Court sides with WSF on maintenance yard project

A Kitsap Superior Court judge sided with Washington State Ferries Tuesday, in the agency's legal struggle with the city over the need for environmental review of upgrades at the WSF maintenance yard.

Judge Jay Roof upheld WSF's determination of environmental non-significance for the project, agreeing with the agency that the work being considered only constituted maintenance to its existing Eagle Harbor facilities.

He also maintained WSF's status as the lead environmental planning agency for the project, which had been challenged by the city. The decision will allow WSF to move forward with proposed upgrades without completing a State Environmental Policy Act review.

In his opinion, Roof advised that future expansion projects at the yard would likely require environmental impact studies.

In 2006 WSF determined that its plan to repair existing docks, buildings and parking lots, would not have significant environmental impact and that a standard SEPA review could be waived.

The city challenged WSF's status as lead agency, and issued its own determination of significance, citing possible harm to marine life and water quality among other issues, and demanding further environmental review.

In December of 2006 a hearings examiner agreed with the city that an environmental review should be required for the project.

The Superior Court overruled that decision Tuesday, as well as the city's challenge for lead agency status.

Attorney Dawn Reitan, who represented the city, said the judge ruled against the city because its determination of significance had been applied to WSF's master plan for Bainbridge facilities, rather than the more narrow upgrades being considered.

She said the city would need time to evaluate the decision before determining what legal response it would make.

WSF spokesperson Lloyd Brown said his agency will be looking to resume cooperation with the city.

"We are going to reach out to the City of Bainbridge Island and start a new partnership," he said.

WSF completed its first phase of construction on Bainbridge in 2006, widening a walk-on slip to accommodate vehicles. Upgrades to existing facilities will be phase two.

A third phase, which would expand existing facilities, is on hold and has not been funded, Brown said.

Reclaim Our Waterfront, an island group that favors removing the maintenance facility, has also been involved in litigation against WSF.

Its attorney, Ryan Vancil, said the decision was disappointing but that his clients had succeeded in delaying the project and bringing greater scrutiny to WSF plans.

"This was just the first step in a very long campaign that ROW began," he said.

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