Letters to the Editor

Letter: The Alaska Marine Highway’s future

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s savage cuts to just about everything are based upon an ideology that believes without explanation, justification or example that our state government is bloated and even mostly unnecessary. Please let me disagree on one set of his mean-spirited cuts.

Cutting and damaging the Alaska Marine Highway System is not a forward-looking plan. There were ‘developers’ in my youth who sought to open Alaska by building roads to just about everywhere. Now, for a change, I am going to sound a bit like them.

The Alaska Marine Highway should be significantly expanded with two new divisions: The first can be accomplished by building high-seas vessels and using them to open up the Bering Sea. From Dutch Harbor to the mouth of both the Kuskokwim and Yukon rivers, to Nome, Kotzebue and the Arctic Ocean, from Nunivak and Nelson islands to St. Paul in the Pribilofs and St. Lawrence Island to Russia’s eastern shore (once negotiations were successfully completed). These ships would stimulate commerce, travel and allow emergency response and rescues to the many vessels that are beginning to ply the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. Initial ferry docks may be built on small barges tethered to shore and all of this infrastructure built at the shipyards subsidized by Alaska’s government in the past.

Those shipyards will be busier still meeting the needs of the second new Riverine Highway Division as they will also construct medium-sized riverboats to serve the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nenana and Tanana rivers, among other navigable Alaska rivers. These modern maneuverable boats with large motor-driven, tired wheels that could be hydraulically rammed into the riverbed to climb over sand bars and debris would also allow them to climb ashore just before freeze-up and provide onshore functions. These riverboats would allow prospectors and mining concerns access to remote portions of the state.

Coastal towns and villages would be provided with improved and cheaper access to freight and supplies, and independent tourists and locals would have a new way to get around. I believe this is the future we should seek, not a barren and impoverished past as our current governor would have for all Alaskans.

— Thomas R. Wilson


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