Could Clipper join ferry fleet?

"Twenty important people crowded around a table to talk about fast ferries Thursday, but their decisions carry no weight – yet.The Kitsap Connections Advisory Committee can make decisions and take action, but it can’t force any agency to do its bidding. Nevertheless, King County Superior Court Judge Glenna Hall, who presides over the Chinook slowdown controversy, ordered the group to be formed to look at alternatives to the slowdown.The group generated ideas for alternatives, many of which have been tossed around before. Stan Stumbo, chief naval architect for Washington State Ferries, suggested leasing the Victoria Clipper III.That boat has been used through Rich Passage to transport sailors from Bremerton to Everett, and it occasionally replaces a Bremerton-Seattle foot ferry that is out of service.Stumbo said the Clipper III has “operated for years at full speed in Rich Passage” with no significant environmental impacts. It’s a smaller, lighter boat than the Chinook and generates markedly less wake wash, Stumbo said.Vic Kucera, a representative of the property owners who filed suit against the state and ferry system for alleged shoreline damage, said he is interested in seeing a cost-benefit analysis of all proposed alternatives.To fully understand the alternatives and their environmental impact, committee organizer and County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido asked a private naval architect and a state Department of Ecology representative to make 15-minutes presentations to the group at its next meeting, Nov. 10.But Bremerton Mayor Lynn Horton was concerned that the committee would become bogged down in scientific mumbo-jumbo.“I would hope that we would not beauracratize and technocrat this committee to the point that the millennium will come and go before we make a decision,” Horton said.“I don’t want to know the technical nuances of shorelines, we have technical people to do that. Let’s not process this thing to death, let’s get the information and move down the path.”Horton added that she wanted the state ferry system to give Kitsap County residents a meaningful say in its operations. She said just listening to commuter’s concerns was not enough.The group made some steps down the path at their first meeting, however. They set the ground rules for decision-making, and County Commissioner Tim Botkin recommended that the group form a consensus, not just a majority. He reasoned that a group with voluntary members and no policy-making power will only be heard if all of its 20-some members agree.The agreement could be hard-earned: the ferry system, property owners, transportation and economic development proponents and local government leaders each want to pull the decision their way.Kucera asked the group to focus on what the judge charged them to do – find alternatives – rather than trying to devine what is causing Rich Passage’s shoreline erosion.“There are a lot of strongly held views on causation, and I don’t want to go down that road,” Kucera said. He also didn’t want to go down the litigation road, and he and ferry representatives agreed that what was said in committee would be non-binding in the progressing legal suit.The most difficult part of finding alternatives may be in getting Hall to agree to them. As Botkin put it, “The ferry system does not want to pay for hydros (the expensive, new hydrofoil technology that could reduce the Chinook’s wake) unless (Hall) will let them run it.”Garrido said she was pleased with the progress the committee made in its first meeting, and she expected participants to express very diverse interests.“I am really delighted that the interests were so compatible. We have a lot of strengths going into this, a lot of talent, and we have some goals for the judge already,” she said.Hall expects a report on the committee’s progress Nov. 15. "

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