Petersburg Pilot -

Summer sailings from South Mitkof terminal cancelled

 

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The South Mitkof Ferry terminal, about 25 miles south of Petersburg, has sat largely unoccupied since built with federal funds in 2006. The Alaska Department of Transportation had to cancel five planned summer sailings to the terminal due to issues with their vessels. ADOT is working on a new plan to show that the terminal is being used and avoid paying a penalty to the federal body that funded it.

The Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) has cancelled the scheduled summer sailings of the M/V LeConte that would have utilized the South Mitkof ferry terminal due to maintenance-related delays of the Alaska Marine Highway System's (AMHS) vessels.

Once a month sailings from May to September between Juneau, South Mitkof and Coffman Cove were planned to show the terminal was being used for its intended purpose and to avoid possible penalties or having to pay back federal funds used to construct the terminal.

"We built those terminals using federal transportation dollars and the federal government said if you're not using these terminals for the reason you built them then there could be a penalty," said ADOT spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow.

However, the M/V LeConte isn't available to serve the South Mitkof route because it's sailing the M/V Malaspina's scheduled routes while that vessel receives longer than anticipated maintenance at the ship yard.

"We've had a lot of delayed overhauls with our vessels this spring and early summer, and that's created a domino affect of where and when vessels are running," Woodrow said, adding that many of the ferries are over 50 years old.

Woodrow said that the impact to passengers was minimal as reservation numbers were low for the five scheduled sailings. However, ADOT is still on the hook to demonstrate the terminal is in use and avoid possible financial penalties.

When the terminal was constructed in 2006, the Inter-island Ferry Authority (IFA) was slated to use it to run routes in Southeast. Woodrow said that the IFA was unable to do so because of financial reasons, but ADOT is now in talks with IFA to bring them back on board for summer sailings in 2016. Some $200,000 left over from a state-funded project in the Kenai Peninsula would be appropriated to the IFA for the service.

ADOT is also soliciting public comment on the proposed AMHS schedule for winter 2015-16.

"This year's schedule, for the most part, is going to be very similar to what Petersburg has seen in the past," Woodrow said.

For much of last winter, the ferry schedule was on an every-other-week schedule that included six sailings one week and four sailings the next. In the proposed schedule for this winter, there are five sailings from Petersburg. Ferry users can expect to see decreased service between mid-January and mid-February when only two of the mainliner ferries will be running in Southeast. Woodrow explained that decreased service during that stretch of time is related to both budget and maintenance issues. The M/V Taku will be overhauled for the entire year in 2016 due to budget cuts to the AMHS.

Woodrow said that the winter schedule aims to meet community needs, especially for scheduled community events. Those interested can view the proposed schedule via a link of the AMHS homepage, http://www.ferryalaska.com, and participate in a teleconference at 10 a.m. on July 22. Written comments are due by July 21.

 

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