferry system would have to spend $5 million on water treatment systems.
Stedman said small cruise ships and "the associated shore-side businesses of coastal Alaska would also suffer if the bill doesn’t pass."
Also tucked into SB 3 is language exempting the Alaska Department of Transportation from the state’s "percent for art" law, which requires all state-funded capital projects set aside one percent of their budgets to buy art.
In DOT’s case, the bill would exempt the day boats Tazlina and Hubbard being constructed in the Ketchikan Shipyard and the future replacement of the ferry Tustumena from the requirement.
Art removed from the Taku, which is on its way to being sold by the state, will be used on the new ferries.