Stutes: Cordova must renew ferry protests

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak. (July 27, 2019) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Protests against ferry service cuts have put substantial pressure on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration, says Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

Although no ferry service to Prince William Sound is currently scheduled until April, a renewed call-in campaign could compel the administration to make concessions, Stutes said at a lively public meeting held Nov. 14 at the Cordova Center.

At previous public meetings, residents said they felt that their protests had gone unheard. Stutes, however, disagreed.

“The administration is feeling huge pressure to provide Cordova with some kind of service,” Stutes said. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we need to start squeaking again.”

The administration also “hated” the rallies and public meetings held in Juneau in March to protest proposed transportation cuts, Stutes said. She recommended that residents continue calling and writing to legislators and the governor’s office.

Stutes would support reducing ferry service to her hometown Kodiak in order to send the M/V Tustumena periodically to Prince William Sound. However, the administration has repeatedly declined to approve plans that would provide Prince William Sound with earlier ferry service. Stutes said that she had spent past weeks dismantling the administration’s justifications for refusing to restore some ferry service.

“When they give us a reason, we’re poking holes in it,” Stutes said. “We have found… some of the administration has been less than honest with us.”

In the future, the Alaska Marine Highway System would need to be forward-funded for two years in order to be sustainable, Stutes said.

Stutes also addressed economic issues at the Nov. 14 meeting. Cordova could bolster its economy by putting more emphasis on shellfish fishing and mariculture, she said. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a public-private economic development organization, is currently prohibited by statute from promoting shellfish and mariculture. However, efforts are underway to broaden ASMI’s mandate, Stutes said. She is also working with Mayor Clay Koplin and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to expand Cordova’s crab fisheries, she said.