Guemes Island Ferry

County Engineer: Paul A. Randall-Grutter, P.E. Ferry Operations Manager: Rachel Rowe


You can help Skagit County receive funding for a new Guemes Island Ferry. How? All you need to do is take a short survey

Washington state is eligible to receive $112.7 million in Volkswagen settlement money. That money will be used to reduce transportation-related air pollution – for example, by investing in clean-energy technology for ferries. Your survey input helps decision-makers know where to best invest the money.

Surveys must be completed by 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 31.

Looking for more details? The Washington Department of Ecology wrote a great blog with an overview of the settlement program

Skagit County has operated a vehicle and passenger ferry service between Anacortes and Guemes Island, WA since the early 1960s. The current vessel, the M/V GUEMES, is a 21-vehicle, 99-passenger, diesel-powered ferry that was built and put into service in 1979. Today, the ferry operates 365 days a year and transports roughly 200,000 vehicles and 400,000 passengers annually.

There are no alternative roads or highways that provide access to Guemes Island; as such, the Skagit County ferry system serves as a vital transportation link for its ridership. In addition to transporting commuters, the ferry also carries tourist traffic, construction and logging trucks, essential services trucks and emergency vehicles and personnel to and from the Island.

In the last few years, haul-out and dry dock costs have increased substantially. Since 2014, the Ferry Division has spent nearly half of its annual $2.5 million operating budget on maintenance of the vessel and associated machinery and repair projects. This has become increasingly burdensome on Skagit County’s road fund with the annual subsidy from that fund contributing approximately $1 million per year in the last few years.
In 2013, Skagit County began the process of studying vessel replacement when they hired Elliott Bay Design Group to publish a Ferry Replacement Plan for the M/V GUEMES. The study looked at the existing cost of operation then formulated replacement scenarios to determine the most economic replacement option. The conclusion was that immediate or near-term replacement of the vessel will minimize the overall cost of ownership and provide environmental improvements in vessel operation.

Skagit County has determined a need to replace its diesel-powered vehicle and passenger ferry. If constructed, an all-electric vessel would potentially reduce operational and maintenance costs, increase energy independence and reduce harmful CO2 (Carbon dioxide) air emissions by 619,359 kg. A propulsion/feasibility study, completed by Art Anderson Associates in 2016, concluded, that based on power requirements, “…an all-electric propulsion system for a new concept vessel to replace the M/V GUEMES is highly feasible for this particular route and its unique environmental conditions…It is recommended that all-electric propulsion be considered for the design of a replacement vessel that will provide safe and reliable service.”

Currently, no state in the U.S. operates an all-electric vehicle ferry; however, the technology has been proven in Norway. Development of the all-electric ferry demonstrates that Skagit County and Washington State are technology leaders willing to invest in safe, environmentally conscious, clean energy projects that benefit both the local community and the global environment.

Benefits – This very important project will:

  • Allow Washington State and Skagit County to become a pioneer in electric ferry technology in the United States;
  • Support clean energy technology that reduces costs, saves energy, increases energy independence and reduces harmful CO2 (Carbon dioxide) emissions by nearly 620,000 kg reducing the social cost of carbon;
  • Increase the competitiveness of Washington-based businesses and facilitates the creation of new technology and jobs in marine manufacturing, marine architecture, energy storage and development, and electric motor construction;
  • Provide an opportunity for Washington State to demonstrate technology that can be expanded to other vessels and projects which will further stimulate Washington’s economy;
  • Result in a much-needed reduction in Skagit County’s annual maintenance costs; and
  • Directly benefit Washington State residents, taxpayers, the local community and all stakeholders.

In the coming months, the Public Works Department will be hiring a Naval Architecture firm to complete a design study and conceptual design of the new vessel. Skagit County is planning to aggressively seek grant funding in 2017 in order to move the project into the final design phases. Skagit County has not yet received any federal or state grant funding for the project.

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Captain Rachel Rowe
Ferry Operations Division Manager
Skagit County Public Works

Anacortes Terminal - 500 I Ave. Anacortes, WA 98221
Ferry Office: (360) 293-6433   Cell: (360) 333-1496 
Direct Line: (360) 416-1466     Fax: (360) 293-1899