Local Information

U.S. Coast Guard authorizes emergency use of Keller Ferry during fire response

Monday, July 19, 2021 - 16:35

Ryan Overton, communications, 509-413-9791
NW Incident Management Team 12, 509-634-2025

Emergency operations for fire personnel and evacuations only

KELLER – While the Keller Ferry remains out of service for normal ferry traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard has approved its use for emergency response to the Chuweah Creek Fire burning on nearby Colville Tribe land.

The Keller Ferry, M/V Sanpoil which crosses the Columbia River and connects State Route 21 between Ferry and Lincoln counties, has been out of service since July 9, due to a mechanical issue with the steering. Coast Guard regulations do not allow it to operate for normal traffic until the steering issues are repaired.

However, due to concerns about the Chuweah Creek Fire, the Coast Guard has granted WSDOT emergency-use only authorization to operate the vessel. Through coordination with the Northwest Incident Management Team 12, WSDOT’s authorization to operate the vessel for emergency use includes:

  • The evacuation of residents if the ferry is the only means possible
  • Assisting with the movement of fire equipment and emergency personnel

Ferry repairs and operations
Currently, the ferry’s rudder is locking in certain positions. During emergency use, the captain can use the rudder at the opposite end of the ferry and turn the vessel around or have a deckhand use controls in the rudder compartment. Neither procedure is allowed during normal ferry traffic, but the Coast Guard authorization now allows it to be used for fire response.

The parts of have been ordered to fix the rudder control but there is no estimated date for the ferry’s return to regular service. Until repairs are complete, travelers planning a trip across the Columbia River on SR 21 should choose an alternate route during the closure via SR 25 or SR 155 and SR 174. Plan additional time for travel as it can take up to an hour to complete the detour.

Before heading out the door, travelers can find highway conditions and service changes for the Keller Ferry on the WSDOT Travel Alerts page, mobile app and on the regional Twitter account.

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