Permit concerns may delay ferry landing
Wahkiakum County will have a new ferry next year, but local officials are starting to wonder if it will be able to go into service.
County Public Works Director Pete Ringen said Tuesday that the US Army Corps of Engineers is delaying action on permits needed to modify the Puget Island landing to accommodate the new ferry.
The new ferry will have a deeper draft than the current vessel, the Wahkiakum, and some dredging is needed to provide adequate depth. The new ferry will also be larger than the Wahkiakum, and Ringen said mooring piling need to be moved.
The Corps will include dredging of the current ferry channel to its contract for channel maintenance, Ringen said. However, that doesn't include "the last 50 feet," the area right around the landing slip, and that work is the county's responsibility.
Ringen has applied for permits for both the dredging and the piling work several months ago. The projects would need to be done early this fall; federal agencies prohibit in-water work during late fall, winter and spring to protect migrating fish.
Last week, Ringen learned the Seattle office of the Corps wasn't making progress on the permits. He learned that the Portland office of the Corps, which handles the dredging in the Columbia, had estimated a larger quantity of spoils would have to be moved than Ringen had estimated, and this difference was a concern.
Ringen said he had reduced the size of the basin needed for maneuvering the ferry and thus lowered the quantity of material needed to be dredged.
"No on had said there was a conflict with the Portland district's volume," he said.
At this point, Ringen said Tuesday, he felt the dredging probably would happen, but the landing modification was questionable.
County officials have described the situation to state and federal representatives, who have said they will make phone calls if needed.