Friday, June 22, 2018

No movement in ferry impasse

The future of Cave In Rock Ferry remains uncertain after a meeting today via teleconference between the main parties involved negotiations to keep the ferry service open.

The Cave In Rock Ferry operates across the Ohio River between Crittenden County, Ky., and Hardin County, Ill.

The Crittenden Press was not allowed to attend Friday's teleconference despite being told a day earlier by local leaders that our reporter could listen in.

Those who were part of the meeting say nothing has changed. However, another meeting is scheduled for Monday between Coast Guard officials, Kentucky Transportation officials and the ferry operator. Monday's meeting was originally going to be in Paducah, but now it’s going to be held in Cave In Rock at the ferry office.

Some close the negotiations process say a deal to keep the ferry running like it has been for more than 20 years – as a 16-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service – does not appear likely.

The ferry owner said earlier this week that without additional funding he will close the ferry on July 1 and it will remain closed until he can make changes to meet new U.S. Coast Guard requirements that go into effect next month. Lonnie Lewis, who has owned and operated the ferry since 1994, said on Thursday that rising costs and new federal regulations are driving costs beyond revenue. He's asking for more money from Illinois and Kentucky. The two states have shared the cost of operating the ferry since it reopened as a free service in 1994 after being closed for about a year.

There is little or no chance the ferry can return to a fee-based service because of laws that regulate how Illinois supplements the ferry.