Nfld. & Labrador

Cause for a causeway? Long Island residents resume push for fixed link

After the resettlement of Little Bay Islands, residents on nearby Long Island are resurrecting an old idea — retiring the current ferry for a causeway.

Department of Transportation says there are 'no plans' for a causeway

The Hazel McIsaac connects Long Island with Pilley's Island, Newfoundland. It costs $4 million to operate, which translates into $23,809 per resident. The run across the tickle takes five minutes. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC News)

The MV Hazel McIsaac made its last run to Little Bay Islands on New Year's Eve. The vast majority of residents have now left the island and moved to larger, mainland towns.

Little Bay Islands has a nearby sister island, however.

The Hazel McIsaac also serves nearby Long Island, population 168 in the last census. The $30-million vessel makes the five-minute run across the tickle between Long Island and Pilley's Island several times a day.

Daniel Veilleux, president of the Long Island transportation committee, says despite the island's small population, the ferry serves an important role for residents.

"Last year, we had 44,500 passengers and 26,000 vehicles crossing," he said.

"Our vessel is fairly new, very reliable. It's seaworthy with ice in the spring, and it's very powerful. We feel safe. On another vessel, I don't know if they got the power."

Daniel Veilleux, former mayor of Lushes Bight-Beaumont and current president of the Long Island Transportation Committee, says the province would save money by replacing the ferry with a causeway. (Submitted by Daniel Veilleux)

He and his committee plan to meet with Transportation Minister Steve Crocker to talk about assurances for ferry service.

He also wants to resurrect an old idea: retiring the ferry altogether in favour of a causeway across the half-kilometre tickle.

"It would be cheaper to have a causeway, to having this ferry," he said. "This ferry costs between four to five million dollars a year to operate. A causeway would be paid off in no time."

Transportation Minister Steve Crocker. His department says the province isn't looking at building a causeway at this time, but residents of Long Island won't see any change in the ferry service. (Paula Gale/CBC)

He also cites federal cost-sharing and benefits for tourism as reasons to support a causeway.

"I know a lot of people left Long Island because of the ferry. Reliability and winter," he said. "But, if we would have a causeway, this place would boom again."

'No plans' for causeway

Ryan Butt, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, says that's not likely to happen in the near future.

"The department has no plans to build a causeway to Long Island," Butt said in a statement.

"The ferry service between Pilley's Island and Long Island will continue with the same schedule with no reduction in services. The department continues to provide a ferry service that meets the needs of the residents."

He also disputes Veilleux's claim a causeway would be cheaper to build and maintain than the ferry service over the long term.

Long Island is one of several islands located in Green Bay, Newfoundland. The only community there is Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North. (Google Maps)

"Constructing a causeway would require approximately three million cubic metres of fill and would be approximately 77 metres deep and 242 metres wide," Butt explained.

"A project of this size could cost as much as $80 million to build and there would also be ongoing expenses for maintenance and snow clearing. The cost of constructing and maintaining the causeway would be significantly higher than the current annual operational cost of the ferry service."

Butt said Crocker and other officials plan to visit Long Island at the invitation of the council. They'll talk about the causeway, but also about the schedule the MV Hazel McIsaac will keep in the future.

No date is yet set for that meeting.

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