Cantwell Touts New Electric Lummi Island Ferry to Replace 60-Year-Old Boat Thanks to $25M Federal Grant

Cantwell: “[We’re] being better stewards of Mother Earth and solving some of our transportation and infrastructure problems at the same time.”

WHATCOM COUNTY, WA – This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined local leaders to celebrate a new federal grant that will allow Whatcom County to replace the 60-year-old Lummi Island ferry with a state-of-the-art electric-hybrid vessel. 

Speaking at the dock used by the current ferry, the Whatcom Chief, Sen. Cantwell touted the benefits of the new ferry, including increased capacity, lower wait times, safer service and fewer maintenance outages.

“This is so important because it's part of critical infrastructure, moving 1,000 residents to and from the island in times which can often be very challenging,” said Sen. Cantwell. “And so the ferry needed to be upgraded, and the capacity is being upgraded, the number of cars being doubled, and a significant increase in the amount of passengers.”

Sen. Cantwell also noted the environmental benefits of an electric-powered ferry: “We also get an extra little bonus here and that we are helping to decarbonize the marine environment that we cherish so much by getting this to be a battery electric boat….With this ferry system we [are] being better stewards of Mother Earth and solving some of our transportation and infrastructure problems at the same time.”

Lummi Island is a rural community, with the ferry producing the only connection between the island and the mainland of Whatcom County. The Lummi Island Ferry is located on Lummi Nation land. 

The Lummi Island Ferry is one of the state’s oldest vessels and is well past the end of its useful life. The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant for the Lummi Island Ferry Replacement and System Modernization Project will help replace the ferry with a battery-hybrid vessel that would reduce emissions and increase ridership capacity to meet future growth. 

The current ferry, the 60-year-old Whatcom Chief, has capacity for 16 vehicles and 100 passengers; the new ferry will have capacity for 34 vehicles and 150 passengers. This funding comes following a letter of support written by Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in March.

This award is one portion of the nearly $100 million ingrant funding for Washington state announced earlier this week. RAISE grants, which were originally created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as TIGER grants, can be used for a wide variety of infrastructure projects with local or regional impact.

As chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, Sen. Cantwell worked to authorize the RAISE grant program for the first time ever in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provided the program with $7.5 billion over five years, a 50 percent increase in funding.

Photos for download and use are available HERE, b-roll of Senator Cantwell stepping off the Lummi Island Ferry is available HERE. A transcript of Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE