Plover service poised to expand
expanded Plover service proposal moves forward to state and federal review after
the city planning commission agreed upon a few minor wording changes. The changes
were made in three recommended conditions of approval after a short discussion
and revision period on October 11.
We have completed approval at the community level, community planner Russell Nelson said, but there are still a number of state and federal level permit hoops to jump through. Once that is in line we can begin project and construction work.
The idea, proposed by Blaine community economic and development director Terry Galvin and Richard Sturgill of Drayton Harbor Maritime, received unanimous approval by city council late this summer.
The proposal includes running the vessel seven days a week instead of three and operating on a demand-response basis, meaning it would only leave the dock when needed. The Plover will also be allowed to depart from the municipal pier at the end of Marine Drive, using the ports facility now leased by Washington Crab, as well as a portion of the overflow floats lodged just within the breakwater. This would allow a real viable connection of communication between both sides of our community, Sturgill said. Washington Crab currently uses the facility one month out of the year.
There was good discussion on public access and the concern about safety and vandalism, Nelson said. The city is strongly supportive of public access to the waterfront.
The municipal pier offers immediate possibility for expanding Plovers sailing schedule. The Washington Crab office building would be used as a concession stand selling food, souvenirs and services. It would also serve as the ferry office. The revenue generated from these sales would cover the expenses for the expanded service and operations. As part of the review process, higher level government approval must be sought. Proximity and other interested agencies concerned with endangered species require this approval. The next step includes approval from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any construction or plans can move forward.
City council is recommending that the Port of Bellingham and the city of Blaine enter into an interlocal agreement wherein the Port of Bellingham would provide for the citys use of the property surrounding the Washington Crab building.
Ken Ely, council member suggested the proposal go out immediately so that these good feelings become more than just good feelings. City manager Gary Tomsic, cautioned the council to consider whether the letter was too narrow. We want the entire community to be in on this, getting behind and supporting us, he said.
Grant funding has been provided for historic dock restoration, but an exact amount is unclear, Nelson said.
Plover ferry route is regarded as a key component in the plans of both the city and the port for building the prosperity of northwest Whatcom County, Sturgill said.
He reported he had over 6000 passengers this past summer, all funded by donations. A set price would be charged per passenger and it is anticipated that sales along with ridership would increase over time and eventually lead to full ferry operation. This is a real positive win-win situation, Galvin said.
Although no dates are set, Nelson said hopefully construction will begin by next summer..