by Pat Forgey
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Friday awarded its first contract for the Columbia River Channel channel-deepening project.
The $8.7 million contract calls for dredging 13 miles of the shipping channel by three feet --- to a depth of 43 feet. The contract also calls for regular maintenance dredging of the 103-mile channel, which stretches from the river's mouth to Portland.
The channel-deepening work will take place in the Astoria area. The entire project will take multiple years to complete.
The awarding of the bid is a positive development, said Ken O'Hollaren, executive director of the Port of Longview, speaking on behalf of the Columbia River Channel Coalition, a channel-deepening advocacy group founded by the lower river ports.
"This is great news for the 40,000 maritime industry workers in our region who depend upon the Columbia River's ability to handle modern ships," he said.
"When this project is finished, those three feet will allow bulk ships to carry 6,000 additional tons of grain and container ships to carry hundreds more containers," he said.
The corps awarded the contract to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, of Oakville, Ill., which bid $10.6 to do the work. The award amount is smaller than Great Lakes' bid because the corps chose not to award some optional bid items at this time. It could add them back in later, said Matt Rabe, spokesman for the corps.
An earlier round of bids had been rejected because they were too high.
Rabe said dredging should begin later this month.
Officially, channel deepening began last year with construction of some lower river ecosystem restoration features. The Great Lakes contract represents the first dredging on the project since lower river ports began advocating for the deepening nearly 15 years ago.
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