Submitted by The Economic Development Council of San Juan County
The Economic Development Council (EDC) of San Juan County recently partnered with the Town of Friday Harbor, the City of Anacortes, the Port of Anacortes and the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce, on a study regarding the economic impacts of the Anacortes-Sidney ferry run, and on a regional survey to determine stakeholder and rider opinion regarding privatizing the run.
Notable from the study’s principal observations and findings of the economic impact analysis were the following:
• Based on available data, two economic impact scenarios were considered – a conservative, low-impact scenario showing regional income derived from the Sidney ferry run of $20 million per year, and 143 jobs supported; and a high-impact scenario, showing regional income from the run of up to $54 million per year and 393 jobs supported.
• Impacts were determined based partially on data from 2019 ridership, which was shortened significantly due to ferry outages; it is likely the economic impact is closer to the higher number due to the nuances of this service and linkage with international travel.
• Ridership on the domestic Anacortes-San Juan and international Anacortes-Sidney routes has grown more than for the rest of the WSF system, since 2009.
Additionally, the study noted that:
• The termination of the Anacortes-Sidney route would rule out additional regional economic benefits that may not be readily measurable at present
• Private operation would effectively foreclose San Juan County from participating in the economic benefits of the route due to the prohibitions of the Jones Act (46 USC § 55013).
• Any contract with a private party to operate the Anacortes-Sidney route could expose the region to not yet measurable regional economic impacts, due to operational impacts on the Southern Resident Killer Whales.
The EDC and other entities also surveyed local stakeholders and riders to determine public opinion and anecdotal considerations regarding the Sidney ferry run and potential privatization. Survey results showed that:
• Many San Juan and Skagit County residents use the Sidney ferry for non-leisure purposes that may not be easily replaced if it were to be moved to other ports.
• In addition, the vast majority of respondents opposed privatization in the form under consideration currently.
For more information and PDF copies of the study and the survey results, please visit: www.sanjuansedc.org/sidneyferry.