Naming of the new Keller Ferry

By guest blogger Al Gilson

Members of the Washington State Transportation
Commission, plus representatives of the Confederated
Tribes of the Colville Reservation and WSDOT pose
with a model of the “Sanpoil”—the newly-named
Columbia River ferry that is under construction. Left to Right:
Commissioners Dan O’Neal, Anne Haley, Tom Cowan;
WSDOT Eastern Region Administrator, Keith Metcalf;
Tribal Vice-Chair, Ernest Brooks; Tribal Elder, Jeanne
Jerrod; Commissioners Philip Parker, Joe Tortorelli,
Richard Ford, and Jerry Litt.
There’s another new ferry under construction for the state of Washington and it’s not one of the big ones that plies the salty waters of Puget Sound. This one is a lot smaller but still fills a very important role.

This ferry serves the Keller route across the Columbia River in Eastern Washington, and until this month, was without a name.

On Tuesday, June 19th, the Washington State Transportation Commission officially named the new vessel, “Sanpoil.”

“Sanpoil” is the anglicized form of the name that is applied to the original and current native residents of this area along the Columbia River. The name was chosen to honor the people who have lived on this land and crossed this river for thousands of years.

The Washington State Transportation Commission approves names for state operated vessels. Our agency used a public process to gather a suggested name to be submitted to the Commission. During March 2012, we hosted an interactive website where citizens submitted vessel name suggestions with a supportive statement. We created an information card announcing the naming process, guidelines, and the opportunity to submit suggestions. The cards were distributed to users of the route by the ferry deckhands. We produced a special electronic email newsletter from the WSDOT Regional Administrator to over 1,000 subscribers of our agency’s Eastern Region electronic mailing list.  We also sent out a media release announcing the naming process, guidelines and submittal procedure to print, broadcast, and web contacts within the Eastern Region.

As a result, over 500 suggestions were received.  Out of those, about 200 were within the parameters of the Commission Vessel Naming Guidelines with many duplicate suggestions. We sent those out to our committee of Tribal, Community, and Department representatives who reviewed the list.  At a meeting in late May, the committee met and reached consensus on the name “Sanpoil” to submit to the Transportation Commission.

The Keller Ferry crossing site was one of the most desirable in the whole territory for salmon fishing, and each year a huge trap was built across the Sanpoil River. It is estimated that as many as 400 people gathered in this area at the height of the salmon season.

Several components of new boat are under construction in the Foss Rainier, Oregon shipyard.  Later this fall, the parts will be trucked to Grand Coulee and assembled. The boat is expected to be launched in July 2013.