KODIAK — Ouzinkie is making its mark on the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry schedule.
As soon as the finishing touches are put on the Spruce Island town’s new dock — something expected in May — the ferry Tustumena will begin regular service.
“We’ve been working for it at least 10 years,” said Ouzinkie Mayor Dan Clarion. “The entire community is pretty excited.”
According to the marine highway’s draft plan, the Tustumena will stop briefly in Ouzinkie on two Mondays per month as it travels from Kodiak to Port Lions and back.
No price has been set for the service, and online reservations are not available for Ouzinkie booking, but marine highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said prices “should be the same as the Port Lions run.”
A one-way trip from Kodiak to Port Lions costs $33 without a vehicle. The price for the same trip rises to $147 with a standard-sized car.
While Kodiak is in easy skiff range for Ouzinkie shoppers who need something from the store, Clarion said weather frequently keeps people home.
“The weather is no longer going to be an issue for us,” he said. “Probably 50 percent of the people who normally travel back and forth with a skiff now will use a ferry.”
Tourism also could grow, as Spruce Island becomes easier to reach for Kodiak visitors.
The addition of Ouzinkie is not expected to affect ferry schedules significantly, since the town is on the route between Kodiak and Port Lions and doesn’t require a new course.
The closest parallel to Ouzinkie’s situation in the ferry network is that of Port Lions, which has had ferry service since the 1960s. Kathryn Adkins, grants coordinator and acting city clerk for Port Lions, said the ferry is a boon, but it doesn’t cure every problem.
“The biggest advantage is being able to get on your vehicle in the morning, go do your shopping or see the doctor and whatever you need to do, and come back in the same day,” she said.
Although ferry service cuts shipping prices, it hasn’t attracted a village store to Port Lions. Asked whether a store could be an option for Ouzinkie, Adkins responded, “It has the potential; it just depends on how many people you have in your community.”
While Ouzinkie can celebrate its success, the village’s triumph may be short-lived in the first year. According to the marine highway’s draft schedule for fall and winter 2012, the Tustumena will be taken out of service Nov. 1 for an extended overhaul and will not return to service until April 2013.
The only alternative, the ferry Kennicott, is too large to dock at either Ouzinkie or Port Lions.
“They will lose that service when the Tustumena goes on layoff,” Woodrow said.
The ferry system is exploring private options.
“In the past, the Marine Highway System has tried to bring on other vessels … though they have been unsuccessful so far,” Woodrow said. “There’s not a lot of boats out there that can service that area.”
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at email@example.com.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is seeking comments on its fall, winter and spring 2012-2013 schedule. To submit comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org. A teleconference has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday for Kodiak area concerns. Call 1-800-315-6338, code 3902# at the appointed time.