Better ferries or new roads?

Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Recently SEACC announced that they had helped form a lobbying group to promote better ferry service in the state. This is the same organization that was foremost in destroying the timber economy of Southeast Alaska. Now they're back to help again with the same tactics of divide and conquer. They will create a crisis to pit communities against each other. Let us not forget recent history and let's not repeat it. Earlier this year SEACC stated that they supported the timber industry, but last month filed a legal challenge to a new timber sale. They say their goals are better ferry service, but do not state that they support improved transportation between Southeast Alaska communities.

For 47 years Southeast Conference has both created and championed the Alaska Marine Highway System. Membership includes all Southeast communities along with chambers of commerce, tribal organizations, businesses and private members. The governor created the Marine Transportation Advisory Board to advise his administration on how to improve the operations and service levels of the AMHS. This board represents all regions of the state that use the Alaska Marine Highway.

So why must SEACC form a new group that represents only three communities and organized labor? Why did SEACC hire an executive director that by law cannot lobby the state of Alaska Department of Transportation?

Why do Haines and Skagway object to a plan the delivers better service than any other community of equal size? Next summer Haines will receive 17 port calls per week and Skagway 11; there will be six sailings per week between the two communities. There will be five-day-a-week fast-ferry service and five-day-a-week mainliner service operating in north Lynn Canal with a minimum of seven-day-a-week service.

I believe the reason is they do not want any new roads built that would create permanent connections between our communities. The governor has the correct future vision of transportation in Alaska. A transportation system in Alaska that improves Marine Highway service, and a transportation system that is both affordable and sustainable. If history is to be our guide then we must know that SEACC will leave the communities hanging once they stop any new roads from being built.

John Conley


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