After being closed for most of the winter due to high river levels, the Ste. Genevieve-Modoc Ferry reopened in the first week of March.
Financial issues, as well as 2020 flooding concerns, however, cast a pall over the ferry’s future — at least its ability to operate year-round.
The ferry was out of service for 68 percent of its 2019 operating dates, as compared to 30 to 36 percent in an average year, according to Ron Inman, chairman of the New Bourbon Regional Port Authority and part of Ste. Genevieve-Modoc Ferry, the group that operates the ferry for the port authority.
If the river level is either too high or too low, the ferry cannot load and unload passengers at its dock on either side of the river.
Inman is hoping the river flooding in 2020 won’t be as bad as it was most of 2019.
“They’re still saying for this next year, moderate to heavy flooding,” Inman said on Saturday. “It could be heavy; they don’t know. It just depends on the rain. But there will at least be moderate flooding. The snow melt way up north is not near as heavy — a lot of it is gone because of this warmer trend.
“If they don’t get a great big heavy rain, like a 5- or 6-inch rain, to melt fast and it just melts gradually, they think it will just be moderate flooding.”
Inman said he got his information during a meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last Thursday in Cape Girardeau.
“It’s anybody’s guess,” he said.
It has been harder to predict how seasons will go in recent years, Inman said.
“We pretty well lose maybe half of May in a normal year,” Inman said, “but we don’t have ‘normal’ anymore, We haven’t had a normal year since 2014 or 2015.
“Normally you don’t have trouble [in] June, July, August, September. Sometimes you have a little trouble in late September or early October. This time we didn’t. It didn’t start until December and then we had high water all the way through.”
In 2019, the ferry was out of operation 248 days. In a typical year, such as 2017, the ferry lost 131 and a half days, or 36 percent of the total. …
The ferry receives $88,000 in funding annually from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), which makes its operation possible.
Ste. Genevieve-Modoc Ferry pays a $1,400 monthly rental fee to the port authority. The port authority has been willing to “forgive” the rent when the boat was out of operation and money was too tight.
The port authority has been pushing elected representatives to fight for an increase in the ferry’s annual stipend. It has been $88,000 since its last increase in 2010. The figure had gone up about every three years since 2000, when funding began at $72,500.
See complete story in the March 11 edition of the Herald.