June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:36 PM
"WITA shows some imaginationWhile others whine about the need for passenger ferry service, the Whidbey Island Transportation Association should be commended for trying to do something about it.The South Whidbey-based WITA has proposed that hovercraft be used to bring people from Puget Sound's island to the mainland. The vessels ride on a cushion of air, cause little wake, and have the enormous benefit of not requiring that expensive new docking facilities be built -- they can sidle right up on the beach, or use any of the many boat ramps already situated on the shores of Puget Sound.WITA is planning for a water taxi service, where hovercraft could be called to a certain location to pick up a handful of people, thereby lessening the need for huge park and ride lots and loading facilities. Hovercraft also seem affordable, with a 12-passenger model costing about $80,000.The water taxi idea is past the dreaming stage and has entered the very preliminary planning stage, with a marine consulting firm hired to produce an operating plan.WITA is an organization of only a few active members but with a long history of helping islanders meet their transportation needs, particularly in times of emergency. Although small, WITA is thinking about reasonable solutions to our transportation problems rather than wringing its hands and saying nothing can be done. And, refreshingly, the water taxi plans probably won't hinge on a big outlay of taxpayer dollars in the form of a subsidy. Waiting for federal dollars that never materialized killed the Mosquito Fleet idea of the 1980s and early '90s.This isn't to say there should be no role for government if WITA decides water taxis are feasible. The Port of South Whidbey, City of Langley and Island County could help provide docking sites and support permit processing. Our state legislators could make sure that State Ferries or maritime unions, jealous of losing customers or jobs, don't quietly try to kill the idea behind the scenes. Perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves here, but it's hard to avoid. When a private organization like WITA comes up with a positive idea to help islanders it deserves all the support it can get. Public left out of Lone Lake changeThe Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife did a pathetic job of notifying the public on Whidbey Island of a major change in how fishing at Lone Lake will be managed effective May 1.On that date, anglers will no longer be allowed to use bait and the limit of five trout per day will be history. Instead, artificial lures must be used and the limit will be one trout per day -- and it must be a big one, at least 18 inches in length.The change to what Fish and Wildlife calls quality water management was made without any public notice on South Whidbey -- no news releases were sent, no notices tacked up at the public boat launch, no informational meetings held. It appears that only a small survey of anglers was taken. The changes were included in a long list of statewide changes aired at public hearings in Vancouver, Wash. and Anacortes. Only those who keep a keen eye on the F&W website knew what was happening. The Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club, which has a longstanding interest in how Lone Lake is managed, was unaware of the changes, as was the Whidbey Island Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers. A few members of The Fishin' Club apparently knew but the club was not formally notified.It's a sad situation because there is widespread interest on South Whidbey in how the lake is managed for fishing. Quite a contingent have always preferred that it be managed for bass, perch and other warmwater species that are particularly great for kids' fishing. Others who enjoy dangling a line in the water without casting artificial lures would prefer to keep things as they are. Unfortunately, these voices weren't heard before the change was made. Apparently, trout grow fast in the warm, nutrient-rich Lone Lake and huge trout might attract more mainland anglers, even if the limit is only one. On that basis, it might be more profitable to raise alligators -- us locals could wrestle them and tourists would flock here to watch.At this point, whether the management change is good or bad is beside the point. The fact is that hundreds of people who enjoy fishing at Lone Lake weren't notified of the changes and given a chance to comment. It's a fine example of how public policy should not be made."