EDITORIAL: Ferry system needs credibility

Washington State Ferries needs to work on its environmental credibility before Whidbey Island will agree with the need to expand or replace the present ferry landing at Keystone.

What we need is assurance that State Ferries gives the environment the highest priority — higher, even, than the operating efficiency it is seeking with improved docking facilities.

We encourage efficiency in state agencies, particularly at a time when it appears budgets will get tighter every year for the foreseeable future. It makes operational sense to place one new, large boat on the Keystone to Port Townsend route, rather that the two ancient boats operating there now. A new boat would be more efficient, require less maintenance, and more importantly, it would allow the route to be serviced by a single vessel. As in any business, personnel costs are the number one expense with Washington State Ferries. Cutting those costs in half on the long, languid Keystone route is a sensible goal.

Unfortunately, the present Keystone ferry landing, nested inside a tiny harbor, can not handle a larger boat. That means enlarging the harbor if indeed that is possible, or moving it — most likely to the other end of Keystone Spit.

Either option has islanders worried, as proven by the 200 or more who expressed their concerns in writing during the recent public comment period. Nobody wants a huge new ferry dock, complete with a massive amount of pavement to accommodate future growth in trucking and tourism. The spit and adjoining Crockett Lake are too valuable for that.

State Ferries must commit to certain environmental goals before even thinking about breaking ground for a new terminal. Goals such as: No net loss of public shoreline, a guarantee that the lake will be healthier than ever due to the work associated with the new terminal, assurances that public fishing access to the water will increase rather than decrease, and assurances that there will be no more pavement than there already is when the job is complete.

If these sound like tough goals to meet, they are. But perhaps they are achievable through such things as remote parking, a new public fishing pier, and modern engineering to assure the lake’s proper level and continued good health.

In short, the Keystone Spit environment should be better after the new ferry terminal is built than it is now. If this can’t be done, we’ll side with State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, who wants to cut all funding for the Keystone terminal project.

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