September 30, 2008 · Updated 3:59 PM
City stands up to WSF
Thank you City of Bainbridge Island for legally challenging Washington State Ferries (WSF) regarding its expansion plans at the maintenance yard in Eagle Harbor.
Those efforts, combined with the state Legislature’s removal of all WSF capital budget, kept WSF from building (without true community input or collaboration) a four-story warehouse/annex building with a footprint the size of a football field at the maintenance yard site.
The proposed warehouse would have encroached into Area A, which in 1974 the Shorelines Hearings Board ruled and dedicated 2.5 acres to Bainbridge Island. This land is restricted for “haul out, boatyard, dry storage, marina, and related uses.” In previously presented WSF plans, Area A was covered by a 100-plus employee parking lot. Bainbridge Island has more than 3,000 registered boats, yet we still have no boating services or facilities.
The proposed construction of a storage warehouse and the 10-foot-high fencing (originally proposed as a concrete wall) would have greatly changed our Eagle Harbor shoreline and views along the waterfront.
Because of the city’s legal challenge, we now have both a hearing examiner’s opinion and a superior court judge’s ruling that any future phases/projects after the recently approved maintenance repairs will require additional permitting and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. No exemptions will be granted.
The legal challenge postponed construction and gave our community three years to educate our state legislators and to some extent our regional community. It also inspired and was, in part, the catalyst for sweeping changes throughout the WSF system.
Port Townsend followed Bainbridge Island’s example and challenged WSF plans that had been developed without its community input. Port Townsend was also successful and is now at the table working with WSF.
Also from that first community-to-community collaboration, the Ferry Community Partnership was formed. I won’t go into all of the details, but the ripple effect of our city’s actions and everyone working closely with legislators and the governor helped to freeze ferry fares for two years, pause capital construction for two years and keep frequent-ferry discounts.
Since WSF is strapped for cash and is operating in a deficit, all capital facilities construction has been put on hold for two years. Once that pause of construction is lifted, should WSF apply for future expansion at the maintenance-yard site, the city would have the opportunity to enforce the 1974 Shorelines Board ruling.
Bainbridge citizens respectfully look to the City Council to offer the city guidance for any potential future WSF permits. The council should approve a resolution that requires no further construction permits for the WSF maintenance yard until the legal issues of the Shoreline Hearings Board ruling have been resolved and the city is given unencumbered ownership of the site. This will assure that WSF and the city will continue to work collaboratively together to reach a final outcome that is fair and equitable for all.
It is our hope that the City Council, the WSF Ad Hoc Committee, WSF leadership, Reclaim our Waterfront and the Ferry Community Partnership will work collaboratively and, in doing so, we can hopefully avoid any future legal challenges.
member, Ferry Community Partnership,
Reclaim Our Waterfront
WSF should move out
Over the past several years the City of Bainbridge Island has devoted considerable time and money to the issue of Washington State Ferries’ so-called maintenance yard at Eagle Harbor.
Reclaim Our Waterfront (ROW) was formed by a group of islanders concerned with the misuse of this site by WSF and spent a great deal of time and money trying to work with the city for the common good of it and its citizens.
It has been clearly shown that the maintenance yard functions in only a minor way in the actual maintenance of the WSF fleet. It has, however, been used as a place to store the old and now dysfunctional ferries to be held out of the public eye until they figure out what to do about them.
No one has disclosed the cost of the upkeep of these ferries over the years. WSF has recently tied to sell some of them over Ebay with no takers.
Now it appears that some may be sold to be scrapped in Mexico. Some of these are the high-speed, high-wake, high-cost ferries that cost the state millions in settling a lawsuit brought by Point White homeowners for damages to their properties by the wakes of these ferries.
Many years ago Eagle Harbor was an excellent site for a commercial shipyard that brought jobs and wages to Bainbridge Island and its citizens. This is no longer the case and the present facility does little or nothing for Bainbridge Island.
The state should look to the several other Puget Sound sites currently available and interested in taking over the servicing of the vessels.
A close examination of the economics will once again show there can be considerable benefits to moving to other sites.
The state could look to a different concept which would involve the scrapping of all of the passenger-only ferries as well as the steel electrics and use the funds derived from the scrapping to write off the value of the property of the land in Eagle Harbor and convey it to the city to be used for the common good of the city and its citizens and visitors as a tourist and marine center. This would generate funds for the state, the island as well as being of considerable benefit to the environment.
WILLIAM S. GILBERT
Rockaway Beach Road