ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Lawmakers have approved the Alaska Marine Highway System’s budget request of $140 million.
Lawmakers OK’d the request earlier this month in their spending plan for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, CoastAlaska News reported Monday.
General Manager Capt. John Falvey said despite a small decrease in funding, the total time in service for ships will actually increase by eight weeks.
“That gives us about 345.9 weeks, a little bit more, technically, than last year because of different ship configurations,” Falvey said. “Some ships are more expensive or not than others to run. So, it gives us a nice mix for the upcoming year.”
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The marine highway faced a shutdown in April when a little-known budget provision diverted ferry funding to cover Medicaid program shortfalls.
But Gov. Bill Walker replaced that money in a supplemental budget request, which the Legislature approved.
The ferry Matanuska tied up this month for a full engine-and-drive-system replacement. The work will continue through half or more of the next budget year.
Falvey said its Prince Rupert sailings are being covered by a similar ferry, the Malaspina.
“Everything else pretty much remains the same,” he said. “The Kennicott and the Columbia, they’ll also be running. So I’ll say it’s pretty much the same except the Matanuska is out of the picture.”
The Legislature’s capital budget also includes money for ferry overhauls, certifications and terminal and dock work. That’s mostly paid for with federal funds.
The capital budget also provides $250,000 in operational funding for the Inter-Island Ferry Authority. That’s a separate, nonprofit system linking Prince of Wales Island with Ketchikan.