Ketchikan stunned by Dunleavy plans to scuttle Alaska ferry system

When Mike Dunleavy campaigned in Ketchikan, he said, “I’ll be more than happy to answer the most important question, right? It’s 6-foot-7.” No, the most important question in Southeast Alaska is usually about the ferry system.

His answer to residents of Southeast Alaska about the Alaska Marine Highway System was unequivocal. He was a steadfast supporter and he wanted to make the ferry operation more efficient, as the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

“That’s not code word for lopping off and chopping off big aspects of it,” Dunleavy said. “But no, give us some feedback, ‘What are some ways we could make (AMHS) more efficient, what are some ways we can run the ferry better, and work with folks that are on the ground?”

“But it’s crucial,” he said. “You can’t eliminate the ferry system in Southeast Alaska, that’s how we get around.”

In a Sept. 12 appearance he said he would look for ways to make the system last for generations, the Ketchikan Daily News said.

“Between the airport and the ferry system this is the transportation for Southeast Alaska,” he said. Eleven days before the election, he repeated the same sentiment.

“I stand behind the fact that it is the backbone of transportation in Southeast Alaska, that we're gonna do everything we can to work with local stakeholders to make sure that it remains the backbone of transportation in Southeast,” Dunleavy told the Ketchikan newspaper.

“There is no plan to hack, cut or destroy the marine highway system,” he said.

That makes it hard to explain the Dunleavy plan to hack, cut and destroy the marine highway system.

Perhaps he suffers from political amnesia. He is no longer a believer in the sanctity of the state ferry system.

As the Ketchikan Daily News said this weekend in a powerful editorial, the governor is now trying to sink the system with a 68.4 percent budget cut.

“In addition, Dunleavy’s proposed capital budget shifts $25 million out of the design and replacement process for the AMHS ocean-going ferry Tustumena, using the money instead for the state’s federal-aid highway funding match,” the newspaper said.”

“Also — and here’s the clincher — Dunleavy’s proposed capital budget shifts $15 million out of the AMHS vessel replacement fund and gives it to the Alaska Department of Transportation ‘for divesting the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries and terminals.’”

“The Dunleavy plan is clear: Scuttle the Alaska Marine Highway System, and fast,” the newspaper said.

“The implications are staggering for Ketchikan, which is home to AMHS headquarters, a Ketchikan Shipyard that’s hugely dependent on AMHS work, numerous AMHS employees, and a population that relies on AMHS service.”

It may have been temporary budget director Donna Arduin who concluded that the ferry system was expendable. She showed her lack of understanding by comparing the cost of driving a vehicle on a road to the cost on a ferry.

As Alaska writer Tom Kizzia wrote on Facebook, “She does not say whether she tested this theory by driving to Sitka, Ketchikan, or Dutch Harbor.”

Dermot Cole3 Comments