Ferry dreams

Posted: Monday, February 07, 2000

I am disappointed, but not surprised, the governor's office chose to ignore its own engineers, thumb its nose at dozens of local people, road and ferry proponents alike, who helped promote the Southeast Transportation Plan in good faith, and put forth this politically motivated plan. If I were a DOT engineer or planner, I would be demoralized.

Fast ferries will run at 15 to 16 knots out of Auke Bay and up to at least Echo Cove, just like every other populated area in the world in which they operate. The wake thrown at 30 knots will create an unacceptable safety hazard to small craft from Auke to Berners Bay. DOT knows it, the Coast Guard knows it, and anyone with much common sense knows it.

The plan seems to be to get them financed and running. Once they are installed they can always be slowed down for safety and to save fuel. Shortly after they are running the environmentalist will point out the sea lion haul out halfway up Lynn Canal. They will demand these ferries slow down once again to allow the cute little creatures to eat salmon and sunbathe unmolested, and to permit the tourists to view and take pictures of wild Alaska.

In order to close the undefendable fiscal gap between receipts and expenses of this plan, the Marine Highway System will rely on what it has always relied on - the tourist dollar. North Lynn Canal is currently the only segment of the system that pays for itself. That fact is about to change. How convenient they already have an existing reservation system that can accommodate these additional reservations. The plan - remove onboard jobs and add reservation clerks, computers, support staff, and oh yeah, better throw in a new reservation building to house all of this in Auke Bay.

But of course none of this will be brought forwarded until we have spent $100 million in ferries and are committed.

Robert B. Tonkin

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