New Kings Point ferry, push boat delivered|[6/18/05]

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2005

Warren County took delivery Friday of the new Kings Point ferry and push boat, ending the career of a ferry that was built in 1957.

The ferry is the only access people have to the Kings Point Island, a large hunting, fishing, agricultural and timber growing area of Warren County. Other access was cut off more than 100 years ago when the Yazoo Diversion Canal was built to restore flowing water to Vicksburg’s City Front. The Mississippi River formerly flowed past Vicksburg’s City Front, but its flow ceased when the river cut across a narrow neck of land in the Centennial Cutoff in 1876. With the end of the harvest season in 2004, there are no longer any commercial farming operations on the island.

Warren County supervisors were finally able in May 2004 to award a contract to Tensas Machine and Manufacturing of Newellton, La., for a new ferry barge and push boat after four failed attempts to make the award. At least three of the attempts failed when no one bid on the project or the county had to withdraw the advertisement for technical reasons. One of the attempts failed when the low bidder withdrew his bid because the price of steel skyrocketed during the bidding process.

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When the contract was finally awarded to the Newellton firm, the price totaled $623,100 for the boat and barge.

The two vessels delivered Friday afternoon were a 65-foot long ferry barge complete with loading ramps and a 35-foot long, 470-horsepower boat to push it across the Yazoo River.

“It’s going to be a real big improvement over what we’ve got,” said David McDonald, president of the board of supervisors and District 1 representative.

McDonald said the new barge is much larger and has a much larger capacity than the old barge. Once in full operation, the new ferry will be able to carry 80,000 pounds, the full weight allowed on major highways.

One of the main features of the new ferry is the elimination of the guide cable that has been necessary for the past ferries, McDonald said.

“A lot of our problems have been that cable,” he said, pointing out that debris frequently got caught on the cable and towboats transiting the Yazoo River have snagged the cable and broken it.

Before the new ferry can be put into operation, it must pass inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard and its stability must be proven. Those procedures will take place next week, probably Monday and Tuesday.

As a result of those tests, the Kings Point Ferry will close at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and remain closed all next week, said Richard Winans, Warren County road manager.

“It will reopen about 1 o’clock (p.m.) Friday,” he said.

Winans said the week-long closing is needed to allow the crews who operate the ferry to become accustomed to how the new equipment operates.