FOLLOWUP: Last day for Des Moines passenger-ferry test; West Seattle residents voice noise concerns

(August photo by David Hutchinson)

Today is the final day of the two-month test run for passenger-ferry service between Des Moines and Downtown Seattle. It’s been running four round trips a day, Wednesdays through Saturdays, and should be just now wrapping up its last trip. This past week, in the test run’s final days, a group of West Seattle residents emailed the city of Des Moines to voice concerns about the vessel chartered for the test, the Chilkat Express, saying it’s the loudest boat on the water, and fearing it could have an adverse effect on noise-sensitive Southern Resident Killer Whales. Their letter, on which we were copied, suggested that while Des Moines makes its decision on whether to bring back the service, they should plan to at least engage with noise-reduction initiatives. We followed up with the Des Moines department operating the service, which replied, “One thing to note is that the vessel in operation is primarily used as a whale watching boat and its operation is highly sensitive to that environment so if there was a concern in the area that it’s operating in, we believe it would have undoubtably been noted.” The West Seattle group also contacted the organization that’s been leading the Quiet Sound ship-noise-reduction program; their reply noted that their initial efforts haven’t included passenger vessels but they do have a workgroup in that area, led by Washington State Ferries, and would invite the Chilkat Express’s operator Puget Sound Express to join if they wind up continuing passenger service for Des Moines. Regarding that “if,” the Des Moines plan is to review how the trial period went, but they told us they don’t have a timeline for that review yet.

33 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Last day for Des Moines passenger-ferry test; West Seattle residents voice noise concerns"

  • my two cents October 9, 2022 (5:45 pm)

    sorry, sounds like a NIMBY movement.

    • Westwood October 10, 2022 (9:02 am)

      Sounds like the request would make things better for everyone, came from local organizing, and was submitted during the test review period. Call it what you want, but I’m glad to see civic engagement over apathy.

    • MondVogel October 10, 2022 (6:16 pm)

      100%. The things people come up with just to block something…m

  • Beach Drive Patriot October 9, 2022 (7:29 pm)

    I don’t give a damn about the whales, these ferries are ridiculous. Too loud!

    • Question Authority October 9, 2022 (7:47 pm)

      Would you say the same thing about noise if you lived adjacent to a highway instead of near the water?  It passes by infrequently, but still you have a problem taking cars off the road it seems, sad.

    • KT October 9, 2022 (7:59 pm)

      That’s what the orca said too!

    • Auntie October 9, 2022 (8:18 pm)

      Perhaps you should go inside your million+ dollar home, behind triple pane glass and close the door. The Orcas don’t have that option.

  • Jay October 9, 2022 (8:19 pm)

    That really is an exceptionally loud boat.  I can hear it clearly from Vashon.

  • Uncle Steve October 9, 2022 (8:37 pm)

    What about the children?

  • clinker October 9, 2022 (9:11 pm)

    Was wondering about that! Heard it while kayaking saturday. It is amazingly loud. Like, it seems like a weird complaint but it’s way louder than any other boat, even much bigger ones.

  • Randy October 9, 2022 (9:14 pm)

    We’re going to see more Fast Foot Ferries on the Sound, and I’m surprised that there isn’t already a Tacoma-Seattle fast ferry.The highways are clogged, light rail is really too slow for distances like Tacoma-Seattle, and the Sound is an existing natural infrastructure ready for fast ferries.Des Moines should be congratulated for this test and for looking for potential solutions to growing transport needs.

    • East Coast Cynic October 10, 2022 (6:56 am)

      Lets get Seattle-Tacoma link up and running before we determine its speed.  May work for some depending on what part of Tacoma they are coming from or what part of Seattle they are taking link to.  Besides, does the state have money for a fast foot ferry from Tacoma to Seattle?

  • 937 October 9, 2022 (9:47 pm)

    How about disclosing the name of the group writing letters, so we can thank them.

    • WSB October 9, 2022 (10:14 pm)

      Not an organized group with a name. Collection of neighbors.

  • Susan October 9, 2022 (10:18 pm)

    How does the Des Moines-Seattle boat noise output compare to the Vashon-Seattle or WS foot ferries? 

  • Rb October 9, 2022 (10:42 pm)

    I wish west Seattle had a better water transportation system. What if the water taxi had a stop in Fauntleroy, Arbor heights, and maybe on the east side of West Seattle? Just loop around West Seattle and go downtown.

  • jim October 9, 2022 (10:49 pm)

    This boat is much to loud – shall we say 100 times louder than the big cargo ships that pass by.  It bothers me inside my little house (without triple pain window and noise proof walls), My father built it himself in 1949.  As to ocas they rarely go up or down East Channel anymore,  possibly because of the noise and boat traffic.     But lets be polite in our comments please.

    • Canton October 10, 2022 (6:57 am)

      Does the noise violate our city daytime ordinances? If not, deal with it. Part of city living.

  • Craig October 9, 2022 (10:59 pm)

    I’m glad to read that I’m not the only one that thought that boat was loud. I noticed it so many times, looking up from whatever I was doing to wonder why that one boat was so loud in the sound, and every time it was the Des Monies ferry. If we can hear it on land a mile away the sea life must also be getting a loud experience. 

  • John October 10, 2022 (4:52 am)

    The first time I heard it I thought it was a helicopter passing overhead. 

  • Terri October 10, 2022 (6:08 am)

    I don’t live close enough to hear this boat, but I am concerned about the impact on the endangered Southern Resident orcas, who range widely in the South Sound during the late summer and fall months. Vessel noise is a key issue hindering their recovery, and protecting them from harmful physical and acoustic impacts remains a priority in NOAA’s action plan for 2021-2025. Frankly, the city’s response that there’s no problem because the Chilkat Express was used as a whale watching vessel shows an astounding lack of knowledge about recent state restrictions placed upon whale watch industry to protect the orcas. (I wouldn’t be surprised if this vessel was available for the test run precisely because it was no longer making money giving tours in the North Sound/San Juan Islands.) At a minimum, the city should show that they have consulted with NOAA and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to ensure the service is being and will be operated in compliance with all current orca protection regulations.

    • Gatewood neighbor October 11, 2022 (8:11 am)

      What Terri said. 👆🏼👆🏼👆🏼

  • Bret October 10, 2022 (7:30 am)

    Does any one know how much gas is used to push a boat through the water, why all of our ferries are massively subsidized? This is the silliest concept there is. So the rich can get to Seattle. Who can afford a $20.00 commute each day? And if it isn’t at least twenty then we’re are heavily subsidizing a noisy, incredibly inefficient mode of transportation.

    • Sandy October 11, 2022 (10:26 am)

      I agree. Taxpayers paying to save orcas and at same time subsidizing the activity that is leading reason orcas are going extinct. 

  • Runner October 10, 2022 (7:41 am)

    Strange, I live on Alki and don’t hear it at all.  I guess it’s drowned out but the obnoxiously loud cars and motorcycles passing by on the Alki raceway. 

  • Kyle October 10, 2022 (8:33 am)

    Interesting, I believe the fast ferries were designed to limit wake erosion? I remember that was why the Bremerton ferry was forced to slow down years ago. Would be interested to know if this des moine one is much louder than the Vashon or Kitsap fast ferries? If it’s the same, tough luck neighbors. If it is much louder than what can they do to bring the des moine farry in line with other fast ferries in the region? The current response from the local government seems to say “go away neighbors” we don’t really want to study this more.

  • Mel October 10, 2022 (9:20 am)

    Historically hydrofoils have done poorly on Puget Sound. Underwater debris can easily damage them and injury to passengers at speed have happened.  Read about the 80 people in Japan that were injured when they hit a killer whale on a hydrofoil. Lastly, as a Pacific Northwest lifelong resident, I understand the value of the foil but why not but use electric versions like they have in Europe. Super quiet. 

    • Kirk October 10, 2022 (6:35 pm)

      My Lord People! As a resident  in Des Moines  for 45 years, noise? HaveEver been to the Marina and witnessed  this ferry coming and going?The path it takes far far from shore, hard to detect any noise within Minutes  leaving the dock.Do you know there are a number of fast ferry s from Tacoma to SeattleAlso Bainbridge Is. To Seattle? This brings revenue  to our great townWhich has been locked in the 60,s for to long,  noise??Rather hear Jets or freeway noise? …… there is always people to complain Maybe read all the wonderful reviews it’s getting!

    • Question Authority October 11, 2022 (8:16 pm)

      It’s not a Hydrofoil, it has no subsurface fins/foils.

  • Quiz October 10, 2022 (12:14 pm)

    From what I hear, one of the reasons it’s so loud is because it has four motors, burning about $1,700 in fuel per day during the test period.

  • walt October 10, 2022 (4:03 pm)

    This boat is absurdly loud, sounds like a helicopter overhead from shore! I feel bad for the sea life every time it goes past.

    • Sandy October 11, 2022 (10:38 am)

      It’s especially alarming to learn that it’s primary use is for whale watching.  That means it’s out looking for//or chasing whales that are endangered because of noise like it generates. It is shockingly loud. 

  • Wallace Grommet October 10, 2022 (6:12 pm)

    The  Chilkat ferry boat can be heard easily from two miles away, which I can personally attest. I was in my boat two miles west of the ferry as it sped along the shoreline near Alki Point last Sunday. The drone of the the engines was very audible at that distance. No other ferry is remotely as loud. Additionally, the wake from the boat is sizable, and comprised  of more individual waves than the other ferries.  

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