‘Our communities in the area absolutely depend on this ferry and we’ve got to find a way to work together to make this happen,’ says Short
Members of the Washington State House Transportation Committee joined local legislators, tribal members, school and county officials, as well as representatives from the Governor’s office, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers’ office, and Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office in an effort to find a solution for the aging ferry at Keller.
The current vessel, the "Martha S.," was recently suspended from service while repairs were made to a section of the hull that had rusted through. The ferry has been in continual service since 1948 and is in desperate need of replacing.
Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy, worked with members of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation to promote the event and invited colleagues from the West side of the state to see firsthand the importance of the ferry and the critical need to replace it.
"I’m so grateful that my colleagues from the West side of the state were able to join us today," Short said. "We’ve talked about how important the Keller Ferry is to the region, but until you visit the area and actually ride the ferry and see what a vital link it is in connecting our rural communities, it’s importance just can’t sink in.
"Through today’s events, I’m hopeful that our message will resonate to others in the Legislature and we can find funding for a new ferry in the 2010 supplemental transportation budget," Short said. "We’re also looking at ways to procure some federal stimulus money as well. The bottom line is we’re looking at this from every angle. Our communities in the area absolutely depend on this ferry and we’ve got to find a way to work together to make this happen."
Legislators met early this morning at the South terminal on Hwy. 21 in Lincoln County where they received background and historical information on the ferry. They were also able to see the chunk of rusted metal recently removed from the hull of the current ferry. From there, they rode the boat across the Columbia River and met at the Keller Community Center for presentations from citizens, school personnel, tribal members, and county officials.
A homemade lunch was provided by the tribe which, according to Short, was a generous and much appreciated part of the day.
Rep. Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, and the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee, said he was impressed with the history of the ferry and the region’s obvious reliance upon its continued service.
"I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit with the community leaders and school officials impacted by the Keller Ferry," Roach said. "They did a great job stating their case and it’s something they’re obviously passionate about, and for good reason. It’s difficult to find a West side comparison to the Keller ferry. This is a relatively small operation, yet its impact is felt for over a hundred miles in each direction. And, it impacts everyone from school children to tourists; from those transporting goods, to those seeking medical care. It’s an impressive system that the community relies upon. Having visited the area and seen the operation firsthand, I feel like I can now help convey the situation to my colleagues in the Legislature."
At the end of the meeting, Short thanked her seatmates in the 7th Legislative District, Rep. Joel Kretz and Sen. Bob Morton, for their support as well.
"This has been a joint effort," Short said. "So many people have helped get the message out. I couldn’t be more pleased with today’s event. Now, it’s up to us to continue that momentum and get a new ferry in place as quick as possible."
The 2010 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 11, and runs for 60 days.
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Contact: Brendon Wold, Senior Information Officer, (509) 921-2356