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A short-term solution is better than no solution at all.
The Alaska Marine Highway System will resume service to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, for two times yet this year.
That’s after its Oct. 1 discontinuance, a result of Dunleavy administration budget cuts. Few Alaskans will argue that cuts had to be made toward eliminating a state budget operating deficit. But the rapidity of said cuts has created devastating situations.
One such situation is the now greatly reduced ferry service between Ketchikan and Prince Rupert.
As Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan pointed out from an optimistic perspective following the AMHS announcement, perhaps this will be the first step toward a long-term solution. He is among state, federal and Canadian officials in search of one.
That’s what it will take — a commitment to unceasingly strive for the return of frequent runs between the two communities, providing access to the mainland’s road system for the islanders living in Alaska’s southeast.
The main hurdle has been a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol requirement for Canadian law enforcement to be present at the AMHS terminal in Prince Rupert while ferries load and unload. U.S. Customs isn’t allowed to be armed in Canada, but it requires protection for its officers.
Apparently, that hurdle has been overcome, with the City of Prince Rupert paying for Canadian officers to be present in October and November.
But despite the CBP and Canadian agreement and Dunleavy commented about the importance of the Ketchikan-Prince Rupert run, but the governor also cautioned that fiscal concerns remain. He continues to look at the ferry system not as a highway — as in overland roads. AMHS, however, is Southeast’s highway.
That’s not how Dunleavy has decided to view AMHS. That view might be changed except for the governor’s top priority — damn the consequences of his approach — in erasing the deficit.
Dunleavy’s point of view is a challenge among many in regard to the ferry system, specifically access in and out of British Columbia. But the two runs in October and November indicate that the challenge is just that, a challenge, and challenges can be prevailed over.
Ketchikan and Southeast will take the small victory of the two ferry runs. One small win on top of another leads to a big triumph. In this case, that’s a long-term ferry service solution.