FERRY PLAN

Not only was the Missouri River once a traditional highway for MHA Nation, ferry service was also once an important part of the economy and quality of life for Fort Berthold residents. Following completion of the Garrison Dam and creation of Lake Sakakawea in 1956, the water became an immense physical barrier that divided our communities and our land.

Ferry Service Plan

What is a Ferry Service Plan?

A ferry service plan determines the feasibility, costs, risks, and benefits of transporting people, cars, and semi trucks at key points across Lake Sakakawea by ferry.

The Missouri River has always been central to who we are as a people, not only in our creation story, but our long history living here. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, we used the Missouri River for transportation, hunting and trading, as our main water source, and to cultivate our crops. In addition, “North Dakota has had a rich history of operating ferries to cross the Missouri and Red Rivers. The ferries were used to transport people, cattle, horses, supplies, agricultural products, cars, trucks, and even trains. The review of the historical society records concluded that there were over 30 ferries that operated in North Dakota from the mid-1800s until the mid-1900’s and were typically replaced with bridges.”1 For example, the Elbowoods Ferry operated on Fort Berthold in the 1920’s, and was able to carry several vehicles and passengers.

 

Why is Ferry Planning Important?

Reduce Travel Time.

Taking only a 1/2 hour to cross Lake Sakakawea, the ferry would reduce the drive around the east end of the lake by 110 miles in addition to providing passenger vehicles a faster alternative to driving the winding truck-clogged ND Highway 22 north of Killdeer. This is especially important for emergency responders!

Safe and Scenic Transportation.

Not only would the ferry provide an opportunity to enjoy a scenic trip on beautiful Lake Sakakawea, it would transport community members, residents, tourists, and workers quickly and safely between Fort Berthold communities while bypassing congested and dangerous Highway 22.

Reconnect the Community.

As a potential alternative to an expensive four-mile bridge across Lake Sakakawea, the development of a ferry system would reconnect communities split after the completion of the Garrison Dam and flooding of tribal lands in 1956. Not only would this strengthen our community ties between segments, it would help stimulate the economy.

Reoccupy the River.

MHA Nation has long used the Missouri River as a traditional highway. The development of a public ferry service on Fort Berthold provides an opportunity for us to reoccupy the water.

Where do we come from?

The Missouri River has always been central to who we are as a people. Central to the creation story of the Mandan and Hidatsa, we were created in the Missouri River Area and have always lived here. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, we used the Missouri River for transportation, hunting, trading, as our main water source, and to cultivate our crops. Tribes from across the Great Plains traveled large distances to trade agricultural products and goods along the river with us. We occupied great distances along the Missouri, from Cannonball to Yellowstone (with other Tribes including the Crow), but our largest fortified villages prospered along the Heart River. In 1888, many communities moved away from Like-a-Fishhook village and settled 20 miles upriver in Elbowoods.2 Prior to the construction of the Garrison Dam, numerous ferries (including the Elbowoods Ferry that operated in the 1920’s) operated across North Dakota in the mid-1800’s to the mid-1900’s to transport “people, cattle, horses, supplies, agricultural products, cars, trucks, and even trains.” 1 With the construction of the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea in 1956, one-sixth of the Fort Berthold land area was flooded (152,360 acres including 94% of our best farmland), and our ferry system (as well as 70% of our road and bridge infrastructure) was permanently lost. The flooding of our river displaced our families, destroyed sacred sites, ruined the best farmland, flooded valuable natural resources, destroyed the economy, and isolated communities that had previously been connected. (Photo Cr: North Dakota Historical Society)

Where are we today?

Lake Sakakawea is the third largest man-made lake in the US (largest in North Dakota) and was formed by the completion of the Garrison Dam in 1953 (the lake was fully flooded in 1956). Because of this physical barrier, the only available crossing points to reach all segments are at Four Bears Bridge (west of New Town) or 20 miles east of Fort Berthold’s boundaries (Highway 83) near Coleharbor. Today, to get from White Shield to Twin Buttes requires commuters to drive 98 miles, yet a ferry crossing at Old Highway 8 would reduce this distance to 23 miles. Similarly, to get from Parshall to Twin Buttes is a 116 mile drive (30 miles with ferry service) and to get to New Town from Twin Buttes requires a 96 mile drive (50 miles with ferry service). In our 2013 survey, 79% of the 358 Fort Berthold respondents said they would use a ferry service if it were available. In addition, a feasibility study conducted in July 2016 by the REAP Investment Fund and Vision West determined previous ferry initiatives, a corridor analysis, market potential, ferry service alternatives, travel demand forecasts, landslide infrastructure analysis, waterside operation analysis, ferry service modeling, and a ferry service plan across North Dakota Highway 8. They concluded that a car ferry that can carry 30 passengers and 14 cars in this location is estimated to cost between $11,914,000-$20,952,000 (average cost of $16,433,000). 80% of the funding goals are estimated to come from grant dollars ($13,146,400) and 20% from stakeholder costs ($3,286,600). Taking all costs into consideration (ex. fuel and oil, maintenance, labor), the annual operating cost is estimated at $716,000/year. At an estimated “90 ferry passengers per day at $10 each (260 days per year) and 84 automobiles per day at $24 each (260 days per year), the projected annual revenues are estimated at $760,000. For more information, see below.

Where are we going?

Grants to fund a ferry service are available from the Federal Highway Administration (sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Transportation). In addition, the project would need to go through an Environmental Impact Assessment process as well as receive approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers. Because current roadways lead to both north and south points of the proposed ferry ports, no major road building expenditures will be required.Community information meetings were conducted recently in Parshall (September 22, 2016) and in Twin Buttes in order to inform community members of the study results. LSC (the contracted partner) and Three Affiliated Tribes will continue to hold and support public meetings about the ferry feasibility study to ensure community engagement, input, and participation.

What do you think about the ferry feasibility study? What is your vision for improving connectivity for our communities for generations to come? How can we plan for our future in a way that aligns with our cultural, spiritual and environmental values while ensuring a strong economy, jobs, health and education for our communities? How can we engage the Tribal community (both off and on reservation), our youth, elders, spiritual leaders, veterans, businesses, schools, programs, neighbors as well as other stakeholders including State, Federal and County governments in a way that ensures a brighter future for our next generations? We want to hear from you!

How many miles do you have to travel by road to get from White Shield to Twin Buttes currently?

How many miles would would you travel from White Shield to Twin Buttes with the proposed ferry ?

How many miles do you have to travel by road to get from Parshall to Twin Buttes currently?

How many miles would would you travel from Parshall to Twin Buttes with the proposed ferry?

How many miles do you have to travel by road to get from New Town to Twin Buttes currently?

How many miles would would you travel from New Town to Twin Buttes with the proposed ferry?

Source: Lake Sakakawea Ferry Feasibility Study Full Report by REAP Investment Fund and Vision West (2016)

Technical Memorandum #2.1

Technical Memorandum #2.1 presents a history of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, a review of previous studies, a summary of community conditions and demographics, an overview and evaluation of existing tribal and non-tribal transit services, as well as a summary of staff and stakeholder input.

Technical Memorandum #2.2

Technical Memorandum #2.2 presents and evaluates public transit and ferry service options. This document also offers preliminary service recommendations.

Lake Sakakawea Ferry Feasibility Study Executive Summary by REAP Investment Fund and Vision West (2016)

Take a look at the recently completed Lake Sakakawea Ferry feasibility study Executive Summary. This document provides a quick glance at potential economic, environmental, and community impacts of the proposed ferry.

Lake Sakakawea Ferry Feasibility Study Full Report by REAP Investment Fund and Vision West (2016)

Take a look at the recently completed Lake Sakakawea Ferry feasibility study Full Report. This document provides an in-depth look at potential economic, environmental, and community impacts of the proposed ferry.

Lake Sakakawea Water Taxi Feasibility Study by REAP Investment Fund and Vision West (2016)

Take a look at the recently completed Lake Sakakawea Water Taxi Feasibility Study. This document provides an in-depth look at the feasibility of implementing a water taxi on Lake Sakakawea.

What would YOU like to see addressed in the Ferry Plan?

Enter your full name, a valid email address, and a detailed message in the forms just below to tell us what YOU would like to see in the Ferry Plan. What else would you like to know about it? We also want your stories and perspectives on the questions framing this project; Where do we come from in regards to utilizing ferries? Where is it today? Where do we want it to be in 20 years?

Also, be sure to follow our blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin!

Show 3 Footnotes

  1. http://fortbertholdplan.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/1-Report-RJY-V2-7-13-2016.pdf
  2. http://www.mhanation.com/main2/history/PDFs/Elbowoods.pdf
  3. http://fortbertholdplan.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/1-Report-RJY-V2-7-13-2016.pdf
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