Ferry Committee Recommendations for a New or Refurbished Vessel

Guemes Island Ferry Committee                           

Allen Bush, Jr.  Sally Stapp, Bud Ullman, Tom Fouts, Steve Orsini,Chair




The Guemes Island Ferry Committee (GIFC) proposes two alternatives for taking the next steps to address the situation of the Skagit County ferry the M/V Guemes.


The Replacement Alternative – Funding

Washington law creates the County Road Administration Board (CRAB) and provides money for CRAB to pass on to counties, up to $10M, for specific projects that can include a new Skagit County vessel.  The County has done a good job of establishing CRAB’s willingness and ability to fund a Skagit ferry replacement project.  Of course, to qualify for CRAB funding Skagit County must meet one of several sets of requirements, with a December 31, 2017 deadline.

One such set requires the formation of a Ferry District that provides 5% of the overall cost of the new vessel project.  If that requirement is met, CRAB can fund up to 50% of the cost of the new vessel project.  If we make the reasonable working assumption that the new vessel project will cost $20M, then the Ferry District must provide $1M and CRAB can then contribute $10M. 

It is noteworthy that the Ferry District, although it can be exercised as a tax district, does not necessarily have to levy taxes within the District.  The District can meet the 5% requirement using other money.  Accordingly, the GIFC recommends as one alternative that:

*   Skagit County create a County-wide Ferry District.

*  The County either (i) levy a very small County-wide District tax to gather the $1M, or (ii) deposit in the District coffers $1M from existing County funds.

*  This $1M is used to leverage the $10M available from CRAB.

The GIFC is aware that this is not a full solution.  It aggregates $11M toward a $20M project.  Much more funding will need to be found.  But it does lay a solid foundation for soliciting funding from other sources which can, according to County officials, be expected to follow CRAB’s lead once CRAB has demonstrated its confidence in the project.



The Refurbishment Alternative

 The County might be considering creation of a ferry district limited to Guemes Island.  Rather than such a step, the GIFC recommends this Refurbishment Alternative.

In 2013 the County commissioned a Ferry Replacement Plan study by Elliot Bay Design Group (EDBG).  EDBG analyzed three alternatives, one of which concluded that since the overall condition of the M/V Guemes is “fair,” its working life could be extended ten years by substantially refurbishing the vessel.  The cost was estimated at $929,000 (in 2013 dollars).

The GIFC recommends:

*  The EBDG report be reviewed to update the cost figures for refurbishing the M/V Guemes including new engines and azimuth drives.

*  A careful study be done to determine how to minimize the haul-out time required for the work.

*  The cost of the work be treated as County capital improvement projects are treated and, if external funding is needed, that the search begin promptly.

 *  The design and funding work currently under way regarding a replacement vessel continue apace with the goal of replacing the M/V Guemes before ten years is out.


IN CONCLUSION, the GIFC is aware that neither of these alternatives is perfect.  We just ask that you compare these not with ideal scenarios but with other, real, possible courses of action.  We welcome suggested adjustments or different alternatives.   

 We respectfully ask of County authorities a robust discussion of these alternatives in addition to any others that may be under consideration.