The federal and provincial governments have reached an agreement to get the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry sailing — but it could take six and eight weeks to make necessary changes to its docks.

The ferry, which connects Tobermory with South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island, was scheduled to start its season on May 3.

But low water levels on Lake Huron caused problems with the docks, which are owned and operated by Transport Canada.

The province has said it will make $300,000 available to modify the wharfs so the ferry can safely dock in Tobermory and South Baymouth.

Work to begin immediately

Transport Canada said Thursday the Owen Sound Transportation Company will have full access to the ferry terminal lands at Tobermory and South Baymouth to undertake work on the mooring fenders, in response to low water levels. 

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People gathered to protest the delay of the start of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry were glad to hear that the province will pay the $300,000 to fix the federally run docks. (Supplied)

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines said Thursday an engineering firm has been hired to design the alterations needed for the fenders.

A contract for the job is expected to be awarded on May 17, with construction to start immediately, the ministry said, adding the entire process will take about 6-8 weeks.  

Current water levels on Lake Huron have increased but are still 16 cm below safe levels for docking.

Business owners and concerned residents on Manitoulin Island held rallies in South Baymouth and phone blitzes of government offices to protest the late start of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry.