This photo from 1922 shows The Harvest King setting sail to Anacortes from Sidney. (Courtesy of Sidney Museum and Archives)

Officials concerned for future of Vancouver Island-Washington State ferry link

116,000 passengers travelled on the Sidney-Anacortes route during its nine-month operation last year

Civic officials on both sides of the border are concerned about the future of an American ferry linking Vancouver Island Washington State.

Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith warns of economic consequences for both ends of the ferry route between Sidney and Anacortes, WA if the state does not fund a second vessel for the route.

The proposed budget before the Washington State legislature maintains full funding for the ferry MV Chelan, but currently lacks repair funding for the Elwha, one of two vessels in the fleet Washington State Ferries (WSF) certified for the international crossing, along with the Chelan.

If WSF retires the 53-year-old Elwha with its long history of repairs, the Chelan would remain the only vehicle certified to make the international crossing, a situation that would threaten the reliability of service between the two communities. If the Chelan were to break down, WSF would lack a back-up vessel.

A second issue concerns the possibility that WSF may press the Chelan into service on domestic routes in case other vessels break down. According to published reports in Washington State media, WSF needs 19 vessels to run its summer routes and at least two WSF ferries out for maintenance at any given time. If the Elwha were to retire, WSF would be down to 21 vessels. Washington State has funded a new vessel, a hybrid-electric ferry, but it won’t be available until 2023, according to published reports.

RELATED: Washington State Ferries to suspend service to Sidney for almost a month

McNeil-Smith said he has been in discussions with Mayor Laurie Gere from Sidney’s sister city of Anacortes. “The sustainability of the ferry route is an enormous concern to both of our communities from a tourism and economic standpoint,” he said.

Just over 116,000 passengers travelled on the route during its nine-month operation last year, with a five per cent increase in vehicle passengers and an eight per cent increase in foot passengers. These figures are significant for the tourism business in Sidney and the region, McNeil-Smith said, adding that generations of families, friends, businesses and tourists have relied on this service since its start 99 years ago. Sidney also receives just over $250,000 in ferry terminal lease payments and direct municipal taxes.

McNeil-Smith said he and Gere have been in touch with WSF, as well as elected officials in Washington State to express their respective concerns.

McNeil-Smith said WSF has told the municipality that completion of Washington State budgets will be finalized in early March and Sidney is keeping an eye on the situation. “WSF will then confirm the level of service to be provided,” he said, adding that local representatives on the local and federal levels are aware of the situation.

Ferry service between Anacortes and Sidney resumes Sunday, March 29 with a ceremony featuring elected officials from both sides.

“We are doing it for the 99th time this year, and look forward to celebrating 100 years next year,” he said.

“The best outcome is that the budgets are approved as per WSF’s request [for two vessels] and that they can provide the level of service that they want to with the Chelan, that there is a minimum of disruption to that service through the season.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Crash causes injuries, traffic tie-ups in downtown Nanaimo

Accident happened Friday at 12:15 p.m. at Terminal Avenue and Comox Road

Gabriola skatepark project gets $567,000 infrastructure grant

Federal and provincial governments providing money for Huxley Park amenities

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Council’s special-interest projects boosting property taxes too high

City council should keep in mind its core services when budgeting, says letter writer

Colour and culture being painted onto plaza stairs in downtown Nanaimo

City commissions Humanity in Art muralists for ‘artistic intervention’ project

UPDATE: Military reservist facing 22 charges after allegedly ramming gates at Rideau Hall

The man, who police have not yet officially identified, will be charged with multiple offences

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Most Read