Miller Boat Line is preparing for a major dock renovation at its island port but the project won’t interrupt travel this summer.
Boat line executives plan to extend the dock 45 feet on the west side of Lime Kiln Dock near Put-in-Bay as well as extend a hydraulic ramp.
Scott Market, vice president of the family-owned ferry service, said low waters on Lake Erie the past two years made the project a necessity.
“The low waters have been a big issue for everyone,” Market said. The ferry operators try not to bottom out as trucks loaded with food and drinks for island revelry unload at the dock, he explained.
Miller ferries just began spring runs on March 15. Cars and trucks lined up at the tip of Catawba Island as businesses and individuals shuttled supplies between the mainland and South Bass Island.
In the off months, islanders rely on what they are able to store before winter as well as what can be flown over by airplane, if weather permits.
The only price change this season is the 50 cent hike in one-way trips for foot traffic. Runs to Put-in-Bay are $7.50 for adults, $1.50 for children ages 6 to 11 and free for kids 5 and under.
Market said skyrocketing prices for diesel fuel is the reason for the increase. The ferry company uses more than 200,000 gallons per season for its four boats.
The ferry line project is being helped along by Local-Let Project Agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The agreement allows the use of $790,000 in federal highway administration ferry boat discretionary program funds for the Lime Kiln Dock Project.
ODOT only funnels the money through its District 2 office in Bowling Green, said ODOT spokeswoman Theresa Pollick. The actual administration of the grant is handled locally by a government sponsor, the Ottawa Regional Planning Commission and its director Joe Gerber. Ottawa County Commissioners approved the deal in late February.
“It was very kind of them to support us,” Market said.
Gerber said Miller Boat Line is required to pay 20 percent of the funding to fulfill its part of the bargain.
Market said the company also cannot use any of that money for engineering services. Miller Boat Line hired the Matrix Engineering Co., Cleveland, to do the design work for the marine project.
If all goes according to plan, the work is expected to begin in December, Market said. Completion should take a couple of months.