Any county may construct, operate and maintain ferries within the county or between counties. For counties operating ferry service under this general authority, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) may reimburse for a portion of the deficit incurred while operating a county ferry service. Currently Pierce, Skagit, Wahkiakum and Whatcom Counties operate ferries under this general authority.
For Wahkiakum County's ferry service, the WSDOT is authorized to enter into a continuing agreement to pay for 80 percent of the operating deficit for the preceding fiscal year of the ferry service, with a maximum not to exceed the amount appropriated for the biennium. Funds must be used for the operation and maintenance of the Puget Island ferry. Fares established by the County must be comparable to those on similar runs listed on the state ferry schedule.
The continuing agreement between the WSDOT and Wahkiakum county must provide for payment of 85 percent of the operating deficit of the County's ferry service. The restriction that reimbursement may not exceed amounts appropriated for the biennium is removed.