A Community Website by Lopez Island
Started by Mike Carlson (Mike Carlson Enterprises)
San Juan Island
Jul 13, 2022
Open Letter to the SJC Council and Friday Mayor
Jul 13, 2022
Dear San Juan County Council, County Administrator, Town of Friday Harbor Mayor and Town of Friday Harbor Administrator,
I am writing you all today to express our experiences and the impacts of such from the broken Washington State Ferry (WSF) system.
Our family owns a local construction company, Mike Carlson Enterprises Inc. (MCE)on San Juan Island. I started my business on Orcas Island in 1975 as a logging company. Since the late 1990s, MCE has evolved into a construction company which currently employs 20 to 30 island residents.
I have lived in the islands since 1964 and have never experienced such a broken ferry system. What we are seeing are ferry crew shortages and broken ferries which result in excessive late ferries, cancelled ferries and horrendous overloads.
Just last week, the inter-island ferry Tillicum was canceled for 1 ½ days. Because of that cancellation no businesses could transport essential equipment, materials and crew from island to island. MCE, could not move people, equipment and supplies to our job, the Prune Alley Street Improvements Project in Eastsound. The ferry line workers told me that the only way we could get to Orcas was via the FH to Anacortes ferry and get on a west bound sailing back to Orcas. I was also told we would be reimbursed for the added ticket costs. That amount of reimbursement does not come anywhere close to the expenses and delay caused by the cancelled ferry as you might understand. That said, we’ve had to wait or shuttle as much of what we needed to get to the job via our own boats. We are lucky to own our own boats, unlike many other local businesses and others who don’t.
Unfortunately, cancelled ferries are the new normal. I know,the impacts to our business are just one of many others who have to rely on a functional ferry system to exist in San Juan County. We have no other viable options like most all other parts of the state that have WSF service.
I have a very real and specific concern which will most certainly impact MCE, San Juan County, Eastsound Businesses and residents of Eastsound.
My concern is this: Starting July 18th we are scheduled to begin paving on the Prune Alley Street Improvements Project the whole week. All of the asphalt and paving equipment has to be transported by the WSF system and private barges. Our paving sub-contractor has been scheduled for the week of July 18th since early spring of this year. The Prune Alley Project is on schedule and will be ready for paving as scheduled.
Our paving sub has the needed ferry reservations, crew housing and barges scheduled to place approximately 1,110 tons of hot mix asphalt (HMA) on the Prune Alley Project. It would be a disaster for all concerned if the schedule for pavement is not met.
What I now have to consider is the very real likelihood a scheduled ferry could l be cancelled. Ferry cancellations happen on an almost daily basis now. If a boat does get cancelled or even delayed and dump trucks with hot mix asphalt cannot get to Orcas from Anacortes, the mix will get too cold to use, so the trucks would need to go back to the batch plant and dispose of the unusable HMA. San Juan County will be required to pay (change of conditions)for the unusable HMA as well as the crew expenses incurred by the scheduled HMA delivery that could not be accomplished as planned. This will cost tens of thousands of dollars!
The Eastsound businesses are already very anxious and angry about the impacts the Prune Alley project has had on their lives and businesses. We see that every day as we work there and we are doing absolutely all we can to finish on time. We are sympathetic to the impacts on the local businesses.
The broken WSF system has to be dealt with and I have taken the time to write you all primarily because of the task we have to accomplish in order to pave as scheduled on the Prune Alley Street Improvements project. Generally, the problem with the system has to be addressed by you all because of the effects it is having one our county of islands. You, as our elected and administrative officials should be able to address these impacts with the State. Even if it means contacting Governor Inslee directly to let him know what we are experiencing.
I have more thoughts about some of the reasons the WSF is broken and would be happy to discuss with any or all of you personally if you would like.
I look forward to your responses.
Mike Carlson,
President, Mike Carlson Enterprises Inc.