Environment

Learn about the Washington State Ferries Sustainability Action Plan and other ways we're working to be stewards of our environment.

Photo of ferry at a dock

Environmental stewardship and sustainability are integral parts of our Strategic Plan. One of our agency’s six values challenges us to, “Be resource stewards by supporting economic, environmental and community need.”

We have a team of environmental professionals, which includes biologists, cultural resources specialists, permitting specialists and environmental quality assurance professionals, who ensure compliance with local, state and federal regulations and policies to build trust and reduce risk. We strive for “next” practices rather than "best" practices (PDF 2.2MB) as we seek to be a recognized leader in our industry and pursue continuous improvement.

We are proud to meet and, oftentimes, exceed the high standards set for us by state and agency executive leadership:

Photo of person monitoring for protected species near a terminal construction site

Sustainability

Sustainability Action Plan

We launched our first Sustainability Action Plan 2019-2021 (PDF 752KB) on Earth Day 2019 as one effort to implement the sustainability recommendations, goals, and actions laid out in our 2040 Long Range Plan.

Our current Sustainability Action Plan: 2021-2023 (PDF 2.1MB) includes more action-oriented focus areas and applies the goal-setting tool of “Objectives and Key Results” to set “challenging ambitious goals with measurable results.” This is a change from our previous Plan, which helped to set a baseline for our subsequent efforts. As with the previous version, we consider the Plan to be a “living document” that will guide our sustainability efforts. Provide feedback on our current Plan by sending us an email.

How are we doing with our efforts?

Energy Performance Plan

Our Energy Performance Plan (PDF 55KB) highlights the efforts we are taking to address energy use with a primary focus on greenhouse gas reduction. The document also serves as our roadmap to achieving zero emissions by 2050.

Environmental leadership

Green Marine

Green Marine is a voluntary environmental certification program for the North American and European maritime industry. In 2018, we became the first U.S. ferry operator to join Green Marine and we received our first verified certification in 2020. We currently serve on several advisory and governance committees helping to strengthen Green Marine’s rigorous performance benchmarking.

How are we doing with our Green Marine performance benchmarking (PDF 11.4MB)?

Envision

Developed and managed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), Envision is a consensus based framework for evaluating the sustainability and resilience of infrastructure. Envision is jointly supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Public Works Association and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard University.

The Envision framework allows infrastructure project proponents to ensure that they aren’t just doing the project right, but that they are also doing the right project. We incorporated the Envision framework into the design, construction and maintenance of our infrastructure projects, and also serve on ISI’s Training and Credentialing Committee for Envision Sustainability Professionals.

Southern Resident Killer Whale recovery

Photo of orca whales with ferry in the background

Underwater Noise Mitigation and Management Plan for the Protection of Marine Mammals

In response to the governor's Executive Order 18-02, our continuous improvement for Green Marine and our commitment to the environment, we developed an Underwater Noise Mitigation and Management Plan for the Protection of Marine Mammals (PDF 509KB). This document details the environment that we operate in, the potential noise impacts of our operations and the measures that we are taking to address those impacts. 

Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) Program

The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority-led ECHO Program is an internationally recognized, collaborative effort to reduce the cumulative effects of shipping on at-risk whales in the Salish Sea. We were invited to join ECHO’s Advisory Working Group in 2015. We also serve on several of the program’s technical committees.

Quiet Sound

We serve on the Leadership Committee of Quiet Sound, a collaborative program to reduce the effects of noise from large commercial vessels on orcas. The program, modeled on the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s ECHO Program, launched its website in January 2022, following more than two years of engagement and planning as a result of the governor’s Southern Resident Orca Task Force, and we’ve been involved in the entire process since inception. We are the chair of Quiet Sound’s Whale Notification System Work Group and participate in several other work groups within the program.

Whale Report Alert System

We use Ocean Wise’s Whale Report Alert System (WRAS) to provide our crews with accurate and updated location information for large marine mammals and to report sightings to relay to other mariners. Over the past few years, we’ve been one of the system’s top whale reporters (PDF 557KB), directly helping to protect whales.

8,683 animals crossed the Snoqualmie Pass East Project area

as recorded by WSDOT and partners in 2020 and 2021.

46% increase in Amtrak Cascades ridership to 251,000 passengers

in 2021 compared to 172,000 in 2020.

Nine wetland and stream mitigation sites across 32.7 acres added

to our monitoring program in 2021 to help offset climate change impacts.