State regulations calling for all water vessels to have an anchor, an electric horn, automatic sump pumps and an alarm system have shut down the Bemus-Point Stow Ferry.
The ferry was shut down after not passing an inspection conducted by the state Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation: Bureau of Marine and Recreational Vehicles.
John Cheney, director of vessels for the Sea Lion Project Ltd., which operates the ferry, said the inspector took the point of view that all watercraft have to meet state regulations, even if all the rules don't pertain to all boats.
Photo by Dennis Phillips
The Bemus-Point Stow Ferry is shut down after failing to pass a state inspection.
''This is different than any other ferry. The rules don't make sense,'' he said. ''They have made up their minds that all vessels have to comply to everything. No ifs, ands or buts.''
One regulation that led to the Bemus-Point Stow Ferry failing its inspection is the requirement to have an anchor. Cheney said he has a clamp that can stop at any point along the cable that transports the ferry. The unnecessary need for an anchor wasn't even the act that made Cheney the most upset.
''He (the inspector) didn't even know the regulations. He told me to ask the owner of the Summer Wind what size of an anchor I needed,'' he said.
Cheney said the requirement for an electric horn is also needless because the ferry has a bell to sound alarm or the operator could use a traditional blow horn people have been using on the ferry since the 1930s.
Also, the ferry needs automatic sump pumps and an alarm system in each of the seven containers used to keep the barge afloat in Chautauqua Lake. How many and what size sump pumps are needed is still a situation Cheney is looking into in order to pass the inspection.
''This is why people are moving out of New York state,'' Cheney said about the state insisting on nonessential items for the ferry.
Cheney said after failing the inspection, he was still planning to run the ferry, but changed his mind after talking to the insurance company.
''They notified me that I shouldn't run it because of the liability, in case someone was injured while operating it,'' he said. ''It would be a misdemeanor, Class A offense, if I operated it without passing inspection. They could have put me in jail for 100 days.''
Cheney said he has the ferry, which was constructed in 1928, in its best shape and safer than it has been in years.
''The ferry is in the best shape it has been in since 1968,'' he said.
Cheney said this is not the first time he has had problems with the state as far as getting it to pass an inspection. Four years ago, he said state officials were insisting the Bemus-Point Stow Ferry have a GPS and a radar installed. However, after talking to Bill Parment, state Assemblyman at the time, the situation was sorted out so the GPS and a radar installation was no longer necessary.
Cheney said he has contacted state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, who is trying to assist in the situation.
''He said he would pay my bail if I got arrested,'' Cheney said.
County Executive Greg Edwards also said he would work to alleviate the situation, as well.
The worst thing about not passing the inspection has been having to cancel trips for school children planning to use the vessel or assisting in charity walks and bicycle events, Cheney said. He said they have already invested $7,000 into renovating the boat this year. He said to meet the new regulations, he would have to spend an additional $2,000 depending on the costs of the sump pumps. The longtime caretaker of the ferry said they have the money and the volunteers to get the work done to pass the inspection. He said the community is always willing to give and lend a hand to keep the boat afloat.
''I appreciate the help from the community,'' he said. ''The guys work on it anytime I ask them to.''
Cheney said he hopes to have the work done by Monday on the ferry, but it will depend on the weather. Cheney and his wife, Betty Lou, said the work needing to be done is not the problem. They said the problem is the rules and regulations that don't apply to all boats.
''The state said 'They have to treat all vessels the same,' but no two vessels are the same,'' Mrs. Cheney said.