ALDOT awarded $1.09 million grant by EPA to repower Gee’s Bend Ferry into the nation’s first zero-emissions powered vessel
Wilcox’s very own Gee’s Bend ferry is set to become the second vessel on the planet to be powered entirely by an electric motor.
The announcement was made Friday morning before a packed house at the ferry terminal building in Camden, after an emotional, 10-year anniversary celebration in recognition of the Gee’s Bend ferry’s initial re-installment back in September 2006.
John Clyde Riggs, Executive Director for Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission, opened the ceremony by recognizing the family of M. Hollis Curl, and the strides and efforts it took to fully restore the ferry after many decades of unjustified decommission.
The ferry service resumed in 2006 after a 40-year hiatus. County leaders shut it down during the Civil Rights movement to prevent African-American voters from taking the car ferry to vote in Camden.
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) will receive a $1.09 million federal grant to re-power the Gee’s Bend passenger-vehicle ferry from a diesel propulsion powered vessel to a zero emissions battery-electric powered vessel.
This will be the first zero-emission passenger-vehicle ferry of its type in the United States, and only the second in the world. The first ferry of this kind entered service in Norway’s Sognefjord in 2015.
The funding for the re-powering project is being provided to ALDOT by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a part of the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The grant was announce by the EPA during an event hosted by state, federal and local officials to celebrate 10 years of ALDOT ferry service between Camden and Gee’s Bend, the home of the famous Quilters of Gee’s Bend.
Joining ALDOT and the EPA for this announcement and celebration were Alabama Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, and U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
“It is exciting that the State of Alabama will lead the nation with the use of the this clean technology,” said ALDOT spokesperson Tony Harris. “This is an opportunity for the Alabama Department of Transportation to showcase innovations, while maintaining this important passenger-ferry service for the people of Wilcox County.”
One of three/passenger/vehicle ferries operated in the State by ALDOT, the Gee’s Bend Ferry makes daily runs between Camden, Ala. and the rural Wilcox County community of Gee’s Bend. The Ferry operates 362 days a year, providing five round-trip voyages each day, and currently utilizes four diesel engines. ALDOT estimates each engine runs up to 2,700 hours annually. State matching funds required by the grant will be $765,350.
Conversion of the Gee’s Bend Ferry to battery-electric power is expected to be complete in 2018. During conversion, an interim ferry will be brought in to service Gee’s Bend.
ALDOT’S mission is to provide a safe, efficient, environmentally and economically sound transportation across Alabama. For further information, visit www.dot.state.al.us.