WESTPORT- Riders of the Puget Island ferry will want to make other arrangements soon. The passenger and vehicle ferry will be shut for up to 12 days in March while repairs are made to the car loading ramp at Westport.

The exact closure dates aren't firmed up yet, but Hickey Marine Enterprises of Vancouver, Wash., hopes to start the work during favorable tides the week of March 7. When work will begin depends on approval of permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Clatsop County Engineer Ron Ash said. The approval process could take up to three more weeks.

The last on the lower Columbia River, the ferry runs between Westport and Puget Island, Wash., and is often used by Washington residents who work at the Wauna paper mill. Wahkiakum County owns and operates the ferry service. The Clatsop County Public Works Department maintains the Oregon landing.

This will be the first major maintenance on the metal ramp, apron and floats since the landing was built in the early 1980s. Cobbles and sediment washed from Plympton Creek have collected beneath the ramp, filling the area under the floats and preventing the ramp apron from dropping during low tides. The ferry hit the ramp several times during low tides, damaging the apron.

The contractor will dredge beneath the floats to the depth indicated in the original 1981 plans. The metal floats will be blasted and repainted by a subcontractor. The I-beams at both ends of the apron will be replaced. A log vane will be installed to direct sediment and cobbles away from the landing.

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners approved a $136,000 contract with Hickey for the work. The county received a $10,000 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for the project.