The Colville Tribe has convinced the Army Corps of Engineers to help keep a daily ferry crossing the Columbia River in northeast Washington state this spring.
Lake Roosevelt is the largest reservoir on the U.S. side of the Columbia River. This time of year, the Army Corps makes room in that reservoir for runoff from Canada. That forces a yellow and blue ferry called the Columbian Princess to temporarily shut down.
But in April heavy rains caused flooding and road washouts on the Colville reservation and the ferry crossing was one of the only ways to get around.
“The ferry boat has always been something that we needed,” he ferry’s maintenance man Mark Hoffman said.
He said the boat carries vehicles all day long with fuel, food and medical supplies.
“We have a clinic up here, so the doctors are coming in and the schools—kids are going back and forth, so that’s a commute,” Hoffman said.
The river crossing at Inchelium takes less than ten minutes. The drive around takes at least two hours. Managers are concerned now about how much runoff could come from Canada.
The Columbian Princess is the only ferry owned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville. Federal funding totals $745,000 annually. On average roughly 164,000 people ride the ferry each year since it started operating in 1996.