Mar 152011

I find it curious that when anyone broaches the idea of a passenger ferry to Fairhaven on the Ferry Forum it gets slammed down hard. It’s too dangerous or too expensive. Totally out of the question. Not worth talking about. So, let’s move on.

The arguments get a bit mixed up between why the Chief can’t do it, why we’d need a ginormous car ferry to maintain the same service or how the waves are tsunami-like, why it’s cost prohibitive, or why it would take too long. Just not worth discussing. Don’t waste your time.

So, why would reasonable people suggest that maybe a passenger ferry to the transportation hub in Fairhaven should be considered? Here are some reasons.

1. If we lose Gooseberry Point how do we get on and off the island? I’m presuming that losing Gooseberry Point is a possibility. If it’s not a possibility why has Lummi Island been in a state of near meltdown these many months? If we lose Gooseberry Point there will have to be some publicly supported alternative or an awful lot more of us are going to have to learn how to back a boat and trailer down a narrow boat ramp.

2. If we keep Gooseberry Point and lose parking, how will we deal with events like dry dock?

3. If we keep Gooseberry Point but the schedule is significantly reduced, how will that affect life on the island? For example, what if you have a medical emergency on Thursday but the ferry only runs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday?

4. If we keep Gooseberry Point and gasoline goes sky high or is rationed, or becomes unavailable, how will we get from Gooseberry Point to where we would like to go? What will the costs be?

5. If we keep Gooseberry Point and ferry fees go through the roof (as gas goes up or is not readily available) will it still make economic sense or practical sense because when one arrives at Gooseberry Point one is still technically on an island with a long way to go to get to any place you want to be.

6. If we keep Gooseberry Point but the Lummis feel they have been treated unfairly or forced into a deal they didn’t want, will Gooseberry Point be a pleasant place to wait for a ferry?

7. If we keep Gooseberry Point but foot traffic is discouraged due to high prices and no parking, how have we served those members of our community without cars or with unreliable cars?

8. If we keep Gooseberry Point and, God forbid, our country reaches a point where there is significant civil unrest, do we want the island to be easily accessible by car ferry?

9. If we keep Gooseberry Point and the Chief wears out where do we get the money for the expensive replacement which will certainly cost more than a passenger ferry?

10. And, finally and repetitively, if we lose Gooseberry Point, how will we get on and off the island?

The thinking and the lobbying on the ferry issue has been very short term with the goal of maintain the status quo. Sadly, folks, the status is no longer quo. Things are changing fast, not necessarily for the better. We have enjoyed a virtual bridge for many years. Hopefully, this will continue. Hopefully, gasoline will be readily available and affordable. However, these may be unreasonable expectations. In the future, just getting on and off the island once in awhile may be the reasonable expectation.

It’s shocking to me that the County hasn’t given a more detailed look at a passenger ferry to Fairhaven option. And, very curious that certain participants in the Ferry Forum want to shut this discussion down. We are worried to death about ferry service and yet are unwilling to discuss alternatives. Talking about it, figuring out how it could be done, doesn’t mean you are going to do it. It just means that you have considered the alternatives.


  5 Responses to “The Fairhaven Option”

  1. All good points. I have enjoyed over the months reading all the rhetoric and comments folks have presented on various sites. It’s an excellent pass time in the evenings. I have occasionally inserted a jab here and there. But from the onset, I have purposely avoided joining any group, or signing any of the clipboards shoved through the drivers window. To me it is merely a spectator sport. I will get by, however it works out. I have begun to think the island has transitioned, from an argument surrounded by water, to an enigma surrounded by water. Ya just gotta love it!

  2. Just out of curiosity, doesn’t the Lummi Nation have the same claim to Neptune Beach (Slater Rd.) tidelands (low tide to high tide) as they do to Gooseberry Pt?
    They negotiate deals for tidelands elsewhere off the reservation, so why not there.
    And if that’s the case, why would they settle for less at Slater than their asking price for Haxton?
    That’s just geography!

  3. Perhaps the cost of running two boats is the obstacle? or the fact that school buses had to be chained to plates welded to the deck of the Chief to keep them from sliding off the deck when the Chief had to run to Fairhaven for a short while a few years ago because of flooding on the Rez? I’m not saying we shouldn’t consider the option, but there are definitely some daunting reasons why it’s not on the List of Things We’d All LIke to See Happen.

    I do think a passenger ferry is the direction we’re moving sooner or later, and a passenger ferry can make the trip a lot easier than a vehicle ferry. However, the extortion possibilities by the Port are not much more inviting than the current dealings with Lummi Nation.

    The other problem is that while it is a transportation hub, the Fairhaven hub is at the far end of town from of where most commuters need to be. I doubt there are very many commuters who work in Fairhaven. Most work in the north end, at the hospital area, or downtown, as far as I know. Hospital folks would be hard pressed to make a 7am shift if they had to go to Fairhaven first–both because of the long boat ride time and the long bus ride after that. I’m not sure there’s a ferry that leaves early enough to do that. And do all those folks really want to commute 4 hours a day?

    I think we should at least consider a passenger ferry to the downtown marina. How about a scenario like this–lease a passenger charter boat that already has a convenient slip in the downtown harbor. Arrange with WTA for one or two of those ride share vans they keep offering to us to meet the passenger ferry every two hours (or every time it arrives) to shuttle people directly to the downtown bus hub. From there people can get onto a bus going virtually anywhere within 15 minutes (WSU, north end, hospital, downtown, etc.). Seems to me that would be a much more efficient route for commuters.

    When there was a car sharing operation in Bellingham for awhile, they were able to get a dedicated parking place for the car right in front of the downtown bus hub. Perhaps we could do that with a commuter van or two, and maybe a dedicated space or two at the harbor as well.

  4. I’ve heard many islanders state they would have to move off island if the ferry went to Fairhaven. Almost all said they would no longer be able to afford to live out here. Propane, garbage, and other costs would most certainly go up. Some said they just wouldn’t have the option of calling in sick to work because its a bad travel day on the bay. The hit I got was that many people wouldn’t be able to cope with a 10 to 20% jump in their expenses. As someone who works in Fairhaven 2 days a week it would be great for me. I’d hate however to lose my friends who already have had this economy cut them tight to the bone.

  5. A Change is in the wind wherever we go! The federal government may shut down.
    The cost of energy is really at about $13 per gallon of gas and is not being addressed.
    These are going to be difficult times and for once we must start working together and
    try our best. This is not going to be easy. Going to Neptune Beach – an option but at what expense.
    2 ferries probably not operating at one time and the Whatcom Chief will never be Coast
    Guard approved for continuous operation to Fairhaven. Also, I don’t think Fairhaven will want us in the long run. Too many people at too many different times. What about the new shipping terminal at
    Cherry Point – can we piggy back on that? This is a time for planning and our government needs to see we need to plan. This is going to be hard. We must have Medical plans, work commuting, and school plans. Nothing will be as smooth as in the past.

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