New Brunswick

Campobello year-round ferry would cost $1.9M a year, report says

A newly released consultant's report, funded by ACOA, is recommending year-round ferry service from Campobello to Deer Island, through seasonal service provider East Coast Ferries at a cost of $1.9 million.

Consultant calls route to mainland via Deer Island the best option

A new consultant's report recommends building on existing East Coast Ferries seasonal service between Campobello and Deer Island. (CBC)

A year-round ferry to Campobello would cost about $1.9 million to operate and should use the existing summer route to Deer Island, says a committee lobbying for the service. 

Phase 2 of a consultant's report, commissioned by the committee and funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, was presented to Campobello municipal council Monday night.

Committee member Brent MacPherson said Deer Island was the preferred route in a recent survey by the consultant.

Other options, such as connecting to Saint Andrews or using the Grand Manan ferry, would entail longer travel times, impacts on fisheries, and dangerous currents.

If there are not major changes made to the way  Campobello  Island interacts with the rest of Canada, we are facing a very uncertain future.- Mayor Stephen Smart

The consultant's report also recommends that the government enter into a contract with the current seasonal ferry operator, East Coast Ferries, to run the year-round service.

MacPherson said Islanders have been largely satisfied with the company.

One exception to that occurred last summer, when the ferry didn't run because of equipment problems.

Tourism operators said the lack of service was devastating to the island economy.

Residents can now only reach New Brunswick by taking a bridge to Maine, but they say travel to the rest of the province is becoming increasingly difficult.

"The council of Campobello Island passed a resolution last summer to work on a solution to the transportation issues facing the Island," Mayor Stephen Smart said in an email. "Our commitment has not changed. 

"Our next step will be to develop a strategy to convince the Province that we are worth the investment."

Smart said council will meet Wednesday to plot a course forward.

"We understand the financial situation that the province is in," said Smart, "and we do not want to increase the debt burden on future generations."

"At the same time, if there are not major changes made to the way Campobello Island interacts with the rest of Canada, we are facing a very uncertain future."

A privately run ferry from Deer Island did not run at all this past summer. That ferry has been the only boat service available to Campobello residents. The alternate route is a long drive through Maine, U.S. Brent MacPherson is the chair of the Campobello Year Round Ferry Committee. 8:17

The island's population has fallen by 30 per cent in the past 25 years.

Without a year-round ferry, the study projects the island's population will continue a steep declining trend, leaving only 400 residents within the next 40 years.

"The ferry will not solve all of the challenges we face, but I feel it would be a significant step forward," said Smart.

MacPherson said members of the ferry committee are writing letters to the mayor and council, as well as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister and local MLA Greg Thompson and MP Karen Ludwig, encouraging them to act on the issue.

All have expressed some level of support, although Thompson said it would likely take at least a couple of years to establish a year-round service.

"Governments can't just turn their back and say, 'We won't care,' and not act on things," said MacPherson.

"I mean, it is part of the Province of New Brunswick. It is part of Canada. So, I mean, they can't just be forgotten."

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