A new ferry, the product of a unique partnership between Foss Maritime, a confederation of Native American tribes and state government, began service on the Columbia River after a christening ceremony on August 14, 2013.
The new Sanpoil ferry, a 20-car aluminum-hulled vessel with advanced technology for cleaner air, was constructed in 11 aluminum sections at Foss Maritime’s shipyard in Rainier, Ore. The new vessel is the largest ever built at the Rainier Yard and measures 116′ long, 45′ in beam and has a draft of 6.5′.
The 11 modules were then carefully transported overland, including through some highly populated areas, to the final assembly site, above the Grand Coulee Dam.
On August 14, in a joint ceremony north of Wilbur, Wa., at the Columbia River south shore landing, the Sanpoil was christened and began service. Tribal chairman Michael Finley told the audience the ferry route is a crucial link for tribal members and others between Lincoln County on the south and the reservation and Ferry County on the north of the river. Cars were lined up and waiting to make the 1.25-mile crossing on rural State Rte. 21 following the ceremony.
The Sanpoil replaces the Martha S., a six-car vessel that for 64 years sailed above the Grand Coulee Dam. The route serves approximately 60,000 vehicles each year and provides a vital cross-Columbia River transportation link.