SIKESTON -- The Dorena-Hickman Ferry will be back in operation this spring.
"With the budget now set up for the Tennessee and Kentucky departments of transportation, it's determined that the ferry will commence operation March 1 on a 12-hour, seven-day-a-week schedule," said Swayne Byrd, chairman of the Mississippi County Port Authority Board. "We are in the process of closing the contract for 2009 between MoDOT and the Kentucky DOT for operation of the ferry. It seems highly probable that we will have Tennessee DOT aboard as the third party shortly. They are in the last panel discussions on it at this time."
Plans are for the ferry to run during daylight hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Byrd.
Operations of the ferry, which runs between Dorena in Mississippi County and Hickman, Ky., were suspended in March due to high water on the Mississippi River from spring flooding.
Mechanical problems in the ferry tugboat were then discovered that prevented the ferry from resuming operations.
"In checking it out with the mechanic from Erb Equipment Company in Paducah, Ky., it was determined the entire motor failure was caused by overheating of the starboard motor caused by loose ball bearings from an old water pump blocking one-third of the oil cooling tubes," Byrd said.
MoDOT and the Kentucky DOT each chipped in $20,000 to rebuild both engines.
"The motors have been all overhauled and warrantied," Byrd said. "We wanted them both certified for operation with very little chance of going down once we start in March."
The ferry was previously operated by S.T.A.M. Marine Enterprises and piloted by Capt. Stephen P.J. Stanionis who resigned in November.
The new contract operator and pilot is Edward Floyd of Hickman.
"He is a pilot trained by Capt. Steve previously and licensed and certified by the Coast Guard in Paducah for that ferry," Byrd said. "So we are very fortunate to have the best man we could have as far as the Coast Guard and general safety are concerned."
In addition to working on resuming operation of the ferry, Port Authority officials have also decided to relocate both of the ferry's landings to levees located near the current landings.
"In both cases it only involves a couple of hundred yards," Byrd said. "In the process of working to bring Tennessee DOT aboard, it became apparent that all concerned would be better served if we could change the landings in Missouri and Kentucky so that the boat would be in operation in both high and low water. This gives the ferry the definite possibility of becoming a commercial truck route for crossing the Mississippi."
A date for moving the landings will be set once this year's funding from Missouri is appropriated.
Byrd said he received a call from Bond's and Emerson's offices about the $52,500 Community Facility grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development but is waiting on written confirmation.
If received, this federal money would cover 80 percent of the cost of purchasing new motors for the ferry boat 18-24 months from now, according to Byrd.
The new motors would enable the ferry to better handle the heavier truck traffic the ferry would get upon becoming part of a commercial trucking route.