M/V Tustumena back on the water

After 75-days in the shipyard, southwest Alaska’s ferry is finally back in the water.

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The M-V Tustumena returned to service this week following repairs that canceled 70-percent of its summer sailings. While the vessel gets underway, funds for its replacement aren’t far behind.

The Alaska Legislature approved the money to replace the 53-year-old ferry, according to Aurah Landau [OR-uh LAN-dow] of the Alaska Marine Highway.

“This allows the work to start, and takes what we know the system needs and the communities need and makes it into a physical reality of a boat that can come up and down the Chain,” Landau said.

The cost of building a new vessel is $244 million. The federal government will cover the bulk of that, while the state pays for 10 percent.

Landau said the Marine Highway wants to open the project to construction bids by next winter and have the new ferry ready within five years.

Until then, the Tustumena will make three trips over the remainder of this season. She’s scheduled to arrive in Unalaska on August 26.