The Patrol Vessel Stimson sailed out of Dutch Harbor Monday morning, marking the end of an era for Unalaska and for the Stimson.
After 17 years based in Dutch Harbor, it’s heading to Kodiak, where the state of Alaska’s biggest patrol vessel will be based.
“I will certainly miss Dutch Harbor,” said Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sergeant Robin Morrisett, one of six Department of Public Safety employees who are leaving Unalaska with the Stimson. “I’ve got a lot of friends here, and so does everybody else on the boat. We’re all going to miss Dutch Harbor.”
With the Stimson crew’s family members serving on the school board and other local committees and occupying seats in city schools, it’s a loss to the small community.
But Morrisett said law enforcement on the Bering Sea and around the Aleutians won’t take a hit, even though the Stimson will be based some 600 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor.
“As of right now, we’re going to keep same amount of sea days out on the water that we do now, plus extra ones for the running time [from Kodiak],” he said. “We’re not going to see a downsize in enforcement. Same areas, plus newer areas around Kodiak and the south Alaska Peninsula, over there by Chignik.”
Even with the extra running time and fuel, public safety officials said the move will save close to a half million dollars a year.
Unalaska city officials fought the move when it was proposed in previous years, but they didn’t put up much fight this year in the face of the state’s deepening budget woes.
As of July 1, Department of Public Safety director Col. James Cockrell told KNBA that the department had to find $8.5 million in cuts. At least 30 state trooper positions have been eliminated.
“I just don’t see us, with this budget climate, being able to save everything,” then-city manager Chris Hladick told KUCB in March.
State troopers said they pay employees in Unalaska 60 percent more than the Anchorage rate, and they provide state-leased housing.
The Stimson’s main mission is enforcing commercial fisheries laws, but its wildlife troopers also enforce other laws.
Morrisett said the ship has responded to several assaults this summer among the sockeye fishing boats in busy Bristol Bay.