SOUNDOFF: Imagine traveling by Saratoga Taxi

The ferry systems in this discussion use the low-in-the-water, wide sit-down foot ferry, a type of boat much like that used on the rivers of Europe.You’ve seen them with their glass tops.

The arena for these boats is Saratoga Passage waters, between Camano and Whidbey Islands. Both ferry systems would have similar boats. You need to have the correct picture of these boats in your mind or you will not understand this essay. Don’t even think of an auto ferry! The reason being is this has to happen first. After this has run for five to ten years the people will be happy to allow larger ferries.

The first ferry system consists of a few boats — six, for example. They will be called the Saratoga Taxis because that’s what they’ll be. These boats shall run on a schedule from town to town around Saratoga Passage, including places like Stanwood, LaConnor, Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Langley, Greenbank, Camano State Park and Utsalady. These little boats would be mostly occupied by tourists in the summer. The size of the boats I would estimate at 60 to 80 passengers. Tourists could get off and stay as long as they wished, then get on the next boat to another destination until they returned where they started. Basically that’s one ferry system.

The second ferry system would run from Utsalady Bay to Coupeville. Please think of that foot ferry you were introduced to above. Camano Island cannot support an auto ferry — it’s a separate issue.

You will notice Utsalady was mentioned earlier. There is a reason for this and that is to provide a multi-purpose docking facility.Utsalady has a large amount of surface water runoff that could be recycled upland for artificial recharge of Camano Island’s aquifers.The annual runoff equals enough water to supply 600 houses for a year at 235 gallons per day.

Construct a ferry dock structure that would also hold water and have a chamber to treat this water. Then, with high powered pumps, pump the treated water upland to sell. If you can imagine the boats described above you can now see the docking facility being used by the ferry boats while holding surface water runoff to be treated and pumped to a planting area for recharge. Cost! This dock won’t cost, it will pay!

Once the word is out about a mini-cruise on Puget Sound, wow, you have a gold mine. Think of it. The county’s problem is getting it into the hands of private enterprise; the state will fight you tooth and nail. You ever wonder why there’s no ferry? Control! At the turn of the last century in the early 1900s a ferry ran from Utsalady directly across to Whidbey. Investigate and you will find “Ferry Street” on Whidbey across from Utsalady.

Tying surface water runoff sales to transportation is the key, though the politicians could kill this over control. For this ferry system, land bus service is a must in taking the people from Coupeville to Oak Harbor.

One more thing: Add a motor driven barge to the first ferry system. Would you not think this barge with big umbrellas wouldn’t be busy with bicycle riders, being ferried to LaConner so they could pedal back to Stanwood during the summer? Another gold mine for tourists.

Ideas for water transportation in Saratoga Passage are many. It’s time to get started making them a reality.

Dale Tyler is president of the Camano Water Systems Association.

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