Ketchikan’s borough assembly is urging federal officials to relax border security requirements poised to shut down Alaska ferry service with Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
U.S. customs agents can’t carry guns in Canada. And the federal agency is closing down its preclearance checkpoint in the Prince Rupert ferry terminal in October unless the Alaska Marine Highway System provides armed Canadian police on site.
But a shortage of Canadian police and the potential cost of contracting Royal Canadian Mounted Police have so far held up any agreement.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly unanimously endorsed the resolution Monday asking the state, the federal government, and the city of Prince Rupert to resolve the issue.
Ketchikan Assembly woman Judith McQuerry says the community is concerned with losing Southeast Alaska’s only link with the North American road system.
“I think all of us understand how important that connection is from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert, and I think this just reiterates it one more time, and as many times as we need to say it until we get it accomplished, that’s what we need to do,” McQuerry said during the meeting.
Ketchikan’s state representative, Dan Ortiz recently met with Canadian officials in Prince Rupert. He says a delegation from the City of Prince Rupert is meeting with the Dunleavy administration with ideas for a workaround. He didn’t reveal details but said he’s hopeful.
“The offer that I know is going to be put forward is a very good one, but in the end, it’s still going to be left up to the administration as to whether they want to see continued service to Prince Rupert,” Ortiz said.
Assemblyman Rodney Dial and Borough Mayor David Landis said they raised the Prince Rupert ferry issue during last week’s trip to Washington, D.C. Landis said he’d personally briefed U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan.
In other news, more people are taking the bus this year. Ketchikan’s transit system reports a ridership increase of nearly 10 percent, Assistant Borough Manager Deanna Thomas told last night’s assembly meeting. Transportation Manager Kyan Reeve partially credited that jump to bonuses to paid to drivers. That’s led to less staff turnover allowing the system to operate full-size buses rather than smaller passenger vans, he said.