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Ferry workers appealing Denman Island cable ferry decision

Ferry workers will seek an appeal of the BC Ferry commissioner's decision approving major spending to build a cable ferry for the route between Vancouver Island and Denman Island.

The BC Ferry & Marine Workers' Union told its members Monday it "has advised legal counsel to seek leave to appeal at the BC Court of Appeal, on the grounds that the BC Ferry commissioner erred in approving the proposed major capital expenditure for a new cable ferry and associated infrastructure."

Ferry commissioner Gord Macatee approved in late February BC Ferries' application for major capital expense to build the cable ferry and associated terminal infrastructure. The commissioner concluded the project was "reasonable, prudent, and consistent with the current Coastal Ferry Services Contract, and the long-term capital plan established by BC Ferries," according to a BC Ferry Commission news release at the time.

Macatee noted expected savings of $2 million per year over the 40-year life of the vessel, totalling $80 million, in his order. However, he would not divulge the associated initial capital expense, noting the procurement process was not yet complete and release of that information could put BC Ferries at a disadvantage.

BC Ferries has since announced contracts to build the cable ferry and two terminals for the route between Vancouver Island and Denman Island. The two contracts totalling $15.2 million to build the terminals and a $15-million contract to build the vessel total over $30 million in initial capital expenses.

"Given that (initial capital expense is) half the cost of the projected savings how is that going to work out? How is that going to be prudent or reasonable?" questions Denman Island resident and ferry employee Laura Pope.

"The basis of the financial decision is what we've questioned as reasonable and prudent, and that is what we're appealing."

The cable ferry would be a first in BC Ferries' fleet, and would be the longest saltwater cable ferry in the world. The cable ferry is expected to be in operation by summer 2015.

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