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Parts search sinks early opening for Lake Powell ferry

Published May 15, 2014 5:55 pm

After crash • International hunt for parts only partially successful; shops manufacture others.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An international hunt for replacement parts for the crash-damaged ferry at Lake Powell was only partially successful.

So, "Sixteen parts are being manufactured locally by shops in Salt Lake Valley," said Kevin Kitchen, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation. The Utah Transportation Commission requested that update on ferry repairs as it met in Monticello on Thursday and Friday.

That's bad news for ferry operations that originally were scheduled to begin this week. Because of problems with repairs, the scheduled opening remains pushed back to July 1.

The ferry crashed on March 12 during a test run conducted amid work on generators, with what reports said was an inexperienced crew in strong winds. It ran aground and into a canyon wall, damaging all its propellers and outdrives, the part of the steering and propulsion system that is outside the hull.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the outdrives has gone out of business, which forced the international hunt for salvaged parts — and now the manufacture of some.

Parts that were found, Kitchen said, have been shipped to Utah or are on their way.

Kitchen said obtaining all parts will still take another two to three weeks. Installation and testing will take another week or so. Then the manufacturer of the engine will require several days to calibrate instruments. Finally, the U.S. Coast Guard will need to inspect and certify the repairs.

The ferry, owned by the Utah Department of Transportation but operated by concessionaire Aramark, connects northern and southern portions of State Road 276 in scenic Garfield, Kane and San Juan counties.

Damage is estimated at about $150,000, Kitchen said. The state contract requires Aramark to carry insurance for accidents, and that is expected to cover the costs.

Kitchen said the ferry ridership averages 11,000 to 14,000 people annually. The state subsidizes operations beyond what fares raise by about $100,000 a year, but it was $118,000 last year, Kitchen said. Local counties consider it a contribution to help tourism in the area.

The ferry runs seasonally, roughly between Memorial and Labor days, although dates vary year to year. Kitchen said the ferry needs the lake level to be at a minimum elevation of 3,580 feet to operate, which usually occurs after spring runoff.