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  • This article by Ray Ring originally appeared in the Apr 04, 2013 issue of High Country News.
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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Heard Around the West     Comments: 0

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Trading fish for sewage

News: Apr 04, 2013
by Ray Ring

One-percenter travel

Western "luxury hotels" are offering innovative high-end outdoor recreation experiences to attract wealthy customers, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colo., advertises an "ultimate adventure package" that includes "a three night stay in a Deluxe King room, a snowshoe tour (with lunch) and a twilight dog sledding excursion through the still, snowy wonderland of Aspen," for $2,150 per couple. However, "some programs don't fly," the Journal observes. "The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Calif., created a $5,000 per-person, two-night stay that included one day of fishing and another of picking produce, each accompanied by a resort chef" who ended it with dinner -- but nobody bought that designer tourist package because "it was too complicated." The Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif., tried to hire professional surfers to give lessons to guests, but scheduling the lessons "becomes a challenge," a hotel spokeswoman told the Journal, as the pesky surfers rank the work below their top priority; you never know when they'll "fly off to go where the waves are."

Effluent for the affluent

Cruise ships dump their waste products in coastal waters, so voters in the northernmost state passed a 2006 ballot measure banning such dumping -- a futile rebellion, it turns out. The law would have become effective in 2015, but the "cruise industry" persuaded Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell and fellow Republicans to override the voters in February. The Legislature passed Parnell's bill, which allows cruise ships to "indefinitely discharge ammonia, a product of human waste, and heavy metals, dissolved from ship plumbing," reports the Anchorage Daily News. "Ammonia can contribute to algae blooms and harm shellfish. Copper, a heavy metal, has been shown to hurt the homing sense of salmon -- their ability to smell -- in freshwater." State regulators do require cruise ships to treat raw sewage before discharging it, and the industry argues that any pollution in the total discharge streams will be quickly diluted by seawater. But ban supporters -- including "fishing groups, environmentalists, Alaska Native organizations and residents of coastal communities" -- have their doubts. Democratic Rep. Les Gara warns in the Juneau Empire that the pollution will harm salmon runs. "As an avid fisherman, I don't believe in trading wild fish for cruise ship waste."

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