Committee meeting on ferry stoppage draws 250 attendees

Residents testify against cuts before House Transportation Committee

Residents crowd the Cordova Center for a meeting of the Alaska House Transportation Committee. The committee’s Saturday, July 27, 2019, meeting heard testimony from residents on a proposed seven-month ferry stoppage. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Residents crowd the Cordova Center for a meeting of the Alaska House Transportation Committee. The committee’s Saturday, July 27, 2019, meeting heard testimony from residents on a proposed seven-month ferry stoppage. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Residents of Cordova were unanimous in their testimony before the Alaska House Transportation Committee on Saturday, July 27, condemning a proposed seven-month gap in ferry service to Prince William Sound.  Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, presided, with Reps. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, and Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage.  Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, participated by phone. The crowd packing the Cordova Center conference room and overflowing onto the center’s staircase ranged from middle school students to Mayor Clay Koplin.  The sometimes heated testimony focused on the potential economic and social implications of the cuts.

“This unconscionable, arbitrary, no-notice-or-public-input, seven-month removal of ferry service will be devastating to our community and our business,” said Gary Graham, co-owner of the Powder House Bar and Grill. “To just advise us at the last minute, ‘Oh, by the way, you will no longer have a ferry from Oct. 1 through April 30 is… unconscionable. There are many other sensible cuts to the state government that can be made to provide additional funding for necessary state infrastructure.”

Several attendees suggested reducing Cordova’s ferry service to four days per week. Other common themes included strong condemnation of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget cuts and a need to raise oil industry taxes. Stutes expressed optimism that the ferry schedule could successfully be overhauled, but stopped short of endorsing any particular plan for a revised schedule.

Kristy Andrew, accompanied by her child Ellie Andrew-Jaguey, testifies before the Alaska House Transportation Committee. Two hundred and fifty other residents crowded into the Cordova Center on Saturday, July 27, 2019, to testify on a proposed seven-month ferry stoppage. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Kristy Andrew, accompanied by her child Ellie Andrew-Jaguey, testifies before the Alaska House Transportation Committee. Two hundred and fifty other residents crowded into the Cordova Center on Saturday, July 27, 2019, to testify on a proposed seven-month ferry stoppage. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Stutes occasionally cautioned those testifying to confine their remarks to the ferry stoppage and not to lapse into vitriol toward the legislature or Dunleavy.

“We’re trying to educate [the Department of Transportation] and let them know from the grassroots up how this affects real people, when they’re sitting in their offices, determining the schedules for the ferries,” Stutes said. “I believe that this is a very difficult, trying time for all of us. I also believe we’re going to get through it, and we’re going to get through it in a positive manner.”

The Saturday, July 27 meeting of the House Transportation Committee was followed on Monday, July 29 by a teleconference in which residents offered comment on the proposed ferry cuts to the Department of Transportation.