Washington State Lawmakers Ask Feds to Pay for Extra Ferry Security

SEATTLE -- Four Washington state congressmen asked the federal government on Friday to reimburse the cost of federally mandated enhanced security screenings on Washington state ferries over a three-month period.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has refused to pay $121,000 in extra costs for increased security between April 22 and Aug. 2 because the terror alert status was "non-orange," Rep. Jay Inslee said in a statement Friday.

In their letter, Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott and Inslee said the Washington State Patrol started the security checks April 22 believing "in good faith" that the costs would be reimbursed by Homeland Security.

Patrol dog teams and officers worked extensive overtime to look for explosives and check vehicles, the letter said, and outside dog-team services were purchased.

The letter cited an FBI report, issued earlier this year, that discussed at least seven incidents of ferry surveillance that could have been pre-operational planning by terrorists.

At least one of those incidents involved a person with known ties to terrorist groups, according to the FBI, the congressmen said.

"We urge you to reconsider this decision, as the increased patrols were in response to federal mandates and because evidence exists underscoring the specific danger faced by the Washington State Ferries," the letter said.

Homeland Security has agreed to pay the additional expenses from Aug. 2 onward, Inslee said in a statement.

Homeland Security officials were not immediately available for comment after office hours Friday.

The government started working to increase ferry security after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the United States and the third largest in the world. It has 20 ferry terminals and 29 vessels that carry more than 25 million passengers each year.