Lummi Island Fire District – Ferry Communications

Lummi Island medical or fire emergencies can require sudden use of the ferry for transport. That doesn’t happen by magic. Rather, it has required well-planned and continually supported radio links between two county agencies, the Whacom County Fire District 11 (WCFD11, Lummi island) and Whatcom County Public Works (WCPW ferry operations).

In 2011, District 11 Fire Department (Duncan McLane, Chief and elected Fire Commissioners Bob Busch, Ed Scott & Wendell Terry) purchased and arranged for the installation of compatible communications equipment needed for these essential communications. This was done by a formal agreement between Fire District 11 and Public works  (alternative link here). Initial funding was provided by a grant obtained by the Fire District. Presumably on-going maintenance of this system is funded by Fire District property taxes paid by Lummi Island property owners. Effective operation is made possible by the fact that some ferry crew members are also volunteers in the Fire Department.

Positive interactions like this between two of Whatcom County’s government agencies are essential to handling emergencies effectively for the isolated Lummi Island community.

Lummi Island – Fairhaven Route

UPDATE May 17,2016:  Nancy Ging, LIFAC member, clarified the origins of this draft document on NextDoor Lummi Island (private site). The draft report is not part of LIFAC-County current long-range planning for any future changes to the ferry system. (re-posted with her permission).

There is NO Fairhaven proposal currently under discussion, or even hinted. This report, initiated at the request of a County Councilmember, is intended only to summarize some of the major obstacles encountered by the County, LIFAC, and other citizen groups in the past when the recurring idea of a Fairhaven route was fully explored and rejected. It is not intended to be comprehensive or complete. The report is in draft form and is being submitted for public input, which will be attached to the report before storing it in the archives at the Library.”

Original post May 14, 2016. The Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (LIFAC) has produced a detailed draft report on the feasibility of docking at Fairhaven (DRAFT–Ferry Service Lummi Island to Fairhaven, April 30, 2016). Chuck Antholt, who researched and authored the report, presented it at the May 3, 2016 meeting. The report makes two key assumptions: 1) use of the Whatcom Chief; and 2) no restrictions on docking at Fairhaven (unlikely, given recent input from the Port of Bellingham).  LIFAC requests citizen input on the report (written preferred) at or before their June 7 meeting (email: lummiferry@googlegroup.com or comment at the meeting).

 

LIFAC Progress on Ferry Replacement Planning

Here’s Stu Clark’s (chair) report on the LIFAC March 1, 2016 meeting (not included: Agenda; brief bios of members Bailey, Blake and Forbes). A key action was the vote to ensure that the County’s 20 yr Comprehensive (Comp) Plan recogizes the Lummi Island Ferry system as an essential ‘arterial’ road that requires ‘concurrency’ of future transportation and growth/development. Read More »

Report on Feb. 2, 2016 LIFAC Meeting

Below is a concise report on what happened last night’s Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (LIFAC) meeting. It’s just a quick report, not approved  minutes. Stu Clark sent it out by email today (Feb. 3). Stu is the newly elected LIFAC chairperson. Other newly elected officers and members are listed in the report. The report provides a quick look- ahead to topics for the March 1 meeting.  My sincere thanks to LIFAC for getting these out so quickly! Read More »

LIFAC Draft Report on Ferry Level of Service 12-01-2015

The Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (LIFAC) has made public its draft report on ferry level of service LIFAC LOS Project Part 1 Report – DRAFT 12-01-2015. This report is part of their co-operative planning with Public Works re: replacement of the Whatcom Chief.  Included are definitions, history and more about what ‘ferry level of service’ is and how it is defined by Whatcom County.  This is a substantive document with considerable detail and comparisons to other WA ferry systems.  Public comments on the document and issues are welcome, and can be submitted in writing to lummiferry@googlegroups.com or at the next LIFAC meeting in January (tentatively, January 5).   Read More »

What is the Ferry Level of Service?

Why review the ferry Level of Service (LOS) now? LIFAC and Public Works are currently exploring the County’s ferry LOS history and options as part of their brief to advise the County Council on a replacement of the Whatcom Chief at some future time.

What  is a “Level of Service”, anyway? In Washington state, LOS is the legal term for how a county, city or other governmental entity defines what it deems ‘acceptable traffic flow’ on roads, ferries etc. They do this supposedly to help plan for the transportation infrastructure that will ‘accommodate’ projected changes in population and development.  The Washington Growth Management Act (1993) requires transportation infrastructure planning to be part of required comprehensive land use planning to accommodate projected growth. The notion is that transportation infrastructure plans should be ‘concurrent’ with development.

Sometime in the 1990s, Whatcom County assigned our ferry system a ‘ferry LOS’ as part of its the ‘transportation concurrency’ part of its comprehensive plan. The current ferry LOS was defined (I think) as the total # of people and/or vehicles transported annually/# island residents, measured at some past point in time.

Does the ferry or any other LOS matter?  Defining a traffic LOS doesn’t necessarily mean that traffic flow is kept ‘reasonable’ from the drivers’ perspective. That’s because local governments can define ‘acceptable’ a traffic LOS, either overall or at specific times (e.g., commute times) that allows very heavily congested roads etc.  So what if the government entity doesn’t have or want to spend more monies to to increase its transportation infrastructure, and if neither developers nor taxpayers are willing to pay more for improvements that would keep traffic congestion down? Well, they can simply lower the ‘acceptable’ LOS, resulting in more traffic congestion as development and population increase.

Examples of ‘traffic planning’ via LOS (best appreciated by those who’ve been in Whatcom County 10+ years).  Guide Meridian, especially at rush hour is definitely worse now than 10 years ago. Looking ahead, think about traffic at the Bakerview Road/I5 interchange as Costco, more apartments, more stores, and more hotels are built, plus (maybe) more airport traffic. Or, consider how traffic has worsened between Seattle and Marysville as the northward population has grown. Yes, some changes have been made to roads, but traffic is still way more congested than it was.

I’m glad LIFAC and Public Works are exploring ideas about changes in island population and the ferry system that might ‘accommodate’ population projections.  But I’ve no illusions that any LOS they recommend as ‘reasonable’ will result in an increased numbers of runs or a larger ferry with more vehicle capacity that might keep car traffic flowing as well as it does now.