The ‘preferred’ ferry option

By Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo City Councilmember | Feb 08, 2012

Back in 2000 when the city of Mukilteo commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of building a road down Japanese Gulch and before the Japanese Gulch Group was formed to preserve Japanese Gulch, myself and many others were opposed to a road for justifiable scientific reasons.

Mukilteo politics won the argument so the plan remains in Mukilteo’s Comprehensive Plan to this day and is for a road down Japanese Gulch or slightly further east to provide access to the ferry terminal when and if the terminal is moved.

Surprisingly, although six out of the seven current councilmembers are opposed to a road down Japanese Gulch and the entire council and mayor are unanimous in their support of the efforts of the Japanese Gulch Group to acquire property in Japanese Gulch for public use, the road remains in our comprehensive plan despite several recent efforts by the council to remove it.

The reason is simple, political coercion and priority misinformation. To keep everybody happy and ignorant, the mayor (who was actually on the council and supported the PFBE – Paine Field Blvd Extension aka the road down Japanese Gulch in 2000) has changed his tune slightly to supporting a road that for the most part is slightly east of Japanese Gulch and has been successful in convincing the current council to amend the comprehensive plan to include this additional area, while still leaving the Japanese Gulch option in.

Enter the city of Everett, whose jurisdiction all roads down Japanese Gulch and further east would pass through. Everett is opposed to a road down any of the gulches in their jurisdiction and has publicly stated so.

Everett is supportive of Mukilteo’s and the Japanese Gulch Group’s efforts to purchase property in Japanese Gulch for public use. Everett is willing to de-annex the property Mukilteo has purchased in the gulch to Mukilteo provided Mukilteo takes the road out of our comprehensive plan.

Mukilteo’s mayor has been successful at keeping the alternative road options in the comprehensive plan so the de-annexation documents drafted by the city attorney three years ago are still sitting on the back burner and will likely remain there.

Enter Washington State Ferries and the DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) process which includes four options for the new ferry terminal location. Option 1 starts at the far end of the Tank Farm near the Boeing Pier (and is the most expensive option at $150-$160 million) while Option 4 is leaving the existing ferry dock where it is (the least expensive option at $60-$65 million). Option 1 robs valuable waterfront property by including a new four-lane road the entire length of the waterfront (next to the existing – and new – 4+ railroad tracks), which essentially trades the overflow holding up the hill on SR-525 for overflow holding along Mukilteo’s waterfront.

Several months ago, and after the mayor had already been inappropriately announcing city support for Option 1 (the most expensive option at the far end near the Boeing Pier) the Mukilteo City Council voted 6-1 to make Option 1 the preferred option (of course at the time I was the lone dissenting vote and am proud of it).

Now is where it gets really interesting and unfortunate for our community. It’s recently been acknowledged by proponents of Option 1 that leaving the “road through the gulch” in the comprehensive plan actually helps justify Mukilteo’s preference for moving the ferry the farthest away from the current location.

Conversely and even more important is the fact that the city’s chosen preference, if selected, makes the most compelling argument for state and federal funding to build a road down a gulch!

What it boils down to is this. If Option 1 is chosen, not only does the tank farm transfer from the feds to the Port of Everett have to happen before anything can be started, but both the state and federal funding has to be acquired.

In this economy, that might be an insurmountable task. Add to that the risk involved with committing this size of a project to be built where tribal artifacts have been found and it doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that maybe politics once again beat science when Mukilteo chose Option 1.

Mukilteo’s leaders need to compromise and minimize the risk for our community. Keep the ferry where it is. Make smart and intelligent improvements (there are plenty of smart engineers out there who if directed to make the no move option work could come up with some great solutions) to mitigate the problems. Keep a road out of Japanese Gulch!

To learn more about the four options being considered for the ferry terminal and to have a say, I’d strongly encourage you to attend the Washington State Ferries DEIS hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 22, between 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Rosehill Community Center.

And don’t forget to join Councilmember Steve Schmalz and myself in the Rosehill room tonight between 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. for an informal chat about this or any other topics that interest you.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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