Mayor Brain seeks Alaska highway terminal solution, is added to climate leadership council

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain went to the Alaskan Southeast Conference & discussed the issue of the Alaska Marine Highway terminal.

Mayor Lee Brain

Donald Trump may be scaring away some Canadians from America, but the American-Canadian relationship in Prince Rupert is striving to be the best it’s been in recent memory.

Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain visited Petersburg, Alaska from Sept. 20-22 for the Alaskan Southeast Conference and discussed the ongoing issue of the deteriorating Alaska Marine Highway terminal in Prince Rupert at a recent regional district board meeting.

Facing enormous budget deficits at the Alaska Marine Highway System, and uncooperative governments in both America and Canada, the terminal has been in a state of disrepair for years.

An agreement was thought to be found in recent years, but both governments disputed over which country would provide the steel and building materials for the upgrades.

“It’s been a two-year process now and I think we’ve found a solution,” said Brain.

“Basically the main option right now is to get the existing ferry terminal renovated, which is a $20 million investment into Prince Rupert. So the healthy compromise would be the Americans supply the supplies and the Canadians supply the labour to build the upgrades.”

The new Liberal Canadian government will now meet with Alaskan officials and a company involved to potentially approve the agreement.

“The truth is the Americans don’t want to cut this ferry at all. It’s the shortest link to Alaska … and they see us as a very important part of this system and as they’re going to make their changes [to routes] they want to make sure we’re still on the list,” said Brain, adding that the terminal processes approximately 30,000 passengers per year in Prince Rupert.

“So we’ll see what the Canadian government does and make sure we can get that investment. So finally something has emerged [in terms of a solution].”

The mayor said that the government is still fairly unfamiliar with the issue after its recent election, but the Ministry of Transportation was brought to the North Coast four months ago to discuss with American officials.

Prince Rupert is listed as the only Canadian port on the Alaska Marine Highway System’s route, with mainline ferries departing once per week through most of the year. The trip is a five-hour ride to Ketchikan, a day and a half to Juneau, or two days to Skagway, as listed on the website.

Late last week, Mayor Brain was also accepted onto the BC Mayors Climate Leadership Council. He’ll be working with mayors and councillors across the province on climate leadership and sustainability initiatives in the future.