Ferry service to Cordova ends on Sept. 19

Stutes: Dunleavy has thrown rural Alaska under the bus

The M/V Aurora departs the Cordova Ferry Terminal. The vessel, seen here on Sunday, July 21, 2019, is not scheduled to service Prince William Sound between October 2019 and April 2020. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Ferry service to Cordova will come to an abrupt halt on Sept. 19 for the entire winter, under a schedule released on Thursday, Sept. 5, by state transportation officials.

In its announcement of the Alaska Marine Highway System winter schedule, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said that when compiling the winter schedule, AMHS staff worked diligently to meet community needs as much as possible.

The announcement acknowledged that the winter schedule was “fiscally constrained and AMHS funding for the fiscal year 2020 was reduced by $43 million. This 31 percent budget reduction from previous fiscal years left little room for flexibility in the schedule,” DOTPF officials said.

The winter ferry schedule showing no service in Prince William Sound past Sept. 19 can be found online at https://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/index.shtml.

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

“We’re trying to find every avenue we can to get the governor to add more funds (to AMHS),” said Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

“There is a possibility if there is a special session to override the governor’s vetoes,” Stevens said, but he was not optimistic about that.

“We are working with the department trying to get them to see the sense of finding ways to take money from one place and put it in another place,” he said. “We’re hoping they will find a way to do it.”

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. July 27, 2019, Stutes and other Alaska House Transportation Committee members heard testimony from Cordova residents regarding a proposed seven-month ferry stoppage. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

“We have a governor who has said ‘I am listening to the people of Alaska.’ Appearently he didn’t hear us,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. “It is time to rally the troops and make sure he hears us. He has thrown rural Alaska under the bus. It is unconscionable to me that he would do this to rural Alaskans.”

She said $5 million was added back into the AMHS budget after Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s first round of vetoes to the state budget were announced. In his next set of budget cuts, the governor also vetoed that $5 million.

“This tells me rural Alaska is not one of his priorities,” Stutes said. “He’s made it clear by his actions that rural Alaska is not part of the state of Alaska as far as he’s concerned. Everything he has done has hit rural Alaska twice as hard as anywhere else. By bringing in outside people to take our resources, he is selling off the state slowly, but surely.”

“He’s doing it to the moral of the people who live here too,” she said. “He is economically and emotionally destroying the state and that is really a tragedy.”