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      Future of Canton Ferry sinks

      Mississippi River

      A ferry that has connected Canton, Missouri to Ursa, Illinois for years is no more.

      Financial reasons have forced the Lewis County/Canton Port Authority to shut it down for good.

      Spokesman William Smith said the Coast Guard uncovered deficiencies in the ferry that would've cost more than $600,000 to repair.

      "We took it out of the water a month ago," Smith said. "We knew the Coast Guard had told us at the last inspection that the hull at the bottom of the boat would need to be replaced."

      However, when workers cut the hull off, crews found many problems inside the barge. The port authority had already secured $250,000 through the Missouri Department of Transportation for the initial repairs. The newly discovered repairs would've cost about $335,000.

      "That was just an amount we couldn't afford," Smith said. "We were left with no other choice other than to say this ferry has seen the end of its useful life."

      Smith said the port authority tried to find funding for the repairs, but the money wasn't available. Ursa Farmer's Cooperative has operated the Canton Ferry for the past 20 years.

      "It's been a very large part of the community the past 20-plus years," General Manager Gerald Jenkins said. "We are prepared to go forward with the building of the Canton facility of a few years ago and the purchase of another elevator in Wayland."

      Smith said the decision will mean a loss in jobs and an effect on area tourism.

      "We hate to see it go out of business, because it has been just an integral part of the community for so many years," Smith said. "We just couldn't find the money."