Balboa Island Ferry Gets $8.3 Million Grant to Go Electric

Balboa Island Ferry Gets $8.3 Million Grant to Go Electric

People enjoy riding the Balboa Island Ferry boats across Newport Harbor on Dec. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

3/20/2024

Updated: 3/21/2024

State air-quality regulators have announced an $8.3 million grant for the electrification of three Balboa Island ferries, which must convert to electric engines by 2026.
The owner of the Balboa Island Ferry, Seymour Beek, told The Epoch Times the recent award is a start to a “very complicated” process as designs are currently being worked up to electrify the ferries and install charging stations, all within the short deadline he was given.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right at the moment. We haven’t got a design completed … but this is certainly a good start on it,” he said.
The California Air Resources Board is requiring the 105-year-old company to meet zero-emission standards by the end of 2025. Each year the ferry shuttles about 1.5 million people and as many as 400,000 cars and 500,000 bicyclists, according to Mr. Beek.
In a March 7 letter, officials from the board announced the grant awarded through the South Coast Air Quality Management District—which is responsible for air quality in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.
In her own press release, Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, whose district includes Newport Beach, where the ferry operates, said the funding will help keep Mr. Beek in business.
“When Seymour Beek called me in January 2023, I promised to assist however I could,” she said. “These grant dollars are one important piece to saving the ferry. … I can’t imagine the negative impact it would have on the region if it were to disappear.”
Ferry owner and Balboa Island resident Seymour Beek watches people ride the boats across the harbor on Dec. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Ferry owner and Balboa Island resident Seymour Beek watches people ride the boats across the harbor on Dec. 29, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Pending approval from board members, the district would work with Aurora Marine Design and Green Yachts to help complete the estimated $13 million conversion, according to the March 15 press release.
About $4.7 million is still needed.
“We’ve got applications in to some other funds,” Beek said.
Applications have gone out to the Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program for $1.7 million and to the Air Resources Board’s Clean Off-Road Equipment Vouchers program for about $1.9 million, according to a report by the Daily Pilot, a newspaper published by the Los Angeles Times.
Last month, Ms. Dixon also introduced a bill that would give local ferries 15 years to meet regulators’ standards.
It is still to be seen whether the three Balboa Island ferries can be converted, according to Mr. Beek, who said the complicated process may be the first of its kind.
“It’s very, very complicated to do this. It hasn’t really been done before on this scale. We are breaking new ground basically,” he said.
Some constraints include having enough battery power to continue operations as normal, with the boats servicing passengers during the day and charging up at night, he said.
Also, the new large batteries require special air conditioning and fire suppression protections in place, which the Coast Guard is assisting with, he added.
He said the ferries will be converted one at a time, allowing two boats to continue running.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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