EDITORIAL: Keystone gets a high priority

In the entire Washington State Ferry System, relocating the Keystone dock is the number one priority when it comes to facilities improvements in coming years.

State Ferries released a list of cost-cutting measures this month, but the Keystone dock move remained in the list of things to do. A brief study conducted in recent weeks suggests moving the dock is feasible. Next is a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement to study the environmental consequences of moving the dock.

Interestingly, the ferry system suggested that moving the dock could have some positive environmental impacts. The little harbor at Keystone could return to a more natural state, as the periodic dredging there would cease. And construction of the new dock could include the addition of fishing piers, which would make up for the recent decision to ban fishing from the Keystone breakwater.

Moving the dock would have two clear positive impacts: Fewer sailings to Port Townsend would have to be canceled and bigger boats could be used, thereby making it possible to retire the antiquated ferries now serving the route. That would make the ferry system easier to operate, as all routes could use interchangeable boats.

However, another site would likely encroach upon the publicly owned and relatively pristine Keystone spit. Central Whidbey residents will rightly have many concerns about the proposed move, and they should speak up loudly when their input is sought during the EIS process. If a new ferry dock and related parking facilities take up too much space, it may be better to make do with the existing facilities.

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