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EDITOR, Daily News:
As many of you know, Alaska Marine Highway System service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, ended on Oct. 1. Although that ferry route is no longer running, there are ongoing developments in hopes of restoring service.
When the Alaska Department of Transportation announced early last month that it would end service to Prince Rupert, their reasoning was that AMHS was unable to enlist the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to provide armed protection for the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents, which is a recent federal requirement.
I contacted various officials from Prince Rupert, the British Columbia provincial government and the national Canadian government, both in person and by phone, to see if I could help facilitate finding a solution. After meeting in person with Blake Ward, the head officer of Prince Rupert RCMP; and with Lee Brain, the mayor of Prince Rupert; I was able to establish that if the DOT could reach an agreement with the City of Prince Rupert to contract with the RCMP, protective services for the U.S. CBP could be provided. Problem solved! (Or so I thought).
The following week, Mayor Brain traveled to Juneau to meet with DOT Commissioner John MacKinnon, and Ben Stevens, Gov. Dunleavy’s chief of staff. Brain presented a short-term plan that could restore service to Prince Rupert in the very near future and a longer-term plan that could solve some of the other issues that made continuing AMHS service to Prince Rupert problematic (such as the deteriorating ferry ramp at the Prince Rupert terminal, and the longtime issue of whether to use U.S. steel or Canadian steel in repairs).
Like I stated earlier, the current primary hold-up is the newly adopted agreement on Land, Rail, Marine, and Air Transport Preclearance between the federal governments of U.S. and Canada to have armed protection for CBP agents. This agreement potentially includes a long-term solution for the U.S. CBP to be able to arm and protect themselves on Canadian soil. The U.S. CBP requires that all three parties — DOT, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, and the City of Prince Rupert — must commit to making the port facilities able to adhere to the requirements.
All parties involved are working to fully understand what those requirements exactly are — the details of which are complicated and difficult to summarize in a letter like this. I can say that Commissioner MacKinnon has committed to meeting in person with the Prince Rupert Port Authority and City of Prince Rupert.
As your state representative, I’ve been working daily on this issue and am dedicated to working on it until AMHS service to Prince Rupert is restored. I hope to have town hall meetings in multiple District 36 communities in the near future to provide updated information, as well as to hear from you about other concerns you may have.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36