Angoon explores transportation options as AMHS works to fix its ferry dock

Drivers leave the ferry Fairweather at the Angoon terminal in 2010. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News – Juneau)

Residents of Angoon have been unable to travel by ferry for nearly three weeks. The Alaska Marine Highway System hopes to restore service to about 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 the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) docked the Leconte and Aurora for repairs at the end of October, four communities in Southeast Alaska lost winter ferry service: Angoon, Tenakee, Pelican and Gustavus. None of them can be accessed by road and only Gustavus has a runway for landing planes. 

Angoon Mayor Joshua Bowen says this has made it difficult to bring goods into the community.

“Noone was able to go over to Juneau to do any shopping, grocery shopping and supplies and all that, for the month of November,” Bowen says. “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. 

The Tazlina can’t serve Angoon right now because there’s a problem with the ferry dock. AMHS spokesperson Sam Dapcevich says 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 says. “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 says 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. Mayor Bowen says 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 says. “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 says they would like to cap ticket prices at $65. Residents from Tenakee may be included on those runs to Juneau as well. 

As for larger freight, the city may contract the Goldbelt corporation to send ships over from Juneau in December.