Not much has been reported about Skagit County’s autocratic decision to build a new $22 million, 32-car, all-electric ferry for Guemes Island to replace the current 22-car M/V “Guemes.”
The county commissioners' decision to replace the ferry ignored the facts and is an example of wasteful government spending.
The M/V “Guemes” is only 39 years old. A 2018 marine survey by Commercial Marine Services of Seattle states that it "has had continued superior maintenance and upgrading and has resulted in a 13 years or 32.5 percent Remaining Useful Life estimate."
An analysis of the ferry in 2014 by the Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle found the structural integrity of the hull to be good and “wastage on the shell plating was generally less than 4 percent." Washington State Ferries, the largest ferry system in the U.S., keeps its ferries 60 years before they are replaced.
Despite these facts, the commissioners unilaterally decided that a new ferry should be built. There were no public meetings to discuss the situation with Guemes islanders, just an announcement after the decision. Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt came to a meeting on Guemes Island in 2015 to say that the commissioners were going to build a new all-electric ferry and would seek state and federal money to fund the project.
He has repeatedly said he wants Skagit County to be the first in the U.S. with an all-electric ferry. The commissioners have spent $500,000 for a ferry design that is 30 percent complete and is using this design to look for grants while they ignore significantly less expensive alternatives for extending the ferry's life for at least 20 more years.