Ballard's Kvichak Marine and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island have joined forces to build two149-passenger ferries that will be 85 percent cleaner than the 2007 Environmental Protection Agency regulations require.

The first of the two boats, destined for the San Francisco Bay Area, will be completed this summer, with each boat taking seven months to build at a cost of $8 million each.

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority is a regional agency with a mandate to create a comprehensive public water transit system of ferries, feeder buses and terminals. Its mission is to add eight new ferry routes to triple ferry service by 2025.

Charlene Haught-Johnson, board president of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority, said the goal is to build ten new boats in the next ten years. Many of them hopefully, will be built in Washington State, she said.

"We think it will be the world's cleanest boat from an emissions standpoint. It's a fairly new standard, I don't think anyone in the world is meeting it," said Steve Castleberry, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Transit Authority.

"It is absolutely the most environmentally friendly vessel on this planet. It's a great project, it's a cool boat," said Keith Whittemore, vice president of Kvichak Marine Industries.

"As we see these boats being built by these great workers, we will be recognized nationally as we should, for our maritime ship building, an important base of our economy in the future. I was very proud when I heard our Washington state ship yards have proven themselves once again to be the best in the country," said Murray.

Castleberry said the boat meets fairly new environmental standards and he is happy that both Kvichak Marine and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders can meet the standards. "We made a commitment to deliver these boats as clean as we want to. We had to make this clean to have an impact on our air quality in the Bay Area," he said.

The technology of the San Francisco bound "new hybrid commuter" ferries are described as "merging selective catalytic reduction with renewable solar energy."

In addition, a sonar system on the ships will scan the water for marine animals to avoid hitting and injuring them. A Farsounder forward searching radar has been installed to detect whales. Low wake, low wash hulls will protect shorelines from damage.

The passenger only ferries will have room for 34 bicycles, feature WiFi service, two ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant restrooms and various seating plans to accommodate passenger needs.

Fred Felleman, a consultant with Friends of the Earth, the largest international environmental coalition group said the ferries meet Environmental Protection Agency standards that won't be required for another 14 years.

Felleman said it would be important for local Washington ferries to meet similar environmental standards. "It's 14 years ahead of the curve. We would like to see it standard on all new boat construction," he said.

The two ferries will be put into service to launch the South San Francisco to Oakland/Alameda ferry route.

During the keel laying event, Kvichak staff gathered around for the program and a round of applause was given to them for their efforts.

"I was very excited to hear that Kivchak and Nichols were selected to build the first ferries for the WTA. These construction jobs are going to create family wage jobs for our community in the Pacific Northwest," said Murray, the chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee.

Whittemore says Kivchak actively recruits new workers by training them, finding them at trade shows and advertising due to a shortage of trained people. "We cannot find as many workers as we can. It definitely limits our capacity," he said.

Kvichak Marine, established in 1981, specializes in aluminum boats used in law enforcement, fire fighting, passenger ferries and general commercial use.