By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
Legislation to change how Valley View Ferry captains are licensed took another step forward Tuesday when a Kentucky congressman testified about the importance of the link between Jessamine and Madison counties.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Sixth District, spoke before the House Transportation Committee Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation in Washington, D.C.
The Valley View Ferry was forced this summer to cut back its weekday hours and cease weekend operation after one of its two captains resigned.
The Valley View Ferry Authority has had difficulty finding a replacement captain possessing a merchant mariners license, which is the highest level of operator license issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. Captains who have this license can make more money piloting larger boats along major rivers, according to officials with the ferry authority.
The Valley View Ferry does not have steering capabilities and makes its 500-foot journey each way tethered to steel cables.
“Yet, due to current federal regulation, a person seeking to become an operator of the Valley View Ferry must have the same licensing requirements as someone who wants to operate the Staten Island ferry in New York City, a towboat on the Mississippi or the Belle of Louisville on the Ohio River,” Barr told the congressional committee after he explained the history and function of the Valley View Ferry.
Barr has proposed legislation would basically turn over the authority for the licensing requirements to the state. The state would then set up ferry captain training regulations and requirements that may not be as involved as those required by someone who pilots a larger vessel along major rivers and other bodies of water.
Barr pointed out that the Valley View Ferry’s existence is threatened by “overbroad” federal regulations.
“So, while the Valley View Ferry is currently able to operate – albeit, in a diminished capacity and with tremendous hardship – there is no guarantee that the ferry’s managers will continue to be able to find a viable operator in the future,” Barr said.
Finally, Barr pointed out the importance of the ferry to Madison and surrounding counties.
“The bottom line is that the Valley View Ferry supports jobs and commerce in central Kentucky,” Barr said. “Every day the Valley View Ferry is not in operation, it causes economic disruption for nearby businesses and tremendous hardship for the merchants and workers who need to use the ferry to commute efficiently to and from work.”
Barr’s legislation, the Valley View Ferry Preservation Act of 2013 (H.R. 2570), was filed in June.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-Calif.) responded favorably to Barr’s testimony.
“ … it should’t need the highest classification license to drive a cable ferry,” Hunter said.
Video of Barr’s testimony can be viewed online at http://transportation.house.gov/hearing/coast-guard-and-maritime-transportation-authorization-issues.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.