WSF likely to stay put in harbor

Moving the repair facility would cost too much, study says.

Washington State Ferries won’t be leaving Eagle Harbor anytime soon, it appears.

The cost of moving the ferry maintenance yard to Seattle is much higher than previously thought, leading the agency to favor staying put, WSF officials announced Monday.

“The numbers kind of begin to speak for themselves,” said Pat Patterson, WSF spokesperson. “Having said that, we’ll see where we end up. But we are proceeding with the understanding that we will be staying there.”

The aging Eagle Harbor facility – the main building of which predates World War II shipyard work – is badly in need of upgrades and modernization.

In 2001, the state Legislature directed WSF to hire an independent consultant to study whether the maintenance yard should be relocated.

The firm eventually recommended that the yard be moved to Todd Shipyards on Harbor Island in West Seattle, or to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91.

But new cost estimates suggest that the capital cost of moving to Todd would run some $6 million higher than upgrading the Eagle Harbor yard, WSF officials said.

The Terminal 91 option offered some $5 million in capital savings, but higher ongoing operations costs driven in part by lease rates, they said.

Annual operating costs there would be $1.2 million, compared to $660,000 at Todd and just $21,000 at Eagle Harbor.

The WSF couched its finds as a “recommendation,” with Patterson acknowledging that the agency will have to consult with the Legislative oversight committee before a final siting decision is made.

Rep. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island) said Monday that he had not seen the new findings, but agreed that the views of the Legislature will come back into play.

“If on review, there was a sentiment that we don’t buy their analysis, I dare say the Legislature could say, ‘Sorry, but we think you ought to go forward (with moving),’” Rockefeller said. “If their analysis is correct, we’re not going to force them to do something that would cost the taxpayer more money than staying here.”

The possibility that WSF would pull up stakes had generated some community discussion on Bainbridge about how best to redevelop the four acres of shoreline off Harborview Drive, perhaps with commercial or tourist-related attractions.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy and WSF CEO Mike Thorne have been in informal but ongoing talks about the future of the property.

Even if WSF stays put, the area apparently could see development of a boat haul-out facility, to replace a private outfit booted out when the state condemned the property 10 years ago.

Thorne said in a statement Monday that his agency would work with the community in planning the property’s future, and Kordonowy expressed confidence in Thorne’s leadership on the issue.

“They want to be good neighbors if they stay here,” she said. “They know they owe us a boat yard, and they mentioned that in two or three conversations with me recently, unless the community wants something different at this time.”

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