Nakusp ferry builder gets $27.9 million B.C. government contract to design and build four ferries

Nakusp-based Waterbridge Steel has been awarded a $27.9 million B.C. government contract to build four inland ferries. The company previously completed the MEV Columbia, the ferry that sails between Galena Bay and Shelter Bay. It came into service in 2014.

The MEV Columbia pictured in August of 2014 during its first summer of service. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

In a Feb. 29 media release, the Government of B.C. announced that they’ve awarded Nakusp-based Waterbridge Steel a big contract to build four new inland cable ferries. The manufacturer built the MEV Columbia, the new Galena Bay to Shelter Bay ferry that came into service in 2014.

In a media release, the government $27.9-million contract had been awarded to Waterbridge Steel:

“Our inland ferries provide important connections between communities throughout B.C.’s interior,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “These four new cable ferries will ensure this service can continue uninterrupted for residents, visitors, and commercial and industrial users.”

The new cable ferries will continue to serve the communities of Glade and Harrop on the Kootenay River, Arrow Park on Arrow Lake, the Adams Lake Indian Band and other residents on Adams Lake. The existing vessels have now reached the end of their working life. Some have been serving these communities since the 1940s.

“Everyone at Waterbridge Steel and its sister companies, Waterbridge Ferries and Waterbridge Equipment, are very excited by this new project,” said Waterbridge Group president and CEO John Harding. “These new cable ferries are important for everyone who relies on our inland ferry service. It’s also particularly good news for employees in our operations division, who will soon have new ferries to operate on Adams and Arrow Lake.”

The new ferries that will serve Glade, Harrop and Arrow Park, will be larger and able to carry more vehicles than the existing ferries, with capacity increased to handle commercial vehicles at full highway loads. The new cable ferry for Adams Lake will accommodate the same capacity as the existing vessel.

In addition, while the ferries are docked during off-peak hours, power will be supplied by on-board batteries. This will reduce noise at the terminal, and lower the vessels’ greenhouse gas emissions. It is expected that the first of the new vessels will be delivered in early 2017, with all new vessels scheduled to be in service by the end of 2019.

The project will generate employment for approximately 30 people over four years, with the majority of work taking place in Nakusp.

“The contract awarded to Waterbridge Steel by the Province of B.C. is exciting news for our community,” said Village of Nakusp Mayor Karen Hamling. “Four new cable ferries will be built right here in Nakusp, and our local shops and services will benefit from the good-paying jobs created by this project.”

The renewal of the inland ferry fleet is a priority in B.C. on the Move, the Province’s 10-year transportation plan.