On March 12, in a test run amid work on generators, the ferry ran aground and into a canyon wall, UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen said Monday. He said the captain's report "cites an inexperienced crew and wind as contributing factors."
Aramark spokesman David Freireich said, "The captain at the helm of the ferry when it encountered mechanical issues is actually quite experienced, and his actions prevented further damage to the ferry."
Still, Kitchen said, "As a result, all of the propellers and outdrives were damaged. That's four propellers and two outdrives."
Repairs will take months, in part, because the manufacturer of the outdrives part of the steering and propulsion system that is outside the hull has gone out of business. So Aramark and the state have a Utah business conducting an international search for replacement parts.
"Any parts they are not able to locate," Kitchen said, "they will manufacture."
Once repairs are made, Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the engine, has to come in and calibrate gauges on the ferry, Kitchen said.
After that, the craft must pass a U.S. Coast Guard inspection before operations begin. So the July 1 opening date is tentative.
Damage is estimated at about $150,000, Kitchen said. The state contract requires Aramark to carry insurance for accidents, and that is expected to cover the costs.
Kitchen said the ferry ridership averages 11,000 to 14,000 people annually. The state subsidizes its operations beyond what fares raise by about $100,000 a year, but it was $118,000 last year, Kitchen said. That does not include repair costs annually, which are more.
Kitchen said county and tourism officials view the subsidy as an important contribution to help attract tourism to the area.
The ferry runs seasonally, roughly between Memorial and Labor days, although dates vary year to year. Kitchen said the ferry needs the lake level to be at a minimum elevation of 3,580 feet to operate, which usually occurs after spring runoff.