New Ferry Launched Soon over Lake Roosevelt

By Tom Bacon

Drivers trying to cross Lake Roosevelt on a state highway north of Spokane will get a break in a couple of weeks as a new ferry is launched.

The new 116-foot boat will be called the "Sanpoil," which is an Anglicized version of the name given to the Columbia River and to the ancestors of Colville Indian tribal members who now live in the area. The state department of transportation and the Colville tribe waded through about 500 suggested names before reaching consensus on the new name.

The 12-million dollar ferry will replace the smaller Martha S. which plied the river on State Highway 21 for 65 years. Although it's a state project, the state anted up the smallest amount to build the new ferry - about 361-thousand dollars. Nearly 10-million dollars came from federal funds, and the Colville tribe contributed about 2-million dollars.

A Spokane construction company is finishing up a 2-million dollar project to enlarge the ferry ramps on both ends of the highway. The Sanpoil will be christened on August 14th at the Keller landing north of Wilbur, Washington as the boat goes to work for the first time.

Ever since the Martha S. was retired in early July, drivers have had to take a long detour to get from one county to another. The ferry landing at Keller was once one of the best salmon fishing spots on the Columbia River, drawing hundreds of people to work huge fish traps constructed across the river.
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