(Below is an open letter to Washington state senators by Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher, seeking support on a bill that would help fund construction of a new ferry).
As mayor of a ferry-dependent community, I am asking for your support of SHB1129.
The economy of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island depends on reliable ferries for tourism, laborers, students, and the very necessities of life. The San Juan Islands are among the top three state tourism draws and therefore a top tax source.
We’re currently experiencing our fourth week of ferry breakdown disruptions. In January, we had two of the four boats that serve the San Juan Islands out of service at the same time.
In order to continue to draw visitors, we need appropriate funding to ensure reliable service and clean, dependable boats. As you may be aware, the average age of the fleet currently serving the San Juan Islands is 47 years.
The state legislature has mandated the implementation of a system-wide ferry reservations system. While there are many nuances still to be worked out, breakdowns will most certainly have severe negative impacts to a reservation system, especially when someone has made their reservation weeks or months in advance or has a medical issue. A reservation system requires reliable boats.
The third Olympic Class boat, which needs to be built anyway, will cost 10-20 percent less if built now in sequence. Funding this planned boat at a later date will only result in additional, unnecessary costs.
In the interests of fiscal responsibility and the economic health and sustainability of our town, county, and state, I urge you to vote “yes” on SHB1129.
Mayor Carrie Lacher
Town of Friday Harbor