The Alaska State Marine Highway Ferry Fairweather pulls up to the Auke Bay Terminal in June 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Marine Highway Ferry Fairweather pulls up to the Auke Bay Terminal in June 2014. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Lawmakers need reality check on the ferry system

It’s time they fix it.

Lawmakers need reality check on the ferry system

Imagine,if you will, the highways into Palmer, Fairbanks or Wasilla being shut down due to a lack of funds.

Supermarkets would start to run out of groceries, drug stores would run short on necessary meds, building materials wouldn’t get to job sites. There would be no fresh produce or dairy products or bread making in to the masses.

What if places like Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan had to go six or eight weeks without barges bringing groceries and other necessary supplies during the winter? Would the Legislature find a way to override the governor’s veto then? I suspect the folks living in those towns wouldn’t put up with the inconvenience.

I live in Hoonah where we depend on reliable ferry service to provide the same goods and services that those other larger towns take for granted. At present there is no fresh milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream or other fresh dairy products in either store. Tomatoes, bananas, lettuce and broccoli can’t be found either. Yesterday when I went to the local market I found three loaves of bread on the shelf.

We’re not expecting a ferry until March 10 — just in time to start making preparations for the upcoming tourist season. I can assure you that the situation we’re facing right now wouldn’t be happening in July at the height of the tourist season. How would they feel if they came in and saw empty shelves and angry people?

Some folks might just wonder why perishable groceries aren’t just flown over. Anyone who has lived here in the winter already knows the answer. Even if the weather permitted regular flights, the cost is prohibitive.

I feel like we deserve the same opportunities, within reason, as the larger cities here in Southeast, and those who are connected to a road system. Alaska Marine Lines doesn’t run barges here in the winter. We depend on the ferries to provide us with the same goods that those on the road system take for granted. I’d like to invite the Legislature to set up shop in Hoonah and get a reality check and see how long it would take before we had ferry service. This problem has been self inflicted by those running the state government. It’s time they fix it.

Tom Botts

Hoonah


• 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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