Today (Oct. 24) is the last day to offer written comment on the Alaska Marine Highway’s summer 2017 schedule, but an opportunity to give comments is coming up later this week.
Ferry system spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the updated schedule doesn’t show as much of a decline compared to summer 2016, but he says the system will see about 10 fewer operating weeks through the 2017 winter schedule.
“The total operating weeks currently is 335 and next summer’s schedule plus the following winter would be about 325,” he said. “So just maybe a week less for a boat here and there throughout the season.”
Most vessels will be taking the same routes. The Fairweather, the marine highway’s remaining operational fast ferry, would continue providing service to Sitka and Juneau once a week, allowing the LeConte to call at smaller communities more often. Both vessels will also sail to Haines and Skagway. The Columbia will continue sailing from Bellingham to Skagway and the Kennicott will remain on the Bellingham-cross-Gulf route.
Woodrow says the marine highway worked with the state to build a schedule based on the expected funding level for the next fiscal year, even though the ferry system does not have an exact figure.
“We’re going to see what the legislature and what they propose and what they work out throughout the session,” he said.
The ferry Taku, which is planned to be sold off, and the Chenega will remain in long-term storage, and the Malaspina will also be tied up.
A teleconferenced hearing will be held on October 27 to hear from those affected by the changes. They will hear comments from the Kodiak area starting at 1:30 p.m. The toll free number to participate is: 1-800-315-6338, conference code 03902#.