Some Southeast lawmakers say reduced ferry service is causing an 'existential crisis'
Lawmakers from coastal communities want Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to find the money to get two Alaska Marine Highway System ships sailing again.
A news release from the House Majority states the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced that the LeConte and Malaspina ferries needed repairs and would be laid up.
This leaves the communities of Hoonah and Kake with limited sailings and Angoon, Gustavus, Pelican and Tenakee Springs without any ferry services, the release reads.
Reps. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka; Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan; Sara Hannan, D-Juneau; Andi Story, D-Juneau; and Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau sent a letter to the governor Tuesday saying this reduction in ferry services has caused an “existential crisis” in Southeast Alaska and will lead to future problems.
“The ferry is the only economical means of transportation for many Southeast Alaskans,” the letter reads. “We know Railbelt residents would feel similar with a simultaneous closure of the Glenn, Parks, and Richardson Highways. With the multitude of recent, severe budget cuts to AMHS, and delayed maintenance to system vessels, this is leading to future economic and social disasters, if management action is not taken quickly.”
The lawmakers say $20 million was set aside from an earlier budget for just this type of situation.
“This seems to be a funding priority crisis that can be solved. We understand that the department budgeted $1.2 million for repairs to the LeConte and the real cost of repair is closer to $4 million. This is not a valid reason to hamstring these communities and the administration has the tools to solve the problem,” the group wrote.
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