Ouzinkie became the 32nd Alaska community to receive ferry service when the ferry Tustumena made its debut arrival on April 27.
The Spruce Island community also wanted to hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of its new dock, which began accepting fuel deliveries earlier this year.
“We waited for this beautiful day,” said Darren Muller of the Ouzinkie Native
Corporation. “I’m excited and happy to start a future with the Alaska Marine Highway System.”
About 150 people parked ATVs and trucks near the dock and gathered to greet the incoming ferry.
Some Ouzinkie residents had taken the morning ferry out to Kodiak for the day and returned with boxes of food and supplies.
Dignitaries including state Sen. Gary Stevens and state Rep. Alan Austerman attended the event to meet with the community and receive thank-you certificates. Stevens rode in on the Tustumena.
Father Juvenaly Repass led the community in a ceremony that blessed the dock and food, and Tustumena captain and lifelong Alaska resident Keith Austin cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Getting the dock was a long process, said PND Engineers Inc. engineer Steve Lewis. Lewis worked on the Ouzinkie dock project for five years.
“We had to relocate the community sewer output,” Lewis said. “The big challenge was to get people to say ‘I don’t need to use water today.’”
The Ouzinkie Native Corporation hired Duncan Fields as a consultant to help raise funds for the $10 million project. Fields worked with the city and Native corporation to get funding through the state Legislature.
“We made the argument that this fosters economic development to keep jobs and kids in the community,” Fields said. “In five years we’ll look back and wonder how they lived without a dock.”
Ouzinkie residents expressed excitement about receiving ferry service.
“I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” said Carmen Ambrosia. “I can’t wait to jump on myself. It’s cheaper than a plane.”
The ferry will also allow residents to transport mass quantities of food and other goods.
“It’s something new and we’ll be able to get stuff here easier,” Mary Katelnikoff said.
Ouzinkie will receive ferry service every other Friday this summer, with a one-way adult ticket costing $33. The service will end temporarily this fall as the Tustumena is taken out of service for maintenance.
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at nklauss@kodiak