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Funding cuts could sink Anacortes ferry Elwha

If the Elwha is retired, the only ferry certified to make the international crossing would be the Chelan.

The Elwha ferry will be retired from service if the Washington state Legislature cuts funding for the vessel.

It's a move that would impact the Anacortes to Sidney, British Columbia, route and further strain the Washington State Ferries (WSF) system.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s supplemental budget does not include funding to operate the 52-year-old M/V Elwha.

The Elwha was built in San Diego in 1967 and re-built in 1991. The four-engine, diesel-electric vessel can carry 144 vehicles and is as wide as a 6-lane highway.

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The ferry is out of service and in need of repairs. If the Elwha is retired, the only ferry certified to make the international crossing would be the Chelan.

Losing the Elwha would leave WSF with 21 boats in its fleet.

Canadians crossing into the the U.S. come right through the Anacortes ferry dock. That's nearly 120,000 people every year. They are the bread and butter for restaurants like Rick Star's Rock Fish Grill.

"Those are the critical months for us and for all of the businesses here in town. Tourism is key," said Rick Star of The Rockfish Grill in Anacortes. 

Mayor Laurie Gere says the Anacortes to B.C. ferry run supports 1,400 jobs and $126 million in spending around the North Sound. Any reduction is service would hurt.

"It's going to affect us. It's going to have an impact," Mayor Gere said. "We'll have less visitors in our community, less people in our hotels or eating in our restaurants, in our shops. Less jobs for local people, the people who work at the ferries."

In July, tugboats guided the Elwha into Lake Union where it received maintenance at the Lake Union drydock. The ferry was towed from Bainbridge Island, through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, under the Ballard Bridge, Fremont Bridge, and Aurora Bridge.

Also see | ‘We are bummed’: Winning eBay bidder for Washington state ferry says owner sold vessel to someone else