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. Read More »

How will LIFAC respond to community requests to modify their ‘Lower Fares’ proposal?

Tomorrow night, at LIFAC’s December 2, 2014 LIFAC meeting (Fire Hall, 6:30-7:40 PM), you can learn how LIFAC will respond to islander requests to modify LIFAC’s October recommendation to lower some Lummi Island ferry fares (see October 7, 2014 draft handout on their county website; a newer revised version is here, on the PLIC website).

Basic facts.  In October, LIFAC members approved a recommendation to ask the County Council to consider lowering selected ferry fares.  This sounds like a very nice idea, as we all love the idea of paying less for something these days, especially ferry fares!

However,Read More »

Moving toward Improved Lummi Island Ferry fares

Should a recent proposal by LIFAC to selectively reduce some ferry fares move forward as is, or not?  It’s great that LIFAC has started to tackle this issue, and we all sincerely applaud them for their efforts. The question now is,  “Is this particular proposal what we need, or does it need further review and modification?”

Surprisingly, 31 of the 33 islanders at the PLIC (Protect Lummi Island Community) public meeting (October 29, 2014) who stayed to hear all of the discussion voted NO to ‘just go for it’. Instead, the strong majority opted to ask LIFAC to hold off, review and modify details of the proposal before taking it to the County Council.

Based on that community input, the PLIC Board has submitted to LIFAC a letter reversing its original support of LIFAC’s proposal and requesting further consideration of issues raised by the community. They have posted that information on their website (, Facebook and NextDoor Lummi Island.Read More »

New PLIC Board & Report on Ferry Issues

The PLIC (Protect Lummi Island Community) Board has posted minutes from their annual meeting, in January 2013 on their website.  (for more information about PLIC, see their website, or search here  on the Ferry Forum for “PLIC”)

The Board reviewed ferry issues from 2012 and described their plans for 2013.  There was considerable discussion of ‘needs based’ fares, including the 2011 County Ferry Task Force recommendations that the County is considering.  A group of PLIC members will review this issue and bring forward recommendations at a future meeting.

New Board members were elected to replace Mike McKenzie and Stu Clarke, who stepped down to avoid conflicts with their roles on LIFAC, the County Council’s Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee (thanks, Mike & Stu).  The new PLIC Board, whom you can contact by phone or email ( is:

  • Rhayma Blake, President
  • Mike Kmiecek, Treasurer
  • Mary Ross, Secretary
  • David Wing
  • Tess Winds-Johnson
  • Janet Lutz-Smith
  • Jansen Pierce


Survey about Gooseberry Pt Security

The PLIC Board created a paper survey to assess community interest in security at Gooseberry Pt after November 15, 2012, when it is scheduled to stop.  Survey forms with instructions are available at various locations on the island (see below), with a deadline of September 16, 2012.   Below is the Board’s reminder, sent today to those on their email list.

The only concern I have with this survey is the lead-in statement that “continuing to have security may necessitate cuts elsewhere in the county’s Public Works budget.”  I personally would have written it to read something like, “necessitate higher fares or cuts elsewhere in Public Works’ budget for operating the ferry,” but of course that just reflects my notion of where money for continued security is likely to come from. 

Thanks to all who have completed the survey about Security at Gooseberry Point. Security is slated to end November 15h. For those who have not weighed in, the cut-off for survey submission is next Sunday, September 16th.

At that time we will compile the responses and determine next steps. We have to assume that no survey from you implies that security is not important to you (and that’s just fine if that is indeed the case).

Please be sure you have filled and returned your survey by next Sunday. Blank surveys are available at The Islander, the post office and the library. Details on submitting them can be found at the bottom of the survey.

Thanks for your time and attention to this.

The PLIC Board of Directors

Updated Research & Different Conclusion on Plattsburgh Ferry

<my apologies – I meant to post this 10 day ago but forgot to hit ‘publish’.  wynne>

Jim Dickinson has responded to Frank Abart’s 2008 report to Pete Kremen (included in full here, from a B’ham Herald blog post by John Stark). That report, after some more investigation by PW, was sent recently to Jack Louws, current County Executive.  Jim reviewed and considerably updated findings on the potential problems reported by Public Works  He concludes, based on these new findings, that the Plattsburgh ferry appears to be a functionally and fiscally option worth further consideration.

(Jim first posted this article on NextDoor Lummi Island, a site available only to Lummi Island residents and property owners. For clarity about ‘who said what’, Abart’s text is in black. Jim’s responses are blue.)


A lot of water has flowed through Hale’s Pass since the Public Works memo of 2008 regarding the ferry Plattsburgh. The $8M State Grant for a new ferry is gone, the Whatcom Chief is deteriorating faster than projected, the level of general knowledge about the ferry system has risen dramatically, and the local conditions are different. For brevity, the following represents the condensed version of a considerable amount of information gathered from many sources. Much more detailed explanations are available upon request.

1/ Moving the vessel to Bellingham would cost $2.8 million.

Response. I would encourage another, more current review of this estimation. Several knowledgeable parties, including the Coast Guard, believe that the easiest way of getting the Plattsburgh to Whatcom County is to drive it under its own power. Lake Champlain Transportation Company will deliver the vessel through the Champlain Canal, by temporarily removing the pilot house to go under some low bridges, then down the Hudson River to New York Harbor. (This is how the Plattsburgh arrived at Lake Champlain from the Florida boatyard that built it). From New York, a crew will pilot the boat down the eastern seaboard and then through the Panama Canal to here. Estimated costs are in the range of $205K- $100K for fuel (@ a high of $5.00/gal), $100K for crew (based on current prevailing wages), and $3500.00 for the Panama Canal Fee. Even more money might be saved by finding a “deadheading” tugboat heading east to west, especially if the schedule is flexible. In the past LCT has delivered three smaller ferries all the way from New York to Ketchikan, Alaska. Lake Champlain Transport has agreed to provide an estimate of costs and will shortly be sending us detailed quotes for the vessel delivery, including any desired modifications. They may be capable of providing Whatcom County with a turn-key boat, delivered and ready for service as the Lummi Island ferry.

2/ The Plattsburgh’s passenger cabin is on the second deck. It is very likely that the Coast Guard will require an additional deck hand on the second deck. This would bring the required number of crew to 4.

Response:  See Crew Compatibility, Below

3/ It does not appear that there are any ADA passenger accommodations on the Plattsburgh since the passenger cabin is on the second deck. The first deck appears to house the two heads and the stairwell going up to the passenger deck and wheelhouse. If we were to reconstruct the first deck to accommodate passengers, we would lose car capacity.

Response. In current configurations, the Whatcom Chief is less ADA compliant than the Plattsburgh. That said, there are options for making the Plattsburgh ADA compliant that are not overly costly. There are four rooms, other than the heads, in the on-deck house that could be reconfigured to hold a small number of passengers and therefore meet ADA requirements. There are also several other alternate ways, including expanding the on-deck house, to inexpensively meet this requirement without losing any car capacity. We have more information forthcoming on this.

3[2]) The Plattsburgh weighs approximately three times as much as the Whatcom Chief. The associated berthing energy of the Plattsburgh would likely require reconstruction of the wingwalls at both terminals.

Response: See Dock Compatibility, Below

4) The Plattsburgh is almost twice the length of the Whatcom Chief. We would have to evaluate the location of the breasting dolphins relative to the geometry of the boat. This may require additional dolphins and/or relocation of the existing dolphins

Response: See Dock Compatibility, Below

5) The Plattsburgh’s draft is 8.5 feet, compared to the Whatcom Chief’s draft (and that of the previously designed 35-car replacement ferry) of 6.0 feet. You’ll recall that draft and compatibility with our ferry slips was a major issue during design of the replacement ferry.  We would need to evaluate the effect of this on docking restrictions during certain low tides.

Response for 3[2]-4-5

Dock Compatibility

The Plattburgh probably weighs about 1.6-1.87 times the weight of the Whatcom Chief, as calculated from reference sources. Logically, since it is 1.8 times longer and similarly constructed, it could be expected to be 1.8 times heavier. In fact, a boat’s rated tonnage has no relation to actual vessel weight; it is instead a measure of hold capacity or storage volume below-decks:

At the rub-rails, the Plattsburgh is only 4 inches wider than the Chief; it will fit both docks perfectly. Moreover, the Lummi Island dock was reconfigured in 2010 to berth the recently designed (un-built) ferry. In 2011, the Island dock’s wing-walls were rebuilt and strengthened. The proposed ferry from a few years ago would be almost identical to the Plattsburgh in all dimensions; therefore, since 2008, the island dock has already been upgraded to accommodate a vessel of similar size to the Plattsburgh. There are no additional costs here. Furthermore, the Plattsburgh has a better power to weight ratio than the Whatcom Chief and can be brought to a stop faster.

The Plattsburgh’s actual, measured unloaded draft is 6.2 feet (in fresh water) while the Whatcom Chief’s unloaded draft (in salt water) is about 6.0 feet; the difference is insignificant. The Plattsburgh’s measured, loaded draft is 8.5 feet, with 4 fully loaded tractor-trailers and an otherwise full car deck. The Whatcom Chief’s fully loaded draft is likely similar, except a full load proportional to that of the Plattsburgh would be impossible to stage. If the Plattsburgh were loaded with 5 times as much weight as the Whatcom Chief, it would require equal draft. More realistically, the Plattsburgh will draw less water than the Whatcom Chief when loaded with the normal mix of cars and light trucks.

6) Our ferry crew is not licensed to pilot a ship larger than 100 gross tons. They would have to take the additional classes, test, etc. from the Coast Guard in order to pilot the Plattsburgh.

Response to 2 & 6:

Crew Compatibility

With a visit to a shipyard, we could get the Plattsburgh reclassified as a vessel under 100 tonness at nominal expense and it would then be compatible with the existing crew’s licenses. Again, the tonnage of a vessel is not based on size, weight, or appearance; it is a measure of a vessel’s hold capacity or internal cargo-capable volume. Tonnage of the Plattsburgh can be reduced by sub-dividing the holds and reducing the interior volume by installing lightweight steel tonnage frames in the empty spaces below. As an example, the newest boat in LCT’s fleet, the Raymond C Pecor Jr, built in 2010, is the same width as the Plattsburgh but is 35 feet longer. It is registered at 94 gross tonnes, compared to the Whatcom Chief’s 68 tonnes, even though it’s more than twice as long.

Our estimate of the total engineering and construction costs for reducing the Plattsburgh’s tonnage is less than $300K. These simple modifications would bring the Plattsburgh under 100 tonnes and into license as a “K”-class ferry. The crew would be fully qualified to operate this boat with their existing licenses. With the above tonnage reduction, the Plattsburgh, in its current passenger space configuration, can operate with a crew of three in almost all conditions. The crew member on the second deck is only required when the vessel is underway. By using currently approved legal procedures, as soon as the vessel is loaded, and before it begins to move, one of the deck crew climbs the stairs to the passenger cabin and informs the pilot that the vessel can get under way. In the event of loads over 150 passengers, regardless of vessel, a fourth crew would be required. Similar to restrictions already in place for the passenger vessel during dry dock, Whatcom County could enforce a passenger limit, thereby ensuring that a 3-person crew is always adequate.


Our estimates are that we could have the Plattsburgh modified, delivered, and operating for less than $3.5 million, perhaps much less. The Plattsburgh would fit the existing docks, reduce fuel consumption, not increase crew requirements, reduce maintenance expenses, and generally be an excellent replacement for the Whatcom Chief. It is also mostly depreciated and essentially a fungible good; it could conceivably serve as an interim vessel against the eventual purchase of a successor boat, should such a scenario be desired, and would likely retain most of its value. Purchasing the Plattsburgh would, of course, require appropriate planning and a procurement scenario, but otherwise the down side is hard to find.

(Thanks are due to Chandler Johnson of Lummi Island for his assistance). I am available at 360-296-3940 or for any questions.

Jim Dickinson

PLIC Board Call to Action on Lease

This email and document from the PLIC Board was sent out to all PLIC members today, calling for islanders to contact the County Council and support the lease — and attend Tuesday night’s hearing.


Greetings, Friends, on this gorgeous 9-10-11. We have reached the end game. You are needed. Tuesday night, Sept. 13 — just 3 days out — Whatcom County Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed lease agreement with Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC) for ferry service at Gooseberry Point.

The Council might vote to approve or reject the proposal that night. And their vote is hanging in the balance.Read More »

Detailed Comparison of 2 Lease Agreement Versions

Betsy Schneider, intrepid sleuth aided by equally intrepid Michael Schneider, reveal the major differences between the July 5, 2011 and the revision that was introduced by the Council on August 9, 2011 (AB2011-238).

The complete text of AB2011-238 that was introduced can be found under here. (Note: The cover sheet of this document  AB2011-238 incorrectly shows a “July 5” cover page. However, the text of the introduced version is the correct, revised version, not the old first draft from July 5, 2011.  The July 5 draft is no longer on the County’s website, but you can find it here or on the PLIC website.)

The link to the comparison between the two versions is follows Betsy’s  email.  

Thanks to Betsy and Michael.

2011-08-10 Email from Betsy:

I read through the original drafts of the ferry lease agreements when they came out in July, so I was a little dismayed when the August 3rd draft came out without any indication of where changes had been made.  SO . . . I’ve finally done a line by line comparison (with Michael’s help) of the July 5, 2011 draft agreements and the August 3, 2011 draft agreements, and I made a list of the changes that seem to amount to anything.

 Of course, as soon as I finished, the August 8, 2011 draft agreements were released, but we’ve talked to Dan Gibson about those, and he told us that only two changes (one just a typo) were made from the August 3rd drafts to the August 8th, draft, so I’ve included those changes here too.  So, for the benefit of anyone who read the July 5th draft when it came out and isn’t compulsive enough to go line-by-line to find changes that were made in the August drafts, here’s a list of the significant changes.

This is not a complete list of every single change that was made.  Many minor changes were made that cleaned up the wording without changing the meaning, or that made changes that were very minor.  Those are not included here.  The changes listed here are the ones that I thought might be worth examining and thinking about.

Please keep in mind that this is not a full analysis of the agreements themselves, but is only a list of areas where the new draft(s) of the agreements differ from the first draft.


Betsy Schneider


Links to the comparison (in 3 formats to help those with different software):

Newest version (Aug. 8, 2011) of draft legal agreement

Update:  2011-08-09.  According to Dan Gibson (via Michael Schneider) this is the introduced version AB2011-238.

Nadeen Hanson, County Council clerk, sent the latest (August 8, 2011) version of the draft legal agreement between the County and Lummi Nation re: Gooseberry lease.  Section 5 (“free rides” issue) is now specific, at least, though I’m not sure how/if it differs practically from the problematic June 30 wording.  I’ve no clue whether the wording of the rest of the legal contract is complete – I  picked up the message at 8:40 PM, Monday Aug. 8, 2011.

For comparison purposes, earlier drafts of the proposal:  June 30, 2011; August 3, 2011.

Opinion & advocacy: I presume that the next steps for us all — county officials, citizens and taxpayers (including islanders) is to go over this draft (assuming that it’s introduced as planned tomorrow night at the August 9, 2011, 7 PM council meeting) with a fine tooth comb before the public hearing (maybe Sept 13? we’ll know more after tomorrow’s meeting).

We need to make sure that our representatives, county exec, candidates in the upcoming election and media hear loud and clear as to what we think of the provisions, and whether we think the Council should vote for or against the draft proposal as written, modify it before voting, or reject it.

Personally I do not think the Council should schedule their vote on the contract on the same night as the public hearing.  If the public hearing is to be meaningful, council members need to take time to consider everything they hear before voting. That can’t really be done if the vote is the same night as the hearing (unless, of course, no one shows up to speak at the hearing.)

Please understand that I do not assume that this draft agreement has problematic elements. I might decide, after reading it carefully, that it is just fine and I can support it. My point is that reviewing it will take some time, and that the length (35 yrs) and cost (millions) deserve careful scrutiny by the taxpayers and citizens (including ferry users) who will foot the bill for years ahead. For me, that review is simply part of Whatcom County citizens’ civic responsibility and due diligence.