AMHS Update

AMHS Update

August 10, 2020 – DOT&PF releases Winter 2020 draft AMHS Operating Plan. Comments are accepted only via email to dot.amhs.comments@alaska.gov and by fax at (907) 228-687 by August 14, 2020. There will not be a public teleconference during the comment period. No draft schedule was supplied, as is usually done. Instead, only a draft vessel operating plan, which can be viewed at this link.

July 22, 2020 – Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Group invites direct feedback from coastal municipalities on “essential” ferry service and functions. Comments due August 10th.

June 24, 2020 – AMHS COVID-19 Travel Protocols Clarified. Find out what you need to know about testing, quarantine, face coverings and more as it relates to traveling on the Alaska Marine Highway. Click here to read the full press release from AMHS.

April 29, 2020 – The Alaska Marine Highway System announced a change in the summer schedule released 10 days ago. Instead of the vessel LeConte servicing Prince William Sound July through September, the vessel Kennicott will provide service beginning July 1. However, instead of regular weekly service, the Kennicott will run from Cordova to Whittier about 4 times each month with longer intervals between its visits. The Whittier to Cordova run will also be made about 4 times each month, and there will be two trips each month from Cordova to Valdez. The Cordova to Whittier (Anchorage) runs occur mostly on weekends, which are not ideal for business or healthcare appointments. It was also announced that the M/V Aurora will be back in service in PWS this fall, but the schedule for those sailings will not be announced until the Fall/Winter schedule is released.

February 19, 2020 – Governor Mike Dunleavy held a press conference to discuss the Marine Highway and announce the administration’s new AMHS Reshaping Group, which will work to find a sustainable solution to reform the Alaska Marine Highway. The Work Group’s final report is due on or before September 30, 2020 with implementation beginning in Fiscal Year 2023. In the meantime, there is still a lot you can do to voice your opinion on the importance of the Marine Highway and the need for steady, reliable funding.

An amendment to the 2020 State Budget sponsored by Rep. Louise Stutes was successfully passed in the Alaska State House on February 13th, adding $18.7 million back into AMHS system operations, although the increase will need to survive the rest of the budget process, gaining the support of the other House and the Governor. Read more here.

Tuesday, February 11th 2020 – Cordova joined rallies across the state of Alaska to “Save Our Ferries”. Below is the live-streamed footage. The fight continues. We will keep this post updated as more information becomes available.

September 19th, 2019 – Last ferry for nine and a half months leaves Cordova. Next ferry will not arrive until July 4th, 2020.

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Here’s how we gain yardage in the coming days:
  1.  
  • Get vocal on the state′s operating budget.

    To ask for full funding for public ferries in this year’s operating budget, email: house.finance@akleg.gov.

  • Call our elected officials

    Call the administration at 907-465-3708. Call your state Rep. & Senator’s offices early & often – find yours at: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

  • Fire off letters to the editor to stay visible.

    Navigate to ADN, the Cordova Times, and Juneau Empire to submit a letter to the editor or longer op-ed. All you have to do is pretend you are making a social media rant, clean up your language, and press submit! If you want help editing or submitting, email it to us at the Chamber and we can help you.

History:

When the Alaska Department of Transportation released its draft 2019/2020 Winter Schedule, it showed a service gap for all of Prince William Sound from September 12th – May 15th. That’s eight months without connection to the surface road system for five communities. It also showed substantial gaps for other regions.

Over 250 Cordovans made their voices heard to the House Transportation Committee who met in Cordova on Saturday, July 27th. Representative Louise Stutes who chairs the committee continued to work closely with the DOT to try to assemble a new winter ferry schedule that will provide adequate service to all regions in the state including Prince William Sound.

Shortly after this committee meeting, Cordovans assembled again to give feedback directly to the DOT during the DOT teleconference on Monday, July 29th. Despite all of this direct input from Cordovans, the community was left without ferry service from September 12th throughout the winter.

Through a letter-writing campaign and teleconference call-ins, Cordovans voiced their thoughts again to advocate for specific changes to the AMHS spring/summer schedule. The AMHS responded that their office was “inundated” with letters from our community and they felt they could accommodate our “reasonable requests”. Sailings were added to the schedule in April and May as we requested.

Due to COVID-19 related shipyard and employee issues, the April and May sailings we were promised were canceled, and service is scheduled to resume to Cordova on July 4, 2020, with only 4 sailings per month. The current AMHS schedule for this summer shows trips departing Cordova for Whittier on Saturday, and returning to Cordova on that Monday. The other option departs Cordova on Monday and does not return for almost two weeks on a Saturday. This schedule is problematic in that a traveler hoping for a roundtrip visit to Anchorage from Cordova has no good option to catch business hours for meetings, running errands, shopping, or healthcare appointments without spending nearly 2 weeks in Anchorage! The cost of lodging alone for that would be much more than most can afford.

Governor Dunleavy appointed nine members to an AMHS Reshaping Work Group in February of 2020 who have been meeting bi-weekly. We encourage those interested in this issue to tune into these meetings and share your thoughts on the group’s progress with the group.

Another group seeking to bring one voice to the Alaskan communities to restore full service and funding to the Alaska Marine Highway System is the Friends of the Alaska Marine Highway System. If you’d like to learn more about their work or support this organization’s efforts, email Friendsamhs@yahoo.com.

Click the button below to view talking points you can use to voice your comments to AMHS staff at the DOT, asking for usable and reliable Alaska Marine Highway service for the benefit of all Alaskans!