2017 ferry dock rebuild will shake up service

Thetis and Penelakut Island residents could be riding a water taxi in January 2017

Thetis and Penelakut Island residents could be riding a water taxi in January 2017 while their ferry terminal gets a needed rebuild, according to Thetis Island’s member of the Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC), Keith Rush.

Last week, he shared some of the latest news on the project.

FAC members met Stephen Mayall, terminal construction project manager, on Sept. 25 and learned that “the trestle, ramp, pontoons and wing walls will be replaced, making the resulting structure highway legal at 63.5 tons on eight axles,” Rush said.

Demolition/construction will begin in the autumn of 2016 and the berth will be closed for eight to 10 weeks, starting in early January 2017.

“We had a good discussion on what alternate service might look like,” Rush said. “There will be a 40- to 50-person water taxi that will run (ideally) on the existing schedule and service Thetis, Penelakut and Chemainus. At peak times such as the school runs a second 15- to 20-person water taxi may be added if necessary.

“Vehicles will go through the Crofton terminal. The details such as schedule and vessel still need to be worked out. For example, it is possible that the Quinitsa, which currently services Denman Island and will be replaced later this year with a cable ferry, will be used. The Quinitsa has a 50-car capacity compared to the [current] Kuper’s 32,” he said.

“Again, this is only a possibility. The travel distance is considerably longer and will need to be dovetailed into the existing Crofton-Vesuvius run. The actual sailing times and schedule are still to be worked out.”

BC Ferries is expected to meet again with the local FAC and other key stakeholders in mid- to late-November of this year in Chemainus, and an initial alternate service plan will be developed, according to Rush.

After that, ferry riders can expect a series of public open houses in the late winter or early spring, both in Chemainus and on Thetis and Penelakut Islands.

“The open houses are for public feedback as they work through the details of the closure plan. They will be looking for any details unique to Chemainus, Thetis and Penelakut,” Rush said.

Finally, in September 2016, there will be information sessions on Thetis, Penelakut and in Chemainus.

Those info sessions will communicate the finalized plan with all the details well ahead of the dock closure so “people have plenty of time to prepare for the eight-10 week closure during which they will be using the water taxi and a less frequent and longer ferry run to Crofton.”

Construction crews will start to show up in Chemainus in September/October 2016.