A new vessel to replace the aging MV Balfour will begin sailing in 2022, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The ministry states that it is exploring options for an electric vessel or one that could be converted later.
The dredging of a section of the West Arm near Balfour to make passage easier for the Osprey 2000 could begin as early as this fall.
These decisions are outlined in a report and a follow-up memo, both released in May following public feedback sessions held in the spring that asked residents for their ideas about highway and terminal improvements.
Because of public concerns about pedestrian safety, parking, signage, green space, and washrooms, the ministry states that it intends to make a number of changes in 2020 and 2021.
Changes at Balfour terminal
• Improve lighting and sidewalks connecting the terminal entry with the transit stop and the off-site parking area
• Improve public access from the terminal green space to the waterfront
• Construct a new transit shelter near the entry to the terminal and a sheltered waiting area near the walk-on boarding area
• Construct a new terminal attendant station at the entry to the terminal
• Expand infrastructure to add additional electric vehicle charging stations
• Expand green space, including additional shade.
Changes at Kootenay Bay terminal
• Install electric vehicle charging stations
• Improve the existing washroom facility including accessibility and aesthetics upgrades
• Improve terminal parking, including accessible parking
• Install a sheltered waiting area adjacent to the boarding area for walk-on users
• Install a terminal attendant station at the entry to the terminal
• Improve green space around the existing picnic tables
• Install lighting at the sheltered waiting area and north west corner of the terminal
• Improve signage for the runaway lane to avoid conflicts with ferry traffic
• Install flashing warning lights on the highway approach before the Riondel turn‐off to warn drivers of potential congestion ahead.
Anscomb wheelhouse and Upper Balfour Road
The province also intends to move the restored Anscomb wheelhouse, in consultation with the Balfour and District Business and Historic Association. Plans to close Upper Balfour Road have been shelved and the road will be re-routed.
Balfour or Queens Bay
The report states the consultation process received many concerns about the already-made decision not to move the west-side ferry landing to Queens Bay, and about the consultation process for that decision.
The report defends the decision to keep the terminal at Balfour, citing environmental, social and technical reasons and stating that dredging, a new vessel, and terminal improvements will do the trick. And it defends its earlier consultation process, stating that in round one of its public consultation in 2016 before the decision was made to keep the ferry landing in Balfour, 21 per cent of the 1,766 feedback forms received were from East Shore communities.
Ramona Faust’s response
Ramona Faust, the Regional District of Central Kootenay board member who represents the North Shore, says some of her constituents have been worried that the province will re-open the Balfour-Queens Bay question.
“For months (they have been) evaluating how their homes and businesses would be affected by this,” she told the Star. “The idea of starting all over again in trying to identify the reasons why the province believes that it’s a good idea to keep it in Balfour, no one was really looking forward to that.”
Faust said people on the North Shore support the desire of East Shore residents for a more complete ferry service.
“I think we all recognize that when service was reduced in the 1990s it had a big impact on community life over there. I used to live over there, and we had a midnight boat at that point. So, more frequent and later sailings, we would all want that for them, and I want to see that improved sooner rather than later.”
Garry Jackman’s response
RDCK director Garry Jackman, who represents the East Shore, told the Star that last year’s controversy over whether to move the ferry terminal came about because the province never looked at the big picture of the ferry’s role in a transportation corridor.
“Two years ago the province said we are going to move the terminal. They didn’t have a discussion about the service, the economy on both sides, the traffic, the impacts of delays, what that does to the traveling mindset. They have never set the full deal in front of the people and had a conversation.”
As result, he said, “it turned into a proposition campaign, and instead of a listening mode where people would have asked why would we do that, people said no.”
In that context he is critical of the planned changes to the terminals. He says creating more parking spaces does not solve the problems of inadequate service overall.
“They can never build a big enough parking lot. I have seen 3.7 kilometres of cars backed up on the Kootenay Bay side. How would you possibly say building a better parking lot will make a difference? The only thing that will make a difference is capacity: as cars arrive you move them across.”