Ferry fails to sell

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK  The ferry Saint Charles sits at the Plaquemine ferry landing as the Ascension comes into dock on Wednesday, in Plaquemine. The state will auction the Saint Charles on Saturday.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK The ferry Saint Charles sits at the Plaquemine ferry landing as the Ascension comes into dock on Wednesday, in Plaquemine. The state will auction the Saint Charles on Saturday.

A 62-year-old ferry that once traversed the Mississippi River between White Castle and Carville could be sold for scrap after the state failed to attract a minimum bid at auction.

The Jindal administration wanted at least $200,000 for the Saint Charles. The highest bid over the weekend was $45,000.

“With a vessel such as that, until you put it up for sale, you really don’t know what to expect,” state Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas said Tuesday.

The Jindal administration refused to sell the boat for less than the minimum bid.

LeBas said the state may disassemble the boat and sell it for parts, salvage parts for other state-owned ferries, sell it for scrap or put the ferry up for auction again.

Yet another option is off the table.

State Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, said she would like to see the Jindal administration put the ferry back into service to help residents in and around White Castle reach jobs across the river. St. Germain said she would ask, but expects to be disappointed by the answer.

The decision to drop the ferry service stemmed from a recommendation by the streamlining commission, which examined ways for the state to cut costs. The commission suggested closing ferries in New Roads, Melville, White Castle and Reserve. All those crossings now are history, although the Reserve ferry could return to service.

“When they started the streamlining (commission), they were on a mission, and it was gone,” St. Germain said of the White Castle ferry’s fate.

LeBas said the closure stands firm.

Further down the river, the possible reopening of the shuttered Edgard/Reserve ferry inched forward Tuesday night. The St. John the Baptist Parish Council agreed to a request by Natalie Robottom, the parish president, to advertise for possible ferry operators.

The parish wants to assume control of the ferry, which the state docked this summer. First, though, the parish needs to find an operator and get approval of a $1 million grant request.

LeBas said the parish is in line to receive money from a federal grant that the state administers. She said the grant would help the parish with startup costs.

The Edgard/Reserve ferry itself will remain the state’s property with the parish assuming responsibility for operations and maintenance, she said.

Robottom’s communications director, Paige Falgoust, said the purpose of advertising is to determine how much a private company would charge to run the ferry for the parish.

LeBas said the state wants to retain the option of taking the ferry back if it is needed at another location. An agreement between the Jindal administration and the parish still is in draft form.

The state continues to operate five ferry crossings at an estimated cost of roughly $12.5 million a year.

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