Canton Ferry to Close Permanently
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:19 PM EDT
Canton, Mo. (WGEM)
The Canton Ferry is the Longest Continually Operating Ferry Service on the Mississippi River
The Canton Port Authority announced Wednesday the Canton Ferry had permanently shut down.
The ferry had been shut down for repairs to the hull of the barge, but further inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard showed the cost would be too great for repair.
Canton Port Authority spokesman William Smith said repairs were originally estimated to cost $269,000 and the Missouri Department of Transportation allocated funds, but when the Coast Guard took a closer look, it found significant structural issues, which added on another $335,000 in needed repairs.
"Went through and had it looked at and found out this thing has bigger issues," said Roger Hugenberg, Assistant General Manager for Ursa Farmers Co-op. "We actually had to cut into (the ferry.)"
Hugenberg said the Ursa Farmers Co-op had managed and paid to operate the ferry for more than 20 years at an estimated cost of $260,000-270,000, but Smith said the barge had reached the limit of its useful life without substantial repair.
"The joint decision to cease operations was made after exhausting all efforts to obtain further funding," Smith said. "When it became apparent that additional funding was not in the offing, we were left with no other recourse than to close the operation. It was a very difficult decision to make, but the numbers were just insurmountable."
While the co-op was the primary user of the ferry, Hugenberg said it served a variety of services.
"There was tourism, seed, fertilizer, chemicals, all kinds of daily traffic," Hugenberg said.
The ferry was put into service in 1994, following the flood of 1993. Hugenberg said, at its peak, the ferry carried across 3.5-4 million bushel of grain each year. Two full time captains were employed to operate the ferry.
Financial reasons have forced the Lewis County/Canton Port Authority to shut it down for good.
Spokesman William Smith said the Coast Guard uncovered deficiencies in the ferry that would've cost more than $600,000 to repair.
"We took it out of the water a month ago," Smith said. "We knew the Coast Guard had told us at the last inspection that the hull at the bottom of the boat would need to be replaced."
However, when workers cut the hull off, crews found many problems inside the barge. The port authority had already secured $250,000 through the Missouri Department of Transportation for the initial repairs. The newly discovered repairs would've cost about $335,000.
"That was just an amount we couldn't afford," Smith said. "We were left with no other choice other than to say this ferry has seen the end of its useful life."
Smith said the port authority tried to find funding for the repairs, but the money wasn't available. Ursa Farmer's Cooperative has operated the Canton Ferry for the past 20 years.
"It's been a very large part of the community the past 20-plus years," General Manager Gerald Jenkins said. "We are prepared to go forward with the building of the Canton facility of a few years ago and the purchase of another elevator in Wayland."
Smith said the decision will mean a loss in jobs and an effect on area tourism.
"We hate to see it go out of business, because it has been just an integral part of the community for so many years," Smith said. "We just couldn't find the money."
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