Homeland Security could sink proposed Ogdensburg-Prescott Ferry before it gets on the water
Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 9:19 am

BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week

OGDENSBURG – U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security could sink the proposed Ogdensburg-Prescott Ferry before it gets on the water.

Prescott Mayor Brett Todd and other officials from Ogdensburg’s Canadian neighbors visited the city to discuss the proposed ferry that would connect the municipalities via a ferry targeting cyclists.

Mayor Todd told council that the Canadian Border Services Agency had agreed to provide services for the Canadian side of the ferry at no charge for two years as part of a pilot test run. However, Todd said that U.S. border officials were not as welcoming to the idea.

Purdy later explained the problem.

“The US Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security, informed us that there is no method for them to differentiate in their security protocols between a permanent situation and an experimental trial run, and there is no ability for them to differentiate between a 12-person vessel, carrying pedestrians and cyclists, and a larger vessel carrying lots of passengers. In all cases, the City would need to spend about $10 million to establish the required facilities and equipment. This is a much different response than that of the Canadian Border Security Agency,” she said.

Council passed a resolution Monday urging the U.S. Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security to work with the Canadian Border Security Agency, the City of Ogdensburg and the Town of Prescott to create a joint Season Port of Entry “reflective of the passive recreational and tourist nature of the ferry service.”

Copies of the resolution were forwarded to Mayor Brett Todd, U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, State Sen. Patty Ritchie and State Assemblyman Mark Walczyk.

The idea for the ferry spun out of joint meetings held between the senators from the U.S. and Canada. Originally the ferry had been envisioned to run between Brockville and Morristown. A feasibility study was completed for that project and the project showed promise. However, heavy economic development undertakings in Brockville and a lack of interest in Morristown kept the project from moving forward.

That prompted discussion of operating the ferry between Ogdensburg and Prescott. The Prescott council is performing a feasibility study to help bolster funding for the project.

Todd said a ferry services has been identified for the pilot and that if something can be worked out with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security they could begin as early as July. The proposed dates for the pilot run would be July 19-21 and Aug. 2-4, but Todd noted that could be modified as needed.

He also said that if an agreement with DHS can’t be reached this year, the CBSA is willing to offer services in 2020 instead.

The resolution passed unanimously and council offered praise and thanks to members of Prescott’s government for their work on the ferry.