A $68 million boat named after an oasis in Washington state's desert is set to begin navigating the waters of Puget Sound next month.
Before that, Kennewick city officials and citizens will get a chance to tour the Motor Vessel Kennewick -- the newest Washington state ferry -- Jan. 6 in Port Townsend, it was announced Thursday.
The MV Kennewick, a Native American word for "grassy place," will serve the Port Townsend/Coupeville (Keystone) route.
The celebration in Port Townsend is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Public tours of the boat will be available after the ceremony and until 1 p.m. Event parking will not be available at the terminal.
Vigor Industrial built the 64-car vessel, and Kennewick is the last of three such ferries -- the Salish and the Chetzemoka -- to be built as part of the Kwa-di Tabil class construction program. The class was finished three months ahead of schedule and $6.7 million under its budget of $213 million, said the state.
The ferry initially was scheduled to serve the Vashon Island/Tacoma route, replacing the 64-year-old Rhododendron -- the oldest in the fleet.
However, the larger and more expensive Chetzemoka, named after an Olympic Peninsula tribal chief, will be re-assigned to the shorter, high-profile Tahlequah/Point Defiance route.
Chetzemoka was the first of the three to be built, and cracks recently discovered in its propellers have prompted the state to file a claim with Vigor, which is headquartered in Portland.
The trio replaces the class of boats called the Steel Electric ferries, which were retired in 2007 following an investigation by the Everett Herald on the 80-year-old class.
Each of the Kwa-di Tabil ferries are designed after the Island Home, a Massachusetts ferry serving Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Bainbridge Island resident Michael Fox is credited with floating the idea of naming a ferry for Kennewick. Last spring, he also suggested Kahlotus and Washtucna as names.
Fox said state officials told him the odds of Kennewick being chosen would improve if he got city officials and the city council to endorse it.
The Kennewick City Council spent nearly $1,600 to provide the Kennewick ferry six large photos of the city's heritage and landmarks.
Linda Spier, chairwoman of the city's ferry committee, said Kennewick was home to one of the earliest ferry crossings in the early 1900s.
The selected photos represent nautical heritage with a river steamboat, a scenic view of orchards and grapes, a sunrise shot of the cable bridge spanning the Columbia River, a historic Native American scene, a picturesque golf course shot and a picture of the Clover Island river walk and lighthouse.
Vigor first placed the 273-foot Kennewick in the water May 20. Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, who chairs the state House Transportation Committee, christened the boat a week later. On June 4, Vigor moved the Kennewick from its Seattle shipyard to Everett.
The manufacturer delivered Kennewick to the state Oct. 31 after several weeks of crew training and sea trials out of the Eagle Harbor maintenance facility on Bainbridge Island.
Last summer, the Chetzemoka and the Salish worked on the Port Townsend/Coupeville route, but the Kennewick will replace the Salish as the primary ferry on the route. The Salish will be placed in standby status until it joins the Kennewick for the peak season.
The Washington State Ferry system includes nine classes, and its 23 ferries make it the largest in the United States. The ferries service 20 ports and serve about 23 million passengers each year.
A T-shirt of the WSF fleet that includes an image of the Kwa-di Tabil class is available on the state ferry website for $19.99.