The Ministry of Transportation is exploring the idea of moving the Balfour ferry terminal.
A spokesman this week confirmed the ministry “is looking into the feasibility of relocating the ferry terminal from Balfour to an alternate location. This is early in the process. No alternate locations have been determined and no decisions about relocation have been made.”
The ministry said it is doing a technical review to see if a shorter crossing between the west side of Kootenay Lake and Kootenay Bay is feasible.
The minutes of last month’s meeting of the area’s advisory planning commission included an item entitled “Balfour ferry terminal move to Queens Bay.”
It read: “As this is a persistent rumor with significant land use issues if it moves forward, a request was made of director [Ramona] Faust that she meet with the manager for Ministry of Transportation to request clarity on if plans are being considered and if so, what public consultation the ministry is planning on this issue.”
Faust hasn’t yet had that meeting, but said if the terminal is moved to Queens Bay, it would be “impactful to both communities.”
Capt. Elgin McKillop, marine superintendent of Western Pacific Marine, which operates the ferry, said so far they haven’t been directly involved in any discussions.
“The ministry haven’t spoken to us about it but they have indicated there is some interest in moving the terminal to Queens Bay,” he said. “I suspect it would shorten the run and provide for a nice hourly service.”
However, he added it is a “major project” and has “a ways to go yet.” McKillop said moving the terminal has been talked about for at least 10 years, although lately it appears to be gaining momentum.
Janice Cooper of the Balfour and District Business and Historic Association said she has also heard rumors about a possible move for the last decade, but wasn’t aware it was officially under consideration until contacted by the Star this week.
“The board’s position is that the ferry and its economic benefits are good for Balfour,” she said. “They would want to be involved in any discussion about moving the landing away.”
The Osprey 2000 makes ten round trips daily to Kootenay Bay between 6:30 a.m. and 10:20 p.m., while the MV Balfour makes five additional runs each day between June and September.
The 35-minute trip, billed as the world’s longest free ferry ride, departs Balfour every 50 minutes in the summer and every hour and 40 minutes the rest of the year.
The Osprey was launched 14 years ago to replace the Anscomb, while the Balfour turns 60 this year, making it the longest-serving vessel in Kootenay Lake’s history.
The ministry was vague when asked whether the Balfour is due for retirement or replacement. “As the terminals and vessels age, there are significant renewal/refit costs to be considered,” the statement said. “As part of our due diligence, we need to look at what alternatives may be available.”