Long term options & issues

Written by Wynne Lee

In considering long-term options for our transportation to and from the mainland, I find that many issues about our ferry situation raised by Randy Smith on his Transition Lummi Island site seem increasingly relevant. The bottom line?  Keeping Gooseberry Point as our mainland docking location may not provide our best long-term solution.

The County and many islanders are focusing exclusively on the Gooseberry Pt solution. I remain modestly supportive of that goal but wonder if it will really provide as affordable access to mainland services in the future as the recent past leads us to hope.  For example, if/when gasoline goes to $5 or $10 a gallon, not only ferry costs will increase. The total transit costs for every person (islander, business, service, etc)  to reach their ultimate destination also will increase. (After all, not many folks want to go just to Gooseberry Pt.)  Ferry costs are just one piece of ‘affordability’. Ultimately what matters is our total transportation cost to mainland facilities, goods, services, jobs, etc.  Too narrow a focus on the Gooseberry Pt solution obscures this fact.

Also, I think that holding too tightly to the Gooseberry Pt outcome greatly weakens he County’s negotiating strength.  By insisting on only Gooseberry, aren’t islanders basically forcing the County’s negotiators over an impossibly large barrel?   Seems likely to me, which is one reason why I, like Randy, am not a member of PLIC.  While I respect PLIC and that they are “the only game in town”  (at least observable game), I don’t agree enough with their strategy and tactics to be a member.

8 thoughts on “Long term options & issues

  1. I am not sure I see your point without a suggestion of where else is feasible. These can be very unsafe waters and the more time spent making a crossing only amplifies that.

  2. Thanks, Wynne. I agree with your post. Alternative options to the status quo have not yet been fairly and scrupulously addressed. Costs for a fast and SAFE boat to Fairhaven have not been worked out and put into the equation. The concerted effort by PLIC has limited the conversation, and hence the negotiations, to Gooseberry point only. Total costs of various car trips–most going into Bellingham– have to be considered in the total fuel use. Transporation over water is usually more efficient than over land. A more direct connection to city services and public transportation could be the best and cheapest option…but we won’t know until we allow all alternatives to be thoroughly investigated. It is late–but not too late!– for everyone to start thinking creatively about different and varied ways to solve this problem.

  3. Yes, but. We can have this conversation among ourselves as Islanders, but until we are granted the opportunity to become part of the conversation with the County, our efforts have limited reach. PLIC is working to create this opportunity, and this, among other reasons, is why I respect and support their work.

  4. In the long run alternative options are necessary.
    Yet, when I was in Ecuador I remember an invaluable lesson. In 1961when JFK signed the Alliance for Progress Quechua Indians were starving. Unicef, Oxfam went in and said join forces even if you don’t politically agree. Today they are a unified political force with allot of power. I remember Barbara Brenner stating that Lummi Islanders are at the bottom of the Whatcom County list. Why? We have little or no say. Even though I think we need to look at alternative options, PLIC is our only means of having a voice and we should consider it. Currently PLIC has done allot of research on our situation. That information is power. All of Lummi Islanders regardless of our political position need to understand the data. Negotiations will resume in September with the Lummi Nation. Meanwhile this is a time for Islanders to look at the data, come up with ideas, costs, and make a unfied recommendation. There will be allot of give and take in this recommendation but we need to present it as one voice.
    We need a voice.

  5. “Meanwhile this is a time for Islanders to look at the data, come up with ideas, costs, and make a unified recommendation.”

    I’m all for this. But is PLIC providing that forum? From viewing the
    PLIC website and from the meetings I’ve attended it appears there
    is only one recommendation:

    “The PLIC initiative is dedicated to insuring that the County and Lummi Nation will continue to negotiate and finalize the terms of a long-term lease for Gooseberry Point, and avoid any further stalemates.”

    I don’t know the answer, but will continue to ask the question: is
    this the best long-term solution, the most sustainable long-term
    solution to transportation to and from the island?

    It would also be helpful to see more of the “power” information and
    data on the PLIC website.

  6. I think we had better be careful what you ask for.

    I have the done some of the compiling of the items you are taking about. It is an extensive undertaking, and I am not done yet. It is not a simple fix of “we’ll just make a small adjustment, a little bit bigger Ferry, add a passenger boat and it will be fine”, no, the requirements and costs of going to Fairhaven/Bellingham locations are absolutely frightening.

    It will entail: new Docks, new much bigger Ferry Boat (s), massive increases of fuel use, larger crews, much longer transit times, and other related infrastructure. A simple explanation is that as we increase the length of the run, the size of the Vessel (s) must also increase proportionately to maintain the carry capacity. A short passage, as we have now, offers a great deal of flexibility as to peak and average capacity, run frequency, and emergency availability that will be lost to a longer route.

    None of the above has anything to do with the safety of the passage, which is another matter.

    At the last PLIC meeting I offered to do a presentation on this matter, perhaps it’s time.

    Jim Dickinson

    • Thanks, Jim.

      I hope that PLIC will take you up on your offer to present the info you have. If not, maybe LICA can arrange something. My view is that the more information we have about alternatives (feasibilty, costs, trade-offs), from multiple sources, the better. Of course, Colleen and I will be happy to post your info on the ferry forum, as well.

      I also hope some other people with knowledge about ferry alternatives will respond and post information, but don’t know if anyone either has real information or is willing to share it. Certainly the number of people who post on the Ferry Forum is and has been quite low for several months.

  7. Gooseberry is the only reasonable option for moving cars to the island. I believe islanders should directly discuss the value of that service and the acceptable options.

    For instance, Mackinaw Island got sick of cars a century ago and wouldn’t go back to them now. It’s just too pleasant the way it is. However, they still need vehicle ferry service to get commercial services onto the island. Also, there are a lot of other vehicle options, like parking at the new Lummi Gateway and shuttling to Gooseberry for passenger service, keeping passenger rates low and charging more for vehicles, etc. That would reduce traffic on Haxton and the ferry queue congestion at the point.

    Passenger only service to Fairhaven is probably feasible, but would have to be in addition to vehicle service from Gooseberry. As Jim has pointed out, going to a larger ferry that can handle the crossing to Bellingham leads to a spiral of crushing costs that probably cannot be justified for a community of under a thousand.

    There are tons of options, but islanders should remember – and keep remembering – that they are not being asked for their ideas and collectively seem unwilling to take the political initiative needed to gain control of the agenda. That usually means taking what’s eventually offered.

    In that context, the best strategy is to stick with what you’ve got, which is essentially PLICs position. That is all very sensible, except that I remain confused as to why a lease is preferred when abrogation of the last lease is the source of the current problem.

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