New ferry to be built in Nakusp

The new ferry that will run between Shelter Bay and Galena Bay is to be built in Nakusp by WaterBridge Steel Inc.

The new ferry that will run between Shelter Bay and Galena Bay is to be built in Nakusp by WaterBridge Steel Inc.

The government of British Columbia has awarded a $26.5-million contract to WaterBridge Steel Inc. of Prince George to design and construct a new ferry for the 30-minute crossing between Shelter Bay and Galena Bay. It will be built in Nakusp, and provide employment opportunities for approximately 65 people for up to two years.

We’d like to hire as many local people as possible, said John Harding, owner of WaterBridge Steel Inc. Hiring local people not only gives work to the community, it also saves on finding accommodations for workers brought in from elsewhere.

“It’s tough to gauge what’s out there locally until we’re there,” Harding said about finding the skilled labour needed for building the ferry, but if the workers can be found locally, he’ll hire them.

“It is great news that the new ferry will be constructed in the Village of Nakusp. A project of this size will have a positive effect on our local economy,” said Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling, “This will provide our businesses and residents the opportunity to showcase our spectacular scenery and unlimited recreational activities.”

A drive-on, drive-off, open-decked vessel, it will be capable of transporting 80 cars and 250 passengers.

Due to the ferry’s larger vehicle and weight capacity, faster loading and unloading times are projected, which eliminates the need for an auxiliary ferry during the peak travel season, said Kate Trotter from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

John Harding  has been in the business of designing, building and operating car/truck/passenger ferries for British Columbia lakes since 1976. He was responsible for the construction and operation of the largest freight-carrying ice-breaker in the world when it went in to service on Williston Lake in 1995. The company also constructed the 2004 Francois Forester, which provides ferry service under contract with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on Francois Lake.

Harding has been in the ferry business a long time, and is familiar with local transportation and ferry issues. At one point, he had heard talk about building a ferry to haul chip trucks from Shelter bay to Castlegar and get them off the roads, but nothing came of it. He said he’s heard there is some interest in the possibility again.

It sounds as though he would be ok if his stay extended beyond the building of the current ferry.

“I really like Nakusp,” Harding told The Arrow Lakes News. The ferry magnate will be moving to town for the duration of the construction, with the odd trip back to visit his wife and the ferry on Francois Lake.

“Originally we were planning on Castlegar,” he said, “but space is at a premium there.” When he found the spot here in Nakusp, the matter was decided in two minutes, he said.

“It’s a lot of work right now getting the site set up,” said Harding, who will be returning to Nakusp with the Ministry to check the site this week.