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Anacortes mayor says 7 more years of suspended B.C. ferry service is 'unacceptable'

The state ferry system says it's due to an ongoing worker and boat shortage.

ANACORTES, Wash. — The ferry between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C. has run for 101 years.

Businesses across the region have come to count on it during the summer travel season, but they're now out of luck until 2030.

This is the slow season at Rock Fish Grill in Anacortes.

It's the time of year when workers start thinking of the rush of tourists soon to come.

But this summer will likely be slower than usual.

"Yeah, that's really bad news," said Rock Fish owner Allen Rhoades.

The ferry that connects the mainland with Sidney B.C. will not be running again for seven years.

It brings about $40 million a year to the region and supports 400 jobs.

"Towns like La Conner, Mount Vernon, Oak Harbor, all of Whidbey Island are really gonna feel that effect," said Rhoades. "When people come from Canada they don't just come here to Anacortes." 

A spokesman for the ferries said an ongoing worker shortage is partly to blame but also a boat shortage. The system is down three boats, including one out of Anacortes. The decision was made to dedicate the one remaining Anacortes ferry to the San Juan Islands route.

The B.C. run has one of the lowest ridership in the system.

The spokesperson also points out it has been a decade since the state Legislature bought a new boat for its aging fleet. 

The ferry hasn't run since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anacortes Mayor Matt Miller was expecting the boat to be back online by now.

"We've been patient," he said, "but 2030? It's unacceptable."

Miller believes the ferry system is making excuses.

"They say for ten years they weren't able to build boats. Well, ten years is a long time to find other funding options," said Miller.    

"The writing has been on the wall that there hasn't been enough staffing and that there aren't enough boats, however, there's not really been a plan formed to overcome those," added Chamber of Commerce President Jesica Kiser.

There is talk about other options, such as using the privately owned Black Ball ferry in Port Angeles or the Victoria Clipper, but those are only ideas and would take quite a while to implement. 

"It just seems that this item got caught up in a bunch of problems for years," said Allen Rhoades. "It's just too bad."

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