Skagit County hosted a neighborhood meeting last week to talk about in-water and on-shore work that will modernize the Anacortes terminal for the Guemes Island ferry.

The work will help create the terminal that will fit the planned new battery-electric ferry and its charging system.

The M/V Guemes has been in operation by the county since 1960, according to Capt. Rachel Rowe.

The process to design the new ferry has been ongoing for several years through naval engineering and architectural firm Glosten.

The designs comprise years of work, public feedback and consideration of the route and its traffic, Rowe said. The goal is to create a battery-operated vessel that will be able to serve this community for many years more, she said.

The ferry is estimated to cost about $17.6 million, and the county needs to raise about $10 million more to fund it.

The first step is the terminal, which is funded. Designs for that have been completed for the most part, and now the permitting process is starting, Rowe said. The neighborhood meeting was held with both Skagit County and City of Anacortes representatives in attendance.

The timeline depends on the permitting process, but Jake Gerlach with Glosten said they are hoping permits would be done by this November to allow for terminal work to start in 2023. Construction would run from about June 2023 to August 2024. A large part of that would be building the charging crane, an arm to help charge the new ferry when it’s at the Anacortes dock. The charging crane will be built elsewhere and then installed in Anacortes.

Neighbors of the project will see a much smaller window of in-water and terminal work, Gerlach said. Most work would just be in the first half of 2024, he said.

Everything should be done in time for the county’s planned introduction of a new vessel in 2025.

The charging improvements are only being implemented on the Anacortes side. The vessel will have a battery big enough to travel from Anacortes to Guemes Island and back before it needs to recharge, so the improvements only need to be on one side of the channel, Gerlach said. Then, the battery can just charge back up during the time the vessel is already scheduled to be docked in Anacortes.

There are still questions awaiting answers, Rowe said. What’s going to happen with the M/V Guemes is still being decided, for example. Right now, one discussion is using it as a backup vessel both for this ferry route and for a Whatcom County ferry route that is also planning on replacing an ailing vessel.

Right now, if something goes wrong, a passenger-only ferry is brought in to fill in. Keeping the M/V Guemes for a couple of years could mean a bigger backup boat for a few years while the county works out all the kinks with the new vessel, Rowe said.

The county and its consultants are also working on decisions about batteries. They need to be large enough to last the roundtrip voyage, plus be cost-efficient. The goal is to choose batteries that will last at least 10 years, Gerlach said.

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