Dec 212010

Nancy Ging posted the following on the Ferry Forum site. I’m going to re-post it here to make sure everyone sees it.

Lots of interesting ideas and the beginning of planning for energy descent.

“I’ve been trying to ponder our ferry problems from a long-term perspective, trying to see what direction might be appropriate for us to aim to avoid future situations like our current predicament. From a long-term view, it seems to me that a big part of the severely limited alternatives we are currently dealing with comes down to infrastructure inadequacies.

At present, we don’t have any regular way to get necessary supplies to the Island except in our private cars. The only barge landing belongs to a private business (the quarry). It is frequently unavailable because it’s in use, and it has poor road access to the rest of the Island. There’s no place that I know of on the east side of the Island to even beach a landing craft and be able to get a truck or pallets off it and up to a road. We have no protected small boat harbor facilities, and we have no way to safely land passenger and vehicle boats on the same days.
Public transit service is woefully inadequate from Gooseberry to town. The schedule is impossible for commuters who work normal business hours, and buses are not practical for people who need to haul the amount of groceries and other necessary supplies from town that our households do.
I think we Islanders need to do some serious thinking about alternatives and what infrastructure we need in order to have more options for meeting our needs. For instance, maybe we need a couple of commuter vans–just for ferry riders–to get people to and from their work places morning and night. Maybe we need a shopping/errands bus with luggage/storage space to make regular and frequent trips from Gooseberry to Costco, the Co-op, Hardware Sales, the mall, a few banks, and the medical district–in other words, places where Islanders frequently do business. Perhaps these could be done as a co-operative to reduce costs? Or maybe there’s a business opportunity if the Co-op and Costco would agree to put together phoned in orders and someone with a truck could regularly swing by to pick them up and deliver the orders on the Island, thus allowing a single truck trip to replace a couple dozen or more individual car trips.
Maybe we need a way for Island food producers to band together in some sort of co-operative arrangement (similar to Whatcom Grows, for example) to deliver weekly produce/egg/meat/poultry boxes to Island customers.
Maybe we need to put together some seed money and classes to help more Islanders become commercial food producers so we don’t have to haul so many groceries from town in the first place.
I’ve heard people are already working on what might be done regarding on-Island medical services. I hope that’s going well.
Maybe we need a place on the east shore where a landing craft could offload a truck and get up to the road with goods or service vehicles. Maybe we need to purchase shared cars to leave in town so we can get to town in a van as a group, then individually pick up a cooperatively owned car to do our errands, dropping off our purchased goods off at a private warehouse (with cold storage) where a truck, barge or landing craft would deliver the accumulated goods once or twice a week to the Island. Another business opportunity?
Given that the economy is continuing to tank, property values are continuing to decline (giving the County less to contribute), fuel prices are continuing to rise, etc.–given all this, the cost of our vehicle ferry seems highly likely to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. It just seems sensible to me that we begin to look for ways to get our needs met closer to home in a way that requires fewer vehicle trips to town and allows us to begin to move toward greater reliance on a smaller, less expensive passenger-only ferry.
I’m not saying that any of the options above are viable or should be pursued. I have no idea what would work. And I’m not saying I’m happy about any of this. I do think the handwriting is on the wall, though. Things are as they are.
I hope we’ll do some creative brainstorming soon about how we can get by comfortably with much fewer vehicle trips to town in the future. I look forward to seeing what we can come up with.”
It’s my impression that there is a lot of horsepower on this island and I’m not talking about cars or horses. We haven’t needed to be self-sufficient or think about operating in a sustainable way. That’s why I can make the argument that the ferry crisis, if you are willing to look at it from a long-term view, was a gift to the island. There’s no question that we’d all enjoy and probably prefer continuing cheap rides to Gooseberry Point in our private passenger vehicle with or without a passenger and paying up to $3 a gallon for gas forever and ever. That’s just not going to be the case. We need to begin taking some serious action and giving serious thought to all the “what ifs.”
The gift is that it forces us to get real and think about and begin planning for contingencies. Way too many people are going to be caught with their pants around their ankles. Lummi Island has a chance to get ahead of the (declining power) curve.
So, back to the horsepower—there’s an amazing amount of talent on this island and I’m positive that more and more great ideas will be generated. Keep them coming.

  7 Responses to “Infrastructure”

  1. Excellent article Nancy! Thank you.

  2. I won’t rehash my comments made re; Rethinking Fairhaven, over at Lummi Island Ferry Forum, but yes, some thinking outside the box needs to occur before the County saddles us with huge rate increases AND a new transportation property tax of several hundred dollars per year. This is on top of our current Port of Bellingham taxes of say $75-$100 per household for which we get zip.
    I don’t mind being a sheep, being led to slaughter, but at least give me the courtesy of knowing the final destination. I hope the county doesn’t agree to terms without letting us know what they’ve contrived for us.

  3. Thank you Nancy! And thank you Randy for reposting. Lots to chew on. Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can recreate using all of the amazing “horsepower”/ talent on this island.

  4. I have really struggled with allot of this. My family had grocery stores for 45 years – until the big guys
    really drove us out of small towns. It is one business I grew up understanding as it was the family
    staple. I see the islander struggling and I see its value. What happens when you need one item – say saran wrap that isn’t likely to be at a neighbor’s readily available or the neighbor on one side is in
    Texas and the other in California. It can really mean a trip to town. We need a coop. What about
    having quality dry goods such as Fairhaven flour in bulk , oatmeal available to the public on a subscription service. Much needs to be done to clean this up but we don’t need a store that over uses freezers
    but has maybe three or four only. A store that maybe sells soft serve ice cream ( which takes alot less
    energy) on certain days rather than hard ice cream all the time. I can offer allot of questions.

  5. Great ideas. I’m hoping to move there myself, and would be all for a van pool or call-in ordering. After getting out of show-car restoration, I’ve bicycled everywhere 20 years now and found I can carry 20 bags of groceries, or even a 10′ bamboo temple art installation complete with wicker throne, card table, and crates of shoe soles from beach gathering, if necessary.

    Rather than be at the mercy of the ferry, I’m thinking I can fit my bike with pontoons and a propeller-shaft driven off the rear wheel. With sealable end-caps, the polycarbonate pontoons can double as overhead solar powered jet engines (a simple design that can otherwise be made from just 2 l.soda bottles, powdered copper-oxide, and proper air-scoop design).

    I have no idea how rough the calm waters are there though. I’d rather not get wet.

    Using a generally submeged light cable across the channel, a raft, and a winch, one could even make an old fashioned pedal-powered or hand-cranked ferry. A community row boat could do perhaps though, if scheduled for use. Better, two for each shore though. A nice pedal-powered passenger ferry would be totally enclosed and lit for storms, have an additional shore-retrieval cable-loop, and room for at least four people and two bikes, fully loaded (and pedals for each passunger).

    The other thing which I’ve long dreamed of, that sounds needed there, (perhaps a topic for another thread), is a trading post in which everyone offers their homemade jellies and meads, knitting, hand-crafted harmonicas, custom microchip controllers, candles, as well as surplus cuckoo-clocks, twister games, spare yarn & fabric, hardware, flotsam & jetsam; traded services like dog washing, spoke-tuning, cabinetry, hair dying, windmill construction, appliance repair, guitar lessons, salmon smoking; and had a grand time all night and day entertaining each other with synthesizer & dulcimer jug-band music, poetry, lectures on otters, paint-grinding, and shoe-making, tarot readings, you name it. The average person has many gifts they don’t even recognize, and when a community combines these accessibly, there’s no need to hire outside the community for anything except MRI’s and interpreting Mayan heiroglyphs, if even that. It’s also a way to gather talent and resources for building things like pedal-powered ferries. A farmers market is great, but I think true community self-sufficency requires a trading post. Perhaps I’ll start one if there isn’t one already. At the minimum you need the internet equivalent (and I have database skills to create that too) (and wrote a pocket Mayan calendar converter app before there were desktop computers.. so you might not have to leave the Island for your heiroglyph needs either).

  6. K. Rose, Borderline amusing. Or, maybe just borderline.

  7. I prefer ‘on the frontier’.

    Here’s one answer, , Volvo makes an amphibious bus. Talk WTA into one of those using the Scenic Estate boat ramp, and load it up with electric granny tricycles. Schedule special days for lumber/concrete runs and store inventories (or just get a second amphibian).

    I know someone complained of shopping from an old yellow school bus, but this is an island after all. Other islands stay content with golf carts. Sure, others have had cars, and some have even had ferries where cars leave and visit the island regularly, but cars today are hardly sustainable even on the mainland. (I’m still scratching my head over this. why not just some shared vehicles parked on the mainland, and an island delivery truck/bus?) A pneumatically sealed delivery tube to the mainland, with single person pods, makes more sense, if one had that investment power.

    Reading up on local interests, I find (to my comfort) that folks dont want traffic lights or a theater, but would like a marina. I much agree, and find it strange that there isn’t one. Not some place attracting huge tourism, but at least a solid year round moor for a couple of reliable boats in case the ferry ever goes out. I mean really, the entire island has a single lifeline which could easily go out of service for three months, even without inter-nation politics? ..While hosting several half million dollar homes and no airstrip? Does everyone have a kayak or paraglider in case things go south?

    I wouldn’t wish to deface Inati Bay with structures, but there must be someplace for a dock.

    If it weren’t for the boat traffic, one could build a floating storm-proof covered pedestrian bridge. It’s only 4000′ (unless you need it to connect to Fairhaven). You could almost make one with recycled soda bottles stitched together. If not for disturbing the reef with some pillars, you install a ski lift or amusement park sky-cars.

    You might not need a 20 car ferry. A one or two car ferry might be a lot more suitable for beach landings and trips to Fairhaven.

    I think any best option would be built around reliable ‘pedestrian’ access, in combination with a small cargo box delivery service (including separate ice boxes), cars parked on the mainland, and an island shuttle or golf carts. Everyone’s needs except ultra-rapid consumerism could be met with far less investment and energy/maintenance costs. You could drop off all your costco and harware shopping at the cargo depot (using mainland grocery carts or your mainland car) then take all your frozen stuff with you using a picnic cooler and the pedestrian boat/sky-car/whatever.

    I think this Northern thing for ferries evolved from timber rafts, but those at least had river power going for them. If you’re going for theroretical sustainability, you need to convert all your machine activities into terms of hand-power or the amount of fuel you can grow on your own property. Sure, one can run a car on corn, ‘if’ you had a fresh mature corn crop to drive through wherever you went. The Whatcom Chief is admirable looking, but I don’t think anyone would care to imagine pedalling or hand-towing it across the Rosario strait. It’s like the eco-lecturers who set back their sustainable living limits by four years with a single jet flight.

    Here’s a very down-to-home sustainability calculation for the ferry:
    Whatcom Chief = 6000 HP running 8 hrs/day
    I HP = 42.44 BTU/min
    Whatcom Chief = 6000*42.44*60*8*365 BTU/yr = 44613 Million BTU/yr
    Wood energy = 14M BTU/ton
    Whatcom Chief = 3187 Tons wood / year
    Annual forest growth = 5ton/acre
    Whatcom Chief = 637 acres / year

    In other words, just running that single ferry requires as much energy as a full harvesting of the island’s entire forest could consistently provide. The cars themselves are probably using about as much. Throw in heating and powered appliances, and you really need four times as much island for your power requirements alone. Now add some agriculture.. Desalination requires immense energy too, in case you want to water crops.

    Sustainability is possible with five acres per family, but that doesn’t include feeding dinosaur machines. It requires entirely different strategies and values.

    I recommend you folks start a sustainability infrastructure committee, and specifically inventory what things would be required over the next few decades for such a lofty, but achievable goal.

    One thing I see as useful would be an Amish tech diurnal barometric-pressure-differential pump (a chain of water tanks pressurized by day/night atmosphere changes) that gets sea water up to a peak for solar heated, windmill-driven desalination geysers (an accelerated evaporation pond).

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