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Kingston foot ferry hopes sink
"KINGSTON - The closest Kingston commuters will get to the Clipper III this October is watching it from the shore as it makes its way to Victoria. Disappointment rippled through the north end community Wednesday after Clipper Navigation, Inc. officials announced they had withdrawn a request for a temporary certificate to provide passenger only service from Kingston to Seattle. If approved service would have started Oct. 1. Darrell Bryan, executive vice president and general manager for Clipper Navigation, cited the potential cost in fighting opposition from the Inlandboatmen's Union and the Washington Utilities Transportation Commission as a deterrent for going ahead with the application process. They made it clear this was their turf and anything that might be a challenge to them is a big concern to them, Bryan said of his discussions with union representatives. David Freiboth, National president for the Inlandboatmen's Union said the union would have challenged the certificate, but would have been open to being part of Clipper's planning process to provide service. We are in favor and have lobbied for increased service to Kingston and Southworth. Initiative 695 took that away, he said. The taxpayers gave themselves a tax break, but they want the service. That comes out of our hides, he said. The union, which has 1,200 members in the Puget Sound region, assures that maritime workers receive good working conditions and wages, according to Freiboth. As for the perception of the union holding Kitsap County residents hostage for challenging private enterprise, Freiboth said, I didn't vote for 695. The majority of Kitsap County did. They are holding themselves hostage. Bryan said he anticipated legal expenses from the WUTC similar to those the company faced in its 1991 bid for permanent service to Friday Harbor. Bryan said the company spent about $100,000, but was granted the certificate. He said the company decided it would not spend one more dollar to get the message across that Kitsap County needs ferry service. Unlike the Washington State Ferries, Bryan said, My mission, my obligation to the partners in this company is to make money. He said the citizens of Kitsap should look to the state to provide the best service something he has said all along. We believe that the state of Washington is best suited to provide passenger only ferry service on Puget Sound, he said. Tim Sweeney, a spokesman for the WUTC, said the commission has not been adversarial but adhering to the state law that requires a temporary certificate request prove urgent and immediate need, for the service. The review process had already gone into motion on the application that was submitted Mar. 6. Hearings were expected to begin in April, Sweeney said. But now that the temporary application has been withdrawn, Sweeney called it probable that the commission would dismiss Clipper Navigation's permanent application. This leaves the Kingston Community scratching its head and state lawmakers back at square one. We're devastated. We had a lot of hope they would go ahead with it. We are sympathetic to their cause, but the demand has not gone away, said Kingston foot ferry supporter Sonny Woodward. When asked what the Kingston community planned to do next in their quest for passenger only service to Seattle, Woodward said, We're ready to dive into a volcano now, we've lost hope. Tom Waggoner, an advocate for passenger only service, also shared his disappointment. The Kitsap Peninsula will be able to maintain its third world status, he said. State Rep. Phil Rockefeller D-Bainbridge Island he was sorry to see that Clipper pulled out. He also offered some hope that the financial future of the ferries systems may not be as stormy as once thought. The state senate transportation committee proposed $12 million for the passenger only boats that were on Wednesday set to go unfunded. The group also announced it is proposing a $12 million to compensate for rising costs of diesel fuel, Rockefeller said. Despite the disappointment, there is still a glint of hope that one day Kingston will get a Seattle route. Citizens such as Waggoner, Woodward and Kathleen Sutton, Kingston Chamber of Commerce president are getting the ball rolling to bring forth a bill next legislative session that would allow private industries to provide service when the state cannot. It would also discourage interference from the unions. "