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PUBLISHED: 4:46 PM on Wednesday, July 9, 2008
A 'Bold' undertaking
EPA research vessel will monitor impact of cruise ships in Alaska waters
JUNEAU - The 224-foot Ocean Survey Vessel Bold, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's only ocean and coastal monitoring ship, is in Southeast Alaska for three weeks to study the potential impact of cruise ships on Alaska waters.

The EPA is partnering with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for the survey, which will focus on the effects of cruise ship discharges. Researchers will be looking at nutrient concentration in the water and the dilution of wastewater discharge from cruise ships.


"It's exciting to have the opportunity to get some real field data," said Denise Koch, DEC Cruise Ship program manager. "In the past we've had to rely on computer models."

The survey will take place in the Skagway harbor with the cooperation of five to seven different cruise ships. Regulations which normally prohibit dumping in the Skagway harbor will be suspended during the study.

Participating ships will place a dye in their wastewater treatment systems. When researchers take a sample of ocean water, they will be able to detect the dye and determine how much the wastewater has been diluted.

Koch said that the numbers of cruise ships participating was limited only by the time available for the survey. Different cruise lines will be represented, but more importantly a range of wastewater treatment systems will be represented.

Skagway was chosen as the survey site for its location and cruise ship traffic.


Katie Spielberger photo
  The vessel Bold will survey waters around Skagway harbor with the cooperation of five to seven different cruise ships. Regulations which normally prohibit dumping in the Skagway harbor will be suspended during the study.
"We wanted this to be a real life situation," Koch said. "We looked at parts (of Southeast) that received the most traffic."

Skagway is a "conservative" location scientifically, Koch said. Because the harbor is at the end of Lynn Canal, the waters do not mix with other water flowing in as much as they would in other Southeast ports.

"If you didn't find anything there you could be confident you wouldn't find anything anywhere," Koch said.

"Because there's not a lot of water flowing through up there, we think there might be potential problems with nutrient dilution," said Chris Meade with the EPA's Juneau office.

There will be at least one DEC representative on board for the duration of the survey. The Bold usually carries around 20 EPA scientists in addition to the 19-person crew.

At the conclusion of the study, DEC and EPA will collaborate on a public report on the findings.

This is the Bold's first visit to Alaskan waters as an EPA vessel. The Bold was constructed by the Tacoma Boat Building Company in 1989 as a U.S. Navy survey vessel. EPA acquired the Bold in 2004 and initiated surveys on the vessel in 2005. The Bold has conducted surveys in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, and even weathered Hurricane Katrina.

As EPA's flagship vessel, the Bold tries to set a good example with its own environmental impact.

"(The Bold) uses a low sulfur diesel fuel, which cuts down on emissions," Meade said.

The Bold typically operates at a speed of 10 or 11 knots, said Third Mate Doug Moore. The ship has four engines but often only runs two at a time.

For more information on the OSV Bold visit www.epa.gov/bold. To learn more about Alaska's Cruise Ship Program visit www.dec.alaska.gov/water/cruise_ships/

Katie Spielberger can be reached at katie.spielberger@capweek.com


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