This was originally posted to: Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

GIPAC Comment on New Ferry for County Environmental Review

GIPAC Comment on New Ferry for County Environmental Review




GIPAC is forwarding the following comments to the Skagit County Planning Department as part of the County's environmental review of proposals to replace the Guemes-Fidalgo Island ferry vessel.  



You also can comment by the deadline of Thursday, February 15, 2018, at 4:30 PM.  A notice on how to comment was posted on LineTime's home page on Jan 31, 2018, under the heading of "Replacement Ferry Environmental Review."  Please note that you will need to carefully follow the instructions on how to comment by email or your comment may not be considered.



February 6, 2018

Comments on proposed “Replacement Guemes Ferry Proposal”
Skagit County Planning and Development Services Department
1800 Continental Place, Mount Vernon WA 98273

Skagit County Planning and Development Services:

I am writing on behalf of the Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee (GIPAC) to provide comments on the environmental review of the County’s proposal to replace the Guemes-Fidalgo Island ferry vessel. Because Guemes is a ferry-dependent island, we recognize this project as being of utmost importance to our future, and trust that the County’s decision-making will be based on careful planning for adequate levels of service balanced against a full assessment of environmental impacts and alternatives. In addition to seeking cost?effective ferry service, we believe the environmental review should be based on the Growth Management Act (GMA) goal of insuring that the extension of public services and facilities to rural areas like Guemes Island does not induce growth or adversely affect rural resources or rural character. We appreciate the opportunity to provide early input in this review process.

GIPAC is recognized by the Skagit County Board of Commissioners (BOC) as an elected body charged with representing the Guemes Island community on planning and development issues. A primary aspect of our mission is to work with the County to foster implementation of the Guemes Island Subarea Plan, which was adopted by the BOC in 2011 and is incorporated into the Skagit County Comprehensive Plan (SCCP). Key goals of the plan are to protect the rural character of the island and insure sustainability of future development, particularly recognizing the constraints of our fragile and limited groundwater resources.

The fragile nature of Guemes Island’s groundwater supply is recognized in a variety of ways in the Skagit County Code. Special regulations apply to wells, alternative water supplies, land division, and land use permits—due to the designation of Guemes Island as a “sole source aquifer,” a “seawater intrusion area,” and an “aquifer recharge area.” In addition, the entire island is a “critical area,” as defined in the Critical Areas Ordinance (SCC 14.24) by virtue of these designations. 

We hope the County will look to the Guemes Island Subarea Plan to identify areas of environmental concern to be evaluated in planning for ferry replacement. Some specific language from the Plan goes to this point:

Skagit County Public Works shall use the Public Forum process to gather public advisory input on the County’s Work Plan for the Guemes Island ferry operation. Future topics of interest include ticket fare structure and fare recovery model, cost containment, ferry sailing schedule, ferry operations master plan and ADA accessibility issues confronting passenger?only ferry service. Many of these issues relate to the sub-area plan since they may affect island growth and implementation of transportation policies in the SCCP.” (p. 74)

“As discussed below, congestion and parking issues that revolve around the ferry operation can affect other activities in and around the two terminals involved. These capacity issues ... and the impact of additional ferry service on growth, should be considered when planning for future ferry service needs.” (p. 76)

Referring to the 2000 Countywide Planning Policies and its 2006 update, the subarea plan notes: “In addition to seeking cost?effective ferry service, the goal of these policies is based on the GMA premise that the extension of public services and facilities to Rural areas like Guemes Island will not induce growth or adversely affect rural resources or rural character.” (p. 78)

“When evaluating major changes in ferry operations or schedules, the County shall include the following factors:  An assessment of ridership demand and alternative means to reduce that demand or encourage less vehicle trip usage and more pedestrian, carpool and bicycle usage; [and] An assessment of the potential impacts on Anacortes and Guemes Island, including costs, congestion, parking and growth and effects on critical areas, the rural character and the social fabric of the island community.” (p. 94)

Based on these statements in the subarea plan, we ask that the following environmental impacts be carefully assessed in considering the ferry proposal and alternatives:

1. The impact of any ferry capacity increase on island growth and development;

 2. Associated impacts relating to loss of rural character, encroachment of development into designated critical areas, loss of marine shoreline resources, and degradation of the island’s sole source aquifer; and

3. Impacts on parking and congestion at the ferry docks on the Anacortes and Guemes ends of the run, resulting from both expected ferry usage and the development of any shore side facilities necessitated under each ferry alternative.

In sum, we ask the Planning Department to carefully assess potential growth impacts and other identified environmental impacts as part of its environmental review process for the replacement ferry project. The capacity and operations of the replacement ferry should be carefully calibrated to balance the needs of a growing island population against the potential for accelerating or stimulating growth beyond the capacity of the island’s sole source aquifer and its desire to retain rural character.

Thank you for your consideration.


Hal Rooks, Chair

Guemes Island Planning Advisory Committee

Members: Michael Brown, Allen Bush, Nancy Fox, Steve Orsini, Patty Rose, Edith Walden