A sharp increase in oil tankers carrying Russian oil to China prompts new warnings of risks to Alaska villages and the fish, seals and whales they harvest.
The Bering Sea’s new traffic does not include the State of Alaska. The current Dunleavey administration has demonstrated its lack of respect for the Alaska Marine Highway system, if by nothing else dragging its feet on a Tustamena Ferry replacement for five years, spending money repairing Gov. Parnel’s POS day boats but not building docks or consideration of any expansion. The administration saw Union Busting as all the Marine Highway deserved, that and disruption of service. The administration’s clear preference for rubber tired engine driven road vehicles precludes expanding the Marine Highway into the Bering Sea and serving the islands, towns and villages clear up into the Arctic Ocean when the ice is out. Alaska needs to order three (3) Ocean going ferries to meet future needs and obtain the economies of building multiple versions of the same type of vessels at one shipyard, one big contract. Building ports at coastal communities and up the Yukon & Kuskoquim Rivers as far as the Ocean draft Alaska Ferries can reasonably go could eventually connect to an Alaska River Highway of Riverboats that can climb ashore for winter use as local hotel/state offices, obviating the need for roads like the Ambler Access. Instead of trying to destroy the accomplishments of past efforts Alaska should opt to use the Red Dog Mine plan of access. Port Clarance at Teller Alaska and connected to Nome by an old road might well be a far less expensive a harbor to construct port facilities at than the slowly deepening waters off Nome. Having not been up there I do not know the depths of the waters or how hard it freezes. Getting Alaska Marine Highway ferries into the Bering provides eyes and accident response currently lacking. We need to recognize Alaska is more suited to River and sea traffic than to dusty wildlife disruptive roadways. Besides, with improved relations Alaska’s Marine Highway could serve Russian ports and cities. ~ Thomas R. Wilson ~ Anchorage 9/3/23