Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Project

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Guemes Island Ferry Replacement Project

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

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Ferry concept design work currently underway

During the concept design process, Glosten, naval architecture firm,  is determining all the things the new vessel will need to do and be. Concept sketches will define how the vessel will look and feel. The initial design studies will look at vehicle and passenger capacity, level of service, terminal interface, propulsion options, life-cycle costs, basic arrangements, weights, stability, etc.  The vessel capacity study is now available. The purpose of this report is to calculate capacity for a new ferry, based on past ridership and estimates for future ridership. This report might change as we proceed with further design studies.

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About the project

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.

Contact us

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 
rrowe@co.skagit.wa.us