MOUNT VERNON — Skagit County will seek $8.5 million in state funding to complete its electric ferry project, according to a legislative agenda approved Monday by the county Board of Commissioners.

Josh Weiss, vice president of the lobbyist firm Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, said this year’s session is shorter, and will likely see less grant funding for capital projects.

Though transportation projects are funded separately, Weiss said the likely passage of Initiative 976, which would drastically reduce state transportation funding, will make the session harder to predict.

Public Works Director Dan Berentson said the county has been working to replace the 40-year-old Guemes Island Ferry with an electric vessel, and hopes the Legislature will provide the county with the $8.5 million it needs.

He said the the county already has about $9 million in state funding.

Long term, he said an electric ferry will reduce maintenance costs, diesel costs and pollution.

“I passionately want to see those diesel engines out of the channel,” said Commissioner Lisa Janicki.

Skagit County will also ask the Legislature for $250,000 to fund design on improvements to the Skagit County Courthouse. Weiss said the amount is more than he would normally ask for in a short session.

“The reality is we’ll be lucky if we get this,” he said.

An assessment of the courthouse found “significant seismic deficiencies that need to be addressed” for the building to be sufficiently safe in an earthquake.

The project, Weiss said, is urgent enough to make this larger request.

Fully funding a fix for the courthouse, Weiss said, would likely take multiple requests across multiple legislative sessions.

The legislative priorities also include support for House Bill 1590, which would permit counties to implement a 0.1% sales tax increase to fund affordable housing and human services.

This could help fund projects such as the planned 70-unit permanent supportive housing project, veterans’ housing or a service center for the homeless, Weiss said.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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