“A historic moment”: work is underway on the Fumel ferry yard
The first stone of the Fumel ferry site was laid this Thursday May 25 by the elected officials of Lot-et-Garonne. Twelve months of work will be needed to develop the left bank of the Lot and thus open navigation over 130 km.
The surroundings of the Montayral lock have lost their aspect of virgin forest. In recent days, backhoe loaders and construction machinery have kicked off one of the most important projects in Fumélois, in the Lot valley and ultimately in the Lot-et-Garonne. The site of the ferry, which should allow the transport of pleasure boats on both sides of the Fumel dam, was put into orbit yesterday by the elected officials of the territory with the symbolic laying of the first stone.
A 4.5 million euro project, which includes the enhancement of the left bank area of the Lot and the acquisition of this innovative tool. If the metal mastodon – “the great mechanic” to use the terms of the mayor of Saint-Vite and the departmental councilor Daniel Borie – is already in place, the bulk of the project lies in the construction of a track and premises to allow trouble- free crossing… and much more.
30,000 m3 of earth to move
Within a year, a real port area will emerge from the ground. Near the river, two quays are being excavated, these areas intended for mooring boats. “You have to break the rock 3 meters below the Lot,” reveals Jérôme Crayssac, project manager of this site. The track, which will bypass the lock, will join the two locks and allow the ferry to pass boats downstream or upstream of the dam. A challenge also for the technicians of the provincial council, given that to cross the hydroelectric infrastructure it is necessary to face a difference in height of 8 meters. All knowing that the “mechanic” is operational for the transport of boats … up to 50 tons. Nothing less.
Until then, the construction machines will have their work cut out as 30,000m3 of earth needs to be “hauled” before the earthworks. However, the site managers have encountered a problem, namely the presence of polluted soils in the northern part of the site. Pollution caused by having an old factory on this lot, engineers will need to clear and clean up the area since site delivery. Because whoever says port area says work area: a large building will be erected to house the ferry as well as space to stow up to two large boats. Daniel Borie, looking to the president of Fumel Vallée du Lot Didier Caminade, would see this space grow and become “a technical and wintering stopover”, something that does not exist in the downstream part of the Lot and which could revive the economy of the Fumélois sector . But there is still a long way to go before we get there. The last operation relating to the construction of the ferry will take place in the river itself, with the construction of a canal. To naturally guide the boats to this unique equipment of its kind in France.
“A historic moment” for navigation
Crossing the Fumel Dam is no longer wishful thinking. Within 12 months, boats will be able to pass the massive concrete structure without incident, using dry land. Thus, 130 km of the Lot River will be open to navigation, from Aiguillon in the Lot-et-Garonne to Luzech in the Lot. The culmination of 25 years of work, which resulted in the rehabilitation of seven locks. But the path was not easy. The idea of allowing boats to pass this fumélois lock is not new. It was Jean François-Poncet who first thought of doing something around the dam. “In any case, you will never cross Fumel” he was heard in the debates at the time. The bill, estimated at the time at several tens of millions of euros, was a further brake.
200 navigable km in 47 in 2024
But innovation and financial support from public authorities – State, Europe, Region – have made it possible to break this block. “It’s a historic moment,” said Department Chair Sophie Borderie. “River tourism has a privileged place in the economy of the Lot-et-Garonne and is part of our strategy”. From now on, between the Baïse, the Lot and the lateral canal, 200 km will be passable in the department. From an economic point of view, navigation, appreciated by foreign tourists with a high purchasing power, benefits the municipalities located up to 10 km around the river. An important windfall for an area increasingly driven by tourism. “And it works elsewhere” adds Guillaume Moliérac, regional councilor. The planets are now aligned so that river tourism moves to another dimension in the Lot-et-Garonne. See you in April 2024, for the opening of a historic river season in the Lot valley.