A chart shows the proposed plans for each of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s nine ferries next summer under a schedule open for public comment until Dec. 19. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

A chart shows the proposed plans for each of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s nine ferries next summer under a schedule open for public comment until Dec. 19. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

Proposed ferry schedule for next summer looks a lot like this year’s — with one possible big exception

Cross-Gulf sailings will resume if enough crew hired; AMHS begins two-week public comment period.

A proposed summer schedule that puts six of the nine Alaska Marine Highway System ferries into service — with a seventh providing cross-Gulf sailings if sufficient crew is hired — was released for a two-week public comment period on Tuesday.

The sailing plan for May 1 through Sept. 30 of next year is functionally and financially similar to this year’s, according to a statement by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. That suggests Gov. Mike Dunleavy is unlikely to propose any major shifts when he presents his proposed state budget for next year on Dec. 15.

“The schedule patterns proposed are based on the funding levels for FY24,” the department’s statement notes. “The operating plan has been designed to meet community service needs while staying within available funding levels and maintaining regulatory and safety standards for the vessels.”

[AMHS leaders hopeful staffing, sailings are trending up]

Routes for the six vessels in the current proposed schedule include:

• Operating the Columbia between Bellingham, Washington, and Southeast Alaska on a weekly circular route May through September.

• The Hubbard providing service in Lynn Canal six days per week from mid-May through September.

• The LeConte serving the northern Panhandle from May through September.

• The Lituya sailing five days per week between Annette Bay and Ketchikan from May through September, with an overhaul period in August.

• The Tustumena serving Southwest Alaska from May through September with one chain trip per month.

• The Aurora sailing through Prince William Sound between May through September.

The wildcard is the Kennicott, which as of now is scheduled to be in layup unless sufficient crew allows it to make cross-Gulf sailings.

AMHS has two other vessels, with the Matanuska scheduled to remain in layup throughout the summer season and the Tazlina undergoing maintenance to add crew quarters.

Written public comments are due by Dec. 18 and can be submitted via DOT’s website, emailed to dot.amhs.comments@alaska.gov, or faxed to 907-228-6873.

Two virtual public meetings are also scheduled for Dec. 19 to hear additional comments and consider other adjustments. The meeting for Southeast Alaska routes is at 10 a.m., and for Southwest and Southcentral Alaska at 1:30 p.m. Zoom and phone links to the meetings are also available at DOT’s website.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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