Things are about to happen with the new “Sanpoil” ferry, the one that will replace the “Martha S. at Keller Ferry, sometime this year.
Late last fall, a large concrete slab was poured near the Crescent Bay boat launch site where the pieces of the new ferry will be put together.
Ken Rau, who will be here along with Foss Maritime Company workers, will be preparing the slab site for a large cocoon-type covering to be placed where actual work on the ferry will occur.
Sometime in February, electric power will be provided at-the-site and workers will take the tent like covering from Rainier, Ore., and re-assemble it here.
The covering will enable Foss Maritime to maintain a constant 60 degrees inside, the temperature needed to weld the aluminum frameworks of the ferry together.
Rau said recently that the center section of the ferry should arrive in Grand Coulee sometime in the first two weeks of March, with additional pieces to follow. The launch date was originally scheduled for July this year and the vessel will undergo several months of testing before it will be put in service.
The new Sanpoil, named after the river that runs along SR-21, the highway between Wilbur and Republic, was named last June in a special state Department of Transportation contest.
The new ferry replaces the Martha S, a ferry that has been in service since 1948 and for which replacement parts are no longer being made. The Martha S, still in service, makes 30-35 trips across the Columbia River each day and has for most of the 63 years she has been transporting vehicles along SR-21.
The Sanpoil will be 116 feet long and able to transport 20 cars along with walk-on pedestrians.
Cost of the ferry is about $12 million — $2 million provided by the Colville Confederated Tribes.
Rau said that the ferry pieces will be transported to Grand Coulee by truck.