Report: City of Craig, IFA celebrate anniversaries

    The M/V Prince of Wales

    Ketchikan, Alaska (SITN) - The Spring of 2022 has featured two significant historical anniversaries for Prince of Wales Island - The 20th anniversary of Inter-Island Ferry Authority and the 100th Birthday of City of Craig.

    According to SIT News, the IFA first began connecting POW with Ketchikan on Jan. 13, 2002.

    "It was born out frustration over decades of less than adequate service by the Alaska Marine Highway System, according to POW residents," the story states. "There was also a plan to create a new ferry route that would connect communities on Northern Prince of Wales with Wrangell and Petersburg."

    Planning for the IFA began in the early 1990s.

    AMHS service to Prince of Wales, via the MV Aurora had been decreasing over the years, cutting back to only a couple of times a week and often either leaving or arriving at the Hollis Terminal in the early hours of the morning. POW residents wanted daily, mid-day, service.

    First, in 1992, the state of Alaska passed the Municipal Port Authority Act that allowed the creation of port authorities that could sell bonds to support local transportation operations.

    The City of Craig then received a $50,000 state grant in 1994 to study the potential of a Prince of Wales Island port authority.  Ketchikan planner Kent Miller worked with C.L. Cheshire, James Van Altvorst, longtime Craig Mayor Dennis Watson and Craig City Manager Dennis Briggs to bring it to fruition. The planners came up with the idea of the separate northern and southern runs. The AMHS supported the study conclusions because it had decided that ferry service to POW was expensive and difficult to maintain.

    The IFA was formally created in 1997 by the communities of Klawock, Craig, Thorne Bay, Coffman Cove, Wrangell and Petersburg. In 1998, the state of Alaska endorsed the creation of the new service and the Alaska Congressional delegation secured $12.6 million for the first of the two needed day-boats, the MV Prince of Wales.

    The IFA received a $200,000 loan from the City of Wrangell and issued $1.9 million in bonds, that were backed by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.  

    The Prince of Wales was designed by the Elliot Bay Design Group in Seattle and was constructed, for $12.2 million by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington. She is 197.5 feet long and cruises at 15 knots. The ship can carry 160 passengers and 30 cars. She has a crew of five.

    After the MV Prince of Wales went online in January of 2002, work began on MV Stikine. The Stikine was also built at Dakota in Anacortes, for $16.9 million. Originally a "twin" of the Prince of Wales, she had some modifications added to take into account things that had been noticed during the earlier ship's operation. The speed and the capacity were the same. The Stikine went online in 2006.

    From 2006 to 2008, the Stikine also operated a daily run on the northern route between Coffman Cove and the South Mitkof Terminal south of Petersburg, with a side trip to Wrangell. But that run proved not to be profitable and the IFA cancelled its "northern route" in 2008 and Wrangell and Petersburg eventually left the authority.

    Currently the Stikine and the Prince of Wales are both on the southern run. Since 2013, the IFA has provided a single round trip between Hollis and Ketchikan. A different port authority, called the Rainforest Islands Ferry Authority was proposed to provide service between POW and Wrangell and Petersburg, but it didn't come to be. The state Department of Transportation provides the IFA with a $250,000 operations subsidy each year.

    On March 4, the City of Craig celebrated its 100th birthday. As part of the centennial celebration, there were numerous community events and the city even commissioned a 10 minute film celebrating the town's history.

    The founding of Craig dates from 1907, when Craig Millar started fish saltery on nearby Fish Egg Island with the help of Haida natives who had emigrated from Canada to the region decades before. Millar moved his operation to Prince of Wales Island and added a cold storage and packing company at what is now called Craig. In the early days, the tiny community was still sometimes referred to as "Fish Egg."

    In 1922, the community of approximately 200 people was incorporated as second-class city within the territory of Alaska.

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