Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Open Letter to Murkowski, Sullivan & Young: Need FBI Fraud Investigation
By Byron Whitesides
April 27, 2020
I am a lifelong Alaskan, now stranded in the Seattle area, waiting on the AMHS to get a ferry to Bellingham WA, so we can get home. My reservations have been canceled and changed 3 times because the ferry system could not make the reservation they had confirmed to us, and I had to change it once because of the COVID 19 problem, and British Columbia had closed the border, canceling our plan to drive to Skagway and catch a ferry south to Ketchikan (which now is still not running). I started this letter to you as a request to you to see if you could use your authority/power to help get our AMHS highway going again, to assist us Alaskans stranded in the lower 48 because of lack of service of the AMHS in getting home, but now as I have started this, there is so much more that really needs to be addressed!
My wife and I are extremely distressed at this lack of reliability of the AMHS, once the mainstay transportation for southeast Alaska and the other Alaska coastal communities, it’s service is essential to these communities providing affordable public transportation. I have discussed this with a lot of friends and long time Alaskans and they are distressed and upset too. We just don’t know what to do to get this issue addressed, it appears there is nothing we as individuals can do, so now I am appealing to you for help.
Those of us who use this system have been seeing a decline in the AMHS for a couple of decades, raising of pricing, and scheduling that is not convenient to the users, driving the users away. The last few years just takes the cake though! The AMHS has gone from reliable to totally unacceptable! First the system had stoppages of service and unreliability, next the service to Prince Rupert was stopped! This was an original port from the start of our marine highway system and one most people have always used because of the affordability, it’s just much cheaper to go 90 miles to Prince Rupert and drive south, than to go nearly 700 miles on the ferry to Bellingham. Now most of the coastal communities who rely on this marine highway have not had service for nearly SIX months. I believe the only service in many months is now Metlakatla to Ketchikan! HARDLY A MARINE HIGHWAY NOW!
Over the last two decades I and other users, had corresponded with those in charge of this system with suggestions to lower costs and improve efficiency, only to have them reply back with excuses of why they couldn’t adopt any of these suggestions. Also we had to watch as the management made mistake after costly mistake, with never any consequences, and these mistakes always farther damaged the system and ran the costs up, almost as if they were deliberately sabotaging the system. I wondered many times if the management was really trying to run this highway into the ground, as they never seemed to do anything to actually make it viable, only to keep jacking up the rates, and making the arrival and departure times so inconvenient, until more and more users just wouldn’t use it anymore!
Then in early March I had confirmations of my suspicions, I read an opinion article by Jan Sande, (Jan Sande is a former employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System, working more than 30 years as a deck officer, retiring as a captain and pilot. He currently lives in Craig, Alaska.)
In his article he lists numerous problems and mistakes but what really caught my eye was this:
“During the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1990, the Aurora was in Prince William Sound and I was there as captain. We were informed to return to Valdez immediately and then head for Southeast as the contract with Exxon had been cut one month short. I inquired of a governor’s staff person as to the logic of this. He said that we did not want to linger and dig further into Exxon’s finances. I asked him about the future of AMHS and he went on to say AMHS would soon be history. I asked this was to be accomplished. He replied, raise prices tremendously, change schedules dramatically, gather data that shows people are not riding, then share said data with the public. The state could then shut down the system, he said, allowing private enterprise to come in and take the summer profits and drastically reduce service in the winter, almost to the point of shutting down. Carnival Cruises and Holland America had begun lobbying work on this as early as 1970.” (emphasis mine)
Click here for link
Well, if true, and I think it is, THIS IS FRAUD committed upon the taxpayers of not only Alaska, but also the federal government as there has been hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the Alaska Marine Highway system of both state and federal funds, to make this a viable system, while these saboteurs in the management and officials in government are being paid to make it viable, but then instead, sabotaging the system and trying to make it fail so “someone lobbying them” can “profit”!
This explains a lot of things about management decisions that did not seem to be in the best interests of the AMHS! Why they kept raising fares, when the ships were running mostly empty, as when they had reasonable fares they had a lot more passengers. (After all, the citizens of Alaska were already paying the costs, so to receive less per passenger but to increase ridership and total revenue would be a good thing!) Why they now got into Prince Rupert at 2 am, when they used to get in at a reasonable time so the passengers could start driving instead of having to go to a motel for the night!
Just recently the vessel Taku was sold for a pittance of it’s original value, and far below scrap value! First I would like to know how unelected bureaucrats can dispose of assets of the AMHS, that cost us TENS of MILLIONS, and have replacement values in the hundreds of millions, without first going to the legislature and getting APPROVAL? NEXT getting an expert opinion on what the scrap value is, and maybe quote from an AMERICAN scrap yard to purchase if delivered to that yard at the current price of metals, and this should be the starting bid when they put it up for public auction? Seems now the “experts” in the management of the AMHS sold the Taku for I think $270K, and now Captain Sande notes it had in it, a MILLION dollars worth of lead ingots, unknown to the expert management of the AMHS! Quite a deal for the purchaser, and again the users of the AMHS and taxpayers lose out! Seems insane to be GIVING away the assets of the AMHS! Now I hear the Malaspina has been decided by the unelected bureaucratic management to be the next vessel they are going to “dispose” of. I have heard rumors that someone didn’t keep the certificate of inspection current, just like they did on the Taku, and then they have been allowing other vessels to strip tools and parts off it! If the Malaspina had been kept up, as was the DUTY of the management, we would have had a backup vessel when the Matanuska broke down, and would have still had a highway running!
Instead of going to the LEGISLATURE first for approval of their plans, they just sabotage the vessel and run up the costs of keeping it up so they can continue with the plan of gutting the system to destroy it! So it’s engines are in need of repairs and are almost sixty years old, what were the engines on the Taku like? Would they have been suitable parts or replacements for the Malaspina? Rumor is when they dispose of the Malaspina, the Columbia is then next, with NO PLAN to replace any of them! When the cost of a replacement vessel is $300 Million or most likely more, as these government estimates are never correct, makes $45 million in repairs look a lot more affordable!
The Alaska Marine Highway is not the reason for the state funding shortage, and it’s not right for the present governor of Alaska to collapse and destroy the HIGHWAY, because of the funding shortage.
What really caused that shortage is a bill passed giving the big oil corporations in Alaska more than a billion dollars every year in tax credits. That combined with an out of control spending binge by our legislature when the price of oil went up, and the current low price of oil right now, but mainly the oil credits.
I borrowed these oil revenue figures off a comment on the Alaska Watchdogs facebook page. 2013 (before SB 21) – 5.2 billion 2014: (before SB 21) – 3.6 billion
2015 (after SB21) – 1.1 billion 2016 – 700 million
2017 – 1 billion 2018 – 1.4 billion 2019 – 1.5 billion
Which now brings me to the next issue, corruption.
I was called and polled several times prior to SB 21 being passed, when the legislature was considering changes to ACES, to raise our oil production, and each time I was told that these oil credits would only apply to NEW production and would not extend to the legacy oil fields, and that changing the oil tax structure would bring on completely new deposits and production to help keep our pipeline active. Well, WTH happened? When finished it ended up applying to the legacy fields? How does it help Alaska to have these big oil corporations pump the legacy fields dry sooner, gaining billions of dollars that rightfully belong to the citizens of Alaska, and if they could raise production levels, why hadn’t they done this before? Who were those responsible in the legislature that changed the proposal from applying to totally new fields, and made it apply to these legacy fields? Did they have a conflict of interest and shouldn’t be voting on it because they either worked for the corporations who were going to profit billions, or were being bribed by these corporations to vote for this? I ask this because remember we have already had quite a few members of our legislature who were found to have been being bribed by big oil, and where BILLIONS of dollars are at stake, it wouldn’t surprise me to find this going on again.
Is this really another reason the AMHS is being gutted? CORRUPTION, this time protecting and enriching big oil? It sure appears like it to me!
This is why I am asking you to get the FBI to investigate these issues, I think our state is being destroyed by fraud and corruption!
Fraud in the AMHS, and the apparent corruption in our legislature with the billions of dollars going to big oil and not to the rightful owners, the citizens of Alaska. It appears not only to me, but to many of the citizens of Alaska that this is what is going on, and we need this investigated now, before this state has sixty years of progress on our marine highway destroyed and our oil wealth stolen!
When Alaska’s political leaders or government employees have ideas, or policies that they can’t get implemented/changed through open public discussion, persuasion, and majority agreements, does that then allow them not follow laws, official mission statements, job duties and responsibilities, official operating plans and such, and then out of sight of public knowledge, have a different agenda, to sabotage programs and policies they don’t agree with? I think not, and this is at a minimum criminal fraud!
It appears to me that there has been a conspiracy of elected officials, appointed officials, and employees to secretly scuttle the AMHS, while lying to the citizens of Alaska! Some of these people are still working for the state of Alaska, collecting a nice paycheck and accruing benefits, some of these criminals are setting home with a fat state of Alaska provided retirement, while being responsible for hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer funds! This can’t be allowed to stand, these criminals need to be prosecuted and stripped of any ill-gotten gains!
Thank you for your consideration of this matter,
71 year resident of
Note: This letter was sent to the Alaska’s Congressional Delegation on April 15, 2020.
The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.
Received April 18, 2020
– Published April 27, 2020
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