NVE in talks to restore some ferry service

Captain Brett Merrill commands the M/V Aurora during its final 2019 run out of Cordova. (Sept. 19, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
Captain Brett Merrill commands the M/V Aurora during its final 2019 run out of Cordova. (Sept. 19, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Native Village of Eyak is taking steps to break the current ferry service outage, Tribal officials say.

NVE is in talks with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to find a solution to Cordova’s ferry outage, NVE Executive Director Bert Adams said. However, at this point, an agreement has yet to be reached.

“We’re aggressively working on it,” Adams said. “We’re looking at both a short-term and a long-term solution … Getting ferry service here next week can’t happen, realistically. But, getting service here December, January, February — we think that’s reasonable and realistic.”

NVE has considered establishing its own ferry service, Adams said. However, such a scheme would be impeded by Title 29 of the Alaska Statutes, which designates municipal governments, but not Tribal governments, as capable of establishing a port authority that could run a ferry service. Under this regulation, NVE would be able to fund a ferry service, but would have no control over scheduling or other fundamental aspects of its operation.

However, Title 29 also does not specifically forbid Tribal governments from establishing a port authority. NVE hopes that, working with the state, Title 29 can be changed to accommodate a Tribal government running its own ferry service.

Securing funding to make the service sustainable and selecting the proper vessel for the job pose additional significant challenges, Adams said.

“The state is listening to us right now,” Adams said. “We’ve got to work together — that’s the challenge that we have.”