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Inspection, Repairs Leave Canby Ferry High And Dry

Canby Herald
By Ray Hughey

Work crews pulled the Canby Ferry from the water last week and drydocked it atop a large boat trailer at the top of the hill overlooking its mooring.

A Coast Guard inspection and some minor repairs left the M.J. Lee Canby Ferry high and dry last week.

Work crews from Portland heavy transport firm Omega Morgan pulled the 160,000-pound ferry from the Willamette River Sunday. The next day, loaded on a humongous boat trailer, the ferry was hauled up the 18 percent grade to the top of the hill above its mooring spot.

It took an eight-man crew and three heavy-duty prime mover trucks, two of them loaded with 3,200-pound concrete blocks for traction, to haul the boat and 250-ton trailer up the grade. They also had divers in the water and an engineer on the site, said Omega Morgan spokesman Erik Zander.

The boat had to come out of the water so the U.S. Coast Guard could inspect its hull.

“They want to look at the bottom of the boat every five years,” said Darrel Burnum, Clackamas County roads supervisor.

This ferry was launched in 1997, he said. This will be the third hull inspection it has had.

Friday morning, inspection and repairs out of the way, Omega Morgan workers return the M.J. Lee to the waters of the Willamette River.

Previously, they steered the ferry through the Willamette Locks to the Portland shipyards for its inspections. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shut down the locks Dec. 1 after finding that anchors on three of the seven locks were heavily corroded and unsafe.

That’s the way they did it with the boats before this one, he said. “This is the boat’s first time out of the water here.”

The ferry already had been out of service for about a month due to high waters, he said. They just extended it to do this work.

“We chose to make some minor repairs and some minor painting,” he said.

“Nothing that had to happen, but since we had it out of the water, it was a good opportunity.”

And Wednesday, two contractors thinking about bidding on installing a new propeller system stopped by to look the ferry over.

Bids on the federally funded project are due the third week of May, he said. He’s not sure when the work will start, hopefully by late fall.

“We’re hoping right now to get open on Wednesday, which is a little bit ahead of schedule,” he said.

The rain that week was working in their favor, he said.

They will try to put the ferry back in the water Friday night or Saturday morning.

“The rain will give us a little rise in the river and make it easier for us.”

The water level is important, said Erik Zander, spokesman for Omega Morgan.

“More is better. The ramp only goes so far, then you get into the actual river where there’s a lot of silt.“

Every foot of water we lose or gain gives us about 15 feet of ramp we lose or gain.”

Friday morning, the Omega Morgan crews reversed the procedure, carefully, lowering the ferry and its trailer down the slope and back into its home in the waters of the Willamette River.

Burnum said Omega Morgan will finish up at the site Monday and Clackamas County crews will take over Tuesday to prepare the M.J. Lee for its return to service.

Omega Morgan workers gingerly ease the Canby Ferry M.J. Lee into the Willamette River. Photos by Ray Hughey
About Omega Morgan

Omega Morgan is a 23-year-old specialized transportation company with offices in Portland, Seattle, Phoenix, Calgary and Edmonton. It provides innovative solutions for the complex moving, rigging and transportation challenges faced by manufacturers, power generation companies, general contractors and logistics providers. For more information call Omega Morgan 1-800-442-8141 or visit