Haines would see just one ferry a week in January and February under the draft winter schedule released Tuesday evening by the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The rest of the fall/winter schedule shows three or four ferries a week October through December, running to Skagway and Juneau, with the same level of service for March and April.

The reduced schedule for January and February would be a significant drop in service from past years, which generally provided four ferries a week into Haines during the fall/winter season.

The Matanuska would call on Haines northbound and southbound on Saturday in the first, third and fourth weeks of January and February. The stops would be on Thursday during the second week of the month, when the ferry would only go as far south as Ketchikan instead of running to Bellingham, Washington.

Budget cuts that have led to pulling ships out of service to save money and maintenance issues with the older vessels have cut into the ferry system’s schedule in recent years.

Legislators tried this year to restore much of past budget cuts, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed the additional funding. The state fiscal year started July 1.

A lack of vessels forced the reduced level of service for January and February: The Kennicott will be in winter overhaul Jan. 6 through March 9; the LeConte will be pulled for its winter overhaul January and February; and the Columbia will remain in money-saving layup status.

That will leave the Matanuska as the only operating ferry through several Southeast communities for January and February.

Public comments on the draft schedule are due by July 27 and may be emailed to [email protected], or faxed to 907-228-6873.

A teleconference with the Department of Transportation is set for 10 a.m. July 29 for Southeast residents to comment on the schedule. The toll-free number for the teleconference is 1-515-604-9000, access code 279613.

The department said it plans to release its proposed summer 2022 schedule for public comment soon after the fall/winter 2021 schedule is adopted.

The Legislature and governor agreed in this year’s budget to fund the state ferry system for 18 months, through Dec. 31, 2022, rather than the usual 12-month spending plan, to allow the Department of Transportation to set schedules further in advance, giving travelers more notice to plan their trips.

More details on the draft winter schedule are available at dot.alaska.gov.