State plans $14 million for new Beaver Island ferry

State budget money is heading to Lake Charlevoix this year, with the Beaver Island Boat Company receiving a $14 million allocation for a new ferry.

Built to serve passengers traveling to Île aux Castors from Charlevoix, the ferry will be owned by MDOT and operated by the boat company.

The company currently operates two ferries: the Emerald Isle which was built in 1997 and the Beaver Islander which was built in 1961.

BIBCO managing director Tim McQueer said it will be a few years before the ferry is built. The Emerald Isle was originally built for $3.5 million. However, a recent estimate for a ferry was around $17.5 million, taking into account the current increase in material prices and COVID-related challenges. The company must make up the difference. When The Emerald Isle is also owned by the State of Michigan and operated with an operating agreement by the boat company. The Beaver Islander is solely owned by BIBCO, according to McQueer.

“Our public-private partnership allows us to operate at minimal cost to the state,” McQueer said, also describing a likely wharf modification that will coincide with the new ferry.

When the new ferry will arrive, the fate of the Beaver Islander has yet to be decided, McQueer said. “I don’t think we would operate all three vessels,” he said, explaining the likely retirement of the old ferry. Selling it might be an option, one of their old boats has been purchased and is now at Chicago’s Navy Pier used for storage.

“It’s great for the island and the transportation system on the island,” McQueer said. “We think this is a great opportunity,” he said of the state partnership.

“A lot of details still need to be ironed out,” he added.

Lynn A. Saleh