ANCHORAGE – Wednesday, several lawmakers who represent coastal communities urged the Dunleavy Administration to fulfill the Alaska Department of Transportation’s mission statement to “Keep Alaska moving through service and infrastructure” by promptly getting two essential Alaska Marine Highway System vessels back into operation.
DOT recently made an announcement that M/V Leconte and Malaspina would be laid up, leaving the communities of Angoon, Gustavus, Pelican and Tenakee Springs completely without ferry service and leaving Hoonah and Kake with only limited runs. The decision leaves the communities in “existential crisis,” the lawmakers wrote.
“The ferry is the only economical means of transportation for many Southeast Alaskans,” the lawmakers wrote. “We know Railbelt residents would feel similar with simultaneous closure of the Glenn, Parks, and Richardson Highways. With the multitude of recent, severe budget cuts to AMHS, and delayed maintenance to system vessels, this is leading to future economic and social disasters, if management action is not taken quickly.”
“This seems to be a funding priority crisis that can be solved. We understand that the department budgeted $1.2 million for repairs to the LeConte and the real cost of repair is closer to $4 million. This is not a valid reason to hamstring these communities and the administration has the tools to solve the problem. There is funding available — $20 million was set aside in an earlier budget for just this type of situation.
Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan), Sara Hannan (D-Juneau), Andi Story (D-Juneau), and Sen. Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau) signed the November 12 letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and DOT Commissioner John MacKinnon.