Future is now for Eagle Harbor ferry yard

After a consultant explained the advantages of moving the Washington State Ferries maintenance yard from Bainbridge to Seattle, the reaction around the room was, “What’s the catch?”

As reported Saturday, two concerns on the far side of Puget Sound would love to play host to the WSF facility – both the Port of Seattle and Todd Shipyards are offering to build a turnkey facility to replace the aging Eagle Harbor yard. Cost of a new facility would compare favorably to the upgrades needed to keep the present site going; building at a new location would be much less disruptive than trying to work around a major refurbishing here. Too, it would mean significant savings for the cash-strapped ferry system, and would relieve the need for money up front or for dipping into the state’s bonding capacity.

So what’s the catch? If there is one, it’s not readily apparent. And the potential benefits to Bainbridge are considerable, as the opportunities afforded by 10 acres of upland and submerged waterfront property should be.

For an everyone-wins proposal to go forward, though, WSF and the city must cooperate and compromise. The state needs to forego trying to wring every dollar it can from the property; the city, in turn, needs to offer reasonable zoning.

The city has long wanted a boat-haulout facility there, to replace a small, private operation kicked out when the state Department of Transportation condemned the old Trask yard to expand ferry operations in the mid-1990s. While WSF has approved that use, it has demanded, in essence, luxury-condo lease rates. The state will have to bend on that position; in return, local blue-collar jobs lost with the ferry yard move will be replaced and new tax dollars generated.

And let’s think even bigger. Several years ago, a citizen

committee came up with a plan for an “industrial maritime”

village on the Wyckoff Superfund site on the south shore of Eagle Harbor, but the Environmental Protection Agency nixed that plan. Now the WSF yard could offer an even more convenient – and immediate – site for some or all of those ideas.

Imagine a bustling, Port Townsend-style haulout facility there, within walking distance of downtown. Or a commercial or municipal marina, with a fueling dock and other amenities, bringing in boaters (and their dollars) from miles around.

There has also been talk of a maritime museum on the downtown waterfront; what location could be more appropriate than the WSF yard, site of the Hall Brothers Shipyard that defined maritime Bainbridge?

One thing is certain: What would be a wasted opportunity

is the appearance of a high-density residential development on what has historically been an industrial property.

This is an ideal time for city and ferries officials to sit down and negotiate a number of outstanding issues involving the ferry terminal area. If everyone is willing to give a little to get a lot, what looks like a “too-good-to-be-true” opportunity for the ferry system could also be a fabulous opportunity for this community.

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