Ferry Wake and Environment Council

The Puget Sound is a treasured natural resource, a rich marine life habitat and a spectacular marine playground. Its scenic beauty is unparalleled. The Sound also serves as a critical link in the region’s transportation system. Washington State Ferries operates the country’s largest auto ferry system across the Puget Sound. Many private marine companies operate charter, recreational and scheduled transportation services around and across the Puget Sound. Frequent, reliable and environmentally sensitive ferry service across the Puget Sound is integral to sustaining and enhancing the quality of life and economic well being of Kitsap County.

Rich Passage, a narrow channel of water between Bainbridge Island and the Kitsap Peninsula on the route from Bremerton to Seattle, is one of the most thoroughly studied bodies of water in the world. Today, Washington State Ferries makes 30 auto ferry crossings each day. Prior to 2003, WSF’s passenger-only ferries provided workers, students, tourists, and others with 28 daily crossings at 40 minutes per crossing. The high-speed ferry service between Seattle and Bremerton became stymied by problems related to vessel wake generation and shoreline erosion. Now, as the momentum builds for high-speed passenger ferry service from several ports in Kitsap County to Seattle, interest has grown for solving the wake and erosion problems that harmed the Rich Passage shoreline. Washington’s congressional delegation continues to be instrumental in securing federal funds to further wake and erosion research.

Wake wash and shoreline erosion are not the only environmental issues challenging high-speed ferry service. The marine bottom habitat can be affected by the turbulence generated by ferry propulsion systems. Docks and ferry loading facilities can shade the water, blocking sunlight from reaching the sea floor below the structures and retarding growth of the bottom habitats essential to marine life. Vessel and vehicle emissions can threaten air quality on the Sound and the shore. Ferry vessels rely upon large engines that emit toxic fumes, with the greatest emissions occurring while vessels idle near the dock. Vehicle emissions can also become a problem around ferry terminals as private vehicles, trucks and buses congregate during passenger loading and unloading times.

Wake and Environmental Council Purpose:
The Ferry Wake and Environment Council was formed to advocate for environmentally sound high-speed ferry vessels and terminal facilities and to disseminate wake and relevant environmental research information. This council focuses on:

  • Dissemination of research information
  • Establishment of community forums to address emerging environmental concerns
  • Promotion of new expanded environmental research including the upcoming low wake ferry prototype trial operations

Board Members:
Beverly Kincaid, Chair
Grant Griffin
Holly James
Will Maupin
Matt Mullet
Len Rouche

Updated June 15, 2012