By Associated Press • 

Larger ferry coming to lower Columbia crossing

WESTPORT — A new vessel is scheduled to make its debut in February on the last ferry operation on the lower Columbia River, if work on the landings can be completed by then.

The ferry runs at least 18 times a day, 365 days a year, from Westport, Oregon, in Clatsop County to Puget Island in Wahkiakum (wah-KY’-uh-kum) County on the Washington side. A highway and bridge connect the island with the rest of the county.

The current vessel carries 12 passenger cars. The new one is expected to cost $5.7 million and hold 23 cars, the Daily Astorian reported.

It's under construction at a Whidbey Island boat yard by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, Washington.

It also includes steering and electronics improvements, and it meets current Coast Guard requirements.

“It will be a lot more user-friendly for the captains,” said the captain, Eric Ferguson. “We will be able to maneuver easier.”

The new ferry will be named the “Oscar B,” after former skipper and owner Oscar Bergseng, who ran the ferry for 17 years.

A $2.5 million project to build a steel landing is to begin in December on the Oregon side. The bid opening is Thursday.

On the Washington side, Wahkiakum County operates the ferry, and the work there is less extensive, moving some pilings and other minor changes.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hasn't granted approval yet, and the county faces a deadline in December when construction must end to protect fish. Officials are hoping for an extension of that time.

“We need things to come together like a Swiss watch, all the components of it,” said Wahkiakum Public Works Director Pete Ringen. “If we don't have the pilings and configuration of the ferry landings, it won't match up right.”

The ferry is an important link, and especially so if traffic is blocked on U.S. Highway 30, or on the bridges at Astoria, Oregon, and Longview, Washington, that span the river, Ringen said.


Information from: The Daily Astorian,

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