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Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to consult public on future of Balfour Ferry Terminal

Ferry users will see some disruption to service on the Kootenay Lake Ferry during the early spring due low water in the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. — The Nelson Daily file photo

In a media release Monday, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said its moving ahead with plans to ensure continued safe operation of the Kootenay Lake ferry.

The ministry also said its planning changes to ensure the service meets the needs of ferry users, the community and visitors to the area.

"Following a consultation process in 2016 with Balfour and area residents, government determined the terminal should remain at Balfour," the release said.

"The ministry will be seeking local input on possible longer-term improvements to terminal amenities, such as green space, washrooms, on-site parking and safety of traffic queues."

The MOTI said during the 2016 consultations, residents of Balfour, Queens Bay and area were also informed about the challenges facing the ongoing operation of the Kootenay Lake ferry service, including the actions needed to mitigate low water levels.

Beginning in late February, the ministry will implement temporary service changes to ensure safe ferry passage during lower water.

During the last week of March and the first week of April, when the lake level is historically at its lowest, ferry service will be provided exclusively by the MV Balfour, as its draft is shallow enough to safely transit the lake. During this two-week period, the MV Osprey will be out of service for its refit.

"The ministry will be seeking permits from federal and provincial regulators to undertake minor dredging of specific sections of the west arm, which is necessary for the continued long-term viability of the Balfour terminal," the release said.

"The ministry also intends to build a new vessel to replace the aging MV Balfour to ensure the long-term operation of the ferry service."

The Balfour ferry terminal has served the region for 71 years.

By improving the terminal, replacing the MV Balfour and making the lake channel safer, tthe MOTI said the community of Balfour will continue to be an important transportation hub in the Kootenays for many years to come. 

The MOTI will begin public consultation February 19, with local public open houses scheduled for February 27 for Redfish Elementary near Harrop on the North Shore and Crawford Bay School on the East Shore from 5-8 p.m. The public is invited to attend and no reservation is required.

The next day, February 28, small group meetings are planned for Cabin Restaurant in Kootenay Bay and Dock 'n' Duck at Balflour from 1-3 p.m. Space is limited and anyone interested should RSVP to balfourterminal@gov.bc.ca (mailto:balfourterminal@gov.bc.ca)):

Anyone unable to attend the open houses can provided feedback online between Feb. 19 and March 30 at: www.gov.bc.ca/balfourterminal.

Learn More:

Information on service changes and proposed improvements to the Balfour Ferry terminal are available online at: www.gov.bc.ca/balfourterminal

A summary of the 2016 consultation on the Balfour ferry terminal is available at this link:

Schedule for Temporary Kootenay Lake Ferry Service Changes Due to Low Water

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has scheduled the following temporary service changes for the Kootenay Lake ferry to ensure safe passage during low water from late February through April 2018:

Feb. 24 – March 10, and April 22 – 28:

Speed, trim and swell control: the ferry operator will implement speed/trim/swell control measures while using MV Osprey. These limit the vessel to a speed of eight knots while travelling through the arm, and the crew would need to take extra precautions while loading the vessel to ensure minimal trim. Wind speeds over 35 knots would also limit sailings.

March 11 –24, and April 8 – 21:

Deadweight control: a deadweight restriction will be implemented on MV Osprey. At the operator’s discretion, weights will be limited to 50% of normal capacity. Commercial vehicles could face minor delays.

March 25 – April 7:

Exclusive use of MV Balfour. While MV Osprey is out of service for low water, it will undergo one of its bi-annual refits.

April 29: Both MV Osprey and MV Balfour return to normal service.