LETTER: Failing grade for SNC-Lavelin Balfour ferry study

From reader Andy Shadrack...

A superficial perusal of SNC Lavelin’s Balfour Ferry study would indicate that shortening the time to cross Kootenay Lake from 50 to 30 minutes and increasing the capacity of the MV Osprey by 36 per cent in summer and 60 per cent for the rest of the year is good value for taxpayers’ money. Unfortunately, there is no recognition in SNC-Lavelin’s study that moving the terminal to its proposed site simply shifts the public’s travel time from being on the ferry to travelling back and forth on Highway 31 north of Balfour.

No assessment is undertaken as to whether eliminating one ferry and reducing the travel time of another actually offsets the amount of fossil fuels burned, as no figures are given as to how much extra fuel thousands of cars and trucks will now burn over the year to reach the terminal and get back to their destination. Cost of using the ferry and time travelled is simply shifted from the government to the general public and commercial trucking.

The study has no provision to move any of the Balfour businesses that surround the current terminal and provides no data as to how much income and sales taxes are generated by existing passengers to businesses at the terminal. Consequently, we do not know whether the reduction of labour and costs to operate one ferry and one crew per shift will be offset by the loss of income and sales taxes generated by the businesses at the current terminal.

The same problem arises when trying to compare costs of making capital investments at the current terminal versus building a new one. We are, for example, not told what the cost of dredging would be and how frequently dredging would be required in the West Arm channel. Nor are we told that the proposed new ferry terminal location is below a slide zone, that the land is still slipping and what the cost of stabilizing that bank would be.

Finally, as most sports fishermen know, the Kootenay Lake fishery is in deep trouble right now, but the SNC-Lavelin study undertakes no assessment of what it means to move the ferry terminal from near the mouth of the free flowing West Arm to the foreshore of Queen’s Bay. The environmental impact of moving the ferry terminal to Queen’s Bay versus staying in the current location is simply absent from the study.

On balance, the claimed cost savings for the ferry are not proven. The damage to local businesses and the economy could actually put both the federal and provincial government in a negative cash flow if the terminal is moved. Yes, the study looks very narrowly at the operations of the ferry service, without properly placing them within the context of local business and environmental impacts.

As a retired university lecturer I would give this SNC-Lavelin study a failing grade.

Andy Shadrack, Nelson

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