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North End- friendly bills signed into law

OLYMPIA — Gov. Christine Gregoire signed several bills Wednesday that are expected to help the North End with its passenger-only ferry woes, as well as ensure more regulations for oil spill preparedness and prevention tactics.

Passenger-only ferry company Aqua Express, which operated the Kingston-Seattle route from January to October last year, could benefit from Gov. Gregoire signing Senate Bill 6787, which establishes a stable funding source for passenger-only ferries. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island).

“One of my priorities this session has been restoring passenger ferry service for Kingston and to encourage service from other points in Kitsap County,” Rockefeller said. “I’m very pleased that we are moving toward that result. This is a creative way to get more passenger ferries in the water and recognizes that local control ensures the greatest flexibility in providing service where it is needed most.”

The owners of Aqua Express expressed enthusiasm for the bill when it was passed in the Legislature in early March, however, there is no date set for restarting service.

The governor also signed Senate Bill 6244, also sponsored by Rockefeller, which directs the state’s Department of Ecology to establish rules for oil spill preparedness and prevention, particularly for fuel transfer operations.

The latter is a milestone for Kitsap County, as the shores of Indianola, including pristine wetlands owned by the Suquamish Tribe, were ruined in December 2003 by a nearly 5,000-gallon oil spill that took place at a fuel transfer station near Edmonds.

“Puget Sound is more than a natural resource; it also defines us as a region,” Rockefeller said. “An oil spill prevention strategy is one of the best ways to keep the Sound clean and healthy for all of us. I expect this to be the foundation of the Puget Sound Partnership, on which I serve.”

Both laws go into effect June 6.

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