ALBANY — Buena Vista Ferry service on the Willamette River could resume in early June after being shut down since mid-August.
The Buena Vista Ferry, located just south of Independence, is one of the oldest continuously operating ferries in the state, providing service since 1852. The majority of ferry riders are farmers, tourists and bicyclists.
On May 20, Marion County expects to take delivery of a new ferry now under construction at the Diversified Marine Inc. boatyard in Portland.
“Our delivery date was mid-April, however we’ve had a few design issues and material delays so the contractor got a time extension, but this is subject to change,” said Rod Bray, the county’s capital projects manager.
The county curtailed the service, which connects Marion and Polk counties, two months early because the former ferry was at the end of its life expectancy after 55 years on the river. Over the years it required numerous repairs and upgrades, and the ferry could not run in high, swift water.
The new vessel can operate year-round, weather and water levels permitting. It operates on electricity rather than diesel, which is more cost effective with the rising cost of fuel, Bray said. It can carry six vehicles at a time; the old ferry could hold only four.
Bray said the new ferry, which has about a 2-foot draft, is too large to be transported over land, so a tugboat will pull it the 100 miles upstream, an all-day project. The tug will take the old ferry downstream, where Diversified Marine can use it for scrap.
When the new ferry arrives, it will be hooked to a guide cable, the electronics attached “and then we’ll run the ferry back and forth to test everything,” Bray said. The Coast Guard must give its approval before the ferry can begin service.
The cost of the project is expected to be about $4 million, Bray said. Besides construction, the amount includes engineering and consultant fees, design work, improvements to the slips on both sides of the river and permitting fees.
Permits were required by the county, Division of State Lands, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state Department of Environmental Quality and State Preservation Office.
Most of the project was covered by the Ferry Boat Discretionary Fund Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Marion County also contributed funds. County officials are discussing whether to raise rates to help defray costs.