The Ministry of Transportation will hold an open house on June 15 to gather feedback on the possibility of moving the Balfour ferry terminal.
In a news release today, the ministry said such a move could enhance access and improve safety and service ferry users, but it wants input from residents and business owners.
“The continued safe and efficient operation of our inland ferry service is extremely important to our government, and to the travellers who rely on it,” Transportation Minister Todd Stone said.
“The issues we’re facing with the current terminal require action, through the development of a plan that works for the local community. Public input is a major consideration for my ministry as we assess our options.”
The current location of the Balfour terminal, where it has been since 1947, presents challenges for marine and vehicle traffic, the ministry said. The narrows on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake is becoming increasingly shallow, damaging the hull of the MV Osprey 2000. The increase in pleasure boat traffic, particularly during summer, is also a concern for the ferry operator, the ministry said.
During peak season, vehicles can back up onto Highway 31 and Highway 3A, creating traffic safety concerns. Traffic volumes can also slow the unloading of vehicles, resulting in delays to the ferry schedule.
During the 1990s, the idea of moving either or both the Balfour and Kootenay Bay terminals was studied extensively before it was decided to upgrade existing facilities to accommodate the new MV Osprey 2000.
A 2012 consultant’s report suggested a site on the north side of Queens Bay as the best bet for a new Kootenay Lake ferry terminal.
“There [would be] a potential increase in service levels, a reduction in operating costs, and improvement in overall risk profile for the Kootenay Lake ferry service if the terminal on the west side is relocated from Balfour to Queens Bay,” the relocation study’s summary reads.
The study looked at four potential locations at Queens Bay, two on the north side and two on the south. While all were considered viable, a site on Crown land half a kilometre south of McEwan Point and adjacent to Highway 31A was identified as the most promising spot.
In 2015, the ministry hired SNC Lavalin to further analyze several potential ferry sites as well as the existing Balfour site. The report was delivered in March but its findings have not yet been made public.
Beginning June 15, residents will have an opportunity to review the options and provide their feedback. An open house is scheduled that day at the Redfish elementary school gym from 5 to 8 p.m. An online survey will also be available until July 6 at gov.bc.ca/balfourterminal.
Ferry service on Kootenay Lake currently operates between Balfour on the west side and Kootenay Bay on the east side. The nine kilometre crossing takes about 35 minutes and boasts of being the longest free ferry ride in the world. The MV Osprey 2000 provides year-round service with the MV Balfour supplementing the summer service.