Lummi Island Ferry Long Range Planning

The recent news about the Lummi Nation moving ahead with plans to develop a marina at Gooseberry Pt makes it even more important to work on long-range planning issues.

LIFAC’s long range planning subcommittee (Byron Moye, Chuck Antholt, LIFAC members, plus island volunteers) will meet Tuesday Feb 17, 2015, at 630 PM in the Hanson Room of the Island Library.  Meetings are open to the public.  (for details, click on Continue reading

Gooseberry Pt Marina and Ferry Dock Planning

 
The Bellingham Herald posted this story about the Lummi Nation contacting the County about their moving forward with plans for a marina at Gooseberry Pt, which has implications for changes to the Lummi Island Ferry’s mainland dock. For those who wish to read or re-read the lease, this 2011 November Ferry Forum article has links to the Gooseberry Pt lease documents.  (Some more discussion of their plans is on p. 69 (p. 35 in the pdf) in the Lummi Nation 2014 Annual Report.)
………………………………………………..
Thursday, February 12, 2015
 Email from Mike McKenzie, Chair of Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee

County Executive Jack Louws passed this message through LIFAC re: the letter from Lummi leader Tim Ballew about County preparing to shift the ferry dock at Gooseberry Point:

1. Lummi Nation asked only for what the ferry service contract calls for — moving dolphins and entry to the dock. (Not leaving Gooseberry. See p. 3 of contract.)
2. The marina plan has been known for a long time. This is neither a surprise nor a threatening matter.
3. Parties estimate this to take from 4-6 years to complete.
4. County staff is initiating appropriate planning immediately, as requested.
4. Mr. Louws will visit Lummi Island to discuss thoroughly, probably in late March, early April.
5. Remain calm. “We need to respond appropriately, but not over-react. This is a marathon, and we’re in the first 100th of a mile. You know what happens if you sprint out to start a marathon. We’ll deal with this thoroughly, efficiently, and fairly, and both parties will meet obligations of the contract.”
***
Further, Rob Ney, the ferry operations manager in Public Works, committed to giving a full report on County’s plans for his department re: the Lummi letter at the monthly public LIFAC meeting,  Tuesday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. at the Congregational Church fellowship hall (basement).
Both gentlemen are out of the office — Mr. Louws for two weeks, and Mr. Ney for one week.
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Lummi Island FAC Feb. 3 Meeting: Due Diligence on Hiyu Moves Forward

At last night’s meeting of the Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (LIFAC), committee members and islanders heard some good news from Rob Ney (Public Works): the County has begun Phase I of its required due diligence in considering whether or not acquiring the Hiyu is a viable option to consider. Continue reading

PLIC Input to LIFAC about Ferry Replacement Report

Rhayma Blake, president of the PLIC Board, asked to post this about what they submitted to LIFAC today, including survey results, concerning the Ferry Replacement Subcommittee’s report re: possibly replacing the Whatcom Chief with the Hiyu and keeping the Chief as a backup vessel. Thanks to the PLIC Board for their continued effort to listen to islanders’ obviously varied opinions. Job very well done.

 

—–Forwarded Message—–
From: Rhayma Blake <rhayma@me.com>
Sent: Feb 2, 2015 6:28 PM
To: Wynne Lee <wynnelee@earthlink.net>
Subject: For Ferry Forum
The PLIC Board of Directors has sent a letter complete with the survey results to LIFAC recommending that they forward the Lummi Island Replacement and Options Report to Whatcom County Public Works for their review. We thank all those who participated in the process for your thoughtful comments and input at the PLIC Annual Meeting and on the survey. You can read the letter and report at http://plicferry.org/wp-content/uploads/…

Guest Post – Comments to LIFAC about Ferry Replacement Hiyu Report and Recommendations

Editor’s note In this guest post, Beth Louis shares her comments to LIFAC about the Ferry Replacement Subcommittee’s January 3rd draft report and recommendations re: acquiring the Hiyu (links are at end).  Beth’s long-time profession was in public transportation management. She was a part-time resident of Lummi Island for years and moved  here full time ~1 year ago.  Beth is on LIFAC’s long-range planning sub-committee, attends LIFAC meetings regularly and recently joined the PLIC Board. (Her comments are part of the public record, like all written input to LIFAC.)

Beth’s summary comment:

“The Sub-Committee should be commended for the effort and detailed work put into the Report to gather information about ferry replacement options.  It serves as a good starting point for discussion about how and when the Whatcom Chief should be replaced.  The Report makes clear that there is an opportunity to acquire a used replacement ferry and strongly conveys the benefits for pursuing the Hiyu.

However, without a comprehensive comparison of benefits, dis-benefits and costs and a discussion of trade-offs between acquiring a used boat with a similar life span to the Chief vs. keeping the Chief and beginning the process for funding and acquiring a new boat, it is not possible to make an informed decision about which ferry replacement option is the most financially and operationally suited to County budgets and ferry users needs.

The information collected by the Technical Sub-committee could be passed on to the County for their information and use in evaluating a ferry replacement option, but until additional data is provided, including a true assessment of costs, their impact on fares and a funding plan, it is not appropriate to forward a recommendation that the Hiyu be acquired at this time.  I have submitted the attached comments to LIFAC based on the Report entitled “Acquisition of the M/V Hiyu From Washington State Ferries for Use at Lummi Island” released by the Technical Sub-Committee on January 3, 2015.”

Part 1 of  HIYU Report 01032015 comments Walukas-Louis 1 (overview)

Part 2 of HIYU Report 01032015 comments Walukas-Louis 2 (detailed table)

Editor’s note 2.  I’ve heard there’s an updated version / draft of the subcommittee report, but LIFAC has chosen not to make that  available to the public until after their February 3, 2015 meeting at which they will discuss and vote on what to do next. That means that commenters can respond only to what’s in the draft report released on January 3, 2015.

LIFAC to Vote on Feb. 3, 2015 to Send, or Not, Ferry Replacement Report to County

Below are Mike McKenzie’s statement (on Facebook, i.e., public domain) that the 7-member Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (LIFAC) plans to vote to either to send its ferry replacement subcommittees’ report (ACQUISITION OF HIYU REPORT FINAL 5 Jan 14,) forward to the County, or kill it, at their February 3, 2015 meeting / work session.  (italics added)

LIFAC doesn’t stage public hearings. We have public meetings with open comment periods — even at work meetings. I expressly stated at the outset of our meeting Jan. 6 that we welcomed public comment on the presentation, and even allowed questions, but that it was not a time or place for debating or arguing the merits of the proposal; that will happen if and when a public hearing takes place. County Council, will hold one, by law,when and if the proposal gets introduced. The vote will either move the proposal forward to Council PW Committee for presentation, or kill the proposal.

In a later FB comment, Mike clarifies that the votes is scheduled for LIFAC’s Feb. 3 meeting.

“… Ferry Replacement Subcommittee made up of community volunteers, but also including (by ordinance requirement) two members of LIFAC — Greg Brown, and Stu Clark. These items on the agenda have been prematurely released publicly, and have not been voted on by LIFAC. They will be the centerpiece of discussion at a community-wide PLIC annual meeting later this month, and presented for a vote at LIFAC work meeting (open to public) Feb. 3.

My takeAll citizens who want LIFAC to have time to fully consider their input on the report before LIFAC votes, should submit comments before the Feb. 3 meeting, the sooner the better. That can be done by individuals or as part of some collective effort (e.g., PLIC Board input to LIFAC).

It puzzles me how citizens could provide any reasoned or informed (or other) input to LIFAC had the draft report been kept secret from  non-LIFAC members.  Yes, public input to an advisory committee like LIFAC can be messy and ‘trouble’. Democracy, as the cliche goes, is a messy business.

But isn’t it preferable to get, before any decision-making or vote, citizens’ potentially informed responses to an important report (even a draft) rather than their totally uniformed comments or sentiments?

PS  I’ve heard rumored that the draft report has been/will be revised with ‘lots more data’ but Mike’s statement makes it pretty clear that ‘non LIFAC’ citizens will get to see that version only after LIFAC’s February 3 meeting and vote.

Is the Hiyu option a ‘no brainer’?

Point of view.  It’s tempting to frame replacing the Chief with the Hiyu as a ‘no brainer’ because of the Hiyu’s assumed negligible capital cost (anywhere from $1 upward) and increased carrying capacity.

But we should remember Lummi Island ferry fares, always of keen importance to frequent ferry users, depend on total operating and maintenance costs, not capitol costs.

And it’s not just ferry users who pay those costs:  all owners of rural County properties annually pay, via road property taxes, 45% of operations and maintenance costs for the ferry to Lummi Island.  Ferry fares pay the other 55% of those costs.

To better understand how fares might be affected (+ or -), it’s important to compare all obvious and less-than-obvious predicted operations and maintenance costs for the two vessels. For example, everything from Public Work’s staff time to review the Hiyu option, to crew time needed to retrain on the new vessel, to dock modifications will be part of operating and maintenance costs that impact ferry fees.  Ditto for any and all operation (including labor) and maintenance costs associated with retaining the Chief as an supplemental / emergency vessel, perhaps with some costs paid by other counties (but how much might that be? any guaranteed income for this?)

Keeping just the Chief also, of course, entails many costs and risks that often are invisible to Lummi Island ferry users.  Seeing all of those costs compared would greatly help making the best decision.

The current report’s comparison of costs seems to me to not consider all such operation and maintenance costs, so one of my comments will be to ask the County (not LIFAC) to gather and report full information on these costs with their likely impact on ferry fares.  I don’t favor asking the Ferry Replacement subcommittee or LIFAC to do this (a list of concerns plus the report is quite enough effort on their part). Should the County choose (or not — it’s their decision, not LIFAC’s or islanders’, regardless of how passionate citizens are one way or the other), my hope is that their due diligence will include consideration of the effect of any option on ferry fares.

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