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The Alaska ferry service has survived budget cuts. Here’s how it impacts Bellingham

Alaska ferry system brings passengers to Bellingham

The southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System is in Bellingham, Wash. Alaska ferries allow for walk-on and vehicle passengers.
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The southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System is in Bellingham, Wash. Alaska ferries allow for walk-on and vehicle passengers.

While some details are still being worked out, it appears the Alaska ferry will continue to provide service out of Bellingham this winter, but at a reduced level.

The future of the ferry in Bellingham was in doubt earlier this year as the Alaska state government looked at making deep cuts to the budget. The Alaska Marine Highway System was hit with some budget cuts, so it plans to tie up the M/V Columbia ferry this winter and use smaller ships for Bellingham to save money, according to Aurah Landau, spokeswoman for the agency, in an email to The Bellingham Herald.

Landau told Alaska Public Radio that the M/V Malaspina and M/V Matanuska are expected to substitute for the Columbia, saving the agency about $400,000 a month.

The 418-foot Columbia will be used for the Bellingham run until the end of September, according to the agency. The winter schedule is still in the planning process and is expected to be ready around mid-August.

From the Port of Bellingham’s perspective, things have gone about as expected in terms of full service during the peak summer season and reductions in the winter, said Executive Director Rob Fix in an email. Fix has been in communications with Alaska legislators throughout the budget talks.

“However, nothing is final yet and scheduling is still being negotiated, so we stay tuned and involved,” Fix said.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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