Marooned Point Roberts residents could be getting free ferry service to Blaine
A warning sign seen at the Canada-U.S. border between Delta, B.C., and Monument Park in Point Roberts, Wash., on Tuesday March 13, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
VANCOUVER -- Residents of Point Roberts left marooned by the ongoing border closure could soon be getting a free ferry service connecting them with the rest of Washington state.
This week, commissioners with the Port of Bellingham voted unanimously to arrange a foot ferry that would transport people between Point Roberts and Blaine.
"Point Roberts essentially has no way into the mainland because the border's closed," port executive director Rob Fix said at a meeting Tuesday. "For some emergency services they're allowed to cross, but even that apparently is a real hassle and a nightmare to get through."
Port staff suggested the ferry could run two days a week, with two sailings per day. The service is expected to cost between $30,000 and $50,000 a month, which would be covered up front by the port as there are currently no other levels of government signed on to the plan. Commissioners said they would be pressing for outside funding, but not from the passengers themselves.
"These people have been paying taxes forever. They go into the coffers of the Port of Bellingham, and in all honesty they haven't received much for that," commissioner Bobby Briscoe said ahead of Tuesday's vote.
Briscoe said he believes it's the port's "obligation to make something happen here."
Residents of Point Roberts have been speaking out in recent weeks about the difficulties associated with being isolated in the tiny pene-exclave, which is currently only accessible by boat or chartered flight.
The local fire chief, Christopher Carleton, told CTV News this week that the situation in Point Roberts amounts to a "brewing humanitarian crisis for mental health" in the community.
Some Washington politicians have also been lobbying for a border exemption that would allow Point Roberts resident unfettered access to border crossings, provided they go directly from Point Roberts back into Washington.
The port said if that should be granted, the ferry service would be shut down.
Executive director Fix also said they will be monitoring how much the ferry is being used and adjust the schedule if necessary.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Michele Brunoro