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Long-awaited sculpture of breaching whale expected to arrive in Juneau by late summer

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JUNEAU, Alaska — A long-awaited sculpture of a life-size breaching humpback whale is finally set to arrive in Juneau by late summer.

That timeline emerged Monday night at the meeting of the Juneau Assembly's Committee of the Whole, the Juneau Empire newspaper (http://is.gd/1MBtal) reported.

About $10 million has been budgeted for a sea walk and large-scale statue near the Douglas Bridge. The project, planned since 2007, will feature a 28-foot-tall breaching humpback emerging from a pool of water, as designed by local artist Skip Wallen.

Committee member Debbie White voiced concerns about a public backlash on the city funding a large whale project in the midst of budget cuts.

Public works director Rorie Watt said the project is more important than ever to boost the tourism economy. "It will be an enduring, iconic element," Watt said.

The design package will be completed by the end of summer, Watt said.

The cost of the sculpture is being covered in part by money from fundraising efforts over the years. Also, city and borough capital improvement project funds, as well as $675,000 in sales tax revenue, have been allocated for infrastructure and a reflecting pool to house the whale.

Committee member Kate Troll asked if the sales tax money could have been used for other expenditures such as on pool maintenance or schools.

In response, Watt said the money could have been used elsewhere. But he added that other city and borough funding is fixed — marine passenger fees, for example — and can't be used elsewhere.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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