Residents of Angoon have been unable to travel by ferry for nearly three weeks.
The Alaska Marine Highway System hopes to restore service to the roughly 500 people who live there by mid-December. In the meantime, the city is discussing other transportation options for getting to and from Juneau.
When AMHS docked the LeConte and Aurora for repairs at the end of October, four communities in Southeast Alaska lost winter ferry service: Angoon, Tenakee Springs, Pelican and Gustavus. None of them can be accessed by road, and only Gustavus has a runway for landing planes.
Angoon Mayor Joshua Bowen said this has made it difficult to bring goods into the community.
“No one was able to go over to Juneau to do any shopping, grocery shopping and supplies and all that for the month of November,” Bowen said. “The biggest part is there are no vehicles. The only way that we’re able to move vehicles in and out of Angoon is on the ferry. You know our store, they have big trucks that they load up with their supplies and all that and groceries.”
Recently, AMHS decided to deploy the Tazlina to restore winter ferry service to some Southeast Alaska communities. The ship will provide trips between Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Hoonah and Gustavus starting this week.
But the Tazlina can’t serve Angoon right now because there’s a problem with the ferry dock: AMHS spokesperson Sam Dapcevich said its ramp is broken.
“At some point a while back it was damaged. There’s a couple of arms that are attached to the motors that lift it up and down, and those arms were bent,” Dapcevich said. “The LeConte and the Aurora had their own ramp on the stern of the vessel, so they would back in and lower their ramp.”
The Tazlina doesn’t have a ramp, so right now it can’t load and offload at Angoon’s dock.
Dapcevich said it will take some time to repair the dock’s loading ramp, but AMHS is working on a quick fix for the interim.
“We’re exploring the option of using heavy equipment to raise and lower the apron. When those details are worked out, we’ll have a better idea of the service that’ll be available for Angoon.”
AMHS has scheduled the Tazlina to make trips between Juneau and Angoon on Dec. 13 and Dec. 15.
In the meantime, the city of Angoon is looking into hiring private marine transportation to shuttle residents to and from Juneau.
Bowen said that Allen Marine has catamarans that could carry up to 150 people, depending on the amount of freight on board.
“We’re not trying to find a permanent solution to replace the ferry system,” Bowen said. “We’re just trying to get our people back and forth any way we can.”
The city has proposed hiring catamarans for Nov. 24, 27 and 30. Bowen said they would like to cap ticket prices at $65.
Residents from Tenakee Springs may be included on those runs to Juneau as well.
As for larger freight, the city may contract Goldbelt Inc. to send ships over from Juneau in December.