Letters to the Editor

Change law regarding where ferries can be built

An open letter to state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island:

It is way past time to repeal the law that requires Washington ferries to be built in Washington. This is an outdated and restrictive rule which leads to building inefficiency and higher costs because of lack of competition.

Of the present two ferry builders in the state, one is in bankruptcy and the other is geared more to building other types of ships. It is imperative that we have additional options for the building and repairing of our ferries!

According to an article in The Journal of the San Juan Islands dated Feb. 25, The Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $60 million for a grant program for ferry systems, and we are competing for funding. However, according to Rep. Rick Larsen, if we receive some money, we will not be able to use it for ferry construction because of the above restriction. The money would go, instead, to upgrade terminals and other facilities.

You have lived in the San Juans and you know we are totally dependent on an adequate ferry system in order to survive, let alone prosper. Our current ferries are shabby “rust buckets” (who knows what conditions the engines are in), and we are way behind in updating and/or replacing them.

Washington state attracts many tourists who come to ride the ferries and see the San Juans. What must they think when they travel on our ferries and then continue on to experience Canada’s? If an accident were to occur, I think a photo of the exterior of one of our ferries would go a long way toward our losing a lawsuit challenging the safety of our ferries.

In another article in the above newspaper, “Marta Coursey told the Skagit Valley Herald that her agency wants $27.1 million for improvements to the Anacortes ferry terminal and $2.2 million to upgrade a ferry serving Anacortes-San Juan Islands.” At the least, those numbers should be reversed! What are they thinking?

We need new and/or updated ferries as quickly as possible. We do not need a state-of-the-art terminal in Anacortes at this time. A new terminal for the few ferries going to our financially strapped islands would be a total waste of money which is much needed elsewhere.

We hope that your position on the Transportation Committee will enable you to provide some common sense and expertise which will lead to legislation to eliminate the ferry building restrictions for Washington and which will facilitate funding for the building and updating of our ferries ASAP.

Karen and David Kratter
San Juan Island

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