An Electric City couple was the first to board the new Keller Ferry, the Sanpoil, last Wednesday when it made its inaugural trip between Lincoln and Ferry County connecting SR-21.
Lowell and Birdie Hensley were among some 200 people who gathered near the ferry to see Sanpoil elder Jeanne Jarred break the traditional bottle of champagne against the hull. This time the bottle was full of a non-alcohol beverage.
The Sanpoil pieces were trucked to Crescent Bay in Grand Coulee for assembly and testing. Scores of local residents watched the Sanpoil rise out of a pile of aluminum pieces to become the 116-foot, silver-colored ferry now plying the waters of Lake Roosevelt.
The old ferry, the Martha S, in service since 1948, was retired about five weeks ago, after making thousands of successful trips across the Columbia. Ferry service in the meantime ceased as contractors revamped the docking areas on both sides of the river to accommodate the new ferry.
How do the ferry workers like the new Sanpoil? One worker, Tyler Best, said Thursday, “It’s great.”
All are going through a learning curve, working the limited wrinkles out.
The 116-foot vessel runs smoother through the water, hardly displaying any bobbing in the water. It can carry two semi rigs plus 12 cars, or a total of 20 cars.
Thursday, kids from the nearby campground were riding their bikes on the ferry, making numerous trips back and forth across Lake Roosevelt. Best chatted with the kids and just smiled as it was apparent they were having a good time.
The $12 million ferry was funded with $9.64 million in federal funds, $361,000 of state funds and a $2 million contribution from the Colville Tribes.
The 560th US Air Force band brass quintet started the festive program off Wednesday during inaugural celebrations. Lynn Peterson, the Secretary of Transportation, and Michael Finley, chair of the Colville Business Council, both spoke.
And a host of those attending boarded for the inaugural trip over and back across the lake.
Asked whether the Sanpoil, with its two 450-horsepower diesel engines, could make the trip faster than the Martha S, attendee Best said, “It could, but we are on a schedule.”
The Sanpoil runs from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.