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 the Lummi Island Calendar, then the Feb. 17 event).

One issue I imagine they’ll consider is future ferry usage. While the County commissioned and received a ‘ferry capacity’ study in 2004-2005 (conclusion — ferry twice as big as Chief was needed), the ridership and other data (e.g., building permits/estimated population growth from the mid-2000s needs to be updated, or at least added to provide standard ‘high/low” population and ferry capacity growth scenarios. All too often, a single speculated high growth scenario gets focused on almost exclusively (due to the very common assumption that populations growth is always never-ending and inevitable in the short and long run).

My hope is that that LIFAC’s long-range planning committee will avoid the mistake of prematurely latching on to a single growth/capacity scenario for the future.

The County made that mistake that in 2005, when it used its commissioned Lummi Island Ferry Capacity 2005 study to justify the design of a ferry twice the size of the Whatcom Chief of a new, larger ferry (studies and design cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars). That proposal was presented to and voted down by County Council in 2008 for numerous reasons  Although many people understood that Lummi Island like most of America was in the middle of a housing bubble that was bound to collapse, the ‘collapse’ scenario (that is, a return to historically lower growth levels) wasn’t considered at all in the County’s planning for future ferry capacity.

There are other long-term factors to consider, ranging from the effect of the highly probable substantial sea-level rise on docking and ferry options (docks and ferries have 50+ year life spans) to estimated costs for staying at Gooseberry (e.g., increased lease payments) vs costs of going to some other mainland site.

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