A couple of months ago, I wrote here about efforts by the Washington State Ferries (WSF) to develop a long-range plan to take the system through 2040. I talked with WSF staff during community meetings on Lopez Island and aboard the Tillikum.
According to WSF, comments from those meetings will “help inform and support decisions and actions to guide future service and investments in vessels and terminals.” Once finalized, the plan will be presented to the Washington State Legislature, sometime in January 2019.
Recently, WSF reported some of the concerns and suggestions coming from the public, and a few of them caught my attention. Here are excerpts from a recent WSF newsletter:
- Participants provided comments in support of reducing carbon emissions, building hybrid-electric ferries, limiting noise impacts to marine life, and preparing for climate change and emergencies. Several participants suggested creating a wildlife sanctuary on WSDOT-owned land near the Edmonds ferry terminal.
- Several Anacortes/San Juan Islands community members expressed support for more frequent interisland service. Others expressed an interest in prioritizing island residents over visitors through reservations, fare adjustments, and priority loading. Many people supported adding reservations eastbound on Lopez Island, while others preferred no reservations.
- The San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee submitted a letter listing its priorities: providing additional vessels as soon as possible, increasing and sustaining scheduled preventative maintenance, expediting the retirement of aging Super class vessels, and improving terminals. They listed detailed strategies for accomplishing these priorities.
The public’s desire for the ferries to reduce carbon emissions received a boost when Washington Governor Jay Inslee unveiled his “Clean Transportation” proposal. Citing that the transportation sector is the state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the proposal calls for numerous strategies to reduce them. Among them is investment in electric-hybrid state ferries. For the 2019-2021 biennium, the governor has budgeted $64.3 million to begin building two new electric-hybrid ferries and $53.2 million to convert two current vessels to electric-hybrid.
With the Tillikum due for retirement in 2020, perhaps the interisland route will become home to one of the electric-hybrid ferries. I’m sure the Southern Resident Killer Whales (orca) living in this part of the Salish Sea will appreciate the quieter engines and decreased exhaust.
My long-range plan for the interisland ferry is that it will continue to be a place to inspire writers and other artists. If it can do that, while at the same time having less impact on the Salish Sea, it will be good for all creatures in these waters.