Conference will consider future of Alaska Marine Highway System

Some of the top tribal, state and municipal and business leaders in Southeast will gather in Haines this week for a conference that may decide the course of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The annual meeting of Southeast Conference takes place this week, and among the items on its agenda is a draft plan to change the way the system operates. The draft is the product of an agreement between the state and Southeast Conference to plan the future of the ferry system.

Released Sept. 12, the draft recommends spinning off the ferry system into a public corporation like the Alaska Railroad or the Alaska Mental Health Trust.

The report also concludes that the ferry system will never be able to support itself with fares alone.

“Regardless of the fleet size and mix or governance structure, the AMHS will always require some level of general fund support,” the report states.

The conference starts Tuesday and runs through Thursday. The ferry system discussion will take place starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Workforce development, energy, health care, mining, timber and economic development are also on the agenda for discussion. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott will be a keynote speaker on the third day of the conference.

Several state legislators are also expected to attend and speak at the event, and Rain Coast Data will present a report summarizing the region’s economic health.

Southeast Conference is the regional organization that lobbies for Southeast Alaska interests and serves as a network for municipalities, Native tribes and corporations, civic organizations and other groups.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or call 523-2258.

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