Province won't relocate Kootenay Lake ferry terminal

After opposition from the community, the Ministry of Transportation has decided not to relocate the Balfour ferry terminal.

Moving terminal 'would have taken a lot of revenue out of the local economy,' says resident

The Ministry of Transportation will look at options to improve the Balfour Ferry Terminal, rather than relocate it, after strong opposition from local residents and businesses. (Curtis Andersen/Google Earth)

After strong opposition from local residents, the provincial government announced Thursday that it has no plans to relocate a ferry terminal on Kootenay Lake northeast of Nelson, B.C.

Billed as the world's longest free ferry ride, the route is approximately nine kilometres. It links Balfour on the west side of the lake to Kootenay Bay, on the lake's east bank and takes roughly 35 minutes.

The Ministry of Transportation had proposed building a new terminal in Queens Bay to the northeast of Balfour, which would shorten the trip by approximately four kilometres.

John Betts, a resident of Queens Bay, was among many locals opposed to a relocation.

"It stood to put in jeopardy about 50 jobs ... and that would have taken a lot of revenue out of the local economy," Betts told CBC's Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

The provincial government was considering relocating the Balfour Ferry Terminal to further north on Kootenay Lake, at Queens Bay. (Province of B.C.)

He noted that many residents rely on jobs near the terminal at businesses that cater to tourists. "It is the economic and cultural centre at this end of the lake. Businesses would diminish or lose completely."

Betts estimated the economic loss at $2 million.

Pave paradise

Betts is opposed to building a new terminal at Queens Bay because he said it would mean paving one of the nicest beaches on the lake.

"The beach would become a parking lot," he said.

Betts said the government deserves credit for listening to the community. 

"We have not just been a bunch of obstructionists," Betts said. "We've tried to characterize our criticism constructively."

Community members engaged in petitions and letter-writing campaigns and conducted a socioeconomic study that detailed the loss of revenue to the region if relocation were to take place.

For now, the government will look for ways to improve the existing terminal, rather than moving it.

The government proposed relocating the ferry terminal for a number of reasons. Vehicle traffic has increased raising safety concerns. As well, the west arm of the channel is narrowing, which creates navigation challenges.

 According to a statement from the ministry, an additional vessel might also be required.

Electric option?

Betts suggested putting in an electric ferry.

"It's an exciting opportunity where you have a chance for the ferry to be powered by the actual water that it flows across," said Betts.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure  received more than 2,600 online and mailed submissions during public consultations.

A summary of the consultation will be available this fall.

With files from Radio West.

For the complete interview with John Betts, click on the audio labelled, Balfour ferry terminal not going anywhere soon.