KT, WSF keep talking about dock at Southworth

Talks about mooring the Southworth-to-downtown Seattle fast ferry when not in use at the Southworth dock are continuing between Kitsap Transit and Washington State Ferries officials.

Local transportation officials are optimistic the proposed plan will be approved but it may be a while before the project is officially given the green light.

KT operates the fast ferry while the ferry system and Southworth dock are part of WSF.

“In essence, Washington State Ferries has indicated to us they do not have an issue with us building a moorage facility as part of the dock,” KT executive director John Clauson said. But there are caveats.

“One is that it will be (KT’s) responsibility to deal with the design, permitting and construction of the moorage facility. The other is that Washington State Ferries is planning to make improvements to the Southworth dock for their operation. Until they are in a position to start making those improvements, we are kind of on hold,” Clauson said.

Improvements planned for the Southworth terminal include moving the terminal off the dock to the land, replacing the trestle and reconfiguring the parking area, WSF officials previously said.

Meetings have taken place between WSF and KT administrators to discuss the proposal to moor, or store, the fast ferry at Southworth, Clauson reported.

Clauson is hesitant to give a timeframe when state ferry officials will make a decision. “There are so many variables – environmental and permitting requirements and Army Corps and tribal conditions. I would be afraid to even guess at when (the decision) would be.”

But he is optimistic. “Everything that we have looked at being an issue has come back positive. Now, there are many things that will have to be dealt with between now and actually parking a boat there but up to this point everything has been fine,” he said.

Clauson said the original idea to dock the fast ferry off-hours at Harper Pier is no longer being considered. That is welcome news to James Heytvelt, co-founder of Friends of Harper Pier, a 1,400-member citizens group that considers itself a guardian of the pier. “My perception of the progress with the mooring the fast ferry at Southworth is that the progress is Slooow, with a capital “S” and exclamation mark,” Heytvelt said.

He trusts that KT has steered away from the pier as a moorage sight. “I feel that in the end, the result will be at Southworth. But time and permits will tell,” he said.

Currently, when not in use, the passenger-only ferry is moored in Bremerton. The 140-foot vessel motors 11 miles between Southworth and its Bremerton moorage spot four times daily – at the start and end of each weekday and back and forth between the morning and afternoon commutes.

Parking the ferry at Southworth would eliminate those treks to Bremerton and save on fuel and crew expenses, Clauson noted. There will also be environmental benefits to mooring the vessel at Southworth, officials report.

When the vessel travels to Bremerton it passes through Rich Passage, a narrow waterway between South Kitsap and Bainbridge Island. Concerns have been raised that the fast ferry is harming the shoreline there.

The Southworth-to-downtown Seattle fast ferry operates weekdays. It makes 26 minutes crossings four times each morning and afternoon.