Ferries will remain slow until May 1

"Foot ferry service between Seattle and Bremerton hit a scientific bump last week, and fast boats are expected to stay slow until at least May 1.Ferry officials have postponed service while scientists study wave action through Rich Passage as part of a State Environmental Policy Act review. Once the study is complete, the ferry service will begin running one ferry -the Chinook - to measure impact. The ferry service expects to have both running at full speed by June 1.The study involves conducting a beach profile to collect low-tide samples, taking aerial photographs during low tides and holding public meetings and site visits with a panel of outsiders, who will prepare a report of preliminary recommendations.Fast runs between Seattle and Bremerton were halted by a court-ordered injunction last year after property owners filed a class-action suit against the ferry service, saying the wakes caused by the ferries were ruining their beaches. The state Supreme Court lifted the injunction March 16, but delays have kept WSF from re-commencing service.Wakes created by the foot ferries curl under smaller-sized rocks, churning them up and moving them to shore. The remaining sand and hardpan slough away, said Herb DeBoer, a Bainbridge Island property owner and one of the litigants in the suit, resulting in erosion under bulkheads and a clouding of the water.Coastal engineers visited DeBoer's property Monday to see the character of his beach - types of rock, sand and hardpan, slopes and bulkheads. He said he gave them copies of the wave activity created by the ferries - copies he said he was surprised they hadn't seen before. DeBoer said he favors the delay.It's great. It'll give us more time for the beach to recover, he said.DeBoer said he and his neighbor, Gretchen Hooper, also a litigant in the suit, lost a clam bed and other sea life that never returned because of the Chinook. You used to lift up a rock and see little sea creatures. All that went away, he said. Since the gravel came forward, it killed the little critters.He said ferry officials are not sympathetic to his concerns.They don't believe this is happening, he said.Once the Chinook starts running again, DeBoer said he'll be measuring his beach. I don't think anything will happen for the first few weeks, but then it'll start to shrink, he said.Kitsap Connections, a ferry-alternative think tank that has its roots in the ruling that imposed the injunction, is searching for a better-designed, lighter boat that doesn't create wakes property owners say ruin their beaches. We'll look at suitable boats for that particular landform, said County Commissioner and Kitsap Connections chairwoman Charlotte Garrido. It really is unique.Although several beachfront property owners on Bainbridge Island complained about the wakes from the Chinook ferry, Garrido couldn't think of anyone from Bremerton who opposed it. Ferry service officials said they have urged the scientists to keep commuters in mind.Our riders are suffering hardships as a result of these slow boats, and we need to increase the speeds as soon as possible, WSF Director Paul Green said. We have made the scientific team aware of the urgency.DeBoer said he has sympathy for commuters, but the ferry system needs to come up with a better boat.I was a commuter for 28 years, he said. I fully sympathize with the commuters. It's the ferry system I don't sympathize with. They picked the wrong-sized boat."

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