Proposed AMHS schedule has huge PWS gap

The M/V Aurora makes its way across the Prince William Sound from Cordova to Whittier on Friday, June 22, 2018. (Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times)

Public comment is being sought on the proposed Alaska Marine Highway System schedule for October 2019 through April 2020, a schedule that shows a service gap for all of Prince William Sound from Oct. 1 through April 30.

“Seven-month ferry service gap in Cordova?” says Cathy Renfeldt, executive director of the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, in an alert to the community on July 15.

“That’s seven months without connection to the surface road system for five communities,” Renfeldt said. “Say NO now.”

Marty Weiser, chief development officer for Copper River Seafoods, agrees.

“The ferry system offers us an economical way to get our fish from Cordova to Anchorage,” Weiser said. “Once we get our fish to Anchorage, we have more options to get it out to market. When we charter flights from Cordova to Anchorage, it’s twice the price of the ferry.”

By sending the fish headed and gutted to Anchorage, where utility costs are cheaper, to be filleted and distributed to the market place, Copper River Seafoods is able to offer its customers a better deal, he said.

“We do rely heavily on it,” he said. “The bottom line is it will be a terrible thing for the state not to have that transportation system that has been in place for so many years.”

Renfeldt is urging everyone to email their concerns to dot.amhs.comments@alaska.gov.

She also urged people to call the House Finance Committee to testify on Wednesday, July 17, about House Bill 2001, which would reinstate all of the budget items vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and provide for what’s being called a “surplus PFD,” which would be $1,500 or less, according to some estimates.

The $444 million in cuts from the $8.7 billion state operating budget proposed by legislators includes millions of dollars in cuts from the Alaska Marine Highway System, for education, health care, the arts, environment and public assistance. The complete list is online at documentcloud.org/documents/6175818-6-28-19-Final-Gov-Op-MH-Veto-Summary.html.

The proposed ferry schedule is available online with accompanying documents at dot.state.ak.us/amhs/share/schedule/considerations.pdf.

The proposed schedule is based on current funding levels for fiscal year 2020, state officials said.

Written comments are being accepted on or before July 26, via email at dot.amhs.comments@alaska.gov and by fax at (907) 228-6873.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has also scheduled a teleconference to hear comments and consider adjustments July 29 at 10 a.m. for Southeast Alaska schedules and at 1:30 p.m. for Southwest and Southcentral schedules.

The toll-free number to participate at either teleconference is 1-515-604-9000, access code 279613.