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Hoonah dismayed by June ferry outage

Posted: May 9, 2011 - 12:21am

Hoonah’s stakeholders are not pleased with the scheduled ferry service cutoff next month.

The terminal will be closed from June 15-29 while repairs are made. During this time, there will be no transports to Hoonah by the Alaska Marine Highway System.

“I’m not too happy with it,” said Hoonah Mayor Alf “Windy” Skaflestad. “Everybody else has ferry service but we’re left out.”

“It’s kind of devastating to us,” he said.

Skaflestad said this poses more than an inconvenience for the residents and businesses. He said they rely on trucks and vans of supplies that come in weekly. “We have businesses that have their groceries supplied every week by a ferry, supplies to keep them going.”

He said the scheduled time was also the biggest time of the year for some of these.

Upon learning of the outage, Skaflestad met with the Economic Development Group. He said the general consensus was disappointment in being without the service for two weeks. In the meantime, they are working to come up with ways to ensure all supply needs are met ahead of time.

Tyler Hickman, vice president of operations at Icy Strait Point, was at that meeting. He, too, was upset at the news and agreed that going two weeks without the service will be hard.

“This is going to have an impact on every business in town,” he said.

Another issue Hoonah has with the outage is the notification. He said that most of representatives at the meeting hadn’t been notified properly or early enough. He said those at Icy Strait Point only found out through contacts in Juneau.

“The major disappointment is here we are on May 6 and we’re just now having to get ready. They haven’t given us enough time to deal with this adequately.”

Skaflestad said he also doesn’t think Hoonah was notified properly and that the burden was put on him to notify the community through flyers.

Skaflestad also said he believes there should be at least one ferry allowed in during the renovations and, if so, they should be notified to plan accordingly.

Hickman agreed, saying he hopes the state will provide a barge for freight at least once during the outage, or subsidize air service.

“Air freight is so expensive. We can’t afford to take on that extra burden,” said Hickman.

Michael A. Neussl, Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations with the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, said the type of work on the dock will not allow for any ferries to get in during the construction.

He noted that, at one point, the loading platform itself will be removed.

Neussl said he understands that such an outage will have an impact, but the duration will be relatively short and the repairs are necessary. He earlier told the Empire that the best course of action for Hoonah residents is to stock up on groceries and supplies before June 15.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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