In this file photo, the Alaska Marine Highway System’s Tazlina, right, arrives at the Auke Bay Terminal as the Kennicott departs on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this file photo, the Alaska Marine Highway System’s Tazlina, right, arrives at the Auke Bay Terminal as the Kennicott departs on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Ferry system is shameful; Floathouse owner seeks photographs; Senatorial shortcomings

Letters to the Editor.

Ferry system is shameful

I have lived in Juneau for almost 10 years — my career has me all over the world where I’ve experienced all sorts of transit systems. My recent contract in the Yukon has made many of our administrative shortfalls in the Alaska Marine Highway System ridiculously visible.

Many industries do forward-planning, something AMHS seems to be missing out on. When a ferry is going in for layup or maintenance, the task for the management team should be to figure out how to continue the mission of the AMHS without just gutting every route or demanding more money. This summer, the system added the Tazlina only to find out they need to install crew cabins, costing $27 million. The summer schedule was awful for travelers. The boats no longer did a same day roundtrip, but overnighted in Haines.

After using the ferry to travel Skagway to Juneau last week, I was shocked to see that somehow AMHS figured out how to do a same day roundtrip. They negotiated with the Coast Guard and added three new crew members.

So call me baffled when I am now wondering why on earth are we laying up the ship, again, at a cost that’s half the entire AMHS budget, to add crew cabins, when it seems just adding three crew members will give AMHS a bit more flexibility? It seems that service to Lynn Canal is being sacrificed for … nothing?

The people running AMHS should be ashamed. If this was a private business, AMHS would be out of business. It is in the public’s interest that another entity takes over running AMHS and focus on “forward planning” and actually thinking like a business, rather than just not giving a hoot and letting the dominos fall where they may.

Nate Vallier,


Seeking historic floathouse photographs

I am looking for old photographs of a floathouse that was purchased and used by the Schnabel Lumber Company of Haines in the 1960s. Over the years it was towed and used at various logging sites throughout Southeast Alaska. John Schnabel once told me he recalled that he may have acquired it from a dentist in Juneau in the 1950-1960s. It consisted of two cabins on a log raft and was used by the foreman and cook. Schnabel had also retooled a WWII barge (KP-10) as a floating barrack for the lumber crew.

The floathouse. (Courtesy photo | James Wilson)

The floathouse. (Courtesy photo | James Wilson)

In 1981, I purchased the derelict floathouse located nine miles from Haines in Lutak Inlet near the Chilkoot River, rehabilitated it, and 10 years later had Schnabel skid it onto dry land where it sits to this day. I have many pictures showing the progress of this, my home, and would greatly appreciate any photos depicting its early history. If you have any information, please call me at (907)766-3698, email me at, or write to this address: James Wilson, PO Box 745 9 Mike Lutak Road, Haines, AK 99827.

James Wilson,


Senatorial shortcomings

What is going on with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski? She seems to still be in a “Kavanaugh” state-of-mind.

Alaska can do better in the U.S. Senate. Are the Democrats buying her off? Does she have something to hide?

It’s disgusting.

Beverly King

Las Vegas, Nevada

• Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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