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.