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"Chinook, Snohomish will get back up to speed"

"The state Supreme Court Thursday overturned a temporary injunction that had slowed the high-speed foot ferries Chinook and Snohomish for the last eight months.According to the Supreme Court ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Glenna Hall's August injunction didn't meet all the requirements necessary to be lawful.The Supreme Court's ruling was unanimous.Hall's ruling came after a class-action lawsuit was filed by a consortium of more than 40 waterfront property owners on both sides of Rich Passage. The property owners claimed the foot ferries, which operate on the Bremerton to Seattle run, were destroying their bulkheads and eroding their waterfront beaches.Hall had ruled that WSF and other fast ferry supporters had to study the wakes of the Chinook and Snohomish to determine the validity of the homeowners' claims and slowed the ferries until that study, expected to take 18 months, was completed.The injunction slowed the ferries from 34 knots to 12, turning a 30-minute cruise into a 55-minute journey.There is a strong possibility the homeowners will go back to Hall and try to get the injunction reinstated. Seattle attorney Steve Berman, who represents the property owners, could not be reached for comment.But for now, proponents of the fast ferries are exultant.I think one can safely say I'm not unhappy. I'm very pleased, although somewhat suprised, by the speed of the Supreme Court's decision, Bremerton Mayor Lynn Horton said.I think it's pretty fair to say we're very pleased, Washington State Ferries Public Information Director Patricia Patterson said. This is a win for the Bremerton commuters and their lives should get a little easier in the coming weeks.We're getting calls already saying 'Speed the boats up,' but it's not that simple. We're already talking to Kitsap Transit about a new schedule, Patterson added.She noted that there are also safety concerns.We've never run two Chinook-type vessels through Rich Passage at the same time, Patterson said.The plaintiffs are going back to court. My reading is that the Supreme Court left it up to Judge Hall (if damage to property can be proven) to put the injunction back into effect. Our position is that if, in fact, there is damage, the homeowners have relief and it's called a trial. We're treating the legal end separately. Our intention is to put the boats back into service, Patterson said.State Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-35th District, sounded an equally cautionary note. Getting them back up to speed as much as possible is very good, although I hope they're watching very closely on the shore. This still has to go to court, Haigh said.As of Friday morning, according to an official from Hall's court, the plaintiffs had not refiled.Time is going to tell us whether that injunction stays lifted or not. Ferries are never going away, Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido said.Of course, even if the boats are allowed to once again all but fly through the passage, there's a possibility all state-run fast foot-ferry service will end July 1, 2001 due to cuts related to Initiative 695.Funding is the (other) question. That's up to the House right now. We sent a budget over there some time ago. I've heard there might be some movement over there today (Friday). In the Senate budget we fund (foot ferries) through June 30, 2001, with the understanding that there will be another session by then, state Sen. Betti Sheldon, D-23rd District said.I'm thrilled that people in Kitsap are going to have the service they expected, the 30-minute commute, Sheldon said.Haigh was certain funding would indeed be available.Even though the final transportation budget is not done, funding for the ferries is there in all three (proposed budgets), Haigh said.Lt. Cmdr. Bill Fenick, public affairs officer for Navy Region Northwest commander Rear Adm. William Marshall, seemed to express pleasure at the ruling.From the Navy's perspective, all facets of the transportation network do impact our people and their families and our ability to accomplish our mission in the Pacific Northwest, Fenick said.Commuters contacted Friday morning in Bremerton were unanimous in their reaction to the Supreme court ruling.I used to use it as much as I could when it fit with my schedule, William Wilson said.Chris Notske travels about five hours a day commuting to and from Seattle's University District. I'm happier than I've been in a long time, she said.Erica Jahn, Matt Smylie, Fred Miles Watson and Vince Dice contributed to this report."

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