Denman Island residents will protest this weekend against the proposed cable ferry, and they plan to send a petition to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone.
BC Ferries Corporation held information sessions on Denman and Hornby Islands last week updating residents about plans for a cable ferry on the Buckley Bay to Denman Island route.
Hornby resident and past Hornby Ferry senior master Pete Kimmerly has safety and technical concerns about the planned cable ferry, which would replace the traditional ferry, the Quinista, in 2014. He has a website outlining his concerns at www.sendintheclowns.info.
He says about 110 people came out to the meeting on Denman Island, and residents he’s heard from on both islands seem unanimously against the project.
“The project is just crazy. I’m amazed that it has got this far,” says Kimmerly, who’s organizing a protest at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18 at the Denman West ferry dock.
“I’ve given up talking to Ferries — you might as well talk to a brick — and I’m thinking the best way to do this now is to embarrass the government, that’s my new tactic.”
Kimmerly says residents are also considering launching a class action law suit against BCFC for “violation” of their “rights as B.C. residents.”
Monday, a petition called British Columbia’s Minister of Transportation – Mr. Todd Stone: STOP the Denman Island Cable Ferry Project went live on www.change.org, and as of Wednesday morning it had about 160 signatures.
According to BCFC, vessel construction is expected to start in September, terminal construction is expected to start in November, and the cable ferry should be operating by October next year.
The cable ferry would be the longest salt water cable ferry in the world, and among other things, residents have expressed concerns around safety, technical feasibility, reliability and job loss throughout the entire public consultation process.
Concerns around the ferry’s ability to operate in during storms is a common concern, and Kimmerly says BCFC data on wind in Baynes Sound is flawed.
“What ferries has done is downplayed the wind to ridiculous levels. They say the hundred-year storm is 32 knots of wind and Comox Airport says 100 knots and Chrome Island says 100 knots, so Ferries is saying less than one third of what Environment Canada is saying,” says Kimmerly. “They’ve presented this data to reputable engineering companies, and what it’s resulted in is a ship that’s under designed for the conditions — and I’ll go as far as saying it’s a dangerous experiment.”
But, BCFC vice-president of engineering Mark Wilson maintains the cable ferry will be able to run in the same weather conditions as the Quinista.
“What we’ve taken into consideration in our design is the hundred-year current, the hundred-year wave, and the 55-knot wind sustained is — from our statistical modelling — that’s above what we believe is the hundred-year wind, so we went to the 55 knots (for the cable ferry),” says Wilson, noting the Quinista can only operate in up to 55 knots of sustained wind. “So, all of the design considerations around the cable ferry are based to provide the same level of service and availability as the Quinista currently provides.”
The cable ferry is expected to hold 50 vehicles, as does the Quinista. The ferry would operate on three cables, one drive cable and two guide cables, with the drive cable replaced each year.
The aging terminal infrastructure on the Denman side of the route will be kept for at least five years, according to BCFC, to ensure a traditional ferry can resume service on the route in case of an issue.
BCFC cites major cost savings as a big reason for the change — $19 million could be saved over the life of the assets calculated on discounted net present value basis. Lower fuel costs, maintenance costs and labour costs, (the cable ferry is expected to need half the crew the Quinista does to operate).
Wilson says safety is BCFC’s top priority.
“Our second priority would be reliability and availability,” he says. “Our third priority is efficiency, so we’re committed to delivering a safe, reliable and efficient service, and under the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, we have to provide that level of service to Denman Islanders.”
Ferry Advisory Committee chair for Denman-Hornby Tony Law says he hasn’t heard all residents’ opinions about the cable ferry, but the people he’s heard from are generally against it.
“I think what’s making people apprehensive is that this would be the largest cable ferry in the world and so people are feeling like this constitutes an experiment and so they’re feeling pretty uncertain about that,” he says, adding residents say they are happy with the service now so why change it, especially when any savings from the cable ferry would be spread over all routes, rather than being funnelled to Denman Island route users.
“So people are feeling that we’re bearing the uncertainty but we’re not getting any direct benefits from being in that position.”