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Save the ferry!

There's talk of eliminating the Anacortes-Sidney ferry line.

No doubt things will get hot 'n heavy in Anacortes on Thursday, Jan. 15. That's when one of ten public hearings is being conducted by WSDOT Ferries Division during the month of January. The topic is the draft long-range plan for the state ferry system through 2030, and public comment is being accepted through Jan. 21, 2009. So why is Anacortes so steamed? Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed eliminating international ferry service between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C., as a cost-cutting measure. It would go into effect in September 2009.

You can bet the folks on Vancouver Island aren't all that happy about it, either. Mayor Larry Cross and Councillor Kenny Podmore of Sidney, B.C., attended a Save Our Ferry meeting at Anacortes City Hall on Jan. 7, 2009. Hosted by Mayor of Anacortes Dean Maxwell, the meeting included representatives from Anacortes, Skagit, and San Juan counties, and other key stakeholders and concerned citizens.

Both Mary Margaret Haugen, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and newly-elected Senator Kevin Ranker of the 40th District support saving the ferry run. "It is my opinion that discontinuing service to Sidney, British Columbia would be an irresponsible decision that would have dire consequences to the entire North Puget Sound Region," said Haugen in a statement on her Web site. "I am adamantly opposed to anything that would jeopardize the continuation of the Anacortes-Sidney Ferry."

In a guest editorial in the Journal of the San Juans, Senator Ranker said, "Although I understand the need to decrease expenses during these tough times, we must not make short-term cuts that negatively impact long-term benefits. We must not eliminate ferry service between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C. Fortunately, we are at an early stage in the decision-making process and I am hopeful that we will be able to protect this vital community resource."

I travel to Vancouver Island three or four times a year, usually aboard Washington State Ferries from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C. Since I live on the south end of Whidbey Island, it makes more sense than driving all the way to Tsawwassen, B.C., to use B.C. Ferries (although I much prefer B.C. Ferries to WSF). But from January-March, when the Anacortes-Sidney boat isn't running, I'm forced to make the drive across the border. I'm in luck this month, as BC Ferries is having a sale. Their Winter Super Sail features a 33 percent price reduction for all passengers, vehicles, sailings, and routes through January 31, 2009.

The only sale I recall involving Washington State Ferries was in 2008 when WSDOT Ferries Division sold its four abandoned 80-year-old Steel Electric ferries to Seattle-based Environmental Recycling Systems. The plan was to haul them to Mexico where they were to be dismantled for scrap.

Sue Frause is a Whidbey Island freelance writer and photographer. You can reach her at sue@suefrause.com.


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