February 19th 2020

Protesters held a series of rallies on Feb. 11 urging the governor and state legislators to restore funding to the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Ten of the state’s 11 ferries are out of service, either because they need repairs or because the governor has taken away the money needed to operate them and the legislature has been unable to override the cuts.

The only state ferry still operating is the shuttle between Ketchikan and Metlakatla.

No mainline ferries will be available until at least March.

“I call it a marine highway system in crisis,” state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, was quoted as saying in an article by James Brooks in the Feb. 12 edition of The Anchorage Times.

Besides the protest in Juneau, there were rallies in Anchorage, Wrangell, Petersburg, Cordova and other communities.

Among the protesters were members of MM&P, IBU, MEBA, ILWU, ARA and other unions.

In Tuesday’s protests, there were signs blaming Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy for the situation and calling for him to be recalled.

Most of the Alaska communities that the AMHS serves lack surface access to the rest of North America.

Some also have no runways or barge terminals, meaning boats, helicopters and floatplanes are the only transportation options.

“We have been depending on these ferries for a long time, and to take them away on such short notice creates a huge problem,” said a spokesperson for Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska.

In the meantime, some communities are short on food supplies, local sports teams have been unable to participate in games, and residents are unable to get to doctors’ visits and other appointments in areas previously served by the ferries.