KODIAK — During a Tuesday conference, The Kodiak Chamber of Commerce voiced concern that the Alaska Marine Highway System’s proposed winter ferry schedule could affect the fishing and tourism industries in Kodiak.
The marine highway held a series of conference calls with state regions to allow people to express opinions about the proposed 2012-2013 ferry schedule, and on Tuesday it was Kodiak’s turn.
Because the ferry Tustumena will be out for repair from Nov. 1 to April 15, the marine highway put together new planned routes that will be taken over by the Kennicott during those six-months.
With the proposed new routes, Kodiak would receive service on Monday and Tuesday for weeks one and three of the month, and would receive service on Thursday and Saturday for weeks two and four.
If the changes go into effect, the maximum time between ferries would be eight days. The eight-day gap would occur between Monday of the first week and Thursday of the second week, and again between the third and and fourth weeks.
The Kodiak Chamber of Commerce had sent a letter to the Alaska Marine Highway System prior to the call, requesting that the Kennicott be made available for one entire two-week period on the four-week schedule by removing one of the Juneau sailings.
Kodiak Chamber of Commerce executive director Trevor Brown reiterated the chamber’s support of this proposal during the conference call.
Kodiak’s fishing industry will likely struggle with the proposed schedule changes, as the ferry system is heavily used to get fresh fish to the Mainland.
The Alaska Ground Fish Data Bank, which represents seven of the eight shoreside processors operating within Kodiak, voiced concern for the fishing industry during the call.
“Over the last two to three years the processors have come to rely more and more on the public ferries to transport their fish product to the Railbelt,” said Katy McGauley, fisheries biologist at the data bank. “The 2012 winter season has seen a very high cod and pollock harvest, and record shipments off-island. Not having the ferry service option during this very busy period in 2013 will harm business.”
The proposed ferry changes could also affect tourism in Kodiak. Lale Gurer, economic development specialist for the chamber, brought up the concern that Kodiak’s tourism industry will suffer in the winter months with limited ferry service.
“Numerous Alaskan hunters travel to Kodiak Island during November and December to take part in Kodiak’s hunting season,” Gurer said. “These Alaskans like to bring their own vehicles for convenience, and to transport gear and meat home.”
Alaska Marine Highway System officials responded that if they cut out one of the Juneau runs, the marine highway would be forced to make a flying crew change that would depend on unreliable air service. They also pointed out that the Kennicott can hold twice the volume of the Tustumena, so fewer visits to Kodiak don’t necessarily mean there will be less traffic volume.
Marine highway officials said they will take all opinions into consideration as they finalize the 2012-2013 ferry schedule.
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at email@example.com.