Letters to the Editor

It’s not just the ‘Sidney’ ferry

Editor's note: Only part of this letter was published in Wednesday's editions of The Journal. It will be republished in its entirety in the Feb. 4 edition.

Many of us believe that Gov. Gregoire and Plan B in the draft Long Range Plan of Washington State Ferries propose to eliminate the Sidney ferry.

This is an incorrect characterization of the proposal, and one that does much damage to our community’s interests.

The proposal is to eliminate one ferry from the mainland boats that serve the San Juan Islands. To call this ferry the “Sidney” ferry reflects a lack of understanding of our ferry service.

— During the Winter Schedule, 100 percent of the capacity of the boat to be eliminated is dedicated to the San Juan Islands-Anacortes route and zero to Sidney.

— During the Spring and Fall Schedules, 80 percent of the capacity (spaces) of the boat to be eliminated is utilized by our islands and only 20 percent by Sidney.

— During the Summer Schedule, 25 percent is utilized by our islands.

The proposal, if implemented, will severely disrupt truck and other commercial traffic to our islands in the early morning and will severely restrict our community’s ability to travel to the mainland for business, medical, educational, or other purposes.

In addition, commencing with the 2009 Fall Schedule, Washington State Ferries must comply with the U.S. Coast Guard’s new work rules banning “touring watches.” Given the existing restrictions in WSF’s labor agreements, compliance with these new crew watch rules will almost certainly reduce the frequency of sailings to our islands and thus capacity.

If Plan B is implemented on top of the new watch rules, the impact on our community will be devastating. During the Spring and Fall Schedules, capacity will shrink by very roughly a third. During the Winter Schedule it will shrink by more and during the Summer Schedule by less.

We should all stop talking about the “Sidney” ferry. It is OUR ferry. It is a San Juan Islands’ ferry. The sooner we grasp this fact, the better we will be able to protect our community’s interests.

Robert deGavre
San Juan Island

(The writer is a member of the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee but is speaking for himself)

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