Nova Scotia

New Tancook islands ferry won't set sail until 2023

The new ferry and mainland docking location were originally intended to be ready for this spring.

Delays caused by need to choose new mainland docking location and COVID-19

The discovery of eelgrass near the intended docking site in Blandford, N.S., for the new Tancook islands ferry has the Public Works Department searching for a different location in the area. (Royal LePage)

It won't be until 2023 that a new ferry is serving the people of Big and Little Tancook islands.

When it was announced in 2020, the hope was that a new vessel that could carry up to 18 vehicles would be ready to replace the aging William G. Ernst ferry by this spring, departing the mainland from a new location in Blandford, N.S.

But Public Works Minister Kim Masland confirmed Monday that is no longer the case. The new ferry is under construction, but Masland said several issues — most notably the discovery of eelgrass — have delayed the permitting process for construction of a new wharf in Blandford.

"So that changed the design stage right then," Masland said in an interview at Province House.

"They basically had to go back to the drawing board and figure out where they would do this landing."

Along with trying to determine where the ferry will meet cars in Blandford, Masland said design work will be needed to realign the road once a docking location is selected. Other delays to the project have included the need to purchase land and issues related to COVID-19.

The minister said it's too soon to know if the project is on budget because it remains in the design phase.

The federal and provincial governments are each putting $4.9 million toward the construction of the ferry. When the project was announced, it was estimated it would take an additional $20 million for new wharfs and docking facilities.

Despite the delays, Chester-St. Margaret's MLA Danielle Barkhouse said people seem happy about the project. Barkhouse recently hosted a community meeting for residents of the Tancook islands and intends to host another for people in the Blandford area.

The rookie Tory MLA said she expects the new ferry will make a big difference for people, including making it easier to get groceries to and from their homes because they'll be able to take their cars to the mainland, as well as opening up other opportunities.

"I think they'll be able to get equipment for their homes, such as septic and lumber and whatnot, and I just think it will make it an easier life for them," said Barkhouse.

The new ferry and route are expected to reduce the crossing time to about 30 minutes from 50 minutes. The number of daily crossings will increase to 11 from four.

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