WASHINGTON -- A $52,500 Community Facility Grant has been made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program for upgrades to the Dorena-Hickman Ferry, according to a Friday new release from U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08) and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond.
"These funds are going to help the Dorena-Hickman Ferry survive. We've really felt the loss of ferry service in recent months, and unstable gas prices really ought to make everyone sit up and notice the importance of reliable ferry service to southern Missouri and Kentucky," Emerson said.
"It was pleasing to hear the USDA grant for Dorena-Hickman Ferry has been approved to assist with equipment improvements for the Mississippi River ferry crossing," Bond said. "I commend Mississippi County Port Authority officials and our good neighbors in Kentucky for their longstanding partnership on the Dorena-Hickman Ferry serving the heartland of America."
In June, Emerson and Bond contacted USDA Rural Development Undersecretary Thomas Dorr on behalf of the Dorena-Hickman Ferry as it provides substantial fuel savings for residents who must otherwise travel great distances to cross the Mississippi River.
"The Dorena-Hickman Ferry isn't just a financial concern for us in southern Missouri, either," Emerson said. "It's part and parcel of our heritage along the river. The ferry is a living, working piece of our history and I am very glad that this grant will ensure it can continue to be. The support of state and local entities for the ferry on both sides of the river was key in obtaining this funding."
The Dorena-Hickman Ferry is one of few remaining riverboat ferries operating in the U.S. and the only one connecting Missouri and Kentucky.
The letter to Rural Development from Emerson and Bond stated they supported the Mississippi County Port Authority's grant application because "it will provide a viable alternative transportation mode and enhance economic impact for the citizens in the tri-state region."
They added, "Employees of the ferry have worked diligently to provide a dependable alternative transportation service to the tri-state that citizens, businesses and commercial transportation have come to depend upon."
"I'm glad to know it's coming through because we need that ferry running," said Jim Blumenberg, Mississippi County's presiding county commissioner. "It's very important to the county and gets a lot of people to the county that wouldn't come here otherwise."
The ferry could also prove important in the event of an emergency.
"We thought if we ever had an earthquake that took our bridges (over Mississippi and Ohio rivers) down, even for a few days for inspections, it would be important to have that ferry as a mode of transportation," Blumenberg said.