It may be some way from being launched, but mayor Joanne Monaghan is excited by a proposed ferry service that would take in Kitimat, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Hartley Bay and Klemtu.
She is chairing a task force that is pushing the concept.
First up is trying to find the money to pay for a feasibility study, but Monaghan is confident it will be come.
She said the Northern Development Initiative Trust, who will be handling the study, had already said it would cover part of the cost and the task force was chasing down a couple of other grants.
Monaghan noted the Haisla of Kitamaat Village did a feasibility study in 2008 on a similar idea, albeit on a smaller scale than this concept, and had been kind enough to provide the task force with a copy.
Monaghan said the benefits from such a service would flow both ways.
From Kitimat’s perspective, the ferry would for example allow people from those coastal communities to come here and utilize the medical services at Kitimat General such as ultrasound and other tests, services that Kitimat could lose unless more people use them.
In that regard, she had been in “productive talks” with Northern Health Authority administrator Johnathan Cooper.
Having lived in Klemtu for two summers and Bella Bella for one, she said the “big bugbear” was if you wanted to go anywhere, you had to go to Prince Rupert.
And with this service Kitimat would only be six hours away.
As far as the coastal communities were concerned, she saw an opportunity to help cultural tourism there flourish.
“We have so much in cultural activity to give to the rest of the world,” Monaghan added.
Turning to the Kitimat terminus, she said the task force was looking at the Eurocan dock. Noting a new ramp had been put in there just before the announced closure of the pulp and paper mill, she added, “It would be really good for roll-on, roll-off (for vehicles).”
There was also back-up land that could act as a parking lot.
“The potential is there,” Monaghan said, but added, “Until we have the feasibility plan, we can’t make any other plans.”
As for the docking infrastructure that would be needed in the communities served by the ferry, she didn’t believe it would be a problem persuading senior levels of government to take that on so long as they were convinced the service would be used.
“I’m kind of excited about it because I think it can help everybody along the coast,” Monaghan said.
She added that officials from the provincial Transportation ministry have indicated they will be coming up here within the next couple of months and had asked the task force to be ready to make a presentation on their project.